Monday, August 20, 2012

G+ Advice & Catch-Up: Superheroes Year One (Part Seven)

G+ ADVICE
For GM’s thinking about putting together a G+ campaign, Zak S of the blog Playing D&D with Pornstars has put together an excellent list of advice: Year One Tips For Running Google + Games. I think he’s right about most of that- and he has a few ideas that I wish I’d had in mind before prepping this campaign. To what his advice I’ll add a couple of points for my brief experience. One, I should have set the contract/ground rules ahead of time for play. For example, the rule about X players by Y time I mention below. I also should have established ahead of time attendance policies. The game’s built so that I can run with whoever shows up- but I do plan scenes and bits out for everyone from time to time. I should have made clear that it would be helpful for players to email me if they we going to miss (even after the start time). That would allow me to pocket those moments or shift them to other players. Two, limit yourself on prep work. If you’re using G+ with maps and token images, it is easy to get carried away putting those together. Even if you’re just hunting for NPC pictures, you blow time easily. Consider the payoff of time time spent vs. cool at the table. I’m using abstract maps- with zones instead of hexes or a grid and I still get caught up trying to make those super sweet. I’m not a graphics person- they will never be super sweet.

WHERE SUPERHEROES: YEAR ONE “RISING STARS” IS AT
We’re heading this week into session seven of our G+ superhero campaign (leaving about five sessions after this one). We bumped one session due to player schedules; if we don’t have a minimum of three players by 7:30pm we push the game back to the following week. Given how constrained out play time is (done by around 10:30), I want to make sure that we have room. It’s a little selfish and practical on my part- superhero games take more prep work, including maps and tokens. So I want to make sure we get to play with that rather than rushing through or cutting off at awkward times. Unfortunately bumping that meant that we skipped two weeks since last week was GenCon (we lost two players for that; I just went down for a day).

We had Gene Ha join us for the last session, with his spin on Elongated Man- a politically active African-American PI named Jack “Stretch” Jackson. I’m glad Gene’s joined us and is getting a taste to G+ since I rarely get a chance to game with him these days. I hope it will be a tool we can use to assemble our scattered old group back together for a short time.

SESSION SIX SUMMARY
This is a rough description of the events of the session- I may have left out some information, and probably have some of the events slightly out of chronology.

We took up with the group following up from the fight at the end of the previous session- they had taken out the set of mercenary Power Armor villains working for the Penguin to fight against the Devilfish. As we had several players out, we ended up with only two PCs- Thor and Mister Miracle- who were on site.
  1. Miracle spoke with Crimson Dynamo, getting from him that the Russian power-armor mercenaries had two tasks: causing destruction to the port and finding goods which were to have been transported aboard the freighter Olympic Dream. His group didn’t have specifics, but the Penguin believed these would be weapons of some sort.
  2. Thor investigated the ship, but couldn’t locate any unusual cargo or any kind of weapons. However, he discovered that the ship had a strange pressure chamber and exit below the water line. At least one of the cargo containers had been opened, and materials had been removed from it. He believed they had been taken out underwater. He couldn’t tell if this had been done while the ship was coming in or after it had docked (i.e. during the attack).
  3. Miracle spotted an agitated group of people, including the captain of the ship. He saw a man who seemed to be a “made man” calling the shots. Miracle spoke with him and he introduced himself as Carver Slough. He asked that Firstwave pull back- as this was private property. The two engaged in a contest of wills, broken by Thor’s reappearance. Thor accused the man of being a member of Devilfish and then the heroes left.
  4. Thor found a negative impression in the packing material of the opened cargo container. From this he was able to make a cast of what appeared to be some kind of relic or object. He checked, but whatever it was didn’t seem to have been stolen in the recent attacks on museums.

