Marvel - Initiative For Allies?

edited April 2012 in Story Games
So the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying initiative system is great - there's always some asshole that has spider-senses or super-speed and goes first, then they get to pick who goes next, until everyone's had a turn, then the last person on the turn picks who goes first at the start of the next turn.

It's easy for me to decide what order villains go in once they get picked (smart players will not take all their turns before the villains because the villains will then get 2 turns in a row, for example), but what about allies?

Let's say a bunch of my supers characters are fighting one of my villains:

Jet, hip hop speedster
Isotropia, Jersey Shore mistress of magnetism
and Jammer, fast talking career girl who thinks she's one of the boys, hobnobs with some smooth talking heel reporter named Biff or Smoocher or Smitty

And they are fighting

Makkala, the Hawaiian shirt wearing volcano god
Mai Tai Mai, the bikini wearing henchgirl of YOUR DREAMS
Yain, the alien cannibal chef flim flam artist and confidence trickster

And helping the heroes is:

SHIELD Agent Johann Amadeus Sutherland, the only guy still on the Kingpin case

So obviously Jet goes first. He slams Mai Tai Mai with a super fast fist punch for some physical stress.
Jet picks Johann to go next.
"Not so fast, Agent-Fool!" I yell, and spend a point from the Doom Pool to let Yain interrupt and go next. Yain deploys a pepper spray bomb to do a small amount of physical damage to everyone, "it's basically a food product! hahahaha!"
Interrupt over, so it's Johann's turn and he fires at Makkala, but doesn't succeed, Makkala is too tough.

Now....when I, the GM, decide who goes after Johann, should I be making that decision as if I were Johann's player, i.e. I should pick someone who is best for the heroes, OR, should I be making the decision "as the GM" and picking characters that will make things harder for the heroes?

i.e. if I think Isotropia going next is a good strategy for the heroes because she might be able to take down Mai Tai Mai (or Shutdown her Power Set by yoinking her machine guns out of her hands), then should I pick her, OR should I pick Mai Tai Mai next because my job is to kick the heroes around and make things hard for them?

Help me out here, what's the best idea?

Comments

  • edited April 2012
    Posted By: JDCorleyNow....when I, the GM, decide who goes after Johann, should I be making that decision as if I were Johann's player, i.e. I should pick someone who is best for the heroes, OR, should I be making the decision "as the GM" and picking characters that will make things harder for the heroes?
    I'd probably just ask the players (Jet's player or any of them) who goes next. Their ally, their decision.

    But I don't really know how you're playing ally NPCs in your game. If you're playing them independently (you're deciding what Johann does, not one of the players), then I'd say that you should absolutely be picking someone who is best for the heroes. You've got your villains to use for making decisions to make things harder for them, you don't need to be using their ally as a sneaky way to throw off their plans. If you make a habit of doing that, they'll just start leaving their allies to guard the horses or the quinjet or whatever rather than bringing them along, and that's lame.

    If you're not playing them independently, instead asking the players what Johann does (or even simply accepting it as true when Jet announces something like "Johann is going to roll to assist me!"), then it's doubly weird for you to use Johann's turn as an excuse to jump the line by picking who goes next "as the GM."
  • I think you should consider the initiative choice to be part of the ally's action. How are the actions of allies determined at your table? Do you determine the allies' couses of action or consult the players? If you make this determination, do you have the allies attack the PCs "because my job is to kick the heroes around and make things hard for them?" This seems unlikely.
  • As I understand it, players work out their own initiative order on the start of their turn (see, e.g., OM36). So if someone is like, "Okay, so Jet goes because he's super fast, and then we want Sutherland to go so he can threaten Mai Tai Mai with his .44 Desert Eagle as a support action so that Jammer can fast-talk her into submission...." that solves the question right away: the players have dictated who Sutherland's going to pass to.

    If the players haven't dictated this to Sutherland, I would either ask them (if Sutherland is a cooperative, intelligent kind of guy) or make a decision based on Sutherland's personality and knowledge (if he's not much of a team player, recognizing that this could lead to conflict with the players and shouldn't be standard practice).

    Another approach here would be to treat Sutherland as a player's Resource from a Covert or Crime skill - he's just an especially mouthy d8 thrown into someone's dice pool.
  • The only thing I hesitate on making allied Watcher characters into resources is that this takes up the players "free" resource. They've already paid for their own resources with Plot Points in transition scenes, after all, and now they can only add them into their pool if they spend a Plot Point. If a Watcher character is aiding a hero, I assume it would be like a Watcher character aiding another Watcher character - just hand over a helping die and get on with it.

    But yeah, I think saying they pick someone who is advantageous for the side that they're on (as they see it) is the best way to go.

    (I would also note that, OM36 notwithstanding, I think there's going to be plenty of players who decide who goes next after they've started taking turns. They may have some general ideas, "we HAVE to go before Doom" but I think a thoroughly planned out initiative order is going to be a bit of an exception.)
  • Lots of people change their minds halfway through the action sequence. It happens almost all the time, especially when the bad guys derail one or more plans.

    Allies should pick who goes next based on who the Watcher thinks would be cool to go next. Nice Watchers generally pick a player hero. Mean Watchers pick a villain. Ha ha! Serves you right, heroes!

    Also, I never call it initiative. Initiative is old and busted. Action sequence is new hotness.

    Cheers,
    Cam
  • I would probably never bother trying to bring in NPC allies again the first time the GM had them sell us down the river on turn order because they're supposed to be NPCs and thus somehow half working for team villain. Just my two cents.
  • Also, I never call it initiative. Initiative is old and busted. Action sequence is new hotness.
    From this day forward, I will always use the phrase action sequence! It sounds so...bold!

    Are there any other systems that use a similar initiative action sequence system? Does this question come up in other games?
  • Posted By: cyI would probably never bother trying to bring in NPC allies again the first time the GM had them sell us down the river on turn order because they're supposed to be NPCs and thus somehow half working for team villain. Just my two cents.
    Well, the thing about this ACKSHUN SEQUANCE mechanic is that at some point you WANT to give actions to the bad guys, if you don't, they get to go twice in a row: once at the end of the round and then they pick themselves to go first in the beginning of the next round.
  • cycy
    edited April 2012
    I get you that letting a villain go next isn't necessarily a bad thing. What I'm saying is, I would feel betrayed if the GM choose the next actor for an ally to clear advantage of team Evil, and I wouldn't bother spending resources or effort trying to get NPC allies anymore.

    For example, suppose we were at d12 stress on one of three villains and the ally went last in the round. If the ally picks the wounded villain to go first, that is clearly a huge advantage for the villains, since any hero action is likely to take them out and put us up an action. Justifying that choice as being a GM choice, not the ally's choice, would leave a horrible taste in my mouth as a player.
  • It seems to me that if you let players control the action sequence choice for allied NPCs that all of these questions go away.

    Simple is good.

    If there is a sound reason for the NPC ally to ever choose contrary to the player's wishes, I believe that's already covered by the GM's ability to spend Trouble to take the action...

    So again...seems pretty cut and dry.

    What am I missing?
  • Posted By: Valamir...if you let players control the action sequence choice for allied NPCs that all of these questions go away.
    QFT. Why give the GM more stuff to do, especially when it doesn't matter and the players would enjoy doing it?
  • Last night I tried it 2 ways: "You tell me who the goodguy should pick next" and "the goodguy picks YOU next because he's a goodguy and he thinks you'll be most advantageous to his side if you go next". Both worked pretty good, my group has a slight preference for the latter.
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