Bulletproof Blues 3e EN:GM Resources
This chapter provides additional information for the game moderator, such as the movement capabilities of beings with attributes far beyond human limits, the mass of commonplace objects, and the speed of various creatures and vehicles.
A character's attributes in Bulletproof Blues are normally ranked on a scale from 1 to 10. The tables below provide values for attributes above 10.
|Value||Cost Per Point|
Agility determines a character's base movement speed (running, swimming, etc.). Peak human potential is marked in red.
Brawn determines how much a character can lift and how far they can throw things. Peak human potential is marked in red.
|Brawn||Lift||Example||Throw (25 kg)||Long Jump|
|0||25 kg||medium dog||1 m||0 m|
|1||55 kg||pony keg of beer||1 m||1 m|
|2||120 kg||heavy adult||2 m||1 m|
|3||260 kg||large brown bear||5 m||2 m|
|4||550 kg||polar bear||11 m||5 m|
|5||1,700 kg||full size car||35 m||11 m|
|6||5,500 kg||empty dump truck||110 m||35 m|
|7||17 t||Polaris missile||350 m||110 m|
|8||55 t||loaded tanker truck||1,100 m||350 m|
|9||170 t||locomotive||3,500 m||1,100 m|
|10||550 t||747 passenger plane||11 km||3,500 m|
|11||1,700 t||Space Shuttle||35 km||11 km|
|12||5,500 t||Eiffel Tower||110 km||35 km|
|13||17,000 t||nuclear submarine||350 km||110 km|
|14||55,000 t||aircraft carrier||1,100 km||350 km|
|15||170,000 t||large office building||3,500 km||1,100 km|
|16||550,000 t||ultra large crude carrier||11,000 km||3,500 km|
|17||1,700,000 t||enormous skyscraper||35,000 km||11,000 km|
|18||5,500,000 t||Great Pyramid of Giza||110,000 km||35,000 km|
|19||17,000,000 t||Three Gorges Dam||350,000 km||110,000 km|
|20||55,000,000 t||Great Wall Of China||1,100,000 km||350,000 km|
- Lift indicates the greatest weight that the character can "deadlift" (pick up off the ground to the level of the hips). A character carrying or supporting such a weight can take at most one or two steps per round. A character can move normally while carrying a weight corresponding to one less than their Brawn. For example, a character with Brawn 8 could carry up to 17 tonnes and suffer no penalties to their movement while doing so.
- Throw (25 kg) indicates the farthest distance that a character could throw a compact object weighing 25 kg. To see how far a character can throw heavier objects, subtract the Brawn required to lift the object from the character's total Brawn. Look up the difference in the "Brawn" column: this indicates how far the character can throw the object. For example, a character with Brawn 8 could throw an object weighing 65 kg (such as a cooperative slender human) up to 350 meters.
- Long Jump indicates the character's standing long jump. With a running long jump, the character's ground movement is added to their long jump distance.
Obviously, there are values which are far below or far above what appears in this table. The Moon, with mass of roughly 7.3 × 1019 tonnes, is far more than even a character with Brawn 20 could move, while a baby or a housecat has a Brawn less than 1. Don't worry about it. At such extremes, the GM should just use their best judgment, and the rest of the players should roll with it.
The effectiveness of some powers is based on the character's Power Level.
|Power Level||General Effect||Mass|
|Darkness||Attack and defense penalties|
|Dehydration||Maximum Endurance reduced by one per day; penalty die on all tasks|
|Exposure||Maximum Endurance reduced, from one per hour to one per six hours|
|Falling||Lose one Endurance for each five meters fallen|
|Fire||Damage depends on heat and intensity, once per round|
|Poisons||Maximum Endurance reduced, from one per round to one per hour|
|Pressure||Maximum Endurance reduced, from one per round to one per minute|
|Radiation||Maximum Endurance reduced by one per week; penalty die on all tasks|
|Sleep Deprivation||Attributes reduced by one per day: Reason, then Agility, then maximum Endurance|
|Starvation||Maximum Endurance reduced by one per week; penalty die on all tasks|
|Suffocation||Maximum Endurance reduced by one per minute|
|Vacuum||Maximum Endurance reduced, from one per round to one per minute|
Darkness, fog, rain, blizzards, and other visual impediments can make combat much more difficult. If an attacker can't see the defender, the attacker incurs a penalty die. Conversely, if a defender can't see the attacker, the defender incurs a penalty die.
A character with the appropriate powers, or equipment permitting them to perceive normally, suffers no ill effects from darkness.
A character who goes more than 24 hours without drinking begins to suffer the effects of dehydration. Initially, the character experiences headaches, loss of appetite, and dry skin, followed by rapid heart rates, elevated body temperatures, and fatigue. After three days without water, the character experiences tiredness, irritability, and dizziness. Severe dehydration results in death.
