Saturday, December 28, 2013

An International Incident (gaming recap)

So we finally get to have another session of our homegrown Marvel Heroic Roleplaying campaign.  In our last episode, the heroes (the Ultimate Posse) discover a supervillain organization called the Zodiac that has been responsible for insuring that villains that are captured are released, provided they are "franchisees" of the Zodiac for a measly 15-20% of their gains.  Members of the Posse adopt supervillain identities in an attempt to become franchise members and discover more about the Zodiac's organization, only to discover  that the Ferret, posing as the superninja Deathstriker, has actually been inducted into the Zodiac proper as Libra!

In this episode, the Posse ponder how to take down the Zodiac.  There are several suggestions, including teaming up with the mystical supervillain team the Pact in order to even the odds.  But Control, the director of the superspy organization UNTIL, wants the Posse to learn more about the Zodiac.  There's just one problem: two of the active members on duty don't have supervillain identities.  The first is cowboy with alien technology Union Galactic, who disguises himself as the cyborg samurai Strongarm.  The second is a new superhero, a young teenage superheroine Bubblegum.  She poses as a burglar-villain called the Black Spider, but is worried that her bubblegum-related powers might give her away.

The group is contacted by the Zodiac's leader, Taurus, and given an assignment to prove their worth as franchise members.  Bialya, a rogue state in the Middle East, is arranging to buy a WMD from VIPER, an international terrorist organization.  Taurus wants the WMD for himself.  Abrasax (in his guise as Baron Von Bloodlust), Strongarm, and Black Spider go to Bialya.  They are accompanied by Sagittarius, formerly Arrowhead, who is monitoring their activities for the Zodiac.  The Ferret secretly follows them, unbeknownst to Sagittarius.

After "stealing" the Posse's aircraft, the heroes go to Bialya and insert themselves into the presidential palace under the guise of catering staff for the nation's independence day celebration.  They manage to overhear plans for the transfer of the WMD between VIPER and Colonel Rustam, director of Bialya's Post-Human Resources Division.  The heroes head out to the off-shore oil rig where the trade will take place and rig it with several traps.  Rustam shows up with his two post-human bodyguards, Manticore and Sirocco.  VIPER appears in a mini-sub bearing several crates of weapons and one "special package."  The heroes trigger explosions and gum-traps on the platform, causing mass confusion.  Rustam and his agents begin to battle VIPER, and the heroes grab Rustam's payment, hijack the sub, grab the weapons and the package, and get back to their plane.

On the way back, the Ferret opens the special container to find a small, human baby.  He switches the baby for some technobabble material that Patchwork and Mr. Eternity had created (as NPC's), and the baby is secretly handed over mid-air to Dr. Mind (again, an NPC at the time) while Sagittarius is distracted by the awkward advances of Union Galactic.

The fake package and 15% of Rustam's money is turned over to Taurus, and the heroes quickly head back to the Posse's base to figure out what to do about the baby.

GM's note: One of the real pleasures of this adventure was that through complete coincidence the PC's that would have been truly effective--Samkhara or Ghost Raven, who had Covert abilities and Criminal contacts; Dr. Mind and his mental powers; or Patchwork and Mr. Eternity with their technical abilities--were all absent.  Instead the group had to work with their limited talents to try to be superspies instead.  The switch-out at the end, which they had planned from the beginning, had a great "Leverage" feel to it, and the stress of trying to pull the wool of Sagitarrius' eyes the entire time finally created a sense of tension often missing in the campaign.  What's more, the group managed to avoid combat for the most part, which is really more a success than a failure in my mind.

Comments always welcome!

Friday, December 13, 2013

More looking ahead to 2014

Distractions, great and small

One of the factors gumming up the gaming works in Q42013 has been, in addition to the work and family I mentioned last time, some unexpected problems that came up.  For one thing, I got hurt to the point of needing medical attention.  Twice.  First, I sprained the MCL in my right leg in an accident in mid-October, which was a painful injury that had me limping around for several weeks with a knee brace.  Then, just as the MCL was feeling better, I had a second injury.  I severely sprained my left ankle in an accident, resulting in an avulsion fracture in the ankle (that's when the tendon is pulled so hard it rips off the tip of the bone where it is attached) and broke my fibula clean through.  I've been in a cast for four weeks and will hopefully be moved to a walking boot today, God willing.

