Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Substitute, GM's Notes Part I

SYSTEM: ICONS

We played The Substitute from Melior Via. GM fills this in as he has time. Also includes comments on some of the characters in the >Hope Preparatory School Freshman Pack, also from Melior Via.

We met the primary purpose: We had fun, so the main thing is done. The rest is kvetching.

On the Hope Prep adventure and style:

  • The adventure took quite a while: this is not a one-night adventure, even though I cut out the living chess portion with the Science Club. That may be because I miscalculated and did too much with the slugs. In the grand scheme of things, they are just a side line. (Memo: Have to have them see the giant slugs while they're in the alternate dimension, so they know that the slugs came over then.)
  • Why do Jimmy Tauran and Johnny Starr both have names that begin with J? I used Tommy Starr, just to make it easier, but that meant I had to do the translation. (I am acutely aware of this since I made the Khes mistake earlier in the Jaws of the Six Serpents adventure.)
  • Having Jimmy pick on Glim was a mistake, in retrospect. I should have known better, but maybe in the future, there should be some guidance in the adventures for the GM that says something like, "picks on the character most likely to fight back and get in trouble" as a hint to the GM to look at Qualities and Challenges. If I had been thinking, I would have used Sari instead of Glimm for that conflict, because Sari is (a) not nine feet tall and a wall of muscle and (b) has "Never Backs Down."
  • I found the whole adventure kind of confusing. I added the part where they discover that Tommy found his adoration for the alien sophomore (I had a lot aliens, so I made her a sophomore) with Dr. Bailey. The players, bless them, jumped to the right conclusion. A writeup of her—I didn't notice one—that I could use or ignore, that would have been nice. I claimed that as an alien she has feathers or feather-like extrusions and a tentacle instead of a nose.
  • Even though the adventures claim they're set up for easy use, I still have trouble finding things in the heat of the session. This might just be me.

On our session specifically:

  • Mentioned that there are 10 schools in the metahuman secondary school league. With teleporters and everything, it's hard to claim that each services a particular area, but the majority of students are "local". So there are three in North America (Toronto, New York, San Diego), one in South America (Peru), one in the UK, one in Africa, one in an unspecified place in Europe, one in Australia, one in an unspecified place in Asia (China? Korea? Would Japanese have their own?), and the rest to be named later. Retroactively, I'd probably make it 8 or 6: enough for actual competitions, but not so many that I can't name countries.
  • The adventure as written ends kind of abruptly, sort of a let-down. I'm going to let them have the possibility of a knock-down drag-out with the real Twisted Earth Dr. Bailey, who used to be a superhero but had an operation to make him evil, and who sports all kinds of cyborg enhancements. (I'll start with the Dr. Pulse writeup and go from there.) (Now, we didn't get to the ending, so I can't be sure that it's a let-down, but it reads that way.)
  • But in the interests of sowing confusion, I had Dakota Heil wondering aloud if Dr. Bailey's new interest in sports was the result of an infatuation with someone who played or taught sports...that is, Moon Maiden.
  • Miz Beazley works in the cafeteria. She's the one who supplied Hari with anti-slug chemical...just enough to annoy the mother slug rather than kill her. (And so what if the name is taken from Archie comics?)
  • The players rightly wondered why the janitorial staff weren't looking after the water problem; I claimed that the janitorial duties were handled by a robot, which was currently sitting down and reciting haikus in Japanese, a language which it doesn't know. In other words, an early attempt at takeover by the clone.
  • And I stated that Dr. Bailey sponsors the Science Club, which makes sense, and when they found irregularities in the security system, they told...Dr. Bailey. Which didn't work out well for them.
  • The Shock Troopers have no weapons in their armour, and it's not clear to me that they are supposed to use their natural powers or something in the armour. Probably natural powers, though I didn't (using the excuse that those two were an extraction team).
  • Gonna have to work up a reason why the teachers seem so unconcerned when the kids tell them about a potential threat, or otherwise it's an idiot plot. (Maybe it's an unspoken assumption that the patrol will handle it, or that as metahumans, weirdness is guaranteed to follow these kids for the rest of their lives, so HPS provides a way for them to learn to deal with it, with the teachers there as backup when they fail?)
  • I didn't give out enough Determination, in retrospect; remembering the session, there were at least two incidents where I should have given some out, and I didn't. And anytime they try to warn a teacher, who blows them off, they should get a point. Because, like, they're the Metahumans of Tomorrow. Or people expect great things. One or the other.
  • Have to figure out what gets done with the slugs in the long term. I think they get shipped back to Twisted Earth.

Interesting that Glimm has a crush on Serena. Have to bring her back, then.

We've got these two powerful (and similar) characters and two underpowered characters. One has an obvious niche, the other does not: she's not excellent in brainpower or has powers that no one else has. She's foreign just like the other three. Tough to make her stand out. Have to think about that.

Note: I think I'm going to give Glimm and Sari, the two underpowered characters, the options of their origins (unearthly in one case, probably trained in the other). I don't recall if it suggests this in the Freshman Pack or not. This might be one of the things that happened in the conversion from M&M. The Freshman Pack doesn't include origins at all, so I think this is just a dropped ball on Melior Via's part. (See, they could mention it as a bit of customization for the characters..."You can apply the character's origin as a way to customize...")