Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Masks of Silverlode

Silverlode, the Metropolis of the Mountain West. Incorporated on the first day of the 20th Century as an iconic western boom town, the Silver City has always embodied the American spirit of the age. And that spirit of heroic optimism is now manifesting in the world's first costumed adventurers. As the city rises up from the depths of the Great Depression and with the world poised on the brink of another Great War, the Masks of Silverlode boldly stand ready to fight for justice and usher in a new Golden Age.


This DC Gameday session was my first chance to really test two things. One: how did Fate feel on this side of the GM Screen? Two: How did the Ryan Danks' approach to Fate Supers work out in practice? Answering these questions was kind of a high prioroty, since my local group is currently entertaining new campaign settings and systems to go with them. We had a successful Fate Core one-shot a few months back but I hadn't run it myself. And Supers... well, I'm really keen to run Supers. But thus far, every Supers RPG that includes a long list of powers has failed to really give me the warm fuzzies.

And that's how I arrived at "Masks of Silverlode". Set in 1938, this campaign scenario is set in the same continuity as my Silverlode 1908 Weird West game and most likely the "City of the Century" campaign if it is selected. The genesis of this particular scenario lay in my Mythic GME ICONS game that I played (and never finished) a few years back. A bunch of the pre-generated characters were direct results of using Icons random superhero character generation system.

Our pregenerated characters:

Bald Eagle: Football hero, test pilot, and Feathered Patriot. (played by Keaton)

Bola Sue: Mistress of the Bolas, celebrity pin-up model, and enlightened emissary of Shangri-La. (played by Bill)

The Castellan: Dilettante, gentleman thief, and Guardian of the Secret Tower. (played by Klint)

Columbia: Plucky secretary who transforms into the Female Personification of America! (played by Dave)

The White Dwarf: Elderly Russian Dwarf Mad Scientist and former military officer. (played by Catherine)

Ironically, we were missing a player and Ebon Knight was not selected.

I chose not to use the full Fate Core character generation system as I wanted to get right into the action. As a result, I left one aspect open on each character sheet, to be filled in by a brief flashback involving another character (for a free invoke, no less!). I also left the bottom row of skills open for customization.

GAME ASPECTS 

  • City of the Century 
  • A Dark and Snowy Night


SCENE I 

  • Situational Aspect: The First Team-Up


The set-up for the game is that masked heroes have only recently appeared on the scene. While various characters had worked together in the preceding weeks, there had not yet been a big team-up. That was about to change!

Bola Sue (always going first due to here peak Notice skill) started things out at a tree lighting ceremony. Appearing in her superhero/emissary identity, the crowd turned to her expectently when the sound of tommy guns could be heard a block away. She danced through the crowd and lept from car to car to arrive on the scene to find the Baxandall Building besieged by an army of gangsters!

In the skies above, Bald Eagle was desperate to seek justice for his slain mentor and recover a batch of life-sustaining Vita-Serum. Approaching Dr. Leonardo's office on the 66th floor of the Baxandall Building, he landed on a terrace only to come face to face with a jetpack-wearing Nazi. Kapow!

Betty Franklin, the mundane alter-ego of Columbia, was at a Christmas party for one of her bosses business associates. Her ulterior motive was to investigate the theft of the plans to an airship that Blue Horizons had been developing. Slipping out of the party, she bumped into a Nazi looking for something, transformed into Columbia and proceeded to beat the stuffing out of him.

Castellan was also looking for something in the Baxandall Building. Before becoming Guardian of the Secret Tower, he was forced to sell one of his father's occult books to support his exorbitant lifestyle. Now his responsibilities required him to retrieve the book again from the mobster who now possessed it. He wrapped up a distracted henchman and learned that the book in questions was in the hands of "Dr. Sacratini" elsewhere in the building.

Finally, White Dwarf was hot on the trail of three communist sabateurs who had infiltrated Fat Tony's criminal gang. They were now besiegeing the Baxandall Building in the hopes of retrieving an Atlantean artifact that slipped out of Bola's Sue's fingers back during her origin story. Arriving on the scene in an autogyro, the White Dwarf employed a variety of gadgets as he joined forces with the mistress of bolas and a suddenly appearing Castellan to subdue the gangsters and the communist spies.

I was going to detail the rest of the adventure but the moment has passed. So I'll, stick to a brief summary:


  1. The party pursued a fleeing mad scientist, Dr. Sacratini, through pre-Columbian tunnels under the city and had an epic battle with a magical guardian beast. (They had a choice of options and I did not expect them to venture beneath the city - oh well, it was still a blast). 
  2. The party deduced the evil of plot of the bad guys. A secret conspiracy had sold out their nazi partners and was using Atlantean artifacts and weird science developed by Docotor Leonardo (Bald Eagle's mentor) to open some kind of dimensional rift. Clearly they had to be stopped!
  3. The group came upon the sealed dimensional rift as the aerial bombardment of a doomstay weapon shook the earth above them. The emerged into a park and engaged the vrill-energy powered airship with all the weapons at their command. Bald Eagle dog-fighted with enemy aircraft, Bola Sue stole a jet pack and boarded the vessel. Columbia lept from the fingers of a huge bronze statue to attack the airship's guns. Castellan worked a massive ritual to allow White Dwarf to possess the same bronze collosus so that he could literally punch out the enemy airship.

All in all, a great time was had by all.

This was my first Fate game as a GM and I was thrilled with how easy it was to construct awesome action scenes on the fly. I got a little crazy with little yellow stickies as aspects were created left and right. But it wasn't too much to keep track of.

So yes, Fate felt great on this side of the GM chair. And Ryan Danks' minimalist approach to Supers worked exactly I had hoped. The beauty of Fate is that you can get so much mileage of of aspects. Since aspects are "always true", they can be used to represent super powers in broad strokes and yet capture unique quirks and limitations. Mechanics benefits are that the character can simply do stuff that they otherwise could not do. Further mechanical oomph can be added with stunts. Look for the pre-gens in a subsequent post to provide an example of this approach.

3 comments:

Trey said...

A lot of Golden Agey flavor, there!

GeneD5 said...

I'm glad you enjoyed running FATE Core! I just got my hardcopy books from the Kickstarter project, and while I've been running other FATE variants for the past two years, I'm also itching to try it for superheroes....

Tim Ballew said...

Thanks Trey, I was seriously trying to hit all my Golden Age marks. Nazis, commies, dog-fights, mobsters, Shadow-like backstories... and my players helped me out a ton.

Gene, Fate totally works for Supers without all the mechanical overhead. I highly recommend it (and I know you've been sold on it for other genres for years).