Meanwhile, Jack “Stretch” Jackson was hired by one Dr. Werner to recover an object lost from LexCorp labs during the July 4th attacks almost two years ago. This odd crystal, called the Magus Gem, emitted a unique radiation. Dr. Werner wanted Jackson to track a man who he believed had information on the present whereabouts of the gem, Zoravian Baltic. Though Baltic was dead, Werner believed that it might be possible to find information on the gem in his effects. He didn’t want Jackson to necessarily find the gem, but to track down the location. Jackson could then pass that information to LexCorp. To assist Jackson with his investigation, he produced a short-range detector.

Jackson’s paths then crossed with Firstwave, since both were interested in Baltic and what he’d discovered. Mister Miracle tried to recruit Jackson, an elongating PI, into their group. He spoke of a coming cosmic war. Jackson kept his distance until he heard about the group’s efforts to save homeless men from Fenton’s clutches. That appealed to his sensibilities.

The group decided to investigate the apartment of Donny Vaccarino, since that was the major plot thread hanging over from the last session. There was a connection between Vaccarino and Baltic, including a possible relation to the Gem. They had the key given them by his sister, Katie Vaccarino.

At the apartment, the group split in two directions with Nightcrawler and Jackson checking the apartment and Thor and Miracle speaking with the neighbors.
  1. They found the apartment had been entered and tossed. The job did not seem to have been professionally done and they didn’t appear to be looking for papers. Jackson assumed the searchers as amateurs. They did note that Vaccarino’s laptop had been taken. There were no signs of a struggle and they confirmed Sunday as the last time he’d been in the apartment. He didn’t seem to have packed for a trip or the like.
  2. The fellow tenants spoke well of Donny, though they knew he had some issues. He sometimes brought back extra food from his work to his neighbors, so he was well-liked. They did mention that there had been some strangers around on Sunday, and suggested speaking to the Super. They found the Super in the laundry room, dealing with the fallout from what he assumed was a robbery: all of the washing machines and other gear in the room was missing. A quick check confirmed for the heroes that this was more than an ordinary robbery- almost as if everything in the room had vanished at once. A check with the device supplied by Dr. Werner revealed a slightly different energy trace present in the room.
  3. Checking the security cameras, they spotted two men in hats approaching the building late in the evening. When they reach the building, one raised a circular emblem (?) up and the camera went offline for about an hour and a half. There was a design on the object, with the primitive set up, they couldn’t make out exactly what it was. Jackson would later use the existing cameras elsewhere on the surrounding blocks to get a better sense of these two. He identified them as Caucasian, and they parked a block or two away before heading to the apartment building. When they left, after about a half-hour, they seemed to have only taken the laptop- but not Donny.
  4. The group returned to the apartment to take a closer look at Donny’s obsessions- in particular his focus on Ultimate Buck Rogers from Atlas comics. That book had been a new spin off from the many Buck Rogers comics, intended to match a new gritty reboot of Mystery in Space from National Comics. Ultimate Buck Rogers proved to be a strange read- with a really dark approach. In it, Rogers is kind of an anti-hero, allying himself with a mysterious group of bad guys in opposition to other kinds of cosmic awfulness. In particular, a weak analogue of Dr. Fenton was presented. As well, Mister Miracle noticed a number of signs and symbols of his own people- and an adversarial character known only as The Dark Man. Vaccarino had explicitly made a connection in his notes between the kinds of proselyting Miracle was doing with his shows and the kind of secret messages in this book.
  5. The book itself proved to be the brainchild of artist/writer, Davion Kingdom. Miracle hit on a scheme and contacted Atlas’s office- saying that Firstwave was considering a possible comic book. They were given an immediate appointment where they met with Editor in Chief Elwood Petretti and his assistant, Angie Badwin. Petretti seemed a little put off that they wanted Kingdom to do the book- given his weird approach. However, he agreed and had Badwin call Kingdom. However, when Badwin revealed on the phone that Firstwave wanted to meet with him, the writer/artist hung up. The group wheedled Kingdom’s address out of the editor and headed off…

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