Posted in GM Prep, Masks

X-Pelled Issue 3: GM Missteps

After the high of Issue 2, I thought I had this GMing PBtA thing down, boy was I wrong.  I should have known better.   Issue 3’s problems were partly my fault and partly circumstance.  It was my fault because I had let my familiarity with the rules and the heart of the game lapse.  I was reading up on other rule systems and not making sure Masks: A New Generation was fresh in my mind like I did for Issues 1 and 2 so I was quite rusty.  The Second issue was, I had one of the players cancel the day we were set to play.  Luckily he wasn’t a focal point of my prep (actually I  already had an easy exit for this character in my bullet points), but the player was the kind of player that drives actions and makes decisions easily which keeps the game moving.  I knew his presence at the table would be missed and didn’t have much time to figure out how to compensate.

So with a little bit of further ado, I’ll show you the Bullet points I prepped for Issue 3.   There were a lot more than for Issue 2 but now that the plot had escalated I needed to do a little bit of juggling so I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave anyone out.

So here they are:

  • Wolverine and Pryde discussing Options or lack thereof given to Cythor
  • 2 weeks later
  • Marc Hopper and Slip-stream part of the team
  • Slip-Stream screws up in training Obsidian gets hit.
  • Slip stream confronts Mobius about feelings
  • Cythor at Beat Street Club – How has he integrated.
  • Disk in Star Child’s locker – showing footage from the day of his accident.  Vanisher was there Vanisher stole something sabotaging the dig.
  • Mobius gets pulled out of the timeline.

I started like I always do talking about the cover for the issue.  I wanted it to be something iconic encapsulating the fallout of the end of Issue 2.  I asked the players and they decided on a top down shot of an empty classroom desk, with Cythors names carved into one of the corners amongst other small bits of defacement.  It was a great idea and encompassed the tone of the Issue.635981889605435507911660857_empty chair

I opened the issue with a scene between Wolverine and Ms. Pryde.  Kitty was pissed because they had agreed to give Cythor the option of returning to the school or taking this double agent mission.  Logan, however, went off book and offered Cythor to either get kicked out or be a double agent. Which Kitty accused of being no option at all.  The damage was done however and Cythor was already a double agent.

I wanted a scene like this because I wanted to subtly let the players know that the teachers don’t always have the students best interests in mind. I wanted to subtly hint that the adults might not be able to be trusted.  A sentiment that Star Chyld ends up running head long into later in this issue.

After the quick scene, we had a time Jump.  2 weeks later.  I wanted enough to time occur to have things to have mellowed out a bit on campus after the expulsion.   Maybe things had evolved.   We started with a training session.  Star Chyld on the sidelines on the final days of his evaluation after his convulsion fit in the closing panels of issue 2.

After Fabian’s departure and Cythor’s expulsion, the X training teams were mixed up a bit with Slip and Marc Hopper joining the team.  Both Obsidian and Mobius had feelings for Slip Stream, so I thought it would be interesting if she screwed up in training and caused Obsidian to get hit hard.  Being he was made of Obsidian(clever naming right) it was going to be a minor thing.  But her being a speedster and screwing up while Mobius was also a speedster coupled with her causing Obsidian to be harmed I thought it would lead to some interesting role-playing.  The old stir the pot and see what happens technique.  Only one problem.  The player playing Obsidian couldn’t make it.  So I decided to make the injury more serious and just have Obsidian spend the rest of the issue in the infirmary.  This however really changed the mixture of the stirred pot and led to some unforeseen developments.

So after the injury, Star, who was sitting on the sidelines, starts offering up a critique of Slip Streams performance.  His intent was to be more informative and encouraging.  But it came off poorly. Mobius took particular offense to the guy off the sideline telling one of the two speedsters how to do their job.   Slip, already upset she got her friend hurt, had to walk away. Mobius didn’t like Star coming down on someone who already felt bad about the outcome.  A huge argument ensued. This is where I forgot all about the rules. I instead was wanted to grab some popcorn and watch the drama.  I should have had them trying to flip labels and rolling to reject influence but I forgot all about that.  I am not one to want game mechanics to get in the way of role-playing but the scene dragged on too long and the arguments went in circles.  Eventually, Star accused Mobius of defending Slip because he had a crush on her.  This prompted Mobius to punch Star.  The two parted ways after that.

