Saturday, November 5, 2011

Empowered...More or Less

Ran the first of my Empowered based M&M 3E sessions and I have to say I am really unsure about how I feel about it.

First, I want to say the players were amazing. No, you don't understand. A-MAZE-ING! Huge kudos go to
Erin Palette who all but stole the show as her character, party-hardy-goddess-of-having-a-good-time Debarchery.

Gwen, a new friend introduced through an old one (my good buddy, the often mentioned Dave) was excellent as Statuesque, a female, stone-skinned powerhouse.

Rounding out the group was Dave of course, whose character Grasshopper was played a bit too stiff and traditionally comic booky when compared to the other PCs and the setting. He certainly could have played it off as the straight man or focused on one of his character's key motivations (a strong disdain for the state of Superhero-as-celebrity that permeates the Empowered universe) but he didn't. I'll talk to Dave today and find out why.

In truth it was a ton of fun. So why as I feeling a bit bummed about it?

Well first, Skype sucked that night and we couldn't hear each other or the call was dropped for 75% of our session time. It was really annoying. It definitely slowed my pacing and threw off my GM mojo.

Second, I really, really missed not being there in front of the players. People in person rarely have any trouble hearing me. Also, I felt my energy level drain as I sat in my chair and looked at the computer screen. Boring. No watching people's reactions and expressions, no talking with my hands, no showing cool panels from the Empowered comic, no pointing to stuff to show distance. Bleh. I'll take playing at a table to playing online any day of the week.

Lastly, Dave put this bug in my head about getting back to my D&D-But-Not game world. I do love that world. I miss it periodically and now seems to be one of those times.

Anyway, a good game that could have been a great game. I will try to make it better each time.


Barking Alien


  1. Do any of the players have webcams? That could help with the "reading the room" part? Everything else? Sorry it didn't work out for you.

  2. I've had problems with Skype gaming too. When it works, which is most of the time, it can be great, but sometimes it just doesn't and you spend most of the night trying to fix the problem. Sadly, adding video will only make it worse.

  3. Technology can be more trouble than it's worth sometimes...

    Have you considered a video-conferencing tool like the Hangout feature in G+?

  4. Due to my own baggage, I am really reluctant to add video to the mix. Others are free to do so, but I'm happier being seen as a picture of my avatar and not myself, leaving me free to wander my room in my underwear.

    That said, if Adam wants to try G+ over Skype, I'm willing to do so.

  5. In our Skype sessions we're now running it as four way video with Skype premium, which one of the folks has to pay for. I think it's $9/month. I know lots of folks don't like that, but I think it gives better image quality than G+ so far.

    A few key things that make Skype work better (it seems; I'll admit there's certain voodoo factor with Skype):

    1) The person initiating the call should call everyone at the same time rather than adding folks one at a time to an existing call. For whatever reason the incremental approach seems to confuse Skype. Often we'll get everyone added, and then we redo the call when we know everyone is ready.

    2) Plug in the internet connection with a cable, rather than wireless, and make sure the wireless is disabled. We've had weird looping video when both are going simultaneously.

    3) Make sure everyone has updated to the most recent version of Skype. That causes so many problems, and tends to be the last thing we remember to check ... like after 45 minutes of BS and frustration.

  6. 1) Yup, Adam did that.
    2) Can't answer for him since I haven't seen his computer.
    3) Yup, chided him to do that, too. ;)

  7. I think the non-technical part goes back to some of those conversations we've had about expectations and supers gaming in particular. Did you push to have everyone read Empowered before you ran? I admit I had not heard of it before you posted about it here.

    On the techie side I can see that being incredibly frustrating. Without video in some fashion - even one way from the DM to the players would have some advantages - I think you have to look at it a lot differently, more like a radio show performance. When you've "trained" your whole life to do it one way, that's a pretty big switch.

    Setting question: You mentioned the suit degrades. Does it grow back? Or is the whole thing a 24-like one night with superpowers? I'm going to read it this week but that point has been bugging me since your original post.

  8. I'll address some of the earlier comments tomorrow when I am a bit more rested and coherent but I wanted to say something about Blacksteel's reference to expectations and the Superhero genre.

    I won't claim that the varying ways in which the Superhero is portrayed in modern comics, TV and movies doesn't have a significant effect on the way different individuals view the genre and the idea of playing in a Superhero RPG. It's a fact to be certain.

    At the same time, I often disagree with the idea that you need to know the universe to play in it regardless of what that universe is. I feel that this attitude is a bit of a cop out on the part of both players and GMs.

    Case in point, lets look at who 'got it' the most:

    Erin's Debarchery could have easily come right out of the Empowered series. Erin has never read the comic and I don't even know if she was familiar with it before I mentioned it to her. Erin is familiar with the staples of American Comic Books of the Golden, Silver and well into the Modern ages however.

    Gwen's Statuesque, while not specifically fitting the Empowered universe, fit right into the game. She quickly took on a mightier than thou attitude toward non-powered criminals. Perfect.

    Gwen has never read Empowered and even went so far as to let me know she really doesn't read American Comic Books at all. She is a Manga/Anime fan though and since Adam Warren is a 'Manga' artist who is definitely Manga and Anime influenced it makes sense that she caught on quickly.

    Dave's Grasshopper seemed the least 'fitting' for the setting. However, he could have used that to his advantage by portraying a guy who is deliberately different. Unfortunately, as I later learned in a conversation with Dave just yesterday, he didn't really have a solid lock on the character in his head. He was also a bit under the weather.

    Be that as it may, Dave is not only a big comic book fan but is the only one in the group other than myself who is familar with the comic series, characters and setting.

    So not knowing the Empowered setting wasn't the hinderance. Not knowing your personal motivation before you start playing can be a major hindrance.

    RE: Emp's Suit - The hypermembrance suit does indeed regenerate and knit itself back together, though the process takes a long time. Not 24 hours but significant damage to the suit can last hours and hours.

  9. I haven't read Empowered, but I am a big fan of Adam Warren, having read all of his Dirty Pair manga. So there's that.