Rules they can’t remember are bad… rules they dislike are worse

Based on last night’s Argh! playtest that means we have two rules to change:

Non-simultaneous Actions – the original rule was you had to specify all your actions in your Turn at once, without pausing to assess what was going on.  The reason for the rule was to try to avoid the situation where because one player has a lot more actions than the others, that player ends up taking up most of the combat time as he does an action, assesses what’s going on as a result, does another action, and so on.  The problem is that the players, Wendy in particular, hate this… her character only has two Actions per turn, but she always wants to see if her first attack takes out the target before committing to another action.  So the new rule will just drop the restriction: if you want to take an action, and then decide what action to take next, that’s your prerogative. I still think that simultaneous actions are desirable (I throw a bar-stool at the first vampire, while I ward off the second one with my cross) both for game-play and for genre, so I’m considering encouraging people to use them by saying that if you describe the actions as simultaneous then the villains can’t react until you’ve resolved them all, whereas if you choose to go sequentially it’s possible for the villains to react after your initial action(s) and before you start your next.

What counts as an Action? The other thing that people had trouble with is what constitutes an action.  This surprises me, because I thought the rule was truly simple: using an active Power counts as an Action. Nothing else does, not moving, not talking, not grabbing something…  but for some reason this doesn’t seem to click with people.  Not just the players: both of the other folks who’ve GMed (Russell is the GM for Argh! and Mike GMed a Danger Room scenario in Kapow!)  charge players for actions for doing things like climbing ladders or opening doors, and players spontaneously charge themselves for things like kicking a gun out of reach even though it doesn’t require a power to do so.  I’m a bit reluctant to change this to something that’s (to me) a lot less cut-and-dried, and will tend to encourage a lot more asking questions of the GM (would X count as one of my Actions?  what about Y?)… but according to my principles I ought to…

Faster Than A Speeding Recap

  • Brian managed to show up, and played his super-speedster Fasttrack.  Fasttrack was originally created for a Silver Age Sentinels game that never got off the ground (I blame Doug and Paul for breaking the system before we even started), and a version of him became Brian’s main character in City of Heroes.  He seemed pleased to finally be able to role-play him….and he roleplayed the heck out of him, much to the amusement of the other players.  They were particularly taken with his rapid stream-of-consciousness speech patterns.
  • Fasttrack showed up in time for a brief confrontation between the Order of St. George (Vatican Special Monster-hunting Squad) and the super-group over the disposition of the Wraith’s (Doug’s) evil brother, The Revenant.  Eventually it was resolved with the Vatican “heavy hitters” Codex and Joan completely destroying The Revenant’s body with holy flame, releasing all the souls that he’d consumed over the years in a spectacular spiritual light show.
  • A call for help from Dr. Kelso at Paradigm labs brought the team to the lab complex, which was on fire.  Fasttrack leapt to evacuating the civilians, while the rest of the team plunged into the lab building where Dr. Kelso was, only to  come under attack by gorillas wearing exoskeletons.
  • The gorillas were led by a silver-back, sans exoskeleton, dragging Dr. Kelso by one ankle.  There we broke for the evening.

When next we resumed, the players were treated to the first genuine villain monologue of the campaign, which they sat still for and even seemed to find amusing.  At least part of the reason they bore it patiently is that last time they interrupted a villain’s monologue (in the Weird West Campaign), they destroyed the Universe before the villain had time to warn them against it.

