I’ve recently had an urge to do some superhero role-play, but I since my only victims/players are my wife and children I didn’t want to use a heavy system like Champions. Since they liked 3:16, I tried to find a game that offered the same speed and simplicity, and came across the Swedish comic-book set ‘Supercrew’. Read about it, liked it, bought it.
And, since it’s a simple set, I decided that I had a chance to do a superhero setting I always fancied trying – Victorian London. In these post-‘Extraordinary Gentleman’ days this seems a bit passe, but in fact I’ve wanted to do this for 20 years or more, ever since I acquired a serious interest in Sherlock Holmes.
So, on to the players and characters. I had at my disposal my wife, my son (aged 13) and my daughter (aged 12). All have played 3:16 and, in the case of my son and wife, a couple of other one-off games as well. We’re all fairly up on board-games and (in some cases) miniature wargames.
I briefed them on the idea that it was superheroes in Victorian London, and we decided that all characters would be members of the exclusive Impossible Club, located on the Mall; a club for people with extraordinary talents and abilities, whose members can be called upon to protect truth, justice and the British way. (For future play this gives us the option of dropping existing characters and bringing in new ones, even new players).
We rolled for the Ability sets, discussed ideas and eventually came up with the following characters:
Sir Leo Fogg (played by my wife)
Based on Willy Fogg from the classic 80s cartoon series, Sir Leo is a tall, powerful humanoid lion. His father was an African explorer who fell foul of a local witch-doctor, and was cursed. The curse manifested itself in his newborn son’s strange appearence, but Sir Leo has risen above his birthright and is a respected, if unusual-looking, member of society. He founded The Impossible Club.
3 – Fearsome Roar: Terrifies foes and inspires friends
2 – Powerful: He is stronger, faster and tougher than a normal man
1 – Heightened Senses: Just what it says on the tin
Reroll – Focused hearing (senses)
Change to 5 – Shatter solid objects (roar)
Effect 2 – Mighty leap (strength)
Willow (Played by my daughter)
A tree spirit character. We haven’t fully fleshed out her background yet, but she is a tall, pale, slender woman dressed in robes of leaves and moss. She carries a small silver horn and is accompanied by a cat-sized dragon called Lux Goldenscale. She may be the last of her kind.
3 – Magical Silver Horn: Summons hordes of small woodland creatures to her aid
2 – Control Plant Growth: Create tangling vines or brambles, or grow and/or move trees and other vegetation
1 – Familiar: Lux Goldenscale, a small dragon which can fly and breathe fire
Reroll – Fiery breath (Dragon)
Change to 5 – Summoned creatures see and hear everything (Silver Horn)
Effect 2 – Scales of gold protect all (Dragon)
The Amazing Phantom (Played by my son)
Dr. John Clove is a brilliant chemist, who uses his discoveries to fight crime and injustice in the guise of The Phantom. He attacks foes with gas or smoke bombs, vials of acid or small amounts of explosives.
3 – Great Speed: The Phantom can take a potion that enables him to move at high speed
2 – Invisibility: Another potion in his arsenal
1 – Brilliant Chemist: he can create various chemical weapons and effects
Reroll: Become intangible for short periods of time (Invisibility)
Change to 5: Create an explosive from anything (Chemist)
Effect 2: Attack multiple foes (Speed)
On to their first adventure
Our heroes are relaxing in The Impossible Club one day when the porter, Doberman, informs them that they have a visitor: Inspector Bradstreet of Scotland Yard (shamelessly lifted from the Holmes stories).
He informs them that he has a job that may be right up their street, as it is outside the Police’s remit. Workers digging a tunnel for an extension of the London Underground have refused to continue because they claim that the tunnel they are working on is haunted by some kind of monster. Sir Leo and his friends are asked if they would go to the work-site and investigate the claims.
Of course, our heroes agree, and head off to the tunnel workings. They interrogate the foreman and workers (who all have accents that vary wildly between Welsh and Scottish), and find out that large glowing eyes have been seen in the tunnel, and the sound of a large creature moving about. No-one is going near the work-face until it is discovered just what is out there.
