Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day of the Octopus?!

Much to my surprise I found myself running Marvel Super Heroes yesterday...

Yeah. Gool old yellow-box MSH, including the starter adventure. We had touched on it once earlier this summer and the Apprentices liked it enough to give it another try. Considering the shelf-load of material I have picked up for it over the years I was open to this, despite my efforts to concentrate on ICONS and M&M 3 when it comes to supers gaming. That's a lot of material to just leave lying around and I hate to waste ready-to-go RPG stuff. So off we went to Marvel New York...

Now the way this came about is tied up in holiday schedules (Labor Day 3-Day weekend), blended family schedules (who has who when), and teenager schedules (homecoming week in Texas means the purchasing or crafting of homecoming mums). I spent a lot of our together time running D&D (more on that later) for the older two but then Apprentice Red was out for the afternoon so Blaster and Who (and Twilight but she's pretty much self-entertaining) were left home with me and were wanting to play something. Annoyingly complicated schedules means that I have a 4E game for Red & Blaster, a Basic D&D game for Red and Blaster, ICONS and Star Wars games for Red, Blaster, and Who, but I do not have a game for just Blaster and Who - how did that happen? Alright, well, here's an opportunity to have another game in the rotation...but what to play?

I really had given zero thought to this and situations like this are kind of bad becasue I have way too many games and indecision can set in pretty darn quickly. I brought up Basic D&D and Who was not terribly interested. I brought up Star Wars and got a maybe. I brought up Supers and got some enthusiasm too (they had been watching plenty of Mighty Avengers and Justice League over the weekend) so after also dismissing Deadlands and Star Trek I retired to ponder options between X-Wings and X-Men. 

Star Wars: We have a Saga going going intermittently now and I considered just picking it up and going with two. They like the Clone Wars era but I didn't really want a same-timeline campaign stepping on the toes of the one we had. However, this could also be a good opportunity to try out some of my d6 revisions. I asked and they wanted to play something different: Knights of the Old Republic. Of course ... I have nothing prepared for KOTOR and it's been at least a year since I looked at anything old republic-related. I dug through my old Star Frontiers adventures and decided that Dramune Run would be pretty easy to convert on the fly and its mix of criminals and smugglers and local military intervention would fit just fine. Plus it's a very space-oriented adventure and would contrast nicely with our other ground-based game. OK, candidate one selected.

Supers: I considered M&M 3 but from-scratch character creation is going to take forever with these two and Apprentice Who is going to get lost in some of the fiddly bits of modifiers and conditions and things. ICONS is fun but we're already in the middle of one adventure for that with all three of them. Briefly considered V&V - nah, same issues as M&M 3. DC Heroes, same thing, plus I don't know it that well. I gave Neccesary Evil a long look, but I don't want them to play villains just yet although I do love that system. MSH was the winner because we didn't need to make characters, it's very easy to run and play, and they were in the middle of a MIghty Avengers episode when I walked out there to talk to them. Candidate two picked out.

I presented both options and Marvel won out. Heroes were quickly chosen - Blaster took Cap & Thing, Who took Spiderman and Wolverine - and a fight began near the Krupp building as the heroes were attacked by Scorpion, Beetle, Fixer, and Radioactive Man.

After getting a quick refresher in mechanics, combat began and Thing failed an Intuition check to avoid surprise. Radioactive Man blasted a hole in the street beneath him and Ben would spend the next 3 rounds climbing out of the hole. Various attacks and moves were made but Captain America threw his shield and nailed Fixer right in the head, knocking him out before the battle really got started! He tumbled to the ground and out of the fight.

Round 2 saw more exchanges and Cap tried out the Karma rules and nailed Beetle with a another thrown shield for a "Kill", knocking him out of the fight too! Round 3 saw Scorpion finally land a tail-smack on Wolverine (who had been winning that fight) knocking him back but leaving him open to another karma-fueled shiled-toss from Cap that knocked him out of the fight as well. Thing also climbed up out of the hole this round. Round 4 saw the angry Thing leap onto Radioactive Man and finish him in one solid punch as well (He had taken down his force field to explode and hit multiple heroes, and hadn't had a chance to get it back up before Mr. Grimm got within arm's reach).

Some legwork eventually (I had to work on Blaster a little bit here - he probably should be playing Wolverine instead of Cap, temperamentally speaking) led to the old boarded up Globe Press building. Breaking in, they see Doctor Octopus standing near a giant, 3-story robot version of himself. He calls them various names and then a bunch of metal tentacles erupt from the printing presses around the room and the fight is on! Spidey is grabbed by a tentacle while the Thing gets hit by a flamethrower and Cap and Wolverine dodge electrical blasts! Cap once again fires up the Karma-shield and KO's Doc Ock with one mighty heave, but the machines keep fighting while the robot just stands over the fight, motionless yet somehow threatening.