Over at the Beat Street Club, I had to give Cythor something to do.  I knew I was going to drop a bomb on Star making him dislike The Vanisher later this issue so I wanted to make sure Cythor saw him as a good guy.  So I created an orphanage.  One that accepts mutant children.  This orphanage is of course surrounded by Human First protesters, and low on supplies.  The Vanisher explains all of this to Cythor and asks him to deliver boxes of food and clothing the Beat Street Club had collected to this orphanage. Cythor loaded all of the stuff in a Taxi and headed over.  Protesters interfered with Cythor, and they were quite rude and said some very unkind things about mutants.  Cythor created an illusion of a National News van around the corner, informed some of the protesters and they all flocked to the van to get coverage allowing him to get buy and inside.  Cythor had a nice conversation with the Orphanage staff and then quietly left.  The scene kind of fizzled. It didn’t have the gravitas of good will it needed.  Cythor was great defusing the entire situation without violence.  But the message I was trying to convey wasn’t really taken.

Back at school.  Star Chyld photoshopped a picture of Mobius and Slip Stream together with hearts all over it, made a few dozen copies and posted them all over the door to his ‘pod’. So, of course, Mobius discovers this at the exact time Slip Stream is heading to his room to thank him for sticking up for her.  Slip Stream sees the pictures, Mobius is horrified and Slip Stream starts laughing.   Mobius explains that Star Chyld was mad at him and did this because he thinks Mobius has a crush on her.  Slip Stream responds “Doesn’t he know that you’re gay?” Mobius informs her he is not, she told him Obsidian said he was. She gets all embarrassed and leaves.

——-

Quick time out here.  While this, “He’s Gay” plot thread is very High School we all know it is rather insensitive.  The idea behind it was to eliminate a love interest for someone Obsidian had a crush on.  In no way were the players trying to use being Gay as an insult or derogatory thing.

——–

While this is going on Star Chyld finds a thumb drive in his locker with video of the Vanisher stealing something from his father’s dig site and sabotaging machinery.  The time stamp is the night Star Discovered his powers, a discovery that ending up causing machinery at his father’s dig site to explode which put his mother in a coma.  A coma that she remains in this day.  Star, of course, wants to call his father and show up what he’s found.  He heads to the front office and sees Ms. Pryde heading out.  He convinces her to open up her office so that he can call his father, but doesn’t reveal what he’s found.  However, the call gets put into Star’s father’s voice mail.  Star is insistent that something is wrong, and lays a very vague case that Ms. Pryde doesn’t believe is a big deal.  She thinks Star is jumping to conclusions and tell him they will continue to try to contact his father in the morning if that is fine.  This was me pretty blatantly trying to say: “The adults cannot solve your problems” it might be a little bit of a stretch in the narrative world, but in the game, it worked.  Star then makes a few comments that are inappropriate. Ms. Pryde shuts him down. “I thought the school boy crush was kind of sweet but I should have shut it down earlier.  I’m sorry I let it go this long.  It’s completely inappropriate and you need to get over it.”

Star a bit mad leaves Ms. Pryde’s office, only to run into an equally mad Mobius. Fighting begins anew.   I had to find a way to move the story forward and get Cythor involved.  So in walks Marc.  He tells the group he is going to go see Cythor and asks them if they want to come.  Mobius and Star are confused.  So Marc explains that he woke up in the Infirmary with the “I’m Sorry” note from Cythor in his hand.  Dr. McCoy wouldn’t let him leave his bed, however, so he created an illusion of himself in bed and went sneaking around the school.  He heard Cythor arguing with Logan and his office and ease dropped on part of the conversation.  He saw Logan give Cythor keys to an apartment.  He just didn’t know where.  Star, however, said, “Oh, that’s easy we can track his cell phone.” So they did just that.  Star calls his Driver, Jeeves, and they head out.

Cythor is surprised to see them when they show up.  They chat about what happened Mobius expresses his distaste for the decision to expel him but Cythor tells them that he screwed up and they made the right decision.  They start asking about the apartment when Cythor gets a text from Shinobi Shaw saying “outside 5 minutes”  (by this time I’m off script.. Cythor has too many secrets. And each player doesn’t seem to want to have their characters tell the truth to each other, so time to force their hands… or so I think)  Cythor, however, convinces everyone that the text he got was from a hot date and he needs them to leave the apartment asap..  Through the window.  They all agree. (as a GM I’m going WTF) So I have Marc be the curious troublemaker that he is say to the group “We’re going to spy on him right, see who this date is?”  Star and Mobius instead decide to go get food, but Star gives Marc his phone so he can record the whole thing.  He tells Marc they’ll be around the corner in the car with pizza.

