Saturday, August 21, 2010

That's That... Or Is It?

So with sessions 12 and 13 done, the Zenith Universe is rebooted.

What does this mean exactly?  It means that I have run a darn fun story arc that taught me a lot and in the end cleared up a lot of what I need to do (and not to do) with the Zenith Universe.

With the reboot, a new campaign is forming that will focus less on global occurrences and grand conspiracies, and more on local city level heroing, with occasional forays into the larger scene.

Another big change that will be happening will be the advancement of the timeline from 1964 to 2010, with appropriate changes of course.

This was an overwhelming choice from the players, and I agree.  The reason being that unless we were focusing on say the Cold War aspects of 1984 it didn't really play a big part of things, except making references to era related setting things (Regan as president, etc).

Stay tuned as more information about the new timeline/setting starts to arrive.  I have worked up a broad strokes narrative timeline and hope to make a more point based one off of that.

Also plan to start doing articles called "The Encyclopedia of the Zenith Universe" where I can put in interesting characters, items, events, etc...

All this while continuing to develop roster books (first one is in layouts now!) and the seemingly never ending work on the Zenith Comics rpg!


John's Notes - The Sentinels - Session 13 - AKA Zenith Comics Giant Sized Special!

 With John away on a cruise for this session, Anthony was kind enough to step in and take notes.  Here they are;
Session 13:
The players:
Tick Tock - Robin
Max Plastic - Mike
Kenji/Galvanos/Galvana (but mostly Kenji) - Renzo
Doc Tesla - Pat
Monolith - Anthony

