Google+ has been something of a renaissance for me in terms of actually playing games. At the moment, I’m running two games and playing in two games (and a third game not on Google+). Good times! I thought I’d give readers a glimpse into the games I currently running and throw in a few thoughts on doing “play-by-post” on Google+.
I started by Mystery Men! Dark Renaissance campaign in July 2011 and, 810 posts later (yeah, I save them) it’s drawing to its conclusion. The idea for the game came from a post by Zak at Playing D&D With Porn Stars – in particular, a post of an old map of Dr. Doom’s castle. I thought that assaulting the castle could be pretty cool, and pondered just running a game in which people created heroes and then tried to get into the castle and defeat Dr. Doom.
Ultimately, I decided to make the castle the final scene of a larger campaign, one which was designed as the origin story of a new super hero group. Like the origin stories of the Avengers and Justice League, the campaign would start heroes in different cities and then allow them to follow a string of clues to a grand conspiracy. Google+, with its concept of circles, appeared to be a great way to do this – and in the end, I think it was.
Games of Mystery Men! revolve around the plans of the villain. Dark Renaissance is set in the early 1960’s. One fine morning, dozens of military targets across the USA (and, it turns out, the USSR) are attacked by American supervillains. Those who are captured turn out to be brain-washed and all have a common thread – they were living in halfway houses run by a The Helping Hands Foundation, a large charity operation founded by an Oklahoma oil man.
Three heroes quickly latch onto these clues: Orca in Seattle (played by Nathan Sorseth) and two Chicago-based heroes, The Green Mask (played by Reynaldo Madrinan) and Firefly (played by Paul Fini). Orca’s own naval base is attacked by a villain called Supersize, and with the help of his fellow SEALs he manages to stop him. In Chicago, a train is stolen by three villains – Pinball King, Shatter and Sunburst – a train holding a massive gold shipment (and a mystery metal called Harmonium) and, coincidentally, the Green Mask’s girlfriend.
[Quick aside … I really like that Google+ uses people’s real names. It’s much easier to get to know them and I feel less ridiculous than I do when referring to people by their “avatar names”]
Meanwhile, heroes in Washington D.C. and New York are following up on seemingly unrelated crimes. The mind-reading super hero Revenant (played by Andrew Byers) runs into Senator Haskel in his civilian guise and is amazed when he doesn’t recognize him. Using his powers, he gets the impression that the senator is not who he seems. Following him to his house, he breaks in as Revenant and is stymied and almost captured by the police. Still – this gets him on the trail!
In New York, a bank is overrun by rats and Nightingale (played by Luke DeGraw) intervenes in her civilian guise. Later that night, she and another heroine, Dynamo (daughter of the original Dynamo, and played by my daughter Alyssa) investigate the robbery and discover that the only thing stolen is from a subterranean vault, with the criminals having come up from below and disappeared into mysterious tunnels underneath New York.
The attacks in the USA and USSR drive both nations into high alert, and war seems a distinct possibility.
Ultimately, Revenant, along with new companion the Bronze Statesman (played by Stefan Grambart), discover that Senator Haskel and several other senators have been replaced by clones. The clones are being produced in the Central American nation of Mexidor, where Orca has already followed a lead – a psychiatric convention of Dr. Emily Roberts, the psychiatrist who treated Supersize. Mexidor is in the grips of a power change from a U.S.-backed government to a Soviet-backed government, and while there he comes into conflict with a Soviet super hero called Malatok (“Hammer”).
Bronze Statesman and Revenant finally capture two of the clones as another clone is being delivered to the Virginia coast in the dead of night from a mysterious submarine. The submarine is not Soviet, but rather a Nazi vessel commanded by Baron Doom, an old Nazi super villain now associated with the nation of Fascovia, the sole holdout of fascist nations after WW2. They are recruited by the secret service to go down to Mexidor – where the submarine originated – and take out the cloning operation. Ultimately, they and Orca converge on a villa in the hills in time to fight purple zombies and witness the death of Dr. Mengele – but they fail to stop a seemingly invisible and silent Nazi saucer from picking up Mengele’s creation, a sort of Frankenstein monster that is, from the outside, physically perfect.
Meanwhile, Dynamo and Nightingale have some adventures underground, discovering a complex constructed by the Green Sorceress and her underground empire using enslaved mole men. The heroes defeat the Green Empire and free the mole men and take a ride in a underground “super subway” that take them all the way to Greenland! Firefly and Green Mask, working with the US Air Force, end up in Greenland as well, following clues of weird lights seen by fishing boats. The four heroes finally hook up in a subterranean hangar for the Nazi flying saucers. This hangar base holds the laboratory of Marto, a deformed scientist who works for the Green Empire and the Nazis and has developed a machine that transfers super powers from one person to another (using harmonium, an alloy of gold and cavorite). The heroes fight some villains who are using the powers of a band of WW2-era European heroes called the Resistance, and ultimately defeat them and free the Resistance members and other captives. Unfortunately, several saucers escape the hangar before it self-destructs. Firefly, Green Mask, Dynamo and Nightingale steal a spare saucer and head back to the US base in Iceland.
At this point, the clone conspiracy has been uncovered, and the US and USSR are ready to team up against the real villains – the Nazis. To that end, a conference is held in London attended by all of our heroes. A plan is hatched. While the Resistance and the Soviet heroes known as Secretariat Seven act as a diversion, the American heroes will make the final assault on castle Graufalke in Fascovia.
[In between the Mexidor stuff and Greenland stuff, the heroes got to level up – which in MM! means either banking your XP and going up a level (or not, depends on how many XP we’re talking) or spending new XP on power upgrades and such. Bronze Statesman spent a bunch of his XP on new powers that were embedded in a bronze hand bell and became the Bronze Bellman, if you’re wondering about the name discrepancies]
And that brings us to today. The heroes entered the castle and found the research lab and Marto’s machine, which looked something like a star fish. In the center, a plastic “coffin” holding the Frankenstein body – which now holds the preserved brain of Adolf Hitler! Connected to it are several pods holding Nazi supervillains. The switch is thrown and the heroes launch into combat with some lesser villains (the Toad, Armbrust and the Rodent). When the machine stops buzzing, Marto roars with victory. The risen fuhrer rises from his coffin, and promptly falls on his face. As the other villains topped from their pods, the final pod opens to reveal the empowered Captain Nazi, who has rewired the machine and now declares himself the Ubermensch and that today marks the birth of the Fourth Reich.
The assembled heroes are now fighting Captain Nazi (well, the Green Mask is actually lost in the castle – hopefully he’ll make it to the fight before it is too late) for the fate of the world!
I’ve found Google+ to be an excellent way to do play-by-post. I have noticed that when a thread gets too long, participants are sometimes not notified of new posts (though I always was), so you’ll want to change threads whenever it makes sense (after combats, new scenes, etc.). Like all play-by-post games, busy Referees will appreciate the ability to think moves through, as I certainly have.
I’m currently running two groups through Nod on Google+, and when the Mystery Men! game is finished, and after a little break, I plan to start up a Space Princess game set in the catacombs of Mars. That will probably be followed by a Pars Fortuna game, and then back to Mystery Men! I plan to keep the Nod game running as long as there are players who want to play in the mega-sandbox – so if you’d like to join in, just let me know.