If a character is suffering from dehydration, their maximum Endurance is reduced by one per day until they are rehydrated or until their maximum Endurance is reduced to zero. Additionally, the character incurs a penalty die on all rolls. Once the character is rehydrated, their maximum Endurance is restored at the same rate it was lost.
A character with Environmental Immunity is unaffected by dehydration.
Extremes of heat and cold can be dangerous to those without adequate protection. If a character is exposed to extreme temperatures, their maximum Endurance will be gradually reduced until they find shelter or until their maximum Endurance is reduced to zero. How quickly their maximum Endurance is reduced depends on the severity of the conditions. A hot summer day without shade or water, or a frosty winter night without a coat, would reduce their maximum Endurance by one every six hours or so: brutal, but not immediately life-threatening. If the same character were in a blazing hot desert or in the middle of a blizzard, their maximum Endurance would be reduced by one every hour. Once the character is no longer exposed to the extreme temperatures, their maximum Endurance is restored at the same rate it was lost.
A character with Environmental Immunity is unaffected by extreme temperatures.
Falling is treated as a normal attack which inflicts Endurance damage. The power level (PL) of a fall depends on the distance fallen: +1 PL for each five meters fallen (rounded down), up to a maximum of PL 20. Particularly soft or yielding surfaces can reduce the power level of the fall by as much as half.
Fire is treated as a normal attack which inflicts Endurance damage. The power level (PL) of a fire depends on its heat and intensity.
A character with Environmental Immunity gains a defense bonus against the fire.
Very cool and very hot fires are outside of this range. A lit cigarette can cause painful burns, for example, but it's less damaging than PL 3. On the other hand, the surface of a star is far beyond even PL 9.
Poisons and pathogens are substances which disrupt biological processes when a sufficient quantity is absorbed by an organism. Described here is a generic poison: your character may encounter poisons or pathogens which are more complicated than this example.
Immediately after exposure, a poisoned character must make a moderately difficult (DV 3) Survival (Brawn) roll against the poison. If the Survival (Brawn) roll is successful, the character takes no damage from the poison and suffers only incidental side-effects such as nausea. If the Survival (Brawn) roll is not successful, the character has succumbed to the poison, and their maximum Endurance is reduced by one. Periodically thereafter, the character must attempt another Survival (Brawn) roll (once a round for very potent poisons, once an hour for very weak poisons, and once a minute for normal poisons, at the GM's discretion). Each failed Survival (Brawn) roll results in another reduction of the character's maximum Endurance. This continues until the character successfully makes a Survival (Brawn) roll, or they are administered the appropriate antidote (if one exists), or their maximum Endurance is reduced to zero. Once the character successfully makes a Survival (Brawn) roll against the poison or is administered the appropriate antidote, their maximum Endurance is restored at the same rate it was lost.
Some poisons and pathogens have additional effects, such as blindness or paralysis.
A character with Environmental Immunity is unaffected by poisons and pathogens.
If a character is exposed to extreme atmospheric pressure, their maximum Endurance will be gradually reduced until they return to their natural atmosphere, or until their maximum Endurance is reduced to zero. How quickly their maximum Endurance is reduced depends on how prepared they are and the severity of the conditions. If a trained diver were 30 meters under water (approximately 3 atmospheres, or 30 decibars), their maximum Endurance would be reduced by one maximum Endurance per minute: life threatening, but not immediately fatal. If the same character were 300 meters under water (approximately 30 atmospheres, or 300 decibars), their maximum Endurance would be reduced by one maximum Endurance per round. Once the character has returned to their natural atmosphere, their maximum Endurance is restored at the same rate it was lost.
A character with Environmental Immunity is unaffected by high pressure.
Radioactivity is caused by the decay of the atomic nucleus of an unstable atom. Living things exposed to high amounts of ionizing radiation develop acute radiation syndrome (ARS), also known as radiation poisoning or radiation sickness. Acute radiation syndrome is an umbrella term for a variety of symptoms which occur within 24 hours of exposure and which may last for several months.
The symptoms of acute radiation syndrome depend on the exposure. Relatively small doses of radiation result in nausea and vomiting, headaches, fatigue, fever, and a reddening of the skin. Intermediate exposure can result in more severe gastrointestinal disorders and symptoms related to a drop in the number of blood cells, such as infection and bleeding. Larger doses can result in neurological effects such as dizziness, headache, or decreased level of consciousness, followed shortly thereafter by death.
Twenty-four hours after exposure, a character exposed to radiation must make a successful Survival (Brawn) roll against the radiation. Failure indicates that the character has developed acute radiation syndrome and their maximum Endurance is immediately reduced by one. Each week thereafter, the character must attempt another Survival (Brawn) roll against the radiation. Each failed Survival (Brawn) roll results in the character's maximum Endurance being reduced by one. This continues until the character successfully makes the Survival (Brawn) roll, or until their maximum Endurance is reduced to zero. Once the character successfully makes the Survival (Brawn) roll against the radiation, their maximum Endurance is restored at the same rate it was lost.
