Sunday, August 4, 2013

Marvel Mondays - Civil War - Session 5 Report

Hey, readers!

Before we dig into the meat of this article/report/review/thing, I would like to say that Marvel Mondays is now relegated to every-other Monday once again. For those of you who were following the X-Men series of reports, our GM has decided to switch directions to something... Not Marvel. It looks like we are going in a Star Wars direction, so be on the look out for those reports in the coming months.

That being said, I will miss playing Rogue terribly. And I just got myself an awesome Rogue shirt on discount from WeLoveFine, too...


As always with Civil War, you can watch the session yourself here!

Everyone was in attendance this time, which is a first, I do believe. By now, you should be familiar with the characters, which is awesome, but now we have some new ones! Joining our cast are Speed, Hawkeye (Kate Bishop), Wiccan, and Wonder-Man! More will likely be adding on as the rest of our troupe, myself included, picks a third character.

So, pull on the spandex and let's jump on in.

Session Summary:

Things begin in the aftermath of the Stamford explosion. The small town is in ruins, with buildings collapsing, people trapped under rubble, and fires spreading across the area. Each of our heroes arrive in their own spectacular fashion and have to deal with the emotional distress of seeing all of the destruction. Oddly enough, the two characters with trauma (Iron Man and Wolverine) aren't as affected as the rest of the crew, which includes a group of Young Avengers, Dr. Strange, Wonder-Man, and the two above mentioned heroes. Everyone does their part, which includes handing out Stark-Emergency Response Kits (SERK!), using spells to highlight trapped individuals, tearing through houses to find people, and using super-speed to rescue others at a rate none can match.

Though the emotional toll is high, the heroes manage to bring things under control. Iron Man returns to the bottle, and Wolverine informs him that a conspiracy is likely in the works and that maybe the team wasn't well enough prepared for something slipping past their radar. He takes off, saying that he's going to kill Nitro and hunt him down. Meanwhile, Speed is shouting back at some anti-mutant protesters that have gathered outside the gate, not making things any better for the already strained community.

Meanwhile, back in New York City, Ms. Marvel leads a team to re-capture Moon Knight. Being the brilliant strategist that she is, she figured a full moon would be the ideal time to apprehend a criminal whose powers are strongest at the full moon. The team consists of Hulk, Thor, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and Spider-Man, with Ms. Marvel leading, of course. Sounds like they should have no problem, right?

Using their covert contacts, the team manages to locate him at a penthouse, and springs the attack. Unfortunately, Moon Knight was prepared for every eventuality and rigged the place with traps to target each team member. Ms. Marvel starts the assault, trying to slam him, but gets hit by a large object in the attempt. The two of them trade blows when the unheralded arrival of a squad of Atlanteans makes things... Confusing! Even Moon Knight was expecting them to come to his aid.

The Hulk slams down, weakening the floor, but taking out a good number of the under-water goons. Spider-Man attempts to web up Moon Knight, but gets trapped in his own web! Spider-Woman tries to use her covert training to take out the traps that line the room, only to get tripped up herself... With a cord? Anyway. Luke Cage comes down and does some Sweet Christmas damage to the leader of the Atlanteans, Janus, and Thor nearly ends the conflict by slamming his hammer down, taking out the floor beneath them all! By some trick of chance, the Moon Copter arrives, and Moon Knight escapes, again, with Janus in tow while the Hulk takes out the floor, burying the team in rubble.

Our final encounter of the evening had to do with Master Pandemonium. Dr. Strange was contacted by the powers that be in order to investigate how he was able to escape their multi-dimensional magic prison. He takes an unlikely team, consisting of Iron Man, Wiccan, Wonder-Man, Tigra, Hawkeye, and... Wolverine. Yeah... I'll get to that.

Anyway, Wiccan is able to ascertain the involvement of something mystical when Loki, in a nearby cell, opens his big mouth and tries to make a deal with the team. Everyone banters back and forth a bit, Wonder-Man tries to encourage Loki with some less than savory torture-type stuff, which Iron Man disproves of, and things come to a close when Dr. Strange erects a force-field that prevents any sort of communication between the parties and Loki. No one speaks with Loki, apparently.

Tigra sniffs out some Asgardian influence on the cell, and the session wraps up there.

My Reactions:

Initially, my reactions to this session were very positive, but as the week wore on, my feelings sort of coagulated and became mixed. Hind-sight is 20-20, they say. That being said, I'm going to go over the positives first, and then discuss the things that sort of mixed and soured in my mind.

The Stamford Incident played out very well, I think. It gave everyone a chance to see the gravity of what happens when heroes fail or aren't there to prevent disaster, and it was cool to see the emotional toll along with the various creative ways to coordinate the rescue effort. I even managed to squeeze out some genuine character interaction between Wolverine and Iron Man which went off rather well, in my own humble opinion. Seeing that this group is not really accustomed to that sort of thing... I felt that if I wanted it in the game, I needed to take some initiative, so I did.

