Don Bisdorf


Limited Series Playtest, Part 4

And now, the thrilling conclusion of our superhero comics!

Zephyr Issue #3: Gearhead's homeland calls him home to the Under-Earth to help defuse a civil war, and Zephyr accompanies him. In a climactic naval battle, Zephyr fouls up sailing winds and teleports onto other ships to cause mischief, contributing to the defeat of the rebels. In the end, Zephyr is disgusted by the whole affair, deciding that people are inherently terrible and destructive and that the natural world would be better off without us. Her personal struggle escalates to level 1.

Storm Giant Issue #3: Deus Ex captures both Storm Giant and Salamander, claiming to be protecting the city from a couple of public menaces. Storm Giant manages to overcome the measures Deus Ex is using to suppress his powers, then uses his giant form to break out of captivity. Deus Ex personally goes to battle with Storm Giant, and the two exchange lightning blasts until Storm Giant and Salamander make good their escape. The perceptive Storm Giant comes away with an unexpected prize, having noted critical details of Deus Ex's network security while imprisoned. We escalate the villain drama for Deus Ex to level 3.

Salamander Issue #3: Angry over his defeat in Storm Giant #3, Deus Ex publicly reveals Storm Giant's personal relationship with the interdimensional criminal from Storm Giant #2 in an attempt to damage Storm Giant's reputation. This enrages Salamander, who assaults a Deus Ex cult stronghold with an army of fiery duplicates. Salamander destroys the stronghold and scatters the cultists, but Storm Giant is appalled by the violence Salamander employed. We escalate the relationship drama between Salamander and Storm Giant to level 1.

Gearhead Issue #3: Though Storm Giant believes Salamander is no longer fit to be a superhero, Gearhead defends the alien. The argument leads to a brawl between Gearhead and Storm Giant, Gearhead in his tank and Storm Giant in his giant form. Storm Giant ends the fight by shutting down Gearhead's tank with a lightning blast. The brawl, however, caused a great deal of collateral damage. We escalate the drama around Gearheads public image to level 1.

Zephyr Issue #4: Zephyr attacks a big data center belonging to a tech company known for energy waste and consumer privacy violations. She teleports in, ignores the halon sprays that would have suffocated an ordinary human, and smashes the servers with gale force winds. City law enforcement now believes she's the biggest threat to the public, and we escalate her public image drama to level 3.

Storm Giant Issue #4: With so many superpowered threats at large, the city calls in a superpowered government-controlled law enforcement force. The super cops go after Zephyr, but Storm Giant outsmarts them tactically, dividing and confusing them, then driving them off with his giant size and his lightning. One of his lightning blasts goes off target, however, injuring his wife. She forgives him, but the event leaves Storm Giant shaken, and he's no longer sure whether he's on the side of justice. We escalate the drama around his personal struggle to level 2.

Salamander Issue #4: The Deepdwellers approach Salamander, suggesting that, as a fellow maligned non-human, Salamander might be sympathetic to the Deepdwellers' cause. Though initially swayed, Salamander eventually decides that the Deepdwellers must be stopped. He summons his own army of fire duplicates to battle the Deepdweller army of giant robots, and drives the villains back into the sea. Residents of the city, however, misintepret what happened and conclude that the Salamander is actually allied with the Deepdwellers. We escalate drama around Salamander's public image to level 3.

Gearhead Issue #4: The Operator has offered his services to Gearhead's Under-Earth government, suggesting that he could be a better surface world agent than Gearhead. To demonstrate his superiority, the Operator waits until Gearhead is using his tank's crane arms to rescue people from a burning building, and then blows up Gearhead's tank. Now that Gearhead's position is in jeapordy, we escalate Gearhead's personal struggle to level 1.

Everyone has had four comic issues, which means it's time for the big crossover issue!

