TCC D&D: Allow the Players to Guide

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Character interactions have been one of the more complex parts of the game for me. Those of you who have DMed, have likely struggled with this at least early on in your experience. With D&D and other similar table top games, it is easy to get caught up in pushing into the next encounter, dungeon or story point. Allowing the flow of the game to control the pace can cause  players to lose interest because they are not allowed to be as invested. 

While pushing from one town to the next and any peril or encounter that may come with the journey is probably the way new players expect the game to go, players and Dungeon Masters with more experience might feel this pace gets repetitive. If you only allow your players to use their combat abilities they miss more than half of who their character is. Compare D&D to video games like the Mass Effect series, most of your characters growth is combat based, while a small portion is for social interaction in these games. D&D on the other hand allows for most of ones abilities and traits to impact how they interact with party members and Non-Player Characters (NPCs).

Part of crafting a great story for the characters to play is creating different ways for this story to play out. If you create multiple paths to your epic conclusion how do they discover these multiple ways? Interact with NPCs! Whether those NPCs are encountered on the road, in a fort, in a city or a plethora of other locations they could hold new information or alternatives that the characters can explore or proceed with. 

Be prepared for the unexpected when interactions occur. In almost every one of the D&D episodes we have had the players have made a choice that I did not expect. As the DM I don’t mind these moments at all, as a matter of fact, I hope for them. They challenge me to stay creative on the fly and role play a bit more myself from the NPC perspective. 

Take this past session, while we did have a number of guests, the story continued. We are playing through the “Tomb of Annihilation” that Wizards of the Coast published last year. When the characters arrive at Camp Vengeance they are supposed to be commanded to either take the injured back to Port Nyanzaru or take a contingent of the Order on a patrol, just as Mara Hill suggested. If they do not they are to be arrested and tried for negligence of duty during a military crisis.

Now, if I had forced the decision in the moment one of those three outcomes may have quickly come into play. Instead I gave them time! The characters then talk out their options, despite not knowing what happens to the entire group if they say no, and come up with a third option: heal all the sick and wounded. This is not what I expected to happen. However, it created good dialogue between the Player Characters as well as some of the NPCs, which made it all the more fun for the players, and myself, and hopefully you the audience!

Most people I talked to about D&D love it because they love storytelling. Allowing every person at the table to contribute to that story makes it more rich, unexpected and enjoyable for anyone involved whether at the table or spectating. Creativity from the group enhances the game play. So don’t be afraid to sit back and let your players do whatever they want! What’s the worse that could happen? They roll a natural one and fall to their death? I guess that is pretty bad, but then they get to make a new character!

Session Summary:

In this session we pick up after the encounter with the Zombie T-rex and an angry Goblin King. While the Crusaders are victorious, Diane appears to be killed and is floating down the river, though Alex and Bryce do not know this. The remaining Crusaders decide to continue with their mission and deliver Undril Silvertusk to Camp Vengeance as asked. 

They arrive at the camp shortly after dark, and are suspiciously engaged by Commander Mara Hill, the Camp’s Commanding Officer. After being let through the gate they encounter Wandsa Maxitoff, a Tiefling Sorcerer who is being held captive and her companion Jeska Daughter of Jones a Cloud Dwarf Barbarian (also Amy’s new character). Mara quickly reveals that she has a prejudice against magic wielders and that is why Wandsa has been taken prisoner. They are offered, however, a deal. If they undertake a mission for the Order of the Shield Wandsa will be set free to assist with the mission and let go afterward. 

As a sign of goodwill Mara releases Wandsa and has Bryce, Alex, Jeska and Wandsa led back to a relatively luxurious place to spend the night. The Crusaders and their new friends, however do not turn in, they spend their time talking about their options for escape or cooperation. They land on the idea of healing all the sick and wounded to earn the goodwill of the camp. As part of their plan Bryce is sent to distract, or seduce Mara, which he succeeds with at least the former, if not the latter. 

We left the Crusaders having healed the camp and disappearing back to their cabin and with a flash to Diane who we find dead on the shores of the Soshenstar, only to have the spirit of Gimpy the Three-legged Berserking Wolf inhabit the corpse, bringing Diane back to life!

TCC D&D: Perils for the Players

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Continuing my (rather public) journal on what I have learned while trying to DM for the Crusaders and others!

D&D can come in many different levels of play: certain groups love the challenge of role play and interacting with Non-Player Characters (NPCs). Other groups want to dive into combat discover new and challenging enemies. Others still fall somewhere in between. No matter where your group falls, and despite needing to provide a fun game, the DM also needs to provide the very real risk of failure. 

