So this week marked the return of Marvel Heroic RPG to the gaming table. It’s been a couple of months since we did the test play, and we found that the game ran smoothly despite a few “what was that rule again” moments on my part.

The campaign is still a homebrew universe, set primarily in Liberty City, Delaware — a fictional city founded by the grandfather of the current, and who was the original, Paragon after he bested a human nuclear bomb the Nazis had sent to destroy Washington in 1945. There’s a big helping of The Incredibles and The Venture Brothers, meets Wild Cards and various comic books I liked back when I collected comics.

The game opened with an origin story flashback sequence for one of the new characters, El Gato — a former barrio hood from Los Angeles that was turned into a cat by strange chemicals at a “jump” factory run by rival white gangs. Jump is a main feature of the adventure — it is a drug, originally a military experiment to create supers (or metahumans, as they are officially called) during WWII, to counter a similar Nazi program. Jump gives normals powers at between a d6 and d8 level (what we call Class C powers) for between 30 minutes to 12 hours, depending on the person’s biochemistry. Their genetic code, biochemistry, and it is thought, their psychological makeup lead to what kind of powers they get, how powerful they are (Class B: d8-d10, Class A d12), and it can occasionally lead to permanent powers (For “jumpers”, I roll randomly unless I need something for the story.) The drug also has a nasty effect on the nervous system of the user and burns your brain pretty quickly. It’s highly addictive psychologically; having super powers is cool.

The game started with El Gato landing in Liberty City for an SMA (Superhuman Martial Arts League) fight. He usually does tandem fights, as he is small (3’6″) and not overly strong…but he’s hard to hit and has a mouth that will piss anyone off. He’s the distraction for his teammate. He gets to the venue, the Indian Run Casino on the river and moments later the place is attacked by three jumpers — one a sonic blaster, two with super-strength and durability, of which one can set off earthquakes by punching or stomping on the ground. The other characters just happen to be in the area: Paragon is flying home from trying to score a licensing deal, and the head of a “capes and masks” unit of the police is nearby getting himself a YooHoo and a Bust-a-Nut bar.

The fight went well and the players were able to use each other’s strengths to quickly put down one of the villains. The cops were badly outmatched by the bad guys, but Paragon and El Gato evened the scales. For the mostly normal cops, they have to use their wits (since they didn’t have their power armor handy) and instead of trying to inflict stress, they used their shotguns with “goop” rounds and soporific gas grenades to hit the bad guys with complications to slow them down.

One of the bad guys is run out of the casino by a security guard who has a power…one that earned him the metahuman registry alias of Stinkbug. You can guess his power. They eventually capture the bad guys, take them to the SCU (Special Crimes Unit — the official title of the “capes and masks” squad) for interrogation, where they learn the jump is coming from a small group of hoods out of Atlantic City currently testing their product so they can put together a jumped-up army to go against Grendel (the Matt Wagner Hunter Rose version) who is kicking their crime family’s ass right now.

The cops get sidetracked a few hours later for a capes and masks call that includes a HAZMAT team order. Stinkbug, having blasted the lobby of the casino with putrification that changed the color of the carpets, paint, (as well as Paragon’s uniform), and left a smell they are hard pressed to get out, was fired from his job. Having been called Stinkbug in the press, despite giving his real name and having attempted to change his alias in the registry, has committed suicide. The note mentions his inability to keep a job, get a girl, or lose the horrible nickname his dad gave him. This will be a running theme: superpowers don’t always improve your life. They also don’t make you competent, as would seem in normal comic books — criminals are still usually stupid or lazy; heroes are not always good guys. Or competent.

El Gato manages to track down the dealer for the jump, questions him, and finds out he’s working for their prime jump manufacturer, Bernie Corso. They get the dealer back to SCU and find out from him where the factory is.

Next time: big fight at the factory.