My group and I are playing through theÂ Civil WarÂ event book forÂ Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, fromÂ Margaret Weis Productions. While the course of play may not follow the event book â€“ or the comic books â€“ precisely, thereâ€™s going to be a certain amount of stuff that does conform to the adventures and comic series.
In short, if you donâ€™t want to know what happens in Civil War, donâ€™t read these posts. Or the comic books.
***You Have Been Warned***
Last Friday was the latest installment of my Civil War game. I had planned to finish off the first Act of the game, as we were going to have all the players in attendance, and I really wanted everyone there for the transition to Act Two. Unfortunately, we were hit with a snow storm, and one of the players lives some distance outside the city, so he couldn’t make it1. That meant that I had to rethink what I was planning to do for the game in about an hour and a half or so.
There are some awesome things about the Civil War Event Book, and one of them is that there are lots of little – I don’t want to say throw-away and I don’t want to say filler scenes, so let’s call them optional scenes. Or secondary scenes. Yeah. Secondary scenes works. There are lots of secondary scenes that you can bring in if you want, or ignore if so choose. And you can shift them around in the order of the game pretty easily. So, I was able to grab a few of those, arrange them in a rough order, and be ready for the game.
I also sent some e-mail to my players, letting them know that I was putting off the end of the act for one more session, and asking them if there was anything they’d like their characters to pursue this session. Only Volcanic2 replied to that request, saying that he didn’t know what my plans were with Nitro, but he’d really like Volcanic’s last act before being declared an outlaw and hounded out of public life to be turning Nitro over to the authorities. So, I added the Big Sur scene from Act Two to the list of scenes.
I’ve come to realize that, in this event book at least, the Act structure is primarily a pacing device. There is a skeleton to the Act: two or three scenes that tell the overarching story. Those scenes are best when run in the order given. But the other scenes – taken largely3 from the events of the tie-in comics – are there to provide colour and options, and they can be shifted with impunity. These scenes generally stand alone, or have their own storyline linking two or three scenes, and the don’t necessarily impact the main story4.
That all meant that it was pretty trivial to move the scene from Act Two to Act One. But that’s not where we started.
When the group arrived, I started things with Mega Joule, who had missed the previous session. I wanted to give him a chance to do any character things he had planned to do before the rush to the registration deadline took over. He decided that he wanted to use another plot point to create another persistent contact5 – this time someone in the press. The event book has a nice section on the press in it, so I gave him the option of choosing one of the named characters from that section, and he picked Robbie Robertson.
At this point, I said, “Okay. How do you want to make Robbie Robertson you contact?”
He stared at me for a second, then said, “I… don’t… know…?”
“All right. Let’s take a step back, then.”
We played through a scene with Mega Joule going to the Daily Bugle6, being made to wait in the reception area full of crank superhero wannabes7, impressing Betty Brant by hoisting up her desk with one hand. He got in to see Robbie, who interviewed him in a conference room that JJ didn’t have a line of sight to from his office. The upshot of the whole thing is that Robbie is publishing the interview as a human interest piece – The View From the Other Side – in the Sunday supplement of the rabidly pro-registration Bugle, and has agreed to print other pieces as letters to the editor.
Mega Joule headed back to the Guardians’ secret base to find the other Guardians absent, and an unfamiliar woman there. She introduced herself as Candy, Volcanic’s grad student and love interest.
Actually, what happened here was awesome. I said that, as Mega Joule was looking around at the base, which was missing several large pieces of equipment8, a woman came out of Volcanic’s suite of rooms. Clint, who plays Volcanic, said, “Hi,” in a falsetto voice, so Chris, who plays Mega Joule, turned to Clint to start talking to Candy. I took the opportunity to go out to the kitchen for something to drink, and they carried on the conversation for a couple of minutes until Clint yelled at me to come take over because, as he put it, “Candy is your NPC!”
Why is that awesome? For a couple of reasons. First, it was great that Clint jumped right in like that, having fun and going with the moment, and that Chris just followed along. Second, the fact the fact that he backed off indicates that he’s interested in seeing what I do with Candy as an NPC and an important part of his story, and doesn’t want to do anything that might paint me into a corner with it9. I would have been fine the conversation going on longer, as long as both the players were comfortable with it, because that would have given me some foundation for figuring out what to do with Candy in the story, but even this little bit was a lot of fun for me.
Anyway, after Volcanic and Jumpstart got back to the base and everyone was filled in on what was happening with everyone else, the gang got to work with what they had decided was their main objective for this session: tracking and, if possible, apprehending Nitro.
Volcanic already had the chemical signature of Nitro10, so Jumpstart hacked into the SHIELD computers11, and Mega Joule used his shady contacts to get access to a number of criminal websites. Volcanic took all the information, and cobbled together a device and program to sift the data for information and chemical signatures to try and track Nitro’s whereabouts.
