Actual Play – Issue #5 (12/2/2009)

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

I changed a lot of things in this game but they all focused around letting go of my notions of where the story should go. Instead of trying to force a showdown between the League and The Heroes of the Institute I told the players I was looking for a story where the heroes left their mark (whatever that might be) on Empire City.

What Rocked

I absolutely loved the scene when Lady O protested revealing that the League are actually crooks. She suddenly got very defensive “Maybe they changed their ways?”.

The game was overall less work for me, which I like. The more time I spend playing the game with the players instead of trying to figure out how things are supposed to be the better.

Negotiations with Pixie Dust were fun.

The jail break was a hoot. Note to self: use more heat attacks on Liberator. Results are hilarious.

What could have been improved

I need to flesh out the rest of the League

I’m not sure if Mustsfa running away was the right thing to do. He got to show off some of his powers but didn’t talk about his actual motivations.

The end was appropriate but felt forced. Hero caught by villian and put in brain extracting machine. Cool but I probably should have just rolled out the combat and stacked things in Bonesaw’s favor. Upside was “style” dice for El Cubo

Actual Play – Issue #4: Mustafa’s Madness (11/11/09)

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

The game started with resolving a few fiddly bits.

1. We determined that while Lady O believes she is Mustafa’s father and Mustafa believes she is his wife, at most one of these beliefs will be true, possibly neither. This was addressed in game by a few unnamed characters talking to each other about Lady Osiris and identifying the ridiculousness of both statements being true.
2. We talked some about the balance of powers, which looked like there were written without much awareness of each other. Little stuff, but annoyingly inconsistent.

Issue 4: Mustafa’s Madness!

Actual Play – Issue #3 – Tomkins’s Troubles (10/21/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Travis, Eric, and Omar
System: Silver Age Sentinels

This issue started off with a bang but fell a little flat in the middle as a function of me assuming I had parceled out more information than I thought I had. And that entire idea of me parceling out in the story to the players is one that is upsetting me more and more. Here is the game in a nutshell, with a focus on what I’d like to see changed.

Acts 1-4

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.

Actual Play – Issue #1 – Has Empire City Lost Its Mind? (9/9/2009)

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

After a long break (due to absences, picking a system, and character creation), the Silver Age Sentinels game is on!

What just happened? Due to an attack from a nefarious (and yet unnamed) villain, thousands of people in Empire city have lost their memory! This symptom has spread through the city, affecting Metas and normal Joes alike. Some have regained their memory through the help of the Orphic Institute, but many lost souls now wander the streets of Empire City, unaware of the life they have forgotten.

Act 1 – Exploring the Premise

Actual Play – Silver Age Sentinels (8/4/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Silver Age Sentinels

Catching up! This AP report will be brief. We finished up character creation and I asked each of the players some follow up questions about what is going on with their character.

The Liberator. He broke the chains of hell, or someone did.

  • A recent victory: Released from hell on account on mortal priest.
  • Failing: Balancing doing good and the harm it causes people.
  • Defect: Severe recurring nightmares where his powers go wild.
  • Archetype: The Cowboy – Protects society but because of his dangerous nature must live outside of it.
  • What just happened to you: Just go to leave.
  • Enemies: Krutzritter, and The “General”
  • Allies: Father Benito, Morningstar

Lady Osirus. A now-immortal explore and collector of occult goods.

  • A recent victory: Defeating Captain Steam and gaining the eye of Osiris.
  • Setback: Having here memory wiped by “Just the League” and being forced to change against her will. Violation of her and showing their lack of trust.
  • Issue: People constantly taking her stuff (home, speedboat, sports car, helicopter).
  • What Just Happened: Just go a new significant other.
  • Enemies: Osiris, Captain Steam, Chopper, Just the League, an ex significant other.

El Cubo(Aka: Kurenai), the Celtic God always reborn new.

  • A recent victory: Defeating the Amazon Queen in single combat and forging a relationship with The Liberator that would persist beyond incarnations.
  • Failing: Did nothing as Bonesaw destroyed El Paso. Bitter at the American people.
  • Issue: No control over his next physical incarnation making it difficult to forge relationships.
  • What just happened: Just found out his friend died in El Paso. Memorial service coming soon.
  • Enemies: Bonesaw, Mustafa.
  • Rival: Steel Mask
  • Allies: Amazon Queen.

So, now I’ve got to figure out what to do with these characters.

My goals:

  1. Stay flexible, like our Burning Warcraft game I want the players to drive this story, that include deciding who is right, who needs to be stopped.
  2. Introduce a sufficiently dynamic cast of NPCs that the players have a significant list of resources to garner in the form of allies, rivals and enemies.
  3. Start the game with an opportunity for the characters to explore what they are all about before they start getting hammered. Lady O needs to find some relic and go on a date. Liberator needs a confessional scene and someone who believes in him in danger. El Cubo needs to “die” saving someone he cares about, only to be unable to reconnect with them.
  4. Then all of these exposition scenes should dovetail into a central scene that involves all the characters and reveals the central threat, right? Something the characters care about. I’ve got some ideas about that, specifically tying things into the land of the death, as all three character cheat (or have cheated death) in one way or another.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 as necessary, yeah? Maybe it is more nuanced than that, but I think we’ll have a good time if all the characters are seeing something they care about.

Another thought. Multiple Protagonists = Multiple Enemies.  How I loathe stating them out however. We’ll see how I do.

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.