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Shock & Awesome

This is the place to recount your superheroic deeds for all to gaze upon with astonishment and wonder.

Shock & Awesome

Postby arwink » Wed Oct 10, 2012 8:00 am

So we recently hit 30 sessions of our regular M&M campaign, and to celebrate I started compiling our campaign notes and the details I'd recorded about running M*M. I figured I'd take the opportunity to re-post them here in case they're of interest to anyone - the write-up was originally intended for an audience that may not be familiar with M&M rules, but I've left that stuff in in case it's useful (although, in the early stages at least, it's going to be obvious to anyone familiar with the M&M system).

We kicked off the first session with a short pitch-session - basically, I sat down with the players and we ran through a list of things we'd like to see happening in the campaign and the setting.

A lot of this was fairly meta discussion: Shock & Awesome was a new comic existing in a world where established heroes and villains ran around; it'd take place in a fictional replacement for Canberra, Pacific City, after the Australian capital was wiped out by a super-villain attack; the players definitely wanted to be normal kids with powers, not meta-humans in a school for meta-humans.

We also ran through a couple of touchstones so everyone was on the same page regarding tone and content. What we ended up with were "Stan Lee era Spider-man", "KIRKMAN!", and a touch of Avengers: EMH. Character concepts where pitched, stats were determined, and we found ourselves with:

SHOCK & AWESOME

Shock is a mutant electropath with a full suite of energy control powers. Blast, force-field, energy-field, machine control, she's got 'em all, with a smattering of acrobatics skills and a rank or two in Investigation. She's basically a hero for the adrenalin rush.

Awesome is a teenage Captain America, if Captain America were raised by a crazy secret-society called the Grail who believes it needs to form an army of super-soldiers in order to stop the apocalypse. He's essentially a combat-trained brick with a very one-dimensional fighting style (ie, he's light on Advantages), but he's got a suite of minor powers like mind-reading ("Cause God tells him what people are thinking") that occasionally get used.

ISSUE ONE: New Beginnings

Prelude:
The issue opens with a game of cricket being played on the oval. One of the players hits the ball for six and it disappears into the foliage on the edge of the school oval, right at the point where the fence line is attached to the national park beyond. One of kids goes to recover the ball, the plants twitch, and then a pair of baleful eyes stare out of the shadows as a blood trail appears.

Notes: Part foreshadowing and part cheap padding for time on my part, largely 'cause the first four issues were pick-up games when our regular D&D game didn't run. When the D&D game fell apart, we just kind of adopted Shock and Awesome as our weekly game.


Part One: Inferno

The campaign opened with Michael Adams and Kris Ouellette emerging from the English class, locked in an argument about the allegorical implications of the deeper themes in Dante's Inferno.

They’re a mismatched pair. Michael Adams is a kid from the local orphanage, a kid who has spent his entire life looking professionally non-descript, lest someone actually notice that he's one of fifteen genetically-modified teen super-soldiers attending Pacific East High School. He does non-descript well - Michael does everything well - but with fourteen other tall, good-looking Aryan types on his team, all displaying fervent religious beliefs, he kind of becomes an outcast by default.

Not that it matters. Michael doesn't really give much thought to what other people thinks.

Kris Ouellette is your typical French-Canadian punk-rock/rich girl expatriate, the daughter of a wealthy importer/exporter who separated from her mother several years ago. She's spent half her life getting kicked out of exclusive private-schools, largely for reasons she prefers not to talk about in case someone notices those "other reasons" almost always revolve around her affection for other girls.
There are days when Kris Oullette feels like the fact that she's gay is the worst-kept secret in the world. Nonetheless, she's determined to keep it by any means necessary. It's entirely possible that keeping that secret is more important to her than hiding the fact she's a mutant, capable of generating and controlling enormous bolts of electricity and lightning.

They both have strong opinions about the Inferno, although they come at it from different directions. Michael argues that there are no allegorical details, interpreting it quite literally; Kris interprets it through the lens of pro-wrestling. They're still talking about it by the time they reach the steps leading down to the school oval - a favourite gathering place for Michael's fellow orphans at lunch time.

And that's when they notice the velociraptor swarm charging through a hole in the schools fences, taking down the students playing cricket on the oval in a frenzy of sharp teeth and claws.