A character suffering from acute radiation syndrome incurs a penalty die on all rolls. However, suitable treatment grants a bonus die on the victim's Survival (Brawn) roll. Small doses of radiation are treated with blood transfusions and antibiotics, while greater doses of radiation require exotic treatments such as bone marrow transplants. Large doses of radiation are invariably fatal to normal human beings.
A character with Environmental Immunity is unaffected by radiation.
|Fallout from a recent nuclear explosion||3|
|Vial of plutonium||6|
|Interior of a nuclear reactor||9|
SIDEBAR: Liefeld Radiation
Exposure to Liefeld radiation typically results in spontaneous painful deformity followed by death. Symptoms include atrophy of the hands, feet, and abdomen, and a grotesque increase in musculature in the chest and thighs. However, in rare and isolated cases, exposure to Liefeld radiation has resulted in a permanent transformation from human to posthuman. Such cases are one in a million, at best.
A character who goes more than 24 hours without sleep begins to suffer the effects of sleep deprivation. Initially, the character experiences weariness, confusion, and irritability. After three days without sleep, the character experiences hallucinations and decreased cognitive ability. Prolonged, complete sleep deprivation results in weight loss and ultimately death.
If a character goes more than 24 hours without sleep, their Reason is reduced by one. Each day that the character remains awake, their Reason is reduced by one, until their Reason equals zero. Once the character's Reason is reduced to zero, their Agility is reduced by one per day until their Agility equals zero. Once the character's Agility is reduced to zero, their maximum Endurance is reduced by one per day until their maximum Endurance equals zero. Under normal circumstances, the character will fall unconscious at this point and remain so for at least a day. However, if the character is physically prevented from losing consciousness, they will eventually die. Once the character has resumed a normal sleep pattern, their attributes are restored to their normal values, although they may experience some lingering fatigue.
A character with Environmental Immunity is unaffected by sleep deprivation.
A character who goes more than 7 days without eating begins to suffer the effects of starvation. Initially, the character experiences weakness, confusion, and irritability. After three weeks without food, the character experiences hallucinations and convulsions. Starvation eventually results in death.
Each 7 days a character goes without eating, their maximum Endurance is reduced by one, until their maximum Endurance equals zero. Additionally, the character incurs a penalty die on all rolls. Once the character has resumed a normal diet, their maximum Endurance is restored at the same rate it was lost.
A character with Environmental Immunity is unaffected by starvation.
If a character needs to breath but is unable to do so, such as someone drowning or suffocating, their maximum Endurance is reduced by one per minute until they can breathe freely again, or until their maximum Endurance equals zero. Once the character is able to breathe normally, their maximum Endurance is restored at the same rate it was lost.
A character with Environmental Immunity is unaffected by suffocation.
If a character is exposed to vacuum, their maximum Endurance will be gradually reduced until they return to their natural atmosphere, or until their maximum Endurance is reduced to zero. How quickly their maximum Endurance is reduced depends on how prepared they are and the rapidity of the loss of atmosphere. If a trained astronaut were exposed to a loss of atmosphere over the course of a minute, their maximum Endurance would be reduced by one maximum Endurance per minute: life threatening, but not immediately fatal. If the same character were exposed to a hard vacuum without warning, their maximum Endurance would be reduced by one per round. Once the character has returned to their natural atmosphere, their maximum Endurance is restored at the same rate it was lost.
A character with Environmental Immunity is unaffected by vacuum.
|Item||Mass||Brawn (to lift)|
|medium dog, full suitcase||20 kg||1|
|full pony keg of beer, small sea turtle||45 kg||1|
|slender adult, large dog||65 kg||1|
|full keg of beer||75 kg||2|
|typical adult, small floor safe, wooden chest||90 kg||2|
|heavy adult||125 kg||2|
|racing motorcycle, refrigerator, wooden table||150 kg||3|
|weapon locker, gun safe, large sea turtle||200 kg||3|
|large brown bear, dolphin, harpsichord, lion||225 kg||3|
|motorcycle, medium floor safe, tiger, a Twinkie 11 meters long||300 kg||4|
|grizzly bear, large desk, riding horse, touring motorcycle||400 kg||4|
|polar bear, empty light wagon||500 kg||4|
|cow, draft horse, small sailboat||600 kg||4|
|compact car, piano, loaded light wagon||900 kg||5|
|civilian helicopter, medium missile, grand piano||1,000 kg||5|
|full size car, large herbivore, hippopotamus||2 t||6|
|small military helicopter, Humvee||3 t||6|
|armored Humvee||4 t||6|
|elephant, empty dump truck||5 t||6|
|light jet fighter plane||7 t||7|
|large military helicopter, empty tractor-trailer||9 t||7|
|jet fighter plane||10 t||7|
|international marijuana shipment, Polaris missile||20 t||8|
|loaded dump truck||20 t||8|
|private jet plane, empty train car||30 t||8|