Our heroes head off to investigate, and soon realise that there is a tunnel beyond that being dug by the workers. They head into it (their way lit by The Phantom’s chemical light) and soon hear the reported noises, and see the glowing eyes. As they deliberate about what to do, a huge fanged creature lunges out of the darkness at them, wielding mighty claws. They spring into action, Sir Leo standing firm to receive the assault, whilst the Phantom deploys smoke bombs and Willow creates entangling brambles. It is this latter attack that causes the creature to lurch forward out of control, before collapsing, broken, six inches from the stolid Sir Leo. Broken, because it is a sophisticated mechanical device. As they investigate the wreckage, however, they realise that they are still in danger, for the creature is loaded with chemical fire and is about to explode. They reach the cover of the diggings as it does so, but the explosion causes a tunnel collapse and it takes all of their speed and skill to escape and rescue the few workers in the area at the same time.
They quickly decide that the mechanical monster is protecting something, and decide that their best action is to see if they can locate where it is above ground by trying to trace the tunnel. The Phantom’s forensic chemistry fails to find any clues, but Sir Leo and Lux Goldenscale (Willow’s dragon) are, between them, able to trace the tunnel through London to (where else?) a derelict warehouse by the river.
The Phantom uses his super-speed to join them at the warehouse, where strange sounds of work can be heard inside, and flickering green light seen through the boarded-up windows. They quietly break in through one of the doors, and The Phantom goes in invisibly to scout. He sees strange machinery in operation, attended to by what appears to be mechanical men. Unfortunately he is clumsy and alerts the mechanicals to his presence; as an alarm sounds, and they lumber towards where they think he is (invisible, remember?), The Phantom’s team-mates rush in to help.
As they do so a strange figure appears on a gantry above the warehouse floor; tall, thin, late middle-aged, in a white lab-coat and with a shock of grey hair he looks eccentric enough, but one of his eyes glows red behind his spectacles and his right arm is obviously a mechanical one. He announces himself as Doctor Klockwerk* and declares the heroes as fools who are too late to stop his plan, before ordering his Automaniacs (for such are the mechanical men) to attack.
Sir Leo leaps into the attack, destroying Automaniacs left, right and centre whilst they spray him with fire from their rapid-fire gun attachments. The Phantom flits around invisibly, avoiding hacking blades and whirling saws, and blowing up Automaniacs with small explosive charges. Willow is the most effective, growing vines and brambles to their body cavities and popping them open.
With the first wave of Automaniacs defeated, Sir Leo and The Phantom go after Doctor Klockwerk, who, after spraying steel darts at them from his arm, opts for that fine villain tradition: The Pre-Prepared Escape Route. His attempt to reach it, though, is slowed by The Phantom’s smoke bombs, before Sir Leo catches up with him just as he is about to dive down the hatch. The lion-man stuns the maniacal mechanic, and stops his escape.
Meanwhile Lux Goldenscale is engaging the Automanics with dragon-fire, but it is Sir Leo who leaps from the gantry to finish the last of them off, stopping them from activating a potentially devastating self-destruct protocol.
Turning their attention to the now awake Doctor Klockwerk, our heroes discover that the mechanical dragon in the tunnel was placed their to delay the diggings and stop it reaching his underground laboratory (poor siting on his part, really). He declares that the heroes are now too late to stop his plan, before pressing a button on his arm. The warehouse rumbles, and the floor opens, as Klockwerks masterpiece rises from the underground workshop – a thirty-foot tall mechanical spider, bristling with steel tentacles and rapid-fire guns. Set on automatic it lumbers forward, smashing down the warehouse wall, and starting a trail of mayhem across London.