The other thing is more personal, and I've learned the hard way that a public blog is not really the place to air private matters. There has been a lot of stuff going on, some long term and some that has just cropped up in the last few weeks.  Again not really needing or wanting to go into detail, but if did not already have a good physical reason to lie around on the couch with my feet elevated, I would have had to fight hard to overcome the emotional drive to do just that.

So what now?

I have been thinking a lot about what is really the right fit, both for me and for the group. The factors involved in the group are that there are many players involved, and many of them can not commit to regular attendance. In fact looking ahead it would be safe to assume that the group will be less regular because of things like starting families.  So I need a game that can be flexible about the "party," both in terms of the size of the group each session and can cycle people in and out easily. 

For me, I have to be honest about my biggest shortcoming: my scattered attention. Sometimes I want do something with fantasy, sometimes science fiction. I get bored when stories go too long but also like doing more than single adventure sessions. 

Now, this isn't the first time I've thought about this, and frankly I know the answer already: superheroes. It's flexible, I love the genre, and hey, I'm already doing it. What's more the group likes it and this whole thing falls under the "if it is not broke, don't fix it" category.   What I'm really wondering about is the system.  I've considered investing in Hero Lab as a way to help the creation of Mutants & Masterminds characters easier.  Maybe for Christmas...

One blog to rule them all

One old idea that I am kicking around is the notion of colsolidating the three blogs into one. For one thing, I don't consistently do one blog concept consistently but jump around a lot. There is also some stuff I find interesting that doesn't fit into the RPG or wargaming or zombie blog easily. So I could update a single blog more often, on a broader range of topics, but risk alienating some readers. I'm continually stunned that the zombie blog gets more traffic than this one, which is updated a lot more often.  That being said, I'm not exactly generating massive traffic to begin with, so it really doesn't matter too much.  If I change, I'll let everyone know.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Looking ahead to 2014

A Long, Hard Season
I had an uncomfortable moment when I looked at my calendar and realized that the last time I played my MHR campaign was in mid-October.  There's been one gathering of my group since then, but we were very short-handed and tried out the FATE character/campaign creation rules instead.
The reason is simple: work, family, and the holidays.  And since my job is deeply connected to the observance of Christmas, it doesn't get any easier.  We schedule our games consistently every other week.  In November I had work on the 1st, gamed on the 15th, and then the 29th was Thanksgiving weekend.
In December, the 13th is when my son is celebrating his birthday (by catching the new Hobbit movie), and the 27th is two days after Christmas.  I'll be free because I will likely not be traveling, but I suspect I'll be the only one.  That means December will be a complete bust.
Going Forward
One of the biggest problems I have is that I will get into the bad habit of screwing with the format of my game.  It's probably something related to an un-diagnosed attention-related disorder, but it also happens when things aren't going quite right.  For example, when the gaming schedule isn't working out, or players' attendance gets iffy, or when we have a bad gaming session.  There's an inclination to start throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping that something will manifest itself that works.  (As a side note, this tends to happen in real life now and then.)
There's a wise voice inside my head that is suggesting that this cycle tends to crop up around December anyways, as indicated by a lot of memories of spending time hanging around my in-laws' house making notes about gaming campaigns.  That same voice suggests that I should just build this into a regular creative cycle: build a campaign that runs January to October, then take two months to re-energize, plan, and build.  It would be like how television series are written and shot mostly during the off-season.  If there's any weekend that miraculously comes up as free in those two months, play board games or something similar.
I also can look more at the calendar and try to find the problem dates.  One of the March dates has a problem with my kids' school schedule. April 18 is Good Friday.  If I know there's going to be a gap in game play, I can try to structure scenarios around it.

This seems like a good line of reasoning.  Your feedback is appreciated.

Not-so-super villains