Actual Play – A Penny for my Superpowers! (8/8/2009)

Players: Fattig, Travis, Omar, and Sean
System: A Penny for My Thoughts (Silver Age Sentinels hack)

With a lot of help from Paul Tevis and Chad Underkoffler, I made a Penny scenario for Silver Age superheroes (which you can download here if interested: Silver Age Penny Setting.) The original concept was that we were going to create silver age heroes that had lost their memoires (and powers) in some great fight with evil.

Ironically Chad suggested the patients have the option to be either heroes or villains, which I shot down because I thought the players wanted to heroes and then when we got together to talk about it, we did exactly that. Good call Chad! Each of the characters started with a completely blank slate and in the end we had four characters, three of which could be either hero or villain, with the fourth clearly had chosen a path of villainy. The requirement was that of the four characters we made, each of the three players had to pick one either to play (if they were a hero) or to be their arch-nemesis (if they were a villian).

Here was our results:

  1. I played “The Liberator” who served 400 years in hell and then got let out on a technicality. He was released however in a concentration camp and turned against the Nazi oppressors, becoming “The Liberator”, powered by Hellfire.
  2. Fattig played the “Bonesaw”, a mad scientist whose machines always go out of control. In a moment when he could have been redeemed the hero “El Cubo” (who didn’t realize the that Bonesaw had saved him) blasted him into wreckage where his hand was lost, which he replaced with a bone saw.
  3. Travis played Lady O. A thief and sidekick of Jesse James in the 1890s who stole the Gem of Osirus, planted it in her own eye and was granted immortality. A master of the occult, Lady O has had many loves over the years, always straddling the lines of good and evil.
  4. Omar played El Cubo, who’s powers manifested after being throw off a roof and continued to develop, always to the terror of those around him. Part mutant, part necromancer, he was doomed to terrify those he cared about.

In the end, Lady O, the Liberator and El Cubo were chose as PCs, but just as any good comic does, the El Cubo from Omar’s story and the El Cubo from Fattig’s were pretty different. So the focus of this El Cubo is actually his nemesis “The Bonesaw” (who I plan on having A LOT of fun with).

Development will continue using the Tri-Stat Silver Age Sentinels system, heeding the powers described in Penny as well as the emotional characteristics. The public hates the Liberator and now call him the Conquer. Lady O has romance issues that always end wrong. Finally El Cubo will have some deep connection with the very wrong Bonesaw.

What rocked

We actually made some pretty cool characters along with an interesting side cast. In addition to the characters mentioned above we also featured: Mustafa, The Steel Mask, Captain Steam, Morningstar, Jessie James, Amazon warriors of the Bermuda Triangle, The Chooper and the League of Justice.

We kept weaving crossovers between the characters. Lady O helped the Bonesaw with his occult needs. El Cubo and The Liberator has a grouped up on several occasions to fight crime together. El Cubo and the Bonesaw are mortal enemies.

All of the characters have problems they can’t punch. We talked a lot about our expectations before playing Penny and for all of us something that was important was each of the characters having problems they couldn’t defeat. The Liberator has some Peter Parker in him, people always think he’s a villain. Lady O’s romantic life is cursed, etc. This was intentionally designed the questionnaire (Remember a moment of weakness and self-doubt) and worked very well in play.

In the end of the day we actually had characters that we wanted to play. I wasn’t sure that was going to work, but it did. Woohoo.

What could have improved

Penny is a game that requires everyone to be present. If one person who can’t think of something good, so they use a screwball idea, it can really throw the story for a loop. We found ourselves electing to have another guide offer questions or actions when we were stumped for ideas. Also thinking of names was sometimes tough. I wasn’t particularly proud of “The Liberator” as a name even though the character was cool. So mental blocks. Hard to get around.

Our third question didn’t really get answered the way I expected it to. I was hoping it would end in a cliffhanger that would draw our characters to action in the “oh crap, I can’t believe I let that happen, now I’ve got to do something about it!” way. In truth I had forgotten about this by the end of the game (should have referred to the documents more often, they said it all over). I think to patch this I’m going to ask each player to tell me what unfinished business their character MUST attend to now.

10 thoughts on “Actual Play – A Penny for my Superpowers! (8/8/2009)”

  1. Don’t forget Captain Steam! That’s Lady Osiris’s first confrontation! Her first appearance is in ‘The Marvelous Adventures of Captain Steam, Iss. 39″!

    Was an awesome game.

    1. I talked to Fred about it and there isn’t template available (all done in InDesign), so I worked at hacking away what I could. That was actually cobbled together from screen shots of the original, a word processor and Adobe Acrobat Professional.

      Fred had the brilliant idea of using comic panes for the questionnaire, so I’m working on putting together something for that once I get back from GenCon.

  2. I might point out that Jesse James, the confederate guerilla turned thief in our history, was shot and killed in 1882. Though I suppose Jessie James could be someone else.

    1. Hi Bryan,

      I’ll have to dig it up. It looks like that link went back to an old site that I have since retired. I’ll see if I can find it and get back to you.

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