Leaving Klockwerk bound in vines our heroes head off after the Iron Spider, some of them stopping to deal with the mayhem in its wake – small fires, collapsing walls and panicked horses and people. Sir Leo dodges its failing tentacles and is able to swarm up a leg and find an entry hatch. Wrenching it open he gets inside and begins wrecking machinery, before the creature’s tentacles find him and pull him out. As Willow summons a flock of woodland birds to aid her, it is The Phantom who manages to pour powerful acid on a critical leg-joint, bringing the Iron Spider to a crashing halt.
With the monsterous, mechanical menace dealt with, Sir Leo and his friends return to the warehouse to find that Klockwerk has escaped. Of course. However their work is done, and, having saved London, they return to The Impossible Club for a well-earned luncheon.
We all agreed that it was a good game, although it took the players a little time to understand how the defensive action rules worked. The rules do rely on people storytelling their power effects to the hilt, as otherwise they are just bland die rolls.We’ll almost certainly give it another go at some stage, possibly with some adjustment to the tricks characters have. I still need to find the best level at which to set foes; some of them seemed a bit easy, but it was hard to say as the players had some good effect rolls at key moments. For instance Sir Leo almost took out the Iron Spider on the first round by the combination of a series of rerolled sixes and the fact that it botched its defence rolls; a potentially ignomonious end for my climactic battle scene.
One thing we did decide was to not have everybody carry Hero Points over into the next adventure. Instead the character that had the most remaining at the end of the adventure got to keep one of them. In this case it was The Phantom.
*Thanks to fellow ‘Hordes of the Things’ player Peter Card for the names of Doctor Klockwerk and his Automaniacs. The spelling and abilities are all mine 🙂
Second adventure for The Impossible Club
Our adventure opens with the members of the Club relaxing in the afternoon. The club porter, Doberman, enters the library and lets out a loud cry before collapsing. Our heroes rushed to the library to find the collapsed porter, and a rapidly dispelling cloud of cold and darkness. Sir Leo senses an organism leaving the room, whilst Willow feels its supernatural nature. Rousing the porter they find out that as he entered the room it suddenly went incredibly dark and cold, caasing him to pass out. As he awakens he realises that he is holding an envelope.
Our heroes open the envelope and find a note addressed to Sir Leo and the other club members. It informs them that a valuable collection of diamonds on display at the British Museum will be stolen that very afternoon, and that the Club is powerless to stop them. It is signed ‘The League Of Villainy’.
With little time to spare Sir Leo, Willow and The Phantom rush to the Museum, and help the staff clear the public from the exhibition room. As the last protesting visitor is ushered out, the three heroes take stock – three cases of diamonds and little else. Little else until a languid voice wishes them ‘Good afternoon’, that is. Turning, they see a foppish figure leaning in the doorway, acompanied by a gang of criminal thugs. Introducing himself as Gentleman Johnny, he orders his thugs to remove the heroes and take the diamonds. Action ensues!
Willow and The Phantom engage the thugs, whilst Sir Leo leaps for Gentleman Johnny. Leaps, that is, until he trips over an abandoned bag left by a visitor. Recovering he then slips on a particulalry well-polished piece of floor, crashing into a display case. Gentleman Johnny doesn’t move a muscle. Thugs go down to Willow and The Phantom, but some of them attack the prone Sir Leo and pummel him into unconsciousness.
Willow and The Phantom take out more thugs, but seeing Sir Leo down, Willow switches her attention to Gentleman Johnny. She entangles in in brambles, but Somehow some of The Phantom’s grenades break them up. She summons more vines to entangle Gentleman Johnny, but by extraordinary bad luck one of them trips The Phantom, stunning him and leaving him easy meat for the thugs, who take out a second hero. One of his bombs almost takes Willow out as well – more bad luck. However she is able to use her horn to summon hordes of woodland creatueres, who put Gentleman Johnny out for count, leaving Willow to deal with the remaining thugs. Which she does with ease.
