Actual Play – Issue #2 – General Confusion (10/7/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Travis, Omar, and Eric
System: Silver Age Sentinels (Tri-Stat)

I wanted to mix things up some this game. First issue we started with individual exposition scenes, moved to a group conflict and then ended with individual reflection scenes. I liked the three act model but wanted to make sure it didn’t become stale by reproducing the same format. So, I broke things up some.

Act 1 – Individual Conflict Scenes

Since Tri-Stat divides everything buy Body, Mind and Soul, I decided to do the same thing with my scenes. Each hero has a strength, so I gave them challenges associated with that strength. Later I’m sure I’ll do the opposite, but this seemed like a good start.

The Liberator – Body

The cover of this comic showed the General standing on top of a building surrounded by soldiers parachuting down all over and calling out the Liberator to stand down. I decided to start with that scene as the first page as well. The Liberator, called the Conqueror by some, was found by the General and called out to return objects of historical and occult significance or be brought down. This pretty much started a fight from the get go!

I really liked this scene because I got to play with both the system in fun ways and the relationship between the General and the Liberator. Would he take down the General and try to prove his innocence? Run away? Both? I really didn’t know and I was happy to be surprised. I also liked the mechanics as well. The general has a lot of powerful abilities but they are all couched in his leadership position. For example his main ranged attack is called “Air Strike”. He points in a direction, yells “Air Strike” and a twin bombers fly by dropping carpet bombs for an Area of Effect attack. It’s perfect for a powerful character who doesn’t have any “super-powers” himself. His other abilities involve “jumping” via a Helicopter that swoops down picks him up and drops him off, and a close quarters attack with his men planting shape charges around him blasting everyone back.

He was a very good match for the Liberator who didn’t have the power to hurt him at first but as he was getting thrashed his power conversion abilities meant he could start really heating things up. The fight was high comic book scale. Heroes knocked through walls, buildings left in rubble, all the sorts of calamities caused by supers.

Lady Osiris – Mind

Here was another fun scene. In the previous I matched two people that were both ostensibly heroes together in a fight. In this scene we had a hero and a villain working together. Do I like blurring the lines much? True to his work Bonesaw delivered the Oedipus Aegyptiacus (an ancient book of Egyptian magic) to the Lady with the ruby eye. Basically, Bonesaw is a guy who’s tragically drawn to the occult but never understands it, so Lady O is his go to person. In this case he realized there were still memories he had not recovered from the institute and believed the book held some of the secrets to his past.

Lady Osiris deciphered the spell with ease and realized it was some form of mind control, but a weak spell at that, one that required the active participation of the subject, closer to hypnotism that anything else. Curious, she invoked the spell on Bonesaw to see if she could learn anything from it. The scene change to a bar in El Paso where Bonesaw (both hands still intact) was playing darts with The Chopper and talking about recruiting Lady Osiris into the League.

As the memory faded and they returned to reality, Lady Osiris found the spell had a horrible side effect of aging everything in her presence. Her carpets there threadbare, paint peeling off the walls, her integrated console fried from years of use, all in the few minutes that it took to cast the spell. Lady Osiris was furious because her house had been damaged and Bonesaw was outraged that she would tell him he was ever drinking buddies with The Chopper! They argued, Bonesaw gratuitously inflicted collateral damage on Lady O’s house until she agreed that they must all be sharing each other’s memories and that El Cubo must have the missing ones. She instructed Bonesaw to consume is brains and gave him really detailed directions to his apartment. This appeased him quite a bit and he left for El Cubo’s pad.

El Cubo – Soul

Meanwhile Coleen (El Cubo’s current incarnation) and Ben Khalish were at a basketball game, the Empire City Nix vs. the Boston Celtics. Ben, being a native Empire Citier was of course rooting for the home team, while El Cubo, an actual Celtic God of myth and legend was rooting for the mispronounced Celtics.

Below the League was involved. Captain Steam was reffing the game, while other members of the league were dropping long bombs through the hoops with their eyes closed. Chopper was walking around the court “vromm”-ing and smiling for the pictures. Coleen and Ben, however were discussing darker matters. Ben, who had taken a liking to Coleen and felt he could trust her revealed something to her. He’s not been completely scrupulous with his patients at the Orphic Institute. Some of them, specifically Lady O and the Liberator, he had been keeping tabs on and giving information about their treatment none other than Mustafa.

