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***
Last Friday, we got together for the latest session of our Civil War game. We had a full house, which was great, because the plan was to locate and rescue Spider-Man, who had been captured last session. Seeing as the Guardians had been seen helping Aunt May and M.J. escape S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, Captain America had a pretty good idea that the Guardians1 would come to Spidey’s rescue.
And he was right, of course.
Now, in the three weeks between the last game and this one, we’d worked out a system to allow the Guardians to recruit and use other heroes. First of all, they had to have a hero willing to work with the group – that’s pure roleplaying. They’ve had some success with this, with Luke Cage and Daredevil2 joining them, as well as Cyber, an original hero who used to be an NPC associate of Volcanic3.
Once someone is well-disposed to the Guardians, they can be unlocked as playable characters for 10 XP. Each scene, the players can decide which character they want to play from the pool, which includes all the unlocked characters plus the players’ original characters.
The players can bring extra characters along for the scene, but each player only gets to play one character – playing multiple characters would really slow things down4. Instead, extra characters become assets that the group can use, rated at the hero’s highest die. So, you can have a Luke Cage d10 asset if you bring Luke Cage with you on a mission.
Because Captain America had a good idea the Guardians were coming, and had time to plan and set things up, I pulled off the gloves in setting up the opposition for the rescue mission. Spidey was being transported to 42 via a small convoy of special APCs with Doomtech augmentation5. The point APC held Battlestar and a squad of Cape-Killers, the tail APC held Arana and another squad of Cape-Killers. The middle APC held Spider-Man, Venom, Captain America, and another squad of Cape-Killers. Falcon, Sentry, and the Green Goblin were on high watch, flying above the convoy.
I also gave the pro-SHRA forces a few assets for the situation:
- Captain America’s Plan d12
- S.H.I.E.L.D. Co-ordination d10
- APC d10
I also gave Captain America a Reed Richards-built insulator harness for facing Jumpstart6, gave Stun Blaster d10 to a couple other guys.
So, yeah. A pretty tough set-up. Of course, experienced Watchers will already see what I’ve done wrong.
Waaaaaaaay too many characters. After all the talk about how I didn’t want the players running multiple characters each, I loaded up my plate with a total of seven heroes and a whole passel of extras. It made things threatening, sure, but it made them very, very slow for me, and thus for the players.
But we’ll get to that.
We started with the gang hacking the S.H.I.E.L.D. computers7 to find out where Spider-Man was being held. They found that he was being moved the next night to something called 42, and they found the route, but no details about any escort.
They put together a plan8, picked a spot to ambush the convoy that was well away from civilians, and set up a few assets of their own, like Conveniently Collapsing Building d109 and Ambush d10. They all played their regular characters, but brought Cyber, Luke Cage, and Daredevil along with them, using the system I discussed above.
The start of the battle was everything I wanted it to be. The ambush worked great, but the heavy resistance meant that the Doctor and Jumpstart both had stress on them pretty much right out of the gate. They dropped Battlestar and the Green Goblin pretty quickly, as well as a few of the Cape-Killers, and took all three of the APCs out of the fight before the end of the first round.
And that’s when I noticed that, even though they had been careful about the action order and everything, I still had about four groups of bad guys that had actions at the bottom of the round, which would lead into the bad guys getting to go again at the top of round two. Now, as far as tactics go, that’s awesome, but as far as play experience for my friends, it sucked, because it would be a long wait for their turns.
In retrospect, what I should have done is picked a couple of good heroes to run, and threw in the rest as assets, just as I was having the players do. That would have allowed me to build the strong resistance and given everyone a good, challenging fight, while still keeping things moving at a respectable pace.
But I hadn’t done that. So, I screwed with the action sequence a little bit to bring things back around to the heroes, who implemented Operation: Grab Spidey and GTFO. This involved them grabbing Spider-Man and running for the GX-1. This retreat was, obviously, under fire, and the Sentry was heavily involved in that. As the heroes were already leaving, I used 2d12 from the doom pool to end the scene with the arrival of the Void.
The Void and the Sentry duked it out, destroying a couple of city blocks and killing some bystanders10, and incidentally preventing pursuit. The Guardians brought Spider-Man back to Volcano Island, reunited him with his ladies, and started planning the next phase.
Because we had spent part of the beginning of the game session deciding on the three questions they get to ask about AIM, because of the AIM database they liberated a couple of sessions ago, and my stupid decisions that made the combat scene go so slowly, that was about it for the evening. There was some strategizing and socializing after that, and they paid the 10 XP to unlock Spider-Man as a playable character, and then they went home.
Now, I’m going to send them the answers to their AIM questions via e-mail, hopefully this weekend, and that should determine where they go next. They’ve also got their invitations to a wedding in Wakanda that might interest them, and the question about what 42 is.
We’ve got three more sessions on the calendar before Christmas, which should bring us up to the end of Act Two. Then the gloves really come off.
I’m looking forward to it.
Edit: I incorrectly used ATV instead of APC in all the instances above, because of dumb. I have corrected that. Thanks to Erik for pointing it out.
- And especially Jumpstart. [↩]
- The Danny Rand Daredevil. [↩]
- He built his lab assistant a power suit to keep her safe when she decided to go underground with him. [↩]
- There are lots of things that I love about MHRPG, but it is not a fast game. Quite the opposite. [↩]
- S.H.I.E.L.D. got a whole bunch of Doomtech thanks to the Guardians, way back here. [↩]
- It added the Insulator Rig power set, with Electrical Absorption d10, and the Gear limit. [↩]
- AGAIN. I told them that their S.H.I.E.L.D. Computer Back-Door Codes d12 was going to be used up on this attempt, no matter how well they rolled. [↩]
- I shut down one aspect of the plan that would have either had me running two parallel action scenes or completely restructuring the scene I had planned. It wasn’t a good feeling, squashing what was actually an interesting idea, but I did it for the sake of expediency. Sorry, Erik. [↩]
- I think it was actually called something else, but can’t remember it offhand, so this gives the general gist. [↩]
- Which was kind of a dick move on my part. The Guardians had gone out of their way to pick a mostly deserted area, and did everything they possibly could to limit civilian casualties. Why did I do it? Mainly to make sure that the idea that heroes are dangerous to civilians retained validity. [↩]