I ran this session of Fort High: Monkey Trouble at Origins in 2007. If I’m not mistaken, it was the first successful playtest of the Weird Times at Charles Fort High setting. While I have tried to be as faithful to the actual game we played as possible, a number of details have been left out to keep the actual play report from reaching novel length and a few minor details have been changed for dramatic purposes (or because of faulty memory on my part). Many thanks to the players and my co-GM, Leighton Connor for making the game a resounding success. Thanks also to Roderick Thorp, John McTiernan, and Bruce Willis. While I'm far from the first to steal the Nothing Lasts Forever/Die Hard concept, at least I'm willing to admit it.
Brook Mathews: Fort High's head cheerleader, Brook has heightened reflexes and an instinctual knowledge of the best way to hurt people with her bare hands. Brook is a very popular student, but knows her social standing would plummet if anyone discovered her huge stash of anime DVDs. Recently Brook got into an altercation with another student (whose nose is healing nicely), which is why she's currently in detention.
“Buzz”: An alien entity from a far-away planet, Buzz can best be described as a “bug in a human suit.” Because of his constant insistence that he will one day enslave the human race, Buzz isn't exactly the most popular kid in school. Buzz has the proportional strength of an insect and an irrational fear of bright lights. Buzz was given detention for threatening to enslave his English class.
Rachel Evans: Rachel is a quiet geek who spends most of her time in the library. The fact that she's telepathic and can tell that most other students take absolutely no notice of her hasn't done wonders for her self-esteem. As a result, she is much more comfortable around books than around people. Rachel was given detention for reading in class.
Ray Ray Balboa: Ray Ray has the ability to cause hands to materialize out of any solid object and do his bidding, but most people know him as the kid who throws up on the Zeppelin every day on the way to school. This doesn't make him especially popular, and whenever students divide up into teams or study groups, Ray Ray is always the last kid picked. Ray’s in detention for tripping another student in the hall.
Prudence Caufield: Prudence desperately wants to be depressed and angsty, but her frequent accidental perkiness (and the fact that her parents are incredibly wealthy) hasn't exactly endeared her to the goth crowd she so wants to be a part of. Prudence has the ability to sense and project emotions. Prudence got a Britney Spears song stuck in her head during a math class, and was given detention when she couldn't control her urge to sing out loud during a quiz.
Pete Winters: A classic pencil-necked geek, Pete's the kind of kid who regularly be stuffed in his locker—that is, if he didn't spend so much of his time hiding in his locker out of fear that someone will stuff him in his locker. Pete doesn't have any parahuman powers, but is a genius when it comes to fringe science. Pete got detention for building ray guns in school.
Pauly Piffleman: Paul is a dorky telepath who spends most of his time playing video games. Mr. Weckler gave Pauly a week in detention for playing video games during history class.
The Breakfast Club
Detention at Fort High starts half an hour before school and continues through the 15-minute homeroom period (when attendance is taken, morning announcements are made, and students are allowed a few minutes to socialize before starting the day). Students who have detention spend this time in the school cafeteria. The theory is that they all sit at separate tables where they can study and think about what they've done. In reality, Mrs. Gravanski (the math teacher in charge of detention) doesn't usually enforce these rules as long as the little hooligans leave her the hell alone.
On this particular day, Mrs. Gravanski was in a particularly foul mood, shushing the students every few minutes as she very intently studied her laptop. Prudence sensed a feeling of resigned desperation from the math teacher, and the telepaths were able to quickly discover that Mrs. Gravanski hated her job, and that the computer she was so attentive to had its web browser open to Monster.com. Before the students could have any fun with this information, however, all hell broke loose.
When Monkeys Attack!
As they were relaying Mrs. Gravanski's dissatisfaction with her job to the other students, Rachel, Prudence, and Pauly suddenly sensed chaotic fear coming from every corner of campus. Upon hearing gunshots and telepathic screams of “Oh my God! They killed Joey!,” the kids realized something was horribly wrong.
Before they got the chance to speculate about which student or students had finally snapped and gone Columbine, the back door to the cafeteria opened, sending Buzz scampering under the table away from the bright daylight. When an eight-foot tall gorilla with cybernetic implants walked through the door, the other students followed Buzz under the table.
