“Humans Are Useless” is no more

My superhero campaign, “Humans Are Useless,” has come to a premature end. It seems my players are tired of superhero gaming, or maybe just my campaign. I think this is a chance to learn something about GM-ing and I have decided to ask myself a few questions about what went wrong, and what to do in the future.

1. Were my players interested in the genre and/or setting for the campaign?

This campaign was a New York superhero campaign. In order to really enjoy it, my players needed to either like superhero comics or some aspect of New York. In hindsight, one of my players was not a huge fan of the genre or the setting in question. He told me beforehand that he wasn’t into superhero stuff, but I thought that I would be able to figure out a way to draw him in. He also is not a huge fan of cities in general, being more of a rural sort of guy. In keeping with the two facts I just presented to you, this gamer eventually got to a point where he just didn’t want to be involved with the campaign anymore. My other player is a big fan of superhero comics and movies, but he eventually got bored with the campaign either out of my own failings as a GM, or perhaps inadequate time and effort spent on designing his character.

2. Did my players spend enough time on their characters?

I have previously seen a player make poor decisions during the character creation stage that have ultimately led to a great deal of frustration for both the player and the GM. I am not sure that this sort of thing can be entirely avoided, but I think that I need to convince my players to take more time to develop their characters, and especially need to encourage them to develop a back story. I feel like some players skimp on this stage of the process, only to regret it later. (Though often they think that either the GM has failed to develop the character, or it just didn’t happen and no one is to blame.)

3. Could I have handled the “death” of a character better than I did?

During the superhero campaign, one of our PC’s was defeated. He technically did not die, though he was knocked out and was rendered useless for the duration of a major battle. The system we used for the campaign (the free and obscure MEP Light from Mind’s Eye Publishing) says that superheroes that are defeated in battle (who lose all of their hit points) cannot be used as PC’s again for the duration of the current story arc. I mentioned this to the gamer in question, but ultimately decided to allow him to keep using that character if he wished. It turns out he was frustrated with that first character he made, and he ended up deciding to create a new one. Unfortunately, I think he was less attached to this new character than he was to the first one. I can’t help but think that this pushed him further down the road of quitting the campaign.

4. Did I choose the right system?

I chose MEP Light (aka Hero 8) because it was simple and free. I only had two players, and one of them was inexperienced and I did not think it was a good idea to force him to use GURPS, which was probably my first choice in a vacuum. There was a point when a third player joined us and he tried to convince me to switch to Mutants and Masterminds. I took a look at the system, and saw some cool things, but the third player drifted away from our campaign and I couldn’t justify changing the system without the guy who suggested it still being around. My other two players expressed misgivings about switching, so none of us really had the desire to move to a more rigorous system like M&M or even ICONS. Also, I felt that it would not be the right thing to pressure my players to buy core rulebooks. I definitely feel differently about that now.

Conclusion:

There are some things I could have done differently, but I am not sure that it would have made a difference. The campaign would probably still be over if I only handled the defeat of “Shadowman” differently and used a different system. Perhaps if the setting were vastly different and the players developed more rich and satisfying background for their characters, we would still be going strong, but the fact that one of my players doesn’t particularly like superhero fiction might have been too much to overcome.

The next time I do supers, I want to use ICONS for my system and I want to develop a setting with input from the players. I also hope to really challenge my players to come up with interesting biographies for their troubled yet supremely talented heroes. Another thing I could have done is a shorter-term adventure with an emphasis on action. I know ICONS is somewhat oriented toward that, and frankly Hero 8 was as well. Hopefully I will find gamers that are really into supers, and someday I’ll get to try out ICONS. I bought the PDF a couple years ago and have looked at it from time to time. When the next opportunity to get super shows itself, I’ll be happy to whip out ICONS or consider M&M, Champions, or something else if that’s what my players are more interested in doing.

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Humans Are Useless: May 19 2013

More superhero madness. The Shocker (aka Mike Sanford) is snoozing at an abandoned
factory in Brooklyn when he is rudely awoken by the sound of shattering glass. It is
the sound of a smashed window. It is quickly followed by two more. He can smell
gasoline, and can hear it splashing onto the ground. He alerts his fellow residents
and they escape (by breaking another window).

As the squatters quietly depart, they look back and can see approximately a hundred men
all dressed in the same clothes, standing outside the building. Meanwhile, a large fire
is consuming their former home. Shocker notices the men, but realizes the urgency of
getting further away from the scene. As he takes one last peek, he can see that the men
are gone, but now the fire has grown much larger, and it has spread to the surrounding
buildings in the area. Shocker leaves the scene and begins walking over to Prospect
Park.

The Phase (aka James Francis) heads to work via the subway. Upon arrival, his boss,
Mr. Butts tells him that he has an important matter that needs to be discussed. Five
minutes later, Butts comes in with a thick file and shows it to Phase. He describes a
scheme in which the Mayor has profited from increased gun sales. Phase does some analysis on the data, which proves that the accounts in question have broken the law, but he is not able to pin it on the Mayor.

At that time, Phase receives a phone call from Shocker. Shocker tells the at-times
incorporeal superhero about the demise of his home. The dynamic duo meet up in Prospect
Park, where it is Free Burger Day. The heroes decide to go to the Mayor’s Town House
in the Upper East Side (79th St and 5th Ave.) They arrive at the Mayor’s place. Scene.

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Humans Are Useless: 4.14.2013

hydrogenP

Yet another installment of our superhero campaign. Phase and Shocker have just been released from NYPD HQ near City Hall. They part ways, with Phase heading back to his apartment.

After a few blocks, Shocker is attacked by a crazy woman with a rifle,
and a middle-aged black man with a big beard and a shotgun.

