Sunday, June 3, 2012

All The Myriad Ways

Man, I am so behind on my Champions recaps I am ashamed. From this point forward, until such time as I have caught up, I shall wear the Hubcap of Shame.

This thing is heavy so let's get to it...

Instead of a full recap of the last two or three adventures (I think it was three but I might be wrong), I am going to summarize and just mention the highlights. That said, this is by no means a short post. Also, stay tuned after the summarization for some notes and news.

The PCs, with recommendations and some assistance from a few NPC allies, came up with the following plan:

Use the interdimensional gateway at our secret headquarters to 'port in optimal parallel Earth versions of themselves (the PCs and other major heroes) or major villains (who are also good on their particular alternate world) and intercept Dys'Dayn, Empress of a Billion Dimensions, before she can make contact with the even-more-evil-than-she-is Dark Seraph. Actually, good plan.*

The newly assembled force travels to Champions Earth Alpha Delta-4 (the Empress' next and last stop before moving on to The Abyss that holds Dark Seraph) where they encounter that worlds heroes who are largely styled after the Charlton Comics heroes and The Watchmen. The majority of Earth AD-4's villains are gangster, cult leaders and mad scientists and it's no exaggeration to say they would have been completely wiped out if the multiversal heroes hadn't shown up.

I let the players play their parallel selves and their own characters if they were assigned to the mission (some were on other missions back on their home Earh). I have to hand it to the guys in that they really had the other versions of themselves act and talk differently from their primary characters. In addition, I had some of them make up their alternate selves. A surprising and subtle favorite was Marcus playing an old version of The Power who had taken the name and costume of his PC's father, The Good Fight and a version of The Power who was Power's sister (The Power has a dependant NPC younger sister on Earth AD-1. On AD-4 the sister inherited the abilities and became The Power).

The battle between Project: UNITY (the PC team) and it's quantum reality cavalry and Empress Dys'Dayn was awesome...and short. If it weren't for some really cool maneuvers on the part of both the heroes and the Empress a like, I think it would have seemed anti-climactic. The sheer number of heroes at the Players' finger tips, their power level and many rolls going in the good guys' favor meant that while it wasn't easy to defeat the Empress, it was pretty fast.

Luckily, inspiration struck! In the aftermath of the battle, one of the NPC allies ( a good version of our own world's biggest baddie) prepares to head home only to discover his arch-enemies have defeated and even killed a few of the heroes of his native Earth. He requests the PCs aid in saving his planet and they agree, heading off to challenge the worst villains of Earth AD-3...Evil Versions of Themselves!!!

What followed isn't over yet but involved some crazy cool encounters and waaay too much thinking. See the * below.

For my part I had a blast finally let my bastard GM side out (a thing I rarely do). I think fast, a talent that aids in my ability to ad lib the majority of every game I run. In addition, I love super heroes comic books and have read a gazillion of the them. Lastly, I know the Champions 4th Edition system better than any of the Players. The result, I used their own abilities in crazy kickass ways that they either hadn't thought of or usually don't do because they're Heroes!

Interestingly, it was Marcus ( who has recently been grinding my gears a bit with his play style, disinterest in teaming up with or helping out the rest of the group and constently griping/obsessing over how-come-everyone-else-is-more-powerful-than-me), who came up with the coolest way to get his evil counterpart out of the picture.

Instead of battling him (the evil The Power), Marcus had the older Power/Good Fight II pretend to be the evil Power from the future. The 'elder version' told 'his younger self' that something crazy was going to go down and the evil Champions were going to get beat up by heroes from other dimensions (essentially true). Now, if the evil Power hides with his sister, dad (The Bad Fight?) and best friend (evil version of the hero Siphon Zero/Revenant), he could emerge after the fight and take over. Basically, sit it out and let the Supers from the other worlds do you the favor of taking out the competition for you. Evil The Power agreed with this plan and has gone underground until the smoke clears.

Wicked clever.

Now...not everything was shiny in the gleaming City of Tomorrow...

*Tempers, attitudes and nerves seemed a bit frayed Saturday. We definitely pushed each others buttons and I was no exception.

For reasons known only to my players...some of them at least...they really enjoy taking time to plan out actions. They will discuss tactics ad nauseum and never pull the trigger on a plan until I go forward, assuming they are ready and indicate something happens. Then it's, "No, no! MaxiMode and Ultramarine were ALREADY outside! We told you they were going to head out."

Going to. Never do. Never, "They leave."

One player in particular, a quantum mechanics and physics buff, will take twenty minutes of real time explaining exactly what his character's power will do. One of the other players eventually got tired of this and said to me, "Is this a Superhero game or a science lesson. Is this Champions or 'Ask 100 Physics Questions' The RPG?"