Notes: This one was all about establishing the major complications for the characters, even if we hadn't quite realized that one of Michael's complications was actually a complication yet. We got halfway through his conversation with Kris and realized he was actually quite…innocent…in some ways.

Such is the way with genetically engineered super-soldiers of god. They can infiltrate a secure terrorist base armed with nothing but their own two fists, tell you when a suspect is lying, and identify twelve types of demon from memory, but they're a little lost when it comes to girls.

Part Two: "They're not dinosaurs, they're genetically engineered creatures"

Two things are realized very quickly.

One - these aren't really velociraptors, they're deinonychus. Jurassic Park has a lot to answer for, and even if Michael doesn't believe in dinosaurs, he figures that if you're going to genetically engineer creatures in order to test the faith of the faithful, you should at least get the name right.

Notes: hero point for awesome being Awesome.

Two - Neither hero actually has a super-heroic identity as yet, but they're also unwilling to reveal their powers to the whole student body. Kris immediately runs, heading for the school theatre, where she improvises a make-shift disguise involving old costumes and a wig.

Notes: Hero Point!

Michael isn't quite so concerned with secrecy. He weighs up protecting his secrete versus the loss of life and makes a decision that is quite against Grail protocol - he wades through the swarm of panicked student body, making a beeline for the cricket pitch and the first of the genetically engineered abominations.

Notes: Hero Point!

He collects the cricket stumps to use as weapons, using them as spears until the 'raptors actually get close. When the raptors get closer he uses the stumps as clubs, only to discover that thin wood and super-strength aren't the most effective combination.

Meanwhile, in the theatre, Kris gets ambushed by a 'raptor that's been hiding in the props cupboard. It leaps on her, a blonde wig askew on its head, and discovers one of Kris' powers - an electro-magic force-field that delivers some hardcore voltage to anything that makes contact with it. The moment its teeth make contact with Kris's shoulder, the dinosaur gets blasted across the room.

Disguise in place, Kris heads back to the oval, ready to be a hero…

…and discovers that Michael is already there, holding his own, although he's covered in scratches where the 'raptors have caught him with their talons. She gets past her surprise fast and wades into the fight, firing off two bolts of electricity that fry the closest dinosaurs.

Notes: These days the players tend to conserve their HP for re-rolls (often non-combat related), but this is still one of the few HP assisted tricks Shock pulls off thirty-sessions later.


From that point on, the 'raptors are not having a good day. They're beaten up, electrocuted, thrown into one-another, and impaled on cricket stumps. None of the poor bastards even get a chance to get away. For two people from very different backgrounds, with very different abilities, Shock and Michael make a really good team.

Notes: Also, the 'raptors were minions.

What could have been a very awkward scene in the aftermath of the attack is cut short by Michael's decision to try and track the 'Raptor's back to their source. Following the trail to fence line is easy; following it in the bush on the far side of the fence is much harder.

GM: Anyone got tracking or super-senses that'll help you track 'em?
Players: Um...


There are sirens in the distance, a sure sign that conventional authorities are on their way, so decisions need to be made fast. Shock decides to reveal her secret identity to Michael.

"Listen," she says, "my mother isn't home, and we should probably talk about this."

"About what?" Michael says.

"This," Shock says. "The superhero thing."

Michael is vaguely baffled by this - what superhero thing? - but he realises how badly he's broken protocol by revealing his abilities, regardless of the danger to innocent lives, and heading to Kris's place in order to clean up seems like a much better idea than going back to headquarters.

Notes: A word of warning to anyone whose only ever experienced d20 combat in D&D or Pathfinder - M&M fight scenes are *insanely fast* when compared to the systems forebears. I largely expected this fight-scene to take us through to the end of the evening, even considering the fact the dinosaurs were minions and there were only two players, and we still finished up with some time on the clock.


Part Three: The Superhero Thing

It turns out Kris's house isn't really a house - it's a more a multi-level beachside mansion that Kris lives in with her often-absent mother and a live-in housekeeper-slash-babysitter named Daphne. Of course, Daphne isn't entirely what Michael is expecting when he hears that - she's a goth, she's relatively sardonic, and she doesn't much care what Kris is doing.