Shocker is surrounded by the two armed and overzealous civilians. He manages
to incapacitate them with his powers. Afterward, he grabs some handcuffs from the
black dude, and chains both of them to a storm drain before fleeing the scene. During
the battle, he discovers that there is a bounty out on his head, and it has been placed
there by the Mayor.

Shocker arrives back at home in the Bronx, only to find that twelve police officers
have surrounded his house. They try to apprehend him, but instead, Shocker lets loose
an electrical attack. The police fight back, nearly killing our hero.

Shocker surrenders to the authorities. He is handcuffed and taken to Central Booking,
where he is dumped in a cell eight floors down below.

Phase receives a phone call from the cops. They tell him about Shocker, and
ask him to come down to Central Booking. He heads down to try and help his friend.
When he gets there, he finds that Shocker is unconscious and wounded from
gunfire.

Phase takes Shocker to the infirmary. At Phase’s request, they perform surgery on him
immediately to remove the fragments of buckshot and .22 rifle rounds.

Prior to the surgery, they have to give Shocker heavy anesthetic. The surgery goes well, but afterward when Phase tries to wake Shocker, he is unsuccessful.

Suddenly, a giant Venus flytrap shows up. Phase becomes insubstantial, the flytrap
is now unable to hurt Phase, so it gets frustrated and leaves. Phase helps out a
nurse who was bitten by the flytrap. Eventually, Shocker wakes up.

A 6’7″ and jacked redheaded dude shows up and tries to kick Phase’s ass.
He is not successful. Phase throws a syringe at him and lets it go in such
a way that it is stuck in his head. He starts thrashing around, panicking, in
extreme pain.

The injured nurse screams out that her wound is opening up again. Phase thinks this is
weird, and does not rush to help. She overhears him expressing a desire to have the
first-aid kit. She offers to bring it to him and he says yes.

The nurse comes into the room, puts the first-aid kit down, but then she lunges at
Phase, and stabs him with a sharp pair of scissors. She does little damage, and Phase
turns insubstantial, thus causing her to give up and run away.

Redhead dude comes back, and Phase throws a bottle of hydrogen peroxide at
him in a similar fashion to last time. Big dude runs away down the stairs, confused, thrashing around with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide stuck in his head.

Phase and Shocker escape from Central Booking, though they notice on their way out that
the usual cops that staff the building are suddenly nowhere to be found. The supers
split up again, with Phase heading back to the Occupy Wall Street encampment
and Shocker going off to find housing,

The police have already confronted Shocker at his house once, so he knows he can’t
go back as long as he is a wanted man. He heads for Brooklyn, hoping to squat an abandoned factory. He finds a place, and when the “homeowners” show up, he convinces them to let him live in their building.

Phase is presumably hooking up with a OWS hippie chick he met in a previous installment of our adventure.

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Next Meeting (Updated)

Hello all. Folks are busy with Easter next Sunday and I will be out of town the following weekend. Our next meeting for the superhero campaign will be Sunday, April 14th at Panera Bread in Waterbury. (920 Wolcott St,  Waterbury, CT) It will be at the usual time of 1pm. We are considering switching to Mutants and Masterminds, and will do some test combat at this meeting.

~ Steve

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This Sunday

We’re meeting this Sunday at Panera Bread in Waterbury to continue the Superhero Campaign. The action starts at 1pm. Full address is: Panera Bread, 920 Wolcott St,  Waterbury, CT 06705

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Humans Are Useless, 3.3.2013

zuccotti_trees

We continued our superhero campaign, entitled “Humans Are Useless,” on the 3rd of March. To start things off, Phase and Shocker went down to the police station to try to save Andy. They defeated four cops in the process of freeing the burly OWS protester from jail. Phase used his dominate ability on three out of the four, and Shocker electrified two of them to the point where they passed out.

Andy told Phase and Shocker that his girlfriend has a car that they can use to get out of town. She is a student at NYU, so the guys headed there. While Andy is visiting with his girlfriend, Phase and Shocker find out that the Occupy Wall Street encampment has been bombed. They talk to Andy, and it is decided that Andy will go up to Litchfield, CT to escape the police, while Phase and Shocker will try to help people in Zuccotti Park.

Phase and Shocker arrive in Zuccotti, where they are confronted by a huge mutant cop and a regular cop. A battle ensues. Hand of Sphinx is on the scene helping the injured, but he walks over to talk to the cops and supers to try and find out what this is all about. Ultimately, the battle ends, with everyone having talked things out. However, the big cop shocks Phase with a cattle prod to render him unconscious, ostensibly to keep him from getting away. Sphinx pleaded on Phase’s behalf, but that had little effect.

The supers arrive back at the police station, where they are met by Blackhawk (the mutant/superhero liaison). Hawk is exasperated by Phase and Shocker’s behavior, but ultimately he got them off the hook for beating up four cops. He
strongly urged the dynamic duo to stop helping Andy Marciac.

The next morning, each hero either sees or hears a special announcement from the Mayor. The Mayor has declared that all mutants need to be brought into New York police stations for questioning. He also declares that every adult citizen of New York must now have a gun on them at all times. The penalty for being found in public unarmed is $1,000.

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DS9

Image

Bryan and I are gonna watch some Deep Space Nine next weekend, to better prepare for our impending Star Trek campaign. This post was really just an excuse to get an image up on this blog.

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March 24th

Our next meeting for the superhero campaign will be on the 24th. I look forward to faces turning heel and heels hitting faces.

1pm, Panera Bread, 920 Wolcott St., Waterbury, CT

~ Steve

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August 11th @ noon

Our next meeting will be Aug. 11th at noon. Bryan is going to run a zombie-themed scenario, which should be pretty cool if our last zombie campaign is any indication. Email me for the address if you would like to join us in Waterbury.

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