|empty C-130 cargo plane, loaded tractor-trailer||40 t||8|
|Easter Island stone head, loaded tanker truck, bank vault||50 t||8|
|suburban house, Trident missile, M1 Abrams tank||50 t||8|
|loaded C-130 cargo plane||80 t||9|
|blue whale||90 t||9|
|loaded train car||100 t||9|
|locomotive, fishing trawler||200 t||10|
|empty 747 passenger plane||300 t||10|
|typical train||400 t||10|
|loaded 747 passenger plane||400 t||10|
|Space Shuttle||2,000 t||12|
|Coast Guard cutter, passenger train||3,000 t||12|
|Saturn V rocket||3,000 t||12|
|Eiffel Tower||6,000 t||13|
|freight train||7,000 t||13|
|destroyer, nuclear submarine||8,000 t||13|
|10 story building||9,000 t||13|
|Brooklyn Bridge||10,000 t||13|
|long freight train||10,000 t||13|
|large nuclear submarine||20,000 t||14|
|aircraft carrier||80,000 t||15|
|loaded tanker ship||100,000 t||15|
|cruise ship||100,000 t||15|
|large office building, loaded large tanker ship||200,000 t||16|
|Empire State Building, empty Ultra Large Crude Carrier||400,000 t||16|
|Ben Franklin Bridge, loaded Ultra Large Crude Carrier||600,000 t||17|
|Golden Gate Bridge||800,000 t||17|
|enormous skyscraper||900,000 t||17|
|Great Pyramid of Giza||5,000,000 t||18|
|avg human running||20 km/h||3|
|max human running||40 km/h||4|
|fast submarine||80 km/h||5|
|fast bird, cheetah, sailfish||120 km/h||5|
|fast car||320 km/h||6|
|fast helicopter||400 km/h||6|
|F5 tornado wind||480 km/h||6|
|terminal velocity||530 km/h||7|
|bullet train||560 km/h||7|
|pistol bullet||1,100 km/h||7|
|supersonic airplane||2,000 km/h||8|
|rifle bullet||3,000 km/h||8|
|escape velocity||40,000 km/h||10|
|solar winds||483,000 km/h||12|
|interplanetary speeds||4,700,000 km/h||14|
Tell A Story The Kalos Comics Way
A game of Bulletproof Blues is, at its core, storytelling. When any RPG campaign loses the story telling focus, and devolves into a series of battles, the characters are no longer characters at all. They become writing on a piece of paper, just complicated tokens pushed around the game board of the campaign setting.
The players look to the game moderator to provide that setting and a series of problems or situations to resolve. Generally, this sequence of events is referred to as the plot. Sections of the overall plot that take multiple game sessions to resolve are called a story arc. The key to an engaging, thrilling experience for players and game moderator is for the GM to connect the individual game sessions together in a way that engages the persona each player is playing.
It is important to note a plot dynamic in Bulletproof Blues games which does not occur in comicbooks -- unlike a comicbook, each player in the group sees their PC as the main character of the story. The GM needs to give equal "spotlight" time for each player to roleplay in situations that explore their character's motivations, complications, and history. GMs can use the Kalos Comics Way to build a story that features all of the PCs equally.
For comicbook writers, the Kalos Comics Way requires development of two types of structures. First is a conventional, western-style narrative structure for each story arc, containing the classic five elements: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Writers are encouraged to embed some foreshadowing exposition from the next story arc into the rising action and falling action of the current story arc, in order to create a bridge from one story arc to the next.
Second, writers must produce an eastern-style narrative structure known as kishōtenketsu for each major character. In the Kalos Comics Way, the purpose of the kishōtenketsu is to communicate how the "person behind the mask" will be engaged in the story arc. The PC hero, after all, isn't a hollow shell with powers. The character is a person (or alien or robot) who lives in the world, and who has worldly emotions, concerns, and desires. GMs are encouraged to use the hero's motivations, complications, and history to build each kishōtenketsu.
Because kishōtenketsu is a technique useful for merging two seemingly unrelated plot threads without requiring direct conflict, it is used in the Kalos Comics Way to bring the mask and the person behind the mask together in the story.
In the Kalos Comics Way, after the story arc plot is laid out, and a kishōtenketsu is done for each major character, they are all woven together to form the basis for the storyboard of the comic art. In Bulletproof Blues, they are all woven together to provide the framework for the game moderator's campaign.
Story Arc Plot
The story arc plot is the sequence of events in the current section of the overall story. The plot is made up of five elements centered around how the main characters confront and eventually (hopefully) overcome the source of the conflict. The five elements are:
The exposition is where the heroes are placed into the location of the story arc setting, key NPCs are identified, background information is provided through dialogue or explanation, and the game moderator provides clues or explicit instructions that lead the heroes into the rising action.
The rising action is a series of conflicts or problems that grow more and more complicated and challenging for the heroes. The resolution of one conflict leads to the next. The rising action builds excitement as each danger is vanquished or mystery solved. The Kalos Comics Way uses two to four combats or encounters to build the rising action.
