Day of the Manta Ray – a Sentinel Comics One-Shot

Last weekend, I was at the Owlbear and the Wizard’s Staff, an improbably-named convention in Leamington Spa – and this was the scenario I ran for it. I’d previously playtested it online with my pick-up Supers Gaming group, and made quite significant changes to some of the encounters based on how that went. I thought I’d share it here as a verbatim example of my notes for a one-shot game, along with a few explanatory things.

While you’re reading this, I should tell you about my Patreon. Patrons get access to content 7 days before they hit this site, the chance to request articles or content, and the chance to play in one-shot games, for a very reasonable backer level. If you like what you read, want to support the blog, and have the funds for it, please consider supporting here.

I designed this scenario for the pregen group Daybreak in the Sentinel Comics rulebook – they are teen superheroes, and I played up their lesser status in Freedom City by having lots of spectators and NPCs wearing Legacy merch (the other, more established, superheroes). Sentinel has a really structured encounter/scene structure, which I stuck to for the set pieces, but I freeformed a lot of the investigation scene by just asking for 6 successes and giving them some plot hooks when they made their Overcome rolls.

I knew I had 3 players, but added an extra into each scene to allow for an extra player to arrive. I’ll be following this up with a Sentinels review, and probably something on playtesting con scenarios, so watch this space!

Intro / Con Pitch

In this terrifying issue, Ray Manta (p400) has hatched a devious plan to hold Freedom City to ransom, by kidnapping the hapless Mayor Thomas at the opening of Freedom City Aqualand. After dealing with the aftermath of his kidnapping, the heroes have to track down Ray Manta to his secret underwater base, find him, and battle him and his aquatic friends to save the mayor.


Easy/Medium Action Scene

The heroes are guests of honour, or just there for a day out, at the opening of Aqualand, the Freedom City aquarium. It’s been rebuilt after a terrible incident of collateral damage that the heroes were somehow involved in. Standing in front of the prize pool is Mayor Thomas, his too-tight suit and the blazing sun making his hair dye drip onto his collar. As he readies to cut the ribbon, Orca and Morca, the aquarium’s prized killer whales, jump a pirouette behind him. 

A great day for the fishes! A great day for the city! As I always say, with cod on our side, we’re always sure to have a whale of a time! I’ve always been a fin of the aquarium, and I’ve often said this day was manta be! 

As Mayor Thomas giggles at his terrible puns, the fireworks go off – and smoke fills the area. Slightly confused, there are soon some secondary explosions – and screams!

Ray Manta has set off his trap – his squid-bots have been waiting in the wings, and his shark-bots have already replaced the beloved Orca and Morca.

As the smoke clears, Mayor Thomas is nowhere to be seen, and man-sized squidbots terrorize the assembled crowds. An explosion under a stand has left the assembled people tumbling into the pool, where a now-enraged Morca has been dropped from the sky.

Scene Tracker – Standard

3 Players:

ELECTRIC EEL – D8 Lieutenant

Herman Gyros got caught in an oil rig accident and given the ability to turn into living electricity – now he works for Ray Manta after a hastily-arranged re-image to fit his fish theme

Ability: Can ATTACK and HINDER a target with the same die roll if making a ranged attack with his ELECTRO-SHOCK

Tactics: Flies around from zone to zone targeting the most dangerous-looking opponent. Flees if the fight turns.

HAMMERHEAD – D8 Lieutenant

One of King Shark’s followers, Hammerhead has been loaned out to Ray Manta for this mission. He is utterly clueless and doesn’t understand much of what is going on

Ability: At home in the water – +2 to close-combat attack or defend actions when in the water

Tactics: Keeps fighting until the bitter end – like we said, clueless.


These look like unconvincing plexiglass octopi

Ability: 16 arms are better than 8! They get a +2 to Boost fellow octopods

(H) D6 Minions

ENVIRONMENT – The Bombing Campaign

Frequent random explosions D8

Escaping wild aquatic animals D6

Hacked water cannons and fire trucks D8

Green – a few explosions happen towards the edges of the scene – the whole place has been booby-trapped!

