Thursday, October 18, 2012

Should the GM Write Session Reports? Superheroes: Year One

WHY WRITE SESSION SUMMARIES?
Last night was supposed to be the final session for our G+ Mutants & Masterminds campaign, but we ended up on the cusp of the big fight a little late. A couple of the players begged off on heading into it and so I agreed to let them have next week for the final session- with no xp and no refresh of hero points. One the one hand I would have liked to finish the campaign in an even twelve episodes, but on the other it likely means I'll have some more time to do some epilogue scenes with whichever heroes (if any) actually survive. That would be nice since I do plan to do another arc for the group in a couple of months, with six episodes instead of twelve. 

Below I catch up a little more to the present state of the game with the session summaries I send out. Barking Alien had a discussion about this a few months back- with his feeling that it shouldn't be the GM's responsibility to write up the adventure and create anything like a wiki page for reference. In principle I agree with him. Most of the other campaign wikis I've had have been player-created. Except for rules or world reference material I tend not to put together material for those. However in this case I had a few reasons for assembling the material. it is a new group- some have played rpgs regularly, some haven't played in some time, and most haven't played with me in many years. That means they don't know my GM tics and approaches- and how much what I'm throwing out there is relevant and how much is color. I suspect most of them haven't played as improvisational as I have. By that I mean, I put ideas out there and it is up to them to shape them into solutions.

The wiki for the game is here. 

For example, and I don't think I'm giving away too much, they would be dealing with a big bad at the end. I had put a number of details, weirdnesses, and devices out on the table over the course of the campaign. If the players could latch on to one, investigate it, and give me a reasonable argument about why it might work, that would become a answer- a Reed Richards-style device. Last night one of the PCs did that- and ended up with something that might help them in the final fight. 

But in running in a G+ session, especially one where I'm the only one with a camera, I can't get a good read on how much the players have picked up on things, how much they're listening, and how much note-taking they might be doing. I suspect little in the case of that last point. So I write up the sessions afterwards and use those as a reminder a day or two before the next one. I try to clarify material I think might have been missed or overlooked in the course of play. Several times I can tell that really useful points have been lost in the back and forth. I put those in the summary. For example, I stated during the fight last week that some of the villains attacking them had been recently imprisoned in The Raft, the supervillain prison. That got lost, but players caught it in the summary and saw that it could be relevant. Sometimes I throw out details that I think are cool, useful, and important- but I don't want to draw undue attention to them. In that case, I'll often include a number of red herrings with them. The other reason I do the session write ups is that I am writing to the long game. I plan to do another arc (or two) and so I've set up elements for the players in this one. Those will pay off later. 

A note- there's a game set up and joke at the very end of this post- essentially the reveal I've been planning from the beginning. It won't be nearly as interesting unless you know Lovecraft and the history of the Justice League. 

Previous Session

SESSION TEN: PENGUIN ON ICE
Mr. Freeze responded quickly with his demands- he wouldn’t even talk unless The Penguin produced the antidote to his wife’s poison…both antidotes. The Penguin hesitated- he’d been in control, a boss, for too long to simply give him. The two spun around in the discussion- with Freeze demanding and the Penguin offering cryptic fragments. The criminal was suddenly interrupted- he would call back. Time ticked away. The group waited. Mister Miracle handed Fenton’s vision device over to Franklin Glass. The occultist would start work in cooperation with some of the Stark scientists. Iron Man tried to contact Dr. Spica of STAR Labs to no avail, he phone had gone out of service. 

Finally the Penguin called back- clearly desperate now. He needed protection, someone to escort him in to protect him from the Devilfish’s men. The Penguin’s own guards had vanished. He gave them a location, a chemical processing facility- Firstwave would have to come there to rescue him. In return he would offer the antidotes and information on what was happening. Suspecting a trap, but needing to take the risk, the group headed out. They reached the plant and Stretch Jackson stationed himself outside to watch for anyone coming in. Nightcrawler did recon and quickly discovered that the building had been fortified- protections prevented him from simply teleporting inside. Mister Miracle disabled the local security systems just in case. Then the team went inside, finding an open titanic door leading to the basement. The rest of the building seemed empty- operational but the workers had been dismissed. 

