[Dreamation 2008] WGP... The Monster Squad

Started by Michael S. Miller, January 31, 2008, 11:57:27 AM

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Michael S. Miller

The scenario was called "The Monster Squad" and centered on a group of highly-inhuman-looking superheroes. The opening bang for the group was that the group's UN sanction had been revoked at the end of the previous issue. A quick rundown of the players and characters. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think any of the players had actually played With Great Power... before, although I know I did demos for both Judd and Paul in the past, and that Mark has owned the game for at few years. Judd also played in one of the worst sessions of WGP... ever--before the full edition was finished--at Dreamation '05.

Mark Causey played DEBRIS, Leader of the Monster Squad. She had been an honest cop transformed into living granite in the same accident that had created Mudslide.

Remi Treuer played MUDSLIDE--a small-time criminal imbued with the Power of Ooze and trying to walk the straight and narrow--as "the dumbest guy in the universe." I had written Mudslide's crush on Debris onto the character sheet, and Remi played it up to a T.

Judd played CEREBUS PRIME, a German Shepherd with a 500 IQ. Given intelligence as part of Dr. Grotesque's nefarious plans, Prime's sister Cerebus Secundus was still loyal to their creator.

Joe played PROFESSOR FOGG, the sorceress supreme who had sacrificed her corporeal form to save the world. She had also been dumped by the world's most beloved superhero, The Utopian. Jokes of "Smart Sorceresses, Foolish Choices" abounded.

Paul played THE SALAMANDER, a young embodiment of cosmic forces who was destined to save-or destroy--many worlds. He was trying to come to an understanding of human nature, and avoid becoming the Destroyer.

Issues with the game:
• Extremely inward-looking scenario. The characters are written with no NPCs other than the villains. This will be something I need to rewrite before I run it again.

• The "I-must-not-lose" thing kicked in and I didn't slam it down hard, like I should have. Truth be told, I could have beaten all of you with the hand I had. I had a couple of aces and six wild cards, which meant that on the page of conflict, I could have had an ace in EVERY suit. Why didn't I? There was too much laughter for me to want to bring it crashing to a halt. Which is STUPID, I know. The crash would have been the step up to the next level. And it would have finished up the conflict scene a good 45-60 minutes earlier, allowing us to proceed with more great enrichments. On the other hand, I could have yielded as the villians much sooner, but didn't.

In retrospect, the options are obvious, but at the time, I wasn't at the top of my game. There's been a lot of RL stress of late and I wasn't able to check that at the door of the Hilton.

Mark, Remi, Joe, Judd, Paul, what are your thoughts?


Quote from: Michael S. Miller on January 31, 2008, 11:57:27 AM• The "I-must-not-lose" thing kicked in and I didn't slam it down hard, like I should have. Truth be told, I could have beaten all of you with the hand I had. I had a couple of aces and six wild cards, which meant that on the page of conflict, I could have had an ace in EVERY suit. Why didn't I? There was too much laughter for me to want to bring it crashing to a halt. Which is STUPID, I know. The crash would have been the step up to the next level. And it would have finished up the conflict scene a good 45-60 minutes earlier, allowing us to proceed with more great enrichments. On the other hand, I could have yielded as the villians much sooner, but didn't.

I think yielding at that point would have felt like a cop-out to all of us.  We knew you could kick our ass and looking back, I was puzzled that you weren't kicking our asses more.  You should've done it and done it as quickly as possible.

You created one of the most hateful villains I have ever seen.  The Utopian is everything everyone hates about Superman and Captain American rolled up into one smug, condescending, shiny toothed prick.  I wanted to kryptonite curb stomp the bastard.

And I wasn't going to get to do so that game.

Dr. Grotesque felt a bit flat to me, like some kind of tepid MlwM Master but The Utopian....grrrrrrr.

So, the problem with the scenario was that it would've been the next session or maybe the session after that before the system let us give the Utopian the hard stomping he oh-so-deserved and that wasn't going to happen in four hours.  Is there a way you could start the game midway through the arc?  I seem to recall one con scenario you ran where it was as if the players found a 4th issue of a mini-series in the 25 cent bin and that is what you were playing.  I like that idea.

Because, as it was, we were going to get stomped because that is what you designed the system to do and that is cool, I like what WGP does but don't want to get kicked in the groin for the final 2 hours of a con scenario.


I really should go over what went well.

The enrichment scenes were delightful.  I loved the Monster Squad.  I was rooting for Fogg to get over her ex-boyfriend and for Debris to assert herself as leader.  I wanted to know if The Salamander destroyed the world or saved it and I wanted to know if Mudslide could make it work with Debris and go straight.

And dammit, I loved my Reed Richards in a German Shepherd bodied super-scientist.  The enrichment scenes were gold.

And I think that is what made the ass-kicking all the more rough for us.

I think there would be ways to make a game where the characters were going to get kicked around and it would be alright but you got us all invested and shit.   I was really rooting for the Monster Squad and that made the extended kicking we took rougher.

I think you had the right idea in your post.  If you had kicked our asses, fast and furious and moved on to the next conflict, with Debris in chains, Prime gone over to his maker's bidding, etc. etc. and we got to play for a while after that scene that had the weight of Parker tossing his Spider-Man uniform in the trash, that would've been cool and less frustrating.

Remi Treuer

Just a quick reply to confirm that Judd's feelings are mine, pretty much to-the-letter.

I could have done without the knock-down drag-out fight completely, even if we had won. The fight was out of character with the tone of the rest of the game we had played. The Utopian was evil not because he was punching us in the face, but because he was using all his considerable media power to make us look bad (and hurt Fogg). Dr. Grotesque was a father-figure to two members of the team (Mudslide and Prime). Our beef with him wasn't over his criminal ways, but being a bad progenitor.

