Welcome true believers to a series describing the antics of the newest super hero team: Collateral Damage! I hope you’ve caught our special pre-launch issue where we showed you the nitty-gritty aspects of our creation process. Now get ready form pure raw action and laughs as only the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game can offer you!
Setting the Scene
The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game supports many playing style, from the more traditional “Game Master describes stuff, players react” to the Writer’s Room approach where the Gamemaster (called The Watcher) acts like a comic book’s editor and the players are as much the writers and artists of the whole series as the voice of their own characters. I really like this approach. Thus, while I get to set and run scenes, I encourage players to butt in and propose cooler ways for things to go down. It’s one of those “Shared Narrative” experience that jargon-laden game designers like to write about. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun than it sounds.
When we finally were ready to start playing, my heart started pounding as I had ABSOLUTELY no plot prepared for the session, having decided to trust the setting elements we’d create earlier in the session and our combined creativity. I picked the index cards unto which I copied the setting elements we created earlier (see previous post) and picked the following (with ideas I got while reviewing them):
- The Circus: Something happens at the show (Nightcrawler and Tsunami are working there. This would let Tsunami shine with her water powers)
- Sharon S: The S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison to the yet-to-be-formed team (She brings the other 2 heroes to introduce them to form the team).
- The Obsessed Scientist: Hired thugs to try to kidnap/coerce Tsunami back to Japan (Opposition!).
I had a scene. I just needed some supporting characters above and beyond Sharon. I started looking through my list (in the Breakout Mini-event that comes out with the Basic game) for an appropriate super villain. I kept going back to the Silver Samurai and that clinched it for me.
The Nipponese scientist pays Clan Harada huge sums of money to send a band of ninjas in LA to track Tsunami and apprehend her. The scientist INSISTS that the Harada himself be there to oversee operations and get involved if necessary.
I stated a large group of ninjas (the game has mechanics for mobs of identical minor characters) within seconds and I was ready to start.
Enter the Ninjas
I started the scene with Agent Sharon bringing The One Man Army (TOMA, Yan’s duplicator) and The Great Gregory (PM’s Precog) to the circus show. They were sitting in an amphitheater set around a pool, much like those you see at Ocean World. Tsunami (Alex’s Water controller) was sitting behind a curtain near one of the pool’s edges handling the show’s controls. Nightcrawler (Franky’s Mutant Teleporter) was reading old magazines in his dressing rooms while people thought he was in the iron coffin dunked at the bottom of the shark-infested pool.
That’s when the ninjas sprung their attack! I wanted to give the heroes a chance to catch the ninjas before they pulled their surprise attack on the audience and Nightcrawler. Thus I initially told Alex that Tsunami would get a chance to spot that someone had played with the theater’s electrical systems.
And this is where the “writer’s room approach” shone. Franky proposed that the electrical failure would mean that his cue to teleport back into the coffin as it rose from the water would fail, stranding him in his room. When Alex told me that he thought that ‘finding the ninjas before they struck” lacked a certain dramatic flair, I asked could be done instead. We discussed it and we agreed that Tsunami would get a chance to act against the ninjas first if he beat the Doom Pool.
The Doom pool is a dice pool for the GM that grows as players (not the GM) roll “1s” or when villains monologue or grandstand successfully. It represents the impending sense of danger and, as expected, doom that permeates a given event. The dice in it can be spent for many things, including creating trouble like fires and buses full of seniors (with a Stan Lee cameo, of course). It is such a devilishly clever mechanic that Ubisoft Alex nearly proposed to it during one of his raves about it, saying it was one of the most brilliant piece of game design he’d ever seen.
Alex described how Tsunami created a water tentacle that would knock on Nightcrawler’s door while ninjas were sneaking up on him through the thin backstage corridor. He succeeded beautifully and flooded the corridor with water, dazing the ninjas and making the whole place slippery. Except for Gregory who had preemptively hidden under a decorative umbrella, much to TOMA’s puzzlement.
The Ninja mob was split in three, one group in the backstage, one in the audience and the rest in the pool, acting as reserve. Given that information, Nightcrawler tried to teleport between the ninjas and the surprised audience to protect them. Sadly, he failed and he landed in the middle of the ninjas. I used some of the “1s” he rolled to feed the Doom Pool to then create a “Confused and Frightened Audience” scene distinction.
This means that whenever heroes performed actions in which the audience might be involved, I got to add a dice to my villain’s pool because of the distraction. In return, the heroes were allowed to act directly on that scene element and fix it (hence removing it). This is a very powerful and flavorful element of the game.
Then came the audience Ninja’s turn. The group in the audience tried to attack Nightcralwer who dodged and teleported out of trouble without a care in the world. In fact, he even managed to steer the audience outside the theater, resolving the problem I had added a few minutes before.
The backstage ninjas then tried to grandstand, trying to intimidate Tsunami…
Chatty: One ninja near Tsunami reveals his face and tells her that she must come peacefully as Clan Harada has taken members of her family hostage to ease her return to Japan.
Alex: Oh boy, they chose the wrong gal to say that. I actually don’t care about my family anymore (Tsunami is somewhat inspired by Dr. Manatthan, detached and struggling to remain human).
Tsunami resisted successfully, but Alex rolled enough “1s” that I got what I wanted: 2d8s in the Doom Pool (which started at 2d6).
Chatty (taking both d8s out of the Doom Pool, addressing The Great Gregory): A very tall guy wearing a silvered samurai armour will enter the theater any moment now…
Having a Precog character is a great way to announce when the GM triggers events from the Doom Pool.
Alex: Well I guess it’s Gregory’s turn then.
Oh yes, another feature of the game, players who just had their turn get to decide who go next. This is a very powerful story tool. And it works!
Up Next: Clone Pileup in the International Food Aisle!
(Get the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game’s PDF, available now!)