The climax is the turning point of a story, novel, or script. It is the moment where it seems like the main character is in danger or could even possibly fail at resolving the conflict. Depending on the kind of conflict being faced (man vs. man, man vs. self, etc.), the actions at this point in the work can be either physical or mental.
Taking place after the climax, the falling action includes events that will help to fully resolve the conflict. The results of actions that the main character has taken are presented as well as the results of decisions that have been made, whether good or bad for the character.
The end of a story, novel, or script includes the last plot element -- the resolution. It is here that loose ends are tied up, conflicts are concluded, outcomes are revealed, and a happy or sad ending takes place. As many of the final actions have already taken place, a resolution can be made up of a just a summary of where the main character will end up in the future, instead of including any more active events.
Kishōtenketsu is a compound word formed from the Japanese Kanji characters that explain the structure. The examples here are from poet Sanyō Rai.
Daughters of Itoya, in the Honmachi of Osaka.
The first element places the character in the context of what is important in the character's life. Typically, the ki element sets the scene, forming the basis for how the things the character cares about will become part of the story.
The elder daughter is sixteen and the younger one is fourteen.
The second element, shō, expands on the first element and typically contains an action that develops on the scene identified in ki.
Throughout history, warriors have killed the enemy with bows and arrows.
The third element is the climax, in which an unforeseen development occurs. Typically, the relationship of the content of ten to the first two elements is not readily apparent. In other words, there is not a linear progression from shō to ten.
The daughters of Itoya kill with their eyes.
The fourth element, ketsu, is the conclusion. Ketsu merges ten into the narrative direction of ki and shō.
The Kalos Comics Way
In the Kalos Comics Way, the comic writer or GM assembles the pieces of the story in the following manner:
- The first step is to assign draft events to the five story arc plot elements. These events may change during the process. The climax is identified first, then the rising action that builds up to it, followed by exposition. Falling action and resolution are done last, then all 5 are reassembled in their chronological order.
- The second step is to create a kishōtenketsu for each major character based on their motivations, complications, and history.
- Third, the kishōtenketsu are inserted into the five elements where it makes the most sense from a story and character standpoint.
- And finally, in the fourth step, for the comic writer the assembled plot is reviewed with the editor, then sent to the pencillers and turned into a story board. For the GM, this step is where the descriptions are filled in, and NPC and villain characters are created or taken from sourcebooks.
The Big Example
Below is an example that illustrates how you can use the Kalos Comics Way in your games.
Step 1: Story Arc Plot
The GM wants to use the story arc to reveal a new master villain: Dr. Virago, a super scientist bent on world domination, who has been cryogenically frozen since 1973. Dr. Virago's technology was 100 years ahead of its time in 1973, so it is still advanced, but also strangely dated. The GM intends for Dr. Virago to become one of the PC group's long-term arch nemeses.
With that in mind, it is important that Dr. Virago survive the climax of the story arc in a way that propels the campaign forward. The GM decides that the best way to keep Dr. Virago as an active antagonist is to not have Dr. Virago directly involved in the climax. Instead, Dr. Virago's 1970s-style robot bodyguard/killing machine will take the brunt of the heroes' wrath, and Dr. Virago's involvement will be revealed in the falling action after the climax of the story arc.
Climax: The heroes think they have found the lair of Dr. Virago, but instead they've fallen into a trap! They've been sealed in a subterranean base with Dr. Virago's monstrous death robot, MX-ML1, who's been programmed to kill!
The GM decides that Dr. Virago wants to acquire some bio-weapon technology -- an area that has seen tremendous strides while she was in cryogenic hibernation. Her investigation has led her to Lance Doughty, a virologist, who had a history of selling his private research. But not all of Doughty's research is in government or corporate hands -- Dr. Virago's "sources" say key formulas are stored in a safe deposit vault owned by Doughty's estate.
But Dr. Virago is no fool. She doesn't want to be directly involved at all. So she hires three mercenary villains: Razor, Cacophony, and Equinox. Razor has gang affiliations, so Dr. Virago tells him to hire some local muscle to do the actual break-in. She provides some vials of a mysterious, powerful Transformation Serum so the thugs will agree. Plus, the gang can have everything in the bank vault, as long as they turn over Doughty's safe deposit box unopened and unharmed.
Rising action 1: A 911 call leads the heroes to a couple of gang members who have taken the Transformation Serum. The chemicals have warped their bodies, making them far stronger and tougher than normal, and wildly violent.
Rising action 2: After questioning one of the malformed thugs, the heroes go to the gang's safehouse to recover the stolen goods and the rest of the Transformation Serum. Clues lead the heroes to the mercenary villains.
Rising action 3: The heroes find Razor, Cacophony, and Equinox, and bring them to justice. The villains reluctantly agree to reveal the location of Dr. Virago's hideout.
The police begin to realize they are out of their depth when they see the hole ripped into the brick wall of Metro City National Bank. Their fears are realized when they see three monstrous men on the security tape, so naturally they call the heroes.
