I love that cover. It was the first issue of The Uncanny X-Men I bought with my own money off the stands, and even Cyclops’ entirely unnecessary gesticulating is perfect. But ... uh ... why is Storm saying that? It is a very silly thing to say, and fortunately our heroes in the Defiants say precisely the opposite as you shall see here.
Nine long sessions were way too long a game relative to my goals in organizing it. The edited videos posted here total (just) over twenty-one hours! I can’t possibly expect anyone to peruse them – it’s the equivalent of two years of 70s-style newsstand comics publishing and could be two whole Netflix seasons, more likely padded to three if it were adapted. However, I would greatly appreciate it if you’d watch any one of the nine and tell me in the most straightforward terms, what you see in the play procedures and in the fiction.
This post closes it out with our final three sessions. Session 7 is below, nothing but unmitigated socializing and soap. You might get the wrong idea from the videos that we alternate between social and combat sessions, but remember that 5 and 6 were both single sessions cut in two for viewers’ sanity. So this is the only one that featured no action. I hope you can see that it was not time wasted, however.
Session 8 includes plenty of action in an unusual way: I was rolling frequently from the very start for when Cortex would locate Finn and teleport in to attack, but my rolls were terrible! I even ruefully show the players an 18 at one point, and that was one of several. Meanwhile they were carrying out all sorts of things including trying to locate Liam (not knowing he was now Cortex), and as it happened, he succeeded in the roll to find them just as they were finding him. It created the false impression that I was holding out on them for pacing reasons, but really, the fight could have started five minutes into the session under very different circumstances, especially location, if the rolls had gone a different way. Given that outcome and my desire to play shorter sessions, I stopped it mid-fight to continue later.
Session 9 completed said fight and closed out play, and if I may say so on behalf of the players’ amazing participation, justifies all that has gone before and exemplifies pretty much everything I hoped the Champions Now project is aimed for.
Much as I may complain about the hours involved (asterisk asterisk to non-existent footnote full of complaints in very small font), I concede that every bit of it was worthwhile and even crucial to the project. It confirmed a ton of things, especially the two-statements three-corners organizing principle, the positive role of a familiar location, and the importance of day-in-the-life play as core to the action. Some things were painfully confirmed in the negative. Note to self: when your own rules say “don’t do that,” based on extensive experience, don’t do it ...
It also nailed down so many mechanics for Beta: shifting all “mind scan” into a subset of a general Awareness power, confirming the utility of my Body and Defense concepts, changing Luck to a more powerful Body-reading roll, putting the Variable Power Pool through its paces again, finding the fun/function limits of Presence (mainly by letting it off the leash), redefining what DNPCs even are, and more.
In reply to a recent post here, I wrote about using minimal but specific boundaries when preparing play for a necessarily customizable, but not generic role-playing system. This game made it very clear that what we do together is one of those necessary conditions. Yet that’s a very tricky issue to state minimally, as “what we do” is a responsive and dramatic component of play, uniquely so. For me anyway, I find the concept most likely to be successful if it’s articulated after the first session. I can certainly see that it’d work well beforehand for a given group or for specific kinds of concept statements, but certainly no later.
Related to that is the difference Santiago identified between playing your superhero vs. playing “whoa I just got powers,” especially since the latter is such boilerplate in TV/movie versions that it’s easily confused with the genre. In play, it’s a real problem by itself, let alone when it becomes confounded with the real person saying “gee I’m learning how to play this game.” Arguably we should not have started Silverbeak with new/secret powers on top of his basic ones; although it did fit very well with the two statements, it was also way too much for a new player to process and the game is already built to introduce such things easily as we go along.
Some of the content just kept fumbling, not least the transition into Brian having two super-identities. He even adjusted his Disadvantages to reflect it, but I think Santiago’s momentum from session 6 was lost in the long delays between sessions and perhaps with other processing. It’s too bad: I think the NPCs would ultimately have insisted on the name “Bolt” (which nicely captures both the mind-powers and his flight disguised as super-running), and the whole two-supers identities would have been fun to GM and not too crazy since he has Instant Change.
As I’ve mentioned before, the really surprising thing overall is how satisfying the actual produced-in-outcomes story is. And as a minor belated point, I offer an apology to everyone born into the nominal demographic for our occasional snarking and possible lack of awareness, with this article: The Millenial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction.
I’m breaking out two more things for discussion topics in the comments: the cast list method I used, for which see the attached documents; and my thoughts on future potential for play if we were to continue.
(editing this in) I just realized that cover doesn't feature Wolverine apart from the masthead, which in retrospect, is sort of legendary. Amazing to recall as well that, as of that very issue, I was trying to explain him to a polite adult listener, struggling with the context that this was an obscure and idiosyncratic character.