Notes: The entire group is largely comprised of huge wrestling nerds. Once Daphne was introduced, it was more-or-less immediately decided that she'd be based on Daphne of WCW/TNA/Shimmer fame. In retrospect, this was the best thing that could have happened to the NPC, as she became far more interesting as a result.

Kris immediately starts selling Michael on becoming a super-hero, proposing the two of them team up to fight crime (or, at least, figure out where the dinosaurs came from). Michael is torn - on one hand, helping people is what he's built for, and he has been better trained for things like this than most people; on the other hand, the Grail won't like it, and for all her powers Kris is kinda...untrained.

Also, she's slightly obsessed with pro-wrestling, as evidenced by the sheer number of posters and DVDs in her palatial bedroom.

The discussion goes back and forth, they both kind of hint at their origins, and Michael agrees - in principle - to a short-term team-up in order to investigate the genetically engineered creature problem. There's no need to involve the Grail in this, after all, since the dinosaurs weren't exactly demons.

Plans are made to meet up before school tomorrow, with Shock coming by Michael's place early so they can scout out the school grounds...

Final Session Notes

- Totally weird to be looking back at this from a distance of…well, over a year. Two, actually. I think I was running this one using a PDF of the DC Heroes book just after it was first released, which pegs it at around August/September 2010.

- 3E's new approach to damage saves took me completely off-guard; it took me three of four sessions to adapt to it, and it wasn't until I got a copy of the GM Shield that I actually picked up the process.
Awesome is the total straight guy for this campaign. No pun intended.

- Lots of brute-force stuff when it came to getting character's together, but in my defense, a lot of that came from Shock's player who kind of seized the ball and ran with it. It's entirely possible there's some judicious retconning going here, albeit unconsciously, 'cause in Shock's mind the initial bonding was done over a shared fandom of wrestling, while Awesome still remains perplexed by her appreciation of "fake fighting" to this day.

- I started out trying to end sessions at a point where the players could give some idea of what was going to happen next - these days we're more likely to end at a dramatically appropriate point or a cliff-hanger. This is the difference between a game you're expecting to play once every blue moon, and a game you're playing every week.
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Re: Shock & Awesome

Postby arwink » Sat Oct 20, 2012 1:49 am

ISSUE TWO: Terror In the Tunnels

Part One: Dinosaur Day

Being a largely temperate continent, Australian students aren't really familiar with the concept of Snow Days, but years of exposure to American TV have left us familiar with the concept. When they convene to discuss tactics the following morning, Shock and Awesome discover that today has been declared a Dinosaur Day at Pacific West State High.

The school has been cordoned off by a team of armoured cops belonging to the local Meta-Swat and Special Crimes division, staff and students have been told not to come in, and those most directly affected by the attack have access to trauma councilors.

For Michael this is a pretty good conclusion - the issue with the genetically-modified creatures is being handled by professionals and he doesn't need to worry about breaking Grail protocol, even if he is slightly curious about what's going on.

For Kris the presence of this many law-enforcement personnel at the school is a matter of panic - she dropped her backpack in the theatre when she was ambushed by a dinosaur, and her backpack contains her diary which is full of...well, lots of stuff she's written while trying to figure out why she's gay.

Note: Shock's list of Complications included Hiding Her Sexuality From Others. I was initially pretty leery of this, since it has the potential to go wrong in all sorts of ways, but it's proven to be..well, you'll see. At times we probably wandered closer to some clichés than we should, but having that hesitation at the core of Shock's character has transformed her into an entirely sympathetic Peter Parker-type.

It's generally acknowledged that a bunch of cops sweeping through a school after a dinosaur attack that claimed the lives of six students probably aren't going to rummage through one backpack and read the diary contained within, but Kris isn't comfortable with "probably." She wants certainty, absolute certainty, and being a young woman with super-powers and considerable experience sneaking out of boarding schools, she figures she stands a good chance of getting in and out unnoticed.

Michael isn't sure it's a good idea, but he's also unsure about letting Shock go in alone. Besides, he does have that nifty Grail special forces training, and he *is* still kind curious about where the genetically modified creatures came from...

