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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Michael S. Miller on September 01, 2007, 07:44:22 AM

Title: [WGP...] Cosmic Zap @ GenCon
Post by: Michael S. Miller on September 01, 2007, 07:44:22 AM
On Saturday night at the Embassy Suites, we played With Great Power... The players were Paul Czege, Ralph Mazza, Kat Miller, Ron Edwards, and me. Ron had requested the game and, knowing his fondness for supervillains, I suggested that he be the GM. The GM�s job in WGP is about 80% playing the villains and 20% facilitating the fun of the other players. So I handled all the rules and �refereed� while Ron GM�d.

Although I had pregens in my bag, everyone wanted the full experience, so we decided to make characters. This was not a problem, as WGP characters are quick to make as long as everyone is on the same page. The first thing we did was discuss the type of comic we wanted to make. After some discussion of street level supers generally being loners, we settled on what Ron termed �Cosmic Zap� style comics. Y�know, the Silver Surfer, Captain Marvel, Kirby�s New Gods, Thanos, Darkseid, Galactus-kind-of-thing. Next up was the Stuggle. We decided on Community versus Glory. Due to the short time frame, I suggested only 3 Aspects apiece. One for each of the origin questions: How does your hero excel? Why does your hero fight the good fight? Who is important to your hero?

My character was the Scion of Seven Suns. He protects the interstellar community of the Seven Suns, and wields the Power of Seven Suns, a corona of cosmic energy that allows him to soar through space, fire energy blasts and the like. He is driven to fight the good fight by his guilt over destroying the Eighth World. He serves the Council of the Broken Constellation, a group of stuffy elders that direct his missions. He had a cape and a classic lantern jaw.

Paul�s character was Creche, an 9-foot-tall ancient android that held the eggs of an long-dead race within him. He was driven by his duty to make a perfect home for his dead race. He was humanoid in shape, with long asymetrical strips of rivets (the eggs) down his arms. And he had a �Kirby-esque widget� on his head.

Ralph�s character was Traxis the Starlight Hunter. He had the aspect of Cosmic Hunter, which encompassed his ability of Starlight Arrows, his projection of a Starlight Sphere, and his steed, Star, a hippocomet, with the front half of a horse and the back half of a comet�s tail. His motivation was Always the Hunt, epitomized by his catchphrase, �The greatest villian is the greatest game.� His final Aspect was Arcadia, �floating flat island in space, empty and tranquil where I am at peace.� As we see with the last hero, it wouldn�t stay tranquil for long.

Kat�s character was Olivia, the new space-faring queen of the fairy. Her power was Glamour, the focused life force of her people. Her duty was �I will be the one to find the new homeworld.� She had a relationship with Titiania, the last fairy queen, who had died in saving the fairies from Earth and bringing them to, of all places, Arcadia.

Next step was for us to choose our Stife Aspects and Ron to make his villian�s Plan. The Strife Aspect in WGP is the portion of our character we want to be most central to this issue. I chose the Scion�s relationship with the Council of the Broken Constellation. Ron decided that a portion of his Plan was that if his villain won, I would be enslaved by the Council. Paul chose his duty to build a new home for the dead race. If the villian won, he would become that home, the core of the new planet, and the prey of the hatching eggs. Ralph focused on his interstellar hunting cabin, Arcadia. If the Plan was successful, Ron�s villain would turn Arcadia into his headquarters. Finally, Kat chose her duty to find a new homeworld for the fairies. If Ron won, the proper new homeworld would be the mines of Meta-Ore that fuel the council�d power.

With a Plan in place, Ron got to cut loose and craft his villain. He made Dark Omen, wielder of the Power of Negation, holder of the Eighth Chair, wearer of the Armor of Faces. (Most folks that were at the Embassy that night have heard that bit, as Ron declaimed it to many passers-by.) He also had an Lieutenant, an unnamed rogue, blighted fairy.

We played out two Enrichment scenes and a Conflict for each character, plus two villain Enrichments. My Enrichments centered around me saving a planet from a massive meteor, but getting sent to put down a revolt in the meta-ore mines. Paul�s was about his android trying to build the perfect valley for the eggs, and failing ... again. Ralph�s scene had his starhunter trying to get some peace and quiet while Kat�s fairy court that inhabited/infested his floating city performed a ritual of regeneration ... a loud ritual of regeneration. That segued into Kat�s scene where the dead fairy queen scolded her for not following the old ways and showed her that the regeneration ritual had gone awry, with the fairy chorus morphing into trees. Ron had a scene with Dark Omen giving orders to his lieutenant, but the lieutenant complaining about the orders and secretly resolving to tell the Scion about the Eighth Chair. I love that we ALL lost our enrichment scenes, but that it made the story so much better!