As the ape walked toward the students, waving his large arm-mounted cannon menacingly and telling them to stay right where they were, Mrs. Gravanski darted out the door. She didn't get far. As the sounds of a burst of automatic gunfire were heard from outside, the telepaths in the group heard Mrs. Gravanski's final thought: a disappointed “Well of course.”
While the simian intruder was telling someone at the other end of his high-tech headset that the cafeteria was secure, Buzz attempted to use his bug-like strength to hurl the table at the damn dirty ape, but the table was heavier than expected. Buzz refused to be defeated and kept straining at the table. Meanwhile, Pete Winters pulled the ray gun he had been working on from his backpack and fired at the gorilla. While the gun didn't kill the ape, it caused some sort of electrical short in its cybernetics, sending high-voltage electricity through the ape's body. The rest of the students, led by Brook and her powerful Kung-Fu, finished off the gorilla. As the monkey fell to the ground, a cafeteria table landed on top of him.
After ensuring that the ape would not cause any further problems, the students began trying to figure out what exactly was going on. Outside, above the athletic field at the center of campus (and directly behind the cafeteria), they could see a large, heavily-armed zeppelin slowly circling the school at a low altitude. They could also make out several cyber-apes posted at the entrances to the buildings, with a particularly large concentration of monkeys near the door of the school library (a de-consecrated Catholic Church on the west side of campus). A few ape snipers were stationed on top of the library and the Science and Technical Arts Building (better known to students as the S.T.A.B. building). The kids also spotted an ape patrolling the hall outside the cafeteria.
As the students armed themselves with knives from the kitchen, Principal Ty Khoffman appeared on the video screen in the cafeteria (and, presumably, the rest of the school). Khoffman was seated at his desk as if he were reading the morning announcements, perfectly calm despite the two cyber-apes with cannons aimed squarely at his head.
“Students, this is your principal,” Khoffman said in his deep, James Earl Jones-like voice. “I would like to remind you that crime-fighting is a job best left to professionals, and that Fort High does not tolerate vigilante action of any kind. While the situation was not considered when these rules were formulated, this includes when the school is taken over by cybernetic gorilla---er, simians,” Khoffman corrected himself as one of the apes glared menacingly. “Please cooperate with our unexpected guests and DO NOT try to be heroes. I promise that I will do my personal best to see that this situation comes to a peaceful and bloodless close.”
The students in the cafeteria were not reassured by Khoffman's calmness. Despite his fatherly demeanor, every student at Fort High knows that during the Cold War Ty Khoffman was one of the top agents of W.O.L.F. (The World Organization of Liberty and Freedom). Sometime in the late 60's, Khoffman was nearly killed by the commies, but instead of retiring with a medical pension he volunteered for an experimental cybernetics program and kept fighting the good fight. Every time the Reds got the better of Ty Khoffman, they rebuilt him—faster, stronger, better. Khoffman is known to protect his students with the same fervor he once protected the American way of life. According to one rumor, a pusher who was dealing near the school when Khoffman first came to Fort High is still eating through a tube.
Though shaken by the apes' ability to keep Principal Khoffman from kicking monkey ass, and the possible punishment for violating Khoffman's warning, the detention students tried to come up with a plan to save their school. They realized that the sheer number of monkeys on campus was too much for them to handle, but knew that if they could get to the S.T.A.B. building they could probably improve their odds by raiding some of the Mystifying and Divergent Science program labs. Unfortunately, there were at least a 20 cyber-apes and a war zeppelin between them and the science building.
The Simian Liberation Front
As the students continued to ponder their situation, the video screen once again came to life. This time, and cybernetic gorilla was sitting at Khoffman's desk. The ape began speaking in an unspecified Eurotrash accent:
“I should begin by thanking Principal Khoffman. His idea to allow the Fort High video feed to be sent out to emergency service organizations and all the major news networks was really quite ingenious, and useful for my purposes. For too long mankind has treated simians as mere animals, caging them in zoos and using them as test subjects for dangerous and degrading experiments. The United States has been one of the worst offenders. Today, this reign of terror ends. The Simian Liberation Front is now in control of Charles Fort High, home of your country's best and brightest young people. If you would like these fine young Americans to live to see tomorrow, we demand that all American zoos and laboratories release our simian brothers from captivity within the next three hours. And just to prove that these are not empty threats,” the ape said, almost as an afterthought. At this point the ape stood up and pulled a frightened-looking Timmy the Frogboy into the camera's view. Timmy was the school mascot (no costume required) whose positive attitude and great sense of humor made him popular with both teachers and students. The ape causally raised his gun to Timmy's head and fired. As Timmy's froggy brains splattered onto the camera, the screen went dead.
