Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Atomic City Knights - Session Zero

I had an itch to play M&M again and this time I decided to do something about it. So under the guise of  "testing out the system" I rounded up the Apprentices and had them pick a generic sample character from the book and told them they were patrolling Atomic City at night when they picked up a report of an alarm at the Atomic City Robotics Institute. As they cruise towards the ACRI we focus in on:

  • Rocketman (Battlesuit) played by Apprentice Who, plays the Elton John song through his suit speakers whenever he feels the need
  • Angel (Psion) played by Apprentice Red, has actual wings for flight instead of TK flight
  • Commander USA (Warrior) played by Apprentice Blaster, a shield-chucking homage to Cap who can also fly
We worked out some basic relationships and ideas for each character and dove straight into the action. All three of them can fly so they swoop over the Robotics Institute and see a gate broken open and soon after find a group of five silver metallic figures breaking into a warehouse. Rocketman wastes no time or words and opens up with his blast bolts, getting their attention. Angel attempts to grab one with his telekinetic power and slam it into a neighbor, causing our first rules crisis as we searched through the powers and the combat rules and the grab maneuver. We decided that Round 1 would be a simple TK punch and we would figure the grab etc. out for next round. USA chucked his shield, bashing one of the bots. Two of the bots are still cutting into the warehouse while the other three turn to deal with the attackers.

Crisis #2 erupts as the DM realizes that with Rocketman's Protection 11 (Impervious) the robots' Damage 5 electroblasts have zero chance of hurting him. As a result the DM starts searching for the vaguely-remembered "Team Attack" maneuver which turns out to be surprisingly simple and perfect for this situation. The fight continues.

Crisis #3 erupts when USA wants to leap onto one of the robots and pound on him with momentum, almost like a move-through in Champions - not that they have played Champs yet. Half-remembering a move called a "Slam Attack" we look that up and figure things up and find a surprisingly effective move for the Commander. Later he gets double-teamed by two of the bots and takes a pretty good shot to the face, but he fights on. 

Having figured out how grabs work, Angel force-grabs a robot - I mean TK-grabs - and starts squeezing. He is pleased with the results.

The fight goes on a bit and then is called due to time, just as another band of robots and a cybernetic gorilla appear on the roof of the building. Who are they? What's going? All shall be revealed in time.

Some rules notes: The game was already flowing faster near the end as we got more comfortable with the mechanics but there is a bit of a learning curve. Not with the basics - attacker rolls to hit, defender rolls to resist - but with all of the options available: There are actions, and then there are maneuvers, and then there are advantages that may let you do some unusual things, and then there are the powers, of course. That's a lot of choice when you're new to the game and I was going with a very loose interpretation of the rules to keep things moving. We'll tighten up next time.
  • Movement rates are very fast. I ran this with a hexgrid to try and keep some tactical flavor and even the slowest super could fly 60 mph which is 900' per round. Even with 10' hexes or 10 yard hexes, that's a lot of distance. I'm fine with this and I remember it from old Champions games in the past, it's just been awhile.
  • Combat takes a few rounds before anything happens. The robots were just the basic PL5 ones in the main book and after 5 rounds some of them were at a -3 and had been dazed once or twice with one finally collapsing after 3 rounds of serious blasting by Rocketman. I'm hoping that as we learn the rules and moves better that this improves. I will say that a +5 Power attack was a very popular move by the end of the fight and it did make a difference.
  • I was worried about the Impervious Defense as it's fairly common and it makes low-level mooks a non-factor, but the team-up attack mitigates this to a degree and it is genre-appropriate, and well, there are always hostages. 
  • One of the big changes with 3E M&M is adding a standard set of conditions, somewhat like D&D 4E. They work and work well. "Grab" inflicts conditions A-B-C. A web grenade inflicts X-Y-Z. As the players learn what each condition means they don't have to look up unique details for every individual power and maneuver - it's very smooth in play.
  • I really like the Extra Effort rules, available to anyone at any time with a cost assessed AFTER the action, not before - this feels much more superheroic than having to have points available in advance to try something stupid.Then of course we have Hero Points which covers the more standard bending-of-the-game effects. I really like this dual approach.

Two DM-related concerns:
  • I am very rusty at dressing up the environment which is crucial to a Supers game. More specifically I am rusty at doing it in a modern environment on the fly. Sure, I can describe things just fine, but then you have to have stats for them in case the brick decides to hit someone with a dumpster, or a light pole, or a bulldozer, etc. I ran this fight in an empty parking lot in the middle of the night, about as boring as it gets. I will claim "learning the rules" for now but it could have been much better. Drawing up a rough map automatically limits my thinking and I need to work around that next time.
  • Having gathered a fair amount of M&M 2E material (even though I never ran it for any length of time) I was spoiled at the huge pile of NPC characters, vehicles, gear, animals, monsters, robots, etc. available with just a few books. This is one area where 3E falls down in comparison and I'm feeling it because I get a lot of mileage out of reskinning stock characters. There's stuff available online but I'd like to see more as it's a lot easier for me to stay flexible when I have a lot of widely varied resources to fall back on. Maybe once they finish up the DC stuff they can focus in on the more universal type of material.

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