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Monday, August 13, 2012

Bending Breakout: Marvel Heroic Role Playing Actual Play

Marvel Heroic Role Playing has been the first game that I have felt comfortable running for a while.  I have been out of the game master game for a long while, and while my son and I valiantly tried to get me to get a D&D 4th Edition game off the ground, I felt there that I had lost my mojo.

However, MHRP has really allowed me to find my way back into mastering a game.  I have published one actual play account already and this is a second.  So far, this has all been one-shot stuff.  But it has been fun, and has made me think that running one-shots is a pretty good way to flex those long dormant muscles, as well as being a lot of fun.

This time around, I ran the game for some old role playing friends that I visited on the West Coast and one new person I had not met, but who was taking a break from another game happening in the house.  I decided to run the shell of the Breakout event, though I knew we would perhaps get through just the first few scenes of the first Act.  I have an idea to mix up Breakout with The Hammer Falls, with a few ideas taken from the Fear Itself arc from Thunderbolts to really mix up a What If? scenario.  However, this was not the time to try to do that.  This was the time to let people rifle through the big stack of official and fan made datafiles and take some heroes for a spin.  We ended up with Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Firestar (from Marvel Plot Points; but played with a twist, since we were in a "What If? scenario, Firestar in this reality was a guy and not a gal).

I played the intro pretty straight, though I took on the additional "What If?" of Bruce Banner being held at the Raft instead of Sentry.  Thor was coming to see Banner; Black Widow had SHIELD VIP minder duty.  Captain America was on a helicopter on the way back from Washington, DC, and Firestar was out flying patrol over the city.

All heck breaks loose, the lights go out, and things start happening.  Widow and Thor are in an elevator, momentarily stuck.  Cap's air transport is going down, and he is working with the pilot to get it safely into the drink as close to the Raft as possible.  Firestar sees figures riding the lightning out of the Raft, but makes the decision to tackle the bigger problem of the villains left in the prison, rather than chasing the figures seeming to make a break for it.

Widow quickly acrobats her way out of the top of the elevator and gets the access to the hallway above open.  Thor is about to squeeze through when something (or someone) blasts through the elevator like a missile, leaving Thor surprised.  Cap gets himself and his pilot to safety.  Firestar sees Count Nefaria blast out of an elevator shaft and pause to hover above the raft.  Then stuff really starts happening.

Firestar, true to his name, decides that the Count needs more fire in his life and starts raining down fiery blasts down on him.  This gets the Count's attention, but does not seriously inconvenience him.  Captain America then steps up and, with the SHIELD pilot providing some covering fire, throws his shield, making it ricochet to strike Nefaria from an unexpected angle.  Cap did well and manages to inflict some physical stress on Nefaria.  Then Cap chose Nefaria to go next so that Black Widow and Thor would have plenty of time to bat cleanup in the round.  Nefaria lets loose with just about everything, attempting to fry Cap, Firestar and the SHIELD pilot all at once.  Firestar takes some physical stress, Cap manages to get himself and his shield between the agent and the blasts, keeping them both safe.  Black Widow then on her turn starts sniping with her widow's sting from down in the elevator shaft.  Her goal was not to cause direct damage, but rather to set Nefaria up to be disoriented for Thor's attack.  This she does exceptionally well with a d10 complication.  Finally, Thor blindly blasts his way out of the elevator with Mjolner leading and finishes off Nefaria in a one hit strike.

The heroes then gathered into a single team to determine the next course of action.  On the one hand, they knew that Bruce Banner was trapped down in the Raft with scads of supervillains who had just been released from their restraints.  Also, they knew that there had been some "leaders" (at least the first ones out) in the breakout.  However, they determined that Banner/Hulk could care of himself while they tried to get the prison under control.  Since that was their goal, they knew they needed to get power back up and take control of the control room.  They determined Black Widow was the natural leader for the mission since the had the SHIELD access and knowledge of Raft operations.  Widow then determined that rather than going through the direct route where they might have to fight through dozens of villains, they would take a more indirect route through the belly of the raft and come up through the main service conduits to the power plant and the operations center.

On the one hand, this meant getting through a series of dropped security bulkheads.  On the other hand, they had a THOR.  So this was proving easy.  Then Thor's player had to step away from the table.  So, I spent a Doom Pool die to make it official, and had Widow, Cap and Firestar trapped between two armored doors while Thor got dropped out of the raft and into the river by a trap set up by Typhoid Mary, Vermin, Zzzax and Hydro-Man.  They would have had to face the first three if they had gone back to check on Thor, but they were focused on going forward.  So, Hydro-Man tried to take them out by himself.  He did a major area attack and got lucky, taking Firestar to d12 physical stress.  Widow got herself to the ceiling with her swing line, and Cap is an Olympic level swimmer, etc. and was fine.

