I’m going to be talking about the Breakout mini-event in the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying rulebook. I’m not going to be giving too much away, I think, but if you’re planning on playing the adventure, I’d say don’t read the last couple of paragraphs.
You Have Been Warned!
So, a couple of weeks back, my friend Clint, who runs a couple of games I play in, was looking for an opportunity to play in a one-shot game that he didn’t have to run. I stepped up to volunteer, and set out a list of games I could run on short notice to the group who were interested, and got them to vote on what they’d like me to run for them. They voted for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying1.
No one else in the group had read the rulebook, so I was clear to run Breakout again. I approached it a little differently this time around because I was running it for my friends, in private, and not as part of the Launch Party event as a representative of anyone else. One of the things I did was to allow the group to select characters from the complete list of heroes in the rulebook2. We wound up with an interesting mix: Black Widow, Colossus, Daredevil, Shadowcat, and Storm.
I had put together a kit for running the launch party, consisting of the laminated cheat sheets for the players, the laminated play mat for me, a bag of poker chips, a bag of red dice for the Doom Pool, a bag of green dice for everyone to share, the datafiles, some pencils and pens and post-its, and some flippable cards for tracking who’s gone in the turn sequence3. For this session, I added index cards on which I had printed out all the villain datafiles, as well as the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent stats for the players. And I spent some time making custom flippable cards for each of the five players, featuring art of the hero each was playing4.
I also decided to start the game by running the hook as a transition scene, giving the players a chance to do a little roleplaying and establish some assets for use later on. Only a couple took advantage of the opportunity to create an asset, because they each had only one plot point, and were worried about getting more. But Black Widow wound up with Expert on Raft Security Systems d8, and Daredevil came to the party with Bob Reynolds’s Legal Research d8. When everyone was ready, we went on to the action scene.
I had prepped a little better for this one than for the previous one, mapping out some choices for the big villains, and determining which minor villains I was going to use and where I was going to use them. Thus, the escalation of things, and the addition of more villains worked more smoothly than in the previous game I ran. The fact that I had all the villains printed out on index cards made it easier for me to track who had acted in the turn and who hadn’t, because I could just flip the cards over when the villain had finished his turn. I also kept a closer eye on the Doom Pool, using the dice more frequently5 than I had previously, and that helped the flow and build of the game.
Some highlights of the game:
- Colossus wiping out a mob of villains in one attack by being dropped into their midst by Storm.
- Storm whipping up the winds to create Storm-Swept d12 on the open landing deck.
- Shadowcat using her intangibility and counter-attacks to essentially get Armadillo and Tiger Shark to beat themselves unconscious.
- Black Widow using her S.H.I.E.L.D. squad, not to fight the villains, but to get the Raft security measures back online and send a distress call to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ.
- Daredevil locking Foggy Nelson in an empty cell to get him out of harm’s way.
I ended the scene by spending 2d12 from the Doom Pool6. Up until the distress call, I had thought the scene was going to be a real disaster for the characters, and was ready to narrate a pretty grim ending, but with the distress call, the scene ended with the arrival of reinforcements and the bulk of the villains being rounded up.
We finished up with another transition scene, as Black Widow kept Maria Hill from arresting the stray X-Men, and then interrogated the prisoners to find out who the target of the break-out was. When she found that it was Karl Lykos, the X-Men got a little worried, and were able to fill in the rest of the gang about the kind of threat he poses.
Everyone had a good time, and we’ve decided to run the second act in the next couple of weeks. So, this one goes in the Win column.
- Well, actually, the vote was tied between MHR and Dragon Age. We went with MHR because Clint voted for it, and as he generally GMs for this group, I gave his opinion extra weight. Also, I was currently obsessing about MHR and wanted another chance to run it. [↩]
- Minus the Sentry, who is really more of a plot device than a character in the game. At least, in the first act. [↩]
- I carry this stuff – less the oversized play mat – in two organizer pouches from Tom Bihn. The dice and poker chips fit nicely into a Tom Bihn travel tray, which doubles as a bowl for the dice in play. Some time soon, I’m going to have to do a blog post about gaming bags, a much-neglected market in the luggage industry. [↩]
- Okay. Tangent. Searching for art for comic book characters online – especially female characters – will show you things you cannot unsee. It’s not good. And when you’re looking for a picture of a character to put on a card for the daughter of two of your friends, it becomes blindingly easy to see that most pictures of female comic book characters – even the non-X-rated ones – are all about the boobs and the butts. My point? I dunno. I just wish not every woman in a superhero comic was treated like a cheesecake model. I guess. As an aside, the art chosen for the MHR rulebook tends to avoid this kind of sexism, tends to more diversity than you normally see in mainstream comics. So, kudos to the gang at MWP for that. [↩]
- Also more intelligently. [↩]
- Which held only 2d12, so that worked about right, as far as I’m concerned. [↩]