Here's a list of all the drama we've escalated so far:

  • Zephyr's public image, level 3: Zephyr is a public enemy.
  • Deus Ex's villainous schemes, level 3: Deus Ex's cult is a powerful force in the city, and has a grudge against our heroes.
  • Salamander's public image, level 3: Salamander is also a public enemy.
  • Storm Giant's personal struggle, level 2: Storm Giant doubts his own sense of justice.
  • Relationship between Salamander and Gearhead, level 1: some hurt feelings remain between Salamander and Gearhead.
  • Zephyr's personal struggle, level 1: Zephyr thinks people suck.
  • Relationship between Storm Giant and Salamander, level 1: Storm Giant thinks Salamander's methods are too extreme.
  • Gearhead's public image, level 1: Citizens are upset about the collateral damage Gearhead has caused.
  • Gearhead's personal struggle, level 1: Gearhead's job as agent employed by the Under-Earth is in danger, and he might be replaced by the Operator.

To build the final crossover issue, all of our heroes take turns contributing an event, according to these rules:

  • The event a hero contributes must either connect to that hero's drama directly or must connect to a villain's drama.
  • Once a hero uses a specific drama element, that hero cannot use that drama element again unless that hero has no unused drama available to choose from.
  • After every hero has contributed an event, the crossover issue is over if all drama elements have been used. If not, each hero gets another chance to contribute events.

Following those rules, here are the events our heroes contribute to the crossover issue:

Round 1:

  • (Zephyr's turn, choosing Deus Ex): Deus Ex makes a public announcement, promising to establish peace in the city by apprehending and neutralizing its superpowered menaces, which include our heroes.
  • (Storm Giant's turn, choosing his personal struggle): Storm Giant, not trusting his own judgment, vows not to get involved with Deus Ex's crusade one way or another.
  • (Salamander's turn, choosing his public image): Salamander gives up trying to present an acceptable image to the city's humans, and goes to war with Deus Ex.
  • (Gearhead's turn, choosing his relationship with Salamander): Gearhead manages to persuade Salamander not to murder Deus Ex's human followers, and repairs his relationship with Salamander.

Round 2:

  • (Zephyr's turn, choosing her public image): Pursued by cops and by Deus Ex's followers, Zephyr demands that Storm Giant take a stand.
  • (Storm Giant's turn, choosing his relationship with Salamander): Spurred by his wife's demands, and realizing that he's been a poor mentor to Salamander, Storm Giant steps out of the shadows to stand by his fellow heroes against Deus Ex.
  • (Salamander's turn, choosing Deus Ex): Salamander unites the team with a plan to free the city from Deus Ex's influences.
  • (Gearhead's turn, choosing his personal struggle): At this critical moment, Gearhead's Under-Earth handlers demand that he return home to account for his actions. Gearhead refuses and resigns his position, choosing to remain in the surface world to fight Deus Ex.

Round 3:

  • (Zephyr's turn, choosing her personal struggle): Zephyr presents herself publicly and makes a passionate speech about freedom and tyranny, eloquently indicting Deus Ex's manipulative methods and secret motives.
  • (Storm Giant's turn, choosing Deus Ex): Provoked by Zephyr, Deus Ex emerges in the form of a giantic war robot to smash her. Storm Giant takes on his own gigantic form and the two have a massive head-to-head battle.
  • (Salamander's turn, choosing Deus Ex): Salamander battles Deus Ex's human army with his pyrokinetic abilities and his fiery duplicate bodies.
  • (Gearhead's turn, choosing Deus Ex): Gearhead starts up his newly-repaired burrowing tank and crashes it into Deus Ex in a self-sacrificing ram attack. Deus Ex falls, and, using the security vulnerabilities Storm Giant found, the heroes isolate and contain Deus Ex's software. Gearhead is lost in the wreckage of the battle...

A satisfying finish, I think, though I did make a mistake when playing out the crossover issue. I was supposed to determine the turn order for each round randomly so that it wasn't certain that Gearhead would get the final event.

That's the end of my playtest. It took a couple of hours to play through, from hero creation all the way to the big crossover issue. I'm happy with the way it worked out. My next step is to clean up the rules document so that someone other than myself would understand it, then publish it to itch.io as my game jam entry.