It was a good thing, too, because I ended up having a full boat: all nine players in the campaign showed up for this session. Of note (to me, at least) was that this was the first session in a very long time where we played back in the basement game room of my house. I'm not sure I've been down there since I separated from my wife six months ago. For that matter I also made my classic pulled pork for dinner, so the whole thing felt like Old Home Week for me, and that's a good thing. Now how did the gaming session go?
Prologue: Quick, to the Bat-Fax!
The New Defenders have defeated Stardust, but are frustrated to find a groundswell of support for the murderous alien, especially from a SuperPAC called "Americans for Humanity" who advocate the unrestrained killing of supervillains. Also, the heroes still have located the Miscreants, teen subjects of horrible, mutating experiments by Kort Technologies.
Volt's internet research has revealed that Americans for Humanity is actually a front for the neo-Nazi group "The Fourth Reich." He posts this information to Wikileaks and calls it day.
Act One: Re-enter Scaramanga!
The mysterious Scaramanga (an homage not just to James Bond, but Adam Dickstein) showed back up at the Lioness' pet store/coffee shop ("Paws and Reflect") looking for the "man-bird" that had been seen in the area. Ironically he talks to Blackhawk in his civilian identity, who is naturally quite intimidated by Scaramanga's Old World suave and his apparent superhuman ability to have Spanish guitar music play every time he enters or exits a scene. The New Defenders realize they need to do something to protect their feathered teammate, and hatch a plan.
Act Two: The Man with the Golden Armor
Blackhawk calls Scaramanga at the swanky hotel, telling him to meet him on the roof of the building. The rest of the Defenders conceal themselves there, ready to jump the cosmopolitan big-game hunter when he arrives. Only he doesn't show up with the latest European fashion, but instead in a golden suit of power armor!
|Imagine if Christopher Lee was playing an evil Tony Stark, and you get the picture.|
Act Three: All we are is Stardust in the wind...
The New Defenders drop off Scaramanga at the federal supervillain prison, apparently oblivious of the fact that Scaramanga has not actually committed any crimes since they actually jumped him at his place of residence before he could actually do anything. We will have to see how that plays out in the long run. While there they check up on Stardust, the interstellar vigilante with a penchant for just killing villains he doesn't like. Oh, and Polk's home planet (Polk is an alien gadgeteer PC).
While talking to Stardust, the alien reveals that he is but one of a legion of similar beings, all charged with wiping out evil with impunity ("sort of a dickish Green Lantern Corps" one player muses). While the Defenders digest this information, the lights begin to flicker...
In the confusion of the breakout, the Defenders are divided into three random groups to face off against three groups of opponents composed of members of previous villain teams they have faced: the Ravagers, Kort's agents, and The Vicious Circle. Through a combination of guile, intimidation, and brute force, the New Defenders manage to retrieve almost all of the villains and return them to their cells.
But at least two villains have escaped: Riptide of the Ravagers (who just oozed away), and a mysterious figure who apparently was the target of the jailbreak all along...
Since the prison officials won't say who escaped, Volt hacks their computers to discover that the missing villain is the Ubermensch, the WW2-era superman from the introductory scenario from the campaign. Volt is surprised to discover that Ubermensch is still alive after all these years.
Haka returns home to find his cat familiar surprisingly meek. That's because he is jumped from behind by his cousin Teuila, who is clearly unhappy to see him....
A lot of things really clicked in this gaming session. There is something about introducing an NPC to the players who is cooler and better looking than you and then getting to beat the holy bejeezus out of him. Scaramanga provided a little like comedy into what has been a fairly grim campaign so far.
Dividing the group up for combat also really worked. I would run each sub-group for two turns, then switch. That was about a fifteen minute block each time, and it seemed to work. Hopefully I won't be having the full group again for a while, since I'm planning on having multiple sessions each month.
The multiple plots and angles really made the session feel like a comic book, in addition to keeping the players interested. It also didn't hurt that I made all the players put their cell phones into a tray at the center of the table, and told them they could have the phone during regular breaks in play or in the case of emergencies. I noticed a huge improvement in engagement in gameplay as a result.