This week, we had +Richard Rogers, +Joe Zantek, +Andrea G, and +Matt Holland — respectively, Chance the Prince, Fyrefly the Unmarked, Bash the Bull, and Frank the Inhuman.
They were berated for what went down last week, with the whole building coming down and not calling in the Gentleman quickly enough — but the Gentleman also admitted that he sent them into a situation that was perhaps more dangerous than he had expected. All that said, things had returned to normal relatively quickly. In the city as a whole, the incident registered as barely a blip on anyone’s radar. No one really paid much attention to the strangely dressed teens who’d been on the scene, not when Sovereign was there — the media especially, in its crusade against Sovereign, didn’t pay enough attention to anyone else.
It was a bit later that the team was meeting up for their after school practice at the Gentleman’s Manor, and after some initial antics — Chance showing up in his limo driven by Chauncey and walking through some back alleys, Frank completing his homework in his head, Bash and Fyrefly sparring with Fyrefly taunting Bash to get the better of her — they began to realize how long they’d been waiting for the Gentleman to come downstairs. And the Gentleman, he was NEVER late. Not ever. So this…was weird.
Frank went upstairs to check around the Gentleman’s office, and didn’t find him. The Gentleman kept his files in pristine conditions, of course, so it was noteworthy that one particular file was open on his desk — a file regarding the Sevitri invasion a while back. The Sevitri were an alien race, coming to infect humanity, but they never even made it planetside. The Exemplars stopped them first. So they weren’t actually even that big of a deal on Earth. But the Gentleman had the file for them opened up on his desk…which was odd. Frank used his computer like brain to comb through the Internet and analyze it at incredible speeds, ultimately hacking into secure corporate networks. He tripped a few security warnings, so they knew someone had tapped in, but he was able to find out that a company, Haliwell Pharmaceuticals, was working on gene therapies based on the Sevitri infection mechanics. In particular, they seemed to be working up ways of creating metahuman abilities using the Sevitri medicines.
Frank came back down to his teammates with the information, and of course got ribbed a bit before they started to actually listen. Bash pored over the file and considered everything she remembered the Gentleman teaching her over her life, and figured out that the Gentleman had been in a hurry — he’d felt the need to act in haste, which was a bit out of the ordinary for him. Based on that, and the fact that Frank had found three locations for Haliwell, one of which was a warehouse much closer than the others, they figured that the Gentleman had gone to the closest location. (BECAUSE COMIC BOOKS!)
There was much hemming and hawing over how to get there — take Chance’s limo? Rooftops? Back alleys? The bus system? — before the team members sort of all broke up to get to the warehouse in their separate ways. (They are truly not quite a cohesive team yet, which is wonderful to watch.) Frank was the last to arrive, having taken the city’s bus transit system, and leading to one of my favorite exchanges of the game, as he showed up a bit late for his teammates’ tastes (perhaps embellished a bit in my memory):
Fyrefly: “Hey Frank. Glad you could show up. We’ve been waiting her a while.”
Frank: “Sorry, I gave the bus green lights the whole way, I thought that would make it faster.”
Fyrefly: “Did you forget that buses have multiple stops?”
Bash: “And indirect routes?”
Chance: “And they smell bad?”
But here they were! Ready and raring to go! Commence Operation Get-Into-Warehouse! So, Chance morphed himself to look like a security guard, and Frank even printed out a fake security pass (made out of Frank’s bone — he printed it out of the palm of his hand) for Chance to use. Chance tried it out, followed the plan perfectly, and, of course, it all fell apart when the guy at the gate took a closer look at Chance’s fake pass and found it to be made of a strange material. He then snapped it like a chicken bone, and looked even more confused.
Chance, thinking quickly, morphed back into himself, and told the gate guard that it was he, Chance, son of the Sovereign, here for superhero business, to save someone in the warehouse! The guard immediately started calling over friends and coworkers to see Chance, and gave Chance stuff to sign.
