GenCon 1988

The GenCon Champions tournament this year was a continuation of the events from the previous years. The time was early September, with the Sphinx as the Democratic nominee for President. (Every player got a “The Sphinx in ‘88” button.) Since he took the office by acclamation, this is actually the first time he is running for the office. Governor George Deukmejian of California was the Republican nominee.

Opening Round

In September, a radical homosexual group claimed responsibility for letting a variant of the AIDS virus loose in Atlanta, wiping out over 90% of the population. It is not a pretty sight. This was used as the justification for a very repressive bill (co-sponsored by Rep. Newt Gingrich and Sen. Jesse Helms) being introduced in Congress to “quarantine” all homosexuals. The bill has considerable popular support. Not only do the heroes have to discover the people responsible for the slaughter, they have to try and stop the bill from becoming law. This, in the middle of the Sphinx’ election campaign.

The Texas Rangers make an appearance in Atlanta, once the danger has passed. While there, we are contacted by the radical group responsible for the plague, asking for a meeting. When we arrive at the meeting site, a group of bikers is engaging in “gay
bashing”; one is blowing away the group’s leader, while the rest lay dying or dead. After mopping up the bikers (who were only normals, and certainly not capable of defending themselves against a bunch of angry supers) and questioning them, the team investigated the biker’s leader, a woman named Chainsaw. Following her, we are led into an ambush by some super-villians. After a furious fight the villains are defeated, but we discover that their sole purpose was to delay us long enough for someone to completely destroy any clues at the group’s headquarters. The only thing left was a TV set, which turned on as the heroes approached, revealing that this someone was the Ranger’s old nemesis, Doctor Destroyer. He gloated over our inability to act, then the TV went dark.

When the Rangers returned from investigating, we were told that the bill passed the House by an overwhelming majority, and was sent on to the Senate. Debate on the bill was scheduled to start in a few days. This was the end of the elimination round. I did not advance: I didn’t get the character I had wanted (Firestar), and got the Monk instead and I just couldn’t get into the character at all.

Final Round

In the final, half of the time was spent in roleplaying trying to stop the bill’s passage. The Senate was split, with about 46 senators on both sides and six or so undecided. Keith Hannigan played both Senator Kennedy and Senator Helms speaking from the floor of the Senate during the debate, and did an excellent job. Each player made their plans on how they could persuade the senators that were undecided. The Sphinx had a private meeting with a Southern senator (again Keith); Monk, who was Secretary of Defense, was reminding the senators about defense bases in their districts; and everyone else was out button-holing senators and making contacts.

The Republican challenger came out publically supporting the bill and called for the Sphinx to take a stand on it as well. A major press conference was scheduled at one of the WWII Japanese internment camps in a few days.

The politics aside, the players also had to find Dr. Destroyer’s base and defeat him, too, in order to prove that he was ultimately behind the plot. The only piece of evidence they had was a plane ticket that the leader of the group of super-villians had used to go to Newfoundland. After examining a satellite photograph of the area (and consulting Baron Kiros, an old friend and source of information), Claw (whose player made a Perception Roll at -10) noticed that two areas side-by-side were identical, down to the leaves on the trees. An SR-71 overflight proved that somehow the area was shielded by a large hologram field, and underneath it was a model village, with a large manor house overlooking it.

Just before they were to appear for the news conference, the heroes raided the manor, to find Dr. Destroyer waiting for them. It took the heroes long enough, but finally he was defeated, all the while he was quietly boasting that this was all for naught. One nasty bit: he held Claw by the neck, then blew him into Sphinx with the blaster built into his glove. It took a coördinated attack by no less than four Rangers to finally bring him down, when smoke started billowing out from his armor. The Monk flipped the mask off with his bo staff, to find that it was Dr. Destroyer himself that was smoking, disintegrating before their eyes.

As he disintegrated, Dr. Destroyer boasted that even though he had been defeated, he had still won, because he had set in motion a series of events that would tear the U.S. and its system of democracy apart, no matter what the Texas Rangers did. If the Sphinx vetoed the bill, he would certainly be defeated in the election, and the bill would be enacted the next year. If he did not veto the bill, then democracy would die.

And the Rangers could not do anything outside of the normal political channels to prevent the bill’s passage or to overturn the election; if they did, they would not only destroy the country, but they would also would be going against the very principles that they had lived by as heroes. But he was not dying: he was not mortal, but actually an incarnation of the power of Destruction itself (they found a large room in his manor with a pentagram in the floor) and would return in several centuries, to find a divided and ravaged world. Then he laughed and was silent. The Texas Rangers were left with nothing to prove that this all a plot by Dr. Destroyer.

While they were flying to the press conference, they learned that the Senate passed the bill, but by a close enough margin that it couldn’t overturn a veto. At the press conference, all of the players stood firm along side Sphinx, who made an emotional defense of his veto, backdropped by the setting sun. I don’t think I’ll forget the scene with the Sphinx in the middle and the others spread out beside and behind him, all standing firm and resolute. After he fell silent, the audience (us), too, was silent, then we burst into a long round of applause.

Sphinx, Steel (the group’s brick), Monk, and Claw all won (I believe), but actually, it was a hard choice, because all of the players were excellent. This event (like the JI tournament) seems to draw the best roleplayers, and the best from within each roleplayer. This year GenCon and I.C.E. all contributed to the prizes, so that the first and second place winners received a cash prize as well as a gift certificate.

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