Wednesday, December 9, 2015

[Actual Play] Infinity 5: Issue #1 (Masks: A New Generation)

It's a little later than I originally planned, but here's the actual play report from the Arx Jericho group's first playtest session of Masks: A New Generation. Ideally, I'll be able to sit down and type out a draft of future actual plays after the session ends on Sunday nights, so the finished AP post should be out either the following day or on Tuesday.

Please note, the first half of this report is transcribed from the Hangout On Air recording, which cut out about halfway through the session. The latter half is filled out from what I could remember and - since I didn't get around to typing this up until a couple of days after the session - my memory was a little fuzzy on some of the details. As such, that part of the report is a little vague on the details I can't specifically recall.

Anyway, now that all that is out of the way, let's get to the report itself...

The Team: The Infinity 5
Gadget Kid AKA Todd Marshall, the Protege (David): Gadget Kid is the nephew and protege of Dr Sam Marshall, the lead research scientist for the A.E.G.I.S. Esotech Research Division. The ERD is responsible for studying and replicating any super/alien/magic technology recovered by field agents. After his parents died, Todd was sent to live with his uncle, who recognised his talent in designing technology and decided to train him.

The Splash AKA Antonio Bang, the Beacon (Lloyd): The Splash is the latest destined protector of Shivir, the Goddess of Water from an ancient tribe of a time before civilization (he learned about this on Google). Shivir came to him on his 16th birthday and told him he was destined for greatness; however, a god is only as powerful as its believers and, since Antonio is the only person who currently believes in her, she is reduced to little more than a tiny water sprite that resides in the canteen on his belt. As such, his powers are limited, but he does what he can with what he has to help people.

G AKA Gemma Diaz, the Nova (Misha): Gemma was just an ordinary girl living in a small town in New Jersey, until one night during a fierce lightning storm. She woke up from a nightmare of some invisible force pinning her down, choking her, entering her body. She fought to resist it and somehow stabilised it, and when she woke up she felt power surging through her. She also found herself in the devastated ruins of her hometown, with all of her family and friends dead. Her power is gravity manipulation, as she now has what seems to be a black hole in the pit of her chest which she is able to stabilise with her powers, keeping it from consuming her and everything around her. She tries to use this power for good to redeem herself for the destruction of her town and the deaths of her family.

Atomizer AKA Graham Foster, the Doomed (Russell): Graham was a lab assistant at the QuEL facility where they were experimenting with quantum energy. During an experiment with matter transmogrification, Graham and the scientist he was working with, Dr Sinclair, were disintegrated. Retaining their sentience, both were able to reconstitute themselves, although Dr Sinclair's mind was warped in the process and he became the supervillain known as Oblivion, whom Graham has sworn to stop. Unfortunately, the process which created them is irreversible and both of them will eventually completely dissolve someday.
Graham does still have a mentor at the QuEL facility - Dr Kumbani, the originator of the project - who has converted part of his advanced energy research lab into housing for Graham which includes a special containment chamber to help prolong his life, and other equipment that allows him to make greater use of his powers. 

Red AKA Jennifer Williams (Alex): Jennifer grew up having to take care of her sick younger sister, as their parents were too busy getting drunk and arguing with one another to do so. She recently discovered that she has powers of unknown origin, allowing her to fly and absorb different forms of energy. She took the opportunity offered by this power to go out and fight the good fight, in part to vent her built-up anger over her family situation. She works as a courier to help cover costs, and still has schoolwork to contend with. Sarah, her younger sister, is the only person outside of the team aware of Jennifer's superpowers.

