My other Gauntlet game! Unlike the Cosmic Zap session, running Champions of any stripe in a convention setting is no picnic for prep. But the hardest part is not the character construction … it’s the fact that the players will not have the necessary buy-in and sense of “let’s do this” per interesting item or opportunity that’s inherent to each character. The net effect is that the GM/preparer must be constantly pointing out to them what they can do.
Take that problem and square it regarding the characters’ interesting motivations and possible priorities. Even with the best of intentions and fully competent, even inspired play, the players simply are not going to be able to play fully intuitively, in the sense of expressing and seeing their own creations come to life. If you’re not familiar with Champions, then I won’t be able to convince you that this effect is a quantum more important than for any other role-playing game.
All that said, the three players were heroic in adopting and owning what they were handed. I had made sure to leave out the heroes’ gender and associated identity, real names, socio-ethnic background, sexual preference, and anything but one key-but-vague background point to start from. The players did a good job of filling that in and adapting it to the immediate situation I gave them, involving anti-discrimination legislation in Hartford, Connecticut.
I’d also provided them with the two opening statements, which I think you’ll see are just right for a game like this:
- Superheroes are public figures who represent and reflect important values, whether establishment or alternative.
- Hey, you mixed family in my politics! Well, you mixed politics in my family!! (we set it in Hartford because Jim, the first player to respond to my email, is very familiar with it)
Part 1 (below) includes the starting conversation, some opening moments including my first disruptive “and then!” move, and a few segments of combat which are mostly about the players getting used to their characters. Part 2 , which followed a brief real-life break, shows what happens just past the learning curve: first, the combat goes poorly for them as they try a bunch of stuff and run into either bad luck rolls or a wicked confluence of effects; but then, in a pretty classic but also genuine moment of “we must work together,” and with the advantage of tweaking the villain’s Psychological Limitations and Enrages and whatnot quite hard, coming out ahead.
What I’d really like you to do is check out those characters I made for it. The heroes are 200 points, the minimum in the rules as written, and I think that value is really good, almost supernaturally so. The disadvantages in particular really “pop” and I love the simplicity each hero is forced to have, even the relatively complex ones. Points-wise, there is so much to do and so many places for each to go, as a function of play. I’d posit Ruby Ray as almost the perfect iconic hero build example.
Another point: I played horribly. Meaning, due to hassles with my printer, I didn’t have the information readily to hand as we played, not daring to deviate from full screen. So I totally forgot really important things, including The Which’s side effects disadvantage, until Jim reminded me, and the side effect for The Domain if its Mind Control was broken, and a number of other things which would have been a lot more fun for the players, I think.
Not having Ruby Ray in play also hampered me more than I thought, as it rendered Killer Coil pretty much superfluous and I forgot her action at least once. I really liked that character, too, but she suffered in execution, ultimately lacking “voice.” Also, originally she was going to be stretchy, and for some reason I went all cyber Doc Ock with her at the last minute of prep instead, which in retrospect diminished my sense of inspiration for her per moment of play.
I do say with pride that the crucial Enrage, Ego, and Limitations which defined Devour and the Domain were played fairly, so that yes, Devour would definitely have attacked Anybug and likely maimed or even killed him, without recovering from that Enrage at the right moment. And it all went south on The Domain almost as if all three players had looked at the build and gone after the weak spots with ball-peen hammers.
It showed me very clearly that my attention to villains as built on more points, with higher ratios, is well-spent. Yes, they’re tough, yes, they hit harder, yes, they’re full of surprises … but find the Power Limitations that have to be in there for that high ratio, and even better, match them to the Psychological Limitations which all good villains will have been spouting off about, and you have a chance.