Issue #5: To Be A Villain

This is GM Only, a look into the notes I write for the games I run. This post contains all of my notes for my fourth session of the Suicide Squad game I’ve been running on Google Hangouts. Since this game is being recorded you can hear what actually happened here: Issue #5 To Be A Villain.

To Be A Villain

“You’d think, by now, people would know to look past the wheelchair.” – Dr. Niles Caulder

After returning to the Vault from a mission in rural Idaho the team is forced to face the choices they made when they meet the Squad councilor, Dr. Niles Caulder. While coming to terms with their situation the Squad also must take a look at their past for clarity in how they got here in the first place.

This issue starts with the Squad returning from their mission and the fate of Captain Boomerang Jr. being determined. Includes the team’s first meeting with Dr. Caulder and the therapy session schedule. The issue ends with Waller sending the team after Batman.

Everything is black. Then we see Mahmoud, Andy, Elektra, Edward, and a console for ECHIDNA all sitting in folding chairs inside the circular white room with a man we haven’t seen before. The newcomer is older with gray hair and a full beard. He rests in a wheelchair and a pistol sits in his lap. Silence stretches for a moment as the Squad avoid his gaze. Eventually, the man speaks. “As some of you already know, I am Niles Caulder and I’ve been brought here to act as councilor, therapist, confidant, and doctor for Task Force X. I am also responsible for taking your after action reports, which is what this session is now. Following these debriefs I am available for individual and group counseling should you request it. Dr. Waller is well aware of the toll these missions can take on a person, regardless of their background. Now, who would like to tell me what happened in Idaho?”

After Action Report

After Action Reports are done via C+ Action’s Wrap-Up Flashback mechanic. The system is presented below for reference. The players, and two NPCs, may go in whatever order they like but Andy must go last, as he has the highest Brains rank of all the players. The Squad has four objectives, plus the Player’s additional objective and John’s tertiary objective:

  • Take over the operation from any local response [2d6]
  • Secure the perimeter [2d8]
  • Breach the plane [2d10]
  • Take out the hijackers [2d12]
  • Kill Susanna Gould (Iblis, Sharpshooter, and ECHIDNA Only) [2d8]
  • Kill Owen Mercer (Sharpshooter Only)

Don’t forget the two NPCs, they also get to contribute to the wrap-up.

Susanna Gould: Is simply a foreign spy operating illegally on US soil. It’s suspected that she was selling information to the hijackers on the flight, which lead to the current situation. Whatever she uncovered couldn’t be allowed to leave that plane.
Owen Mercer: It was discovered that Owen had, somehow, been in contact with his Father and gave away the location of the Squad’s mission in Brazil. This allowed Boomerang Sr. to sell this information to Rick Flag Jr, who approached the Squad in the jungles. Mercer’s slip is being considered treason as it jeopardized the operation and could have revealed an unsanctioned US operation on friendly soil had anyone else found out.

Wrap-Up Flashbacks

A Wrap-Up Flashback is a series of Basic Actions played around the table by all the Agents at the end of a Mission or at some critical point. The Crew’s Brains usually initiates it, because it uses the Brains Role and sets up a final blow against the villain’s own plans. Each Agent participating in the wrap-up plays out his or her own individual Establishment Flashback, setting up some cool thing he did that helps the Brains out or tilt the odds in the Agents’ favor. Going around the table, each player describes his or her flashback.

In almost every case, the Agent is the active party and rolls dice first, setting the stakes. Then the Gamemaster rolls an appropriate response.

  • If the player’s roll is a success (the Gamemaster failed to raise the stakes) the Agent gives the Brains a d6 Asset or may step up an existing Asset by one. No Asset can ever be stepped up higher than d12.
  • If the player’s roll is a failure (the Gamemaster rolled higher) the Agent’s efforts didn’t have any real effect on the wrap-up. The Gamemaster can describe why it didn’t help, but it’s better to let the player do that.

Don’t worry about Complications on any of these Flashback scenes. If you roll a 1 when you’re taking your turn in a Wrap-Up Flashback, it just gets left out of the total.

Once everybody but the Brains has had a shot at setting up the big reveal, it’s the Brains’ turn. His player rolls an appropriate Attribute (usually Intelligence or Alertness, but exceptions might present themselves) + Brains, also adding in all of the Assets his buddies produced for him (and any that were already out there).

If the Brains’s Action is a success, then that’s usually it for the villain. His plans unravel, he flees the coop, or his lieutenants and mooks turn on him. The details are generally contingent on the Mission itself, the story so far, and so on.

If the Brains’s Action is a failure, the villain gets away with it…almost. See, the Agents have done enough to blow the lid off the villain’s plans, exposed grievances, spoiled the whole arrangement, or generally complicated the situation.

If you’re going to keep the story going after one of these wrap-ups, the Agents get an Asset equal to the highest-rated Asset they produced in the Wrap-Up Flashback, for use later in the Mission against the “real” villain.

Therapy Time

Dr. Caulder nods as the team convey their report. Once everyone is finished he nods seriously, “Thank you for that. Again, if anyone would like individual or group sessions I will be available in three hours. Simply notify any guard on your level and they will see to arranging things for us. Mr. Blake and Ms. Natchios are excused, I will need some additional time with Mr. Atef, Mr. Bangs, and Mr. Stevanovic.” Caulder then turns his focus on Mahmoud, Andy, and ECHIDNA as the other two file out of the room. “I am afraid that after your first official mission with the Task Force there is a compulsory individual session. Dr. Waller found that most new recruits were uninterested in seeking professional services unless they are required to at least once. Each of you will be given an hour of one-on-one time with me starting now. We can talk about whatever you want, I can lead the discussion, or we can sit quietly and enjoy the silence. These sessions are paced at your speed. Now. Who would like to go first?”