This never happened
Within a few rounds the combative printing machines were destroyed with minimal damage to the heroes. They then grabbed Octavius and demanded the controls to the robot. He groggily whispered "too late" as the immense construct rumbled into life, turning to face one wall which slid aside like a giant door.

Springing into action the super team quickly realized that the thing was nearly immune to their attacks. Cap realized that they were in the place that it was built so there should be plans for the thing right at hand. Blueprints were quickly found and reviewed and a weakness became apparent - an access hatch in the bottom of each foot, much weaker than the rest of the robot and also providing access to its inner workings!

Spiderman and the Thing took the lead as the Octodroid took its first step. Spidey unloaded a double-dose of webbing around the foot and leg, binding it to some of the machinery in the room as Ben Grimm stepped in to intercept the giant foot, holding it aloft! Wolverine slid in and slashed through the hatchway with his adamantium claws! Captain America, timing it perfectly, leapt into the now-accessible accessway and began climbing towards the head and the computer brain that the plans placed there. 

 Thing paid the price for these actions as the robot noticed a probelm and increased the pressure on its foot, toppling the tough hero and crushing him under its heel, but he reisted long enough to let Wolverine squirt inside the hatch and begin follwoing Cap up towards the head! As Spidey attempted to distract the automaton by leaping onto its back, a huge metal hand closed around him and things were not looking good. Then the Thing managed to get out from under the robotic boot and grabbed ahold of a leg, trying to slow it down. Spiderman pushed free of the hand and leapt over to a nearby building, earning a blast from one of the tentacles as he did so but his amazing agility kept him from harm.

About this time, Cap finally reached the head and laid about with his shield. At the same time Wolverine found what looked like a power source in the torso and laid into it with his claws. Within seconds the mighty Octodroid shuddered to a halt in the middle of the street, less than a block from where its "rampage" began, utterly defeated by the heroes.

Accolades and thanks were given, villains were taken to jail, and much rejoicing took place that day as four heroes from completely separate walks of life came together to stop a major mechancal menace, and stop it they did.

From the front page of the Daily Bugle
DM Notes: As it turns out one of my first rule tweaking articles for September will be on MSH. As far as this adventure, well, yes, as an intro adventure it is horribly railroady and linear but it's one of those things that a lot of people have played if they played MSH back in the day and I wanted to give the boys a shot at it. We had played through Chapter 1 back when we tried it out so we picked up with Chapter 2 five minutes later. We all had to get reacquainted with the rules but they flowed pretty easily as we got going.

The choice of villains is ... good for a starter adventure. Fixer and Beetle were as crappy as I remembered. Fixer has 6 points of body armor and 24 Health, making him just waiting to be KO'd by a Remarkable (30) attack, which he was on Round 1. There's a good half-page of notes on his gadgets, none of which I needed after that. Once Apprentice blaster understood the Karma rules it was all over for the bad guys as Cap stood in place and shield-chucked them into unconsciousness. Taking out all four villains also makes the rest of the adventure somewhat easier as it means they do not reappear at Doc Ock's HQ in Chapter 4.

At first I thought the robot was stupidly constructed as its Monstrous armor means that no one in the starter set can hurt it, but I appreciated it later as it forced the players to do something other than karma-bash it into oblivion - they actually looked for a weakness and figured out a good plan involving all 4 heroes in just a few minutes with no arguing - SUCCESS!

The heroes felt pretty much like they do in the comics - Spidey was dodgy and came up with clever uses of his web, Wolverine got into trouble and got to use his healing factor in the last battle, Thing proved to be pivotal to beat the robot even when he couldn't just bash it, and Cap used his shield a ton and pretty much ran the show - excellent!

I do have some nitpicks with the rules and will discuss those in another post tomorrow because the final outcome of this run was "I like this game" and "Can we play again?" which is really what I'm looking for when I run something for them. Apprentice Who especially was still talking about it hours later as that's probably the biggest fight he's been in RPG-wise. One interesting thing is that they really like using the published characters, which is something they have been against before. They are talking abou making up one of their own and running them alongside an existing hero, and I'm fine with that. 

Future adventure-wise I'm not sure if I will use any more published adventures as I don't like most of them plus I have some ideas of my own, but they did like the look of "Thunder Over Jotunheim" so I may have to work in some Asgardian adventures pretty quickly. This one was a lot of fun for me too so I'm looking forward to dusting off the old books and seeing what we can do.

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