Game opens with Max Plastic dreaming, during his dream he feels a weird disturbance which wakes him up. He gets up and walks out of the door to his room and finds himself in a sci-fi corridor. He turns around and the door he just left is now a sliding sci-fi door. While wondering what is going on, he gets attacked by a charging knight on a horse. Max wraps himself around the knight’s lance and flips him off his horse. He spins around only to find horse and knight gone. He spots a wall sign indicating the command deck and rushes over there only to find Guardsman there on monitor duty. Max’s confusion clearly apparent, Guardsman decides to call on Doc Tesla to check on Max. Tesla is as confused as Max since the last thing he remembers is teleporting the mansion to Arizona. While Max and Tesla leave to go to the med bay Guardsman continues to track Zero-G, now a villain who has recently destroyed an island off South America killing millions. Confusion is clearly king here.
Monolith and Galvana (Kenji controlling Eve’s robot body) head through the door to check out the structural damage to the mansion from the teleport. They find themselves now in the Amazon jungle.  Kenji also finds that Galvana is now the Galvanos robot. Before they can try and make sense of what’s going on, a T. Rex storms out of the jungle attacking both heroes. The dinosaur grabs Galvanos in its mouth and slams him into Monolith knocking him out. As Galvanos fights the T. Rex his communicator bleeps but he keeps his mind on the fight. Finally the super seizure eyes can come into play and he zaps the T.Rex... along with half the jungle and maybe the Amazon version of Tarzan to boot.
With the T. Rex down, Galvanos takes the call and freaks out when Guardsman is on the other line, not knowing what to do, he hangs up on Guardsman and wakes Monolith up. This time Monolith answers the call and both he and Galvanos get teleported where they find themselves onboard the orbiting satellite of the Guardians. There they encounter Sparrowhawk and Gyro who are heading out to hunt Zero-G back on the Earth.
Making their way to the command deck, they meet Guardsman (heroic this time) who suggests they get a check up in the med bay first and then to go interrogate their prisoner… Tick Tock.
In the med bay, Max and Tesla access the computer banks and bring themselves up to speed with the changes. They find out that Zero-G joined up with the Odd Squad and together they killed the island of San Bonito. When Zero-G turned his attention to the Guardians satellite, Monolith, Max Plastic, Doc Tesla and Galvanos helped the Guardians which allowed them to join the team. At this point Monolith and Kenji join the others and compare notes. They all decide to head down to the prisoner level and see if Tick Tock also knows if things are wrong.
When they arrive not only do they find Tick Tock knows things are different, but so does Brainflex. Brainflex believes there is something which caused an alternate timeline and that we need to join forces to find out what it is and undo it. The team decides to talk to Guardsman about this and leave Tick Tock in his cell in order not to provoke a fight. The team also decides to leave Brainflex where he is since working with him never works out for the heroes.
While Monolith and Kenji go to talk to Guardsman, Tesla and Max go to the lab to find out why they remember the old timeline. When they get there they find Doctor Destiny fooling around with Tick Tock’s pocket watch, which they find out is the source of Tick Tock’s powers. Destiny mentions that the watch seems broken and is firing off bursts of temporal energy. Destiny is called away which leaves the heroes there to grab the watch, which they find out is behind a force field.
On the command deck Monolith and Kenji find Guardsman with Lady America and before they explain what’s going on, a call comes in that there are pirates in the commissary. Guardsman runs off to fight them leaving Lady America who also remembers the old timeline. As they try to think of the next step to take, Major Victory walks in and kisses his girlfriend Lady A, which wouldn’t be creepy if the heroes didn’t know he died in WW2. When the Major finds out about pirates, he also runs off to fight them. Lady A realizes that if Major Victory is alive, then her dead sidekick Spangle might be alive as well. She then runs off leaving Monolith and Kenji alone and with nothing done.
Kenji asks if this change might not be so bad and Monolith explains that time is falling apart based on the weird things happening randomly. Alerts sound across the board as the main screens light up in the command deck giving Monolith and Kenji dozens of views of Zero-G destroying Moscow. Putting even more pressure to try and correct the timeline.
Before anyone can do anything else. Guardsman calls on all available heroes to meet at the teleport pads to try and take down Zero-G. Kenji offers to stay onboard and get Tick Tock’s watch back to him while Monolith goes down to help contain Zero-G. Tesla decides to also stay onboard and Max Plastic offers to help stop Zero-G as well. As Max and Monolith teleport down into a war zone, Tesla and Kenji try and get their hands on the watch with Tick Tock’s help. They finally get the watch just in time to get caught by Captain Adventure the Time Ranger.
