Uncanny X-Mas!

Yesterday was the 11th Annual Winnipeg Harvest Game Day at Imagine Games & Hobbies. This is a day each year that Wendy and Pedro host a bunch of boardgames, miniature games, and RPGs. People come down and donate non-perishable food items to Winnipeg Harvest and, in return, get to compete in the various games for prizes.

The past couple of years, I’ve been running a Gamma World event there. But last year, there was a TPK, so I figured it was time to retire the Gamma World run ((Also, the popularity of Gamma World has waned over the past couple of years. The game, while fun, didn’t really have the legs to support a long-term play experience.)), and start something new. I’ve been enjoying running Marvel Heroic Roleplaying ((Hard to tell from my posts about it, huh?)), so I thought that would be an interesting game to toss in this year. The games are supposed to be Christmas-themed, so I took advantage of the release of the Civil War: X-Men supplement to create Uncanny X-Mas.

As is usual for these things, by the time I arrived to set up for the game, we had a grand total of one name on the sign-up sheet for Uncanny X-Mas. That number had grown to one ((Yes, that’s a joke. It’s also true.)) by the time the 1:00 start time rolled around. I still wasn’t too worried, because I’ve found that I can always fill the table if I wait a little bit. Ray, the fellow who had signed up, had shown up on time, but he was cool about waiting a little while to get more players, because that would make for a better game. I appreciate your patience, Ray!

Shortly after 1:00, a session of The Walking Dead boardgame ended, and two of those players came over to play, and then other people started gravitating towards the table. By 1:30, all the slots were full, and we were ready to start the game ((See? Told you so.)). Our heroes for the day were:

  • Cyclops
  • Nightcrawler
  • Emma Frost
  • Psylocke
  • Micromax
  • Colossus

I gave them the opening pitch for the game:

Uncanny X-Mas!

The madness of the Scarlet Witch has all but eliminated mutants worldwide. In the aftermath of M Day, the 198 remaining mutants gather at the Xavier Institute. The manned Sentinels of the O*N*E keep watch over the refugee camp that now surrounds the school, protecting humans and mutants from each other. Things are bleak – mutants are now an endangered species, Charles Xavier is missing, and tensions between heroes and normal folks are increasing as the SHRA is being discussed in Congress. Cyclops and Emma Frost are trying to keep Xavier’s dream alive, but even they begin to despair in the face of the uncertain future.

But all that is put aside for now. Christmas is tomorrow, and the remaining X-Men have decided that the mutant children in the school and in the camp deserve the best holiday their protectors can provide. And so a group of mutant heroes have gathered in the mansions great hall, drinking egg nog in front of the roaring fire, and wrapping presents.

What could possibly go wrong?

I ran the first scene as a transition scene, giving the players (only one of whom had played the game previously) a chance to get the hang of the mechanics, build some assets ((And contribute to the doom pool.)), and do some roleplaying. Now, because there was a prize at stake, I resorted to my old method of determining a “winner” for RPGs. At the end of each scene, I had the players vote for the character that they though had done the coolest thing. No one could vote for themselves and, at the end of the session, the player with the most votes got the prize.

The first scene, the votes went overwhelmingly to Emma Frost. See, Colossus decided to dress as Santa Clause and go out to cheer up the mutant children in the tents. He blew his roll badly, and I used the opportunity to show how counterattacks work, saying that he had scared the children, which inflicted some emotional stress on him due to guilt. Emma Frost decided to go out and calm the children down, threw in a little mind control action, and wound up with the asset Worshipful Child Minions d10 ((Which she promptly made persistent by spending a plot point.)), a fistful of XP for hitting some milestones related to her criminal past, and everyone’s stunned admiration. Also, their votes.

The second scene started with Psylocke sensing a disturbance outside, and rushed to help. She found packs of misshapen robotic elves pouring out of a giant flying sleigh-like flying ship. They were snatching mutant children, blasting everyone who got in their way. As they hauled the children back to the sleigh, the X-Men rushed out to stop them. The fight went on in a couple of different locales as the heroes split up to deal with the various groups of elves, and wiped them out in fairly quick order, but not before I had my 2d12 in the doom pool to end the scene.

