Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Concorde campaign

This is mostly a piece to record memories of a campaign. It will probably be boring to anyone but me, but I'll throw in some commentary about what I did wrong or right. (If you played with me, feel free to chime in and correct my memories because it has been a long time, and I might well have things wrong.)

So I had given up roleplaying pretty much, and one camping weekend in 1983 my friend Jim Gardner came with this game, which was Champions, first or second edition. We played, I enjoyed it. I think it contributed to the breakup of my relationship at the time (me being an asshat provided the lion's share of it, though). And Jim started running a campaign, set in Felicity, a thinly-disguised Waterloo which had been the setting for several radio shows and plays that Jim had worked on.

Eventually I wanted to run something, so I pestered and eventually Jim allowed as how he was doing other things so maybe running every other week wouldn't be awful, and wouldn't it be nice to get to play once in a while?

So I created an alternate alternate Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, Concorde (not to be confused with the actual Concord, Ontario). It was a bit grittier than Felicity but not much; the grittiness mostly came from the fact that I grew up in Kitchener, a former manufacturing town, so early settings tended to be things like an abandoned cannery plant or a warehouse or an alley. Concorde used to have a supers population, but most of them had moved to Toronto after the main superhero, the Gray Wolf, disappeared. (In fact, it was a running gag that the two UNTIL agents in the city had picked Concorde because it meant they weren't likely to have to face supers. Agents Murcheson and Traynor were supposed to be a kind of alert system, and just call in competent people if there were a problem.) (Later campaigns were set in the future of the Concorde universe and featured James Nicoll's vampire PC Harker Westenra, and the Bureau of Extremely Foreign Affairs, and even later ones the Anderson Disk.)

We had pretty much the same characters through Concorde's run (though recently I updated it when we tried out Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition). Player characters included:

  • T'A Shrin, a humanoid fox from another world, equipped with flight harness, force field, and blaster. (Brian)
  • The Lensman, a Lensman from the E. E. Smith novels pared down to the requisite number of points and plagued by spectacularly bad dice rolls. (JWB)
  • Silver Mirror, an alien from Gallifrey in flying armor with silver quantum blasts. He had seen the truth once across a crowed street and let it go by (that is, he told whatever story was useful at the time). (Jim)

Honest, there were others and I'm not slighting any of you people, but at this second, I don't recall who your characters were. (Everyone seemed to pick aliens. I'm not sure why they were protecting Earth. I think we explained it at some point, but I don't recall it.)

So: I did a good thing getting rid of the heroes and letting the PCs be the star of the show. Of course, one of the early things I did wrong was send them somewhere else...I had in mind an alternate world shaped like a spool, which had three places: the disk on top, the disk on bottom, and the area where the thread would go. I forget how they tied in, but Gray Wolf had been exiled there, and the PCs rescued him. He promptly retired, giving his blessing to the PCs.

Memorable NPCs...

  • Angel O'Shaughnessy was a one-armed private detective with minor psychic abilities. She had been a superhero vigilante, but retired and became a detective. She was the daughter of Sam Spade and Brigid O'Shaughnessy, which I don't think every came up.
  • Murcheson and Traynor have been mentioned. (In the M&M campaign, one of them had been turned into a woman by a villain and she then married the other, and they had a child...featured in the Steel City campaign as Canadian Lass.)
  • (Name Escapes Me...Gordie?) the Ghoul was a ghoul, from an early run-in with ghouls, who had been a fifties greaser and still dressed the part. Silver Mirror convinced the ghouls that they were the saviors foretold by prophecy, and they called on him whenever they had an inconvenient corpse to dispose of. His tag line was, "Are you guys saviors or what?"
  • Professor Grainger was the mad scientist at one of the local universities. He would help the players and then casually mention that he'd been thinking of moving the Earth out to the orbit of Jupiter because the observation facilities there would be better, and have to be talked out of it. (Yes, I had just gotten a copy of The Blood and Dr. McQuark.)
  • SAT, but I don't recall that I did a huge amount with them, because they were pretty plainly American, and my game was set in Canada.

I had to share published villains with Jim. We'd go through new Enemies books and divvy them up, laying dibs on any we were particularly interested in. I think I got Deathstroke, but Jim had most of the villains from the main rulebook. Anyway, villains I can recall:

  • Jack the Ripper homage in that cannery plant.
  • The ghouls, already mentioned.
  • Bad Day, a fast regenerating slasher. Bad Day's regenerating power was so great that he could grow back from a tiny fleck; the rest of him was destroyed and that fleck was kept in an evacuated bell jar, in case. This was the first time that I had handed disposable normals to the players to be near a character (and mostly killed, I think) during his origin. As a pre-transformed human, he kept saying, "I'm having a bad day," so that became his name. That was a useful idea, by the way. (I think Viktor's right; Bad Day was a Waterloo villain.)
  • Kick-Axe was a (superpowered) wanna-be rock band who held the courthouse hostage on the day of their sentencing, but who could be distracted by free pizza. Because I loves me some stupid villains.
  • Gratz, from The Circle and METE. He was so successful that when I tried to introduce Elisabeth Bathory later, they fried her just to prevent that sort of infiltration again. Never really got to use vampires again. Shame; Jim and I loved vampires.
  • Dark Silver was an evil female Silver Mirror, but she was an escapee from a mental asylum. They did talk her down in a climax that I found affecting.
  • Chicle was a stretcher-brick, as I recall. The follow-up M&M campaign revealed that he had married Dark Silver and they had a child, who was featured in that Steel City campaign.
  • Rapture and the boys (uh, Obelisk, Micron, and... I no longer recall) were a mercenary team. She was a mentalist, and the smell of fresh-cut grass was a sign that she was tampering with your brain. She would snipe from hiding and the others would do the overt things. They were a problem for the team for a while.
  • The Arthropoids. This was the villain threat that actually ended the campaign, because it took me years to figure out how the heck they were going to defeat them. They were alien slavers after T'A Shrin, and they were parasitic: they'd implant grubs in a human and it would eventually burst forth, killing the human. Eventually, while running a DC Heroes campaign in yet another alternate world (Wellington) I figured out how to defeat them, so the Wellington heroes travelled to the Concorde universe, I rewrote some of the characters as DC Heroes characters, and we finally dealt with them (the city was under an impenetrable "silken" dome by that time, and much horror could have been had).

Okay, in retrospect, there was a certain amount of killing, which might have contributed to the slightly grittier feel.