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Um, sorry about your church [Champions Now]

This is shaping up to be a very Catholic game. Michael Solis, the Oblate, is both observant as a person and basically owned by St. Mary's College of Law as a auperhero, in association with the Oblate School of Theology. Finn Walsh, or Crawl, is not religious but his family is Irish Catholic as well as career U.S. military. And our third player's character, who shows up in session 2, is another Irish Catholic, created independently; more about him next time.

I bring this up because the Oblate blew a hole in the roof of the rather nice church at the Oblate School of Theology, on purpose even, and Crawl punched out a partition inside it, crunched a supporting pillar, and adding some spice, seized a statue of Mary with his tentacles. Yes, Scorpion kicked out the other partition and Brimstone lit the interior on fire, but geez, heroes!

There's tons to talk about for this session, which I hope to pursue in detail in the comments. First is Endurance. This was the defining mechanic of the violent encounter, beginning with the Oblate's desperate race to get there, and especially exactly how the opponents ended the fight. I've already posted about it in this comment, and I'd like to follow up in detail here.

Second is the importance of personalities and daily life. I really enjoyed playing Amanda and her friends, Jennifer, Father Ochoa, and the two antagonist characters, as well as off-screen, the woman described by Father Ochoa. I liked the questions raised about Dean Weylunde. All of these were steeped in the economics and habits of life for the characters and player-characters, and I drew as much as possible on players' input for it all as well, e.g., where Michael would go to do the Mind Scan. This is the opposite of both "entertaining quirky NPC" thespian play and "annoying DNPC you have to care about" play. It's a skill - and once you're used to it, frightening when you play in a relatively naturalistic game that lacks it.

Third is the "map." I maintain that we ran that fight exactly as if there had been a hex-based battlemap in front of us. When the players asked how far things were, I was looking at my pictures of the interior of the church.

I've attached my notes following this session. Certain things you're not to know are redacted, but I direct your attention to things which arose from play - the mysterious glop in the garage, Jennifer's status as a student (which we didn't know until we decided in play), Amanda realizing something the morning after Michael left in the middle of the night (and which by the clock happens before she gets a call from Michael in the infirmary), and as you might have picked up, that the members of Ghost figured out what Finn's powers are, i.e., bootlegs from the historic Man o'War powers-set.

Such things are crucial to running this game. They interact constantly with the material I'm bringing in as given, e.g., Dean Weylunde colluding with ICE (or Father Ochoa's claim thereof) and the mysterious woman who helped Father Ochoa against Xe. Don't miss the players' role in both - e.g., for the fixed material, everything about ICE and Noldo Rivera was extrapolated from the Oblate's character sheet; for the play-contingent content, everything came right out of various characters' rolls.

Here's my official apology for thinking the control roll for Variable Power Pool is a full-Phase action; it's half-Phase, from here on, like it's supposed to be.

The following are real places/institutions: St. Mary's School of Law, The Oblate School of Theology, Brooke Army Medical Center, and Xe (formerly Blackwater, most recent name is Academi, see this also). Cody's Coffee is a stand-in for Caribou Coffee given a Texas spin (we call it "Starbucks" in the game sometimes but I need to specify that). Myrmidon is fictional, a cross between Netflix and Amazon, with more personality-driven branding; similar to Bill Gates, subscribing to the product implies approval of Noldo Viera.

 

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

Santiago Verón's picture

I'm eager to watch this video! See what you guys've been up to before I joined the game. Gotta tell you though, my character is of Scottish descent, not Irish! Wanting him to have a nice alliterative name led me there. I really enjoyed the process of just starting with a surname that sounded cool to me, then owning up to it and doing research to make it a possible San Antonio identity. So I ended up choosing another Scottish surname for her mother as well... Don't know about the religious background, though, but if you tell me Scottish people are usually Catholics, I'll go with it.

Ron Edwards's picture

They're not, but it's super complicated.

Fortunately the American history is much less intense, and it may be that religion and ethnic background aren't that big a deal for Brian.

Rod_A's picture

Nice to see this go up! Reviewing the actual things-said-and-done is just plain helpful in correcting some misremembered details (I had apparently decided in my own head that Father Ochoa's mystery contact was an ICE whistleblower, but that's not the case). Michael spent session 2 having conversations in the hospital, so I'm looking forward to seizing a chance to get proactive on these jokers.

Also, I feel pretty good by now about having nailed Michael's regular-life voice, but how he presents himself as the Oblate . . . uh, needs some work. I feel like some kind of theatricality is called for -- but "on your knees, miscreants"? Yeesh.

Ron Edwards's picture

We ran into a little choreography / timing / staging issues at that point too. I want to stay with the timing constraints of the system, but sometimes that can stall out a player's "then I do this" plans - and I didn't realize yet that you didn't know Presence Attacks were open-season, in timing terms. So you could have, for instance, blown out the roof and then just Presence'd them from there. I didn't let you jump down right away, as that's prohibited, but Presence Attacks are free actions, so that wouldn't have stopped you from making your grand entrance instead of just being a mysteriously blown-up roof up there for the next few segments.

