Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to run a few games at GenCon. Since I have a novel, Sacred Band, releasing soon, I decided to create a Mutants & Masterminds scenario where the players played the characters who star in that novel. Gimmicky and self-serving, yes, but since creating my protagonists in the Mutants & Masterminds rules set was part of the character design I did as part of writing the novel, it seemed only fitting.
Now, part of my setting postulates occasional natural disaster-level phenomena referred to as “Echo Events.” These are always different, but almost always disastrous in some way. They are also where one of the three kinds of supers in my setting get their powers (these folks are called “Echoes,” for obvious reasons).
The scenario for the convention—titled “Sacred Band: The Indy Event”—has some of the heroes attending a certain gaming convention in the middle of an Indianapolis summer when one of these Echo Events hits. Crazy, unexpected phenomena arise: large metal structures being “floating” skyward, certain people find themselves the center of hive minds of dedicated drone-like followers, animals in the zoo nearby become super-strong and savage, and bodies of water all across the area begin to inexplicably rise.
The first part of my scenario, of course, had the player characters working to rescue folks and to stop too much damage from happening due to these uncontrolled phenomena. My players, only a few of whom had ever played Mutants & Masterminds—and previous editions, at that—got right on board, using their powers in clever ways to help mitigate disaster. I was also crazy impressed at the quick teamwork they put together, too.
The second part of the scenario was (I thought) a bit more straightforward: some brand new Echoes, some pain-maddened, some simply terrified, some actively angry, proved to be the next problem. When I originally designed the scenario, my assumption was that the player characters would deal with them as “villains,” naturally. Bringing a character to “incapacitated” in Mutants & Masterminds doesn’t mean killing them; how that is defined depends on the type of campaign being played and the context of the current situation. I was perfectly comfortable with it meaning these brand-new Echoes being rendered unconscious or otherwise neutralized as threats.
In retrospect, I can see that my assumptions were…well, they were typically “gamer-like.” Convention game ends in a big fight, right?
This is where my group of five fantastic players surprised and delighted. Because they were not themselves content with that. The brand new Echoes quickly found themselves under a very unexpected sort of assault: one where the heroes attempted to compassionately “talk them down,” and in cases where that didn’t work, to restrain them and basically hold them in place to prevent them from using their powers offensively as best they could. The entire group threw down with great cooperation and roleplaying to disarm the potential tragedy of the situation. One of the players even looked askance at the suggestion of violence against the new Echoes, saying “But…these people are victims, too.”
Frankly, I couldn’t have been happier. :)
Unfortunately, the compassionate approach meant that I sort of ran out of content for the game about an hour-and-change earlier than intended, for which I can only humbly apologize to my fantastic players. I will be revising that scenario for another convention, and I’ll make sure there’s more to it than that, in honor of unexpected heroism, and the fantastic players who made that happen.
Joe is a developer for Green Ronin’s Blue Rose AGE line. He has worked in the tabletop gaming industry for nearly twenty years, during which he’s been a fiercely outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion, both in the industry and in the games we make. He is also a novelist, with his first novel Sacred Band garnering starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly. Both Sacred Band and his second novel, Shadowtide, are available now from Nisaba Press. Joseph lives in Portland, Oregon with his fiancé A.J.