Exposition: A call from Metro City police ask the heroes to help capture three "creatures" who broke into Metro City National Bank.
After the heroes defeat Dr. Virago's monstrous death robot, MX-ML1, they hear an odd clacking sound from another room. They enter to find a telex machine sending the last page from a stack of documents. A cursory glance reveals that documents contain complex formulas and engineering specifications. Behind the telex machine is a bank of two dozen 16" tube type color televisions. The screens flicker on, showing a test pattern, then the aged, malevolent face of the dreaded Dr. Virago! She is surprised and angry that the heroes defeated MX-ML1, and swears vengeance.
Falling action: After defeating MX-ML1, the heroes discover that Dr. Virago has been the mastermind behind the bank robbery and the Transformation Serum. The evil genius' whereabouts are unknown.
Once the federal government finds out that Dr. Virago has somehow returned, dozens of agents swoop in on the subterranean base, seizing the documents and the remaining Transformation Serum. The heroes are "debriefed". The gang members who broke into the bank are identified and charged with the crime. Razor, Cacophony, and Equinox are long gone -- they escaped from custody while they were being transferred to jail.
Resolution: Local police and federal law enforcement coordinate to secure Dr. Virago's base. The gang members who broke into the bank are charged with robbery, but Razor, Cacophony, Equinox, and Dr. Virago herself remain free, leaving the heroes frustrated.
In chronological order, the story arc plot is:
- Exposition: A call from Metro City police ask the heroes to help capture three "creatures" who broke into Metro City National Bank.
- Rising action 1: A 911 call leads the heroes to a couple of gang members who have taken the Transformation Serum. The chemicals have warped their bodies, making them far stronger and tougher than normal, and wildly violent.
- Rising action 2: After questioning one of the malformed thugs, the heroes go to the gang's safehouse to recover the stolen goods and the rest of the Transformation Serum. Clues lead the heroes to the mercenary villains.
- Rising action 3: The heroes find Razor, Cacophony, and Equinox, and bring them to justice. The villains reluctantly agree to reveal the location of Dr. Virago's hideout.
- Climax: The heroes think they have found the lair of Dr. Virago, but instead they've fallen into a trap! They've been sealed in a subterranean base with Dr. Virago's monstrous death robot, MX-ML1, who's been programmed to kill!
- Falling action: After defeating MX-ML1, the heroes discover that Dr. Virago has been the mastermind behind the bank robbery and the Transformation Serum. The evil genius' whereabouts are unknown.
- Resolution: Local police and federal law enforcement coordinate to secure Dr. Virago's base. The gang members who broke into the bank are charged with robbery, but Razor, Cacophony, Equinox, and Dr. Virago herself remain free.
Step 2: Kishōtenketsu
For our example, we'll use a team of three PCs:
- Blueshift – Speedster martial artist hero, reformed criminal
- Manticore – Flying, armored superhero persona of an international celebrity
- Monolith – Massive, immensely strong hero who advocates for children's charities
These PCs are established heroes from Kalos Comics who we're teaming together. Along with each hero's motivations, complications, and history is that hero's kishōtenketsu.
- Pragmatism: The character believes that practical accomplishments are more important than ideas and philosophies.
- Rebellion: The character doesn't fit into the larger society.
- Enemy: Blueshift is still hunted by Project Genesis, and not everyone has forgiven her criminal past.
- Outsider: Blueshift's unease around normal people is often taken as disdain.
For Blueshift's history, please see her full character write-up on page XXX.
The GM decides that Blueshift's background as a leader of Master Sin's strike team would be a good way to bridge the gap between the gang members and the mercenary villains. Equinox, when she isn't using her fire and ice powers to commit crimes, is an alcoholic: a rough and tumble country girl who drowns her sorrows in cheap whiskey and drugs at honky-tonk bars. Having worked with her before, Blueshift knows Equinox's habits, recognizes the description given by one of the thugs captured at the gang's safehouse, and knows how to find her.
- Ki (Introduction): Blueshift and three armored troopers hide outside an industrial complex, watching the guards patrolling behind a razor wire fence.
- Shō (Development): The troopers give Blueshift confused, questioning looks as she checks her watch then looks past them to the horizon and the glowing haze above a nearby town.
- Ten (Twist): A woman is slumped against the bar in a seedy dive, one hand clutching an empty glass, eyes barely open.
- Ketsu (Reconciliation): Blueshift grits her teeth as she slings the woman's arm over her shoulder and drags her out of the bar, in spite of the woman's protests.
The GM can use this kishōtenketsu series of events as a flashback so Blueshift's player can suggest canvassing local honky-tonk dive bars with a description of Equinox. In addition, this knowledge can be used after the story arc is complete as foreshadowing for future story arcs concerning Blueshift's past and/or the continued pursuit of Dr. Virago.
- Adventure: The character has an adventurous spirit and rarely turns down a quest.
