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Halfway Heroes - Session Six

In theory, it is May 12, 2022 (in-game) for The Huntsman, but he is in another dimension, so who is counting? For Connie Bleak, we've skipped ahead to May 13, 2022, because that is the day her plans will take place.

At the beginning of the session, we talk about how Connie Bleak hasn't been touching base with her father about the apartment hunt. Connie loses 20 Karma for "Missing a date", which is double because she is a supervillain, so it adds up to 40 Karma.

The Huntsman (aka Samuel Holt) arrives in a barren wasteland that was once the glorious kingdom of Avalon. Everything here is dry and desiccated, unable to sustain life. He sees a castle off in the distance and approaches it. During the journey, he succeeds at a Reason FEAT to determine what he knows about Avalon. Avalon is one of those dimensions where time is cyclical, and myths play out repeatedly in different permutations -- much like the Marvel Universe itself.

Upon arriving at the castle, The Huntsman encountered a dried-up moat. He is cautious in his approach, but there is no need to be. Everybody in Avalon is long dead except for the king.

At the end of the last session, Samantha Sol (the union activist from Specter Industries) is left with a big decision. Does she follow Connie's plan and get her men to destroy critical servers at two of the company's data centers? Or does she have her own ideas? 

It wasn't at all obvious to me what Samantha would do, but I decided that she would continue with her original motivation. She would try to find incriminating data about the company to expose to the public by using the two explosive devices to create a diversion at one of the data centers. She has three union activist friends plant the two devices at the building and detonate them to create a distraction. I roll two Agility FEATs, and both succeed. The next step is for the third activist to hack into one of the servers onsite and begin exfiltrating data. I roll a Reason FEAT for this and fail. There are two explosions in the building, causing chaos and disarray, but the hacker fails to accomplish their mission.

The Huntsman explores the castle stealthfully using his Apparition spell (unaffected by the material limitation as this is precisely the environment his spell works with). From his vantage point, he sees an animated skeleton sitting at a round table. The skeleton is wearing an iron crown and a bearskin cape. He appears crestfallen. The Huntsman used his Illusion spell to create a mythic version of himself in full epic regalia to approach the skeleton.

Asides from the king, he sees four seats with four named plaques:

1. The Shieldless Knight is an empty suit of armor with a puncture hole where the heart would be.
2. The Indigo Knight is a 1L corked jar containing dimly animated blue light.
3. The Sunken Knight is a giant humanoid lobster shell.
4. Myrddin is a pointy wizard's hat propped atop a grimoire.

The Huntsman's illusion introduces himself to the king as Cernunnos the Huntsman. The king recalls some pagan legends about Cernunnos that predate Avalon and acknowledges him as a powerful and ancient figure. Cernunnos the Huntsman was The Huntman's original superhero alias, but it got shortened due to being wordy and hard for people to pronounce (care-NOON-noss for the record).

The setup of The Huntsman safely observing from the shadows while presenting the image of a powerful and recognizable figure to the king left an impression on me. The Huntsman's actions changed how I played the king, whom I imagined being more difficult and melancholy, but how could he speak to an ancient god like that? He had to pull it together. It also became relevant tactically in the next session.

The king himself refers to himself as once called The Dolorous King, but now he is The King of Nothing. He and The Huntsman converse, working through a vague, weird comic book-y version of some of the Arthurian legends that have played out in Avalon. 

The short of it is that the land is dying, leaving only the king. Myrddin sent the squire of The Shieldless Knight to earth to find the grail to cure the king and his lands. The squire (Norman) was on this mission carrying the shield of The Shieldless Knight. This was the downfall of the knight. The squire never returned. (The squire is obviously The Silver Shield, Samuel and Connie's parole officer).

The Huntsman, aware of the cyclical nature of this dimension, offered the king some hope that things would return to how they were. The king believes these words; after all, Cernunnos is an ancient figure who returned to the realm to deliver these words of hope.

The Huntsman spoke more with the king, and they started to work out an arrangement. The Huntsman asked to use Myrddin's grimoire to see if he could find a spell that would transport him back to earth and offered to look for the grail and bring the squire back to face justice for abandoning the quest. The king agreed but made The Huntsman promise to kill him with his broken sword if he could not find the grail. It is the only thing that can end the king's suffering, and the king cannot do it himself.

At this point, Connie is raiding the Specter Industries HQ (which is at a different location than the data centers that Samantha's men raided). She rushed past security and phased up the elevator shaft to the floor with the servers. The building security team responds by locking down the building. Connie entered the server room and started using her energy touch power to destroy servers. 

Some hired mercenaries (extra security brought on after the last incident at the HQ) confront Connie. They try to tase her, but it does nothing because Connie is phased. The mercs cower (tactically) when they can't affect Connie. She beats up their captain, causing them to flee the room. Once safe, they radio Ed Kalvar (Specter Industries CEO and Connie's nemesis) for help. A few minutes later, he makes an appearance. He phases down through the ceiling into the server room, donned in a slick, modernized version of Connie's $PECT3R suit. Connie makes some quips about him being obsessed and asks what he is trying to prove with the costume. He cracks his knuckles and says: "Paybacks are a bitch, Connie."

