At Last, Capes!

Crossposted in roleplayers

That’s right, baybee. On Saturday, I finally got to take the Capes rules out for a spin in real play. We decided not to run either Descent or The Good War that night because we didn’t have time for a full-blown multi-scene session, and we just wanted to dive in and play something fast and loose to get how the rules work. Instead, we ran something that was more standard comic-book fare and everybody made a character with click-and-locks so they could see how those work.

Firstly, for the benefit of readers that don’t have capes, Capes Lite happens to be available for free. Who loves ya, baby?

We sat down together and I went over the rules for them, showing explaining the mechanics mostly in terms of movies I know they like and are intimately familiar with (Spider-Man, Star Wars IV and VI, The Matrix etc), particularly the Gloat Mechanic (modeling Grand Moff Tarkin’s overconfidence and Spidey’s indecision). They picked up on this stuff pretty quickly and we moved on to character creation.

I decided to go the easier, faster beginning route and require everyone to use click-and-lock modules to make their characters this time round. I started out, hammered out Stone Fist as a demo, and then helped them with theirs. While I was in process, they saw the module combination I used (Brick & Guilt-Ridden) and declared him akin to Marv from Sin City. So I decided that he’d look a bit like the plug-ugly bruiser.
Stone Fist will rock you. Clicky for bigger piccy Stone Fist

Stone Fist (Hal)

Powers:

  • Invulnerability 1 (P)
  • Great Leverage From Tiny Handhold 2 (P)
  • Super-Strength 3 (P)
  • Fist of Stone 4 (P)

Styles:

  • Doubt Yourself 1
  • Brood 2
  • Hit ‘em with the scenery 3 (P)
  • Massive  Property Damage 4 (P)

Attitudes:

  • Impatient 1
  • Doubtful 2
  • Kind 3
  • Remorseful 4

Stone Fist has been at this far longer than most superheroes have been alive, and it shows. Back in ‘Nam, he was a special forces soldier whose unit was sent on a mission into an ancient temple deep in some nameless jungle hellhole. He emerged alone, covered in gore and forever changed: from the elbows down, both of his arms were now oversized living stone apendages resembling gauntlets. Though he could still be hurt and bleed, pain and bodily harm became nearly meaningless to him, and his physical prowess was magnified far beyond any human capacity. Shortly thereafter he was decorated and transferred to an American costumed super-team “Omega Force” operating under the direction of CIA handlers. His public actions made him a hero back home, and his many covert operations still haunt him every time he closes his eyes. The War ended and years later what remained of Omega Force was disbanded. Finally, Stone Fist was able to retire and live in relative seclusion on his modest Master Sergeant’s pension with a bottle to help him sleep. To this day, what happened in that temple remains highly classified information, if indeed it is even on record.  Stone Fist refuses to speak about the events that made him superhuman.

Somehow, though he’d rather wallow in his gloom and guilt until the booze drowns him, his sense of responsibility and the demons riding his back keep him from completely putting down the mantle. He’s done too much harm to feel that he can sleep without trying to pay the world back. Younger heroes have been known to seek training or leadership from the crumbling icon, but his self-doubt has thus far kept him from taking any proteges.

He was never a looker, but now the old soldier is a weathered, leathery, scarred hulk of a man with broad shoulders, coarse stone arms and pupilless eyes that look like wet jade. He dresses in civilian clothes, often including a long coat. He still maintains a crew cut and wears his dog tags.

My conception of Pe Wu Feng

Pe Wu Feng (Dylan)

Powers:

  • Punch 1 (P)
  • Reflexes 2 (P)
  • Wire-Fu 3 (P)
  • Kick 4 (P)

Styles:

  • Plan ahead 1
  • Named Styles 2 (P)
  • Worst Case Scenario 3
  • Storm of Kicks 4 (P)

Attitudes:

  • Understanding 1
  • Desperate 2
  • Nervous 3
  • Apologetic 4

Folks familiar with the click and locks will notice that Pe Wu Feng was built from the Kung Fu Fighter (IE mook, minion etc) click-and-lock module and then “powered” rather than the super-martial artist module. Dylan just felt this matched better, and I agree. Modules: Kung Fu Fighter & Neurotic

Pe Wu Feng is a young and highly-trained martial artist from the deep recesses of the Himalayas, raised as a fighting monk of an obscure and mystical sect based in a monastery forgotten by most of the world. Despite his considerable talents, Pe Wu has never been able to reach a calm center to his being, and eventually he sabotaged himself right out of the monastery. Left adrift, he managed to work his way to America, where he is trying to start anew. He just knows it will never work out, but he’s manically trying to make it work anyhow.

Ed

Ed

Powers:

  • Bind Forces/Things 1 (P)
  • Wards & Shields 2 (P)
  • Summon Forces/Things 3 (P)

Styles:

  • Runes & Sigils 1 (P)
  • Mythic Resonance 2 (P)
  • Thrill Junky 3
  • Instant Effect 4
  • Escape Without A Scratch 5 (P)

Attitudes:

  • Bored 1
  • Rebellious 2
  • Talkative 3
  • Unflappable 4

Those of you familiar with Full Metal Alchemist will recognize where this guy’s very overtly ripped off from. I’ve never seen it, but that’s the inspiration here. Modules: Magician & Hotshot.