Part Two: Breaking And Entering

When you've got an electropath in your group, determining the location of several dozen cops in power armour isn't really a problem. When you've got a super-soldier trained in tactics, breaking through their perimeter is similarly easy, particularly if you're either skilled in stealth (Shock) or naturally sneaky (Michael).

Note: I'd originally planned for the breaking and entering part of the session to eat up a bunch of time. It didn't. 'Course, I'd also planned for them to break into the school as part of their investigation rather than recover a school-bag - no plan survives contact with the players.

They make their way back to the backstage section of the theatre and search around for the backpack. It's while they're searching that Michael realises that it's kinda weird there was a genetically engineered creature back here - the vast majority of them came from the tree-line on the far side of the school oval. He's pretty confident he would have noticed one getting past him, even amid the chaos of the attack, so the creature that ambushed Kris must have found some other way in.

They start searching for clues and discover all sorts of muck on the wooden floorboards. Shock takes a closer luck and ascertains that it's sewer mud, so their search widens until they find a hole in the wall towards the back of the theatre. The hole leads into the maintenance area, which in turn leads down to the city sewers.

Shock fires up some voltage and gets the lights in the sewers working. There's a small walkway on either side of the sewer, ensuring the heroes don't have to walk through the fetid water, and there are dinosaur tracks visible in the grime.

The tracks go back and forth in either direction; the heroes choose to head towards the city, rather than away from it, and set to following the tracks. They've been going for the better part of a half-hour when they realise there's something following them.

Something that's quite comfortable in the sewer water, able to see in the dark, and very malevolent.

Notes: Awesome started the campaign with a mild form of empathy, and I'm pretty sure this is one of the last times he actually used it in play. Eventually we took it off his character sheet and re-purposed the power points for other things.

Part Three: "That's Not a Velociraptor"

The thing that's tailing them realises it's been made and takes the initiative. It comes roaring out of the water, three things immediately apparent: it's big; it's humanoid; it's likely to be extraordinarily strong. Shock fires up her force field in instinct, and the massive surge of electricity blows out the lights in the sewer.

Notes: Hero Points all round! Although technically neither player has taken this kind of imprecise control of their powers as a complication, I'll occasionally do this kind of thing as a kind of temporary complication 'cause it's dramatically appropriate.

They’re following the tracks when they’re attacked by something big, humanoid, extraordinarily strong, and very comfortable in the dark. The bright flare of Shock’s electric blast makes it difficult to see much in the dim tunnel, and after both sides sustain some heavy hits. Somewhere in the midst of the action, Shock gets grabbed by the lizard-man - an act that hurts the beast courtesy of Shock's electricity fields, but also sees Shock thrown into the filthy sewer water, shorting out her powers and the heroes light-source.

The lizard-thing takes the opportunity to escape, diving into the water and swimming away faster than any of the heroes can follow. Awesome helps Shock out of the water and they get back to the surface, wet and somewhat smellier. They find places to change, then catch the bus home to lick their wounds and plan their next move.

Final Session Notes

- Looking back, this is one of those sessions I really wish I could go back and re-run knowing what I know now. We were still in pick-up game mode at this point, so everything was basically made up as we went along.

- The Lizard-Man basically used Knockouts stats from the DC Heroes quickplay with all the applicable attacks and damage rolls dropped by two. Swimming and Senses were basically tacked on as appropriate (I can be...lazy...when it comes to designing villains in advance).
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Re: Shock & Awesome

Postby speeddemon » Sat Nov 03, 2012 7:46 pm

Just wanted to say that this is great and I'm really liking it. Keep the good work coming.
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Re: Shock & Awesome

Postby arwink » Thu Nov 08, 2012 5:00 pm

Thanks. Taking a short break from write-ups 'cause I ran a convention last weekend, but I should be posting again next week.
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Re: Shock & Awesome

Postby arwink » Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:06 am

ISSUE THREE: Cross & Right

Part One: Father Ethan

Try as you might, it's really hard to get the stink of sewer water out of your hair after you've been submerged as a result of a fight with a super-strong dinosaur-man.

Kris finds this to be almost as big a problem as the fact that she's now sporting a black eye as a result of the fight, and the fact that said dinosaur-man got away and is now free to do…well, whatever he was doing. She's not really sure, but she assumes it's got something to do with releasing velociraptor swarms onto her classmates.