Failure can come in many different forms. Let’s use our previous session with the Crusaders for instance. Up to this point there was no real risk of failure; they had decisions to make, but they are now in a very hostile environment. Not only is there risk from being away from civilization and in the wild, but undead stalk the jungles as well as creatures both big and small that could provide a threat. The Crusaders also came to discover that exploration of ruins or jungle could possibly end in failure. 

While exploring the remnants of Camp Righteous, the first camp established by the Order of the Shield, they discover ruins from the long dead Kingdom of Chult. They use guile and intelligence to make their way through, but not without taking bits of damage and failing to solve a few of the puzzles and traps along the way. While none of the Player Characters (PCs) took enough damage threaten their life, it did provide a very real threat. Eventually they solved the riddle of the ruins, by imitating the pictographs on the wall and riding piggyback style through the ruins.

After leaving the ruins, the mystery of the dead sisters of Diane is solved as the Goblin King rides in on a Tyrannosaurus Rex claiming that they would destroy the “God Killer.” This combat was entertaining, fun and dangerous. When the T-Rex attacked Diane we learned that this monster provided a very real threat to the group. With one bite, this adversary knocked off more than half her hit points, and the players learned when she is released that this is a zombie dinosaur that can produce other zombies by vomiting them up! 

This encounter and the puzzles of the ruins created a session that finally had some real danger and hopefully instilled in the players and spectators alike that this quest could possibly end in the failure and death of the entire group. These challenges required some unique strategies including the befriending of a baby Axe Beak bird, and even the use of abilities that causes friendly fire damage. 

This encounter very well could have wiped out the entire party if not handled correctly. Not every puzzle, or every encounter with monsters or foes needs to be life threatening, some may just push the story along, while others may threaten the success of the quest. In many combat encounters you may even find that there is a non-combat solution to the encounter.

At the end of our session, we leave Diane passed out from her wounds floating down the River Soshenstar back toward Port Nyanzaru. Bryce, Alex and Undril have defeated the goblin and the zombies, including the T-Rex. What is to come of Diane? Will the rest of the Crusaders save her or is she lost to the wilds of Chult? To answers to these questions tune in to our next episode of Crusaders and Dragons!

-Manderson, the Son of Mander

Curious about our adventures? Check out the replay of the episode below!

 

In Remembrance of Anthony Bourdain

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He grew up wanting to be a comic book artist. He ended up writing a couple later in his life. 

In between these two points, Anthony Bourdain was a chef who became a writer who evolved into a philosophical traveler. A rockstar in the world of food and travel. An introvert who opened our eyes to cultures we assumed we understood and those we knew nothing about. He traveled around the world, from the tallest buildings in western civilization to the darkest, hidden corners of the globe. He confronted injustice, intolerance and ghosts of the past over a bowl of soup. He discussed a nation’s class warfare in a relaxed manner over slices of cheese and bottles of wine. He would open up and speak freely about his own personal demons over an espresso.

Anthony Bourdain showed us what it means to be a citizen of the world. He showed us the importance of learning about the different cultures in this world and how easily we can all be connected. He defended the importance of being bluntly truthful. He taught us to go on adventures and be a part of a story. He told stories in a way that only he could do, and we hung on to his every word.

While Anthony Bourdain’s end is tragic, it is a lesson to us all. He explored the world and now it is our turn to explore. We must explore mental health and mental illness. We mustn’t hide it, shun it and brush it under the rug. We must bring it out to the light, discuss it, and be there for those who need help. This is how we truly follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain. 

Travel. Eat. Connect. Open your mind to the world... and be sure to order something weird on the menu.

Thank you for everything, Anthony. Rest easy, you rockstar traveler.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

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Flash Season 4 Review: Despair and Hope

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If you have followed the Crusaders for any length of time, you have probably heard us say that “This is a great time to be a comic fan!” We have the MCU, DCEU (which I am just as a big a fan of despite the general despair from the fan base), the Marvel Netflix shows and the CW DC show, along with many others. While Marvel has done an unparalleled job of creating a wonderfully connected universe on the big screen, DC/CW has created a well-connected universe for the smaller screen.

While I love all comics from DC, Marvel, Image and others, I am firstly a DC fan. So I have done my best to keep up with the “Arrow-verse” as it is commonly called. This year I cut back but still followed Arrow, Supergirl and The Flash. Out of these three series’ The Flash has been the best. While the crossover was fun, cinematic, and amazing, The Flash consistently had the strongest season. I say this as a fan who was beginning to get tired of The Flash taking on speedsters three seasons in a row.

The formula of: “Hey I’m the fastest man alive” to “oh crap this dude is faster and he beat me” to “how do I get fast enough to beat this new baddie” was getting stale. That is why this season when they introduced the Thinker as the big baddie had me excited! While The Flash still had to be faster than ever before to beat him, or so he thought, it wasn’t always about punching in super-speed. This season brought more heart to the show than ever before, and heart is what really makes comics great.

