Monday, May 27, 2013

Star Trek: Journey into Darkness (Review)

I just saw Star Trek: Journey Into Darkness today over the Memorial Day holiday with my family, and after some careful consideration, I have to say that it fell short of the first of the re-boot series.

It's hard to talk about it without spoiling the plot, and I'll include some spoilerific comments after the break, so don't click on those if you haven't seen the movie yet.

On the upside: Chris Pine has clearly been watching old Star Trek footage, because he is definitely imitating Shatner more in the movie.  Not in a bad way, just in some little mannerisms here and there.

On the downside: Benedict Cumberbatch was awful.  I like him a lot in Sherlock but he was pretty woeful in this movie.  His dialogue was limited (I think he had one multi-sentence piece the whole time) and he didn't radiate the power he needed to for the character he was (I won't say whom).

Okay, the break:


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Character Mortality

If there is one element of the Old School Renaissance that is the most discordant with me, it is the issue of PC mortality.  Or rather, the element I think I would find most difficult to sell to others.  The idea is that you're going to burn through a small ream of character sheets as part of the game and that the process will be fun.  Or at least have some value.  Ignoring the "it's a good idea because Gary said so" element of the argument, the most thoughtful reasons why this is the case are the following.

It encourages intelligent play.  If you're going to die from a single arrow to the neck, you're less likely to just start kicking in doors and swings swords around wildly.  You have to hire retainers, move carefully, and manage resources.  No superheroics and stupid players pay the price.  Now this only really works if the GM does a good job of providing sufficient clues for the danger: small details that can reveal the location of traps, or monsters within.  Just having an arrow fly out of nowhere and hit someone isn't going to get a person to come back to the table.

It is realistic.  Creating the game mechanic that allows some people to take multiple bullet wounds and keep fighting versus the guy who gets shot in the foot, succumbs to shock, and dies has always been the challenge of all "realistic" game mechanics.  So individuals who can really only take a couple of serious blows before no longer being able to fight or function is realistic (sort of).

It helps maintain scalability.  My browser has red-lined that word so it probably doesn't exist, so let me explain what I mean.  If, at 1st level, your PC can take on a small crowd of goblins by himself without too much peril, then in a few levels he will have to be able to take on a small crowd of orcs in order for the game to have some sort of mechanic that reflects both an increased ability on his part and have the GM be able to appropriately challenge the PC for the purposes of drama.  After orcs it will have to be ogres, then demons, then a flock of dragons.  This is why, if you look in later editions of D&D, you have a paucity of low-hit die monsters but lots of high end ones, because the game needed to have sufficient opponents for challenging high-powered PC's.  Compare this to D1-3 in AD&D, where the PC's are still facing troglodytes and hobgoblins.

Those are generally the arguments, offered I feel pretty fairly.  There might be others, including the notion that PC's shouldn't have elaborate backstories but rather have the campaign be the story, but I think these are the most compelling.  Feel free to suggest others, I'd genuinely like to have the discussion.

Now the counterpoint.  Massive amounts of empirical evidence in the form of game mechanics adopted not only by later versions of D&D but also pretty much every other game system that followed suggests that players (to whom games are ultimately marketed) didn't appreciate those arguments.  Emotional investment in their characters and perhaps the desire to engage in Hollywood-style heroics meant people didn't like seeing their PC's die.  To those who say, "that's emotional immaturity" I humbly suggest that for every six emotionally immature player there's one bad GM who didn't give those clues about the pit trap and instead just sprung it on them.  I saw a photo of a gaming group playing Dungeon Crawl Classics where the players were asked to hold up the number of fingers equal to the number of their PC's that had died that gaming session.  One person held up both hands.  At some point you're getting into Paranoia (the RPG) levels there, and not everyone appreciates that joke.

There's all sorts of activity that subtly reinforces this dynamic, like using miniatures which unless you're using the pre-painted ones requires hours of work to represent your PC.  When you've done that, you're going to be greatly disappointed if the PC dies quickly.

Where the rubber hits the road for me is thinking about what game to run after MHR.  I really want to do a fantasy game, and would consider strongly an OSR game like Castles& Crusades, but my group has largely grown up on 4th Edition, where PC death is a rarity.  So I'm running the same genre, but now death is close at hand at all times.  That's represents a real change in the gaming paradigm, if I can use that trite expression. I need to have a conversation with the group before I start planning a campaign using C&C or something similar. If the players really push back, I may end up splitting the difference and go with a 3.X/Pathfinder option instead.