  • The gorilla leader called himself Ape X, or Apex, was a product of Dr. Kelso’s continued research into nerve regeneration and repair.
  • He had dosed the other gorillas with it, but it took a while to take effect, and Dr. Kelso had managed to get away and call in the team before he was ready.
  • Apex tele-operating the other gorillas via the exoskeletons, using a modification of Redline’s (Mike’s) exoskeleton’s kinesthetic feedback controls.
  • Dr. Kelso was dying, neck broken by an inexpertly wielded tele-operated gorilla, but Apex planned to save her momentarily by putting her in a “Captain Pike” chair, where she’d be less trouble.
  • Attacking Apex failed, since what they saw was just a hologram.  “Didn’t I mention that I’m smarter than you?  I’m pretty sure I did.”
  • Jungle Gal was able to use her Animal Friendship to calm the rampaging gorillas, but before they could pursue Apex he warned them that he had sent some of his gorillas to set the Null Energy Generator project in Lab 57 to go super-critical so if they wanted to prevent the Earth’s atmosphere from being stripped away they should probably attend to that.
  • The team managed to stop the Null Energy Generator explosion through teamwork and the first “Power Play” of the campaign (a Kapow! rule that lets players combine their powers and through comic-book logic create a new power).  They then found that it was all a bluff, and if left alone the destabilized field would have damped itself out instead of destroying the world.  “The villain lied to us!” exclaimed one of the characters.
  • The team (except Jungle Gal) agreed that the remaining gorillas would have to be put down, since the evidence was that gorillas granted super-intelligence through the formula were dangerous.
  • Jungle Gal (Wendy) snuck back into the labs and absconded with the gorillas, using her wealth to charter a plane to some jungle island hide-away where she would reign as Queen of the super-intelligent gorillas… or at least guide their development so they didn’t become evil.   Wendy decided to use this as an opportunity to put Jungle Gal on the back-burner and develop a new character.
  • In other developments, the teleporting villain Technik invited herself on a date with Harbinger (Dan); this seemed to freak Harbinger/Dan out much more than I thought it would, given his character’s attitudes towards other attractive NPCs they’d run into.
  • Beef, the minor villain that Namaste and Jungle Gal had defeated, having been released from jail showed up at Namaste’s yoga studio seeking to study under her and “fix up his Karma and shit.”
  • Police detective George Kim showed up at the base, wanting to know what happened with Revenant.  Redline told him, only to find out that he was unhappy that the Vatican had exceeded its authority in this case by executing Revenant without due process.  The team had let them go ahead because they were dubious about the police and prisons being able to hold Revenant, and were afraid that he’d go on a killing spree as he had apparently done back in the late 19th century.  Kim didn’t blame the team, but explained that while in the past they had to rely heavily on the Order of St. George to track down and capture supernatural monsters they weren’t supposed to go beyond that, at least without a trial, and the police had reliable ways to deal with supervillains once they had been captured: there were power-nullification holding cells (using a bulkier version of the tech in the Wraith’s gloves) and for long-term imprisonment there was the super-max prison, the Oubliette, in a dimension where no super-powers of any kind worked.  Part of this was, by agreement with the players, to establish more firmly that the setting really did permit the heroes to turn over captured villains to the authorities without having to worry about a Arkham Asylum revolving-door situation.

All in all it was a highly satisfactory set of sessions.

Holding Pattern

Basically I’m waiting for responses from my beta-readers before working on the Kapow! manuscript more.  Russell had some good suggestions for revamping the beginning to simplify things and get people playing faster, but I don’t want to perform major surgery on it until I’ve heard back from more people.  Meanwhile, I’m busy at work so have less time and energy in the evening for wrestling with RPG stuff.

I have a bunch of other Kapow! projects I’d like to work on, like a Source Book for the setting we’re using, and a Rogues Gallery of villains and organizations for people to drop in their campaigns.  I’ve even been talking with some of my players, like Russell and Dan, who’d like to use Kapow! for different genres such as modern fantasy/horror… Russell and I spent a bit of time recently brainstorming what should be changed or adjusted to do a modern-day fantasy/horror campaign a la Buffy or the Dresden Files.  It seems very do-able, but I really want to get Kapow! itself out the door first.  That said, if anybody has any good ideas for what to call a modern-day fantasy version of Kapow!, I’m all ears.  I’ve been calling it Grr, argh!  but that’s a little too specifically Mutant Enemy Productions….  Snarl! maybe?

Kapow! Mini-Recap

We’ve had a couple of sessions since the last report, and the players seem to be enjoying it a lot, but I’ve been too busy with other things (such as working on the manuscript for Kapow!) to do proper recaps.

Just so that we don’t forget what’s gone on so far:

Redline has been working with Dr. Barbara Kelso, the scientist who developed the original treatment for the degenerative nerve disease that young Artemis Simon was suffering from, which eventually led to her being banned from the Olympics (and years later to her become Olympia) and Dr. Kelso being booted from her university on ethics charges.  Dr. Kelso landed at Paradigm Labs, Where the Future is Today!, where she’s being continuing her research on apes.  Redline felt guilty about falsely accusing her of being in cahoots with Olympia, so to  make it up to her offered to help fund her research at the lab; this led to them collaborating on some research having to do with the neuro-mechanical linkages he’s developed that let him control the Redline suit.  Of course, he’s doing all of this obliquely,showing her the interface components without the suit to try to preserve his secret identity.

While he was at the labs he got a call from the CFO/accountant at his small business, saying that he had found something disturbing going over the books before the audit that was supposed to happen in 48 hours as part of the deal Redline was setting up providing certain pieces of the Redline technology on an exclusive basis to a large motorcycle manufacturer; before he could explain what it was he found, the call was abruptly cut off.

Racing into action, Redline headed back to the firm.  On the way back he was challenged to a drag race by a mysterious silver-and-blank racer… and he lost.  Arriving at the parking lot of his company, the silver and black racer was waiting… and transformed into a powered armor suit of an unfamiliar design.

To be continued…