Mystery Men
A superhero email game
Based strongly on "Smashing Tales" by Rick Wynn
http://www.graylensman.com/MM/rules.htm

This is a play-by-e-mail campaign run on biweekly turns. Each player "runs" a team of superheroes in Champion City. Each team's goal is to acquire greatest degree of "clout", measured in four ways: Federal clout, Municipal clout, Popular clout, and Champion clout (one team will get this, for having the toughest single team member). The game will run for eight turns (one season's worth of issues), with an option to continue if the public so demands. The team with the highest average ranking in the five categories will get to add the phrase "The World's Greatest Superheroes" to their magazine covers!

Because everybody is running a team of heroes, there won't be any direct player vs player combat except in rare instances. BUT the teams are in fierce competition with each other for public sentiment, "pull" at city hall, standing with federal authorities, and finally developing the ultimate "champion" - what team has got the super-man?

Overview of Play

Each Issue, the player will submit the instructions for the team. Instructions include how the team spends its experience points and what each hero is assigned to do. A hero can be assigned to either patrol for crime, work on improving the team's ratings, or undertake a special mission.

Missions are resolved and random events occur to the team. The referee publishes the results of all the missions and patrols, including new ratings for all teams.


An Issue of Mystery Men Comics

Each turn, the moderator will release a bulletin from the Champion City Police Department's Bureau of Extraordinary Auxiliary Teams (CCPBEAT), briefly detailing the results of anti-crime patrols in the eight districts, as well as the results of special missions or other extraordinary events. The various superhero teams will also be ranked in the five "clout" categories.

See http://www.graylensman.com/MM/city.htm for the latest standings and headlines!

Hero Assignments

Movement

Each hero is located on the map by his superhero emblem. He can patrol that sector for crime, or investigate any special missions occurring there. A hero normally can move 2 squares on the map, and may move diagonally as well as in a straight line.

Heroes start at their hero headquarters or meeting place, which the hero team chooses at the start of the game. A hero can always borrow a squad car for 1 Municipal clout to take him home to his headquarters, wherever that may be. A team gets +2 to its Wits roll when patrolling the neighborhood in which its headquarters is located.

A hero may also borrow a squad car for 1 Municipal to extend his speed by 1 square. Several heroes travelling from the same square to the same destination can fit into the same squad car.

Patrolling For Crime

Heroes can patrol one of the twelve city areas, either by themselves or with one or more teammates (only from their own team!). Each turn there will be one to three petty crimes in each area, in proportion to the area's rewards. You get more Clout patrolling Downtown than in quiet Shadow Hill, but you run a higher risk of being beaten up by thugs, too!

Finding the Crime

The first individual, or team, on the spot gets to try to thwart the crime (a lucky, or crafty, team might get to intercept ALL the crime in a particular area, thus hogging all the glory). Higher Wits (see Hero Creation) give a bonus to "being on the scene" of the crime, so it will probably do no good to send the Mighty Colossus (Wits rating of 1) to patrol the mean streets by himself; despite his mighty, colossal power, the criminals will easily avoid him and rival teams will get the laurels.

Each hero or team patrolling rolls 1d6+Wits to get there first; the highest roller gets to intervene in the first crime, the second highest gets the second crime, and so on. If there are no crimes left, there is a chance patrolling heroes who don't see a crime may bump into other patrolling heroes, and possibly mistake one another for criminals. In that case, they exchange one attack each before realizing their mistake. Teams patrolling the neighborhood in which their headquarters is located get +2 to their Wits roll.

If heroes are sent to patrol an area, it is assumed they are working in a group unless otherwise ordered. So if the Amazing Amazers send their three heroes to patrol individually, but the Battling Battlers send their three heroes in a group, the Amazers get three chances to roll a high 1d6+Wits score, the Battlers only one. On the other hand, the Battlers may be better able to cope with what crime they discover than the outnumbered Amazers, since each Amazer will be fighting the criminals alone!

Thwarting Crime

Crimes are committed by groups of normal humans, with ratings of 1, 2 or 3 in all their stats. (Criminals who attempt crimes in superhero-rich Champion City probably don't have a high Wits rating ) The hero or team must defeat these crooks in combat to solve the crime. A hero may choose to spend 1 point of public clout to have tipsters point out likely spots where crime lurks; this gives him +1 on the Wits roll.

Rewards of Patrolling

Unlike special missions, teams cannot cooperate in thwarting petty crime (there's no glory in calling all heroes to beat up a bunch of punks), and thus cannot divide the clout and experience. The city areas are:

Airport: +2 Federal, +1 municipal clout
Astro City:
+1 to public, municipal and Federal
Burns Industrial Park:
+1 to Federal, +1 to municipal
Bludhaven Docks: +1 to Federal
The Cauldron (Slums): +1 to public, +1 municipal

Cathedral Heights: +1 public
Downtown: +2 municipal, +1 Federal
Federal Center: +2 federal
Pokey Oaks Suburbs: +2 public
Mt. Kirby: +1 public, +1 Federal
Shadow Hill: +1 municipal
Townsville Business District: +2 municipal

Also, a hero racks up one experience point (XP) per criminal clobbered, 2 xp for defeating a foe of equal stature, 3 xp for beating a superior foe and 4 xp for defeating a foe of twice or more the point value of the hero in question.