And why you were dead-set on jumping down, I dunno ... I was thinking, "OK man, it's your ankle." That does, however, bring up how consequential the powers-construction is. Needing to give the Flight a Limitation (Burnout) in order to back it up with magic Endurance, in order to get there in time, and then having the Burnout kick in, turned out to be a significant issue during the fight. Also, your brief dialogue about losing access to the magic beetle was textbook Thomas or Claremont exposition via thought-balloon.

Ron Edwards's picture

I was just working over some rules draft stuff and this conversation led me to apply the Presence Attack modifiers to that announced action of yours. If you had done it - which you should have been allowed to - it would have looked like this:

  • 15 Presence = 3d6
  • In combat -1d6
  • Weak reputation -1d6
  • Directly contradicts their mood -3d6
  • Exhibiting a power +1d6
  • Violent action (very) +2d6
  • Monologue 0d6 (sorry - I kind of agree with your assessment)
  • Setting is very appropriate (church, et cetera) +2d6

Somewhat to my surprise, the modifiers even out and you're at base Presence for 3d6. Between you and me, that probably wouldn't have landed you Presence x 1 for either of them, but it might have, perhaps to allow Crawl to act before Scorpion in the upcoming Phase.

More importantly, going through that during play has a long-term effect: it gets the player thinking about exactly what to do ahead of time to optimize a given Presence Attack attempt. In your case, you might start saying, "How do I get my reputation up there," "How do I get information before getting into a fight, or during it if necessary," "What do I pose against for that 'appropriateness,'" and as you mentioned, "What the hell do I say."

It's surprisingly easy to get these into shape through a couple of sessions of play, for a reliable +4 to +6d6 on top of your Presence ... no small thing for forcing hesitations and making your point when you need to, or crowd control of any kind.

Rod_A's picture

Hi Ron, I guess I'd have to attribute my jumping fever to misguided enthusiasm to "get in there", plus maybe failure to adequately imagine what it feels like to stand on the roof of a church and look down. And yeah, I had intended for that whole schtick to be a Presence Attack but kinda got wrongfooted by that failed VPP roll and my mind went off the rails.

Ross's picture

Endurance - I have already said a bit about this in the previous post, however I think it would be interesting to think about if, and if so why, strategizing around Endurance use gives a tactical complexity that Stun / Body by themselves don't. Is it maybe because END use is more directly under individual control? Is this particular to the genre where one might reasonably expect to face foes with pretty huge damage output? 

NPCs - I've really enjoyed these so far and how they have come to life as people with agendas and goals etc. I'm interested in whether as GM you are really drawing any distinction between DNPCs and other characters explicit or implied by characters third corners. Is there any difference between Jen who is a DNPC and Liam who isn't? Is there any reason why I might for example want to change up Crawl's limitations to make Liam a DNPC and would that make any difference to what we do in play?

Maps! - Yes agreewith your statement although it does put a bit of pressure on someone, likely the GM, to really lead on this and put up with playing twenty questions from everyone else. I suspect a positive outcome of this might be more attention in the group to the actual fictional content and location, rather than abstracting it to this many hexes. Technically I think it will work better than the same approach in our 4e game as it seems to me that Champions system is concerned with relative distance and proximity, basically can I hit them, but not with exact location - there's no equivalent to the pushes, slides and shifts in 4e that maybe get played down a bit in our game. Distance and proximity seem to me to be more amenable to eyeballing and everyone being in enough agreement to work in the way we seem to be playing. I suppose I'm suggesting that the champions hexmap is less critical than the grid.

Also you missed out that Crawl smashed his way into the church basement, that place took a beating / desecrating.

Ron Edwards's picture

I'm getting dizzy with the different locations for discussions! One of the videos I posted for backers is all about Endurance's ins and outs. Endurance is the value which doesn't take the character out of action when it hits zero, and its value matters to what your character can even do, at every point. In these, it's different from Stun, which doesn't mean anything from value to value, and takes out the character at zero. So there's no need to "track" Stun except broadly, and its value at the moment doesn't affect what you can do. Endurance is more relevant in the moment, and you can anticipate what your own actions will do to it and thus, to your own reasonable range of action.

One of the nastiest attacks in the St. Louis game was a grenade-type missile which did a small-ish amount of damage, but with full Knockback and 1d6 Endurance Draiin. Just a couple of those did terrible things to the hero who easily shrugged off high-damage hits, by ruining his position in the fight and tipping his Endurance to the point where his high Strength would bring himself down. (And which, in that condition, the player's desperate Presence Attack was fantastic.)

The only defining feature of a Dependent NPC is that he or she gets in trouble or in the way, by definition. Other characters can be just as involved in the hero's life or as important to the players, and conceivably can get in trouble or in the way as circumstances allow, but the DNPC will do so. This is why it's so important to play them as interesting people, because otherwise they are nothing but loads, and killing one's own DNPC was a classic "fuck this noise" move back then.

You're reading the map situation and comparison right. I was a little shocked to realize just how much of D&D 4E combat is refined/house-ruled Champions. For a group which really counts Knockback inch by inch, or the turn radius rules, and other quite focused applications of the hex map, then the games are equivalent. We downplayed the map slightly in our D&D game, but I'm downplaying it significantly in this application of Champions. Making the immediate physical situation matter, however, is a big deal. I know it works in play, but I'm still working out the best way to explain or teach it.

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