- Community: The character believes that the greatest measure of an individual is in their value to society.
- Enemy: Chloe Zhang is internationally famous, which makes her a very easy target for her enemies.
- Vulnerability: Most of Manticore's powers are dependent on her armor and equipment.
For Manticore's history, please see her full character write-up on page XXX.
For this story arc, the GM uses Manticore's significant experience as a hero and her numerous encounters with the subversive groups that plague the modern world. Recently Manticore defeated a group of infiltration specialists and armored stormtroopers working for ASGARD. Among the information gathered from the defeated agents was a list of contacts.
When the Metro City police show the heroes the security video of the bank robbery, they also have a list of the owners of the safe deposit boxes. One box belonged to the estate of Lance Doughty.
- Ki (Introduction): Five years ago, Manticore and her teammates Mr. Shade and Ladon, Guardian of Ages, stand over the unconscious bodies of a group of Vidar: dangerous agents employed by the evil organization ASGARD.
- Shō (Development): Just behind Ladon, a Vidar agent attempts to erase data from a handheld device, but Manticore notices and leaps to stop him.
- Ten (Twist): A disheveled man in a lab coat accepts a thick envelope labelled "Doughty" from a disinterested woman. He gets out of her car, and with a nervous backward glance walks into the night.
- Ketsu (Reconciliation): Manticore can see a phrase, "Doughty 1471" flash across the display as the device melts through the agent's trembling hand.
The GM decides to foreshadow this recollection in the exposition, then drop the reference into the story arc plot during the fight with the mercenary villains. Manticore doesn't have to associate the list of deposit box owners (from the bank manager) with the name from the ASGARD device. Instead the GM will mention "1471" as if by accident while roleplaying the braggart Razor or the uncontrolled Equinox during the fight. Manticore will make the connection, then the team can use their Investigation skills to trace from the safe deposit box, to Doughty's estate, to recent contacts with the estate, to a landline phone call from an abandoned warehouse just outside of town that disguises the entrance to one of Dr. Virago's underground bases.
- Compassion: The character wants to protect others and alleviate their suffering, particularly the innocent and the helpless.
- Justice: The character seeks to ensure that misdeeds are met with appropriate punishment.
- Enemy: Monolith has made many enemies, but Cesspool is the most vile and persistent.
- Uncontrolled Power: Monolith's size and weight make it impossible for him to have a normal life.
For Monolith's history, please see his full character write-up on page XXX.
The GM decides that commitment to charity work would be an excellent opportunity to connect the "human elements" of the story. In the course of his volunteer work, Monolith has met one of the thugs who robbed the bank. Monolith doesn't think the young man is a criminal type, so there must be some other explanation.
- Ki (Introduction): Monolith attends a charity event -- a ribbon cutting for a new inner city playground.
- Shō (Development): One of the organizers introduces Monolith to a teen, Abe Washington, who is good student, but who is having trouble in his tough neighborhood.
- Ten (Twist): Three deformed, monstrous humanoids tear through the wall of a bank and loot the vault.
- Ketsu (Reconciliation): While watching the security video of the bank robbery, Monolith sees that one of the humanoids has the distorted face of Abe, the boy from the playground.
With this information in hand, the GM decides to add a wrinkle to the story arc plot: the genetic damage caused by the Transformation Serum is potentially lethal, and there is no known anti-serum. Two of the gang members involved in the bank robbery have died from the side effects. Only the young man Monolith befriended is alive, but time is running out. As the boy lay dying, he refuses to speak with anyone other than Monolith. As he slowly slips into a coma, he explains to Monolith that Razor threatened his family if he didn't take the Transformation Serum and participate in the robbery. The clock is ticking. Will the heroes find a clue to an antidote in Dr. Virago's subterranean base?
Step 3: Integration
In chronological order, the story arc plot with kishōtenketsu added is:
- Exposition: Monolith is interviewed by a local news reporter about his attendance the day before at a ribbon cutting for a new inner city playground. A senior Aegis agent stops by to see Manticore and thank her personally -- the only surviving ASGARD Vidar agent from a recent raid has been found guilty of espionage. A call from Metro City police ask the heroes to help capture three "creatures" who broke into Metro City National Bank late last night. While on her way to the precinct station, Blueshift passes by a honky-tonk bar she remembers from a time years ago when she worked for Master Sin. At the station, the bank manager gives the detectives information about what was stolen, and the detectives show the heroes the security camera footage. Monolith recognizes one of the humanoids as Abe, a boy from the playground.
- Rising action 1: The heroes' next steps are interrupted by a frantic 911 call. The heroes fight a couple of gang members who have been transformed, their warped bodies making them far stronger and tougher than normal, and wildly violent. One of them is the boy from the playground. The effects of the transformation begin to take their toll: the boy is dying. He refuses to speak with anyone other than Monolith, revealing the involvement of Razor, a known posthuman criminal, and discloses the location of the gang's safehouse.