Back on earth, Monolith gets blindsided by Lady A who doesn’t want time fixed because Spangle is alive. When Max tries to stop her, she ties him up into a knot easily.
On the satellite, Captain Adventure explains that the rangers were trying to catch up to Tick Tock in order to explain how to use the watch, not to take it away from him. Tick Tock needs to go to the end of time in order to unwind the watch and release the stored time locked in it. Before they do that, Kenji teleports all those who know about the time change back to the satellite. Not knowing that Lady A is anti-time fix, she jumps Tick Tock who pushes the time eraser button. The entire group starts falling through a time tunnel and land on an asteroid… Before we can react, Lady A de-clocks Tick Tock and Tesla tries to solve the situation the way he solves everything… with blasts of electricity. 
Amazingly enough, Lady A is faster than lightning, (literally) and she starts the time fall again. Landing at the beginning of time, Lady A breaks down since she can’t save Spangle. Relinquishing the watch to Kenji and Monolith she closes up.
Kenji and Monolith pop open the watch to see if they can do something with it to get them going the other way. Inside the watch there is a double helix of energy which shows that the watch is alive and leaving the science nerds puzzled. Lady A demands that when everything is figured out we need to save Spangle, the team logics her back down from that request. As the team tries to figure out what to do, Tick Tock goes with his gut and touches the source of power of the watch which is connected to the Heart of Time.
Tick Tock is brought to a timeless place where he meets the anthropomorphic personification of time the Time Master. They switch places (willingly) and he meets the team. He explains that he is in fact Tick Tock after exposure to the Heart of Time and that he needs the team to help Tick Tock stop the Time Rangers who have locked up time from doing what it needs to do. The Time Master explains he has been fighting the Rangers for a while and cannot attack them directly, so he used an avatar of himself to try and free time. He warns the team that if Tick Tock finds out he is not real, he will cease to exist. He switches place with Tick Tock who now knows how to unwind the watch and drags everyone to the end of time across the span of all history. The trip is so mentally dangerous that it drives Tesla sane.  Lady A tries to take command and is shot through the head by Captain Adventure who has gone TIME MAD! This leads Tesla to solve the problem using high amounts of electricity… it really can solve everything.
Approaching the Time Ranger base, the team tries to think of a way to sneak in. Monolith decides to handle the gate guards by shooting up to 60 feet and charging while shrinking back down at a gradual rate which really confuses the guards since it looks like someone running in place until he hits them, knocking both out. Max slips through cracks and gets the rest of the team in by opening the gates. Inside Tick Tock uses the watch as a compass to hunt the Heart of Time. 
Before the team can get too far in, alarms start sounding and encourages them to get the lead out. Running down a corridor of time windows, the team is assaulted by Rangers. Max bowls a few through a window, Monolith uses another window to scoop away a few more and Kenji strafes a few using weapons in his cool hover/assault wheelchair. Tick Tock decides not enough people were shooting at him so he decides to get their attention again. Once again running past time windows, Tock spots the moment he pick pocketed his own future self and got the watch. In the weirdest moment, he leaps into the window. He then ends up stealing
the watch from his younger self who is stealing it from his oldest self. The universe finding this too weird spits him back out the window.With more and more Rangers converging on the heroes, Monolith brings down the ceiling on the corridor behind them to give them a chance to get to the Heart of Time. Unfortunately he can’t get out of the way in time and gets crushed along with the Rangers. Pleading with the others not to worry, they can fix the deaths later. Meanwhile Tesla sees a window to the moment just before Westinghouse betrays the original Tesla and he flies through and kills Westinghouse. Nikola Tesla, horrified, uses his Tesla coil to absorb Doc Tesla trapping him as electrical current. Down to 3 heroes, they rush to a set of stairs with another small group of Rangers in pursuit. The stairs act like a mobius strip and everyone gets stuck on them. Tick Tock negotiates them easily leaving everyone else stuck. Max stretches himself out for Kenji to get through, the remaining Rangers decide to pepper Max with shots since he’s now a massive target. Max goes down in a hail of gunfire leaving Kenji and Tick Tock remaining.
Tick Tock finds himself at the Heart of Time, sealed behind a crystal cage. He tosses his watch shattering the cage and approaches the Heart. He hears a voice and turns around to see the Time Marshal, leader of the Rangers, pointing a gun at him. He is about to reveal that Tick Tock is an avatar of the Time Master when Kenji zooms from the stairwell ramming the Marshal and sending both of them into a wall where they blow up. Tick Tock responds to this with “How did you not see this coming?”. He turns to the Heart of Time, taking a breath and then rams his hand into it.

