Monday, April 21, 2014

Four-Color FAE: Supers Gaming via Fate Accelerated - pt11

New Sentinels member Arrowhead takes aim
As promised, here is a synopsis of the first gaming session of our Four-Color Supers game, New Sentinels, powered by FAE 
There is no discussion about game-mechanics in the synopsis itself, but I will be examining how they came into play in the postscript. 
Game Synopsis - New Sentinels, Issue 1: "With Great Power..." pt1

As evening sets upon the metropolis of New Troy, team organizer Emma summons the New Sentinels to their HQ, The Ready Room.

Jimmy (Quorum) is already on the scene, working upstairs at the Ready Room Bar & Grill as a bar-back. Excusing himself to his boss Molly (who knows that the bar is a front for the team HQ), he and Emma board the elevator down to the team HQ below.

Meanwhile, Touchstone Industries President Max Monroe is in a board meeting when he gets the call. Quickly ducking out of the meeting, he races across town at supersonic speeds, arriving just as the elevator doors close; already suited up and ready in his heroic identity...Mercury Man!

At this moment Lance (Arrowhead) is cleaning up throw-up on aisle 9 at H-Mart. Answering the call, he charms his female boss into letting him leave early, slowly making his way through rush-hour traffic via moped to meet up with the team.

New Sentinels HQ, 'The Ready Room': interior
Manning the teams super-computer, resident teen-aged supers expert Taryn Reid gives the low-down along with Emma:

Although the Inca treasures for the upcoming 'Secrets of the Inca' exhibition at the Schliemann Museum of Antiquities arrived safe and sound, the Inca mummies bound for exhibition did not: and the panicked government of Peru has asked for the team's help, provided that they use the utmost discretion.

As Arrowhead finally arrives on the scene, the team decides to visit the landed plane formerly carrying the mummies, now parked in an abandoned airfield in Baja California, Mexico.

Mercury Man offers to race ahead and investigate, but Emma wants the entire team on this. So instead they load up the team jump-jet with Quorum piloting. The track lights guide the way to the hidden cliff side exit, and with a whoosh! the team is off and away.


Arriving in Mexico a few hours later, the team is confronted by skeptical Mexican federales. But Quorum - using his super-intelligence gained when split - has learned fluent Spanish on the flight: and while he distracts the police Mercury Man and Arrowhead investigate the abandoned airplane.

What they find there is disturbing: the pilot on the black box describes a bizarre 'green light' stopping the plane mid-flight, before cutting out completely. Investigating the cases holding the ancient mummies in the storage area yields even more worrisome information: they are clearly empty, and show signs of being broken out of from the inside.

The only other evidence left behind from this strange crime is a symbol - clearly Mesoamerican in origin - burned into the ceiling of the storage compartment of the craft.

All of which begs the question: what happened to the missing crew?

Quorum tackles the question with his duplicates - and finds evidence of footsteps leading into the wilderness beyond. Mercury Man acts immediately on this new lead, by racing into the night and searching every nook and cranny until he finds the missing flight crew and passengers: tied up, and dazed by thirst and exposure, but still thankfully alive. One by one he carries them at breakneck speed before depositing each on the tarmac.

At last useful, the Mexican federal police act to provide the surviving crew of the downed flight with food, beverages and blankets. Using the flashy charm he normally reserves for the opposite sex, Arrowhead is able to glean more information about the fate of the doomed flight from the now recovering crew and passengers:

Each remembers the strange green light surrounding - and then stopping - the plane, before they themselves were frozen in place by it.

Then memories of a presence- more felt than seen- moving through the plane, before it and a group of shambling figures led them into the woods, binding them helpless to the surrounding copse of trees.

Finally, they described a terrifying circle of greenish light, as the figures and their apparent leader vanished before their very eyes!

With this, our New Sentinels conclude that they have learned all that they could here: and further care of the members of the flight as well as the plane itself are best left to the Peruvian and Mexican governments.

Wary with concern about what they have learned thus far, our heroes re-board the jump-jet and begin the supersonic flight home.

While in the air they forward the photos taken of the mystic image burned on the plane's ceiling; Taryn's analysis reveals it to be a pre-Colombian representation of the Inca god Supay: Lord of the Underworld, and Prince of Demons.

Instinctively concluding that the next target of whatever force downed the plane might be at the museum itself, they vow to stand guard over the treasures there, waiting for whoever- or whatever- might come to claim them.