The students in the cafeteria could hear noise coming from the administrative offices, and the telepaths in the group could sense Ty Khoffman's righteous fury. Realizing that they had to help their principal, the kids threw themselves upon the ape patrolling the hallway. While the element of surprise allowed them to take out the ape, the battle was not quiet and the kids realized that ape reinforcements would no doubt arrive soon. They headed towards the school's main entrance hall, where the door to the administrative section of the school was located.
As they neared the foyer, the students were met by two apes who had been guarding the door to the administrative offices. Before the apes could attack, Prudence sent a blast of ennui at them. This caused the apes to lose the will to fight, allowing the students to easily subdue them. Two other apes stood outside the doors to the school, but apparently hadn't heard the commotion inside thanks to the reinforced building materials required in a superhuman educational facility. Ray Ray spotted the chains and padlocks used to lock up the main doors at night and locked the apes out while the other students approached the office. As Prudence sent another wave of ennui towards the office, a very badly injured ape came flying through the main door. Down the hallway, the students saw Ty Khoffman snap the neck of a strangely uncaring ape.
Meanwhile, the flying ape hit the front door, causing a loud enough crash to alert the guards outside that something was amiss. The apes tried the doors, discovered they were locked, and began attempting to beat them down. “Good job with the emotion blast, Prudence—what was that, depression? Existential crisis?” Khoffman asked.
“Ennui,” Prudence perkily replied.
“Great job! I'll even forgive the fact that you broke the 'no powers outside of class' rule just this once. It's a good thing I had those psionic dampeners implanted in my brain after the thing in Rome in '79—otherwise I might not have been much use.”
As the apes outside pounded on the doors, cracks began to appear in the reinforced glass. From down the two main hallways that connected to the foyer, the group could hear the sounds of simian footsteps running their way. Ty Khoffman herded the kids into his office, where they saw the dead, bloody remains of Timmy the Frogboy. Several of the students became nauseous and a few threw up. After giving everyone a moment to deal with Timmy's death and regain their composure, Khoffman spoke again.
“The office is pretty secure, but those apes are hellava tough and will manage to get in here sooner or later.”
As if on cue, the students heard the sounds of ape fists and bodies crashing into the office door.
“I could lose my job for asking, but I'm going to need your help. I was hoping that taking out the leader—the one they called Hans—would take the fight out of those damn dirty apes, but his goons got in my way and he escaped. I hope you kids had some kind of plan when you started running through the hall taking out gorillas. Let's hear it.”
“Actually the running through the halls bit wasn't part of the plan until we heard you fighting,” said Pete. “We were hoping to find a way to get to the S.T.A.B. building so we could whip up some weaponry. Right now all we have are some knives and this.” Pete held up the ray gun.
“Pete, we've had the discussion about building ray guns in school...”
“I know! I know!,” said Pete nervously.
Brook spoke up, “Guys, as much as I'd like to hear about how much detention geek-boy is about to get, we've got bigger problems. Those apes are going to be breaking down the door any minute, and we'll have to fight our way through them, not to mention a whole shitload--”
“Language!” Khoffman corrected sternly.
“fine, a whole bunch of apes and a blimp with giant guns all over it between us and the S.T.A.B. building. We've got to come up with a plan!”
“Good point,” said Khoffman. “But you're forgetting I was a spy long before any of you were born. We don't have to fight our way back out of the building--there's a secret exit from this office. It comes out about 100 yards from the monorail.”
The one-car monorail had been installed to carry students between the main school building and S.T.A.B., so they wouldn't have to walk the length of the enormous hyperball field in inclement weather.
“If we all go,” continued Khoffman, “the apes that are about to bust down this door will be on our tails, in addition to the ones outside. If you kids think you can make it to the monorail, I'll buy you some time.”
The students agreed to try to make it to the 'rail while Khoffman distracted the apes in the building. Khoffman pulled a mean-looking handgun from his desk and pointed to a small ceramic statue of Charlie the Frog, the school mascot.