Minor: Explosions fire at one hero on the ground of the scene, making an Attack using the Mid die

Minor: Another roboctopi activates!

Major: Two heroes are buried under a pile of rubble – Hinder at Mid, Attack at Min

Yellow – spectators are dropped into the orca tank, as fish swarm from all directions

Minor: A wave of water targets everyone on the ground who isn’t aquatic – Attack with Min vs. everyone

Minor: One hero is covered with mating octopi – a persistent and exclusive Boost action

Major: Advance the scene tracker by one space as the ground begins to creak under the water

Red – the stand collapses into the city’s water system – there are sharks all over the city now!

Minor: Water sprays up, a Hinder (Mid) on everyone – including the flyers

Minor: An arc of electricity flies up to Electric Eel and restores him to full strength!

Major: Waves of water stand between the heroes and their opponents – a Max Defend action

4 players:



OO Right the stand

O Calm the enraged killer whale


Montage Scene

As the scene clears, a message has been scorced into the grass in front of the aquarium – unless THREE MILLION DOLLARS is delivered to an unmarked post office box downtown, they will never see the mayor – or Orca – again. Commissioner Brown is beside himself

But the people of Freedom City – they love that goddam dolphin! And Mayor Thomas, of course. Him as well. But, how will poor Morca cope without her mate?

Players can narrate their scene to heal/help/boost as usual.


Easy Action Scene

As they race to find the location the mayor (and the beloved killer whale) is hiding, they need a total of 6 successes on Overcome actions to do so.

Possible approaches –

Hack the robots to find their ‘homing location’ somewhere in Freedom Bay

Investigate the PO box – where they find a terrified employee who says a ‘fat man who smelled of fish’ asked him to set it up, then crawled back into the river

Look into the aquarium contractors – where there are a lot of contracts given to on Mandy Tallahasie Raynham – with the location of the warehouse that he used

Go bust some heads at the warehouse – where they can reveal Ray Manta’s underwater base


Montage Scene

They know where Ray Manta’s base is, and they know how to get there -and that it’s underwater. How do they prepare to get there?

Players can narrate their scene to heal/help/boost as usual.


Moderate Action Scene

As they burst into Ray Manta’s base, they find the mayor and the Orca already tied to a laser cutter, and the swarms of bots all around them

Scene Tracker – Standard

3 Heroes:


OOOO Defuse the laser

RAY MANTA (see full profile, with upgrade suit, in the Sentinel Comics core book)



Can Attack and Hinder the with one action


A man in a shark suit just as unconvincing as Ray Manta’s costume, King Orca is nevertheless a dangerous villain


+2 to Boost actions

4 heroes – ADD



Annoying blighters: +1 to Hinder Actions

Once the scene is finished, the heroes are victorious! They have saved the mayor, and the beloved Killer Whale, Orca! Narrate a closing scene where they celebrate their victory.

Thirsty Sword Vingans – a Gloranthan setup for Thirsty Sword Lesbians

Following on from my review of Thirsty Sword Lesbians, here’s an example setup to run a game set on the fringes of a drifted Glorantha. You’d be wise to check out that review, and/or the game itself, before deciding if this is for you – if Heroquest/ Questworlds will give you loose story-driven fun, Runequest gives you crunch and immersion, and 13th Age Glorantha gives you big damn heroes smashing chaos – this will give you flirtatious outcasts where the big bits of the Gloranthan setting are secondary to the lives (and loves) of the protagonists.

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These notes follow pretty closely to the campaign set-up advice in the TSL book, with the exception that I’ve provided THREE toxic powers – you can choose any of them to be a focus in your game. I wanted a rival clan, the Lunars, and of course the trolls to all feature.

There’s also an implicit deconstruction of Glorantha’s gender roles in this – while Glorantha has always been openly inclusive of differently-gendered folks – and this might be why your clan has been marginalised by traditionalist clans.