New Sentinels team Jump-Jet: CAD model shown
The jump-jet lands in the parking lot of the Schliemann Museum of Antiquities in the dead of night.

Having radioed ahead, the museum security team is already aware that the team is coming to help, and they are given the 'grand tour' of the museum by flashlight courtesy of security head George Smart.

While Arrowhead and Mercury Man enjoy the sights - Arrowhead being careful to stay within seeing distance of the Inca treasures - for his part, Quorum keeps one split in the museum, sending the rest out into the crisp April night air to patrol the perimeter.

Quorum notes how very quiet the Paris Hill neighborhood is compared to his own neighborhood, where the thin walls of his apartment shares the music, arguments and lovemaking to all that care to listen. But this reverie is broken up when he sees a flash of greenish light flare bright, and then quickly fade on the roof of the museum.

He then immediately radios a heads up the team; and true to form, Mercury Man instinctively races up to the rooftop to be first on the scene.

There he finds seven figures: swaddled head to toe in black ski-gear, complete with masks. Way too much coverage for a crisp spring evening....even for burglars.

Having caught his opposition by surprise, Mercury Man attacks one of the figures with lightning-quick speed; the figure loses it's balance in the tussle, and goes tumbling off the roof: landing with a sickening thud below!

Mercury Man has no time to wonder if he has accidentally killed a man though, as the remaining six figures rapidly close in on him with apparent murderous intent...

Meanwhile in the museum gallery below, Quorum regroups his splits into one before racing up the stairway to the rooftop. Not wanting to mess with the stairs, Arrowhead wills a psionic arrow and grappling line into being; he shoots into a skylight above, then contracts the line until he rapidly accelerates to - and through! - it, emerging from a spray of shattered glass onto the roof.

Mercury Man is grappled by a particularly burly interloper - but he manages to free himself at the cost of leaving part of his costume behind, and off-balance from the experience.

Arrowhead sees a teammate in trouble...but before he can react he catches the attention of two of the interlopers himself, who begin to make a bee-line straight towards him! He doesn't hesitate though: drawing back his 'bow' he fires a psionic arrow at one.

It falls lifeless to the floor; more than lifeless, really, as it seems to be frozen into place and lands like a fallen statue.

As Mercury Man dodges and weaves fluidly though the clumsy attacks of the cloaked figures, noting Quorum finally arriving at the rooftop door via stairs as he splits into his five duplicates...

The final panel of this issue is a splash-page; viewpoint behind Arrowhead's drawn bow, and looking towards Quorum and the Mercury Man surrounded by black-clad figures.

What I hope reads here as the tightly plotted first act of an action movie (mystery revealed, investigation, and first contact with the opposition), really was just a lot of me floundering as a GM to play catch-up with my players. It somehow had not occurred to me that the team would want to investigate the landed airplane itself, so I had to make up much of what they found there on-the-fly. 
Nor did I think that they would have the wherewithal to stake out the museum at night: during which time I had planned for exactly nothing to occur! 
But it all worked out pretty well either way, and when we wrapped things up that evening mid-battle both Pete and Gary (playing Quorum and Mercury Man, respectively) were excited to see what emerged next session. Arrowhead's player, Shay, was a bit less enthused- but that is a story for another day. 
There was a bit of a learning curve for everyone involved: this was the very first time Gary and Pete had played FAE - though both were familiar with Fate Core - and there was some discussion about what the characters could and could not do on occasion. Shay in particular struggled with this, as he is more accustomed and comfortable with 'crunchy' systems.
On my end, I suspect that the past year and a-half of fantasy GM'ing really impacted the flavor of the sort of narrative I was prepared to present in play: I played my cards close to my chest, and cranked up the 'mysterious' knob to eleven. Which isn't at all bad, just maybe not the tone I should have set for the campaign at the get-go. 
If I run another supers game in the future, I will instead follow my gut and start with a bank-robbery, or an adventure in an undersea base. You can't go wrong with either of those options. :-)
Having said all of that...the mechanics worked great! We had a speedster, an archer, and a duplication guy operating side-by-side with no real gap in overall effectiveness between any character. As this was the main design goal for using FAE to begin with, I'm putting the choice to use the system itself in the 'win' column.

Next Issue: Night Battle at the Museum!

The Ready Room (Google Docs)