Comments welcome.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why it pays to be out of the (gamer) closet

Yesterday I was attending a graduation party for a person I know through work.  Her son was graduating from the University of Kansas, and she was holding a party for him and his friends and had invited, well, everyone on the planet to attend.  At the party the host introduced to me to her nephew, whom she identified as a gamer like me.  Now my place of work had organized a fundraiser in which local youth could come and play boardgames with unlimited concessions, the proceeds of which support a local food pantry (my place of work is cool like that).  So the host was basically trying to get her nephew involved with the fundraiser the next time we do one.

We, however, began talking gaming, and I told him that while I love board games, I'm more of a roleplaying gamer and a wargamer.  As might be expected we frequented the same local gaming stores, etc. and he said that he and his wife would love to find a roleplaying group to be a part of.

Right now I've got a pretty full group of six regular players but I told him I was thinking of starting up another group and would let him know when that began.  I got his contact information and filed it away.  The gentleman and his wife now join a fair number of people whom I've had to turn away from my group because of size issues, but now that group is almost big enough to constitute a group of its own.  This actually dovetails nicely with my thoughts about a a single world/multiple group sandbox campaign notion I've been percolating for a while.  I could have the "old group" of six players, and a "new group" of however many I round up.  I could then alternate between the two groups weekly, with empty spots each week filled in by members of the other group, if possible.  During particularly crazy times schedule-wise (like the summer) we could just see who can show up each session and go with that.

What's the moral of this story?  First, no one cares that you are into RPG's.  Or rather, no one will judge you for it.  It's so tame in comparison to some hobbies, and the fantasy/sci-fi genre has become mainstreamed to the point that it dominates movies, TV, etc.  Second, if you're someone with his own basement who can express to people that you can run an interesting game and not give off the impression that you make ties out of human skin in your spare time, you can find players.

In the back of my head, I'm really thinking about some kind of "out yourself as a gamer" movement combined with a "recruit someone new today" thing.

Supporting the Other Side

Tim Brannon at The Other Side is supporting the Bloghop against Homophobia and Transphobia, and while I didn't sign up to specifically support that bloghop, I will support Tim's efforts.  Prejudice against a person based on their sexual orientation is wrong, and I'm glad that in my own line of work we have made great strides to address that.

Tim's doing a cool thing to support the bloghop by first offering a free copy of his RPG sourcebook The Witch in a raffle to those who link to his blog, but also is contributing the proceeds from the sale of this book from May 17 to 27 to The Trevor Project.  So go buy a copy (I'm going to, not the least of which is because I have a player in my gaming group who loves to play witches), support the bloghop, and do what's right!

-Robb

Friday, May 17, 2013

Campaigns I'd like to run: RPG Carnival for May

I've decided to take a crack at the RPG Blog Carnival this month, especially since the topic is so easy: Campaigns I'd Like to Run, a topic chosen by Lowell at Age of Ravens.

Ironically enough, one campaign I've wanted to run for a while--a supers game--I'm doing right now, so I can scratch that one off the list.  So what have I dreamed of doing?  Two answers

My Own Version of the West Marches
I think most GM's of fantasy games have considered this at least once in their lives.  For those who don't know, the West Marches was a  D&D sandbox campaign run years ago by Ben Robbins over at Ars Ludi.  His reflections on it were immediately absorbed by a lot of OSR people into their canon about what a sandbox campaign should look like.  What's ironic was that a) it wasn't a hexcrawl, and b) it was done using the oft-maligned 3rd Edition rules.

In any case, I've often dreamed of doing a fantasy campaign where the focus was on player's deciding what they wanted to do, a lot of exploration over monster-exterminating, and a structure where players could drop in and out as their schedules dictated.  As an added bonus, I would want it to be a good "gateway" game for people new to the hobby.  For rules, I could practically any fantasy RPG.  Mi Gran Sueno.

