Saturday, July 8, 2017

Friday Gaming Report: Subplots galore

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my last session of Bash had not gone as well as I liked because my single story, which I had hoped to fill the entire session, had ended prematurely.  So this time I decided on a slew of smaller subplots and just adjust accordingly.

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.
Despite the powerful battlesuit, the Defenders use their "ground and pound" technique and make short work of the man.  Interrogating him, they find out that he was hired by the Penumbra Institute to capture Blackhawk for study.

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...

Epilogue One

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.

Epilogue Two

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....

GM's notes

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.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Too Many New RPG's

So what happens when a couple of things you Kickstarted come to fruition around the same time that the FLGS in town has a fire sale and closes?  You get way too many new RPG's all at once.  Right now my nightstand is crowded with them, and I haven't even cracked open some of them yet.  What's on the reading pile?

Evil Hat did a Dresden Files RPG using a proto-version of their FATE rules, and have now circled back to do another using their Fate Accelerated rules.  I got this one as a pdf and hardcover via Kickstarter, and it's a good looking book (although one page was crunched and torn when I received it, it wasn't hard to repair).  I know the source material, loved the TV show even more, and know FATE, so this one might be interesting to get into.

Another Kickstarter come to fruition, Ninja High School uses the old d6 West End Games system (best known for their 1st and 2nd Edition Star Wars rules) to portray the American manga series from Antarctic Press.  I will confess to being more familiar with Antarctic Press' other major series, Gold Digger by Fred Perry, which I had hoped would be referenced in this or a future supplement, since I think it would make a better background for an RPG.

I have read this one, and it is heavy on the background of the manga, which is fine.  But my trained eye realized the game was more similar to 1st Ed Star Wars than 2nd, insofar as all the archtypes have the same skills to start with, just different stats, rather than have different skills in their repertoire.  Also the archtypes just mirror the major characters from the manga, rather than offering some different ideas.

On the whole, I'd likely eschew the high school background and try to distill out some sort of generic manga d6 system, if I'd try to use this.

This is one I picked up at the fire sale at the FLGS.  I'd had my eye on it for a while, just because I have a soft spot for fantasy heartbreakers.  I haven't had a chance to read this except a cursory glance that reveals a very different core system than D&D, a flair for Erol Otus-style art, and goblins as a PC race.

I actually bought this one while traveling on vacation.  Symbaroum was a Kickstarted RPG, and this beautiful hardcover book was the culmination.  Another fantasy heartbreaker, this one might actually not break your heart too much because it features a lavish campaign world complete with factions, religions, and a massive, spooky, dangerous forest.  Weirdly enough, it also features goblin PC's.  On top of that you don't get to play elves, who instead are antagonistic NPC's.  It also sets aside Hermetic-style wizardry (by that I mean scholastic mages pouring over tomes) and instead features matriarchal witches, nature-oriented spellcasters with bizarre rituals and crude but hauntingly beautiful masks.

Of all the ones on the list, this one has the most potential to end up at the table, if I had to guess.  If anything, I could use the background and swap in D&D or Fantasy AGE.

Ah guilt, my favorite emotion.  A couple of years ago Catalyst featured a micro-rulebook for Battletech: A Time of War for Free RPG day and I thought it looked interesting and mentioned this to the store's owner, who was also an old Mechwarrior fan.  So he bought a copy for the store, and I never purchased it, mostly because by then I had read some not-so-flattering reviews.  To add insult to injury, the binding on the book was horrible and fell apart while it was on the shelves at the store.

So it sat there, unloved and unwanted, until the store closed, and I ended up picking it up for 20% of the cover price.  I haven't even cracked this one open (not the least of which because I would like to see if I can get the binding repaired) but a super-complicated military RPG isn't likely to get much traction with my gaming group.

So that's the pile.  I really need to a) stop buying stuff for a while, and b) focus on the game I'm actually running, Bash.  Oh, and I got invited to look at the 2nd Edition of Prowlers and Paragons, which my kids are demanding I run for them on the side.  So there's that too.

Over at Strange Vistas