We’ve since completed Issues #4 and 5 for the Champions Now game. Discussion of the earlier session can be found here.
These sessions dealt with the fallout from the capture of the ex-Super Fuzz villains, with the big question being: where are we going to put them so they can’t break out of jail again?
For issue #4, only Doc Vanguard’s and Ghost’s players could make it. Doc took the lead on trying to deal with the villain issue and went to a meeting at the MDC in Brooklyn (where all the villains were being held in a makeshift “metahuman containment unit”). There he argued the case for allowing the Super Squad to take over these duties and promised he could build a better metahuman prison as part of Vanguard Tower. And Ghost used his invisibility and desolidification to spy on what was going on in the office of Steve Freedman, the crusading/grandstanding lawyer who had taken on the case of defending the ex-Super Fuzz villains (although he is notably not representing Noose or Detonator).
For issue #5, Doc’s player couldn’t make it, but everyone else was there. Sarge took up duty on-site at the MDC to help provide super-powered security to guard the villains. Ghost was drawn out by Vinny Misto’s crew (one of his Hunters), through their threat against Ghost’s contact on the Brooklyn PD, and during that confrontation Ghost came into conflict with Cadaver, a back-from-the-dead mobster with a grudge against his former associates and who sees himself as a righteous, avenging force. (Ghost and Cadaver’s “origin stories” are also intertwined, though, importantly, Cadaver is not part of a Hunted situation). And Force kept busy, first, trying to use his contacts in military black ops (who are part of one of his Hunted situations) to find out more about ways to help deal with metahuman containment/incarceration problems, and then later using his telepathic abilities to interrogate Talon.
Apart from straightforwardly enjoying our characters and our story, there are a couple of system-related things that came out of these sessions that have been interesting to me and which may be interesting to folks here.
First, we have seen emerging themes that were in no way anticipated or planned by me (or the players) during any of the original prep. Specifically, I noted that by the end of Issue #5 we had moved into the middle of Squadron Supreme-style ethical dilemmas about how to deal with super-powered bad guys once you’ve caught them. Should they all be drugged? Sent to some black site? Mind controlled into obedience? In retrospect, we can look back at the opening two statements (“The world is just coming to terms with the existence of super powers” and “Paranoid political thriller: history is made by bad men (or is it?) in New York City”) and say, well, of COURSE that’s exactly where we ended up. But my point is at no time during prep did I set out and say, “Let’s do The Squadron Supreme” or “I’m hoping this game drives straight towards those ethical dilemmas”. Moreover, I WOULDN’T have thought that in part because the idea of aiming, in the abstract, for those kinds of “ethical dilemmas” did not (and does not) appeal to me. On the other hand, that they are coming up in this specific way in this context with these characters makes them very engaging.
Second, the absence and/or presence of Luck and/or Unluck has played a role in different ways. None of the player characters have any Luck or Unluck, but I have liberally spread both around through the various NPCs. (Noose’s Luck played a part in him almost escaping from Sarge during Issue #3.) For Issue #5, when I was trying to sort out the timing of “who will get the jump on who” in a scene with multiple sides racing to the same point -- Ghost, a group of Vinny Misto’s thugs, the NYPD, and Cadaver (who has 2d6 Unluck) -- instead of leaving it completely up to me to choreograph, I rolled Cadaver’s Unluck, coming up with a result of 2 core (“danger targets you”) which I decided meant that Cadaver would arrive just in time to be caught between a shootout between the gangsters and the police.
And we’ve had a situation where the absence of any Luck/Unluck (on either side) has been meaningful: when Ghost infiltrated the lawyer’s office in Issue #4, he had neither Luck nor Unluck, and the lawyer (who is a DNPC from a villain’s sheet) didn’t have Unluck as one of his situations. Ghost also (at the time) did not have Detective Work, so, while he was able to observe and take in what anyone who would have spent the day eavesdropping on the office could have found out (which was significant and important information), I decided that absent a successful use of Detective Work, absent any Awareness powers, and absent Luck/Unluck for any of the interested parties, Ghost would not be able to figure out (or have revealed to him) the missing piece of the puzzle he was looking for (which is, in fact, the connection between the lawyer and the villain for whom he is a DNPC).
Finally, I’m getting used to the way that the Situations for given villains and DNPCs can really drive prep, both in terms of direct inspiration and productive constraints. When prepping for sessions 4-5, my original idea with regard to what the ex-Super Fuzz villains would do when captured was that they would at first give their lawyer a chance to wage a kind of civil rights/public relations campaign, and wait on breaking out only if it looked like they were definitely going to be transferred to some kind of super powered black site/prison. However, looking over the situations for the villains, Domino has a physical situation related to dependence on cocaine, and so I decided that to play this character fairly meant that he was going to try to use his teleportation powers to get out on his own, leaving his team behind. Domino did manage to escape, and now the Now is more interesting than it would have been if I had just stuck to “my idea” and not looked to things already established (in this case, established as in written down on a Villain sheet).
All of three of these features of the system point towards the way that Champions Now requires and rewards giving up completely on the idea that the way to an engaging story is for someone at the table to grab control of it and take it “where they want it to go”.