They realise that Gentleman Johny is superhumanly lucky, and that his foes are superhumanly unlucky. Our heroes wait for the authorities to take the villains into custody. As he is hauled away by the Police Gentleman Johnny hands Sir Leo another note. Again, it is from The League Of Villainy, and it informs them that three London landmarks will be destroyed at midnight. Cryptic clues may allow the heroes to identify the landmarks, and save them; if they can solve them (I gave the players three pieces of paper with poetic clues, puns and anagrams on them, and left them to work out the identities of the landmarks. Which they did). With only twently minutes left until the bombs go off, Sir Leo and his friends identify the landmarks: Big Ben, Nelson’s Column and the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus*
With little time left they realise that they will have to split up, taking on landmark each. Pausing only to alert the Police to clear the areas around each landmark they rush into action. Willow heads for Big Ben, The Phantom for Eros and Sir Leo for Trafalgar Square (it’s the lions, you know). They arrive with minutes to spare, and start to look for the bombs.
Willow uses vines to begin the ascent of St Stephen’s Tower towards the famous clock, and the bell that bears the name Big Ben. As she does so a shadowy figures moves towards her. ‘Weee arrree The Daaarknessss’ it hisses, before enveloping her in cold and gloom …
The Phantom approaches the statue of Eros. As he does so the foppish figure of Gentleman Johnny steps out from behind it. “The lock on the Police wagon must have been faulty,” he says “How fortunate for me.” …
Sir Leo looks around the base of Nelson’s Column and realises that the bomb is at the top. As he prepares to leap and begin the long ascent, he hears a growl behind him. Turning he sees a ragged figure, his size, maned, fanged and clawed. It growls “We meet at last!” before charging into the attack …
Willow’s vines whip out and knock The Darkness flying. Resisting the cold she puts her horn to her lips and summons a flock of birds. Hurling them at The Darkness she sees it disperse into the night, and continues her climb towards the bomb.
The Phantom engages Gentleman Johnny with smoke bombs, but one falls short and does as much harm to him as it does to his foe. He readies an explosive device, but has unluckily picked one with a faulty trigger and it goes off in his hand. Hid super-speed tosses it away, but not quite in time, and he is knocked unconscious by the explosion.
At the base of Nelson’s Column a savage fight ensues as Sir Leo and The Hyena (for such is his foe) charge into each other. Sir Leo comes of worse intially, but his mighty roar drives back The Hyena, despite his beserk rage. But the Hyena rallies, and in a display of unprecendented savagery pummels Sir Leo into unconsciousness.
Willow reaches Big Ben, and uses moss to envelop the bomb, before using vines to toss it into The Thames. Sensing through her bird allies that her companions are in trouble, she atempts to rush to the rescue. She reaches Picadilly Circus in time to see Gentleman Johnny dragging The Phantom clear of Eros, but is too late; the statue disappears in a mighty explosion. In the distance she hears another explosion as the top of Nelson’s Column is destroyed. When she turns back to The Phantom, Gentleman Johnny has vanished.
Sir Leo is shaken to consciousness by the explosion atop the column, and see the rubble fall to the ground. He recalls half-heard words whispered in his ear as he was dragged clear of the column – “The next time I will not be so merciful … brother.”
The authorities arrive, but it is clear that the heroes have failed. Two of London’s landmarks have been destroyed, and all of the villains have escaped. Crestfallen they return to The Impossible Club, to find another note waiting for them – The League Of Villainy informing them that this is only the beginning …
I worked quite hard on the baddies in this one to keep their abilities balanced with those of the heroes, but couldn’t take into account a series of blinding die rolls. In Supercrew a you roll D6 for effect, with a 4,5 or 6 counting as a ‘hit’. A ‘6’ is a hit, and you can reroll. Several times my villains rolled a string of consecutive sixes – the best was a group of henchmen who, with two dice, scored five hits! Now I could have faked the rolls to allow the heroes to succeed, but decided that in this case failure would be good for them; London losing a couple of landmarks will be an interesting hook for future interactions with the authorities.
However, with the newspapers blaming them for the destruction of Nelson’s Column, it may be time for them to take a trip to the country …
*Which is not of Eros, but of his brother. Check it on Wikipedia.