The second round of Enrichments found Scion facing the sad-eyed miners who were not on strike, but actually driven out of their mines by a beast. �A beast?� quoth Ralph excitedly. We segued this into Traxis the StarHunter and Scion plumbing the depths of the mind in search of the beast. But glory eluded the StarHunter as Scion slew the beast with a snap of his fingers. Traxis and Olivia also discussed the future of the fae, and th reader learned that Traxis knew the perfect place for them. Creche communed with the eggs in his massive regeneration throne was renewed by their encouragment. Dark Omen, with great subtlety, influenced the council to become a model of harmonious unanimity, and had his blighted fairy lead the space elves away from Olivia�s care in Arcadia.

This set us up for the Big Fight. Olivia squared off against the blighted fairy. Her Stakes: Even blighted Fae kneel before their queen. Ron�s Counterstakes: Olivia renews her tragic love with the blighted fairy. There was lots of persuasion and great dialogue in this one, but Olivia prevailed and the blighted fairy�dubbed �Olander� during the battle of wits�kneeled and took her hand.

Traxis the StarHunter also battled the blighted fairy. If he had won, the blighted fairy would have fled and Traxis would have tracked him to Dark Omen. Sadly, he did not, and the blighted fairy soundly trounced Traxis in full view of Olivia. This was definitely NOT Traxis� issue.

Creche breached Dark Omen�s dimension, appropriately called Nothing. His Stakes: Deposit the eggs safely within Nothing, that they might thrive. Dark Omen gained the upper hand and gained free access to the contents of Creche�s ancient android mind.

Finally, the Scion of Seven Suns, tipped off by the troublesome blighted fairy, charged into Nothing in a quest to destroy Dark Omen�s link to the Eighth Chair. I normally don�t mind losing a fight in WGP, but Ron set his Counterstakes would allow Dark Omen to extinguish another sun! The dastard! I fought with every card I could, but Ron had too many cards and I had to yeild. Dark Omen snuffed out another world I was sworn to protect.

It was a great issue and I would have loved to play longer, but it was nearly 1:00 AM by the time we stopped. I really love playing WGP with people who speak comics and take the time to describe their panels and the look of their characters. In Scion�s fight with Dark Omen, Ron described this great build of several short, broad panels of Scion going through hallways to find Dark Omen, and then, with a single cosmic wallop, he sends Scion sailing back through those hallways, crashing through walls and panel-borders.

As we were cleaning up, Ron mentioned that he was too tired to identify the game�s Fruitful Void, but that it must have had one, because he had fun. So, Ron, can you identify it in retrospect? Ralph, Paul, Kat, what did you think of the game?

Title: Re: [WGP...] Cosmic Zap @ GenCon
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 01, 2007, 08:30:11 AM
Hi guys!

I loved this game. I think I want to have someone else be the rules-ref and play the villain like this every single WGP game that I ever play. And I can guarantee that I'll be playing again.

I think that the Cosmic Zap context has one slight problem for role-playing: the intense individuality and disconnected back-stories of the protagonists. It's sort of central to that sub-genre ... one doesn't have a super-team, but a bunch of alienated and separately profound (well, in a pop way) dudes cruising around. So that resulted in Paul's protagonist not getting much direct contact with the villain and none with the other protagonists. But what that also means, for purposes of the whole story arc, is that Creche will be the one who has the most resources (i.e. least damage to Aspects) right at the moment that the villain loses his advantages in decks and wild cards.

That turnaround had just occurred when we stopped playing for the evening. I had, I think, transitioned to only one deck. Thus far, I'd beaten the dog crap out of Scion, blown up the seventh sun, and totally corrupted the Council by making them peaceful; Traxis had undergone awful humiliations and frustrations in every way; and I'd gotten rid of all those stupid fairies (and I can tell you that I was aiming straight at Devastating them and the Council, for sure). But Creche, on the other hand, was pretty much activated. If we'd played a second session, and if the heroes could come together in the classic Cosmic Zap way (sometimes not even meeting up! but still working together), then Dark Omen would be in a lot of trouble.

I should take a moment to point out that I put a fair amount of effort into making Dark Omen worth our time. My point of reference was Thanos ( How the hell do you play an RPG character worthy of recognition like that? Well, I tried. Dark Omen as a power embodied negation. His ideal was universal entropy, energy dispersed evenly to the point where nothing happened or could ever happen. To get there, he even imposed peace and boring harmony on the fractious and rather mean-spirited Council, for instance; this led to a great 70s vibe of Scion getting more and more willing to jettison the selfish, exploitative establishment he served, and thus moving closer to "agreeing" with Dark Omen.

But Dark Omen as a person had to glimmer through a little bit too. At one point in the fight with Scion, he switched to really harsh physical in-fighting, elbows and so on, as a direct contrast to the operatic reality-shifts and superpowered, casual back-hand he'd used so far. His dialogue at that moment: "I was human, once."

