Friday, August 15, 2014

RPGaDay Challenge - Day 15

Day 15 - Favorite Convention Game

I could write up the best game I've ever run at a convention, but I get the impression that the blogfest is looking for convention games I've played. I can only think of a handful, and one keeps popping up above and beyond the others.

GenCon/ORIGINS, 1992

I wanted so badly to be in a Villains & Vigilantes game. I had signed up for one, only to discover it had been cancelled when I arrived at the Mecca Arena. I was pretty bummed, until I discovered two other V&V events had opened up, and were still available. I immediately signed up for the first one, since the second (if I remember correctly) conflicted with another event I was going to.

I recall it was unusually cool, or raining, because I was wearing a light jacket or hoodie over my t-shirt when I entered the Arena where the session would take place. As my number was called, and I began to sit down at the game table, the GM for the event let everyone know that this was a basic, introductory event. You need not be familiar with V&V to pla...

As he stopped mid-word, I looked up to see all eyes on me. I had begun to take off my hoodie, revealing my custom printed Villains & Vigilantes t-shirt, which had the game's logo and a picture of all the heroes in our campaign super group.

I blinked, smiled, and with an even tone and a completely straight face said, "I have never played this game before." Laughter broke out among the assembled players and the GM continued explaining the game.

The story was titled, "What If...?", based on the multiple Marvel Comics series of the same name. The subtitle for this particular session was, "...In The Beginning."* The premise of the story was, in no uncertain terms, pretty awesome.

On a parallel Earth, Uatu The Watcher observed a most unusual twist in history. Following the Second World War, the disappearance of Captain America beneath the ice of the North Atlantic, and the formation of SHIELD, super-powered beings never appeared again. There had never been an Avengers, a Fantastic Four, no X-Men, nothing. The comic books of the Golden Age happened, but by the McCarthy era, superheroes and villains were gone.

Unbeknownst to the world at large, there were still superpowered people. Most had heard rumors that SHIELD kidnapped or killed any superbeings that they discovered, so the supers of this Earth stayed on the down low, and certainly never partook in superheroic activity where anyone might see them. However, for one reason or another, a number of superhuman individuals had been summoned to an office at the top of the Empire State Building by various cryptic means.

Expecting to get a lead on a story, hoping to make a lucrative business deal, or meeting with an old friend, each arrived into the empty office to greet others they did not know. Once everyone had arrived, the door locked, and the lights went out. When they came back on, Uatu was standing in the room, towered impossibly high without quite touching the even higher ceiling. Uatu introduced himself, and said he knew that each and every person in the room possessed extraordinary powers or skills. A catastrophic event was about to occur and only this group could stop it!

The players each grabbed a pre-generated character, complete with a backstory, from a pile of sheets. We couldn't see the characters, only a vague description, like, "Male, Super-Powered, 4", or "Female, Mutant, 3". Because of my extensive previous experience with the system, I offered to choose last.

Hmmm, this looks promising...

Oh baby!

Gladiator?! I get to be Superman in a Marvel Comics V&V game? Sweeet!

This looks like a job for...

As it turned out, the reason we had been assembled was that at that very moment, a new space shuttle design was carrying two American Astronauts and two Russian Cosmonauts into the path of a Cosmic Sphere* which was journeying through space. An alien artifact of immense power, the Sphere passed through a cosmic ray storm, activating it's energies as a defense. Bathed in the combined radiations, the shuttle malfunctioned and went out of control, hurdling back towards the Earth. The vessel crashed in the Arctic Circle, it's crew transformed into something...FANTASTIC!

Captain Jim Rhodes became The Invisible Man
Captain John Walker became The Living Torch (although we called him Flamer a few times)
Captain Natasha Romanova became Ms. Fantastic
Lieutenant Peter Rasputin became...some kind of...Colossal Thing!

Now, back on planet Earth, corrupted and warped by the Cosmic Sphere, itself lying somewhere on the plains of snow and ice nearby, these four fantastic beings threatened the safety of every man, woman, and child in the world.

They will achieve ultimate power through the Sphere and perhaps even destroy the Earth, unless stopped by the Watcher's chosen DEFENDERS!

The Amazing ARMORED MAN - Young Peter Parker, science prodigy and inventor, skipped a lecture on radiation when he was almost hit by a car! That car belonged to none other than Tony Stark of Stark Industries. One thing led to another and Stark took on Parker as a intern, then an employee, and eventually a close confidant and friend. Parker helped perfect the 'Iron Man' Class battlesuit that Stark was planning on selling to SHIELD. During the story, he is wearing the prototype (resembles Iron Man's classic 70s armor except the gold parts are blue, there is no mouth slit on the  faceplate and the repulsors can be reversed so as to draw things to him or him to things. By reversing the polarity on his boot jets for example, Armored Man can walk on walls.)

