Cinemechanix Design Journal 10: Team Force Alpha 37 Secret Origins

Category: Cussin' In Tongues
Created on Friday, 04 March 2016 Written by Steve

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Last week I posted Captain Deity, a character from Team Force Alpha 37, which is the first of a series of sample game set-ups we'll be including in the Cinemechanix core rule book. The full sample game is posted in the playtest group if you want to see the rest of the characters and all the other info about Team Force Alpha. I'm really happy that I finally got to do something with these characters because they're an important part of QAGS history that we've never gotten around to using. The Team Force Alpha 37 characters were the PCs in what was (kind of) the first QAGS game ever. 

The first "QAGS" game actually happened before Leighton and I had any idea that there was such a thing as QAGS. Have you ever seen the Creator's Universe Card Set? If not, you're missing out. Leighton and I found this little gem at Red Rock, the comic shop where I worked, one day. It's a set of maybe 80 cards featuring various characters from creator-owned worlds. Some of these were actual comic book characters, like Kid Death and Fluffy and a few characters from Sin City. Others were really bad Liefield-esque characters with names like "Nitemaere" and "Weezul" (who was accompanied by rocket-powered ninja squirrels). By the way, all of them were spelled in the most wrong way possible, in the classic Image mold. After looking through a few of the cards, Leighton and I knew what we must do: We had to run a game with these horrible characters, and equally horrible ones of our own.

A later, QAGS 1E version of the character sheet for A.X.X.E. with the art from the original game. I'm pretty sure this is one of the few I drew.Thus was born Mega Hyper M Force X7 (we changed the name of the team every time we said it). With characters like A.X.X.E., Captain Deity, Tonguelash (this was before Dark Horse published a comic of the same name; she's now Tongue Twister), Psy-Chick, Hoz, Zippo, the gritty loner Hotpantz, and an alien named Oriface, what could go wrong? Leighton and I set a date for the big game, hung up some signs at Red Rock, told all of our friends, and got ready for hours of wacky fun.

Cut to 7p.m. the following Monday. Leighton and I have made up our cast of characters and are waiting for people to arrive. Then we realize something: We don't have a plot...or a game system. That was okay, though. I'd recently been tossing the idea that would eventually become QAGS around, so we wrote a few vague stats and numbers from 1 to 20 on some sheets of paper (the real character sheets were the drawings Leighton had prepared earlier, after all) and figured we'd wing it from there.

Then, in what would become the first of many five-minute planning sessions, Leighton and I came up with a plot. It was a superhero game, so we figured we'd have the characters fight something. It needed to be lame, and luckily Mr. Connor had just the thing: The HUMORALS! You're probably wondering what the hell a humoral is. Well, you know how the Greeks had four elements, which led to the concept of elementals? There were also four bodily humors. You can guess the rest. Their names were, of course, Bloodbath, Bilestrike, Phlegmstorm, and Melankillia!

So, there we were with everything all ready to go. We were missing only one thing: players. Well, not entirely. A couple of people did show up. They were commonly known as "Hatboy" and "Greaseball" and were not the type of player we really wanted. Leighton and I spent the next hour or so trying to find somebody else to join us--sadly, to no avail. However, Hatboy and Greaseball really wanted to play our "Superhero game" and we were wired to run it, so we bit the bullet and ran for these putzes.

We decided that each of these morons would play two characters, and they would have to decide based entirely on our brief descriptions. They ended up with Captain Deity, Hotpantz, Tonguelash, and I believe A.X.X.E. The other PCs were run alternately by Leighton and me as NPCs.

At first, the "system" we were using required high rolls. Later in the evening, it required low rolls. Later still, Leighton and I threw out any pretense of a system and just made shit up. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. We had millions of cut scenes to things that had nothing to do with the game. We randomly pulled out cards from the Creators Universe set and had those characters make cameos. At some point, we pulled out a character named Morganna and decided that she was really Morgan LeFay. This obviously meant that team's mentor, The Mysterious Dr. M (a really old and senile bald guy) was secretly Merlin, so we introduced this as a subplot. As some of you may know, Leighton and I can communicate vast amounts of information with a simple note. I think the entirety of this subplot was based on the scribble 'Morganna=Morgan L' to which Mr. Connor scribbled 'Revenge Merlin (Dr)' or something equally arcane.

Like I said, it was fun. Dr. M recited grocery list instead of mission briefings; humorals attacked; roket-powered ninja squirrels flew into wood chippers; Captain Deity was thrown through walls, causing buildings to collapse and civilians to die; Oriface tried to eat things (or mate with them, nobody was quite sure). There was only one scary thing: the players never seemed to catch on. They never figured out that the game was a parody of bad Image comics. They played the whole thing as a serious, gritty, superhero adventure. And they never figured out that we had no plot or system, even though it was VERY obvious. After an hour or so the "player characters" became little more than foils in our own epically bad Image comic. Once we started ignoring Hatboy and Greaseball (except for a token "roll your superpower" every now and then), things just got better.

And that was the first game of QAGS ever, even though we didn't know it at the time. While it wasn't the best beginning, it was the first game where we fully embraced the idea of just making things up and telling a fun story without worrying too much about the rules.  

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Cinemechanix Design Journal 10: Team Force Alpha 37 Secret Origins.
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