I’ve played a ton of Vigil in the past year, but not posted about it much. For those arriving recently, check out my Comics Madness post Is your hate pure? for what it’s all about. More generally, it’s one of my three simultaneous superhero game projects, along with Champions Now and Cosmic Zap. Like them, it’s also based on a prior game rather than an original design, but has become its own thing in my hands.
Now, Vigil was supposed to be a lead show pony for Adept Now, but you haven’t seen any of it. Why is that? Because the sessions were cursed with my learning curve for call and recording and editing tech, so were borked more often than not. But the fact is, the game is well into beta, having benefited from genuinely outstanding playtesters Steve Long and Ram Hull. They are, of course, respectively the fellow who wrote The Book on vigilante superheroes in role-playing, and the fellow who wrote the game Vigil is based on, The Path of Journeys.
We played two “stories,” or rather, two sets of sessions which each came to a mechanics-based end, set in Raleigh, North Carolina. The first step of play is to identify something about society we really, actually hate, which in this case was the power of ignorance, actually taking pride in knowing nothing about things, about belonging to groups and granting power through shouting slogans.
Steve’s character is Scarecrow, a disgruntled small business owner, whose May Court role is the Priest, “Introspection vs. Inaction.”
- Sketch: Mask + ordinary clothing, Armed with shortened escrima sticks w/ metal core, Status of “average J,” a working person (Stewart Davidson, freelance baker), Age: Adult (32), Power: Sleuth.
- Motivations: 1: I hunt, 3: I want to force Wayne McLawhorn to reform, 5: I might want to expose the corruption within the government for ruining my business/life, but I have to face the fact that the government does a lot of good.
- Key Conflict: Rage / Regret
As play continued, the Motivations evolved a little bit.
- Motivations: 1: I hunt, 2: I want to force, 3: I want to shame these guys [the college students previously encountered] into behaving better, 3: I want to teach the Verdict that the law/society matters, 5: I might want to expose the corruption within the government for ruining my business/life, but I have to face the fact that the government does a lot of good.
- He also gained the Motif of the pumpkin face/mask.
Ram’s is The Verdict (a popular name in playtests so far, I’ve noticed), an undead-ish hooligan whose May Court role is the Advocate, “Preparing for conflict vs. Inviting conflict.” This is the required May Court role for play, which includes an ongoing reflective challenge for the other characters, and who is furthermore required to be significantly better or worse than the other heroes in play, as his or her player sees it.
- Sketch features Mask, no costume (in civilian guise, he looks like a sickly homeless youth and wears a discolored NC state hoodie; in superhero guise, his undead status becomes palpable. He wears a bandana covered in runes to hide the worst of his face). Armed: Non-lethal (a weathered baseball bat with the words “the end” scrawled onto it). Status: Marginalized (Richard True, derelict youth). Age: Young. Power: elemental, risen from the dead
- Motivations 1: I strike. 5: I might want to know the role of Lazarus in my death, but I’m afraid of the truth. 5: I might want to redeem Matt Mason; he’s such an asshole but he doesn’t mean it.
- Key Conflict: Meaning / Despair
These also evolved through play, into:
- Motivations 1: I strike. 5: I might want to know the role of Lazarus in my death, but I’m afraid of the truth. 4: I might want to redeem Matt Mason. 3: I want to connect with Scarecrow
- Motifs “The End,” scrawled onto his baseball bat
It’s fun to see Steve, famous or infamous for bringing two-gun “eat a bullet, punk” heroes to Champions, playing the more tentative, more “give the system a chance to work” character in the face of an ally who is not very far from the original comics version of the Crow.
These sessions led me to a satisfactory point with basic character and resolution mechanics, and opened up the next level of plot, outcome, and rising action to see if those things even happened. In retrospect, it’s perhaps an advantage to me that you can’t see how badly or on-and-off those functioned in the first story, but that’s the bumpiness that comes with development. (Patrons can see the current drafts as well as the original Path of Journeys, and the latest is behind the wall there now.)
What I’ve presented here is the final session of our first story, which includes a design discussion “how did we get here, how did it work,” and then the showdown with the adversary character we’d been developing through play, Lazarus.