Mechanically, this is what I did: I gave Nitro’s location a stress track -Â essentially, Solution Stress. The Guardians had to attack the mystery with their various abilities and resources until it was taken out, and then they’d have Nitro’s location. This is kind of contrary to the way that such things are handled using plot points to establish resources in Transition Scenes, but I find that my players like the idea of being able to use their dice pools outside of Action Scenes to do things like solve mysteries and such12. In this particular case, Mega Joule and Jumpstart were assisting Volcanic, so he wound up with some nice extra dice to roll, and they located Nitro at Big Sur.
The all jumped into the GX-113 and flew across the country to California. As they closed in on the location, they scanned the surroundings and identified one human life sign in a remote cabin, and several non-human life signs closing in on the cabin. The gang decided on the direct approach, and launched Mega Joule from the supersonic plane right through the cabin, taking out Nitro14 with one shot.
At this point, the figures hiding in the woods around the cabin came forward and revealed themselves as Atlantean soldiers, come to bring Nitro back to face Namor’s justice for killing Namorita of the New Warriors, Namor’s cousin. I guess you could call some of what followed “negotiations,” because there was no punching, but right from the get-go, it was pretty obvious that neither side was interested in giving any ground on this. The Guardians wanted to deliver Nitro to the human authorities, and the Atlanteans wanted to give him to the Atlantean ones.
Jumpstart broke the impasse by trying to zip down, grab the unconscious Nitro, and zip back to the GX-1 with his super speed, but the largest of the Atlanteans15 manage to clothesline him, stopping the kidnap/rescue cold, and then everything went to hell.
The upshot was that the Guardians chased off the Atlantean footsoldiers16 and the commander, and rendered the big warrior unconscious. They dumped him in the nearby lake and made off with Nitro, improvising some restraints that would keep him from exploding on them. They interrogated him on the flight back to NYC, and managed to get him to say that everything was Declun’s17 fault.
Which was, I felt, the perfect time to use my carefully-husbanded 2d12 in the doom pool to end the scene – and the session – by having the helicarrier appear in the sky above them18 and order them to come aboard and turn over the prisoner. Also, themselves.
So, we closed the session on a bit of a cliffhanger.
In the time before our next game, I’ve been going through my notebook19 and pulling together all the notes on this game to try and put them in a usable form. In particular, I want to come up with a range of unlockables specific to this group and this game. That’s one of the reasons I’m thinking of making the contact thing an unlockable instead of using plot points.
But I’ve got a little bit of time to get that sorted before the next game. I’m sure I’ll think of something.
- For those who don’t know, Manitoba snow storms are somewhat ruthless. We Manitobans tend to affect a hardy, blasÃ© attitude towards them, but that’s just our phlegmatic prairie stoicism. When the weather can and will kill you about eight months out of the year, you respect the weather.
- Well, not really Volcanic, of course. Clint, who plays Volcanic. You know what I mean.
- But not exclusively.
- Though I can see some them doing so. For example,
- I talked about deciding to allow this kind of expenditure for a plot point a couple of sessions ago. Currently, I’m rethinking it – it might work better as an unlockable, using XP instead of plot points.
- Which I repeatedly called the Daily Planet. What can I say? I’m a DC guy at heart.
- You know the kinda thing: guy in Spidey pyjamas, a Doc Ock with cardboard tube arms, a Black Widow with a bad wig and an adam’s apple, stuff like that.
- Now part of the GuardJet, which was renamed to the GX-1 this session.
- Third, the petty part of me got a kick out of Clint getting flustered when trying to play Candy. He’s an awesome player and GM, and this just caught him off-guard and unsure, but I take my gloating where I can. Right, Clint?
- Obtained as a d10 resource during the Stamford clean-up.
- Using his SHIELD Back Door d10 resource, created the previous session.
- I have an ulterior motive, here, as well. The more they roll dice, the more chance I have of building the doom pool. For the second session in a row, I found the doom pool really languishing because none of the players were rolling 1s.
- Formerly the GuardJet – there was a bit of an extended discussion during the game about how the name GuardJet was almost as bad as Fantasticar, and how they needed to come up with a cooler name. I don’t know that GX-1 is cool, but it is less stupid.
- Also one end of the cabin.
- Janus, for those following along at home.
- Not sure that any of them know who Declun is at this point, but that’s fine.
- There is a reason for this. The gang just doesn’t know it, yet. Though now that I’ve said that, I expect they’ll have it sussed out by next session.
- It’s a Moleskine notebook that I keep beside me as I run games to make notes and such. All the notes on the games I’m running are in there, which makes it rather disorganized.