As with all my stuff on Glorantha, canon can get in the sea – some of this deliberately contradicts established Glorantha guidance, and some of it (due to my own limited knowledge of the setting) probably does so accidentally. Your Glorantha May Vary, people – change it back if you want to! Thanks to Newt Newport and Doc Cowie for helping to avoid the most glaring canon errors.

Genre And Tone

Genre: The story is bronze-age mythic fantasy; magic is everywhere and commonplace, as are brutal monsters and cruel Lunar empire guards

Tone: High fantasy, with a side of pulp – fast-talking fast-spearing heroes defending their tribe and slaying monsters. 

Palette: (TBC) by the players


You all live in the Red Bison Tribe, a free-spirited community that has broken off from several other tribes in Dragon Pass

Scale: 50-60 adults live in makeshift huts, a small, isolated tribe who have to broker help from other, stronger, meaner tribes

Positive: The tribe is a welcoming place for any who have ‘offended’ the other tribes – they actively seek refugees. They usually get away with this, as a tribe that is useful for negotiation. They have no defined gender roles – Orlanth and Vinga are one, and Ernalda can have followers of any gender.

NPC: Sorlan, Priest of Ernalda. Spiritual leader of the tribe, they chuckle about how stuffy the free-thinking barbarian tribes are. They still hold such magical power that the other tribes respect them, and they will oversee any dispute. They want the PCs to bring honour and glory to the tribe – make them noticed among the others.

Serious Flaw: Gradually, the other tribes are wary of your spiritual practices. Without official contact with the spirit worlds and other shamans, your faith – and connection to magic – will fade.

NPC: Dorashal, a duck merchant who has turned in with them. She wants the PCs to broker peace with the other tribes, even if it means compromising their values and accepting traditional gender roles.

Location: Behind the village square, a vast Waterfall pours down into a (mostly) shallow pool with stepping-stone rocks across it.

Toxic Power 1: The White Hare Tribe

They threaten the Red Bison Tribe from within – they are an allied tribe, and were sponsors of Sorlan when they broke away from the tribe. They want order – for the Red Bison to conform, and follow the practices of the other Orlanthi tribes, who have already begun to see the Red Bison as a laughing stock. They are dangerous because they hold so much power in the region – politically and militarily – and are brilliant manipulators.

They appeal because they are the richest, most successful tribe – at best, the most Red Bison could aspire to is to be almost like them. Their village sits amidst rolling fields of tall wheat, where hidden hills and paths could trap the unwary swordsman.

Their representative is Parappos, a tall, white-haired beauty whose soft voice belies a ruthlessness.

Toxic Power 2: The Lunar Garrison

They threaten the Red Bison Tribe from without – while most of the Lunars have been pushed out of the Sartarite lands, a garrison remains in an uneasy peace – and they see the welcoming Red Bison as the ideal go-betweens to gain an advantage for their leaders back in Glamour. They are dangerous because their swords and spears are sharp and well-drilled, and they have mysterious moon sorcerers who can parlay with chaos beasts.

They appeal because they have rid themselves of many of the other clan’s superstitions and prejudices, and brought a peaceful civilisation to their cities back home. The garrison roves out from a tightly-built fort on the edge of a hillside, where thin wooden battlements and steep bluffs provide an excellent setting for a duel.

Their representative is Garlia, a stout-armed, shaven-headed warrior who commands respect from all who see it.

Toxic Power 3: The Bright-Eye Trolls

They threaten the Red Bison Tribe from without – their trollkin and man-trolls rove out from their caverns and eat their livestock – rumours are they’d eat the clan themselves if they had the chance! They seek peace – and to be left alone in the caverns – but the human clans are always rustling up trouble, the Red Bison included. They are dangerous because they are massively physically powerful, backed up by hundreds of trollkin, and able to command giant insects and spiders.

