The yellow box TSR Marvel Super Heroes Basic Set is my first love in role-playing games. TSR weaponized the game to appeal to young children via the three-color Universal Table on the back covers of the books. There is also a game for adults embedded in that box set. I have never played it to its full potential. Our Halfway Heroes game is an attempt to realize the potential of the yellow box set.
Asides from my intuitions about the potential of the game, Ron’s video Make Mine Marvel and the series of posts and discussion between Ron and James in A Remedy For Oppression are an influence on this game. James is the only player at the moment, but we hope to add more players so that we can explore the group Karma rules.
One of the first decisions I made during preparation for the game was to throw out Marvel canon. With few exceptions, this is how I have always played Marvel Super Heroes because I always found it more satisfying to build up our roster of heroes and villains in play. It freed us up to make our own stories instead of towing the party line concerning events in the Marvel Universe.
In addition to the Basic Set, we’re using Realms of Magic for the magic rules, including the suggested metaphysics and cosmology. I have also included some bits and pieces of setting and rules from the
Deluxe City Campaign Set and Nightmares of Future Past. We’ve made a few calls on how the magic system works — abandoning the text in the Campaign Book in favor of Realms of Magic. We’ve also made a few decisions on how villain Karma and Popularity function.
The premise of Halfway Heroes is that the characters served time in the supers section (cell block K) of Ryker’s Island. We started the game on the day that the character was released. The game is set in the modern day, starting on May 5th, 2022 (also the day of the first session).
The way I plan to run this game is to work through the calendar as characters deal with the issues of being a returning (super-) citizens, working with the Karma rules around fulfilling weekly commitments while they pursue their own goals. I am doing this to establish the the rhythm of the game and dig into the various issues and themes. We can shift the focus afterward as needed.
James is playing a magic wielder named The Huntsman (real name: Samuel Holt). He is an environmental activist who turned militant. He was imprisoned for these militant activities.
The beginning of the session was an info dump on the overall Situation. I will spare the reader that part and instead introduce things as they come up in play.
The first scene has Samuel interacting with another returning citizen named Ramirez as they wait for the bus to take them off of Ryker’s Island. Ramirez is a former meth cook who was serving in the non-super division of the prison. He was trying to do honest time and resisted affiliating with the prison gangs, causing him much grief. Ramirez signed onto the experimental Enhanced Rehabilitation program to gain a conditional release from prison. The conditions are that he will work for Damage Control (a company that cleans up the aftermath of super battles). He will also agree to wear a tracking and control collar. As part of the program, the prison granted him superpowers.
In contrast with the conditional release Ramirez obtained by volunteering to be a guinea pig, Samuel gained an early release by snitching on a Nazi ecoterrorist named Iron Cross. Samuel is now out on parole.
While waiting for the bus, Samuel shared a known hack with Ramirez for bypassing the collar for 15 minutes (based on a successful Reason FEAT roll). This act was Samuel’s first crime in the game, resulting in a reward of 15 Karma for “Committing Other Crimes”. Samuel started with zero Karma as Karma erodes in prison. In exchange for the tip, Ramirez agreed to mess with the hero who arrested Samuel if an opportunity arises. The hero in question is named The First Responder.
The next scene has Samuel drop by his parent’s place, where he will be staying. In that scene, Samuel also calls his ex-wife Deirdre to apologize for the trouble he has caused and get the information about the rented storage she maintained while he was in prison. The storage locker contains his magical gear and other personal belongings.
Later that night, Samuel will try to commit another crime — stealing back his gear from the storage locker. Samuel casts the Apparition spell to become immaterial so that he can pass through the walls of the storage building. I call for an Agility FEAT to sneak past security. James spends Karma on the roll and fails, losing 10 Karma points in the attempt. He bails on the job, so no crime is committed. A security camera recorded his ghostly form floating up to the third floor of the building without attempting to enter.
Samuel checks in with his parole officer, The Silver Shield. The Silver Shield is a medieval knight in polished armor who possesses a mirrored shield that can detect lies. Samuel makes the appropriate jokes (The Silver Shield has heard them all before). They set up a weekly appointment so that The Silver Shield can check in on Samuel.
In the next scene, Samuel applies for a job with Damage Control. They accept his application and inform him that he will need a hard hat and steel-toed boots.
Samuel then sets up to steal a hard hat from a Damage Control worksite. He succeeds at an Intuition FEAT to find a current worksite. He found a site that was damaged in a battle between the superhero Bugmorph and his opponent, The Whispering Snipe. There is acid damage at the site as this is one of Bugmorph’s modes of attack.
Samuel successfully casts Illusion on the site workers to convince them that acid-spitting beetles are crawling out from the cracks. He follows up with the Fear spell to drive the workers from the site. The workers fail both Psyche FEATs and flee the site. Samuel steals a hard hat and a belt sander. He gains 10 Karma for “Commiting Theft”, putting his Karma total at 15.
Samuel then visits the storage locker to put it into his name and drop off the belt sander.
The Campaign Book suggests making a custom random encounter table for each character. Near the end of the session, I rolled on this table and determined that Samuel would be jacked up by the police. This is a
“random” stop and frisk by the police because they don’t like the look of Samuel. They engaged in a short dialogue with the typical questions. Samuel rolled a successful Popularity FEAT, getting the cops off of his
The last scene has Samuel buying a baseball bat and flowers for his mother. We calculate this to cost 1 Resource point, leaving him with 99 to spend.
Samuel intends to enchant the baseball bat. Before the next session, we’re going to have a look at the invention rules and put together a variation to cover enchanting.
The Huntsman/Samuel Holt started with zero Karma in this session and ended with 15. He also started with 100 Resource points and finished with 99.