Special Missions

Each turn, there will be several headlines which suggest special missions (attack Moon Tyrant's base; rescue the Ambassador from the Green Vulture). Special missions will be tough to impossible for individual heroes. As the campaign progresses, the difficulty of special missions will increase. When missions are announced, the reward will be announced as well ("Mayor calls for heroes to rescue the children from the Pied Piper - +3 public clout, +2 municipal clout").

Failure on special missions may result in the capture of the hero; success will raise public, municipal, and/or federal clout, and may have other consequences as well.

To reach a special mission, the hero must leave from a Portal. There are five portal spaces on the map: Runway 88 at the Airport, Pier 666 at the Docks, Combat Alley, and Lonely Road all lead to the wider world beyond Champion City. World Watch One HQ is also a portal, but only to missions happening in outer space.

Normally, it is expected that heroes undertaking a special mission are willing to work with other heroes on the same case, sharing the rewards equally. If you want your team to get there first and grab the glory, you must specify in your orders that you are "racing to be first" with other heroes.

A team may spend Federal clout to get secret files on the villain's weaknesses or plans, gaining a +1 to Speed for each hero involved in that mission. Spend all you want! 7 Federal Clout equals +7 Speed! Of course, you won't have that clout at the end of the game.

Clout

Each type of Clout can be used to aid your battle against evil, but using Clout uses it up. Do you spend your Clout to catch the Incredible Amoeba, or save it to win the game?

Municipal Clout: Can spend a point to borrow a squad car, adding +1 to a hero's movement. Several heroes moving together can travel in the same squad car, if they begin and end at the same point. Several points add extra movement.

Federal Clout: Can spend a point to gain +1 Speed for one special mission, owing to Federal intel assistance.

Public Clout: Can spend a point to consult your army of tipsters, adding +1 to your roll to detect crime while on patrol. Several points adds several to your die roll; you've got a lot of tipsters, and you're shaking them all down!

Focus Checks

Your heroes are not full-time superguys like Captain Amazing; they are aspiring superhero wannabes like Mr. Furious. Therefore, each turn, your hero has to roll his Focus or less on one die to devote this turn to fighting crime. Otherwise, something comes up in his/her life that prevents his participation: Aunt May needs her medicine, there's a big exam at school, etc. Like comicbook heroes, your hero can ignore the demands of his other life, but that other life will deteriorate without maintenance.

Each hero must roll against his Focus every turn. To pass, the hero must roll a modified 5+ on a d6; add the Focus of the hero to the roll. A hero operating alone who fails his Focus is sidetracked with personal problems - no doubt very interesting adventures, but they don't add to public, municipal, federal, etc. clout.

The good news is that the hero with the highest Focus in the group may give excess points to her/his teammates to help them pass this check ("It's called Leadership, mister - look it up!")

Raising Hero Ratings

Hero ratings are raised through the expenditure of Experience.

Learning through Experience: Each successful patrol or mission accomplished will result in the awarding of Experience Points to the hero/heroes involved. Experience is always evenly divided among participating heroes; so there is a definite down-side to ganging up on the villains!

You may spend Experience to raise your ratings. The cost to raise a rating is the number of the new rating, so to raise Power from 3 to 4 costs 4 xp. To raise power from 3 to 5 costs 9; 4 to go from 3 to 4 and 5 to go from 4 to 5.


Hero Creation

Each hero is given four ratings:

Power (the strength and toughness a hero brings to a fight; could be super strength, incredible armor, martial arts wizardry, or blasts of mystic flame)

Speed (determines the order and even the number of attacks - a hero with a speed twice or more than that of his opponent strikes twice per round in a fight)

Wits (whether superhuman intellect, street smarts, combat experience, telepathic insight, or incredible luck, represents the ability of the hero to solve mysteries, figure out enemy weaknesses, and find the inner resources to triumph over psychic threats. Can also be used to improve the team's Clout, in lieu of actually fighting crime.)

Focus (represents the ability of the hero to maintain a healthy and harmonious personal life, to communicate and cooperate with other team members, and to avoid entangling sub-plots that, however important for the hero, are irrelevant or counterproductive to the group's ends).

Point schedule for initial hero creation:
Rating
Cost in Creation Points
Roughly Approximate Idea of Scale
Exemplars
1 -1 points Sub-normal feeble old Aunt May
2 0 points Ordinary person Jimmy Olsen
3 1 point First-rate person Mr. Furious
4 2 points Olympic-level; mutant or super-science powered hero Captain America, Batman, the Sphinx
5 4 points Amazing power The Flash, Iron Man, the Thing, Captain Amazing
6 6 points Super power Thor, Wonder Woman
7 9 points Unearthly power Superman
8 12 points Cosmically awesome, galactic-level world-shattering power Galactus

The beginning teams must have at least three, and as many as five, heroes. Each team has a total of 16 points to spend on hero creation; and all the team's heroes must have the same number of points, within 1 (heroes of a caliber flock together).

