I’ve been playing in a Marvel Heroic System game based around the Secret Avengers. The gamesmaster asked if anyone else wanted to run a game and I volunteered. I knew immediately that I wanted to run a game that took full advantage of the covert/black-ops set up of the team.
The first thing I do when I’m designing an adventure is to do some research. This includes reading through the background of the characters involved.
I knew one of the players was going to take to role of Shang-Chi and it mentioned that in ‘M:13’ he had been made the protector of Jonathan Raven, the boy who will grow up to be Killraven and fight against a martian invasion.
This was a good hook, especially since this hadn’t been covered in ‘Secret Avengers’. Just where was Jonathan? Any threat to him would be serious since it would place the future of Earth in jeopardy.
When reading the Dark Reign Marvel handbook, which are always good sources of ideas, it mentioned that Halloween Jack from ‘X-Men 2099’ was in SHIELD custody having been apprehend by Domino when he arrived in the present.
I decided that while Norman Osborn was head of HAMMER he would have set up Project: Forecast, dedicated to extracting information about the future from Halloween Jack and using it to benefit themselves.
In the present day Steve Rogers has decoded some of the encrypted HAMMER files to learn of Forecasts existence and connect them to a serious of opportunistic crimes. The Secret Avengers would need to locate the project, find out how they know about the future and shut them down.
The only lead came from HAMMER operative Shelia Maddleson who had put out a request for mercenaries. The Secret Avengers were to go undercover, get themselves hired as mercenaries and infiltrate the Project.
The team consisted of Shang-Chi and Ant Man. Both players relished the chance of adopting a cover identity with Shang-Chi posing as his nemesis Zaran the weapon master and Ant Man creating the identity of Eagle Harrison, henchman extraordinaire.
I used the information I’d gathered from my article of Daredevil to set them up with the Talent Broker Falzone. I decided that the man killed in the comics was just a front and a new person had been hired to act as the face of the true Talent Broker. Not that the players needed to be aware of that.
After proving their credentials by beating up some of the people in the billiard & pub building they were told to meet Sheila at a private airstrip. There they were assigned their mission, to fly to China and capture Jonathan Raven from the monastery Shang-Chi had left him at to train.
They shared the plane with the mercenaries Boomerang and Hydro-Man. While Shang-Chi was troubled that his young ward was in danger Ant Man was annoying the villains in his Eagle persona by boasting about his fictional exploits.
To spice things up once the plane entered Chinese airspace they were attacked by two Raider 2.0 robots, from the Iron Man comics. Boomerang and Hydro-Man bailed out leaving the two heroes to fight the Raiders while struggling to prevent the plane from crashing after one of its engines was shot.
This was an exciting battle, with the plane adding complications both against the players and then against the Raiders. In the end the heroes were able to jump to safety after leaving the remote controlled Raiders trapped on the plane just as it crashed on the mountain.
This left them to travel on foot to the monastery. They arrived ahead of the other mercenaries and were just explaining the situation to the monks when Boomerang and Hydro-Man arrived.
Remarkably Ant Man was able to keep his cover identity, pretending he had captured Shang-Chi and Jonathan. He then proceeded to inflict emotional trauma on Boomerang until the villain surrendered and daze Hydro-Man long enough for Shang-Chi to knock him out.
Returning to the States Ant Man used his SHIELD connections (and some XP points) to unlock a LMD to impersonate Jonathan Raven. At the same time Shang-Chi expressed his concerns to Steve Rogers that Ant Man was getting too fixated with his cover identity.
Contacting Sheila they were told to bring Jonathan to a stretch of highway in Arizona. Shang Chi posed as Eagle’s prisoner, although his handcuffs were specially designed to allow him to escape and a SHIELD invisibility suit was placed beneath his costume.
Ant Man was able to seduce Sheila to get an invite to the Project, which turned out to be hidden in the Arizona desert behind an invisibility field. While she showed him around Jonathan was taken away and Shang-Chi was placed in a prison cell opposite Halloween Jack.
The green skinned shape changer explained the situation and asked for Shang-Chi to free him. Slipping free of his handcuffs Shang-Chi activated his invisibility suit and hid in the cell until a guard entered in an attempt to find him. He quickly knocked out the guard and freed Halloween Jack, telling him he could take revenge on the guards but not on any innocents.