Notes: Kris's black eye was us taking the hero point rules out for a spin, looking at the way long-term injury worked in the game.

Actually, now that she thinks of it, swarms of velociraptors probably aren't an experience she wants to repeat, so after getting up early (7:30 am) and showering for the fourth time since her trip into the sewers, she grabs a cab and heads over to Keating Road where the Soldier's of Christ Orphanage where Michael Adam's lives.

Notes: The Grail, it seems, are...not subtle. We didn't have much concept for the organization beyond "Religious zealots who create super-soldiers" at this point, although Awesome's player basically put them down as a complication and asked me to do something interesting with them.

Michael, being vaguely aware that his superiors aren't going to be pleased by a mutant girl showing up at the doorstep of their secret demon-hunting military training ground, instructs her to hide in the shed until he slips away to meet her. Fortunately, mutant agility and years of sneaking out of private boarding schools have left Kris up to the task of slipping past the fence line and skulking her way to the shed.

The fact that a secret organization of demon hunters capable of mass-producing super-soldiers may security a little more advanced than her old boarding school never crosses her mind. She's been in the shed for about five minutes when a tall priest with a crew-cut opens the door and demands she come out of hiding.

Father Ethan Grace is not a friendly guy. He's also the least priest-like priest Kris has ever met, replacing any notion of compassion with a surplus of rigid discipline, hostility, and a tendency to speak at a growl. That he's got a military crew-cut and a tendency to stand at attention when he lectures her.

Kris offers up the only reasonable explanation she can think of for being in the garage, suggesting that she and Michael are interested in one another. Father Ethan seems to accept that, although he suggests she wait off the grounds.

Part Two: I Fought the Law…

Michael gets some odd looks from the Priests as he leaves the Dorms and meets up with Kris outside the gates. They head to school, discussing plans for tracking down *whatever* it was they encountered in the sewers yesterday, but once they arrive on campus they're soon presented with a far more pressing problem.

First up, the school is overrun with trauma councilors looking to council students who were part of the attack or lost friends.

Secondly, there's a pair of Special Crimes detectives questioning students, trying to figure out what's behind the attack.

They're pretty much your standard comic books cops - Detective Julian Cross is a portly, snarling bull-dog in a heavy jacket, his cigarettes ever-present as he cross-examines kids. He gives the impression of being a man whose competent at his job, even if he's not particularly enthused by it. Detective Gillian Right is younger, smarter, and more ambitious, lulling the kids she questions into trusting her.

Kris and Michael are both on the list of people to question 'cause they weren't among those accounted for during the aftermath of the attack ('cause they snuck off to recover from the dinosaur fight). Michael breezes through his interview with Cross with practiced ease - he answers questions honestly, excluding unnecessary or incriminating detail without making it seems suspicious - and quickly finds his way back to class.

Kris…does not.

To her credit, she tries to lie to Right about what happened, but the tactics that have served her well against school teachers and boarding-school groundskeepers are easily seen through by a trained investigator. Right's questions start getting more and more pointed, seizing upon the discrepancies in Kris's story, and it isn't long before Cross is brought in to have a chat as well.

Notes: This is not the way I expected this portion of the session to go. I'd largely thrown the Meta-swat guys in as world-building and a future resource, figuring we'd spend about five minutes on the scene before moving on. Instead, we saw the first of many, many instances where a scene diverged wildly due to Shock trying a really unexpected tactic.

This also continues the trend in our games where someone builds a character who *really, really* sucks at lying, yet the player immediately goes for deception as their first response to almost every situation. Fortunately, this has become a feature of the character, rather than a flaw, over time.


Things go downhill from there. Kris starts arguing about her civil rights, using rhetoric picked up from TV shows and news reports about the Occupy movement, and finds herself digging a deeper hole. The cops are quickly convinced that there's something going on here, and being unable to get in contact with Kris's mother (she's at a health spar in Queensland), they take her down to the station for further questioning.

Kris manages to get word to Michael about what's happening, mentally "texting" his phone using her ability to talk to computers as she's put in the back of the Special Crimes police car.

