Events of the first issue of ‘Civil War’ are covered in ‘Civil War Essentials Event Book’ pages CW58 to CW69. Comparing it to the comic we see that the scenes being discussed occur out of sequence but this is an important guide to translating events into a roleplaying game.
Scenes in a comic are designed to flow for the reader. In a large scale story such as this we have to smoothly transition to an number of different groups in order for the story to keep moving.
In a roleplaying game most of the events will be seen from the point of view of the player characters. If their characters typically stay together than means that the focus is much more localised.
Once you’ve established what the important events are in any particular act you can run them in which ever order you need. By putting the emphasis on the player characters, rather than the needs of the story, you remove the feeling that they are being railroaded. An important consideration when playing out the events of a well-known story arc.
Many heroes are shown to quickly respond to the destruction at Stamford with both the Avengers and X-Men arriving in force. By the time they have arrived Nitro, responsible for the explosion, has already skipped town and the New Warriors tapes has been broadcast.
This suggests that there were several hours between the explosion and the arrival of the heroes. This gap is a perfect place to run medias res scenes, showing what each of the characters were doing when they first heard of the disaster.
This can show the impact of these shocking events and how they directly impact on people. If the players don’t know that you’ll be running the Civil War campaign it can be a good way to surprise them.
A character might be caught up in a personal drama, fretting about money or talking with a girlfriend when the breaking news makes their problems seem insignificant. They could be dealing with criminals (super powered or not) when they or their quarry becomes distracted by the news reports.
If a NPC had relatives in Stamford the sudden news could induce Emotional stress, allowing the PCs to turn a conflict in their favour. This could be quite a down beat ending to a battle, with their opponent distraught over the loss of life.
It is likely that before the New Warrior tape was broadcast the first news anyone would have heard is the report of a massive explosion. Before the cause is discovered heroes may have feared that this was caused by terrorists, alien invasion or other hostile aggressor.
Early scenes could involve the heroes trying to find out the source. This is especially appropriate if they view themselves as global guardians or are members of organisations such as SHIELD.
In these early scenes there could be a palpable sense of fear. Will their be more explosions and further loss of life? You can throw a curve ball by having another such disaster happen, making the players question how much you have diverged from the events of the comic.
There will of course be heroes who feel that while the news is tragic that there is little they can do. This can lead to scenes where they feel helpless or members of the public berate them for not helping.
Those who do arrive can do some good. While many did die one of the first things we see is the X-Men successfully freeing six more survivors from the rubble. Ice Man and Spider Woman carry wounded civilians while Falcon is seen flying with several first aid kits.
This is a good opportunity to allow player characters to make use of their abilities outside of a combat situation. While you can make them roll against the Doom Pool to locate survivors or provide medical attention generally they should be allowed to automatically succeed, with Plot Points given for particularly good descriptions.
Those taking the roles of X-Men will find that despite their charitable acts they are still mistrusted by the survivors. A squad of O.N.E Sentinels keep a close eye on them, angering Wolverine.
Despite the power available to them we are shown one pilot relaxing, rather than helping. Given the Sentinels ability to scan for life signs and their great strength you would imagine they’d be rather useful in a search and rescue operation.
Player characters with a great deal of influence, particularly Captain America, could order the Sentinels to help. This could be a good way to establish that everyone is working together and might create a stronger bond between the Avengers and X Men.
With everyone under stress the X-Men might be provoked into attacking the Sentinels. If such a conflict did break out who would the other heroes side with? The government or the X-Men? This could be a good way to trigger a division of the hero community before the Registration Act is passed.
Story wise the Sentinels provide a reminder of the persecution that mutants face, with Goliath correctly guessing that all of the hero community will be watched. He reminds the reader that Stamford is only the latest disaster to have occurred.
Recently Philadelphia had been bombed, Hulk had attacked Vegas and a mind controlled Wolverine had threatened to kill the President. Any of these events could be run prior to the start of the campaign, with the possibility that by preventing them Stamford wouldn’t be the straw that broke the camels back.