I’m sure my fellow Crusaders will laugh at the fact that it is me, the Son of Mander, that is talking about heart, as I am often teased for my lack of emotional awareness (being partly Vulcan). However, as a husband and a father, I appreciated what this season brought. The status quo was broken. Characters took on different roles, Iris West for instance, being the team leader, while Barry still remained the heart of the team. Heart, however, would not necessarily win the day.

Across the three series’ that I kept up with, this was the darkest by far, and the darkest season for The Flash yet. Normally, The Flash gives us glimmers of hope throughout the season. This season had very little hope, as The Thinker bested Team Flash at almost every turn. Every time it appeared that the good guys achieved a small win, The Thinker showed that it was all part of his plan. We see this drive the Flash farther into despair than any previous season.

The shining light in all this darkness? Iris West-Allen! Iris kept Barry from drowning in the depths of despair. No matter how many times defeat felt imminent, heart kept the team going. Ultimately, it was heart, or the emotional equation, that kept The Thinker confused the most. As his power grew, his connection to his human side, the emotion that defines humanity, diminished. His calculations grew further and further from emotion and more and more based in logic. Honestly, the Thinker should have taken a page from Spock’s book, think logically but plan for emotionality.  

Despite all these set-backs the final episode begins with the culmination of The Thinker’s plans. How do you defeat such a logical being? Strike at his heart! Find the good still inside of him. I won’t spoil too much, but this quest leads them in a different direction than the team expects. The final defeat doesn’t come from The Flash alone, it comes from the team. Team Flash leverages the knowledge of the city to locate The Thinker and fight him on their own terms. The city together restores hope to Barry and Team Flash. The final blow is delivered by The Flash, and a mystery speedster, streaking pink lightning behind them. This final blow ends the threat and sees our hero being cheered by the city he has vowed to protect and bring hope to, which he has continued to do. 

Switching gears, and to wrap up, there was one odd element through out the entire season. A character that seemed to sporadically show up, make herself noticeable, but only enough to draw minor suspicion. In the next few episodes you wouldn’t think anything of it, until she showed up again. This character drew attention to herself because she has way too much energy, and talked way to fast. In the final scene of the finale, she once again shows up, by this point we’ve pieced together who she probably is, and she announced “I’m your daughter Nora from the future, and I think I made a big, big mistake.” BOOM! Right? Ok, not really, I saw it coming from mid-season. However, I love that the seeds for season 5 where spread throughout the season, and that final victory in season 4 was delivered by a family, even if Barry didn’t know it at the time.

I can’t wait for season 5 of The Flash! Let us know what your favorite moments of season 4 were and any theories, hopes or dreads you may have for season 5.

-Manderson, the Son of Mander

TCC D&D: Planning and Improv

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Welcome to the third entry in “Playing the Dungeon Master.” The Crusaders have only just begun to explore Chult; however, we will get into that later. Today, I am going to talk about planning and improv.

Planning the Paths!

As a Dungeon Master (DM), you control the pace of the game; you have to create the setting, while also laying the path before the adventurers. However, you do not want to shove them onto one path, but provide multiple options. Giving one path, even if that is not what the players feel, is often referred to as railroading. There are times when this is necessary, but Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is a game that should invite exploration and options. Reflecting on this past week, the setting created was vibrant, full of life and provided multiple storylines to explore.

Like any story there is an end. How the players get to that end does not have to be the same for each group that plays a specific story. If you watched or listened to our adventure from this past week you may have picked up that I laid two paths in front of them. Both would ultimately lead to the Jungle. However, I had planned for them to follow Talia to O’chaka’s; which I had character interactions, settings and events planned for or the Cru would find their own lodging, and encounter Undril —which they did do!

Why plan for something that may not be done, you ask? For one, it provides options; it creates a larger world. The characters and events I had planned may never be encountered based on the players’ choices. I could also decide that something I had planned was so great that it could be encountered later in a different, potentially more exciting, way. On my DM outlines I still have two potential paths for them to follow, my initial outline guides them down one path or the other depending on who they encounter. However, if I decide I would rather they enter a certain set of ruins, or discover a certain culture, I can still work that in, or even present the options as part of the story for them to choose. 

Despite all the planning that I do, these players still throw me for a loop. I was pleased when I listened back that my improv felt more planned than not. For instance, Billy Shortcakes did not exist until Alex (Dr. Barrie) asked to talk to him. This character would not have been encountered if they went to O’Chaka’s home. Now, there is a halfling tavern owner with a Boston accent that we call “Shorty.” As the DM, I enjoyed creating and playing this character so much I have crafted plans for him. 

