Saturday, August 3, 2013

Marvel Origins - Avengers - Session 1 Report

Hey, readers!

So, we have a brand new campaign to report upon here at 'Perceive Things', run by yours truly. Once again, it's another supers game with Marvel Heroic, so those of you looking for a little change of pace may be disappointed, but I'm sure that more games will open up down the pipeline in different systems/settings.

This particular game is a concept of mine put into action. It's an experiment that I'm running to create a version of the Marvel universe molded by a community and grown through gameplay. Thankfully, I have a handful of people ready to go on this merry journey with me to define the origins of the Avengers.

Now, I'm going to note here that I had no input on the campaign at the start. I gave my players three basic options: Avengers, X-Men, or Fantastic Four. Avengers won out in the majority, and the players choices and wants molded it to be set during World War II. From there, I thought it would be a cool idea to have the Kree/Skrull War bring the Avengers together, and thus our campaign was born!

Our characters are as follows:

The Sentry: A Japanese immigrant who was taken into a camp by the Americans, Bob had latent super powers, and in return for his family's protection, the government turned him into a super soldier of unspeakable power to fight on the front lines.

Doctor Strange: While serving the military during World War I, combat medic Stephen Strange discovered some occult paraphernalia in a German bunker. This began his journey to accrue as much mystical knowledge as possible, joining with two other mystics to form the Triad.

The Sub-Mariner: Prince Namor, upon hearing of the advent of the Axis powers and the danger they posed to his kingdom, decided to aid the surface dwellers in repelling the threat. This fell upon deaf ears with his fellow Atlanteans, and he now ventures alone to protect his planet and secure his supremacy. Imperius Rex!

The Vision: Formerly known as 'The Human Torch', a robot with the power to shoot flames was captured and experimented upon by one Baron Zemo who was attempting to use him as a gateway to another dimension. Upon recovery, the robot's new powers of intangibility and hyper density were readily apparent. Fearing Nazi reprogramming, he was wiped and given the personality of one Bucky Barnes and renamed Vision.

We were also supposed to have a fifth player whose concept was to have the super soldier serum go horribly wrong with Steve Rodgers and create the Hulk, but he had to bow out due to other commitments. However, his concept of the Hulk is still canon.

Without further ado, session one!

Session Summary:

Things begin with a gathering of the Allied Secret Special Forces, a branch of the special forces relegated to beings or powers beyond that of mortal man to take care of highly sensitive or important missions. After a quick briefing with the unit's commander, one General Ross, the team is cobbled together and informed that they must go behind enemy lines near the coast of France to collect recon on the beaches of Omaha and Utah in preparation. They are to meet up with a resistance cell in a small town and collect any missing information.

After a little spatting between Namor and the Sentry, they parachute down into the French countryside. Able to dodge the German patrols going up and down the streets, they manage to slip into the town and see their contact, a man named Pierre who is wearing a red beret and has a terrible French accent. He leads them into the basement of a tavern with the rest of the resistance cell, where they receive a packet full of recon and pictures, however some of it is incomplete. Namor and Dr. Strange head up to their rooms in the tavern, and the good doctor consults with the spirits in the area, sensing a disturbance. The Sentry and Vision hang around the bar for a bit, chatting some while trying not to arouse suspicion from the German soldiers before heading to bed themselves.

In the dead of night, the senses of the Sentry pick up the sound of his door creeping upon, only to find Pierre with a gun! The Sentry lasers the gun out of his hand, and the noise rouses Dr. Strange, and summons a spell of chains to bind the fiend before he can get away. The entire crew is roused, and a quick mental inspection by Stephen Strange reveals that Pierre and a majority of the resistance cell are actually made up of German spies who are assigned to assassinate the Allied Special Forces sent to pick up the recon. He manages to rewrite his memories, telling Pierre to return to the group, telling them that the mission was completed.

(Pierre, the best spy ever)

Hoping to make-up the intel that they were supposed to receive, the team splits up. Dr. Strange digs a shallow grave and dumps his body there while his astral form travels across the beaches to get an eye on the defenses set-up. Namor takes to the seas, searching the beach for armaments and mines below. The Vision shapeshifts into a German officer, steals a jeep, and keeps Bob as a prisoner while the two of them scout along the beaches and try to gather their own intel. What becomes overwhelmingly apparent is that the Germans are ready for an assault. The machine guns mounted are outfitted with an unusual brand of technology that no one recognizes. Additionally, the Vision catches sight of a most unusual craft resting beside a command post.

With pictures taken and intel gathered, the team makes sure to cover their tracks by informing a German officer that the Allied agents were killed, showing them an illusion that Strange created of the shallow graves. With their tracks covered, the team flies off across the English channel back to base, only to find a squad of bombers going to make their run across London. The Sentry manages to laser one in such a way to send it spinning into another. Namor propels himself from the water and manages to eviscerate another. The Vision, with Dr. Strange riding in his grasp, tries his best to get above one, go hyper-dense, and smash it, but while he is successful, this sends the pair plummeting to the depths below. Dr. Strange is much to distracted by his impending doom to do anything to slow them down, even failing to lasso onto one of the planes above with an incantation. Finally, Namor saves the day by swooping down and carrying the pair to shore.