Issue #0: Trial By Fire
Our heroes came together to fight against a supervillain known as Afterburner, a former small-time arsonist who got caught in a chemical fire which gave him with fire manipulation powers, as he was creating havoc in the financial district of Halcyon City. During the fight, a landmark - a giant globe with rings orbiting around it - was destroyed in the crossfire, but the team were able to save the life of Gadget Kid's mentor Dr Marshall, who was there at the time. There was a sixth superhero, known as Mr Infinity due to his power of bilocation - being able to manifest himself in multiple locations at once - who overtaxed his powers in order to evacuate people to safety. When Mr Infinity came back to join the fight against Afterburner, he got blasted, didn't have enough energy to escape and was destroyed. After the battle, the group decided to form a team having seen that any one of them would have been incinerated if they had tried to fight Afterburner alone. They exchanged cell phone numbers to stay in touch and named themselves the Infinity Five in memory of their fallen comrade. In the aftermath, Gadget Kid noted that Afterburner had never been as strong as this before. This inspired the Splash to check on Afterburner as he was being taken away by A.E.G.I.S., revealing needle marks on his arms which may point to some kind of drug use.

Issue #1: A Christmas Blackout
Spartan Square, Halcyon City
December 5th 2015

A newswoman reports in front of the camera, with a crowd gathered behind her in front of a stage which has a massive - as yet unlit - Christmas tree towering behind it. "We are coming to you live from the annual tree lighting ceremony in Spartan Square, where the mayor and his wife are getting ready to push the button and welcome the festive season in Halcyon City's usual spectacular fashion!"

In the markets a little further down from the stage, Antonio is carrying a bagful of Christmas shopping in one hand and a Christmas tree under the other arm, his cell phone awkwardly pressed against his ear as he tries to get directions from his mom to the shop she wants him to go to. Todd (aka Gadget Kid) has come along with Antonio to partake in the sugary goods on offer, despite his uncle frowning upon the consumption of such. Atomizer, G and Red are there in costume to make in an appearance for PR purposes on the advice of Atomizer's mentor at the QuEL facility, Dr Kumbani. None of them are really comfortable with this.

Antonio wraps up the call with his mom as the mayor announces from the stage that he's about to light up the Christmas tree. He kicks off the countdown and the crowd joins in: "10... 9... 8... 7... 6... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... zero!"

The massive Christmas tree lights up...and then fizzles out. Along with the lights from several skyscrapers surrounding the square. As people start to murmur nervously, about a dozen dark figures in military gear and glowing red goggles glide down onto the stage with wingsuit-style gear. There is some kind of insignia on the uniforms, but not one immediately recognisable to anyone present. They take out the mayor's security detail in the confusion and grab the mayor and his wife.

Gadget Kid suggests to Antonio that they better help out, so Antonio dumps his shopping on a confused bystander before heading towards the stage, popping the lid off of his canteen and asking Shivir to transform him into his guise as The Splash. Shivir comes out and splashes onto him, creating a watery sheen all over his body as his costume forms around him.

Atomizer cries for the citizens to stand aside and let the Infinity 5 deal with this, and there's a bit of a crush in the crowd as they rush to get out of the way of the imminent danger of a superhero battle.

Gadget Kid takes the skateboard off his back and, with the press of a button, the wheels fold in and it becomes a hoverboard which he uses to fly over the crowd. However, some of the soldiers on stage - who are covering the others as they leave with their hostages - open fire on him with their energy rifles, and he takes some glancing hits that scorch his clothes and the skin beneath.

The Splash uses his powers to transform into water and 'phase' through the crowd to reach the stage. As he arrives in front of the stage with Atomizer and Gadget Kid he turns to them, clearly angry: "Guys, Christmas is cancelled, new plan: beat these guys up and bring Christmas back!"

Red hangs back, taking a deep breath as she senses all of the energies around her, thinking about how to best use them as people in the crowd jostle her and cuss at her for getting in the way as they try to flee, but she pays them no mind. G charges up her powers and levitates up as she uses her gravity powers to lift up three of the soldiers around the mayor and his wife and shoving them away from them.

Gadget Kid goes up to the soldiers covering the others' retreat and tries to knock them out with an aerosol can of a substance he calls Incapacitex, but one of the soldiers grabs his arm and relieves him of the spray can. He's about to use it on the heroes when the Splash flows in front of Gadget Kid, grabs the spray can back and smashes it repeatedly into the soldier's face. Meanwhile, Atomizer uses his telekinetic powers to disarm the other two and the heroes make short work of them after that.