Heading down they found the real purpose of the site- chemical dumping. A diverted water supply and toxic chemicals mixed here were flushed out and away. The Penguin awaited them, accompanied by a few remaining bodyguards. Firstwave approached when suddenly lightning flashed and exploded from Thor- striking the rest of his team and some of the bodyguards. When the smoke cleared they found themselves ambushed by the Enchantress and her team of Hellions. Somehow she’d used Thor’s Uru hammer as a link to breach the Penguin’s defenses. A general melee broke out- with the group immediately put on the defensive as the Enchantress possessed the minds of Thor and Stretch Jackson. Both eventually threw off the influence, but it looked dark briefly. Firstwave found themselves dealing with the villains, avoiding the dangerous environment, rescuing those who fell in the toxic waste, and trying to protect the Penguin. In the midst of the melee, Freeze screamed for Nightcrawler to get the crime lord and the antidotes to safety. Kurt grabbed the plump Penguin and his packages and teleported them upstairs and then returned to the fight. 

The battle went back and forth- the group reeling from mental attacks and bad guys team up. Slowly they began to get the edge back- throwing off the Enchantress’ influence. Miracle and Stretch dealt with the mentalists, while Thor and Iron tried to bring down the heavy hitters. Freeze coordinated efforts as best he could, rocked by blows. Finally Stretch managed to grab ahold of the Enchantress, mistress of illusions, and held her under the toxic waste. The group began to take out the villains, but Thor was suspicious- he pulled the apparently unconscious Enchantress up, only to discover that she had managed to switch places with one of her team, Roulette, during the fight. She’d then vanished from the scene. Even as Firstwave started to bring the fight to a close, Miracle discovered a second threat. The Penguin had armed his bodyguards with failsafe explosive- bombs set to go off within seconds. Freeze briefly considered throwing the bombs into the water, but the potential fallout was horrific. Miracle disarmed one bomb, but the group stumbled and watched the second tick away on the other. Somehow they managed to disarm it as well, with only a second remaining on the clock. 

Nightcrawler teleported back upstairs to find the Penguin. There he discovered the underworld boss’ dying body. Next to him lay the bag containing the antidotes tossed to the side and a large box which had been emptied. Even as Nightcrawler attempted first aid, the Penguin died in his arms, with these final words: “She took it, and now he has it, The Serpent Crown…the last piece he needs to awaken…it…”

SESSION ELEVEN: IN HIS HOUSE HE LIES DREAMING

Firstwave rushes to check the Penguin’s corpse and confirm his death, apparently from the Enchantress’ magic. Mr. Freeze takes the antidote and sent it quickly on to the LexCorp labs- one of the two vials has split, destroying whatever had been within. Freeze sets those concerns aside quickly- the current looming crisis trumps even his wife’s condition. Meanwhile Iron Man and company return back to the Stark Enterprises labs which the group has been using as a makeshift base. They find it, and the surrounding buildings without power. Some release of energy has disrupted the systems completely. Inside they find Fenton’s Viewer reassembled with the crystal it had come with back in place. Evidence suggested a discharge of energy had done something to the scientists. Occultist Franklin Glass who had been working with the object was nowhere to be found. Mister Miracle discovered a scrawled note in Glass’ handwriting, perhaps made after the accident. It contained only two words: Not Masks…

Mr. Freeze decided to go on a hunch. He examined the fine points of the wards which had been attacked earlier. By drawing lines he calculated the relative center of the star-shaped figure they created. He and Nightcrawler looked into the records quickly- and there was an older business office building at that location. It seemed normal, except for the singular avoidance of underground construction around the area and the weirdly dense network of power cables and couplings nearby. The pair took Firstwave’s murder van and headed over. Nightcrawler teleported in and stealthily made his way around- confirming that the building seemed normal. He then located the basement. There he miraculously discovered a hidden panel, much like those the group had found earlier in the older underground complex which Fenton had not created but had occupied. Nightcrawler and Freeze worked and managed to disable the security on the panel, and which then revealed a hidden door in the floor.