Widow then turned to attack and dealt some stress to the overconfident (and quite dumb) Hydro-Man.  Cap swam to the bottom of the quickly filling section of tunnel and recovered Firestar and rolled a recovery action on the stricken hero.  This brought Firestar back up enough to focus, and Cap then pointed him at Hydro-Man, whom Firestar quickly flamed into oblivion. 

Having stressed out the bad guy, the water started to recede.  Black Widow then started in on the far bulkhead door and pulled a MacGyver, using power from her bracelets to jump the mechanism to raise the door.  Low and  behold, there was Thor, who (by a little of Bullpen fiat) had transported himself back with Mjolner.  They then proceeded onward until they had to choose between the control room and the power plant.  They decided to split up.

Cap led a team consisting of Firestar (whose scientific know how was needed to deal with the generators) and Thor, whereas Black Widow split off to take the control room on her own, as she had the necessary access and resources to take it, or so they thought.

Black Widow easily made it through the access tunnels to the Control Room.  There she found former SHIELD agent and Raft Inmate Mentallo using a mysteriously powered control panel to direct confederates to take possession of a momentarily subdued Bruce Banner.

In the meantime, Cap's team entered the power plant to find a villain with his hands in the reactor core, muttering about burning the drugs out of his system.  The villain turned, showing himself as Graviton.

As Rob Donoghue would say, it was then On Like Donkey Kong!

Black Widow acted first in the action order.  She blasted the monitor in front of Mentallo to disrupt whatever control he was exercising over the other goons and/or Banner.  He was taken unawares,  but was soon threatening terrible vengeance on Widow.  Widow then chose Thor to go next.

Thor advanced swinging mighty Mjolner to subdue Graviton.  Graviton simply pointed at Mjolner and Thor found himself humbled on his knees, momentarily unable to even lift his mighty hammer.  Thor picked Graviton to go next, deciding to try to get the worst of it over while other heroes would have time to act.  Graviton fired a mighty blast of force at Thor, staggering, but not disabling the mighty son of Asgard.  Graviton picked Mentallo to go next.

Mentallo put a great deal of thought into trying to immobilize Widow, trying to regress her mind back to her time in the Red Room, under painful and shocking training.  Widow, however, shrugged off the mental stress with that self-same Red Room training and a handy plot point.  Mentallo chose Firestar to go next.

Firestar summoned his most powerful energy blast to go full force, toe to toe with the master of gravity.  Graviton easily captured the energy and began to convert the molten globe of plasma to his own uses.  Firestar picked Captain America to go next.  The Sentinel of Liberty threw his shield into center of the energy fields Graviton was manipulating in order to disrupt his planned attack.  He managed two effects, both robbing Graviton of his stunt die, and inflicting some severe Emotional Stress on the villain.

For the next round, Cap chooses Thor to go first.  Thor again struck with Mjolner, this time overwhelming Graviton's defenses, inflicting physical stress on the villain.  Thor chose Graviton to go again, and Graviton unleashed a brutal multi-target attack.  Thor, however, used his Anti-Force SFX and reflected the d12 of physical stress back on Graviton, taking him out.  Graviton chose Mentallo to go next.

Mentallo continued his relentless mental assault on the Widow, showing her scenes of her friends dying, of her efforts failing.  Widow put almost all of her Plot Points into resisting, and then, activated a counter attack, kicking Mentallo into unconsciousness.  Widow chose Firestar to go next.

Firestar flew to the power controls and quickly managed to restore enough power for Widow to start locking up the prison, isolating inmates and regaining control.  Reacquiring a view into Banner's cell, she saw the Hulk just finishing mopping up the cell with the goons who had been trying to kidnap Banner while he was incapacitated.  She contacted Captain America on what to do.

Cap said, "Let him go."  So, Widow cleared a path for the Hulk, and he left the Raft and headed to New Jersey.

And, we were out of time.  The session was a lot of fun.  I am still quite a rookie at running and explaining the system.  The basics are easy,  but elaborating how to make Opportunities, Assets, Stunts, and counterattacks work are still a work in progress.  Also, Milestones have not yet played a big part.  Mostly, this is because I have run limited one-shots that have not been to coherent as far as short or long term story goals.  Mostly they are just slugfests.  These are fun, but I need to flex some other "Watcher" muscles.

With a little more planning, I would like to develop some short act/action scene milestones and unlockables that could bring those into play even for a one-shot.  The issue, as always, is time.

I was very grateful to find the materials on which will make writing up and producing custom Datafiles extremely easy.  The resources on the web for this game are amazing.

So, after a third play, with a second time being a Watcher, I am ever more a firm lover of this game and the system.  The best thing is that I am still just scratching the surface, and more and more interesting and helpful materials, official and unofficial, keep coming out.  Thus, it is easy to have a very rich play experience with relatively low investment, and without even too much prep. 

Thanks to everyone out there making with the awesome on this.  It's great!

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