I was really anticipating the reveal that the mutant children were being stolen away by Nanny – I had her egg-shaped form waddle to the open door of the sleigh, calling the X-Men naughty children, and all the rest of the schtick.

And everyone looked at me blankly.

I thought I had been clever using a fairly obscure villain ((She was, in fact, suggested to me by Cam Banks.)), but I was apparently a little too clever, because no one recognized Nanny. So, I outlined Nanny’s backstory to give some context for the whole thing, and everyone went, “Oh. Okay. Cool,” and we were off again.

The next scene was trying to trace where Nanny was taking the children. I ran it as a sort-of combat – the characters made their attempts to figure out where she had gone, using the effect dice from their attempts to inflict “Solution Stress” against the mystery. When they topped d12, the mystery was taken out, and they had her location, which just happened to be The North Pole, a Santa’s village tourist attraction in Connecticut. They hopped in the Blackbird and flew off to get the children back.

They overflew the site, spotting Nanny sitting on Santa’s Throne in the middle of the village, surrounded by her robo-elves and kidnapped ((And brainwashed, of course.)) children, with Orphan-Maker standing beside her. Emma Frost freed the children from Nanny’s control, while Psylocke put her to sleep. Colossus air-dropped onto Orphan-Maker ((Prompting comments about Peter-on-Peter action, which I quickly stifled, because this was a game in a public space and we had a child at the table.)), plowing him through a gingerbread house. Nightcrawler got the children away from the fight, and Micromax and Cyclops teamed up on the robo-elves.

Now, one of the quirks of the Winnipeg Harvest Game Day this year is that players were given cheat tokens for their donations – one token per dollar’s worth of food donated. They could spend these tokens for benefits during play. Here’s the menu of cheat offerings I came up with for the game:

Cheat Menu

1 Plot Point
1 Cheat Point

You can gain an extra plot point at any time for one cheat point. You can do this as often as you like and can afford.

O*N*E Sentinel Intervention
5 Cheat Points

An O*N*E Sentinel piloted by James Rhodes appears and takes one action that you determine. This can happen once per scene, but each intervention costs five cheat points.

10 Cheat Points

Another hero comes along to help you for one scene. Choose another hero datafile from the pile, and you can play both characters for one scene. You can do this once each scene.

Reborn in Fire
15 Cheat Points

With the very existence of mutants in jeopardy, the Phoenix Force reaches out to you and grants you a portion of its power for one scene. You gain the Phoenix Force power set. This can only happen once in the entire game.

Why bring this up now? Because this is the moment that Nightcrawler spent his cheat points to channel the Phoenix Force. This is what I came up with for the Phoenix Force powers:

The Phoenix Force

The Phoenix Force suffuses your body, mind, and spirit, filling you with godlike power. Unfortunately, it will take time to master the full spectrum of the Phoenix’s abilities; in the heat of battle, you can only access the following powers:

Fiery Blast d12        Space Flight d12      Godlike Senses d12

The Phoenix Force power set has no SFX and no Limit.

In addition to these powers, you channel the energy into one of your mutant abilities. Pick one ability from a mutant power set and step up the power die by +1, to a maximum of d12.

So, Nightcrawler unleashed fire on Peter and the elves, Colossus spent a fistful of cheat points for plot points to soak up Orphan-Makers area attack on the whole group, and I think it was Micromax that finally put Orphan-Maker down.

Christmas was saved, the mutant children were rescued, and everyone lived happily ever after.

When the votes were tallied at the end of the game, it turned out that Emma Frost’s early lead had locked up the game for her. She was awarded the prize: a model of Nanny, made from a Kinder Egg, icing, and candy cane bits.

MHR Winner

The proud winner. Hard to see, but she’s holding a little model of Nanny, made from a Kinder Egg.

Thanks to Pedro and Wendy for hosting the event, and for providing the excellent prizes. And thanks to everyone who came down to play. And thanks especially to my players:

  • Colossus – Ray
  • Cyclops – Leo
  • Emma Frost – Kelsie
  • Micromax – Nathan
  • Nightcrawler – Aaron
  • Psylocke – Nadine

Merry Christmas, everyone!


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