Whenever you play a RPG for the very first time (whether a solo “test run” or running it for other players), it’s often best to use a pre-generated scenario if the game’s creator(s) had the foresight to include one. The 1982 second edition of Villains & Vigilantes included an introductory scenario by Jeff Dee and Jack Herman, the now-legendary (There’s a) Crisis at Crusader Citadel. It was a separate booklet, twenty pages long, chock full of characters and other goodies. The basic plot goes like this: some noob characters (the new players) travel to Crusader Citadel to try to join up with the Crusaders, a big-time superhero team. Unfortunately the Crusaders are in the midst of a major problem: a supervillain team, the Crushers, has taken over the Citadel and captured most of the Crusaders. The players and the remaining Crusaders have to team up to take the Citadel back.

It’s a very cool scenario, based heavily in established comics lore. From the early 1960’s through the mid 1980’s, the Justice League of America comic book had an annual crossover event in which the JL would team up with the Justice Society of America (their counterparts from Earth-2). These stories (often two-parters, usually appearing in August and September as a sort of consolation for the reader having to return to school) usually had the word “crisis” somewhere in the title, so full props go to Dee and Herman for knowing their stuff, since 1) the basic “team-up” plot applies, 2) the scenario plays out in two parts (like two issues of a comic book), and 3) the word “crisis” appears in the scenario title.

The scenario is designed to not be too difficult for new players. In fact, the gamemaster has the tough job because at some point there’s a potential for having to juggle more than a dozen characters at a time (six Crusaders, twelve Crushers, and the player characters) depending on what happens in Part One.

For my trial run I created three characters. You met the first, Deep Freeze (representing me), in my last post. The other two were randomly rolled up and these characters became my teammates: Traveller (deliberately misspelled as a nod to that great old sci-fi RPG) and The Brain. I used these three characters for my test run of 2nd edition V&V using the Crisis scenario.

Let’s just say that what happened next was emblematic of the entire first several years of what later became The Silver City Campaign: everything that could go wrong went wrong. My characters had their collective asses handed to them in Part One of the Crisis scenario. Part Two played out even worse.

Manta-Man, the leader of the Crusaders, was killed.

I realize that this means bupkis to maybe 99% of this blog’s readers. Look at it this way: it would be like Superman or Captain America getting killed. And this happened in a game where it’s really pretty danged hard to kill a character.

In short: Manta-Man’s death was a really big deal. His death in large measure defined the character of my V&V campaign and this event had major long-reaching ramifications, some of which are still felt today, twenty-eight years later.

I’ll be referring to this first scenario again in laterposts , probably in bits and pieces. Manta-Man wasn’t the only casualty; at least one of the Crushers died, too (I’m too lazy to go look up the details right now, but I still have all of my notes from those days). The whole battle for the Citadel was crazily violent (thank Bull for that) and was, at best, a draw. The Crusaders got their headquarters back, but more than a few of the Crushers got away. Manta-Man was not only the leader of the Crusaders but also the financial force behind it. His death pretty much eviscerated the team; over time the Crusaders just kind of faded away.

But all of that was in the future. I’d done my test run — now it was time to run V&V for other players. And I was soon to learn some hard lessons about gamemastering superhero RPGs…

Have fun! — Steve

Copyright 2010, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.