DOCTOR NIGHT - A popular poet, bar owner, musican and doctor, Kurt Wagner was also secretly a paranormal investigator and a mystic in his own right. It turns out his mother was some sort of shape-shifting demon, and this gave him incredible magical powers, including turning into a dark blue, demon-elf like form. Picture the full-face mask incarnation of Doctor Strange, but the face, hands, feet and tail are that of Nightcrawler. Powers included blending into shadows, brimstone odored teleportation, second sight and the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak!

DOCTOR VICTORY - Victor Von Doom, distraught over the death of his friend and colleague Reed Richards, decided to devote his life, talents, knowledge and vast fortune to helping people. He believed his own experiment was responsible for Richards death, and Richards, having knocked Victor clear of the explosion, saved Doom's life. In addition to supplying the team with transportation on his private jet, he offered a staging area in his home in Latveria. When it came time to face the enemies physically, Victor donned a suit of sophisticated gold armor, with a white tunic, hood and cape. Nothing on his face though. It was too beautiful a face to hide in any way. O_0

JOHN DOE - The mysterious man known only as John Doe spent most of the adenture unsure of why he was there. An Alaskan Pipeline worker with a thick mustache and beard, he seemed a nice enough fellow but possessed no obvious supernormal abilities. It wasn't until very need the end of the adventure, when the Colossal Thing knocked Doe into the freezing waters of the Arctic Circle that we learned who was truly under all that hair and flannel. Imperious Rex! Doe turned out to be none other than Namor, The Sub-Mariner!

SISTER SAINT - Emma Frost, raised in a convent, is startled when her mutants powers of telepathy first manifest. She is told by one of the nuns (remember, no super powered people are believed to exist) that her abilities are a gift from God. Eventually, Frost becomes a nun herself, with quite a reputation as a faith healer, an advocate for the poor and the needy, and someone of Mother Theresa like values. In addition to the more traditional 'White Queen' powers of the Marvel Comics Emma Frost, Sister Saint can psychically and psychokinetically heal people and ward off evil (Psychokinetic Force Field). Played by a male player, Sister Saint had some of the best dialog and banter in the game.

SUPERGUARD - Strange visitor from another planet, with powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men. Who, disguised as Kent Summers, mild-mannered reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper, has longed to fight a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way, in the Mighty Marvel Manner!

THOR - OK, this one has had me stumped for over 20 years now, UDATED: Now thanks to WQRobb, I remember the name of this character before he becomes Thor! One of the characters was an older fellow in a wheelchair, but not Charles Xavier. I didn't remember his name for a very long time, but he was very smart, and an archeologist. His age was of note in the story. He was much older than the rest of us, possibly in his late 50s or early 60s. He was none other than Doctor Daniel Damian. He had a pendant around his neck, shaped sort of like a hammer with runes on it. Towards the end of the session, SHIELD showed up and we still hadn't defeated Invisible Man and Colossal Thing (although we had found and contained the Cosmic Sphere). The archeologist read the runes on the amulet, than tore it from around his neck and slamed it to the floor. Suddenly, there was a crack of thunder and a flash of lightning, and standing there before us was Thor, the ancient Norse God of Thunder. wasn't blonde, comic book Thor. It was Thor. Red hair, beard, speaks only Viking era Norwegian. So, the cavalry had shown up, but it couldn't understand us and we didn't understand it. Best Thor portrayal ever! Like crossing a Berserker with the Swedish Chef.

That might've been it. That's all I remember.

When the session was over, everyone voted for MVP, most valuable player in the session. The GM scored also, and average his numbers with those of the players. I voted for the guy playing Sister Saint. Nearly everyone else voted for me.

I won this:

First prize was $5 off any purchase on the dealer room floor. I remember going right over to West End Games' table as soon as I could, and buying something for the Star Wars game.

Well, that's the end of that tale. I liked that one. May have to discuss other old convention games in the future.

Barking Alien

*The Cosmic Sphere is an parallel universe variant on the more traditional 'Cosmic Cube'.

Superguard / Alternate Gladiator by Aris.


  1. An older archaeologist in a wheelchair who isn't Charles Xavier? Could he be Daniel Damian, who wasn't in a wheelchair but was an early Fantastic Four character:

  2. OMG! Robb, thank you so much!

    You just solved a 20+ year old Mystery of Missing Memory in the Mighty Marvel Manner!


  3. Could you have walked into a more perfect game for you? That sounds like a ton of fun.

    I do like the "superhero universe mashup" idea but it almost seems like a waste as a one-shot - there is so much potential for a campaign there.

    1. No fair Blacksteel! I wasn't ready. No time to put up my psychic shields to block your mind reading powers. ;)

      Ever since I played this session in 92', this type of setting has been one of my dream campaign ideas for a Superhero RPG. Unfortunately, I do not currently have the right group for it (or so I have learned).

      Interestingly, there was a sequel session run latter the same day (as the one I was in), but it conflicted with something I had already signed up for so I couldn't make it. I bumped into the guy who played Peter Parker/Armored Man the next day, and he filled me in on the second session (he played in both as Armored Man). Awesome story. Maybe I'll write it up one day if there is interest.

      It was called, "What If...There Came A Herald!"