Meanwhile Thor and Mister Miracle tracked down another earlier lead. They discovered the address of Dr. Stephen Strange, the man who had overseen the adjustments to the bridges years before. Clearly he possessed some knowledge of the wards. They found his house closed down, tended only by an elderly servant, Wong. The conversation soon took a turn for the weird, as Wong revealed fragments of a plot his master had been involved in. He had been a member of a group which had suppressed information about and the existence of superbeings for decades. He hinted that the only reason supers had appeared recently was that something had happened to this “Cabal.” Otherwise, they would had kept things in the shadows. Wong’s words hinted at a dark group- despite their having set up these wardings. He revealed that Strange and his colleagues had vanished during the July 4th attacks of almost two years earlier. At the same time, Iron Man made a shocking discovery on the recovered video surveillance. Pepper Potts had arrived at the lab shortly before the electrical incident. She had not been seen since then, and Stark found her cell phone dropped in the corner.

The team regrouped and explored the discovery which Freeze had made. They found an enormous underground secret base- apparently belonging to this Cabal. It had been abandoned since the July 4th, at which time its records had been wiped clean. They found evidence suggesting that the Cabal had ben co-opting or eliminating superbeings for decade. They used their own powers for influence and wealth. The base seemed relatively intact- complete with access tunnels, a fetid shark-tank deathtrap, security, and trophies of their deeds. When the city had accidently cut a hidden power cable it had put the base into stand-by mode and finally had allowed the systems to crash. They also uncovered evidence that many of the major corporations: OsCorp, Kord Enterprises, LexCorp, and even Stark Enterprises had been supplying and bankrolling the group. Though Firstwave had some suspicions, it was clear that this was a shock to Tony Stark.

After setting the security as best they could, the group returned to their base. Iron Man set to repairing and understanding Fenton’s broadcast device. They hypothesized that someone had used it to teleport in, but their information remained incomplete and scarce. While this was happening, Freeze checked with auditors at Stark Enterprises. They were shocked to discover a series of hidden slash funds and warehouses apparently supplying the Cabal. These apparently been set up by Tony’s Grandfather, Tony Stark, Sr. They had continued to operate and expand even after his grandfather’s death. Neither Tony nor his father seemed to be aware of these operations. Freeze cautioned the auditor- asking him to continue looking into the matter quietly. The group also took time to check into the STAR Labs Oceanographic Institute, but were unable to make much headway- except to determine that moving Fenton’s devices there had been a strange operation. Other details for investigation, like the Magus Gem, the Black Knight, the occult details, and so on remained on the table.

Finally Firstwave decided to attempt an ambush. Believing that Fenton’s device had acted as a teleporter, they would turn it on again. Iron Man attempted to develop a teleport “blocker” but lacking concrete information, he could only begin to put something together. Instead he opted to set up an electrical field to disrupt anyone who teleported in. Mister Miracle, armed with the Mother Box volunteered to attach the headset for the device while the others watched. The group set themselves and flipped the switch.

Immediately Miracle’s mind was flood with visions- they seemed to draw from his own mind as suddenly he saw a vision of Apokolips, his mind swooping through the flaming landscape. He saw the slave pits of the Hunger Dogs and then his mind lunged elsehwhere- filled with other sights and places some drawn from the painting the group had found earlier and others some Kingdom’s comic books, now brought to life. Then his visions found more terrestrial purchase after passing through a phantasmal zone. He saw a university landscape and offices. Then he saw another set of docks and ships, not unlike the area the group had fought in before- perhaps the HQ of The Devilfish? Then his sight drew out to sea and in a rush he was above the STAR Labs floating facility…then his vision drew him down below into the ocean, into the darkness and the murky depths, their he saw the colossal ruins of a city, called Lemuria, called Atlantis, called many things…he could sense the thing which had been sleeping for aeons until the stars came right. Then he saw a great blinking eye framed in a doorway and it SAW HIM. Miracle’s mind recoiled, and he collapsed, to the sounds of the awful thing’s cultists- including his friend Sonny Sumo in a mask- chanting- 

Ia! Ia! Starro fhtagn!


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