Inspired by James Nicoll’s regular D&D posts, I thought I’d write up the session of Truth & Justice I just GM’ed. I’m doing it now because it’s late and I’ll forget if I wait until tomorrow.
Truth & Justice is a superhero paper-and-dice rpg. The heroes were:
- Pressure, a gadgeteering scientist with the ability to control air pressure. The player is a 9yo boy.
- The Black Monkey, a primate scientist, engineer, window-washer who was bitten by a monkey that he himself irradiated and who can now transform himself into a big, bulky human with a monkey tail, except that his eyes are glowing green and his body is a silhouette. Powers: Super-strength, -agility, -speed. The player is a 9yo boy.
- Shait, a 12-year old daughter of archaeologists who is possessed by the spirit of the goddess of the Nile/flooding season/all water everwhere (courtesy of a shabbily-researched web site. If the GM had known they were looking up mythological figures, he would have advised them not to rely on a site with green text on a black background). Powers: Super-armor, Immortality, Water Control. The player is a middle-aged woman and non-gamer.
The player running The Black Monkey had never played any kind of rpg before, which put him one session behind Shait’s player and two behind Pressure’s. The session started where the previous had left off: Pressure had slipped out of his university lab and Shait had climbed out the window of a fleeing school bus and had defeated a villain called Nemesis. They were standing over the unconscious body when Black Monkey ran up, too late to join the fight.
Introductions were made, and Shait informed the other two that she was a goddess searching for lost relics. She also informed them that they would be helping her in this task. Despite their inexperience with gaming, I thought the expressions on their faces pretty closely matched the expressions the adult male characters they were playing would have. Sirens approached and all three left the scene, confident the police would be able to contain the villain.
Shait, of course, discovered that her school bus was long gone, having fled the appearance of a super-villain. She rolled well, found a discarded transfer and took a city bus back to her school. Her parents were called and she was grounded. The life of a pre-teen superhero is never easy, and it was going to get worse.
That night the scene of the attack was visited by a strange figure in black armor. Pressure, new to town, didn’t recognize him and had no time to confront him. Some time later Black Monkey saw the same figure coming toward him and hid. The figure landed and BM realized it was The Dragon Knight, Edison City’s pre-eminent super hero. Monkey revealed himself and accepted Dragon Knight’s invitation to a meeting at sunset the next night. No, he actually didn’t know anything about the other two new superheroes in town.
Dragon Knight returned to the Edison City University and, after some dithering, Pressure came out of cover to meet him. Dragon Knight invited him to the same meeting.
Dragon Knight was also anxious to learn more about the third superhero. Pressure, having fought beside her and spoken with her a little, volunteered her name and a basic description of her powers. He also volunteered her address, neighborhood, and other information several times. The other players and GM explained to him that he didn’t know her secret identity and any information furnished to the premier superhero of his new city was outright fabrication that would only waste his time. This took a surprisingly long time to sink in.
Dragon Knight, though, recognizing Shait’s name and power set, used his mystic flame and occult knowledge to track her down. The next morning found him standing atop a building near a local middle school, the way heroes do. As expected, this prompted Shait to put on her uniform and see what was up.
Dragon Knight, naturally, expected Shait to be one of the school’s teachers, not a student. It never occurred to Pressure or Black Monkey to mention that she was only twelve years old, since both characters were being played by nine-year-old boys. Shait, with all the imperious majesty a middle schooler can muster, praised Dragon Knight’s heroism, honor, and might, then commanded him to explain just exactly what he was doing there.
At this point the GM excused himself to go to the bathroom, to figure out how far this game had gone off track, and to decide what should happen next.
See, on Twitter the game’s creator recommended I run “Second String Heroes” as a kid-friendly campaign. It basically involves a major crisis that calls away Earth’s most powerful heroes and the lower-powered neighborhood guys (ie: the PCs) are asked to step up and look after a city that one of those powerhouses has to leave unprotected.
In this case, Dragon Knight flies off into space, and the PCs start taking on his villains in his absence. Sensible, right?