(Running out of Moon Knight pictures! >.<)

I also thought the Moon Knight fight scene played out really well. Mechanically, it was interesting to see how formidable a 'villain' can be when played by a player, especially with an optional, forum-rule that, during PVP, a player being acted against gets first dibs to opportunities. While I don't agree with that ruling, it certainly made things interesting and worked in this particular instance. The Moon Knight sub-plot is rather entertaining, all things considered, and I'm glad it showed up.

Finally, on the positive side of things, everyone continues to be great players. Good ideas, funny moments, the whole she-bang. We have a pretty awesome group.

This session wasn't perfect, however, and some things are really being brought into light in my mind that should be elaborated on.

First of all, I would like to talk about troupe-play. It was an optional way to run the game, as outlined in the beginning of the Civil War book, and for those of you not in the know, basically says that you can have multiple characters, swap 'em out, and share XP/PP between them as you go along. My guess is that the designers supposed that, with an event like Civil War, people are going to want to play it from various angles, particularly Pro-Reg/Anti-Reg with different heroes. This sounds pretty good on paper.

In execution, at least from what I'm seeing, it makes things a cluttered jumble, especially with a group size that we have and the set-up that's going on. We have so many heroes in this event right now, and the how's and why's of their presence and involvement are becoming lost to me. Initially, the justification was that this was the entirety of the Avengers, which, at about fourteen heroes is still a bit of a stretch, but it worked. Now that the GM has opened up a third slot with a wider range of options, things are breaking down in my head at the overall narrative. For example, a group of our players have taken Young Avengers characters, which is helpful that they have a reason for sticking together. Some of them showed up to help at Stamford. They apparently arrived separately, which doesn't make sense to me considering they are a team, and what about the rest of the Young Avengers...? More puzzling still, in the prison for mystical stuff, Wiccan is brought along without the rest of his group, even when Kate Bishop would probably want to see Hawkeye. Since the transition between scenes is pretty much dealt in the way of, "So-and-so contacts so-and-so about such-and-such, who's coming?", the logic and justifications start to break down in my head.

Now, granted, this is comic books. People show up in random places for no reason all the time, both of my characters included. How many series is Wolverine in now? And every single event with multiple heroes has Spider-Woman show up in the initial 'Everyone's here!' panel, and she proceeds to do nothing after that. I get that. My question becomes this: does every scene need every player involved in it? I bring this up specifically because of my situation. I haven't selected a third character yet. With Spider-Woman under a building, Wolverine was my only option for the final scene, but narrative would state that he is hunting down Nitro, on his own, right now. Why would he give a shit about how Master Pandemonium escaped? It was a question of, 'Do I want to be the one left out, or do I want to stick with what my character would narratively do?' I went with the first, and regret it, since he didn't do anything in that scene.

(See?! There she is! Pointing!)

The final issue with troupe play, especially with this many involved, is character development. With potentially twenty-one heroes in the works here, there is almost no room for it to happen to every character, and it makes it more difficult for individual characters as well. How can I complete the arc I had in mind for Spider-Woman, where she makes a good friend before the whole Civil War thing erupts and has to make a very hard decision about where she stands (as detailed in my milestones), when there is almost no inter-character interaction beyond the business at hand, and people are shifting around so much that relationships can't grow? And, when I tried to inject some of this sort of emotional stuff between Iron Man and Wolverine, it felt awkward to ask for, and was sort of ignored in the entire scheme of things.

I'm not asking for the spotlight, if that is what you're thinking. By no means should Wolverine or Spider-Woman be the stars of Civil War. All I'd like to do is create some character arcs that enrich the game, so that when the big action stuff blows up, it has weight beyond, "X amount of people died/stuff got blown up." I dunno. Maybe I'm asking for too much. Maybe I should just flow with the majority and forget about adding some depth in the way that I am. Curse my writing and acting sensibilities.

The second point has to do with some narrative order of operations and focus. In my humble opinion, Stamford should have been the last scene in the evening's line-up, and the other two scenes should have been dealt with first. I understand that the GM has some sub-plots he is trying to saddle onto Civil War, and this is perfectly reasonable, and even encouraged. However, when you are dealing with the 'inciting incident' of your entire plot, you need to focus on it, make it punch, make it matter. Steps to do this were taken, true, but having scenes afterwards/during that were in no-way related to your inciting incident weakens it. I already mentioned how Wolverine didn't give a shit about how Master Pandemonium escaped. In light of a huge tragedy that took a major emotional toll on the characters involved (according to the stress inflicted) and will start a media avalanche that leads to registration, I don't really see why the other characters would give a shit about that either.

As I said in a previous session report that got into deep discussions like this one did, I want to just put in the disclaimer here at the end that I am still enjoying myself in this game, I think the GM is doing a wonderful job juggling seven players and trying to tell a cohesive story, and I think all of my fellow players are great. Like anyone, however, little things bother me, and I wanted to bring them to light, as much for myself as others.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If not, here's a funny picture. (I actually remembered it this time!)


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