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Title drop

Whew –

After the big monster climactic events of session 5, I settled down to prep things more widely. I had plenty to work with, some of which were hanging fire from initial character construction, and some of which had arisen with no planning during play. I was also feeling the pain of not having a group identity in practice, exactly against what my own text said to do. The only solution seemed to be to throw all of the relevant characters into one room and make them hash it out, and also to identify all the established sources of attack upon them, and to turn them all up to “high.”

For that latter purpoe, such sophisticated organizing devices such as these were employed:

I dialed back Monsanto, Myrmidon, Xe (or rather, Academi), and the American Policy Institute to go “soft power” through the universities, which are historically quite vulnerable to it; and turned my attention to AmyBiota, thinking that we could easily get to its actions toward Finn. I was also concerned to focus more on Finn because Brian had, for various reasons, soaked up far more in-play attention and time.

Related to that, and making it easy (I thought), we also had the former Man o’War running around loose. I saw a chance at last to play a less sentimental version of the Hulk, such that the heroes would really have to choose whether to stop him for good, rather than always being diverted toward sympathy for him.

I’d built his complex of Psychological Limitations and Enrages and Multipower slots rather carefully, and played them fairly ... there was a pretty good chance that he’d bulk up into the kind of Lee-Kirby city block demolishing monstrosity that the heroes simply have to destroy, “there’s a human being in there” or not. Not a determined outcome, but a chance I was willing to see play out. However, as you’ll see here, due to role-playing and rolls, the classic Hulk story proved robust after all, so heartwarming, but perhaps less brutally final as we might have needed as a group.

Part 1 (below) is mostly the result of me insisting that the heroes and all the immediately-concerned NPCs get into a big discussion together, which resulted in the entirely unplanned group naming. In retrospect it’s a good thing that happened, as I was burning out fast on the rather aimless protagonists at this point.

Part 2 is ... well, it is monster action, also featuring Rod truly finding his newly renamed character in terms of personality, powers, and group role.

Kudos goes here to the breakout character, Tweakie, included among the great portraits of the female characters that I asked Rod to provide. I was trying hard to provide them all with distinct personalities and priorities, sometimes perilously close to “NPCs role-play with one another” territory. That also brought in the interesting pinch of being the only person at the table to present any female points of view at all – you can see my uncertainty about that start to flare up in these videos, and later you’ll see some of my attempted solutions for it in session 7.

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

Ron Edwards's picture

Rod sent this along too.

Ross's picture

So Crawl takes a bit of a beating here (and to some extent in the previous session and in session 8), which could have been a bit frustrating, especially given the possibility of a cycle of get stunned, recover, get hit again because you can't act and get put down. Crawl was lucky that Man-O-War had better things to do than follow up that first attack for example. In this instance watching Crawl soak up the damage and bounce back (a bit) was cool. It's sort of what he's built to do, get hit while the others get on with getting stuff done, and being a big purple obstacle in the way of opponents goals. Of course this only makes sense in that context of goals, not in the sort of deal max damage, less their defence, rinse and repeat until somebody falls over that Ron has talked about as the model to avoid.

Ron Edwards's picture

Pop culture parlance includes “the Worf Effect,” meaning the fate of the team member who’s supposed to fulfill the big-tough-intimidating role. In practice, it means he (usually he) is flattened all too often in order to show how dangerous a new foe is. The solution seems to be easy, just don’t do it, but I think there’s a reason for the practice: the alternative is even worse. If your bad-ass bruiser always takes down the foes, then everyone else on the team is transformed into a bunch of flimsy pansies until he (usually he) steps in and solves the problem, until you wonder why the others are even there.

Walking the line is possible, but it always will be a line, because a victory for that hero will be easily coded as “well he’s just written to be unbeatable, it’s not like he earns it,” and a defeat will be easily coded as “so he’s a wimp after all.” You have to show that this hero can struggle to win, and tuning a foe to the personally-perfect pitch which permits this is hard.

In the comics, this is why the entire history of the Hulk concerns hunting for the perfect adversary, generally failing, and forced over and over to turn recursive so that his only story-respectable foe is some version of himself. It’s pretty clear that we recapitulated this solution in miniature, with both Man o’War and Cortex as different ways to provide an alternate, or if you will, Bizarro Crawl.

However, that said, it’s important that we are acting as emergent authors, for which the process of play is not how to present the plot we’ve come up with, but to discover what this plot will even be. In Crawl’s case, and as the player, maybe you’re feeling the takedowns more than you celebrate the victories, but he did withstand considerable punishment and go on to victory more than once. If the group had become more self-organized for specific actions, and if those happened not to involve AmyBiota or access to the gooey McGuffin substance, then I think you’d find Crawl to be an essential and appreciated participant.

Ross's picture

Absolutely, I wasn't suggesting he was just a punching bag, although the run of fights here also coincided with a session of the Champions 6th ed game I'm playing in where my character got beaten unconsious so I did start to feel a bit picked on, wink.

Also I would very much have liked to see Crawl get an opportunity to do things other thsan punch people - he's not as versatile as The Scarab with his VPP but he does have a few more strings to his bow with stretching and clinging. It would have been nice to do a bit of superheroesque rescuing and start Crawl ont he way to being the people's hero of San Antonio!

Ron Edwards's picture

"... see Crawl ... do things other than punching people" ...??

No argument or debate is intended, but I must state for the record that Crawl was our science guy, whose tentacle-assisted lab prep made all the difference in the garage fight with Man o'War and provided a fully original visual take on "science-fighting." I don't know if you want to go into this further, or leave it at differing perceptions.

Ross's picture

I don't think we're in any disagreement, I'm just failing to communicate because of my inclination to flippancy. You're right about Crawl as science guy, as just one example of being more than a brawler. In fact I think the only person he ever hit was Scorpion.

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