“When I give the signal, press Charlie's left eye. That will open the secret door.”
To the Science Building!
The principal moved to the door and took a defensive stance. He then pointed to Rachel, who pressed the button in Charlie's eye. A file cabinet pivoted away from the wall, revealing the escape tunnel. As the students rushed into the tunnel, they heard the sounds of splintering wood and gunfire.
Before the students exited the tunnel, Ray Ray caused a large hand to rise up from the ground outside. The hand moved with the students as they ran along the side of the building towards the monorail, providing them with some cover from the spray of bullets coming from the zeppelin and the snipers. The two apes posted near the monorail moved toward the group menacingly. Prudence attempted to once again take the fight out of the apes with an emotional blast, but her powers were very weak due to repeated use. Brook, Rachel and Pete attacked the pair of guards with feet, fists, knives, and ray guns while Ray Ray concentrated on keeping the hand between them and the gunfire from above.
While this was going on, Buzz threw open the door of the monorail and pushed the dead body of Zed, the monorail driver, from the driver’s seat. Pauly Piffleman, meanwhile stared in awe at the head cheerleader. Once the immediate ape threat had been taken care of, the rest of the students climbed into the car, slammed the doors, and ducked for cover. Several of the apes guarding the exits to the main building started to run across the athletic field towards the monorail.
As Buzz tried to figure out how to get the monorail moving, Rachel pointed out that, though several apes were running towards them, the ones near the library held their positions. “I wonder,” she asked, “if they're trying to find the secret room in the library.”
“Oh come on,” said Prudence dismissively, “Everyone knows the secret room is just an urban legend, like the one about how the devil comes to The Grove one night every year.”
The Grove was a small stand of trees near the library, in the center of which was a small clearing complete with standing stones imported from Europe. It was used for some of the flakier occult arts classes, and was a popular spot for students to make out or get high between classes. According to school legend, Satan came to The Grove once a year to hang out and maybe buy a soul or two.
As the monorail lurched forward, Brook changed the subject to more pressing concerns. “I don't really care what those apes are doing. Right now we need to come up with some kind of plan for when we get to the S.T.A.B. building. There are two apes at the door, snipers on top of the building, and a whole bunch of monkeys headed our way. On top of that, the gorillas in the building will probably be waiting for us as soon as we open the door, since they've got some kind of cell phones or walkie talkies or whatever built into their heads.”
“Actually,” said Pete, “that shouldn't be a problem. You can't get a cell or radio signal inside the S.T.A.B. building. It's got some kind of shielding to keep stuff from the Introduction to Waves class from leaking out and causing equipment to go haywire.”
“Good to know,” said Brook. “What else can you tell us about S.T.A.B.?”
“If you've ever had a class there, you know the basic layout. It used to be some kind of factory, and the main floor is still mostly open, with rows of lockers and big pieces of equipment separating the different workshop classrooms—auto body, sculpture, robotics—anything that needs power tools and lots of space. There are stairs up to the classroom level right next to the main door, and a freight elevator in the middle of the building. Upstairs are computer labs and classrooms with lab equipment for chemistry, biology, and stuff like that. Oh, yeah—I almost forgot about the safety walls. They're these big thick blast-door kinds of things that can be lowered to block off parts of the ground floor when we're testing out stuff that could cause collateral damage. The control room for the safety walls is on the second floor next to the biogenetics lab.”
“We've got to assume there are students inside. If we could lure some of the guards away from them, could we use the walls to trap the apes?”
“That might work. The doors on the safety walls can only be opened with a key code, but hopefully the apes haven't done that much research. There are monitors in the control room, so we could tell where the apes are and try to drop a wall between them and the students. Of course, actually making it work would require really good timing and reflexes. It would be like--”
“Playing a video game?” Brook asked as everyone looked at Pauly Piffleman. Pauly Piffleman's heart raced. Brook Mathews was asking for his help!
Ape Ass-Kicking Action Hour
As the monorail moved toward the S.T.A.B. building, the students put the finishing touches on their plan and tried to ignore the bullets bouncing off the train. As soon as they got close enough, Ray Ray made a hand appear from the S.T.A.B. building wall. The hand grabbed the gun arm of one of the gorillas and turned it ninety degrees. Before the ape had time to take his finger off the trigger, a spray of bullets went into his partner's chest at point-blank range. Meanwhile, Pete held his fear at bay long enough to bust out a window and dispatch the held monkey with several blasts from his ray gun.