Opportunistic villains could decide that this is a perfect chance to attack the heroes while they are assembled in one place. It could even be revealed that Nitro was hired by someone to cause such a disaster for this express purpose.
In such a conflict the heroes would have to work hard to protect the remaining survivors. This would make the stakes much higher, with all of the world watching to see how well their fulfil their role as guardians and protectors.
Many were present for the memorial service for those who died at Stamford (11 to 1pm), including Tony Stark. Outside the press were waiting, including JJ Jameson and Peter Parker. It should be a simple matter to include other characters in their secret identities, as those in costume will likely receive a hostile reception.
Upon leaving the memorial Tony Stark is accosted by Miriam Sharpe, who had lost her son Damien in the disaster. She accuses Tony of financing reckless vigilantes and that the blood of those who died at Stamford are on his hands.
We know from the Spider-Man lead in to this event that Tony was secretly anti-registration while suggesting to the Illuminati that should come out in favour of pro-registration. Could this confrontation be the key to his finally coming down on the side of pro-registration?
What would have occurred if Steve Rogers had been present at the memorial? His presence would certainly make sense since many see him as the respectable face of the hero community.
Experiencing the distress of public and the outpouring of grief from Miriam may have swayed him to the pro-registration. Of course would Miriam go far as to spit in the face of Captain America?
Miriam would go on to make brief appearances throughout the Civil War series before her story arc was concluded in the ‘Fear Itself’ event. She is the human face of the tragedy and could become more prominent character in your own version of the Civil War.
Winning her over could go a long way to reducing the anti-superhero outrage. She might also be a target for those wanting to silence her permanently. Other hate groups could try to get her endorsement to further their own agendas.
You might also want to turn Miriam into a villain. Her spit might be some form of biological mind control, which can explain some of the out of character behaviour from Tony Stark. Heroes who research her back story might discover that there wasn’t a Damien Sharpe registered at the school and Miriam is not who she appears.
If you don’t want to make her a villain she could simply be disturbed. She could be pretending to be a grieving mother because she is desperate for attention. Revealing she is emotionally disturbed may be unpleasant but could neutralise the anti-hero movement.
THINGS TURN UGLY
Last seen helping at the clean up of Stamford the Human Torch next makes an appearance at the Lazer Club. His immediate entrance into the night club with his date riles those waiting outside who start throwing ugly accusations his way.
This is a perfect example of the kind of scenes suggested on page CW61. Things can escalate quickly, with a few insults suddenly turning into a physical assault. Here Johnny Storm is caught by surprise and is badly beaten.
If this scene was roleplayed how would player characters respond? Using their powers could injure innocent people, even if those people are attempting to hurt them. Fighting back could even make the situation worse, as they would appear more dangerous.
This scene could be expanded, with a New York hero happening by during the assault. Not only can they come to his defence but they can then rush him to hospital or the Baxter Building to get medical attention.
A follow up scene could have heroes trying to bring the night clubbers to justice. It is easy to imagine the Thing looking for revenge with other characters trying to stop him from going too far.
Johnny Storm is often portrayed as an idol, especially by young women. His assault could help swing public opinion the other way. It is one thing to demonise Wolverine or Spider-Man, quite another to do the same thing for a beloved super celebrity.
Who would want to ally themselves with the sort of people that would do such a thing? If nothing else this should lead to a call for more moderate stance to be taken. An anti-registration group could easily turn this attack into a talking point, especially if they have access to a sympathetic media outlet.
A pro-registration group could persuade other heroes that if they were to sign up then they’d be offered protection by law. Such attacks could be a thing of the past as attacking a government agent or law enforcer would have high penalties.
If you want to make this scene more intense and diverge further from the Earth 616 continuity Johnny Storm, or a replacement character, could be killed in the attack making him a martyr for either cause.