That also leads to my understanding of the fruitful void in playing With Great Power, which is no more nor less than the occasionally-achieved fruitful void of the entire Marvel Comics endeavor itself: the truth that is inherent in ambiguity, which provokes constant reflection upon one's current path of action, even in the presence of an urgent need for action. It applies to the greatest of the villains as well as to the heroes, both large and small. Thanos is all about this (, when he's not just a bunch of heavy metal imagery filtered through Jim Starlin peaking on acid, or an excuse to sell an action figure.

Oh, it has its failures - for one thing, the constant self-doubt and during-action blithering that often characterizes Marvel action, and the tendency to devolve into whining and the dumb brand of soap opera. Not to mention losing its political edge entirely around 1980, although since that criticism applies to our culture as a whole, I suppose that's understandable. But its triumphs are pretty damn powerful.

That's a key part of a fruitful void, I think, that it's not guaranteed. What we need to bring to play and to share with one another, to get to it, is what makes role-playing worth doing, for me.

And that game of ours was hella worth it, or it was getting there through the dynamics of the rules. I wanted to see each hero go through that transition that's central the mechanics, of deciding which Aspects really were important and which could be destroyed, and I think it was going to happen in a much more powerful way than just another "save the dog vs. stop the villain's getaway" bit.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [WGP...] Cosmic Zap @ GenCon
Post by: Paul Czege on September 01, 2007, 03:10:51 PM
I enjoyed this game quite a bit. And I loved my android dude. But Cr�che wasn't totally undamaged at the end. I distinctly remember making a decision during the battle that left me a bit damaged. Michael, you still have the sheets, right?


Title: Re: [WGP...] Cosmic Zap @ GenCon
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 01, 2007, 08:31:04 PM
I didn't say Creche was totally undamaged, only less damaged than the others. I find that I really regret that we weren't playing a full-on, multiple session game ... that android had "stop Dark Omen" written all over him, even though neither character knew it.

Also, were the rivets on his arms really the eggs? I somehow had the mistaken idea that they were in his abdomen, or maybe that was just part of the discussion during character creation.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [WGP...] Cosmic Zap @ GenCon
Post by: Paul Czege on September 01, 2007, 09:16:21 PM
I find that I really regret that we weren't playing a full-on, multiple session game ... that android had "stop Dark Omen" written all over him, even though neither character knew it.

I agree. I'd love to have played Cr�che for a multi-session game. (Both he and Dark Omen were "big theme" characters. Do you think that's what has you tagging him with a "stop Dark Omen" fate?)

I was also thinking the eggs were in his abdomen. Though I could have been convinced to have them embedded along the seams of his body like Kirby-esque detailing if I'd heard someone make the suggestion.


Title: Re: [WGP...] Cosmic Zap @ GenCon
Post by: Michael S. Miller on September 03, 2007, 04:49:13 AM
I thought that after Ron said "no see-through abdomen" to say he didn't want to be able to SEE the eggs inside the android, I suggested rows of rivets down the arms, y'know rows of rounded rivets, wink wink nudge nudge. I probably thought that everyone understood I was implying they were eggs. But, in a late game in a noisy room, I've got to remind myself that stating things loud and clear is the way to go.

As for "the truth of ambiguity" as WGP's fruitful void, I like the way you put it. I tried really hard to put room for self-doubt into each decision and card-play. I'm glad to see it worked out. This was definitely my favorite game session of GenCon.

Title: Re: [WGP...] Cosmic Zap @ GenCon
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 06, 2007, 08:25:51 AM
Hi Mike,

Well, it's the truth of the ambiguity that matters most, don't you think? In other words, to establish the self-doubt is one thing, but to punch through into the conflict and resolve it without an easy, coincidence-driven "have it both ways" ending ... that's the key. The best Marvel stories and characters actually resolved. Not to geek out too, too hard, but I submit that Lee's tenure on Spider-Man can be read as a complete novel, with an ending.

If the game design didn't include the innate story-arc, which frames the whole thing on the de-stabilizing elements of the villain, and which forces the hero to prioritize in the face of this crisis, then it'd be an exercise in the worst excesses of bad Marvel writing: piss, whine, moan, shlep about, preach, repeat in different order, repeat.

So the fruitful void, as I anticipate and hope to experience all the way through some time, really doesn't hit until the middle phase: when the distinction between threatend and un-threatened aspects is clear, and when the villain still carries enough punch to rip at least one hero's existence to shreds (which is another way to say, "affects the setting significantly and permanently according to his vision"). At that point, the players know what's really at risk, and I think the essential feature of a good Marvel villain, which is a valid point to make (classic example = Magneto), may have emerged.

Best, Ron