GM Reflection: Super Session 1

Couple of things, if my players are reading this, it is fine. I will not give away any spoilers or otherwise significantly interfere with your game experience. At worst, you will see some behind the scenes information about what might have occurred. Also, if I say that I expected the players to do X right away, but instead they did Y, I mean exactly that and nothing more. It is not a criticism of your play or decision-making to do things differently than I expected. I love you all.

There is a more narrative summary of the action here in Super Session 1 – Entomology. This piece will be more reflective on the session and mechanics from a GM perspective. Any players (or readers) are welcome to add their thoughts as well. 

Campaign Information

This is a superhero campaign starting at 500 points. There are 6-7 players and me. I am using material from Powers, Supers, and Action 2: Exploits a fair amount. I pulled just a few things from High-Tech and will likely pull a few from Ultra-Tech for super-science ideas.

I want the game to play pretty fast, so I am not using some things like critical hit tables, bleeding rules, etc. I am using wounding modifiers and hit locations, although most enemies will strike random locations. Things like cost of living and cultural familiarity are broadly ignored.

Character Generation

I felt that building Supers as their first characters would take such a large amount of time and effort, that it would be better if they described characters to me and I built them ahead of the session. I thought this worked very well, because I could make sure the characters were reasonable and that they didn’t have any glaring first-time player type weaknesses. I basically picked an appropriate template from Supers and then tweaked it to fit. Some of the players told me a lot about what they wanted, some said little, but I think everyone got an interesting and useful character, so it is a win.

At the session itself, we picked some disadvantages and bought equipment. I prepared and printed a list of modern equipment for them to choose and that worked fine.

Running Things

I wanted to start the players in action quickly. Rather than write a long backstory, I just put them all in the same place during a super attack. I think some players would have liked something more coherent, but I have a plan in mind down the road to fill in some things if the players want to investigate the odd coincidence that they were all together at that key time.

Running a Supers game is extra challenging because the characters can do so many things, that it is difficult to anticipate what they will try. I did not think that they might telekinetically open a fire hydrant to wash ants away, but it was a clever idea, so I decided it would work. Basically, I reduced the number of ants that could reform. It is also difficult to allow a villain to escape when there is a hero with super speed on the team. Luckily, Marcus’ insect powers were well suited to making him disappear.

The giant ants were not meant to be a big threat, just a way for everyone to use their powers in combat and get used to things and they served their purpose. I actually intended the small ants to act as a swarm style enemy as well, but I forgot to do that until too late, so I let it go.

Investigation

Combat went pretty smoothly, but the investigation was more difficult. Part of the issue, I think is that they are more used to Dungeons and Dragons and moving from combat scene to combat scene more smoothly. Not being as familiar with their skills in GURPS I think made them unsure of what they could or couldn’t do.

I thought when I was planning, that they would immediately look up information for Dr. Son and track him down. Instead, they tried to follow the trail of Marcus. I decided to take them to his locker that way, figuring they would make a note of it and move on. I had to improvise a gruff storage locker attendant and some other stuff to keep things going.

Once they got to Son, they got to Marcus in exactly the way I thought. Then things took another turn. I thought that they would hear Marcus out and either take his job (probably to foil his plans rather than for the money) or refuse and go to try to prevent his robbery of the place himself. Instead, they attacked him, so I threw in an extra small combat scene. Honestly, the scorpion was just too under-powered for a challenge, but at least added some uncertainty and excitement.

Denouement (That is French for “When we get the bad guys”)

At this stage, I expected them to go to the robbery site and break in themselves assuming that Marcus in insect form was already there. Instead, they took a much more conservative approach. Overall, while I was not planning for it, I felt like their plans were well thought out and I wanted to reward their use of Science! and Intelligence!

Still, I realized that my assumption that the players would think that Marcus could easily infiltrate the building without being noticed was incorrect. They were waiting for something obvious to happen, but I had nothing. In retrospect, I could have had them detect a mass of insects inside and have to move in that way. I wanted them to have to deal with the guards, who had modern weapons and were not really ‘bad guys’ to highlight some of the issues that might cause.

In the end, I had Marcus kill the guards so that the players would be forced into action. I had some final combat plans, but the players had invested a fair amount of time into their plan, and it was getting late, so I figured that it would generally work and avoid a large combat. I used the guidelines in Action to handle breaking in, and it gave Wiley’s character a chance to be stealthy.

The resulting discussions about killing Marcus come about largely because two players took Pacifism and the others did not. It could cause some friction, but the conflict surrounding lethal force is very genre appropriate (Wolverine vs Cyclops, Daredevil vs Punisher, etc) so as long as the players are ok with it, I plan to let it continue.

I did not really anticipate Mindy’s desire to ‘cure’ Marcus, though I probably should have. Her player seemed more interested in Marcus’ motivations, which is something I should keep in mind building future villains. Who knows, maybe there is more to Marcus’ story?

For a first session with a lot of players, I thought it went well. I need to work on some preparation related things and balancing challenges, but that will come with practice. We plan to play once a month, so hopefully there will be more adventures to come.

Feel free to make comments or ask me questions if you like.

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