Wits: This is needed for successful patrolling (see above); also, while Wits does not directly affect combat, it may be required to escape from death traps, make a crucial on-the-spot deduction about the villain's Achilles heel, etc.

Focus: Each hero must roll against his Focus every turn. To pass, the hero must roll a modified 5+ on a d6; add the Focus of the hero to the roll. A hero operating alone who fails his Focus is sidetracked with personal problems - no doubt very interesting adventures, but they don't add to public, municipal, federal, etc. clout. The good news is that the hero with the highest Focus in the group may give excess points to her/his teammates to help them pass this check ("It's called Leadership, mister - look it up!")

Specialized Power

A hero may designate one particular type of adversary against which his power is especially potent. Fighting against an adversary whose power is of this type, the hero gets a +1 or a +2 to ONE of his combat dice (i.e. a Power-3 hero with a +2 versus cold-based adversary deals 3d6+2 damage, NOT 3d6+6). The specific type of adversary must be clearly defined, as well as the degree of advantage (+1 or +2). The drawback to this sort of specialization is that the player must also designate one particular type of adversary to whom the hero is especially vulnerable (and to the same degree)! Example: Wolfgirl's lycanthropic constitution gives her a +2 in combat against opponents armed only with conventional weapons - fists, swords, guns (i.e. not energy- or magic-based). However, she is especially vulnerable to magic, and magic-based attackers gain a +2 to damage against her.


 

Combat System

Combatants are matched up, in accordance with player instructions and/or random rolls by the moderator. Strikes are made in order of Speed (a combatant with Speed twice that of her opponent strikes twice before being struck herself).

A combatant not engaged will rush to aid a fellow; this subtracts 2 from the reinforcer's Speed. Thus it is possible that a very speedy reinforcer will still get to strike before the target has had a chance!

Combatants dish out d6 damage per Power point, per combat round, to their opponent. Every combatant takes (Power x 5) damage points before being knocked hors-de-combat.

Heroes may attempt a save to avoid a blow; roll 6+ on d6. If the hero is faster than his attacker, add 1 to the die for every point of Speed advantage, but a roll of 1 or 2 always hits.

 

Heroes instantly recuperate from damage after each fight.

Example of Combat: Blue Blazes (Power 2, Speed 5) is fighting the Amazing Avalancheer (Power 5, Speed 2). Because BB's speed is greater than AAs, she strikes first; because her speed is double that of AAs, she strikes TWICE. Let's suppose BB does 14 points of damage (the average). AA now attempts to save vs the blow; he needs to roll a 6. Assuming he fails, he is now down 14 points from his total of 25. AAs return strike will do, on average, 17.5 points of damage, more than enough to knock BB (with 10 damage points) into next week. Fortunately, with a speed 3 points greater than AA's, BB can save on a 3+. If she does, she will, on average, knock AA out before he has a second chance to strike (a second average round of 14 damage points will push AA up to 28 points of damage). On the other hand, if AA can manage to roll a 6 for a saving roll, the combat between lightning-reflexes and mountainous strength will go on!


Winning the Game

If the world is destroyed, all the players lose.

If not, each team's three clout ratings are added to the single highest rating of any member of the team to produce a Champion Index. Whoever has the highest Champion Index is the winner, and may display the "World's Greatest Superheroes!" logo on their comic book.

In addition, the hero with the highest total of all three ratings gets the coveted Captain Amazing Award and may display the "America's Greatest Hero" banner across the top of his comic book in screaming yellow 60-point type.

Bragging rights can also be plausibly awarded for Largest Arrest Record, Mightiest Villain Defeated, Most Effective Street Crime Fighters, and so on. Braggadocio is even more prevalent in the comics than in professional wrestling; feel free to praise yourselves recklessly.

Setup Summary

To start a team, you need to send the referee:

1. Names and ratings of your heroes. Remember, you have 3 to 5 heroes and 16 creation points, and all heroes must have the same number of points spent on them, within 1.

2. Name of your team

3. Location of your headquarters, hangout or meeting place (see the map at http://www.graylensman.com/MM/city.htm). Please specify the exact square your headquarters is located in, unless you want the referee to assign them randomly.

4. Flavor text: Powers, secret identities, costume descriptions, secret headquarters, inspiring battle cry, and anything else your team wants the world to know. If you specify that Umbrella-Man, for example, has a super-umbrella, you may be rewarded for your creative effort by a bonus to resist the depressing effects of a heavy downpour; you will not be penalized for your efforts by the referee asserting that Irma Geddon, your arch-foe, has developed an Umbrella-Seeking Missile.

Turn Summary

On each biweekly turn (due the 1st and 15th of the month) you will need to specify

1. Experience spent on raising stats
2. Each hero's assignment
3. Any special instructions

Example:

"The Goodguy Gang does the following for Issue #3:

(i) Mr. Spleen uses 3 xp to improve his Focus rating;
(ii) Mr. Spleen patrols the Industrial Park, using 1 Public to improve his odds;
(iii) Achtung Baby and the Silver Knight team up with members of Strike Force Seven to track down the supervillain behind the Newfoundland Pirates and bring him (or them) to justice.

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