Doomed
Think futuristic Roanoke colony.  A group of space explorers end up on a planet far from anything.  Basically, they will never, ever experience contact with their home civilization again.  The planet is mysterious and hostile.  So basically every bullet matters, every NPC matters, every resource matters.  Still an exploration and sandbox campaign, but with a bit more tension.  Plus since it is on an alien planet, there's no way for the players to be able to identify in that "I've read the Monster Manual" way any of the plant or animal (or sentient) life they come across.
For mechanics, I've always had a soft spot for d6 Space, although Traveller would do in a pinch.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

10,000 Hits

Well, in the midst of everything, I hit one of those milestones: 10,000 hits on my little RPG blog.  Thanks for everyone's interest!

On the subject of keeping people's interest, I'm going to try to post some more content more regularly.  I've been feeling down about Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, but I think the supers genre is working okay.  I may consider switching to Mutants & Masterminds or Champions.  But in the meantime, there's nothing to keep me from creating some character concepts for the campaign.

And yes, eventually I may switch out, as I've said before, so I may be writing about that as well.

But anyways, thanks again for reading!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

In which weaknesses are revealed [MHR post-game report]

Part of my ongoing report of my Marvel Heroic Roleplaying campaign.

Scene One
The action begins in media res as the Ultimate Posse (who swears they are going to change their name) respond to a report of two supervillains, Arrowhead and Headstrong, robbing a local bank.  The Posse, short Mr. Eternity who is working on building their new vehicle, mostly concentrate on taking down the gimmicky archer Arrowhead first while their tank Abrasax ties up Headstrong in combat.  Once Arrowhead is down, Headstrong quickly follows.
I've decided to open each session with one of these action scenes, rather than a "you're all hanging around the base one day..."

Scene Two
Outside the bank the heroes are approached by Agent McAdams of the US Secret Service.  Agent McAdams asked them to accompany him to the offices of Senator Pritchard, the political rival of their friend Senator Rybeck (see here).  High-tech agents attempted to kidnap Pritchard's daughter, Lucy, from her private school earlier that day, and Pritchard, not normally a fan of superheroes, has turned to the Posse for help.  The heroes agree to guard Lucy until the Secret Service can locate the kidnappers, but Samkhara thinks there is something fishy about the story.

Scene Three
Various members of the Posse position themselves around Pritchard's estate.  Abrasax the Guardian Gargoyle perches on the roof.  The Ferret lurks in the underbrush.  Union Galactic hangs out with the Secret Service agents on guard.  Doctor Mind mans the security camera consoles, and Samkhara stands guard outside Lucy's bedroom.
During the night, Senator Pritchard comes to Lucy's room and tells Samkhara that he wants Lucy in his and his wife's bedroom instead.  Samkhara refuses to let him move Lucy, but he insists.  Samkhara, suspicious, follows the senator and telepathically scans the room.  Instead of finding the mental patterns of the two parents and the child, she senses one criminal mind and two children.  Samkhara kicks in the door.
Meanwhile outside, the Ferret hears a telepathic cry for help, but doesn't immediately understand where it is coming from.
At that moment, an armored vehicle crashes through the front gate, and four supervillains--Soulfire, Mind Slayer, Torment, and Lady Mirage--emerge.  Abrasax and the Ferret rush to attack the intruders, while Dr. Mind and Union Galactic head towards Samkhara, who has sent out a radio call for help.  In the senator's bedroom they face off against Psimon and the child supervillain Blackout who are holding Lucy.  Psimon mind-controls Union Galactic while Dr. Mind manages to overwhelm him with physical (rather than psychic) attacks.  Psimon teleports away with Blackout and Lucy, while the other members of PSI also teleport out.

Scene Four
Upon being questioned by the heroes, Sen. Pritchard admits to being approached by PSI about their training his daughter, who appears to be some sort of telepath.  Faced with the notion of a secretive academy of villains training mutant children, Doctor Mind and Samkhara decide to make some inquiries at their own previous organization, a secretive academy of heroes training mutant children, the campaign's ersatz X-Men called The Shadow Cabinet.  The Cabinet's patriarch, Dharma, gives some background on PSI and uses his power to modify mutant abilities in others to enhance Samkhara's telepathy to allow her to track Lucy through the connect she has with the Ferret (they realize Lucy can telepathically communicate with animals, and since the Ferret is partially, well, a ferret, she can communicate with him).  Samkhara leads the team to a derelict sanitarium.