Except I couldn’t imagine any way that Dragon Knight would allow a mythological spirit drag a little girl into super-powered battle. Immediately, the campaign was off the rails, and we hadn’t even reached the second sentence of the campaign description.
But what do I care for rails?
Dragon Knight, having determined that the girl was a voluntary host and that the “goddess” wasn’t evil, laid out the rules: Shait could stay inside the girl for now and share her life, but she was not to drag her into any superpowered battles. If she wanted to superhero, she needed a new host. Shait didn’t take kindly to being ordered about and was even more miffed not to be invited to the meeting the player knew about but the character didn’t.
That night, when it was time to leave for the meeting, Pressure hung a sign on his lab door explaining that no one should come in or an explosion might result. Black Monkey informed us all that his window-washing shift was over but his scientist boss had called him in to do some extra research and that he was in danger of being fired. (This was a sort of anti-munchkinism, in which the player volunteered terrible difficulties for himself.) He resolved that situation
by locking his bosses in their office, transforming into his monkey-man form, and superspeeding across the city to the meeting.
Shait, meanwhile, was grounded, but faked a just-remembered choir practice and convinced her father to give her a ride to school. Her rolls were quite good and she has bonuses to this sort of thing. After ditching her father and changing to her uniform, she was faced with the difficulty of crossing town to the meeting she didn’t even know about.
Black Monkey’s player volunteered that he ran right past her, and Shait ordered him to stop. He did and, after a quick discussion of the invitation he’d received, it was explained to him that he would be carrying Shait to the meeting on his back. Black Monkey thought that might have sounded nicer as a polite request, but goddesses command.
Pressure was already at the meeting spot when Black Monkey and Shait arrived. Goddesses also do not hide in bushes, even at meetings they have very pointedly not been invited to. When Dragon Knight arrived, he was Not Happy. Shait may have been a well-intentioned spirit, and her host willing, but it seemed she was determined to be a superhero. He decided that the girl and the goddess should be separated. (Also, since he’s an arrogant guy, he was offended that his orders weren’t obeyed immediately).
Dragon Knight immediately used his mystic flame breath to put a fire cage around Shait. Unfortunately, just as the middle school goddess is motivated by the theft of her stolen artifacts, Pressure does a little nuts when he sees people taken hostage. The two of them did their best to break the magic cage, but failed. Black Monkey tried to disorient Dragon Knight by running around him really fast but nothing came of it. Using his superspeed, he tried to break open the cage, but his rolls were terrible. Dragon Knight, trying to stop the two adult men from freeing the possessed child, laid a love tap on the side of Black Monkey’s head and dealt the first damage ranks of the fight.
The PCs had pretty good initiative. Pressure broke the cage open on his second try. Shait tried to win Dragon Knight over by praising him in a decidedly condescending fashion. Black Monkey decided it was time to get physical. He threw three superspeed attacks at Dragon Knight, one of which came sorta close to hitting, and the other two landed in a distant zip code.
Dragon Knight decided it was time to put a stop to things. He flew at Shait, grabbed her and flew into the air. She, wanting to reason with him, didn’t resist. Pressure, feeling the need to do something whenever his initiative had come up, drew a stun pistol and fired it at the flying hero. The shot went wide but Dragon Knight only shot a baleful look in return.
Hovering over the river, Dragon Knight made himself clear: Get out of the superhero game, or find yourself another willing host. He would have probably exorcized her himself if he didn’t have a starship to catch. Also, he has an NPC who will back him up, if necessary. Shait agreed to his terms, or at least DK believes she did.
The two of them returned to the meeting place and Dragon Knight explained that he was being called away and he was hoping to find a team of heroes to take his place. With luck, I conveyed his sense of despair that he’d gotten these guys instead. The heroes agreed (after some whining) to meet with the local police liaison, DK’s expository device, and to take over in his absence. I suspect that Dragon Knight is going to be awfully distracted in his upcoming space battles.
The players were very excited to be provided a new secret base, and I forgot to hand out hero points.