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 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***
After some scheduling delays, we managed to get the Guardians together for the second session of our Marvel RPG Civil War event. I really wanted the whole crew for this session, because I planned to end it with the Stamford explosion and the clean-up scene. After this, we get more flexible with attendance, but this is pretty much the seminal event of the… uh, event, and I felt that the impact would be diminished if onlyÂ some of the heroes were present for it ((We also had dinner: homemade beef stew, homemade soda bread, homemade butter, and homemade trifle for dessert.)).
Because of some real-world stuff, we got a bit of a late start. I had planned to run through two scenes this session – Titanium Man Attacks Washington, and Clean Up Stamford. That, I figured, should be enough to fill the evening and would end the session on a good, dramatic note.
We’d left our heroes at the end of last session exiting their congressional hearing into a crowd of reporters. Titanium Man appeared, smashed a decorative fountain, pointed at Mega Joule, and shouted, “You!” That’s where we picked things up, and I gave the first action to Mega Joule ((Just because it seemed dramatically appropriate, really. I mean, Jumpstart had his superspeed, so maybe he should have gone first, or The Doctor, with some warning from his mystic senses, but really, sometimes you just gotta go with your sense of the dramatic.)). He amped up his kinetic ability, spending a Plot Point to bring in both his leaping and kinetic control, to slam into Titanium Man and launch them both out of the crowd and into the reflecting pool.
A good roll on Mega Joule’s part and a bad one on Titanium Man’s part and Titanium Man winds up sputtering in malfunctioning armour in the reflecting pool with Mega Joule standing over top of him ((Yup. First action of the session was Mega Joule one-shotting the villain.)). The scene I had planned to take about half the session lasted less than five minutes.
So, I changed what the scene was about. The Guardians interrogated the Titanium Man ((Now encased in concrete, thanks to Volcanic.)) before S.H.I.E.L.D. agents arrived on the scene, trying to figure out why he had come to Washington to attack Mega Joule. I had to change how I was using Titanium Man to fit this new circumstance; instead of being a realistic and intimidating threat ((Like the original Boris Bullski.)), he became a youngÂ punk ((Because he’d just been taken down like a punk, after all.)) who had newly acquired the Titanium Man armour, and got in over his head.
This, of course, meant I had to come up with answers to the characters’ questions ((I hadn’t made the answers up, yet, because real life got in the way of my prep.)). The story I came up with: Titanium Man had been hired by the Sloveniy Bratva ((A Russian mafia group that I made up on the spot. Name inspired by the Solntsevskaya Bratva.)) to stop Mega Joule from messing with a street gang in Mega Joule’s neighbourhood, said street gang paying up to the Sloveniy Bratva.
This story introduces a new thread to the event, one not intrinsically tied to the Civil War, but that’s something I really wanted to do. See, a lot of the impact of the Civil War is in how it changes the lives of those involved – how it makes doing the normal things that much harder. With original characters like the Guardians, there isn’t the built-in baseline assumption of what “normal” is for the characters the way there is for, say, Spider-Man or Daredevil, so it becomes vital to build in some of these types of concerns into the game. Otherwise, the story has no emotional depth for or connection to the players.
I didn’t have anything prepped for going after the Sloveniy Bratva just yet, and it was too early in the evening to jump right to the Stamford explosion, so I said, “Who wants a mission from S.H.I.E.L.D.?” and everyone put their hands up. I pulled out Crusader Hijacks an Airplane, starting itin media res as suggested – The Doctor, Mega Joule, and Jumpstart disguised as Treasury agents, and Volcanic disguised as cargo – just as Crusader and his minions unveiled themselves.
This battle took a little ((Well, a lot.)) longer, and was more exciting. Volcanic used his massive size to send the plane into a dive ((Putting the complication Gravity is a Harsh Mistress d10 on the villains.)), Mega Joule and Jumpstart went on minion duty, and The Doctor tried to bind the Crusader with magic ((That didn’t work out too well, and The Doctor spent the next little while dodging his physical attacks.)). The doom pool was up to 5d10 by the time they got Crusader disarmed and was sitting at 4d12 and 1d8 by the time the minions were under control. I thought about ending the scene, but that felt a little cheap at this point – the heroes were working for their victory, and the only reasonable way to end the scene seemed to be for the plane to crash.
So, I spent the doom pool d12s to help Crusader in his solo battle ((There’s probably a whole blog post in the idea about spending your doom pool in different ways as a method of shaping the dramatic flow of the game. As I play more, I hope to gather enough insight to actually write it.)). The upshot of this was that the heroes still got the XP from me spending the d12s, it felt like a serious fight, and the heroes got to feel like they earned their victory ((Because they had.)). They got the bad guys wrapped up and the plane on the ground safely ((If just barely.)), and turned the villains over to S.H.I.E.L.D. agents waiting for them.
That’s when they heard the news about Stamford. Well, kind of. Some of the younger soldiers and agents who met them on the ground were kind of freaked out about the whole thing, staring wide-eyed at the heroes and such, acting very nervous. When one tried to tell them what was going on, his sergeant shut him down, and all he could do was tell them to check out the news. They did, and headed out to Stamford to help the cleanup.
I used the scene to set up personal stakes and interests for each of the characters. Volcanic helped with the rescue efforts, developing a real hate for Nitro; Jumpstart witnessed a heated discussion between Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, and Captain America, and later had a rather ambiguous conversation with Captain America; The Doctor had a similar discussion with Iron Man, who seemed to be sounding him out about where he stood on the SHRA; and Mega Joule had a heartfelt talk about what it means to be a hero with Luke Cage.
We wound things down, then, with each character having an idea for what they wanted to pursue next. This is what I want: at this point, I want things to become much more character-driven. I still intend to throw in a few GM fiat scenes to help advance the overall storyline, but mainly I want the characters to determine which direction things go in the event. So, what are their loose ends to track down?
- Follow up on the Sloveniy Bratva and their attempts to strong-arm Mega Joule.
- Track down Captain America to see what he was trying to say to Jumpstart.
- Track down Iron Man to see what he was trying to say to The Doctor.
- Find Nitro and bring him to justice.
That’s enough to be going on with, I think. I look forward to the next session.