Part Three: ...And the Law Won. Kinda.

Kris spends several long, grueling hours down at the police station, getting questioned as a person of interest in the dinosaur attack.

Meanwhile, Michael waits through a long evening of after-school training (all fifteen of his fellow super-soldiers go on a five-kilometer run), prayer, homework, additional study (know your demons, kids), combat training against one of the other teams (the opposing team-leader is Gabriel), and a very short conversation with Father Ethan about recent events at school and Kris being found on the premises.

Once again, Michael's ability to lie-without-really-lying allows him to skate through a potentially awkward conversation without rustling feathers. He lets the rest of the orphanage go to bed after lights-out before grabbing the pack with his costume in it, shimmying down the drain pipe, and evading the security systems on the grounds.

He arrives at about the same time as Daphne, the goth forensics student who serves as the Oullette's live-in housekeeper, baby-sitter, and full-time confidant for Kris. Daphne recognizes Michael from his trip to the house. "What are you doing here at--" checks watch "-- two o'clock in the morning?"

"Um…just came down to see how I could help?"

"How'd you get here?"

"I…uh…ran?"

Daphne gives him a look that speaks volumes, mostly of the "you know you're not Kris's type" variety.

Despite looking like she'd be more comfortable pogoing to Release the Bats than anything else, Daphne is remarkably good at talking to cops. After twenty minutes of making noise in the lobby she's talking to Right and Cross. A few minutes after that, they're bringing Kris out and processing her release, explaining that they reserve the right to ask a few more questions in the future.

Notes: Daphne's good with cops. Partly because she's had lots of experience, partly because...well, that's something the players are only *just* figuring out some thirty-five odd sessions later.

Kris, Michael, and Daphne gather on the steps of the police station. Daphne isn't happy, but she's not unhappy either. You get the feeling that, when it comes to Kris, this isn't altogether unexpected. "Come on," Daphne says. "I want a coffee before I drive you back to the orphanage."

There's a twenty-four hour McDonalds in the building opposite, but they barely get the chance to order before the tremor's start. Michael notices it first, courtesy of his training, but it doesn't take long before everyone can hear the sounds of squealing metal and heavy footfalls. They rush to the window just in time to see a very, very irate Triceratops charging the doors of the police station.

Daphne hustles the heroes out the back door of the McDonalds, fleeing along an alleyway. Realising that they need to do something, Kris uses a very mild charge to knock Daphne out, allowing them to change into costumes and go deal with dinosaur menace.

The Triceratops is enraged, which is bad news for the heroes.

The heroes play is simple: Shock will hang back and pepper the dinosaur with electric bolts; Awesome will go toe-to-toe with the beast. Fortunately the triceratops is more than happy to help them out with this, lowering its horns and charging the moment it tastes the first electric shock.

The triceratops is big. It hits hard as hell. And it does have those nasty horns, which punch a hole in the side of a car when Shock ducks one of its charges. Fortunately the heroes have someone who hits hard of their own - Awesome meets the beast head-on, grabs it by both horns, and holds tight as the triceratops starts whipping its head around.

He keeps it distracted while Shock blasts the hell out off the creature's flank, but it's not enough to put the dinosaur down.

So Awesome takes matters into his own hand. He holds tight, gets some leverage, and head butts the dinosaur as hard as he can.

Notes: "I head butt the dinosaur" is pretty much the sweetest words you'll ever hear as a GM. God, I love this game.

Being cracked in the skull by a genetically modified super-soldier is more than the triceratops can take. It keels over, Awesome still holding it's horns in an iron grip, and cops start spilling out of the police station. After making sure the creature is down for the count, Shock and Awesome race off, heading back to the ally where they left an unconscious Daphne.

And the last thing we see in the issue is Cross and Right emerging from the station. Cross has a big, heavy-duty blaster cannon mounted on his shoulder, obviously expecting more trouble. Right is a little more discretely armed, but she spots the fleeing heroes and her eyes narrow.

Final Session Notes

- This was our last pick-up session. A few weeks after this my regular Pathfinder game fell apart for various reasons, so we basically decided to just continue with Shock and Awesome as a fortnightly thing from this point on. It also marks the first game where we played the game with a physical rule-book, rather than a PDF, which was *enormously* useful in terms of figuring out the differences between 2E and 3d.