Fade to white.

John's Notes - The Sentinels - Session 12 - Part 2

Sentinels - Issue 12 pt. 2 - July 31, 2010 – ZCP System

Robin – Tick Tock
Renzo – Kenji/Galvanos
Anthony – Monolith
Pat – Doc Tesla
John – Bronco

So a fray is imminent and the tension is palpable.

Everyone waits for Monolith's move. Gal has called for backup. Guardsman has eluded that backup for him is en route...

The heroes go first, Champion leading the 6 on 1. Guardsman does well, resisting Tock's slow down trick and he takes down Monolith in one shot. Then he uses Monolith as a swing stick.

The fray continues in earnest. Guardsman tries to make a run and get away from the dogpile, when suddenly there's a dump truck in his way – courtesy of Tick Tock.

Guardsman run head on into the truck. Tock honks the horn. What an odd edition to the fray.

Guardsman goes to blow the gas tank. Champion interrupts and shakes Tock out of the truck.

The Guardsman-pile reforms and the fray continues. Doc Tesla arrives, somewhat confused by the enormity of the fray, but happy his arrival brings a brief detente and time for the start of a conversation.

Champ suggests Tesla should zark the water Guardsman is standing in. He obliges. Guardsman is still kicking.

10 Metal Militia men burst on the scene. Tesla talks to Tesla and gives him a suggestion. Doc Tesla lets loose a giant EMP. [Anthony out of game to Pat, pondering the implications of the emp: Fuck Astro Boy – kill HALO!!"]

Kenji survives the EMP, Galvanos does not, nor do the 10 Militiamen. Bronco coup-de-graces Guardsman and a moment of calm descends.

Champion grabs Kenji and runs for it. Eve calls Tesla, the only one with a working communicator. He teleports out as four new squads of goons teleport in to help Guardsman.

Tock pauses things and goes around grabbing grenades and ammo from the new goons. In paused time a new Time Ranger arrives. Tock pops a pin on a grenade. 'Are you insane?' he asks Tock. Tock drops the grenade, smiles, then runs back to real time.

New dude gets fragged back to real time. Lady A recognises him as Captain Adventure. She goes to investigate.

Monolith, recently back up, gets knocked down again. Goons strafe Tock. Lady A takes a rare opportunity to interpose the shots. In doing so she saves Tock and Cap Adventure. And gets tagged by some flying lady coming into the fray.

Bronco squares off against Guardsman, who tries logic on the big Native. Bronco lets him leave to fight on better terms another time. Guardsman orders retreat as more villains flood the field. Monolith keeps fighting with another giant sizer named Rampart.

Tesla returns with reinforcements of our own – Masonic Knight, Renard Roux, Galvanna (under Kenji's control), The Angel and Little Dove.

Then Lord Sovereign bursts in and takes down Guardsman (whut?) interrupting his sounding of retreat. The Angel takes control of Lord Sov's mind and has him sound retreat instead.

Tock is amazed by the fisticuff punishment Iron Lady and Lady A are dishing back and forth on each other. 

Seems personal. He interrupts their party and sees that Iron Lady is a perfect match to Lady A. Great. More clones.

Tock pauses time again. More Time Rangers coming. Grabs a taser and zaps everyone in the pond, including himself.

Tock gets back up promptly, just as Lord Sov is breaking his mind control. He sticks with the retreat and the villains bail en mass from the fray. Bronco goes looking for Guardsman – who was last slammed into the bushes. Finds him and calls Monolith over.

Tock brings a nullifier, Tesla modifies it to hold Guardsman. Tick finds a letter from Cap Adventure.

Reinforcements depart as friends and the team heads back to base. Amazingly Renard didn't get killed this time.

As we're discussing what to do with Guardsman, we have to go interrupt Champion whaling on the old hero. 

Champ steps out and we talk.

Guardsman tries to talk his way out. Bronco prompts him to lay it all on the line and explain the whole deal. He does.

He used to run information and such between Doc Titan in America and Doc Fear in Nazi Germany. They're brothers, playing both sides for their own and they've created lots of supers on both sides. A while ago Guardsman and Ubermann got to talking about the futility of the fight and carved up the world as personal empires. And he seems to be evil and deranged. Megalomaniacs...

He continues to explain all the evil shit they've done. Explains the cloning and mental imprinting. He explains the Lady A cloning thing. And how he, Ubermann and Sovietsky Soyuz are in cahoots and all his plans are well entrenched and impossible to stop now.

Guardsman really really thinks his militaristic fascism plan is the right one. The debate goes back and forth, but Guardsman is firm. And nuts.

Doc Tesla wants to use the Citadel's resources to build his Teslanauts. Who's more nuts now?

Monolith wants to use Guardsman as bait. We convene a team meeting to discuss. Doc Tesla stays behind and has a conversation/debate with himself.

At the team meeting we decide to go public and explain the whole shebang to the media and the people. The doorbell rings at our public HQ. Bronco heads to see who's visiting now.

Guardsman tries to manipulate the madman in the lab. Seems to be gaining ground.

It's Van Jove at the door – who everyone in the world has forgotten is Brain Flexx. He joins in on the team meeting a re-informs us of his identity and all the other information we've been made to forget. And in five minutes Lord Sov will be at their location.

He's offering himself to help us in our impending fray. We discuss cloning and spitball other ideas.