Meanwhile Ant Man had learnt from Sheila that they planned to brainwash Jonathan so he would be loyal to HAMMER. Once the martians had been defeated he’d awaken sleeper agents hidden in bunkers and rebuild the world in their name. A computer database held all the secrets of the future, extracted from Halloween Jack.
Ant Man was able to get Sheila drunk and slipped away when she passed out. He bumped into Shang-Chi and told him of the database. They discussed what they should do, with Ant Man believing that they should use the future information to benefit themselves while Shang-Chi believed that no one should know what the future held.
Their debate was interrupted when alarms went off, caused by the chaos Halloween Jack had unleashed. Ant Man went to help the HAMMER agents defeat the time traveller in order to cement his position in Forecast, while Shang-Chi turned invisible and headed to the database.
I had deliberately made Halloween Jack powerful to reflect his abilities in the comic and was worried how Ant Man would fare on his own. Thanks to some good tactics and luck he did very well, avoiding Halloween Jack’s attacks, turning them against him and shooting him in the head several times with a sonic blaster until he was reduced to goo.
Elsewhere in the base Shang-Chi successfully destroyed the computer database and rescued the Jonathan LMD. He made it back to the entrance, where numerous vehicles were parked, just as Ant Man arrived.
Shang-Chi and the LMD escaped with Ant Man ‘gaving chase’ still maintaining his assumed identity. Behind them the rest of the HAMMER operatives were evacuating as the base self-destructed.
Back at the floating Secret Avengers headquarters Steve Rogers congratulated the duo. They’d eliminated Forecast, Ant Man had established a strong cover identity should they need to infiltrate any other rogue HAMMER operations and Jonathan Raven was now safe.
SHIELD operatives had searched the remains of Project Forecast and had been unable to find any trace of Halloween Jack, but Ant Man was convinced that he was dead. Steve ordered Ant Man to get out of his Eagle Harrison disguise and report to SHIELD psychiatrist.
In the final scene Ant Man finds time to covertly contact his criminal friend Black Fox and ask him to put out the word that the mercenary Eagle Harrison was available for hire.
Milestones are tricky to write but I view them as a way to prompt certain actions or discussion that push the theme of the adventure. In this case it was identity and knowledge of the future.
1 XP when you tell a lie about your past or act out of character
3 XP when you hurt someone or put someone in danger to maintain your cover.
10 XP when you kill someone to maintain your cover or you blow your cover to save someone
COME WHAT MAY
1 XP when you discuss what you think your future holds
3 XP when you learn about the future
10 XP when you sacrifice something to learn about your own future or you resist the temptation to know your fate.
In our game Shang-Chi took ‘Come What May’ and Ant Man took ‘Deep Cover’. Both played this to the hilt, netting a healthy flow of XP. Both were able to achieve the 10 XP Milestone when Shang-Chi destroyed the future database rather than use the information and Ant Man killed Halloween Jack to maintain his Eagles identity.
From this you can see that Milestone can push players to portray their characters in ways they might not otherwise.
Once I had the plot outlined I wrote up the acts, to get a scene of pacing. This helped identify any problems with the flow. This lead me to add the Raider attack so there would be something exciting on the way to the monastery.
DOOM POOL: 2D6
DISTINCTIONS: Billard Tables, Shady Place
Meet Talent Broker
Meet at airstrip and get information
DOOM POOL: 2D8
DISTINCTIONS: Snowy mountains, Plane Going Down
Deal with Raiders attack on plane
DOOM POOL: 2D8
DISTINCTION: Monastery, Everyone was Kung-Fu fighting
Defeat mercenaries and rescue Jonathan Raven
DOOM POOL: 2D6
DISTINCTION: Wide open spaces, desert heat
Make Exchange and track vehicle
DOOM POOL: 3D8
DISTINCTION: Hi-Tech Secret Base, We Know the Future
Infiltrate Forecast base, free Halloween Jack and destroy datafiles.
The players enjoyed the game, particularly the cover-identity part of it. Ant Man’s player liked how the adventure had opened up an new plot line for his character to follow. They appreciated the tying together of different parts of the Marvel Universe.
Personally I learnt that in order to provide more of a challenge for the group I need to increase the size of the Doom dice rather than just taking an extra 1d6. In the heat of combat it can be difficult to think tactically like this.
I did find that using the Action sequence of events, with players determining who went next, helped keep events flowing even when they were separated. The fight with Halloween Jack took place at the same time Shang Chi was sabotaging the database and rescuing the LMD, meaning that everyone got to do something.