Monday, November 9, 2015

Mutants and Masterminds - Freedom City Year One: Battle on the Bridge!

The infamous Doctor Zero returns!

(actually it's his first appearance in my campaign - but he's been written into history!)

I recently ran a two-session episode in my very occasional Freedom City campaign using Mutants and Masterminds (second edition). I am hoping this leads into more frequent dips into this pool but only time will tell.

The setting: Freedom City, early 21st century. I am not setting a specific date on these as a) it's a comic book campaign and b) I figure I will retcon them into some kind of coherent timeline later

The heroes:

  • U.S. Patriot - a scientist who becomes a star-spangled super-man when needed
    (In M&M terms, a Paragon (Superman) type. Played by Paladin Steve)
  • Emerald Blue Defender - an alien guardian who crashed literally minutes before the attack on the bridge. The crash seems to have disrupted his identity a bit as he gives several different names during the action
    (In M&M terms, a Ringbearer (Green Lantern). Played by Apprentice Blaster)
  • Crimson Avenger - the mystic myrmidon dedicated to defending the earth
    (In M&M terms, a Mystic Battlesuit (Iron-Mannish). Played by Apprentice Who)
As our heroes go about their usual business - Patriot is at work, Avenger is at school, and Defender is spiraling out of control through the atmosphere - a report comes in about some kind of trouble on the Centery Bridge. A traffic copter report provides audio and video of the scene as strange insect-like mechanical forms swarm over the bridge and the vehicles crossing it. Overseeing it all, a huge tripod vehicle stalks across the structure and rants on about how Doctor Zero will finally have his revenge! Seeing this, the heroes swing into action!

As they arrive on the scene, Defender and the Crimson Avenger land on the bridge and begin slicing up, TK-tossing, and blasting the car-sized insectoid robots. Patriot, sensing the root of the problem, swooops down and lifts the walker into the air. Over the next few minutes Defender saves some encircled cops and rescues an injured driver while Avenger saves a minivan full of kids. In between, both of them smash multiple bug bots but are barely making a dent in the overall situation. Patriot takes the full force of Doctor Zero's wrath as he is blasted by various beams and rays emanating from the control pod of the walker. 

While this is going on all three heroes realize the bots are not just randomly tearing up the bridge but they are breaking down the vehicles and even parts of the bridge itself and constructing more bots! This problem could quickly scale out of control and threaten the entire city if it's not contained!

After managing to slow down Patriot with one of his many beams, Zero ejects the pod from the rest of the tripod and rocket-boosts down towards the bay, hoping to escape. The mighty chemist shakes it off and re-engages, grabbing the spherical pod tight enough to leave handprints in its shell. Then with a grunt he steers the pod up and over and slams it down onto the bridge. The material is too tough to smash outright but the Doctor is going nowhere now.

The heroes realize that tackling the bugs directly is a losing proposition. They team up to crack open the shell of the walker control pod but as Patriot peels back the canopy Zero lets loose with a maniacal laugh as he presses a button on his wristband. The bugs stop moving and begin emitting strange noises that mere into a slowly building tone ... almost like an alarm. 

“Now you will see the price of opposing me! That self-destruct signal will cause the power cores in my Bugbots to overload until they explode! In moments, this bridge will burn as a fiery monument to my genius, a pyre to light the very heavens! And there’s nothing you can do to stop it! The world will remember the name Dr Zero! Farewell ‘heroes!’”

Now concerned for far more than medium-scale property damage the heroes come up with a plan. Crimson Avenger uses his magical powers of thought-movement to sweep the bots into a pile as defender assists and then encloses them in a giant blue energy sphere. Patriot hoists the whole thing up over his head and lifts off. Avenger assists him, arms extended and trembling with power as Defender flies alongside to maintain containment. Their best guess is that they need to be 3 miles up (to prevent blast damage to the civilians, the bridge, and the city) and over the bay (to prevent damage from falling debris) and they only have seconds to do it. 

Three forms streak into the morning sky beneath a huge, glowing sphere, then are eclipsed as a massive explosion. A last-second "heave" by all three heroes tosses the bubble far enough that no one is harmed by the blast, not even themselves. Some bot-parts do rain down into the bay but boat traffic is light and no bystanders are harmed. In the confusion, Doctor Zero has disappeared. 

The three heroes return to the bridge to help the police get traffic moving again and to see to any damaged cars or injured civilians. Defender and Patriot find that they work well with the police but Avenger is less friendly and not sure that he wants to get too close to the authorities.

Today is a good day though. The city is saved, people are grateful, and their work here is done. As they depart, all three agree to meet again and set up some form of communication in case they need to act as a team once more.

DM notes: I used "Battle on the Bay Bridge" from Lame Mage Productions for this as I think it's a great introductory adventure. DTRPG link is here, though I don't see this adventure in the mix or on his site. There's probably not a ton of demand for M&M 2E adventures these days but I have been waiting years to run it and I am very happy that  I finally had a chance to do so. 

First question: "How much does a bug bot weigh?" This of course is not included in the stats, despite this being a nicely written and noted little gem. I know how much cars weigh, and the bots are car-sized, so I went with a number that made sense to me. Second question: "How much does the walker weight." Sigh - this is totally not car-sized so I actually had to look up size and weight rules for M&M and after that it all worked out. Note to self: Super-strength guys and Telekinesis guys are always going to want to pick stuff up and fling it about so remember to note down weight in advance where possible.

I was pretty proud of them for coming up with a solid solution to the problem so quickly. Playing videogames or even the same RPG or boardgame all the time can channel one's thinking. A good superhero session encourages wide-open thinking about how to solve problems.

Everyone had a pretty good time and some of the characters have been used in prior M&M one-offs so we are developing a little bit of a history here. Ideally this will be the gradual coming-together of a team of superheroes who will take over protecting Freedom City from the current Freedom League as they move into dealing with more global threats.  

I also finally managed to figure out how to run vehicles and minions in Hero Lab too which made the numbers much easier to keep track of in play. 

Overall it was a big win and we're hoping to work in more sessions in the future. Time is clearly the ultimate arch-nemesis of most of us grown-up gamers.

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