The underworld boss Mustafa had kidnapped his son and was holding him hostage, forcing Ben to bring him information about patient’s progress. He felt horrible about this, but didn’t know what else to do. Coleen smiled “Mustafa is a punk, don’t worry Ben, my friends and I will take care of him.”

Reassured by Coleen, Ben reached out to hold her hand. And when he did the world turned upside down. They were in El Paso after it had been ravaged. Most of it was destroyed, burnt to the ground by hellfire, but the little that remained was aged and decrepit, as though the city had been a ghost town for a hundred years before it was destroyed. El Cubo walked over to a collapsed building because he heard someone inside, only to realize as he tried to pry the rubble away, that his left arm was actually a bonesaw! And the person trapped inside was none other than the Steel Mask, who was spouting expletives at him the whole time!

Scene Two

This was group exposition scene. The idea was last time we saw what the heroes are like on their own, now I wanted to see what they were like as a team. We framed the scene as such, each player got to answer one of these questions

Where is the scene? – Lady Osirus offered up her house, in the secret Lady O’ Lair.
Who is there? El Cubo included (in addition to the heroes): Ben Khalish, Lisa Abednego, and Jason Roburn (the ex-boyfriend)
What is going on? The Liberator set the activity as a power game.

Apparently the Liberator is very lucky, Lady Osiris can divine the cards to come, El Cubo is a great gambler and ever since Lisa found the Crook of Isis, she has been able to learn things at expert levels in no time at all. This left poor Ben losing all his money to everyone else. Oh, and Jason walking around in a French Maid suit Lady O had Mind Controlled him into wearing, serving drinks.

A great conversation ensued about the afterlife, the possibility of a single divine being, and why, oh why, Bonesaw had found out where El Cubo was living. The conversation was great and a few story moving things actually came out of it. Lisa is on a kick of discovering EVERYTHING God has created. Understanding the Creation to better know the Creator, to the extent of having a fling with Lady Osiris. This couldn’t possibly go bad. A kleptomaniac super-Christian budding occultist dating Lady O. No, that would never go wrong. Also Ben, despite working at the institute, appears to have some of his memory as well. And the Liberator knows him, he just can’t remember how. This has promoted the whole group to go have a talk with Mr. Peter Tomkins to see just what kind of Institute he’s running. Finally, El Cubo is apparently moving in with Lady O. When she said she didn’t really do the “roommate” thing he promised her it wasn’t a problem, he could take care of that part. Good times!

What rocked

I loved the character interactions and how the NPCs are beginning to come to life. They were really cardboard cut outs in Issue #1 and have come a long way already.

Blurry lines between good and evil are always something I play with. Essentially I don’t feel that most people can sit on one side of the fence all the time. There are times we hurt others, either on accident or just in pursuit of something we want. When is that still serving the greater good? When is it evil? And when is it both?

I was happy to have three themed conflicts that highlighted each heroes’ strengths and issues.

The comic book conventions of describing scenes as action shots in comic book panes is awesome. I really like using that as a tool to set up scenes and then letting them come to life through play.

What could have been improved

Combat, as with most systems, was slow. Damage is rather ho-hum unless you add a lot of flavor to the description and powers take a while to figure out. I’ve tasked the players to really know all their character’s powers intimately so we don’t spend as much time looking stuff up, but frankly in the beginning of playing a new game, it’s always like this.

The experience system didn’t get fully implemented. I wanted to make sure everyone took an asset or a scar but forgot to do it at the end of the game. A reminder for next time.

I didn’t get any response on my story thread questions from the previous post so I had to guess a little to figure out who would want what. Seemed to work okay, but I’d still like input from the players. They did give me a really good lead for next game though. We’re going to go get some answers from Dr. Tomkins!

I meant to do a three act issue but it didn’t feel right to keep going after the poker game. I suppose that is fine but it left the issue looking a little short.

One thought on “Actual Play – Issue #2 – General Confusion (10/7/2009)”

  1. I enjoyed the comic stylings. Was fun.

    Mechaniclly speaking, yeah, it took awhile for combat, but the fact that we can have so much flavor is neato.

    I’m not sure I’m going to be able to review games any more. l5r weekly takes up so much prep time, especially going into winter court. hmm…

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