Welcome again gentle reader to the continuation of this amazing series chronicling the exploits of the West Coast’s newest Super Hero team: Collateral Damage” powered by the all new Marvel Heroic Roleplaying technology!
The One Man Army (AKA TOMA): A Sino-Arab mutant that can multiply in seemingly unlimited numbers. Prone to get into a lot of trouble but he has plenty of hands to handle it.
The Great Gregory: A man that can see exactly one minute into his immediate future. Bored of scamming casinos and doing clever magic tricks, he seeks a more “interesting” lifestyle as a hero.
The Magnificent Nightcrawler: Not quite the exact same lovable swashbuclking teleporter mutant from Earth-616, but pretty damn close.
Tsunami: Adorable Idoru-like water-controlling nuclear physicist whose links to her former humanity are tenuous at best.
The members of the soon-to-be-formed Collateral Damage met in a seedy L.A. aquatic acrobatic circus where Nightcrawler and Tsunami got attacked by a band of ninjas led by the Silver Samurai. Learning to work together surprisingly fast, our heroes evacuated the place, flooded the whole theater and turned it into a gigantic Taser, making short work of the ninjas and the poor heavily armoured samurai.
As the police took the villains into custody, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in charge supervising the new team announced that they were flying to Stanford Connecticut for their official Hero training…
Scene 1: The Un-Test
Getting inspiration from the Avengers: The Initiative comic book of the Marvel Civil War era, the players were shipped to Camp Hammond where they were met with a very harried Dr. Hank Pym. He informed them that as already established super heroes, they would only need some perfunctory screening and testing before obtaining their Hero licence. You know, stuff like Superhuman ethics and General Topics on Real Estate and Infrastructure Insurance.
They also met a very unpleasant Senator Gyrich, director of the Superhuman Armed Forces and known mutant hater (of which the group had 3*). He informed them, in no light terms, that he would make sure they would fail.
Or if he didn’t say it out loud, he certainly had that in a thought bubble.
I set the scene as a physical “no super powers” military-drill-like test: running, monkey bars, jumping over walls, crawling under barbed wire, etc. What became really interesting is that the players automatically started talking about cheating in that test. That filled me with glee as we were clearly establishing the basis for a group of heroes who weren’t too concerned the how of achieving their objectives.
As we discussed how to frame the scene (we’re meta like that now), we all agreed that actually rolling dice to see if they passed the test wasn’t all that exciting, since we all assumed everyone would. What we agreed on was to have each character focus on one aspect of the test to achieve a specific character goal. Thus characters would focus that goal and also create winning conditions (by cheating a bit) to help the least physically able character of the group: Gregory.
Thus, TOMA showed off on the firing range:
Black Widow: Here, disassemble and re-assemble this assault rifle.
TOMA (Rolls a success): Here toots!
Black Widow: You left some very important pieces out you imbecile!
TOMA: Woah there cutie pie, I made this gun better. (Shoots and hits target dummy in the heart) So… you doin’ anything tonight?
Black Widow: We’ll see…
Nightcrawler decided to have the scene be about fighting against his urge to show off and ace the test (him being the most physically fit of the group). So what Franky basically rolled for is to have his character barely pass his test. Which he succeeded.
Chatty: A sense of vague disappointment permeates the large crowd that gathered to see Nightcrawler perform. In the command centre, both Dr.Pym and Senator Gyrich are scratching their heads.
Tsunami went through the test with no particular aim at standing out physically, but she did subtly make the whole area more humid and slippery… except one specific man-wide path.
Mechanically speaking, at that point there was an improved gun asset on the firing range and a “dry-track” asset. This was a perfect setup for someone whose undetectable power was oh, I don’t know… precognition?
PM: I want Gregory to make it successfully through the track not because of his (absent) physical assets but because everyone else performs miserably while he “stumbles” on the most bizarre chain of coincidences and accidents… including “randomly” picking TOMA’s tricked out gun and passing through the “dry” pathway.
Pym: It seems he’s got some strange, uncontrolled luck power.
And thus the group succeeded in achieving the weirdest of goals:
Pym: Yeah, they pass the test all right, but I’m somewhat surprised by their lack of performance. Something’s not right here.
Gyrich: You should play poker more Pym, you’d see you’re being slow played by a bunch of stinking mutants. I’ll take care of them!
Scene 2: Sentinels of Oppression
The next (and last) test we showcased was a combat simulation in a metropolitan downtown setting. There Gyrich pulled rank and pitted the 4 under-gunned heroes against 3 building-sized manned Sentinel robots with clear orders:
“I want you to break them, break them bad… these guys do NOT leave this place with a hero’s license.”
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
The combat had several cool-as-heck highlights:
TOMA multiplying himself some many times that the piled up clones it created cramped fighting quarters for the Sentinels.
The Great Gregory finding the ONE truck with its keys in the ignition, allowing one of TOMA’s clones to drive it into a Sentinel, making it explode AND break a hidden water main creating a gushing water source for Tsunami.
Tsunami growing to the size of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man and pummeling a poor Sentinel with building-sized water fists while she teetered on itty-bitty feet.
A Sentinel trying to get a bead on a dodging Nightcrawler with a continuous energy beam, grazing another Sentinel. This caused major stress as the pilots (who WERE a couple) started bickering.
TOMA prying parts off a Sentinel and forming a chain-gang bringing “spare parts” to another group of clones building a Hot Rod.
Nightcrawler attempted one very cool action that ended up failing. His basic plan was to spend each of his attack actions teleporting inside the head of a Sentinel and snatch the pilot away from the machine, leaving the robot’s Combat A.I. in more or less bad shape to take over (i.e. inflict “mental” stress to the machine). In one of his attacks, he decided to push things a bit further by doing exactly that AND grab the pilot’s cordless headphone so the heroes could hear what Senator Gyrich was saying about them. I’m mentioning it because at the time I flailed to find a significant way to work the failure in the fiction in a cool way. In retrospect I had many cool ideas but it was too late. We ended up saying that the pilot sucessfully defended herself and NIghtcrawler popped out of the robot empty-handed.
The thing is, one of my favourite aspects of the Marvel RPG’s lies in the limitless elements and situations you can tweak based on the success or failure of a roll. For instance I could have jumped on Nightcrawler’s failure to tell him he was prevented from teleporting out because he got surprised by a mutant suppressing field in the Sentinel’s cockpit. (There’s plenty of rulesy stuff that would back such a call).
More importantly though, I got an insight after the game: Whenever a character fails (good or bad), I should ask the players around the table for ideas as to how the tactical situation becomes before we go to the next character in the initiative order. I think this is a new GMing tool I’m going to test in future session.
As for our heroes, they passed their test and I gave the players the choice of hanging around Camp Hammond to explore some of the sinister hooks or return to L.A. as full-time heroes. I told them to keep me posted.
Can’t wait to play again!
*My version of this campaign world has had the House of M event (99% of the world’s mutants were reverted to normal humans) but the remaining weren’t placed on reservations.