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[Guest post] Cosmic capers

We’ve been playing the Sentinels superhero RPG, in a Silver/Bronze Age setting. Argent Comics, we have decided, was a pioneering but unsuccessful business whose properties were later bought up by DC and whose early comics are admired by comic book historians for their progressiveness and storytelling – and for the strain on their overworked and underpaid artists.

The latest “collection” (as an arc, or sub-campaign is known) saw Argent go cosmic. I’d wanted to do this and had been wondering how not to be too heavy-handed about ti when the players spontaneously decided to build a vehicle for themselves and take their friend NPC space chimp Maple up for a flight. Perfect!

I stole concepts and character ideas liberally from Kirby, Starlin and Claremont. The PCs discovered a wider universe than their beloved, beleaguered city of Seacouver. Cosmic chessmasters, space pirates, a kangaroo court of galactic leaders followed by an epic gladiatorial duel on a world ravaged by nuclear war – all featured in their adventures. And gave me lots of backstory and lore to draw on with these or future PCs.

I have never before had a successful superhero campaign. What makes this different? The system for one suits me and how I like to play. It is quite abstract, in a way that makes sense for comic books – fluid and unspecified distances, PCs and villains appearing as needed, no tracking of charges or distances – all good. It took me a few weeks to learn where I could go off-piste with scenes, given that Sentinels encourages everything to be defined in advance, but now I think I and the players have a sense of what can and can’t be done and how. The “twist” mechanic, bringing in tactical or roleplaying consequences for failure or invoking abilities, is something the players have taken to.

The setting, which we agreed in session zero should be in the spirit of Batman: TAS (fun, but serious issues present though not in a grim way), helps too. There was silliness but also reference to real-world issues in the comics of the 60s-70s, and it’s allowed us to have a lot of fun throughout.

And finally, the players. Matt, Steve, Robert, Alistair and Matthias have as always brought their A game, and have been enjoyed playing characters none of which are expies of themselves but all of whom (to ne at least) show elements of their own personalities here and there. They have embraced the absurd setting and the twists, be they cheesy or ridiculous. Thanks, all – and I hope you enjoy your homecoming to Seacouver next time…

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