Namor makes a series of snide comments towards the Sentry regarding his uselessness. Compounding with all of the insults he had received earlier from this Prince Under-the-Sea, the Sentry decides to come to blows! The pair take to the air for a battle royale, the Sentry opening with an incredible laser beam directed towards the Submariner. Much to Bob's distress, Namor stands still, arms folded and shrugs off the blast, which demoralizes the Sentry to the point of passing out. Swooping down to save him as well, the team makes it back to base to be de-briefed.

Ross is not happy that the resistance cell was composed of German spies, nor is he happy about the strange technology the crew recovers. After answering questions and being overall stern, Ross informs the team that they are to remain on base until Operation Overlord, where their task will be disarming those weapons and making sure that their secret weapon, the Hulk, doesn't get out of hand. The session ends with the team preparing for the event at hand.

My Reactions:

Overall, I believe our first session went very well. I know two of the players from college, and two of the players were new to me, but they are good guys and welcome additions to our team. I think everyone had a solid time, I know I did. What is especially encouraging is that our campaign thus-far, even without trying, is following many of the same beats as the Avengers film, with inter-team conflicts and a looming threat bigger than all of them kind of forming at all the right moments. While I'm not seeking to emulate the summer blockbuster, it doesn't hurt to borrow a beat or two.

I did wish, however, that the recon mission was a little more... Exciting? Stealth is not an aspect many RPGs convey well, Marvel Heroic included, and while I think it is a cool thing to bring into a mission or session, it always ends up feeling hollow to me somehow. Not that there was much stealth going on in the mechanics, persay, but regardless. It also wasn't terribly action-packed, which is just fine with me, but I am well aware that players have different likes and expectations than I do, hence the inclusion of the mid-air bomber fight which was a completely off-the-cuff, setting dressing turned conflict, encounter.

What I really like about these players is their ability to think outside the box and do things that I wouldn't expect. Vision using his shapeshifting to do cool things is one example, while Dr. Strange and his 'weird hobbies' lending credence to his spells is another. Namor's player hits all of the right notes with everyone's favorite Atlantean, and the very presence of the arrogant Prince is enough to put the right amount of spin to the inter-party conflicts, especially where the Sentry is involved. The highlight was, undoubtedly, the Namor/Sentry fight which was over in one blow.

We have already had our second session, which I will report on soon, but I have high hopes for the future of this game, and I just hope that my GM'ing chops are up to it. I hope you enjoyed this session report! If not, here's a funny picture.


1 comment:

  1. Cards on the table, I virtually guarantee you've played and/or GM'd more MHRP than I have. But I have GM'd a LOT and I've thought about it even more (I like being an awesome GM) and I have some general thoughts on how you can make stealth interesting in MHRP.

    So my general rule for this kind of thing is "mechanize it." And what I mean by that is "involve the mechanics you have." I played almost no D&D4e, but I did listen closely to all the discussion on skill tests and how to build whole sessions around them rather than combat rolls. The concept of "use the tools you have to do whatever it is you want to do in the game" seemed like a good one, so I took it to heart.

    MHRP is a game built primarily on Action Scenes and they've given you great tools to make those. But not all Action is punching. Sometimes it's hiding and looking.

    So for your specific example, I would used a squad of German soldiers as opposition for my players. They'd probably be exactly the same as a regular squad my players would be punching, except maybe an SFX specifically for keeping watch, a distinction of something like "Who Goes There?", or maybe even an Asset like "Watchful d8." If I wanted it to be REALLY tough, I might do all 3.

    Then I do a regular Actions Scene complete with initiative and building pools and all that stuff. Except in this case, punching a Nazi is a fail. What my players are trying to do is max out a "Snuck into Town" asset past d12. My Nazis are trying to put a "Caught you, Schweinhund!" complication on them and step it up past d12.

    So your Covert and subtler powered guys get a chance to shine. Your powerhouses aren't penalized, but they may have a little (or a lot) harder time. The Covert and subtle guys can throw Assist dice at their less stealthy counterparts. And if the Nazi Sentries do manage to throw a d12+ "Caught you, Schweinhund!" then the heroes either retreat to try again (with a complication on them like "They Know We're Coming") or they fight it out and try to cover that up after the fact.

    I guess there at the end I involved another favorite GM rule which is "Make Failure Interesting." How do they cover up a firefight? What assets might they create to help overcome that "They Know We're Coming" complication? Or do they "attack" the complication directly? How do they "attack" it?

    There are so many interesting answers to those questions! And it gives the guys who took the time to play/create Covert or Mentalist characters opportunities to shine that they may not always have in combat.

    This is hella long, so I'll stop and see if there's a conversation here rather than a diatribe. :)

    PS: I had a great time that night and am not complaining or backseat driving. Just responding to the question in the post as a fellow MHRP GM.