- The triceratops fight is still my favourite fight of the campaign. Lots of charging, lots of collateral damage, lots of moving around. Neither player had super-movement powers yet, which meant they were pretty limited in terms of getting away from the creature. We've struggled to get that dynamic feel to a fight scene since then.
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Re: Shock & Awesome

Postby speeddemon » Tue Feb 26, 2013 2:22 am

Cool. Good to see another one. Headbutting a dinosaur = awesome :D . Keep em coming.
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Re: Shock & Awesome

Postby arwink » Sun Oct 20, 2013 4:31 am

Issue Four: You Shall Know FEAR

Heroes: Shock, Awesome
Villains: FEAR (First Apperance)
Supporting Cast: Father Ethan, Gabriel, The Grail, Cross, Right

PART ONE: PEER PRESSURE SUCKS

English class. Somehow it always starts with English Class.

Notes: Mostly because we worked out the subjects both characters were studying in their final year, and we discovered English was the only class they had in common.

It's the tail end of the day and the minutes are ticking towards three o'clock, which means Kris Ouellette is dividing her time between pretending to pay attention and sketching new costume designs in the margin of her notebook. Fortunately, Michael is up the front of the class, ever the conscientious student. He's taking meticulous notes as their teacher explains the literary imagery at work in Wuthering Heights, mostly so he knows what to leave out in order to keep his scrupulously maintained B- average instead of working to his full capabilities.

It's hard, sometimes, being a teenage super-soldier.

The bell rings and the class erupts, everyone surging for the door in a mad scramble. Kris Ouellette is head of the pack. Michael, as always, hangs back, unwilling to engage in the furious scrimmage that occurs as bored teenagers try to get out the room's sole door. Kris hangs back as well, eager to talk about her proposed costume redesign, as has become their custom. While neither would go so far as to call each other friends yet, they've certainly come to the understanding that they're...well, not quiet partners. Cohorts? Allies? The correct word is around there somewhere.

Unfortunately, Michael's already got allies. Four of them - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - are a seemingly inter-changable quartet of tall, blonde, good-looking kids who make up the rest of Grail Squad Alpha, led by Michael on their training runs.

Another, Gabriel, is the leader of Grail Squad Beta, and Gabe is the one whose smart enough to notice that Michael Adams is spending a lot of time around the Oullette girl lately, and less time looking out for his squad.

Being the ambitious, slightly jealous type that he is, Gabe ambushes the pair uses the lunch break to start asking questions about the relationship between Michael and Kris. Michael's answers are scrupulously correct, even if they leave out important information. Kris, who doesn't quite understand what's going on, blunders through the conversation and creates all sorts of potential problems.

Notes: This kicks off an ongoing campaign trend - Michael doesn't lie, ever, which makes him surprisingly good at misleading people when he selectively edits the details of what he reveals. Kris lies constantly, but not particularly well, and there is no conversation she can't make worse.

Afterwards, Kris is approached by Kate Morton - the reporter-to-watch on the school newspaper staff - whose interested in hearing Kris's side of the story regarding the cops who hauled her off yesterday. In the long tradition of female reporters in comic books, Kate's also remarkably pretty. For Kris, whose been trying to hide her attraction to girls since arriving at the school, it's the stuff of nightmares. She stutters and stumbles through the conversation, trying to dodge the questions.

Michael, being remarkably calm about pretty much everything, tries to keep Kris from revealing anything incriminating.

Thankfully, the bell rings, and it's time for class again. Kate promises to follow up later, when Kris has had a chance to recover from her ordeal. Kris lets her go, then suggests that perhaps Shock and Awesome should go look for the dinosaur thing in the sewers again after school. Michael nominally agrees.

PART TWO: DEPLOYED

Michael calls the orphanage to let them know he'll be running late this evening, hoping to get the time he needs to go on patrol. The response: you've got a mission briefing in twenty minutes. Get home. Never one to disobey orders without a good reason, Michael obeys.

On the surface the Sons of Christ orphanage seems like a pretty plain building, but once you pass the retinal scan on the secret elevator on the first floor and go down, things get a lot more hinky. There are multiple levels of high-tech briefing rooms, labs, armories, and more, although Michael and his brothers usually only get to see training area on sub-level 2.