Scene Five
Skulking around the sanitarium the Posse is surprised by Omen, a precognitive member of PSI.  Rather than raise the alarm, Omen instead directs them towards a lesser-guarded entrance.  Omen clearly has an agenda of his own...
Despite being lesser-guarded, the heroes still manage to not enter unnoticed and encounter the bulk of PSI from the previous battle.  But this time the heroes (like the big battle last week) are ready for them, focusing first on Psimon, and then polishing off any injured PSI members who are affected by Samkhara's wave after wave of multiattacks.  PSI is forced to retreat, leaving Lucy behind.

Epilogue
After a heart-to-heart with Senator Pritchard, Samkhara and Doctor Mind take her to the Shadow Cabinet, although Samkhara has misgivings about Dharma's own unknown agenda.

Notes following the break (for those interested)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Quick shout out to the Happy Whisk

The Happy Whisk is a loving gamer spouse and talented chef, but she's also a fanatic about uber-couponing, which hasn't ever been my thing before but she had a link on her site to a deal where you could load up on coupons for Digiorno's Pizza at Target.  Since I didn't feel like cooking for the gaming group tonight I followed her advice and saved $9 off $23 worth of frozen pizzas.  Hoody hoo!

In other news, we doing another session of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying tonight, and I'll post the report later this weekend.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Second Look at Blade Raiders

Art by Grant Gould
My paper copy of Blade Raiders, a new fantasy RPG by Grant Gould arrived yesterday, and I tore into it with gusto.  I've read the .pdf copy when it came several months ago, but I'm not a huge fan of reading e-books, and being able to thumb through the pages is always a more pleasurable and effective way for me to read.
You can read my first look of the game here, but I wanted to do a more detailed one now that the book is out.
First, let me say that there are a lot of "fantasy heartbreakers" out there that constitute a game designer's attempt to polish and tweak Dungeons & Dragons to their liking.  They are called "heartbreakers" by some because in the end, it's still largely the same game experience as the original, and if you didn't like that, you won't like its derivatives.  
Blade Raiders is not a fantasy heartbreaker.  It's a fantasy RPG, but there's little in similarity to the Tolkein/Dying Earth gumbo that is D&D.  There's no elves, dwarfs, and orcs.  The "fire and forget" list of largely unconnected spells is absent.  Armor doesn't make you harder to hit.  There are no classes or levels, and in the case of latest two iterations, no grids or miniatures.  So set all that aside and let's talk about this game.

Character creation
As I mentioned in the first glance, character creation boils down to the selection of three talents from a list of magical and non-magical options.  Magical talents allow you to access a range of related magical powers.  Think of them as like a "school" like firebending, shapeshifting, or creating magical portals.  There's a "mending" school in there for the healing arts, by the way.  Non-magical talents cover largely combat-related options such as "fighting" (melee fighting), "hunting" (ranged combat), and "slaying" (increased damage).  There's a few non-combat related options like stealth and being unusually intelligent.  There are two odd options, in my mind, however: blacksmithing, which seems to be much more of a skill than a talent, and two-weapon fighting, which you can take even if you don't take "fighting" as a talent.  Blacksmithing is likely included because armor repair is a major component of the game, and two-weapon fighting really should have a pre-requisite, as a sort of advanced talent option (not that those exist in the game).
In any case, the talents are irrevocable and should be considered very carefully, especially in light of the fact that there are vast regions of the Blade Raiders world where magic does not work at all (more on that later).
Skills do exist, but are part of later character development in which a person basically spends experience points (called Character Advancement Points, or CAP's) to increase the bonuses to rolls.  Speaking which...

Game Mechanics
Roll a d10, add the situational bonus or negative modifier, add either your skill level (rated 1 to 3, if any) and your talent bonus (again 1 to 3, if any).  If you get over 10, you succeed.  That means, math-wise, that if you have a primary talent and a maxed-out skill in a particular area of expertise, you're  going to succeed at a task 70% of the time (by rolling a 4 or higher).  There are no magic-related skills, instead you get either a skill bonus of 0 or 1, depending on the area you're in, so magic is innately risky to use.  The one small side benefit is that if you attempt a spell and you fail, including missing a target with an attack, you don't lose the spell.  Speaking of which...

