OK. So when I posted about my upcoming Secret War Event on Google+, I wasn’t expecting quite the response I got. I already had two friends who had committed to playing, and my plan was to simply solicit a couple more players to round out my table. Given the poor response I’d had for Hulk Smash Xmas!, I wasn’t expecting much. Imagine my surprise then, when within a day or so, I had nearly a dozen who wanted to play.
So what I have decided to do . . . was open up a second date. Now I will be running the same campaign twice. Thursdays every other week. Mondays the alternating weeks. My take on it is that this is an opportunity for me to practice my GM-ing. They say practice makes perfect. What I get is two chances to get it right, and to speed up the learning curve. And right now, I’m probably looking at running two sessions of six players each.
But I do have some concerns:
- Number of Players: Having six players may prove a challenge to manage in play. It might slow down play considerably, especially in Action Scenes.
- Player Attrition: While they may commit to play, not all will show. Or not all will show every week. Between Events, this is less important. But in the middle of an Event, I may end up having to run too many Watcher characters at once.
- Creating Content: My original idea was to create mini-Events to fill in the spaces between published Events. But it could be problematic doing so weekly over two competing, parallel campaigns.
- Laying Down Some Rules: With so many players, it will be important to lay down some table rules to help keep the game run quickly and smoothly.
Sooo, we’ll just have to wait and see how this all goes. Stay tuned.
“When Nick Fury discovers a disturbing connection between many of Marvel’s deadliest villains, he assembles a ragtag team of the Marvel Universe’s most misunderstood heroes for a secret mission to do what the U.S. government could never allow . . . .”
Join us for this first issue of Secret War and start of our extended Road to Civil War campaign. If everything goes alright, we will start on Thursday, January 2 on Google+ at 8:00 p.m. EST. Players may choose from any player heroes to be found at my Obsidian Portal campaign site.If you are interested in joining us to play, contact me via Google+, Twitter or by email. Until then, ‘Nuff Said!
“Oh, you better watch out . . . The Incredible Hulk is rampaging through midtown Manhattan near Rockefeller Center. Why? Maybe he’s being mind-controlled by The Leader. Maybe he’s just mad. Whatever the situation, the heroes need to subdue the Hulk. Good luck.”
What is it? A holiday-themed rampaging battle royale … starring the Hulk! Assuming I have enough players, I plan on running this Mini-Event on Thursday, December 26 on Google+, starting at 8:00 p.m. EST. Players may choose any hero datafile from the Basic Game or Civil War and its supplements. If you are interested in joining us to play, contact me via Google+, Twitter or by email.
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No one signed up. So the Event is CANCELLED. Pity.
So, I did some nosing around on the Internet today, looking into Marvel chronology and studying character bios with continuity in mind. Clearly, the core roster for Secret War are the characters from the comic:
Black Widow, Captain America, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Nick Fury, Quake (Daisy Johnson), Spider-Man, Wolverine
Since I’m trying to run an ongoing campaign with its own continuity, what I’m trying is to establish a campaign continuity timeline. Wherever possible, I’m trying to follow established Marvel continuity, but with minimal departures necessary to enable gameplay. What I’ve decided is to follow up on the concept of a sliding timeline (as explained here on Plot Points).
As I’d indicated before some characters are in my mind problematic:
- Armor, Nico Minoru: Neither is introduced as a character within our established time frame; including either character would also undermine Daisy Johnson’s perceived role as junior hero.
- Colossus: Currently dead; won’t be resurrected until after this Event.
- Hawkeye: One choice I made for gameplay reasons was to move the Avengers Disassembled event one month before Secret War, rather than one month after. What this means is that, if we assume the same storyline, he sacrifices himself to save the day.
The remaining heroes included in the Event look to be OK: Emma Frost, Gambit, Iron Fist, She-Hulk. And given time constraints, I may just leave it at that for right now . . . .