I love science and am a big of a physics head myself but I had to agree. The whole thing was weakening the momentum of the game. It took far too long to get things done. Finally I had that fellow's character's evil doppelganger teleport in (something the PC can theoretically do but never does) and redirect all the electromagnetism in the room into a blast directed at the PC (something else the PC can do but never does). To his credit, the Player reacted very quickly and the brief back and forth was awesome. Finally, locked in combat with each other, the villainous version never saw another hero sneak up on him and deliver a devastating attack from behind.

In the end, we all talked about it, letting off steam and discussing our differences in game styles and what appeals to us and doesn't. Now, the truth of the matter is our Science Savant is never going to change and start giving us the abridged, layman's terms description of his moves any more than I'm going to start a wiki that goes into meticulous background detail on every person, place or thing in the campaign milieu and its history (I prefer the find-out-as-you-go method as both a player and a GM. You want to know and remember campaign info? Take notes). I do think and feel that, having discussed it out in the open, we get each other a little better. We will, hopefully, be more aware of the others persons opinions and be a little more patient with their idiosyncrasies.

Now that isn't everything that's gone on in the game but that's the major stuff. Well actually there is a side story that is pretty major happening back on our own Earth that the original Power is involved in and I really like where that is going and so does Marcus. Marcus was feeling like he was getting tired and a little annoyed with the game but he also admitted it was partially because he lost his focus and wasn't sure what to do with his character. Now that he has a goal and an investigation to pursue he says his interest in considerably renewed.

All this and I plan on starting Traveller in August!

Oh all the myriad ways...

Barking Alien


  1. OMG! The 20 minute physics lesson would have driven me absolutely bat nuts and I honestly would have walked out.

    The "hard science" creep into any game I play is not something I tolerate AT ALL. After my dad, his colleague and their mutual friend spent 30 minutes discussing why the atmosphere on an IMAGINARY planet in an IMAGINARY world wasn't possible, holding up the game and infuriating the players; I have pretty much refused to deal with it ever again. This was at LEAST 10 years ago, it might honestly have been more. The impact this particular instance had on me was so strong that I simply avoid games that will have hard science rather than risk dealing with physics/math debates again.

    As far as taking a long time, it might help if you cut them off- "time's up: what are you doing?" and if there is no answer, move along.

    We had a friend who was famous for taking FOR---EV---ER to choose his actions, and we finally resorted to an egg timer because it got so ridiculous.

    Yay for using their powers in ways they hadn't thought of and/or use a lot. TheDude has a history of doing all kinds of screwy stuff like that.

    I'm a big fan of talking about playstyles and expectations in games before actual play, but I'm really glad you got this talked about with your group no matter when it happened. It's always positive to make sure you are talking the same "language" as your players. (This is something I talk about now and then on my blog, but my buddy Von over at GameOver discusses it far more frequently and astutely. You might enjoy his ramblings.)

    Traveller. Is. Not. For. Me. However, good luck!

  2. To tell the truth, I play Traveller a bit differently from how a lot of others I know do it and yet not so differently from how people seem to play it across this grand ol' U.S. of A (and abroad I'd wager).

    I play it as Hard Space Opera but perhaps a bit more operatic and a bit less hard core in the science department. For me a success is claimed when I achieve a cinematic feel and not a nobel prize in biochemistry.

    I love science and science fiction and if you want to tell me about the latest development in astrophysics or some cool new feature scientists found out about an exoplanet then please, be my guest! By all means! All I am asking and looking for is that what you say fit the size of an article headline on the cover of Discover Magazine or, at most, a single paragraph in an article in National Geographic.

    If I've got to wait and listen to you read an entire text book entry on thermal dynamics, expect to have a meteor storm strike your location about a third of the way through.

  3. Squashing this kind of thing in an action scene or combat is easy enough: Six seconds! Tell me what you're doing or your character hesitated and missed their chance! Most RPG combat rounds are 10 seconds or less so there's no time for dissertations.

    In non-combat time it's a little trickier but I can usually rely on my players to move things along, often about the time I get up to get a drink.

    The physics guy in a superhero game suffers about as much as the programmer in a Shadowrun game or the SCA guy in a 4th edition D&D game - your expertise should be a help, but all too often it turns out to be a hindrance because it's so linked to the real world and that's not at all what we're trying to replicate.

  4. Bingo on that last paragraph Blacksteel.

    Granted, Champions, especially this Champions campaign, is not Marvel Heroic but yeah, he is coming off as just as effective as the super-science hero in the game who explains his Nth Dimensional powers as, "It's a white light. Surrounded by Kirby Krackle".

    BS science guy is just as effective if not more effective than true science guy. Why? That's comics.