Magic
As I said earlier, you have schools of magic focused around a particular element, effect, or theme.  Each school has six or seven powers, one or two of which are "advanced" spells that must be purchased with CAP's later.  The spells usually involve what would be considered "utility" powers with some low-level attack powers thrown in, depending on the school.  Some schools, such as the Portalist, have no attack powers but their utility powers are particularly useful.
Now here's the weird part.  No spell is inherently more more less difficult to cast than any other.  In most cases you just have to make a successful 10+ roll or no roll at all.  This seems a little counter-intuitive, because you might think that more powerful spells would be more difficult to cast.  Rather, after a spell is cast, a period of time must be spent before you can cast that particular spell again.  This gap can be anywhere from 8 to 72 hours, usually 24 or eight hours sleep.  The recovery time is the effect of the power of the spell.  You can, however, cast any other spell in the school in the meantime, and again it doesn't lapse until you cast it correctly.

Combat
Beat a 10, same as everything else.  No sense of your opponent's skill having anything to do with preventing you from hitting them.  In this way Blade Raiders most closely emulates D&D: hit points (or Resistance Points) become not only a notion of how physically tough you are, but they also are supposed to reflect some skill in combat in avoiding damage as well.  I have to say that this is the most annoying rule of the game in my mind.  The game could have gone with a contested "who rolls higher" or had the target's skill become a negative modifier, but all that was set aside in favor of just having a flat attack roll.  Like I said--bleh.

The World
Nothing too spectacular: a race of Ancients (*cough*elves*cough*) is driven forth from the land by a tribe of marauding barbarians (the eponymous Blade Raiders).  The local human tribes band together against the Blade Raiders, loads of violence ensures, and in the end humanity rises victorious just in time to hold off the new Trollug (orc) invasion. Fast forward one hundred years to the present.  Ruins of an ancient, or Ancient civilization, wandering hordes of barbarians, and roving monsters looking to move in.  Not the most innovative backdrop, but it works for what you need in a fantasy RPG.  What is really good is the number of human factions and organizations that the book details.  There are actually more of those than there are monsters listed, although I suspect part of that is in anticipation of a monster sourcebook.  But the factions come in all flavors, some beneficial, some antagonistic.  There is some great story material there.
One thing about the world I alluded to earlier.  There's a map that just outlines the region (intended for the players) and a second map for the GM that indicates where runestones are located and in what concentration.  There are basically three levels: non-existent, normal, and high.  In the non-existent areas, you don't get to access magic, making me wonder why anyone would go there.  In the high regions, which are often the locus of cities, you get a bonus to your roll when casting a spell.  I don't think of magic as being particularly powerful in this game to begin with, but having whole regions where spellcasting talents are worthless does its part to lend weight to non-magical PC's.

Character advancement
Getting CAP's can let your character do anything from increasing skills, raising your BP level, raising the damage you do from a weapon, and creating new powers.  There's a very open-ended rule about allowing the players to come up with new spells within their school, with GM approval.  I could see this becoming another source of additional supplemental material, but letting the GM and players have that much leeway is old-school ballsy.  CAP's can also be used to increase a person's die roll on a one-shot basis, and heal damage, so spending CAP's (or is it busting CAP's?) is really the mechanism to reflect a PC getting substantially better after they've maxed-out their skills in their chosen area.  How CAP's work long term throughout a campaign in terms of getting PC's to a more competent level is one of things that I can't quite get a handle on.  Is it too fast?  Too slow?  Do PC's not change enough to suit players used to the dramatic change between a 1st level and 10th level D&D character?  I don't know.

Final Thought
I've been mulling about a ton of D&D clones these days thinking about a fantasy campaign I might do in the future.  Blade Raiders is such a clean break away from the common conventions of most fantasy RPG's that it has an undeniable appeal to me as a result.  I've often wondered how one might get away from the "cookie cutter" quality of D&D campaigns, and this has real possibility.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mi gran sueño de aficiones

My Grand Dream of Hobbies.  Despite the fact that my Marvel Heroic Roleplaying "campaign" is kicking ass in four different colors, I began to see the cracks in the wall Friday when one of my players began asking me about how to increase his powers.  He was almost immediately rebuked by two other players, who said "it isn't that sort of game" but I could see that he was upset that he couldn't get a d12 power because I hadn't allowed them at the time of his character creation, but I had allowed a player whose powers were pretty weak generally to crank up to a d12 at the expense of three plot points (a sort of mega-blast that also left his power set depleted).