Meanwhile, with Chance distracting the guards and workers at the warehouse, Fyrefly vaulted the fence and tried to climb up in through a drain pipe. She nearly alerted everyone when a shitty piece of it fell, but she caught it, climbed back down, and then slipped in through the warehouse door that one of the warehouse workers had left open in his rush to see Chance. Once Fyrefly was inside, she started working her way through, looking for anything suspicious. She caught a few glimpses of someone who seemed to be watching her, too, but when she tried to catch a good look, she heard clomping boots coming toward her. She hid inside a container, and watched as heavily armed and armored soldier types came walking in, raising their guns, looking around. She called for a bit of help.
Chance continued to glad-hand the workers and guards while Bash picked up Frank and leapt onto the top of the warehouse. She misjudged the leap a bit, and had to come down on top of Frank so she wouldn’t slam the warehouse roof with her boots and create an enormous noise. Frank really appreciated being used as a cushion, of course. The two slipped into the warehouse from a roof access, and they noticed the same guards that Fyrefly was watching. Frank set out on a girder stretching over the entire warehouse, using bone claws grown out of his hands to climb a bit more easily. He stealthily crept to the other side of the warehouse, where the security room was, but accidentally severed a light hanging from the girder just as he dismounted. The guards were immediately alerted, but before they could aim and pour fire onto Frank, Bash flung herself across the warehouse and slammed into the soldiers. Only a moment later, Fyrefly came out of her hiding spot and began skillfully disarming and knocking down the corporate goons. Frank rushed into the security room and started hacking away, discovering that there were actually floors below the main warehouse. Chance, hearing the sounds of commotion in the warehouse, organized the workers and guards to keep them away for their own safety (and of course, continuing to popularize himself among them).
Frank came down to Firefly and Bash as they finished up 4 soldiers, and were confronted by 2 more — who were promptly knocked around by a brownish blur, the same brown that Fyrefly had spotted earlier. It stopped in front of them, then, and became the full form of the August, former leader of the Exemplars who had gone into seclusion after the team’s tragic death. He looked like shit.
The August began to question them and berate them for being there, causing a ruckus — he pointedly looked at a support girder that Bash had damaged with her soldier-fighting tactics — but they stood up to him, telling him that they were doing fine and they had every right to be here to find the Gentleman. Eventually, as Chance came in and joined them, he capitulated. The full group found a secret elevator in the back of the warehouse, and after dealing with the two soldiers who were in the elevator, they went down into the lower levels.
Sure enough, they found some facility. Due to time constraints, I sort of blitzed through this part. It was a clean, sterile facility, and shortly into it, they found a cell with an energy door, behind which sat the Gentleman. After they shut down the door and got him out, he was surprised to see the team of teens there — he had called for the August, not them. But while he did think they had acted perhaps recklessly, he was also impressed…and grateful. They fled before the clomping boots of more soldiers reached them, and left the Haliwell Pharmaceuticals warehouse behind them.
The August left the group, while the rest went back to the Manor, where the Gentleman received an explanation from the team for how they found him — and actually praised them, especially Bash, who was again acting as team leader. Sovereign came in, then, exclaiming that she was sorry that she hadn’t received his summons earlier, as she was busy dealing with an incident in space. She was surprised to hear that the young team, including her own son Chance, had been so helpful. The rest of the team had bonding moments in which they praised Bash as a good leader — and anti-bonding moments, in which they continued to treat Frank like a weird freak. (And Chance continued to insinuate that Fyrefly was little more than a human who shouldn’t really be there, while also trying to make her feel better by talking about how great of superheroes her parents were in the Exemplars.) The Gentleman needed to rest and think before he would explain to them what he’d been doing at the warehouse, and in the mean time, the team should celebrate — job well done.
It went great! It was a lot of fun, especially with the banter — there were many moments throughout that really felt like they were straight out of comic books, where I could imagine the panels and the speech bubbles and the empty-panel-beats, and it was great.
I tried to do a better job of working in the Paragons this time, and I think I met with a decent amount of success, but I need to do a bit of thinking about how exactly they should appear — maybe a peripheral move where you can choose to go to the Paragons somehow would be a good way to make sure that you can involve the Paragon you’re most interested in.