But if I had time to work on some replacement alternative characters and their milestones, they just might be:
- Black Panther: He’d be a covert asset; his potential motivation could be building national conflict between Wakanda and Latveria.
- Ms Marvel, Spider-Woman: As agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Mystique: Fury considers it in his journal: she could be a really, really interesting femme fatale / black ops agent.
In reading through the Secret War Event and thinking about how I would run it, apparently there are some aspects I need to modify or to create for it. (This probably true for any pre-made adventure a GM would use for any game.) While I really like the Secret War Event as posted, there are some design issues that stem both from its flashback structure (how to make sure that present actions and past actions don’t create narrative paradoxes) and from the serial nature of its creation and presentation (missing elements or loose ends).
Here is my checklist of design elements that need some attention:
- Injured Hero: Not so much a design issue as something the Watcher needs to be aware of from the start. In the Present, a hero is injured and hospitalized — presumably, not to be used any further in the Present. (In the comic, it’s Luke Cage who is in critical care.) Whoever it is in actual play that is injured, that hero needs also to be included in the Past as a Watcher character.
- Hero Roster: In a one-shot Event, continuity is less important. But in an ongoing campaign where each Event is meant to exist in a context and lead from one to the next, continuity becomes much more important. The actual characters in the comic included Black Widow, Captain America, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Nick Fury, Quake (Daisy Johnson), Spider-Man and Wolverine. So presumably, they’re givens.
Replacing any heroes shouldn’t be too difficult (if desired). One solution available straight from the comic is in the extra material included in the alternative choices presented from Nick Fury’s own personal files. For example, Shadowcat is one hero he considered, but rejected. She could be a very interesting alternative for this Event. (Note: Including alternative heroes to the ones provided in the Event means creating for them mission-specific milestones.)
- Missing Characters: One important character missing from this Event is the Tinkerer. He is mentioned in the comic, but only appears in passing. But an Event milestone deals with his apprehension. Presenting players with the side option of capturing him while in Latveria could be fun. (Note: I plan on posting a datafile for him and his toy robots later this week.)
- Motivating Actions: Finally there are actions players must take in the Past to ensure the existence of narrative conditions in the Present. For example, the heroes must choose to undertake the mission in the Past. And Nick Fury needs to activate his Failsafe so that the heroes have lost their memory of it in the Present.
So how do you motivate players to make narratively necessary choices?
One option is to simply remove narratively destructive options. For instance, the Nick Fury’s I Know What I’m Doing 10 XP milestone reads: When you activate the Failsafe device wiping the memories of the others OR choose not to, allowing the others retain their memories. Remove the second option and have the player cash out the milestone by instead taking the necessary, but also more climactic action.
Another option is to offer players a bonus 1 XP if they take a narratively necessary action. The Watcher needs to announce to the players when and why this will happen. (By the way, I call this option/house rule the No-Prize. More on that later.)
As it starts to get cold outside and the winter holidays rapidly approach, one begins to dream about Marvel holiday one-shots. Just yesterday, Plot Points posted a new Event How Doctor Doom Stole Christmas! It’s a very short Event created by RT Goodman and based on the Scott Lobdell and John Byrne 1991 short comic I’ll Be Doom For Christmas.
In this same vein, I performed my own quick search and discovered this gem: Christmas With the Hulk (which I have already mentally re-named Hulk Smash X-Mas!) created by Thomas Denagh. It looks to be a really fun, lively rampage through downtown holiday Manhattan. And this looks like the Event that I may end up running this December 23 or 26. Stay tuned for that.
Another thought is the outline of an Event posted on the MWP Forums. I must confess I haven’t read the thread closely yet, so I can’t really speak to it myself. But it’s probably something worth looking into. And there are yet two more resources for you to check out: David Thomas’ X-Mas Milestones & Unlockables and Duck Call Lass’ write-up of Father Christmas Himself.
Joyeux Noel et bonne année!