The fact that characters don't develop in ways that are reflected in abilities, but instead gain contacts, reputations, etc. is as I've said before a big weakness of the game, and I suspect that the cracks will eventually open into fissures.

So, building upon an earlier post, I'm still thinking about what I want with a game.  It's easier I think for me to categorize what I want and try to either find or make that game, rather than look at a bazillion games and then settle for that.  One thing that I have been thinking about is wanting a game where I could easily incorporate someone who has never participated in an RPG before.  I'm imaging some hypothetical friend from outside the gaming community.  He or she is not unfamiliar with a particular genre, maybe has seen the Lord of the Rings movies or The Avengers.  Gets the general idea of how a group of people sit around and collectively participate in a game/story/adventure.

Why do I want that, when I've got six established players who are great and great together?  Because I think that one of my hobby-related talents is being a good guy to bring people into the hobby.  I'm somewhat normal in appearance, have a decent job, and my own semi-finished basement in which to game.  I like to cook dinner.  I have very solid social skills, given that I deal with people on a daily basis as part of my job.  On a good day I'm halfway creative.  I'm not bragging, I'm just thinking about how the owner of my FLGS refers to RPG's as the weakest part of his store (and superhero RPG's as the weakest part of that weakest part).  It's going to stay that way--no, it's going to get worse--unless we really start to think about deliberately expanding interest in the hobby.  Mi gran sueno de aficiones is to have a game where I have a rolling crowd of people who can drop in and out of the same gaming universe, mix and match players, and in the process meet new people.  I envision some sort of thing where I run a game session every Friday night and just see who can show up.  Or just let in the first six people who reserve a spot each week.  Maybe even say "hey, you can play three out of every five sessions" and let the chips fall where they may, even if that means I have ten people one session and three the next.

When I re-read this, it sounds a little chaotic and messy.  What do you think?

More good food for gaming: homemade Jalapeno Poppers

I've said it once, and I'll say it again: you don't have to just sit around eating chips and pizza at a gaming table.  Every gaming night the group comes together to share a meal, with most players bringing something.  Last night I made my traditional pulled pork, Evan brought baked beans and potato salad from the store, my gaming couple and another player brought beer, and Todd brought homemade jalapeno poppers.


These guys were made by taking the seeds and membranes out of jalapeno peppers, then filling them with cheddar cheese and wrapping them with pepper-smoked bacon.  Toothpicks hold them all together.  Bake them at 275 degrees for a little over an hour (until the bacon sizzles) and you're good to go!

Not the healthiest option, but man they were good.  And good food helps make for good gaming!  Todd's birthday is in a couple of weeks, but I hooked him up with an early present: a re-release of an old Romulan warbird model.  Todd's a big modeler and Trekkie, so he was very excited.


Bon Appetit!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Ultimate Posse(?)

I ran another session of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (R.I.P.) Friday night for my gaming group. All six players made the game, and here's the way it went.

Scene One
The group meets a cowboy who was abducted by aliens in the 1800's and kept in suspended animation until he was rescued by the Wonders in the final battle against the alien invaders. The cowboy, calling himself "Union Galactic," hopes to honor their memory by fighting villains using powers gained from various alien implants. Since Positive Crisis has left the team, the new hero is welcomed aboard.
Ed. note: Positive Crisis' player had never really taken a shine to the character, so he comes in with a new one, straight out of "Cowboys and Aliens."

Scene Two

The heroes hear a broadcasted distress call from a transport ship being attacked by a mysterious Crustacean-like monster. The heroes fly to the ship and battle the strange figure, finally subduing it for questioning. Before they can do that, however, the new armored hero Lancelot appears and blasts the creature from the deck of the ship. Lancelot turns out to be an arrogant jerk who takes credit for saving the ship and leaves.
Unfortunately Lancelot's attack has perforated the ship's hull and the heroes must scramble to repair the ship and save the crew.