It's at this point that a figure in the crowd, wearing a hoodie, reveals himself to be Blackout - an emo-haired teenager with energy draining powers - who uses the power he has drained from the local electric grid to try and unleash a lightning attack on G. However, G flies out of the way and reappears behind Blackout, who turns to grapple with her as he tries to fire his lightning into her. She absorbs the lightning and uses her gravity to press him downwards, which enrages him into creating a bubble of lightning around himself which threatens the bystanders who are still nearby.

Red uses her own energy absorption abilities to dampen the lightning bubble and keep it away from the crowd, while Gadget Boy hacks the power grid and shuts the block down to deprive Blackout of his power source. At the same time G unleashes an electro-magnetic burst which knocks Blackout's energy bubble out completely - along with all electrical and electronic devices within several city blocks of the square - and then punches his lights out as he stammers in panic: "Wait, wait, it wasn't my plan, it was -- OOF!"

Meanwhile, the would-be kidnappers of the mayor and his wife are unable to escape in the van they had waiting outside the square, since it has been shorted out along with everything else in the area. The Splash flows through the armed kidnappers to reach the mayor and his wife and get them to safety, while Atomizer and Gadget Kid finish off the soldiers.

As the Infinity 5 get the situation under control a couple of A.E.G.I.S. VTOLs arrive, shining spotlights down into the square as they come in to land and take charge of things.

Antonio transforms back to normal and returns to the place where he last saw his Christmas shopping, only to find it abandoned and crushed by the fleeing crowd. As he is heading home, it occurs to him that Blackout's powers usually allow him to drain power from the room he is in or maybe even the entire building at a push, but not a whole city block. The same way Afterburner was more powerful than he normally should have been during their first battle...

QuEL Facility

Upon their return to the facility, Atomizer retreats into his containment chamber to rest, while G, Gadget Kid and Red give Dr Kumbani a report on what happened at Spartan Square. While he commends them for resolving the situation, he also chides them for not maintaining better control of their powers. Atomizer and G both agree that they were reckless and promise to train harder to learn control. After this, Red leaves them to go catch up on her schoolwork at home.

Bang Residence

Antonio finds his mother waiting for him when he gets home, as the TV in the living room reports events from Spartan Square. Antonio tries to assure his mother that he was in no way involved in the battle there, but the lie doesn't hold up under pressure and his mother asks him why he can't do more normal things, like maybe finding a nice girl to go out with or something. This prompts Antonio to try and prove that he does do normal things like that, in fact, he has a girlfriend. When his mother asks when she's going to meet her, Antonio calls up G and asks her to come over for dinner with his mother. Gemma is less than pleased with him, but she agrees to go along with the ruse.

QuEL Facility

Later that night, Atomizer start work on a quantum computer experiment in his lab. By using his brain as the processor, he hopes to predict power spikes that would indicate coming super attacks...


GM's Notes
All things considered, this first session went pretty well. It got off to a bumpy start, as I wasn't sure what move was appropriate to Atomizer calling for the crowd to get out of his way. By design, the teen superheroes don't have a lot of move options for persuading people; presumably because they're teenagers and nobody listens to them like they would to adults.

I may also have leaned a bit too much on Directly Engage and Unleash Your Powers when calling for moves. I'm fairly certain at least one action taken by the team would have worked better as a Defend roll. Other than that, the only other basic moves that didn't get used were Assess the Situation and Pierce the Mask, simply because none of the heroes' actions seemed to qualify for activating those moves.

Those issues aside though, the players had a few complaints about the game itself, which will likely be including as roses and thorns in our final playtest report after December 20th, but despite these issues everybody had a good time and enjoyed the system.

I'm currently trying to organise everything that I learned about the characters and the world into some kind of Front or Fronts, to give the PCs some story arcs to interact with. There isn't any discussion of long-term play in the beta ruleset - I'm not even sure what, if any, material Brendan Conway will be including for organising long-term campaigns in the finished book - so I'm just working with the default Apocalypse World method of Fronts. At the moment, I'm trying to come up with Threats tied to each PC's backstory. I already have one for one of the PCs, but I'm thinking that having a threat for each PC might be a little much. Hopefully I'll at least have some different threads for them to explore by Sunday.

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