Ed is a young magician whose background has yet to be revealed in the context of the story, a trait that’s actually perfectly fine in Capes as it leaves room for folks to collaboratively build on it and bring forth “revelations of the past.”

We decided that these guys aren’t at this time allies and don’t yet know one another, though they’re all theoretically heroes.

Actual Play
I began us with a little bit of Debt and a couple Story Tokens just to show how those work right away, and because time was so short. Here’s a brief and truncated rundown of how play happened. I’ll leave the dice mechanics out of it and just give a sumary of events.

I began play, setting the Scene up in an alleyway leading up to the back fence of an enclosed compound whose name and purpose I deliberately did not reveal: we dubbed it The Facility. A group of  shadowy figures were about to breach the fence, but Stone Fist was already aware of their presence, having been on their tail for a while already and in fact having headed them off, now waiting for them beyond the fence. Dylan declared that Pe Wu was pulling the classic “right place, wrong time” schtick and just happened to be nearby enough to notice something amiss, and Peter determined that Ed was lurking nearby quite deliberately. Three Conflicts hit the table: (me) Goal: Stop the mooks from reaching The Facility, (dylan) Event: The Facility Collapses and (peter) Goal: Steal The Philosopher’s Stone from The Facility. Peter did a good job of playing off what had come before to add a meaty Conflict.

The baddies detonated their way through the fence, messily announcing their presence. Stone fist interposed himself in their path and they opened fire on him with automatic weapons, though the hail of bullets mostly ricocheted off his rocky forearms since he was covering his face with them for the moment. A few other rounds drew blood, though he didn’t even flinch. Pe Wu, hearing the commotion, performed a high-flying wall-running leap and landed in the midst of the mooks, laying about himself skillfully. 

Ed, meanwhile, dashed from cover and magically bound the security guards in their own animated belts, heading for the entrance He’s not a Mook so he could get there without the Not Yet rule interfering: the Goal in play only prevents the mooks from getting there while the Conflict is in play. That didn’t stop me from interfering, however… Stone Fist saw him and assumed he was one of the bad guys, breaking off from them and ignoring their gunfire to throw a security jeep, which blocked the doorway with flaming wreckage… and Ed just conjured another door in the wall and dashed through to perform a dramatic anime-leap down the giant pit beyond the wall. Just behind him, another, previously unnoticed figure wearing black shapeshifted to enter the building by another way.

Stone fist left the goons to shoot him in the back and shoulder-checked the wall to send it crashing down the pit atop Ed, bellowing “Eat this, shorty!” but Ed, down beyond view, transformed the falling masonry into feathers and escaped unharmed… and without Stone Fist’s knowledge for now.  Meanwhile, Pe Wu was making a mess of the rear rank of minions, dudging bullets and chun-li kicking his way through their serried ranks and even toppling one screaming off a balcony (how’d the guy get up there in the first place?).

The shapeshifter (who I was now running as a second character, and who teamed up with then split off to a separate side from Stone Fist in opposing Ed’s theft, effectively dooming Stoney’s chances of stopping it… he wanted it himself) dove down after Ed, brachiating with his stretcho-arms and dashing past the magician, counting on his flexibility and resilience to get him through the aggressive wall of wards between him and the Stone. Ed dashed after him, slipstreaming, ducking and weaving his way through the frenzied energy blasts, curse-triggers and so on by sheer luck and deftness.  Now it was down to a footrace between them.

Meanwhile, up above, Stone Fist slowly turned to face his attackers, scowled and asked them if they felt lucky. They didn’t, but they reloaded and kept shooting anyway. He proceeded to crack their collective skulls.

Resolution occurred, and each player managed to Resolve the conflict he had introduced in the first place (also the one he was most interested in). Ed zapped the shapeshifter to knock him down for a moment and got the stone then teleported to safety. Stone Fist made sure that not one of the mooks remained conscious to reach The Facility (the cops’ll take care of them), and Pe Wu bailed when he noticed the impending structural failure of the building thanks to all the damage Stone Fist had done to important load-bearing bits. The foreign national wanted no part of the deportation he figured he’d face if he got implicated.

So there was have the results of our short scene: Stone fist stops one group of disposable baddies from reaching the building (even if they were mostly there to keep him and the security guards busy) and captures the lot of them, Ed gets away  with the precious Stone and leaves his rival to get buried in the collapse. Pe Wu? Well, that collapse doesn’t end up being his fault: it’s Stone Fist’s. At least it squished the shapeshifter for now. In the end, everybody except the bad guys wins and Stone Fist gets to feel guilty about it.

All in all, the system worked very well and made for a fun, dynamic session with a lot of back-and-forth in a short span of time. We had a couple minor systemic hiccups due to it being so new to us, but reexamining the events while reading the rules cleared the confusion up neatly (the main oops was that we effectively treated all Conflicts as Free Conflicts on the first Page… which wasn’t the worst rules flub, as it got the action going right away). Actually seeing it in play clarified the rules a great deal for me. They make much better sense now, as I figured they would. The unanimous verdict was that Capes is a solid system, and one that will flow really fast and intuitively once we’ve internalized the mechanics a little more thoroughly. It really does follow that once a game hits its stride, whichever player most wants control of a given story aspect should be able to get what he wants.. and even if he somehow doesn’t, he’ll be richly rewarded in Story Tokens to enact his will later. Plus, everybody had a lot of fun.

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