- Rising action 2: The heroes go to the gang's safehouse to recover the stolen goods and find out more about the drug that turned the gang members into monsters. After a battle with the thugs, some transformed and some not, but all armed, the heroes question the gang about the location of Razor and the origin of the serum. The gang doesn't know much, but one of them describes an associate of Razor's with half her body on fire, and the other misted over with ice. Blueshift recognizes the description as Equinox, and has an idea of where to find her.
- Rising action 3: The heroes ask around at the bar where Blueshift had found Equinox years ago. The bartender is tight lipped, but a local drunkard gives directions to a fancy hotel where the heroes find Razor, Cacophony, and Equinox preparing to skip town. The villains fight until defeated. During the fight, one of the posthumans complains that they better not go to jail just for 1471. The reference reminds Manticore of her experience with ASGARD's Vidar agents. The name Doughty isn't common. Maybe the two are connected? With the help of police detectives and a list of safe deposit box owners from the bank manager, the investigation leads from the safe deposit box to Doughty's estate, to phone records, to an abandoned warehouse outside of town.
- Climax: Descending into the depths in a secret elevator, the heroes think they have found the lair of Dr. Virago, but instead they've fallen into a trap! They've been sealed in the subterranean base with Dr. Virago's monstrous death robot, MX-ML1, who's been programmed to kill! Can they defeat the robot in time to defuse the self-destruct mechanism? Will they find an antidote to the Transformation Serum and save Abe's life?
- Falling action: After defeating MX-ML1, the heroes disarm the self-destruct mechanism and find a shortwave telex machine sending the last page from a stack of documents. A cursory glance reveals the documents contain complex formulas and engineering specifications -- Doughty's research notes for a massive virus bomb. Behind the telex machine, two dozen 16" tube type color televisions flicker on, showing the aged, malevolent face of the dreaded Dr. Virago! She is surprised and angry that the heroes defeated MX-ML1, and she swears vengeance. The screens click off: the evil genius' whereabouts are unknown. A quick search reveals a few vials of antidote among the dusty boxes of Transformation Serum. The heroes return to town as fast as they can. All of the other young men who took the serum have died -- only the boy from the playground still lives. With the antidote in his system, he slowly returns to normal.
- Resolution: Local police and federal law enforcement coordinate to secure Dr. Virago's base. The boy from the playground is the only survivor of the three who broke into the bank, and without any evidence of him being coerced, Abe is charged with robbery. Razor, Cacophony, and Equinox are long gone -- they escaped from custody while they were being transferred to jail. If Doughty had plans for a virus bomb in his estate, what did he sell to ASGARD five years ago? But perhaps most troubling is Dr. Virago herself. What new terror will she unleash on the world? How will she wreak vengeance on our heroes? Only time will tell.
Step 4: Fill In The Details
With the story arc plot and kishōtenketsu merged together, the last step for comicbook writers using the Kalos Comics Way is to meet with the editors who ensure continuity with the Kalos Universe, crisp pacing, pithy dialogue, and good taste in character development. The last step for the GM is to fill in the blanks with the materials needed to run the story arc with the gaming group. Here are a few key things you'll need:
- Descriptive passages to give some color and personality to the key locations. These are very helpful when the PCs move from one location to another, since they provide a box of text the GM can read from to set the scene with key details. Think about all five senses: what the characters will smell, and hear, whether the ground is hard or soft, crunchy or slippery.
- Write-ups for the villains. It seems obvious, but improvised villains can prove one dimensional. It's one thing to role-play an unspeaking villain like Cacophony, but having a reference that lists her skills, or the scope of her devastating sonic attacks, or her claustrophobia can be important. Write-ups from Bulletproof Blues sourcebooks are naturally encouraged.
- Maps for complex places, especially for fight scenes. Even a crudely hand drawn map is a better visual reference for GMs and players alike than nothing at all. Think of unusual elements in the environment that can be used in fun and interesting ways.
- Names and one sentence descriptions for NPCs. What are the detectives' names? Was the reporter who interviewed Monolith sympathetic, or did she seem slightly hostile? Little details can go a long way toward improving the game.
- Ideas that build on the events in the story. If the heroes go back to ask the drunkard how he knew where the posthuman villains were, what do they find out? Is he an Aegis agent in disguise? Or was it really Dr. Virago trying to tie up loose ends? Having ideas like these ahead of time can help you dovetail this story arc into the next one.
- An expectation of the unexpected. Role-playing game players are crafty and inventive. Sooner or later they will derail your prepared plot and take the game in a direction you didn't think about. Be ready to improvise!
- The most important thing you'll need is a sense of fun and adventure. Bulletproof Blues is a game in a dark setting. The PCs are surrounded by malevolent corporations and sinister government initiatives run amok in a world shell-shocked from the unprecedented destruction wrought by Paragon. But Bulletproof Blues is a game. It's intended to be a fun way for a few friends to get together and work as partners fighting the good fight. Enjoy it!