X-Pelled is my Masks: A New Generation Game in an original Marvel timeline where the players are playing students at Jean Grey’s school of Higher Learning. To learn more about the cast and the start of the game check out my previous article:
I started my GM prep with two things going to happen. One they were going to start the Session in the middle of a Danger Room Battle, and two they were going to a Dance Club (seeded into the Episode 0 Play) and a Sentinel was going to attach the Club while they were there. (ok maybe 3 things were going to happen)
In my group’s Worlds in Peril game Kingpin was horrifically killed by a slightly insane Hyperion. With Fisk gone I figured this would leave a power vacuum in organized crime in NY. So I figured I would come up with two groups to fight over that Vacuum and have the PCs running afoul of them. Quick easy Meta Plot. The problem is what two groups would work. Well, this is the Mutant side of Marvel, so the Hellfire Club makes a lot of sense. The problem is these X-Men are teens so the Hellfire Club may just be too big and adult. The party wanted to lean into the Teen drama so I wanted to try the teen outcasts angle as one group. You know; someone trying to pull the group away from the righteous protectors of man, mutant propaganda the X school will be filling their heads with. So looking through the interwebs I stumbled across a group called the Fallen Angels. A great idea for a drug dealing, nightclub owning burgeoning crime syndicate. Former X-students and general riff-raff who just want to have fun and live it up in NYC. What about that wouldn’t appeal to Teen-Age mutants.
Who to oppose them? Well, the players haven’t discovered their identity just yet so I’ll keep the opposition to myself, except to say they have access to a Sentinel or 2.
So the Game is going to end in a Nightclub with a Sentinel attack.
How to begin. Well in media res in the danger room. But where to set the scene? I figured I would go with something ironically NY something cool relatively contained and would make a good cover. I decided on an NYC Subway station.. Mainly for the cover. I started the session saying X-pelled issue 1 features an NYC Station subway platform on the cover and the group dressed to the nines ready for a party, describe where your character is on the cover and what they are wearing.” It worked great. What would their characters wear when going out to a club? And what does their posture tell about them? Everyone was able to quickly get into the mindset of their character this way.
Now I didn’t know what iconic villain would the X-pelled by fighting in the subway. It couldn’t be Sentinels(they were to come later). I asked a few friends of mine if they had any ideas. (don’t fear other peoples’ ideas if they can do the work for you go for it.) Someone suggested the Brood. I looked them up. A bunch of low-rent Xenomorphs. Great! Multiple enemies on the screen would make a great shot. So I described in the finishing touches of the cover, the red eyes that watch from every shadow of the subway station.
As you opened the cover of the comic and got to the real first page. I described it as a two paged splash panel. The characters were now in the subway in the midst of the battle with the brood dressed in their uniforms. I had each player describe their character and what they are doing. Basically a power showcase. The Superhero shot that shows who they are. It would have things like “Mobius – Speedster” by the drawing of Mobius running around the room punching a bunch of Brood, and “Obsidian – Super Strong and Impenetrable” stuff like that. You know, the Team introduction panel.
I then asked them to describe how things had started to go wrong. They described a cool domino effect of calamity everyone got into it before we even rolled a dice. After the initial setup, the fight was to go off in earnest. And it was going quite interesting.
Rolls went well for some and horribly for others. Mobius the Time ‘speedster who really alters time and dimension’ rolled Boxcars on a “Take a Powerful blow” Roll from the Brood Queen. He chose to lose control of himself and his powers in a terrible way” This manifested in him teleporting the brood queen and everything around it to another dimension and time. This allowed me to dramatically reveal they were actually in the Danger Room and he just broke the darn thing by transporting it elsewhere. ” Also the huge dimensional tear was noticed by Dr. Eternity. (more on him a later time)
Then the players threw me for a loop.
After the dressing down by the teacher on how poorly they did and for breaking the machine they went to lunch. Star Chyld, however, convinced the group to skip the rest of their classes and go to the mall where he was going to use his father’s Black card to buy them outfits for the evening.
Not what I was expecting but I ran with it. I let them describe their mall scene, and get a bit more of then defining their characters (don’t feel the need to push the pace of a game, sometimes players need to let their characters breathe). I really didn’t have any good ideas for complications at the mall and I didn’t want to make the episode turn into one of human prejudice or something like that so I just let the scene conclude and we moved on to the club.