Scene Three

The heroes interrupt Lancelot's press conference to accuse him of recklessly endangering the ship. Lancelot's corporate patron, the CEO of Genesis Technologies, threatens the heroes with a lawsuit charging them with slander.
As the heroes storm off, an elderly man approaches the Ferret, warning him that strange things are afoot at Genesis Technologies.
On their way back home, the team discusses their lack of a name. After some brainstorming, they decide to go with "The Ultimate Posse," although it will likely be shortened to The Ultimates.
At least I hope so.

Scene Four

Before the Ultimates can get home, they encounter a panicked mob on an elevated subway platform.  Two female metahumans appear to be attacking the crowd.  Later they would be discovered to be Hexidecimal and Killjoy of the Pact.  In short order, a third member of the Pact, Hysteria would also be revealed.  Unfamiliar with the three young women's powers, the Ultimates struggle at first, but begin to get the upper hand.  At that point a fourth Pact member, Winter Wraith, can be seen boarding a departing subway train.  Mr. Eternity stops the train and the Ferret and Abrasax the Guardian Gargoyle defeat the Winter Wraith.
Inside the train they discover the Pact's intended victim: Dr. Jonas Throckmorton III, whom they were trying to kidnap.
Hexidecimal, Hysteria, and Winter Wraith were all part of the "25 Villains of Christmas," if you want to go see their stats.  Killjoy is a speedster/gunslinger.

Scene Five

Dr. Throckmorton, however, is terrified beyond words and not particularly communicative.  Samkhara can see in his mind that he has had a terrifying experience traveling abroad to an archaeological site and may have been at some point transformed into a hideous monster.  But unfortunately they can not get much more out of him, and end up terrifying him even more than before.  Even poor Mrs. Robot is seen as a hideous monster in the eyes of Throckmorton.
Eventually they manage to get out of Throckmorton that he works at Central State University, and the Ferret realizes that back when he was a solo hero he stopped an attempted burglary by the super-thief Ion at the Natural History Museum at CSU.  The Ultimates conclude that someone must be after what Throckmorton discovered on the expeditition, and make plans to head over the following day.
I ran this as a straight-up "persuasion" encounter ala the MHR rules, but Samkhara, Abrasax, the Ferret, and even Mrs. Robot as an NPC rolled so many ones in their attempt to calm Throckmorton down that we almost got to a 2d12 Doom Pool, which would have make the next encounter VERY different (bonus points if you can identify Throckmorton from the 25 Villains of Christmas!)

Scene Six

In their civilian identities Dr. Mind, Samkhara, the Ferret and Union Galactic enter the museum and Dr. Mind convinces the curator of his scientific credentials which allow him to gain access to the vault where the items, stones inscribed with mysterious runes, are kept.  Dr. Mind and the others get the items transferred to a lab where they can be closely examined.  There they open a window to allow Abrasax to covertly enter the museum (Mr. Eternity, both inhuman in appearance and lacking any covert tendencies, stands guard outside.)
Abrasax is able to identify the powers of the runestones: used correctly, they can curse humans into becoming Formorian giants.  In the wrong hands, they could create a superpowered army!
Speaking of the wrong hands, the Pact re-appears at the museum, this time accompanied by Lady Moloch, a collector of magical items and all-around megalomaniac.  The Ultimates battle the Pact outside the museum, and this time easily manage to defeat the Pact and their patroness.  Only the Winter Wraith manages to escape.
The authorities show up, but the runestones are found to be gone.  Surely, the Ultimates suggest, the Winter Wraith managed to sneak in during the confusion and steal them.
Later, Abrasax the Guardian Gargoyle places the runestones and the magical weapons of Lady Moloch in his Crystal Vault, thus continuing his quest of destroying evil magic wherever it may be.
This time around the Ultimates quickly worked around the Pact's strengths and weaknesses, allowing some of the members to focus on Lady Moloch, the real threat.  I hadn't intended for her to get captured, but they were so quick to stress her out that I felt they deserved the win.
Another great session with some fantastic roleplaying and creativity.  The group is really getting into this game now.  I've decided one good thing to do is to sort of build each adventure around one or two particular heroes (in today's case, the Guardian Gargoyle and his milestones relating to his quest to find dangerous magical items).  This helps build a good theme for each session, and makes the sessions seem to fit the group.

Comments always welcome.
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