At the Table: Pre-Experimental Experiment a Success! (Marvel Heroic Roleplaying)
Last Thursday I ran an “orientation” session for the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game. Essentially I wanted to make sure I had a handle on running a game in a Google + Hangout, that the connection was stable enough, that I could broadcast the thing via “on-air,” and that I could explain any rules issues that came up with my friend that wasn’t as familiar with the game.
Most of those went really well.
I dropped a few times from the session, but I could log back in really quickly. We were having problems earlier in the week with the IP addresses of the computers in the house, and I’m wondering if this was a factor. Still, it was only a minor issue, as I was able to log back on right away and keep going.
The “on-air” thing . . . well, it let me know what I need to do to do it right next time. After all of the signing on and agreements and setting in YouTube, I forgot to actually start broadcasting, but now I know, and knowing is half the battle.
As far as the game went, this is one of the few times that it really felt like the game played exactly how I expected it to play in my head. Not so much that the players all did what I expected them, but that the mechanics and the ebb and flow of how that worked all worked the way I thought they would.
|Spider-Man always has to horn in on these shots, doesn’t he?|
My friend, the one that just purchased the game, was playing Captain America. Another player had Wolverine, and the other player, that joined a bit later, was playing Iron Man. My friend listened to a few dice pool constructions between the player with Wolverine and myself, and he more or less had it down fairly quickly.
The group was investigating a warehouse that Tony Stark set up, marked as dangerous, that he had no memory of due to his memory reboot during the Dark Reign storyline. Turns out, the warehouse was full of dangerous robots that Tony was studying and keeping on ice. Entering the warehouse triggered a power surge that woke someone up . . .
The first threat was a mob of small Spider-Slayers, to explain the mob rules, and there was only minimal stress to be had. Mob rules seemed to make sense to everyone, and as minor characters, only having to stress out d6 dice for team wasn’t too hard.
Cap’s player wanted to make an asset based on his Covert Expert trait, since Tony showed them all a map of how his warehouses are normally laid out, and I was good with that. When the group hit the next floor, and found Ultimo, Cap tried to sneak past.
While I’m a big proponent of using complications to do just about anything you can think of that isn’t just beating someone up or inflicting emotional or mental damage on someone, complicating out the dice of a large scale threat is kind of hard. I don’t think I’m wrong in using the mechanic this way, but it does make it more of a challenge.
This isn’t how things unfolded, but I can see using “sneaking” to get rid of a die, someone else popping out of the shadows and hitting it, and someone else using the computer to complicate it out by shutting it down. So it still makes sense, it just means that if your guys still wants to be part of the fight, he’s not going to sneak straight past the bad guy in one shot.
What did happen is this . . . Cap failed, Ultimo accidentally slammed into him. In fact, Ultimo did a lot of stress in this fight. What I really love is that the Doom Pool kept growing, but I kept using the dice to inflict stress on the characters when Ultimo resisted their damage, as his own attacks weren’t doing much.
I like this because Ultimo still had them almost on the ropes (Cap’s second wind and Wolverine’s healing factor mitigated this a bit), so he felt like a big deal, even when his own attacks weren’t doing much.
It puts me in mind of some of the complaints I’ve read about the Doom Pool getting too big and villains going down too easily, especially when the complaint encompasses both of those issues. Add dice to your total. Inflict counter attacks. Spend those dice!
The scene with Ultimo ended with Iron Man shutting down everything to get one really big blast from his uni-beam, and using it to power a massive EMP blast, taking out Ultimo’s last two dice. It was great, and the whole fight seemed very much like what someone would read in a comic with Iron Man, Wolverine, and Captain America fighting Ultimo, which means the game is doing its job.
Iron Man’s player attempted a recovery roll, which worked for him, and the group headed to the next act . . . the warehouse’s security hub.
In the security hub, Wolverine took off while the other two were talking about the wisdom of Tony keeping all of these robots around to study, so Wolvie was acting solo when the security system complication attacked him, but it was a d8 and he took it out handily.
In the next transition scene, Iron Man found out that he had a version of Ultron on ice, so he used his Tech Master to create a resource for him, Ultron 11 Specs, and Cap’s player wanted to limber up and practice to give himself an Acrobatics resource. Given the number of times I’ve seen Cap doing backflips and training while talking to other people and while planning his next move, I said sure.
I described Ultron’s lair, complete with a machine that utilized Pym Particles (the warehouse was, unbeknownst to the players at first, miniaturized on the inside). Iron Man threw a device on Ultron to disrupt his programming (Complication, d8), and the fight was on. Again, Ultron inflicted a lot of stress with counter-attacks, and I grew the Doom Pool up to 2d12 while spending the little dice a lot.
Cap’s player decided to inflict physical stress on Ultron, he was going to jump over him and randomly press buttons on the console to fire the Pym Particle Accelerator. He succeeded, and I described the physical stress as Ultron warping along his seams as parts of him grew larger than others. Wolverine then finished him off with his claws, stuck right in the gaps that the warped shell left.
It was better than I had hoped. They didn’t just pound on Ultron, and Ultron didn’t just pound on them, until one side or the other dropped. I had plenty of tools at my disposal to keep a solo villain dangerous (by the way, Solo villains really need to counter-attack, as long as you have the Doom Pool dice for it, because it eliminates the action economy issue from other games).
Since I had the 2d12, even though we weren’t going to continue this event past this evening, I used them to describe Ultron’s head as separating from his body and rocketing into orbit to escape the heroes.
It went great, felt like comic book action, and the powers and SFX really seemed to guide you into playing characters the way they have been portrayed in the past. We did talk a bit about how it might be challenging to create a new character, not because the game needs character creation rules, but because you need a strong sense of how your character approaches things, which might be more challenging when you create a character from scratch.
Some other things I really liked. Not everyone always used something they were “allowed” to use, because it didn’t make sense in the narrative. Particularly this came up with distinctions. The other thing that I liked was that the players nixed one of their own advantages, because THEY ruled that the computers on the level with Ultimo would have been fried by Tony’s massive attack.
Overall, I’m very pleased with how the night went. I’m satisfied that this will work as a good venue for gaming. I’m satisfied that the game itself does what it is supposed to do, and does it well. I’ve got good, fun players signed up for this. I am really looking forward to Thursday night’s official kick-off. Hopefully, I’ll remember to record this time.