Monday, November 29, 2010

MSH-3 Murderworld

I had friends stay over for the Thanksgiving weekend, and at some point when discussing what game to play, it seemed like it would make sense to pull out the Marvel Superheroes game and one of the adventures I have for it. I haven't played MSH in quite some time, and was mostly pulling an adventure at random (so zero prep time and just reading a paragraph or so ahead of play). My friends are just barely introductory role-players, so there were advantages to using a lightweight system, and one with characters that are pre-made. In fact, they're not even familiar with comic books, to the extent they don't know who the Fantastic Four are at all, but when I offered that group as one possibility to play (as part of MSH-3, Murderworld! by Jeff Grubb), they said, "That sounds interesting", and I started introducing them to the characters they'd be playing.

We actually had two stand-ins to the normal Fantastic Four lineup. We had Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, of course (unknowingly picked by my married friends, to their great amusement when I told them, after their choice, about the relationship). As you can see by the cover above, at this time in Marvel history (1984) the Thing was actually being replaced by the She-Hulk, so that's part of the adventure as written. In addition to that, I also gave them the option of replacing the Torch with Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau; shown to right), which they took me up on, because it matched the gender roles around the table (3 women and 1 man).

Our result: TPK (total party kill). By the middle of the adventure, the Fantastic Four are lured into the deadly Murderworld complex run by the super hit-man Arcade, separated, and locked into individually prepared deathtraps. As it turns out, none of my players could figure out how to escape any of the death traps. I feel like I might rack this up to 20% inexperience on the players' part (with either RPGs or Marvel comic conceits), but 80% due to the fact that the traps are truly very hard to escape from. On review afterward, I think I even made several mistakes in their favor, to no avail.

First of all, by way of critical review, we pretty much all know that it's poor form to split the party up (and we had the standard problem of 3 people sitting inactive and somewhat restless while each person in turn fought their deathtrap alone). Secondly, each deathtrap features a hologram of a "fake" battle scene, and the only way out is to basically ignore it and punch one's way through the super-reinforced walls that you can't see until you've broken through them. Thirdly, that's not even theoretically possible for either Mister Fantastic or the Invisible Woman -- and only doable with great effort for the other two. Fourth, even if they do get out, the numerous exit passageways are themselves all still trapped in multiple ways, and in general these characters have very low (normal human-like) Health scores, and are likely to be KO'd by any one of them. So I'm not entirely sure how anyone ever managed to get through this adventure.

Thoughts? Did you successfully play through it? If so, how did it go for you?

10 comments:

  1. http://www.cracked.com/blog/what-role-playing-games-are-really-like-when-youre-drunk/

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  2. Thor was played on Sunday. That's a separate post...

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  3. I played this a few months ago with a group that included Iron Man, Tigra and Storm, who had a fairly easy time of it--but I'll have to admit that was likely me taking it easy on them (at least with Storm in the "human-sacrifice" trap). However, the Iron Man of '84 or so is way out of scale power-wise with the rest of the Fantastic Four and the New Avengers, so that accounts for some of the ease with which they triumphed.

    I say triumphed, but Tigra was killed by automatic weapons fire from Locke and Chambers as she tore out Arcade's throat. I'm not sure they were supposed to have automatic weapons, as the module is written, but it sure made for a dramatic conclusion to the session.

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  4. Interesting. I know a lot of this stuff is dependent on specific rule adjudications, but: Did Iron Man punch out of his room, or repulsor the wall? Did Tigra get rescued by Iron Man, or get out herself?

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  5. Do you think this was a module written for tournament, like Tomb of Horrors?

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  6. Good question, I see how you'd get that impression -- but no, there's no evidence of tournament scoring or anything like that (other than bog-standard Karma [Fate/Fortune/Luck] awards).

    Most of the MSH adventures feel like they were fairly quickly written for one or two 4-hour play sessions. Sometimes they have rather coarse gaps or glitches. Also, the MSH game had a lot of built-in assumptions about villains using "deathtraps" routinely, and maybe my players aren't accustomed to that.

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  7. Delta, sorry I didn't respond--I don't remember exactly how Tigra got out of the trap, but I may have allowed her to use cat-like senses to "smell a rat." Not sure how that would allow her to actually break out, though. Sorry again for my unhelpful recollection.

    Iron Man used a Charge manuever, which was broken, as they say, the way we used because I missed the rule about how many column shifts in damage can be applied for speed--his Shift X flight was going right off the charts.

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  8. No sweat, thanks for the reply -- Good point about the broken Charge rule. I didn't remember that until later, and my players certainly didn't know about it.

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  9. Terrible module. The death-traps are too hard to figure out/escape from, the selection of enemies is just a laundry list of FF foes, and the "plot" (as such) is very, very weak. The old MSH RPG is actually more-than-sufficiently furnished with awful modules that fall apart if you think about them for even a minute(such Breeder Bombs), but this one is peculiarly bad. The absolute worst has to be the Gang Wars series, though: nonsensical plot, scads of time-waster encounters, and a lot of developments that require the players to be dolts.

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    1. Well, there you go. Never got my hands on Gang Wars.

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