The events of ‘Amazing Spider-Man Issue 529 – 531’ are covered on pages CW49 & 50 of the ‘Civil War: Essential Event Book’. I was very pleased to see that they also provided a new write-up of Spider-Man on page CW204, representing the Iron Spider Armor.
The three part story, written by J Michael Straczynski, acts as a prologue to ‘Civil War’, especially Tony Stark’s part in it. Here we see him use Peter as a pawn, making sure he has an ally in the future.
I’d recommend running through these events if running a Civil War campaign because they foreshadow a lot of what is to come later and are a good way to get across the issues involved on both sides.
The Iron Spider Suit
Spider-Man’s new costumes are always controversial and the Iron Spider suit is no different. I always liked it, even if it had the wrong number of metal arms. The shiny red and gold colour scheme is distinctive, if not perfect.
The best thing about it was the combination of Spider-Man’s powers with a suit that had lots of advanced technology. It was both a good reminder of Peter’s intelligence and his alliance with Iron Man.
The new data file does leave out the suits ability to change its appearance, appear and disappear. Since this doesn’t greatly affect the story this can be just a cosmetic detail, allowing the player to change in and out of the costume at will and describe what it looks like.
There are times it can be useful, especially if using the suits camouflage ability. This could be represented with Shapeshifting D6 and/or Invisibility D8.
During this period you might also want to change one of Spider-Man’s distinction to ‘Yes Boss’, since he says it so much during this arc. It could represent his alliance with Tony, which has both its advantages and disadvantages.
Thanks to his new set of armour Spider-Man is able to shrug off a gun shot. This perplexes the criminal who fired upon him, but the police have an explanation for his invulnerability. Following the events of ‘The Other’ Spider-Man apparently died, leading to a rumour that he is currently undead.
Superheroes coming back to life isn’t uncommon but this is a fun example of how people could believe that they have returned as a supernatural being. Adventures set during this period might play up the fact that people believe that Spider-Man is no longer human.
PC heroes could capitalise on this, especially with superstitious villains. They could also have to deal with undead hunters, trying to put them back in the grave. This would require them to reveal the truth before they’ll killed again.
‘Back From The Dead’ could be a good distinction for a character, or an asset. This would work especially well in combination with the Menace specialisation.
This could also be a good way to surprise players by having them encounter a recently returned hero only to find that they are in fact a member of the undead. Before they know it they’re playing out the events of ‘Marvel Zombies’, desperately trying to stop the infection spreading.
The Blood Oath
At a private dinner Tony Stark asks Peter to make an alliance with him. Feeling kinship with him Stark explains that he trusts Peter and wants him at his back. At this point only the reader is aware that Stark’s actions are motivated by the impending registration act.
At this early stage Stark is attempting to forge a strong ally. He also appears to be aware that this will put him in conflict with Steve Rogers. Tony can anticipate how events will play out, and respond accordingly.
It is fortunate that Stark is a good man, otherwise he might have sought to neutralise opposition before the Civil War began. It wouldn’t be too difficult to engineer an accident that removed Captain America from play.
A ‘What If’ adventure could explore this scenario, with the PC heroes becoming aware of a number of strange incidents of disappearances before finding out that Tony Stark is responsible. To keep the adventure in Earth 616 it could turn out that Stark has been framed and another party is responsible.
In game terms what are the benefits of such a Blood Oath, with one character swearing allegiance to another? I’d suggest that when the two characters work together their Buddy dice is increased by 1 size. This would allow them to work together more successfully and encourage them to do so in the future. Of course any such benefit would be lost when that alliance is broken.
You might like to consider who else Tony Stark might have approached. This doesn’t need to contradict the events in this story line, it could be that Stark simply tells several people that they’re the only people he can trust. If you don’t want him to be dishonest then you could run it as a ‘what if’.
If Bruce Banner hadn’t been sent into space he would make a good alternative to Peter Parker. Both Stark and Banner are scientists, changed by their experiments. Bruce could also be persuaded by Stark’s argument that people with incredible powers need to be monitored, given that Bruce knows the devastation that the Hulk can unleash.
The events of the Civil War would go very differently if Hulk was on the Pro-registration side. There is also the danger that the public would turn against them, since they had the giant green monster on their side.
What if Stark had put aside his misgivings and approached Steve Rogers? If Captain America had sworn to back Stark maybe he wouldn’t have objected to the Registration Act if it meant breaking his word to a friend.
Not only can you think about how the person Stark approaches can change the events of the Civil War but you can also consider what gifts he might provide them. Peter Parker got a new suit, what might Stark have given to others?
The hook presented on page CW47 suggests that the PCs be summoned to speak before the Senate. In the comics it was Tony Stark, but there are plenty of other people who might be invited, or who could be brought along to act as counsel or experts.
Present are Senator Dickerson, Senator Whitmore and several unnamed politicians. Exploration of these people can lead to some interesting adventures or at least flesh out a setting.