Once the guards at the door were taken care of, Ray Ray created more hands to hold the gorillas running towards the monorail while buzz brought the train to a stop and the group ran to the S.T.A.B. building doors, dodging sniper fire from above. The group made their way through the door as stealthily as possible and did a bit of recon. The apes had a large group of students under heavy guard in one corner of the building, and a few additional gorillas were patrolling the main floor.
Brook once again took the lead. “Ok. Pauly will head to the control room and get ready to start caging up the apes. I'll go with him in case the apes have a guy there. Ray Ray, Pauly will send you a telepathic thumbs up once we're in place. When you get the signal, start making noise with your hands to draw some of the apes away from the students. I'm sure they'll keep a few guards there, but hopefully our classmates can take them out with sheer numbers. Everyone else get upstairs and start mixing up some chemicals we can use against the apes—Prudence is pretty good at chemistry, so follow her lead. We'll try to keep some of the high-tech sections of the main floor open so that Pete can find us something with a little more power. Let's go!”
The crew headed up the stairs, leaving Ray Ray behind to distract the apes. Once everyone was in place, Ray Ray used his powers to set the freight elevator in motion and knock over anything that would make a loud noise. As expected, apes started leaving the main group to investigate the noise. Pauly managed to forget the fact that Brook Mathews was guarding him long enough to trap most of the apes between safety walls away from the students. A montage of weapon-making then ensued.
Following the montage, the party made their way to the roof in order to take down the snipers and, hopefully, the zeppelin. The snipers weren't too much trouble for the now well-armed group, but the zeppelin proved to be more problematic. Even the weapons that could reach the blimp were not powerful enough to penetrate its powerful armor. Fortunately, Ray Ray was able to use his long-distance hands to disable the airship. As the zeppelin crashed to the ground, the remaining apes, including those guarding the library, began to flee. Just then, a huge explosion of magical energy issued from the library, blowing out the stained-glass windows and taking out several of the fleeing simians.
The party went back downstairs, where they found that the hostages had managed to overpower the remaining guards. Upon exiting the building, they saw Ms. Dillon, the school librarian, stumble out of the library building, obviously exhausted. They ran to the old church and Rachel put an arm around the librarian to steady her.
“Did you do that?” asked Rachel.
“Yes,” Ms. Dillon told them. “They were trying to get a very powerful item out of the library. I locked myself in the secret room and have spent the last few hours casting a spell to keep them from getting it.”
“This item,” asked Buzz, “is it the kind of thing that protects the earth from, oh, I don't know, being enslaved by a superior alien race?”
“Potentially,” Ms. Dillon said, “It was a very powerful item.”
“Was?” Buzz asked, a rather unpleasant gleam in his eye, “Does that mean it was destroyed?”
“I'm not sure,” the librarian replied, “if the spell consumed it or just sent it somewhere else. I'll have to look into that once I have my strength back. The spell was very exhausting. Right, now, we should probably make sure everyone else is alright.”
The group returned to the main school building just in time to see the end of what must have been a truly epic battle. The apes, their command post destroyed, were fleeing the school, only to be taken down by the huge assemblage of law enforcement types who had surrounded Fort High. As the students watched the last cyber-gorilla fall, Ty Khoffman, bruised, battered, and missing several patches of skin and muscle, approached them.
“Great work, kids! We won!” With that, Ty Khoffman passed out due to injuries that would kill most elephants. After helping the E.M.T.s load the principal into an ambulance, the kids did what they could to help the other injured students and teachers. As the last injured student was loaded onto the ambulance, Pauly Piffleman walked over to Brook.
“We make a pretty good team,” he said, moving as if to put his arm around her.
Brook grabbed Pauly's arm and flipped him over onto the ground. “Not a chance, dork.”
Job: Talking Gorilla (11)
Gimmick: Cybernetic Implants (13)
Weakness: Despite cybernetics and ability to talk, still a monkey at heart (13)
Skills: Climbing +3; Heigtened Sense +2; Jumping +1
Health Points: 20
Yum Yums: 1
Tag Line: "Die human scum!"
WWPHITM? Tim Roth
Dumb Fact: While bananas are fine and all, has developed a taste for pizza.