I could have played enrichment scenes with these characters all day, and it makes me a little sad that the only way to move forward was to have a big punch-up. It seems like there's a way to layer the emotional issues over physical violence, but, man, once the laser beams came out, all that stuff just got moved to the side.


I wanted to jump to the conflict scene after the first round of enrichment, both because it would have given us more to react to in a second round of enrichment, and because then we could have gone after the Utopian in a second conflict. I think we just set our stakes on the conflict too high, and given how late in the session it came, there was no real way to avoid ending on a down note.
Paul Tevis
Have Games, Will Travel @ http://www.havegameswilltravel.net
A Fistful of Games @ http://afistfulofgames.blogspot.com

Ron Edwards


I've been thinking about this thread a lot, because I have been prepping some With Great Power for purposes of Go Play Peoria and/or Forge Midwest. What I'm deciding is that, like some other games well-known to both us, Mike, WGP is built to be organized, prepped, and put into action by people who meet socially on a regular basis. It simply might not be fully-realizable as a convention game. It can be played for fun at conventions, but only pieces and parts can be perceived and enjoyed, or at best, a rushed version can be squished together. Really playing it may not be something one merely tastes.

So here are some thoughts on the points made so far and what they have to do with my prep and vice versa. The first one has to do with adversity.

I cannot say for sure of course, but it seems to me as if you are investing a bit too much in their hero-stories, as a participant, and not enough as the adversity which makes their hero-stories work. Thinking back on our WGP game from GenCon last year, one of the most productive elements of play for me was that I, as GM, had absolutely no investment at all in protecting any particular one of the heroes' Aspects. Is it possible that you were hopping into a player's seat with him, once in a while, and rooting for a hero (e.g. Debris reconciles with her brother, et cetera)?

It's hard to explain this, actually, because rooting for a hero* is indeed something I did while playing Dark Omen. I think it's the "getting into the chair" with the player that's the problem, and having that affect my choice of cards. Since the game really shows its brilliant colors after a few Aspects are Devastated - well, then, devastate them! I understand hosing oneself as a player but choosing a sub-optimal card, sure; I don't see a productive point in softballing player-characters as a GM, at all. Not in this game.

You and I have played tons and tons of My Life with Master. We both know that if the GM gets soft-hearted about the player-characters, it only dilutes the productive power-structure of the rules and hurts the game experience. Same goes for the demons in Sorcerer, as we both know as well.

I thought about why you, of all people, are doing this - the guy who really knows that a Marvel-ish superhero operates in a kind of Vietnam War of the mind,** in which nothing about his starting point is sacred. I also thought a bit about what you wrote in our thread, that you were a bit surprised to find yourself fighting so hard to win a conflict at one point.

Then I thought about my current prepping. I came up with a Struggle and decided to Scratch-Pad everything - Struggle, heroes, Rogues Gallery - but not make the actual sheets or the Plan yet. I'd have the players choose which Aspects they'd put on the sheets, which side of the Struggle they're on, and which Aspects are "strifed." I'm working toward my strengths as a GM, which is to say, solid and relevant villain-motivation very fast. I am confident I can choose one of the villains and outline a Plan based on the player-chosen Strife Aspects in the space of ten minutes at most.

And you know what? I'm already rooting for the characters I made up. I'm already looking at their aspects and fantasizing how they might end up based on Strife and Suffering status. I'm already speculating ahead, after some Aspect gets Transformed by a villain, and what might come of that. I'm on their damned side already! I made them up, after all. I can easily imagine what effects that might have on my card-play choices, as GM, when someone else is playing them ... and I can imagine further how that might turn into a habit after so many years of doing it.

Is it possible that you like these characters too much? That having invented most or all of them, that they are a bit too much yours, in play? Maybe it's time to retire Debris and the other much-loved, much-exampled, and much-played characters you've been using for nigh on five years now.

The second thought concerns Conflicts. I kind of squinted when I read about the fight with the Utopian, and went back to the book. Surely conflicts don't have to be fisticuffs, necessarily? And yup, the rules are clear that a conflict doesn't have to be a fight, and that seems mighty applicable to the Utopian.

I don't really know how to ask it politely ... given what had happened already in play via Enrichment and table-talk, what led you to pick a fight by, well, having a fight? Would not a press conference be just the thing? Or perhaps, frame directly to a scene right after the heroes have defeated some generic villain (i.e. let that be total inter-scene Color), and have the Utopian show up to take the credit with reporters crowding 'round? Or maybe the Utopian tries to recruit them to a fine new super-group he is sponsoring, for which they might be the "lucky" subs if someone has a cold? Those all sound like conflict scenes to me without a punch thrown or an eyebeam blasted.

Again, speculation: maybe it's the demo or con-play context. Perhaps showcasing that WGP can do "real super-fights" is a bit of a priority then, especially because people might be skeptical that these hippy-softy games can do "real" combat. Is it possible that you shifted to a fight out of long habit, rather than working from what had happened during Enrichments?

I recognize that none of the above might be accurate. It''s probably better to regard it as what's going on in my mind between reading the thread and working on my prep. But if any of it fits to whatever extent, I'd be interested to know.

Best, Ron

* To any Australians reading this, yeah, yeah, I know. Get over it.

** I am not kidding. This is probably only meaningful, though, to people who were reading Marvel comics before the mid-late 1980s, after which the effect I'm talking about was scrubbed clean from the company, from the comics, and from the characters. And from our culture, but never mind that ...