Cythor meets Shinobi outside the apartment.  Cythor tells Shinobi everything that has gone on at the Beat Street Club and what he’s been doing.   Shinobi is upset it’s not more. He does however call out the Vanisher’s ploy to ingratiate himself to Cythor with the orphanage thing.  “He’s trying to earn your loyalty, good.”  Progress is going slower than he would like but it’s moving.  The conversation is halted however as Shinobi’s driver notices Marc in Cythor’s apartment window.  Shinobi gets mad at Cythor and tells the driver to kill the kid.  (Here I am trying my best to push Cythor to action.  Pick a side.) Cythor offers to do it instead to prove his loyalty.  Cythor gets back in his apartment and Marc is freaking out.  Cythor is working for Shinobi! Cythor explains he’s not going to kill Marc.  They are both illusionists, howeve,r they are going to make it look like Cythor kills Marc.  The plan works. But when Shinobi leaves Cythor finds that Marc is gone.

Marc gets it’s into the Star’s car scared, pale and sweating, he tells them they have to go. Star tells Jeeves to drive.  They ask Marc what happened he instead hands Star his phone.  Mobius and Star watch the meeting unfold.  They see Cythor offer to kill Marc.  They see Cythor barge into the apartment.  That is when the recording stops.  Marc starts to tell them what happens next, when the Car they are in gets into an accident.

The two teammates spring into individual action. Not acting like a team at all.  Mobius slows down time grabs Marc and rolls out of the side of the car to safety, while Star Chyld tried to fill the back cabin with shock(as in impact) absorbing energy tendrils.   Both succeed.  As the car flips Mobius sees what they hit, and it’s Dr. Eternity and he’s unfazed by the impact. He’s just standing in the middle of the road. Mobius runs. This thing killed his mom, he’s got to get Marc to safety.

“Was I ever this weak?” Dr. Eternity says as he sees Mobius run away.  Star however stays and fights.  The fight goes rather quick. Star gets 2 good 10+ roles for attacks and a 4 on Avoid a powerful blow.  Dr. Eternity, wrapped in Star’s energy tendrils, decides just to phase himself into another dimension, and disappears.

Mobius and Marc return.  Star feels vindicated that Dr. Eternity is real, not just his own imagination.  Marc however asks about Jeeves.  He they find did not survive the car crash.

That big reveal ended the night.

The original idea for Mobius’ plot line was for Mobius to get pulled out of the timeline (by another version of himself…. It’s complicated) and for the whole group to soon follow.  But the whole group wasn’t here, they weren’t together so I had to scrap that and go in another direction.  This new direction ended up speeding up the main plotline.  It will come to a head in Issue 5 which I fear might lead this Dr. Eternity thing to be an afterthought of Issue 6, but hopefully, I can make it work.

As a whole the session turned out well, but was a mess through and through.  I let Star and Mobius bicker too much and had to resort to having Marc lay down some rails to move the story forward.  The players didn’t mind the Marc interventions it got them out of the rut they dug for their characters. I was trying to pit Mobius and Obsidian against each other because both characters have their tipping point and social phobia’s.  But Obsidian wasn’t here.  I didn’t expect the Mobius/Star feud at all.. And Star being a 13 old prodigy, he had the competency to keep in the fight but not the maturity to let things go.  Everyone had fun, but if I would of remembered to you know, Use the rules it would of gone a lot smoother.

At the end of this Episode I was left with a quite a few threads.

  • Star knows Vanisher sabotaged his father; caused mother’s coma
  • Star and Mobius think Cythor is working for Shinobi and tried to kill Marc
  • Cythor is working for Wolverine/Shinobi/Vanisher
  • Dr. Eternity what’s his deal

So what’s to come? Well, Star earned an advancement at the end of this Issue.  He took the Bull’s Hart ability for it.  He informed me has to have something he loves… It can’t be Ms. Pryde I inform him.  So we brainstorm some more teen drama for Issue 4 that will give Obsidian fits.

I was expecting Issue 4 to an assault on the Vanisher but it turned out to be a huge build up for a big throw coming in Issue 5.  Issue 4, however, does see a huge jaw dropping mouth covering reveal for Mobius’ player.

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