Michael, Gabriel and the leader of the third squad, Rafael, get their teams together and convene on a briefing room where Father Ethan announces they'll be going on their first real mission - the local nuclear power station had been attacked by members of a secret paramilitary organisation known as FEAR. Ethan fears that conventional law enforcement will be unable to resolve the situation in time, particularly since they're assuming that FEAR was a conventional terrorist action. For better or worse, the Grail is going in, and Michael's Alpha Squad will be the first team on the ground.

The Grail kids scramble, gearing up, and Michael takes a moment to text Shock the details. Turns out it's not necessary - she's already seen the details on the news and started suiting up. She suggests coming and joining forces with the Grail teams going in, but Michael doesn't think that's a good plan. "Just get there," he says. "I'll join up with you when I can."

Notes: The Grail, for whatever reason, is really down on costumed heroes. And Demons, which they insist are real, despite Michael never seeing one. But mostly costumed heroes.

PART THREE: REDSHIFT ENERGIES - FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE

The scene at the atomic power plant is one of chaos - media and protesters are pressed up against the police line, splitting the focus on the conventional forces on the ground. The Special Crimes squad - led by Cross and Right - are already on the ground, negotiating with the members of the SWAT team, all of whom seem pretty eager to storm the place and mow down the terrorists in a hail of gunfire.

Awesome suits up, deploys Beta and Charlie teams to cover the exist of the place, and immediately spreads his own team wide to stealth their way over the fence line, the police line, and more. Given that all of Awesome's team has strength, reflexes and leaping ability that borders on the superhuman, it's not a big ask.

He then skulks away to meet up with Shock, who is busy trying to hack into the Special Crimes van to get a sit-rep. Turns out the local Special Crimes unit uses some pretty tight encryption, what with dealing with supervillains and super-geniuses on a semi-regular basis, so it's beyond her abilities.

The local news vans, however, are not. She hacks into their feeds, sorts through a whole mess of information, and gets the basics: the complex is locked down; no-one really knows anything; and whoever attacked seems to have access to advanced laser weaponry.

After pooling this with the details from Michael's briefing, they decide to go in. Fortunately, with Michael able to leap moderate-sized buildings in a single bound, getting past the police line isn't harm. Nor is getting into the locked down complex - whoever hacked the security system is good, but Shock is marginally better and overrides their control, opening up the doors and finding their way in.

They use the security system to track the FEAR agents to the main core of the complex, where there's a squad of six FEAR soldiers set up around a technology specialist trying to hack the computer. They're heavily armoured, wearing full-faced helmets that resemble skulls, and their leader is surrounded by a blue haze of a low-powered force-field.

Individually the FEAR soldiers aren't a match for the heroes, but as a unit they prove to be pretty adept - there are two men on the high ground with automatic weapons, laying down covering fire, plus another with a high-powered laser rifle that attempts to pick off targets. Awesome is the target of a lot of gunfire, particularly since he's the one leaping across the room to take out a particular target, but that changes once the FEAR tech specialist realises that Shock is responsible for preventing his computer from connecting to the FEAR network and broadcasting the files they're stealing.

Guns are fired. People are beaten up. Some are electrocuted by some well-applied blasts of lightning. It's a brisk fight, not particularly painful, and Shock immediately downloads the encrypted files from the FEAR computer to a USB, tucking it away before following Awesome out of the building and shutting down the security system so the cops can get inside...

Final Session Notes

- This turned out to be the first of our ongoing campaign, although at the time we assumed it was just another pick-up session; it's after this one we realised that the D&D we were playing was dead, and we were enjoying this more than D&D anyway.

- This is probably the least-accurate record I've done - whatever notes I had for it have disappeared, so I'm working on two-year-old memories and the recollection of the players.

- This was the start of a long, loooong process where we started looking for ways to replicate Shock's computer-hacking power in a way that felt appropriate. At this point it was basically an Affliction, which didn't really feel right, since we wanted that sense that other hackers could counter her efforts and counter-intrusion systems would be a problem.
-Peter M. Ball
www.petermball.com
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