The next day the heroes gather at the Baxter building to discuss recent events. Within the game this is a good forum for various characters to voice their concerns and suggest plans of action. If you have been allowing the players to rotate their characters this could be where they decide which ones they’d like to follow.
In the comic there is a great deal to be drawn from this scene. Everyone has an opinion and it is interesting to see how everyone interacts. It is the calm before the storm that will split them all apart.
Patriot, from the Young Avengers, says he has heard a rumour that they will strike. Mr Fantastic dismisses the idea but this could be explored in your campaign. This could be a form of anti-registration peaceful protest.
The real challenge for heroes is whether they could stick to it. It is hard to imagine any of them could turn a blind eye to someone in immediate peril. Would they anger other anti-registration heroes by saving others?
Pro-registration could find themselves placed under more pressure, picking up the extra workload left by the strike. In this situation the public is still protected but the Anti-registration have a stronger position to negotiate from.
A better middle ground would be that the heroes respond to any immediate emergency but leave the rest for the government to respond to. This will leave agencies like SHIELD having to deal with rampaging giant monsters and stopping AIM, HYDRA, Dr Doom and what ever villain is plotting to take over the world. The government might give in to their demands if they appreciate the amount of work required to fill their shoes.
Despite being the leader of the X-Men Cyclops defers to the others, asking for their opinion. What if he’d been stronger and made an opening statement? Given the parallels between the current situation and that of the mutants he must be able to speak from a position of experience and should remember some words of wisdom from Professor X about peaceful co-existence without submission.
This could have been a real turning point, with the X-Men taking the lead. This unity would not only have prevented the Civil War but made the mutants part of the mainstream hero community. Not that internal conflict was unknown to the X-Men.
In fact the division could have been between the mutants and the rest of the heroes. The Thing seems to blame them, directly stating to Wolverine that he was ruining their name and had caused Johnny to end up in hospital.
What if other heroes had agreed with the Thing? What if anti-mutant sentiment had seized the group leading to a conflict? This would have created a ‘Avengers Vs X-Men’ Event several years too early.
The advantage of this is that the hero community could redirect the ill-will against them and put the blame entirely on the mutants. The registration act might have been refocused on the mutants, with Stark and Reed Richards hoping that the time it would take them to organise this would make the public forget about punishing other heroes. A cruel but necessary sacrifice.
The SHIELD carrier scene adds some much needed action to Issue 1. It is visually exciting and would make for a good roleplaying section. Story wise it does come across as heavy handed, with Maria Hill portrayed as a villain.
How would things have played out if she’d been less confrontational? Captain America had regularly been a member of SHIELD and could be expected to follow the law should the registration act be passed and should his fellow heroes fail to follow it.
Both parties make the assumption that the law will pass and that the other heroes will rebel. Rather than leaping to this conclusion Captain America could have argued that he has faith both in the government and his friends.
It is still two weeks before the registration act is voted upon and a further month before it could become law. This time could have been spent swaying the public and politicians and ensuring they have a plan should it go through.
This is another scene where characters act out of character. In your campaign you might decide that there is a villain manipulating Captain America and/or Maria Hill. Certainly characters like the Purple Man, The Controller, Hate Monger could be behind a plot to throw SHIELD into chaos.
It could also be that Maria Hill was anti-registration but knew she’d be removed from her position if she spoke out. Instead she deliberately pushed Captain America into being a rebel, giving the opposition the leader they’d need to lead them in these dark times. She demonised herself to save her country.
In your campaign you may decide that Nick Fury is still the director of SHIELD. In ‘Civil War’ he is firmly on the Anti-registration side. Things could have gone very differently had he remained in charge. Would he have had the whole of SHIELD turn against the country if the law passed?
This would give the Anti-registration much greater resources and provided a bigger challenge for the Pro-registration side. It is easy to imagine that Stark would have created a rival to replace SHIELD, creating a HAMMER like organisation.