The Idea was The Vanisher, the leader of the Fallen Angels, was going to talk to Star Chyld the Nova with a rich father and Cythor the Delinquent with a mob boss father and plant the seed that there is a ‘cooler and more fun’ path to go down than the stuffy school with all its rules.
Star Chyld who already had a few conditions including angry was having none of it. Which I didn’t expect, but good on him for playing to his conditions. Why Cythor was more impressed with the Fallen Angel motif the Vanisher had in his office than what he was actually saying.
Back at bar Ariel, the girl the group saved in Issue 0, was to offer Obsidian and Mobius a real drink, but on the ride over Mobius already robbed a convenience store with his power to get them a 12 pack of beer. Ariel introduced Obsidian to Sunspot. The idea being I wanted him to meet someone who suffered a similar transformation, someone cool that could relate to him, maybe sway him. Obsidian, however, was more aloof didn’t take the bait.
So I upped the stakes and offered them drugs. A new substance that enhances the mutant gene giving you more power (but less control). A drug the group named RUSH. A postage stamp that dissolves on your tongue.
Mobius and Obsidian were reluctant here too, but they didn’t have much time to make a decision because Star Chyld had returned and wanted to look cool so he snatched the tabs from them and took one.
Time for that Sentinel attack I thought. But first, lets up the stakes. In walks Slip-Stream the speedster Obsidian and Mobius both have a crush on. (serves them right for shutting down my other NPCs) With Fabian Cortez the school Jerk. (salt on wound)
Now the Sentinel crashed through the door. Obsidian rushed to help Slip-Stream and the rest of the team went into action. The fight went quite well.. Until Mobius remembering what he did this morning, tried to recreate that by unleashing his powers. And came up with an utter failure. Not snake eyes but close.
So what happened? Instead of banishing the Sentinel he pulled a Sentinel from the original X-men Timeline into existence.
With a collapsing dance-club and two Sentinels to deal with the party handled themselves quite well. The Nova, being a Nova, ended up with a lot of conditions but in the end Used his powers to destroy the last remaining (and out of place and time) sentinel with a nice 7 roll.
Since he was attached to the Sentinel when he killed it on a whim I decide to seed in something interesting and use my move “Reveal the Future subtly and directly” The destroyed Sentinel slipped back in his own timeline giving Star Chyld a glimpse of where it came from. He saw the original X-Men battling the Sentinels in the past. But he also saw standing there Dr. Eternity a being that looked a lot like Mobius but in a killer looking dark costume. And Dr. Eternity was staring right at Star Chyld. (this little scene has played out great. Don’t be afraid of your instincts. Don’t try to shoehorn something in where it doesn’t belong but do trust your GM instincts)
All in all, it was a good game. However, to me, it felt like it fell flat and I didn’t know why. It took me a bit of reflection to figure it out. Here were my two biggest mistakes.
- I didn’t know my heroes yet, but I made assumptions on how they would respond to things. Therefore I was thrown off balance when the subverted expectations.
- I over planned. I had too many bullet points to hit forcing me to force scenes.
With those in mind Session 2 ending up something really unexpected. But wonderful. More on that another time. Below are the original bullet points of my session 1 prep:
- Describe Cover – waiting at the subway station – red eyes in the shadows.
- Start in the middle of Danger Room Fight. – Describe fight. – Characters looking cool. How does it go wrong?
- (Slip-Stream in trouble) Fabian cocky and doesn’t listen)
- Brood Fight.
- Gambit wants Cythor to try his hand at leadership. “I hear Racheal has asked you to pick a leader. What do you think about that? Who do you think should lead? Why not yourself? (I think you genuinely care about your friends, I think you would look after their best interests. The best way not to feel like others are dictating to you is to be the one in charge)
- Fabian comments on Mobius ‘ private room. “who’d your mother have to screw to get you your own Private quarters”
- Ariel (girl with pink hair) thanks Obsidian for the assistance. Compliments his jump. Buys him a drink “do you want it alcoholic or not”. Introduces him to Sunspot.
- Sunspot interested in when Obsidians powers first Manifested. Says he was once a student at the school, but left. He accidentally injured another student and was seen as unsafe by his peers. He couldn’t stand being an outcast twice over.
- Vanisher invites Star Child and Cythor up to the private sweet. He wants to meet the son of Mega One. Who was and X-men when he was a student there. He respected Mega One and why he left.
- Wants to let them know when they are sick of being the poster boys of Mutant always held to the highest standard above all else. Handling people that despise them with kid gloves and trying not to offend anyone. Please come by the club, you’ll have a home here.
- Sentinel attack.