Civil War: Taking AIM

***Spoiler Warning***

My group and I are playing through the Civil War event book for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, from Margaret Weis Productions. While the course of play may not follow the event book – or the comic books – precisely, there’s going to be a certain amount of stuff that does conform to the adventures and comic series.

In short, if you don’t want to know what happens in Civil War, don’t read these posts. Or the comic books.

***You Have Been Warned***

This session almost didn’t happen on Friday night. That is to say that, instead of Civil War, I had scheduled a one-shot AD&D 1st Edition adventure for a group that consisted mostly of the Civil War game, with one additional player. That additional player wasn’t able to make it, so we decided to play Civil War instead ((Why am I bothering to tell you guys this? Well, mainly so that I can assure Chris and the rest of the guys that the AD&D one-shot will still happen.)). What this mainly meant was that, not having planned on another Civil War session before my upcoming vacation ((I’m going to Ireland on Friday for three weeks.)), I had a bit of a scrabble to get my prep work done for the game.

We had ended the last game with the Guardians in the secret AIM base below Ground Zero in Manhattan. Our heroes had just dealt with a couple of squads of troopers and a few scientists, and the emergency lights and klaxons had started, with a PA announcing that the destruct sequence had begun. That’s where we picked things up.

The Guardians decided they had three main objectives at this point: clear the people from the complex ((And preferably confine them for later prosecution.)); shut down the dangerous, overloading, high-energy experiments; and stop the destruct sequence to keep it from reducing lower Manhattan to rubble. Two of these issues were represented by the situational distinctions Overloading Experiments and Panicky Scientists Everywhere!, while the destruct sequence was represented by a countdown die ((Among the many things that make me sad about the end of the MHR license is the fact that the Annihilation event book, with all it’s cool new tricks, won’t be printed. Still, the Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide is coming, so that’s good.)). To take care of these, the gang split up.

Jumpstart, with the help of a lightning sprite summoned by The Doctor, went looking for the main computers to shut down the destruct sequence. They found the sealed main computer room, but it was guarded by Bushwacker.

Now, to make the whole AIM complex scene more interesting, I went looking through the published MHR books looking for tech-based villains that weren’t already serving some purpose ((Or serving some time.)) in the event. I grabbed a few of these, and beefed them up a bit. I did this by giving them some AIM-provided assets and, to avoid the problem I ran into previously, I wrote these down on post-its and stuck them to the cards representing the villains in the turn order. So, Bushwacker had the assets Sniper’s Perch d10 and AIM-Tech Camouflage Field d10, and Living Laser had AIM-Tech Photonic Capacitor Harness d12 ((“How does he wear…” “It’s unstable molecules. Go with it.” “Is it just pots of glow-in-the-dark paint?” “I SAID GO WITH IT!”)) when he pounced on Megajoule.

So, The Doctor and Jumpstart managed to get into the computer room and shut down the destruct sequence, though they took some roughing up from Bushwacker ((Who managed to escape custody at the end of the session, thanks to his AIM-Tech Camouflage Field d10.)) in the process.

Meanwhile, Volcanic and Mega Joule concentrated on shutting down the overloading experiments – Volcanic using his scientific and technological expertise, and Mega Joule using his Universal Off Switch (aka Kinetic Blast). Volcanic did a good job on that, but Mega Joule was distracted by Living Laser trying to mess with him. That didn’t last too long, though; Mega Joule took him out with a single counterattack followed by his own attack. Then he moved on to helping delay the destruct countdown, because Volcanic had managed to cut the power to the labs and shut down the Overloading Experiments distinction.

Volcanic moved on to clearing out the scientists, herding them into a big rock cage adjacent to one of the subway tunnels a few levels up above the base for later disposal. One of the scientists he was shoveling away like this screamed, “No! It will get out!” as he was swept up, which made Volcanic pause beside a large, sealed metal door.

And that’s when the tentacled horror ((From Civil War: Fifty Stat Initiative event supplement, pFS73. I bumped up the die types on all its ratings by one step, because I’ve found that the PC heroes are pretty damned tough.)) came bursting out and tried to eat him. Volcanic made himself a big lava sword and hacked at it until it swallowed him, then he cooked it from the inside.

At that point, the AIM base was empty and stable, and we called it a night ((We had started somewhat late, and I had to work the next morning, so it wasn’t as long a session as I might have otherwise run.)). As people were packing up, we did a little talking about the aftermath of the raid: how it would definitely boost their credibility when it came to attracting more anti-registration folks to their cause, how it would – once again – show up S.H.I.E.L.D., and how they had some limited access to the AIM computers for a little while before S.H.I.E.L.D. swooped in.

To simulate this last point, rather than roll out hacking attempts or spend plot points for assets based on it, I told the group that they could ask me three questions about AIM and I would answer them, and that would represent the datalooting of the AIM base mainframe. They’re going to discuss it via e-mail and put together their three questions for me before the next session. If they get them in early enough, I may even do up some handouts or other in-game props to represent what they find.

And then, to lay some pipe for the next few sessions, I told them they saw a news announcement of Captain America telling all unregistered heroes that, unless they stepped forward in the next twenty-four hours and registered, S.H.I.E.L.D. would ((In a spectacular dick move.)) begin releasing their secret identity information to the public. That got everyone all riled up again, just in time to close down for the evening.

I’m looking forward to seeing where things go from here.

On a Related Note

Margaret Weis Productions has recently announced that their license for producing MHR has been terminated. That means no new MHR products will be released.

I want to say thank-you to the crew at MWP who worked on the game. I think the system is a triumph of design, that the way you built the event books was inspirational, and that the products you put out to the public are beautiful and useful. You should all be very proud of what you’ve done.

I’ve enjoyed playing and running the game immensely. It has got me reading Marvel comics again – I’m still a DC guy at heart, but now there are some Marvel titles ((Outside the Ultimate continuity; I always liked the Ultimate continuity.)) that I follow faithfully. The game books got me interested in picking up The Siege and Annihilation back issues, as well. So, for at least one gamer, the cross-marketing plans for Marvel have been fulfilled.

I want to say a special thank-you to Cam Banks, who has been a great ambassador and advocate for the game. He’s been friendly and approachable, both in person and via e-mail. He’s over at Atlas Games now ((Where, in the before times, some of my own writings were published.)), but still keeps his hand in on Cortex Plus – I hear he’s just finished the system design work on the new Firefly RPG, for example.

So, thanks for everything, folks. The game’s not dead – I’m still running it. And I plan to running it ((And even hopefully playing it.)) for years to come.

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