If no one offers to go first Niles will select Andy as the first participant, followed by Mahmoud, and then ECHIDNA. The first participant will be brought up to Nile’s office on the fourth level while the other two are escorted back to their cells.

There are three potential rewards for the players depending on their level of involvement with Dr. Caulder’s therapy. Rewards are determined by the other players depending on how significant the sessions are deemed.

  • No participation; no reward.
  • Participation but no growth; d6 Signature Asset.
  • Participation and minor growth; New Specialty or increase an existing Specialty.
  • Participation and major growth; Step up an Action Trait.

So, what is “growth”? Growth is anything that changes or alters the character’s perceptions, attitudes, or understandings in some way. Think about it as exactly what counseling is used for in reality. Coming to terms with feelings or recognizing patterns of behavior. Learning how to cope with situations or opening your mind to a different perspective on a personal matter. If something about the character’s behavior, attitude, or insights change by the time they leave the session it’s growth.

Major growth are significant character changing events. These are the rare break-thoughts that really make counseling worth while. After these sessions that character should behave in a significantly different fashion. This is a great place for characters to “work though” personal story arches and drive their individual narrative forward.

While participation is determined by the player, it’s the other players that decide on their growth. This whole ordeal should be a conversation between all of the players. With the primary player discussing what they want to talk about during the session and how much they are interested in changing and the other players deciding how significant that change is. While there is no shame in pushing for major growth regularly, simply allow the players to throttle the speed at which their characters change.

After the three mandatory sessions are completed, the characters are all returned to their cell and may continue their investigations. Going forward any session that takes place primarily within the Vault may include a visit to Dr. Caulder’s office and more rewards. These can not, however, be done multiple times during the same game session.

Praternity

One day, Andy gets a ping from Taleb. He’s sending an agent to speak with Andy, Mr. Carl Lucas. He has the information regarding Andy’s daughter that Waller has and is prepared to relay it to Andy in person. Taleb will see to it that the meeting remains secret.

When he arrived, Luke Cage will tell Andy that his daughter turns 13 this year. Running through Andy’s past and correlating who he may have come in contact with around the time of conception has netted four potential results for the mother; Duela Dent, Felicia Hardy, Sandra Wu-San, or Natasha Romanoff. If Andy can rule any of these three out they can start getting DNA and comparing samples.

NameAliasM/DBornAgeAge in 2002
Felicia HardyBlack CatM19793623
Duela DentJoker’s DaughterD19763926
Sandra Wu-SanLady ShivaD19754027
Natasha RomanoffBlack WidowM19645138
Changes

After the players settle back into their routine they notice the Remy is gone. ECHIDNA can check and verify that he was released while they were in Idaho. Transport back to New Orleans was secured for him and he delivered, by all reports, safely.

They may also notice that another team was deployed while they were out, and may see any member of the second team returning at some point during the session. Bronze Tiger is also badly injured.

  • Rick Flag III
  • Bronze Tiger
  • Captain Cold
  • Killer Frost
  • Killer Croc
  • Modeus

ECHIDNA may attempt to investigate their mission by hacking into Level 2. The team Was deployed to Africa to retrieve a radiological component of a crashed Chinese satellite. Hostiles arrived and opened fire on the group. Bronze Tiger took three bullets (two in the gut and one in the arm) and would have been lost had it not been for Captain Cold and Killer Frost routing the attack. For their efforts they have both been given an additional sentence reduction. Bringing Cold to Two Missions Left and Frost to Eight Missions Left. Tiger will have Seven Missions Left and Croc will be revealed to have nineteen missions left.

The Janus Directive

When the squad wakes up next they are back in the circular white room. This time Mahmoud and Andy find themselves alone, with ECHIDNA watching through their senses. After pulling themselves to their feed the door slides open and Waller walks into the room. “Listen up. We’ve been issued a Janus Directive. These orders come from somewhere above even SHIELD and are issued directly to Task Force X. No one outside of this room is to know about this operation. Not Checkmate, not SWORD, not SHIELD, and not even me. I don’t know if I can trust you but the Janus Directive is why you three have been brought together. I will facilitate your deployment to wherever you need to go. Once you’re finished with your briefing let me know what I need to do to assist you. Remember. No one outside of you three are allowed to know the details of this mission. Once I leave power to this room will be cut to ensure there is no outside recording or transmissions. Do you have any questions for me?” With that Waller turns and walks out of the room. The lights cut off and the room is left in the dim glow of the red emergency lights. Then a file blinks into existence withing ECHIDNA’s file server.

The file is heavily encrypted and as the pass-phrase ECHIDNA is prompted to ask exceptionally personal questions from Mahmoud and Andy. The kinds of questions that only they would know. ECHIDNA can choose to ask the questions openly to both of them, or individually so the other doesn’t know the question.

Mike and John can determine what the question is, what their answer is, and if they let the other know the answer. There is enough room that they can move apart and whisper their response to ECHIDNA.

With the final pass-phrase accepted the file opens. It’s contents are brief, a mere three words, but their meaning is immediately significant.

Kill the Batman.

 

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