Down in the lab Doc Tesla precision teleports Guardsman's locator out. Flexx compels Guardsman to talk.  Then he makes up all forget again, including Guardsman's world domination plan. Guardsman demands to be taken to the world court in The Hague. Tesla, Flexx and Guardsman 'port out.

They arrive, and there's Trauma waiting for them. She freaks Tesla out. Smilidon also walks in. They're waiting for Guardsman, but they'll let Doc Tesla live.They give him a message that Brain Flexx says thanks. Tesla breaks the fear and tries to bail with Guardsman. Trixie and Smilidon both tag Tesla on the way out, but Tesla does make it back to the base with Guardsman. Bleeding heavily.

Bronco goes running for Little Dove. Tock freezes time and Monolith helps stop the bleeding. He sees the whole of the Citadel approaching the island. Monolith declares he's gonna fight. The team follows as Dove heals Tesla back to full. Tesla immediately starts having a conversation with himself.

Tesla calls back in the reinforcements and anyone else who can come. The team goes out to hold the line.
Meanwhile, Doc Tesla gets it into his head that he can teleport the whole island elsewhere, or at least the house. Doc Titan calls in, Tesla cuts the conversation short by frying the transmitter.

Doc Tesla then telports the entire base to the Arizona desert.

Lady A for no reason in particular, punches Bronco in the face while she has a blank expression. Not knowing what's going on, Bronco returns the favour, knocking her out.

Detente is reached, however confusingly.

Though all but Telsa had forgotten the Brain Flexx stuff, the recorders in the lab picked up the whole conversation explaining everything. The team is brought back up to speed, again.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Zenith Comics Presents: Public Enemies Vol. 1 - Cover Preview

With the art completed and the writing done, the layout begins and the final approval from Basic Action Games can be sought!

So here is a mock-up/preview of the cover for your enjoyment.  I think Anthony's art is really good on this.  Please keep in mind this is a mock-up and the final will be cleaned up (artifacts on the art, etc...) but I was so excited I couldn't wait to show you all!

Click here to see the full size!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

You ever have one of those games?

Your plans go out the window.

You tip your hat too soon.

Your carefully constructed campaign is revealed and it was no where as cool as you thought it would be.

These are the things that happened to me last night.

After an exhausting 2 hour combat (which was quite the kick butt fight btw) I found myself going against my instinct and revealing too much and making it go too fast.

Now as this is issue 12 - Part Two, it could be said that after five months of playing I was just a bit burned out.  Or it could be that the night was tiring, we were all exhausted after the fight, and that lead to me making some really dumb moves.

Both of these are valid reasons, but in the end I have only myself to blame.

Let me explain.

I have been running a fairly tight campaign thus far, and I have all sorts of ideas of things I want to do with the characters and the story being told.  I have plots, conspiracies and even awesome fights planned.  I have put a lot of work into this and thinking it through, the Zenith Universe is not random.

The thing is that I wanted this to be a Bronze Age campaign and, as one player put it, the big reveal and craziness of last night made it into a Modern Age as written by Mark Millar.  Now I don't mind Mark Millar comics as a general rule, it isn't very Bronze Age.  In fact it is too much and too crazy and, for lack of a better word, wrong.

The campaign certainly was doing just fine, but as I went along my reach started to exceed my grasp and I got caught up in all the crazy fun and conspiracy metaplot and less on the heroes fighting crime and doing their thing.

As another player said, referring to an old campaign, it went to the moon.

That's like saying it jumped the shark.

This has always been a problem I have as a storyteller.  I put a lot of work into my campaigns and that is good and bad.  It is good because there is always something happening and it bad because there is always something happening.

The first rule of campaigning, that I seemed to forget, is that this is about the players and their interactions with the world, not the world and its interaction with the players.  The latter is just a bad idea from the word go as it will make the players feel like passengers and not drivers.

Fortunately I have a group of players who are very understanding and tolerant.  They accept my foibles and my missteps, trusting that I can either make it better or fix it.  That's a lot of trust and something I hope to live up to with this current campaign.

So yeah, just needed to get that off my chest.

Thanks for reading.