At the end of the session, The Huntsman has 129 Karma, 90 Resources, and 10 Popularity. Connie has 100 Karma, 4 Resources (I have been mistakenly tracking it as 3), and 1 Popularity. Connie had received 60 Karma for "Commit local conspiracy" and another 40 for "Commit destructive crime".
 

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

Ron Edwards's picture

I haven't commented on the last couple of posts about the game, because the narration of events - basically reading prose fiction - doesn't tell me much about play. If it's OK with you I'd like to know more about the experience of doing it.

One topic is the learning curve. At some point, I'm hoping the table (you three as people) hit a mutual understanding of procedures which allowed more attention to doing them than to figuring out how to do them. Do you think you've hit the "curve" of the curve, by this point? What have you observed or experienced as the contents of this learning process, or, what exactly had to be learned?

Another is the Karma. I've been keeping an eye on Connie's Karma because the first couple of sessions seemed to hammer her hard, and the Huntsman got a boost early and managed to stay ahead. (By "ahead," I don't really mean ahead of Connie, but ahead of the wave-front of problems rolling in on a given character.) It looks to me now as if they're both operating with a fair bank of it. What changed for Connie, so that became possible? Character behavior in small, regular ways? A specific decision or activity for her in play? Differences in your GMing? A good roll at a particular time?

Do you think you've hit the "curve" of the curve, by this point? What have you observed or experienced as the contents of this learning process, or, what exactly had to be learned?
 

For myself, I was fumbling around a lot during the first few sessions while getting used to GMing on camera, note taking, and also organization (I started with paper but eventually put everything into a text file). I was looking up a lot of rules at this point too. For me, I think it was around session three or four when I began to rein this in and things began to run more smoothly from my end. However, some of the tracking of currencies and rolls started to suffer around this point but I think we gained something in terms of momentum in the sessions. If I run something again with the intent of tracking things so closely, I think I will record the sessions because the live note taking is quite difficult.

To address the actual procedures, despite this wonderful universal table, there are a lot of little exceptions in the game with regards to when we should roll dice. When I played Marvel in my youth, we just rolled for everything all of the time (and we did this in every other role-playing game as well). At that point, one of my criticisms of Marvel is that there were no opposed rolls (other than both sides taking turns in combat). Other games I was playing had opposed rolls and so I thought Marvel was bugged. But now, I realize that it is not a problem. However, the issue of when to roll and which side rolls is not covered in the text asides from those exceptional cases, and the exceptions are all over the board. We're also using Realms of Magic with its own set of exceptions. At a few points James and I had talked about our past experiences with some of these things and that helped solidify things in my mind.

Also on my side, I have been rolling for everything as a GM. For example, the union activists attacking the data center. Part of this my reluctance to use some of my authorities as a GM, but in some cases I wanted the dice to provide some inspirational material to work with. The union activists failed, what now? What's going to happen to Samantha Sol? How's Connie going to deal with the aftermath? We haven't dealt with this in play yet.

I think we've hit the curve for the most part. James and Noah, what do you think? The invention, combat, and magic rules could benefit from a few more readings/run throughs for me to really internalize them (again). 

The Phenomena and People & Play courses have made me a lot more self-aware of what is happening in play. One example is how we've narrated power use as a group, I left this up to the players. It really seems to suit the game (see below about the openness of powers/abilities). In my past play experience, the GM always narrated this. Like the constant rolling of dice, this was generally how my old play group did things across most games (if there are exceptions, I cannot recall them). It was very common back then for players in our group to declare their actions ("I try to hit the goblin with my sword"), roll dice, and then have the GM narrate the hit or miss and any damage. We never really considered that certain games or groups would do it differently. Marvel Super Heroes Basic is silent on this issue. There is one missed opportunity to elucidate it in the Battle Book that depicts a battle between Captain America and Spider-Man but that example is not from the perspective of the players and GM.

There are some additional rules interpretations that I have gleaned from comparing the Basic, Revised, and Advanced rules. One big difference is how Advanced expands the list of powers and goes to greater lengths to describe them so that there is less room for interpretation. They try to compensate with the Power Stunts rules but I never really liked Power Stunts. There is a whole section in the Advanced text about Character Modelingwhich I see as a stepping stone to the eventual creation of the Gamer's Handbook of the Marvel Universe series that tried to provide stat blocks for every character in the Marvel canon.

I think the above is a deficiency with Advanced. There is a lot of openness in Basic considering that the basic abilities (FASERIP) scale to superhuman levels, leaving it to the players and GM to interpret how their use might mimic super powers. The powers themselves can also be customized using the rules for Limitations (which can also be applied to abilities and not just powers). I have even found examples of the designers using Limitations to create stat blocks in Basic era supplements.

What changed for Connie, so that became possible? Character behavior in small, regular ways? A specific decision or activity for her in play? Differences in your GMing? A good roll at a particular time?
 

I went back over the previous reports and it looks like things changed for Connie when she attacked Ed in session four. I'd like to hear Noah's thoughts on this but I think it took a few sessions to ramp up into bolder actions and play. I think multiple factors are at play here: how I have been handling time, getting used to each other as a group, getting used to the game, how the situation has developed, etc. 

 

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