Who are they? What is their past and their current agenda? Stark mentions that there are many riders on the bill that politicians are trying to push through. What if one of these riders was the real reason that the act was submitted. The registration act could just be a means to an end.
Senator Whitmore makes the argument that since the rise of super-humans in 1946 there has been 200 billion dollars worth of property damage. Stark counters that the heroes have saved the US from destruction 47 times during that period, at a cost of only 300 million a year, which is pretty cheap.
This type of argument could sway the government into realising that more funding might actually make the country safer. This extra money could benefit many heroes, although here would be those that would feel they were comprising themselves by accepting a government pay check.
Senator Whitmore continues by making the argument that heroes should be held accountable for their actions. When Peter says that heroes have to worry about protecting their loved ones Whitmore suggests that this is no different from police officers, judges or anyone else in law enforcement.
Peter argues that the difference is that most heroes don’t ask for their powers. A registration act would only encourage such people not to use those gifts to help if it compromises the safety of their loved ones.
This point is a good one think about when dealing with superheroes. Who asked for their powers? Who wanted to be a hero? This in turn affects who you might decide would or wouldn’t agree with the registration act.
Peter is unsuccessful in persuading the senate, which gives us another potential point where events could have gone differently. What if he was more persuasive or someone else had been there?
What would have happened if the senate had agreed with the argument and decided to drop the registration act? What if Stark had brought a mutant, like Logan, and a parallel had been made between the persecution of mutants to the persecution of superheroes? Would they have agreed that all prejudice is wrong?
This whole scene could be played out as an action scene. Not all fights are done with fists, some are with words. Stark and Peter both use their past experiences to provide weight to their argument, which could be emulated by drawing upon distinctions and specialities.
Each senator could have similar distinctions that let them build their own arguments. This would take the form of their agenda and concerns, from finance to morality. PCs could target these concerns, preventing them from being used in the debate again.
The PCs success or failure here can set the ground work for later. It might also be meaningless since the events at Stamford make the outcome of the senate meeting mote.
What isn’t revealed in the Event Book is that Titanium Man is working with Tony Stark. His appearance was designed to show how the registration act worked in the favour of the enemies of the US. Peter almost works this out but his trust in Stark makes him dismiss the idea.
When playing out this scene remember that Titanium Man wasn’t going to actually kill Stark. He only had to make it appear as if he was. If Spider-Man hadn’t been there one wonders how far he would have gone. Did Stark set limits on just how far Titanium Man could go?
In this light some of his distinctions could be changed. In particular the distinction ‘Empty-Headed’ doesn’t seem appropriate since he shows a great deal of insight, particularly in regards to the future of the superhero community.
I would probably replace it with ‘Soon, Not So Funny, Yes?’. It seems to better reflect his cynicism and general distaste for wise cracking heroes.
Titanium Man makes a parallel between the fall of the Soviet Union and the impending outcome of the registration act. He believes that the heroes will be hunted and driven out, eventually becoming mercenaries like himself.
This could be a potential ‘What If’ campaign. Heroes are on the run, acting in the shadows and compromising their morality to survive. What jobs would they have to take? Who would they find themselves working for?
If you change events so that both Tony Stark and Peter aren’t there would events play out the same way? If Tony has no interest in the registration act then he wouldn’t hire Titanium Man. In which case you can proceed with the senate hearing without interruption.
If Tony still wishes to influence events he’d hire a mercenary with the same power level as the PCs. We can see that one of the reasons he gave Spider-Man his new Iron Spider suit was to allow him to survive the encounter with Titanium Man. Stark doesn’t want to kill a hero just to make a point.
For an added twist the knowledge of the job, if not the client, might get out. Other mercenaries or assassins might try to beat Titanium Man to the punch in order to collect on the money, without knowing that they’re not really supposed to kill Stark or the PCs.
For the person who will be the leader of the Pro-Registration act Tony Stark does everything he can to prevent it here. Having told the Illuminati that they should embrace it he passionately argues against it.
He speaks of it in very negative terms and hints to Peter that if this fails he has other plans. It would seem that the events of Stamford prevented him from fighting against it any further.
In a campaign where Stamford never happens or is at least delayed Tony Stark might have been able to try other plans to oppose the act. Since he has already gone as far as hiring a mercenary he may have gone even further, comprising his morals for the greater good.
If he became increasingly vocal against the act it is very unlikely he’d side with it once the Registration act was brought it. These issues are useful when portraying an anti-registration Tony Stark.
During the events of ‘Civil War’ PCs might uncover Stark’s duplicity. Revealing the truth could affect him and which ever side he has allied with in your campaign. The PCs decision on whether to reveal it could depend on their own alliances and their morality.
A new milestone could be built for anyone playing Iron Man, focused on keeping those secrets from getting out or finally revealing the truth, no matter what the consequences.