They appeal because they have an enlightened matriarchy, where those with spiritual power can divine the correct course of action. They live in natural caverns underground, with treacherous underground rivers and forests of glowing fungus.

Their representative is On-Mokk, a juvenile troll matriarch who often wanders the surface world and is chosen to parlay with humans.

On Chaos

Playing TSL in Glorantha presents a few challenges, key of which is what to do about the looming threat of chaos. Chaos isn’t really a toxic power in the traditional sense – rather, the ongoing fight against it is a backdrop to more interesting, and flirtatious, activities of the PCs. You and a Lunar patrol might end up battling a Gorp in Larnste’s Footprint in the course of your adventures, but the dramatic question isn’t whether you win, but if you catch the eye of that cute himbo moon sorcerer – particularly when you have to wash all the chaos goop off. Also, let’s just not Broo – the whole reproduction thing, along with worshipping the god of disease, makes them problematic.

Instead, see the ongoing fight against Chaos as a faceless backdrop to the more interesting human (and duck! and troll!) relationships that can develop over time.

There is a concept of Chaos as a manifestation of the breakdown of society – corruption and insidious wrongness that manifest through the evils men do. If you want to lean into this, you can make Chaos the outward effects of toxic masculinity – which helps to give your enemy a face, so while you’re fighting Broo with the lunars the real reason they’ve overrun the valley is the arrogant and corrupt tribal leader – you’ll have to convince him to give it up or the Broo will just keep coming back.

Playbook Ideas

The Beast

  • Storm Bull devotee
  • Telmori (werewolf) refugee

The Chosen

  • Ernaldan priestess
  • Tribal leader/orator

The Devoted

  • Chosen of Orlanth / Vinga – a mighty warrior
  • Tribal champion and protector
  • Refugee from a troll tribe

The Infamous

  • Lunar moon-sorcerer refugee
  • Veteran of tribal wars – on the other side

The Nature Witch

  • Speaker of Ernalda
  • Kolat Shaman
  • Centaur / Duck from Beast Valley

The Scoundrel

  • Spear-fighter of Orlanth Adventurous
  • Heretical follower of Yinkin

The Seeker

  • White Hare refugee
  • Disgraced Lhankhor Mhy scholar

The Spooky Witch

  • Conjurer of Ghosts / Spirit-Talker
  • Outcast Troll shaman

The Trickster

  • Chosen one of Eurmal
  • Trickster – maybe a Duck, maybe a human

Review: Are You Thirsty? – Thirsty Sword Lesbians

Thirsty Sword Lesbians (TSL) is a Powered By The Apocalypse (PBTA) game from Evil Hat, designed by April Kit Walsh, of swordplay, queer action hijinx and romance. While this genre might sound weirdly specific, it actually covers a really wide range of genres, while staying really consistent in the kind of adventures you can have in those genres.

While you’re reading this, I should tell you about my Patreon. Patrons get access to content 7 days before they hit this site, the chance to request articles or content, and the chance to play in one-shot games, for a very reasonable backer level. If you like what you read, want to support the blog, and have the funds for it, please consider supporting here.

PBTA games really sing when the Moves and Playbooks can tightly support the genre they emulate – I don’t think there’s a better game for teenage superheroes than Masks, for instance, nor slice-of-life Coronation Street petty crime than The ‘Hood. TSL manages to tightly support the play style it shoots for, while still offering a wide range of options. This does potentially make it trickier to one-shot successfully – but I’ve offered some suggestions in the relevant section below about how to make it work.

The Fluff

The link above takes you to .pdf – but it is in print as well at retailers such as Bonhomie (UK)

Within the general style of “sword-fighting romance-seeking lesbians,” everything else is pretty flexible. There are six campaign settings ready-made in the book, from steampunk freedom-fighters to cyberpunk revolutionaries, and six scenarios – shorter-form, more “plotted” games. There’s also a guide to drawing up your own settings and ensuring they match the play style of the game.

Continue reading →