Every year, I pour over the Origins event list to pick out the perfect combination of events to play. Well, at least that’s the goal. It’s actually a mix of equal parts careful choice and sheer luck, but it usually works out pretty okay. This year, I somehow signed up for back-to-back games that, based on the PCs and scenarios, were exactly alike. Both games involved joining up two tables of players; one was playing Marvel heroes while the other was playing DC heroes, with both groups trying to save their respective universes from the evil machinations of the exact same bad guys. It was a crossover collision!
How, you may ask, did I end up playing two games back-to-back that were almost identical? Isn’t that a pretty big failure of scheduling? Well, in my defense, one was labeled a bit more obscure than the other, but both involved GMs that I was looking to play with. I was only partially paying attention to the event descriptions. Both were obvious about being crossover games, though, and I really enjoy seeing GMs try something unique and epic with a con game. Games that intertwine two groups have always been a fascinating one for me.
I’ve actually written about turning game night into an event before. Sometimes there are just things you want to try out as a GM that wouldn’t work in a regular campaign. Twice, myself and a friend have attempted a crossover event game. For the first one, we had two rival adventuring parties going after the same MacGuffin that just happened to be hidden in the lair of a blue dragon. The players actually spent more time trying to pick each other off than dealing with the dragon, but overall the game was a success. It did teach me that even the hint of PVP can change the way players react to certain situations. The other attempt was less successful, but that was partially because both of us GMs were uncertain of the system we were running and it slowed the game down a little too much. I wish we had been better prepared, because I was very intrigued by the scenario: alternate universe versions of the same adventuring party get mixed together as they simultaneously fight to repair a tear in the veil between worlds. Someday I may try and make it work again, but I learned how prepared we need to be to make it work.
So, back to Origins. The first game, Savage World Supers, was run by Dave Russo and Mike Whiteman of Amorphous Blob Games. Like many Savage GMs, they brought a dramatic touch of theatricality to the game with an amazing cityscape set up for the final battle. Dave Russo earned a place on my ‘Awesome GMs List’ several years back at Origins when he ran a Savage Worlds Bureau 13 game that turned out to be a huge homage to Big Trouble in Little China.
In this particular game, I ended up playing as Supergirl while she and several other DC heroes investigated a strange explosion at Star Labs. While most of the DC characters were well known, they weren’t the A-listers from the DC universe. In the middle of fighting some villains none of our characters recognized (because they were Marvel D-listers), the lab suddenly turned into a Stark Industries Lab. Poor Supergirl had a momentary identity crisis when no one seemed to know who she was or recognize the big S on her chest. At a climactic moment, another pulse of light hit and everyone was transported to a city that was a mishmash of many cities overlaid on top of one another. There were a few moments of PVP between our second string Justice Leaguers and an eclectic group of Avengers squaring off, each thinking the other group was responsible for the mess. Hawkeye and Green Arrow took special pleasure in trying to out-shoot one another. Very quickly, we realized that Braniac and Ultron were the real culprits and all the heroes started working together.
Everyone at both tables was a great sport and really got into the whole thing. Names kept getting mixed up, with Captain America (being played by a gentleman with a British accent) was referred to as Flag Man, Blue Beetle was dubbed Cobalt Cockroach, and poor Supergirl was referred to as S-Girl.
All in all, it was a fun game with a focus on tactical play, which is often true for a Savage Worlds game. The roleplaying was fun, but the focus was on the spectacular city the GMs had put together and using that environment in our favor against the villains.
Later that evening, the game was a team-up between Ed Rollins of Matinee Adventures and Jason Altland of Crimson Hand Gamers, both great GMs and groups. They were using Mutants and Masterminds and had a full collection of A-listers from both Justice League and the Avengers. Ed and Jason also ran a crossover game last year with The Dresden Files, so I had every confidence they were going to provide a good game.
This time, I was at the Avengers table and chose Scarlet Witch as my character. The moment weird stuff started happening with reality, everyone looked at her accusingly. I kept having to repeat, “It’s not my fault this time! At least, I don’t think it is.” In this version of the scenario, the Avengers ended up clearly in the DC universe. They had a run in with some obscure super powered punks, but also got to meet with a very congenial and convincing Lex Luthor. Iron Man thought he’d met a kindred spirit. We found out that the JLA table met a very arrogant Victor von Doom who they pretty much started beating on right away. How could he be a good guy with a name like that?
When the game hit the climactic moment and both universes hung in the balance, all the heroes were transported to a strange blend of the Neutral Zone and the Negative Zone. Just as in the previous game, it turned out that the muddled realities were the fault of Ultron and Braniac teaming up, but this time it was quite literal as they merged into one very big bad. Just like how it works in the comics, the heroes all threw themselves at the bad guys individually until finally the idea to fight together clicked in. Iron Man worked with Wonder Woman to amplify his blasts off her bracelets, and then the final blow was struck by Superman wielding Mjolnir, thrown to him willingly by Thor since Superman was in a better position to make the attack.
In comparison to the earlier game, this one was all theater of the mind. While it was still a very tactical game in the way we used our powers, it relied a bit more on roleplaying and interacting with the mixed realities. Just like the other game, though, I had an absolute blast. During the last battle, there were a couple of players hanging back and not quite getting into the spirit of the team-up, but it was also an evening game, so it was the end of a long day for everyone.
Some people might have been disappointed that the two games were so similar, but I found it to be a unique opportunity to take a look at the differences that GM play style, system, and the other players at the table all bring to a game. Even though they had similar concepts and used the exact same ultimate bad guys, they were still very different games. It’s honestly very cool to see GMs collaborating to try and pull together something epic in scale for their players at a convention like that.
While I definitely prefer my smaller games for campaigns, I hope to try and work on some collaborations of my own in the future. It takes a bit more logistical work and a high level of cooperation between GMs, but it can be a nice way to turn an event game into something special.
Have you ever had a chance to play in or run your very own crossover collision?