I changed the way XPs worked at the start of the session, which was really interesting, I think, but perhaps unintuitive. Basically, I made it so that you get XPs for Labeling people according to how you see them — according to the Image you have written on your sheet for them — and you get XPs for acting on the Labels that people give you, as well as for when people act on the Label you gave them. But there’s still this feeling that people aren’t being Labeled that much, perhaps because it still feels like a weird move to trigger — I have to prompt it, and that always feels awkward. I have this dream that once the move is well-internalized, and clearly the path to getting XP, people will be Labeling left and right, but I’m not 100% sure.
I think I’m going to try another variation in the upcoming session that allows for a bit more nuance. As it’s stood right now, the Label move is triggered when you Label someone else. I’m thinking I’ll make it so that it is triggered when you Label someone else forcefully and intentionally — you’re really trying to Label them, not just saying something that happens to change their self-image — but also, the move is triggered when you feel that you are being Labeled. That way, it’s no longer purely on the Labeler to call it out. You would have the capacity to say, “I think I feel you’re Labeling me,” and then adjust stats/set the XP condition as appropriate. I think that could help to make Labeling crop up lots more.
There was also some funniness with “Do the impossible.” I’ve been having lots of conversations about this with great, excellent, helpful, smart people like +Michael Miller and +Rich Flynn, and with those conversations plus actually seeing it in play, I think it needs a wording change. I’m thinking of making it “Push yourself,” with the idea being that you’re trying harder than is normal for you.
I think I’m also going to make the move different in structure. It was originally just a straight clone of “Act Under Fire,” but now, I think I’m going to make it more explicit, and introduce a crazy new mechanic:
When you push yourself, say what you’re doing and how it’s difficult, and roll + Freak. On a 10+, choose 3. On a 7-9, choose 1.
- You maintain focus and precision, and don’t cause collateral effect or damage.
- You don’t draw attention and/or fire upon yourself.
- You don’t mark 1 Stress.
- You get a superb result, better than you would have expected.
- You mark 1 Potential.
Potential, then, will act as a separate advancement track, with results providing Potential also attached to Cut Loose and Protect Someone. Potential represents the potential of your own powers, specifically; it’s not about smarts or wisdom or tactics or training, but about you getting personally stronger. Mark 5 Potential, and you’ll get a power move. The plan, then, is to create a list of possible power moves focused not on the power, but on the action. So no “Super-Strength” move, but instead, a “Demolish” move, and an “Entrap Someone” move, and a “Transport” move, or something. That way, you can take these moves that are especially great at particular things, to show your powers growing stronger.
Could be that this whole system is wildly unnecessary, but it could be that it’s a cool add-on that adds to the flavor of you coming into your own and developing your abilities. Plus, I really like the idea of splitting it off from regular XPs — those represent you growing up and coming into your own as a person, not as a holder of powers.
Finally, I think I’m going to add Stress effects. As things stand, I’ve just been using Stress as a stand-in for any kind of Harm, because it can cover lots of things beyond straight up physical injuries. Also, I’ve pretty much kept it so that everything hits for 1 Stress, including Masks, and Masks themselves only have 3 Stress. Stress clears when you’ve had time to get your head back on straight, shake off the damage. But as things have stood, people have taken Stress, but it’s never really even come close to taking them out — which only happens when you need to mark Stress, but you can’t. I think that’s a combination of Stress only coming out in 1-point hits, and of it not coming out often enough. What’s more, since that’s the prime effect of Stress, then it hasn’t really mattered when you take 1 Stress.
Instead, now, I think I’m going to include a Stress move, so that when you take 1 Stress, you have to act in a specific way, immediately. You might have to back off, or vent your stress on someone helpless or friendly, or a couple other things. But this way, taking Stress will now itself lead to an interesting snowball of fiction, instead of just falling flat.
High hopes for how this is all going to work out in the future! Loving these playtests!