Remember; the DM must roll with the punches, plan for the unexpected, throw out the plan and guide the group back to the path of adventure that leads to heroism!

Summary of our adventure so far:

The Crusaders have made their home in Leilon helping it to prosper in the harsh environment that it is located. One cold night, they are summoned to Baldur’s Gate by someone from Bryce’s past. When they arrive at Talia’s, they find that she is slowly decaying into death and that she needs the Crusaders help in destroying something called the “Soul Monger.” The apparent years of head injury that Bryce has taken caused him to be confused as to who Talia is.

Accepting the mission, Talia transports the group, and herself, to Port Nyanzaru in Chult. The port is hot and humid, alive with life and the business of a port city. Dinosaurs are common here and chance encounter with an Ankylosaraus introduces the Cru to Undril — a half orc officer in the “Order of the S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Undril guides the Cru to the Thundering Lizard, a loud and boisterous Tavern that has rooms to spare, but not a seat to be had in the main tavern area. Billy “Shorty” Shortcakes provides drink food and rooms to the Cru so that they may rest prior to leaving on their adventure. Alex valiantly attempts to gather intel on the “Soul Monger” while Bryce and Diane have one too many drinks and oversleep the next day. Undril asks for their help getting to Camp Vengeance where hopefully the group will get more intel on the “Soul Monger” and where it might be!

After a nights rest, the Cru gather supplies and jump into Undril’s boat to start their journey to Camp Vengeance … or was it Camp Righteous? Undril may not be entirely sure! The Cru make camp on the east side of the river, mainly because Alex (or more correctly Dr. Barrie) hopes to encounter undead. His hopes are not realized when instead the camp is almost trampled by Girillon, an ape-like beast with four arms and tusks. The group kill all the beasts, while almost losing Bryce in the process. 

What dangers await them in the Jungle? Will Alex get to fight any undead? Will Bryce remember how to fight? Will Diane ever truly be sober? And what happened to that cute little puppy they looted at the end of the second part of our adventure? For answers to these questions tune in next time to Crusaders and Dragons!

-Manderson, the Son of Mander

Curious about our adventures? Check out the replay of the episode below!

The Last Son of Krypton (Action Comics 1000 Review)

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I have always been critical of Superman. Even as a kid, I wasn’t THAT impressed by the last son of Krypton (I was more of a Spider-Man kid). The idea of this perfect specimen, with every super power in the book, didn’t catch the interest of a kid who saw himself as far from perfect. It took me years, almost 15 of them to be exact, to get to the point where I could appreciate the effect that Superman has had on our world, and really enjoy a comic featuring him.

Now I am near 30. I consider myself well versed in all things comics. I still sometimes balk at how perfect Superman can be portrayed, but I definitely enjoy a good book with the boy scout (All-Star Superman is one of my favorite comics if you can believe it). Which brings us to Action Comics #1000, a book 80 years in the making. It is an anthology of stories from a variety of teams, all centered around Superman or his influence on the DC universe.

And I loved it.

Every story brought something different to the table. Every story focused on a different facet of what makes the man of steel so important, not just to comics, but to our collective moral consciousness. The stories were fun, unexpected, and heartwarming. I could break down every one, but we’d be here a while and I want to leave some mystery for you if you haven’t grabbed a copy yet. So I’ll talk about one.

Which brings me to Tom King, Clay Mann, Jordie Bellaire, and John Workman’s addition to the super book, “Of Tomorrow”.

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I have become a Tom King super fan over the last few years. Every character he’s tackled (including my beloved Swamp Thing), he has done great things with. And Superman is no different. The story is simple: Earth is about to be destroyed. Not by a great cosmic evil, not by an inter-dimensional monster. This is the far future, and Earth’s time is up. The sun is expanding and will consume the little blue marble, and Superman feels it is time to let it go. The planet has been abandoned for billions of years, no life will be lost, but Clark is there to say one final goodbye at the resting place of his adopted parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent. To thank them for everything they taught him, and tell them how much he loves and misses them.

This story tore me apart. It was five pages. Just five. We only see Superman straight on for one page. Yet I was an emotional wreck at the end. As a son, and a husband, and a father, I hung on every word, re-read every panel, and sat in silence after it was done.

The story was great. It made me want to go back to that little boy I was and say “I know he seems perfect, but he’s not. And that’s ok. Give him a chance.” It made me want to call my parents and tell them how important they are to me. It made me want to pick up my daughter and hold her for as long as possible.

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On the final page, Superman says a line that, in my opinion, is one of the greatest I have ever read, seen, or heard.  “We’re all stardust fallen. And we so we look to the sky. And we wait to be reclaimed.” We are connected by the words of an alien who lost his world, adopted ours, and defended it until the end. In a world where division is all around us, based on invisible lines we’ve created for ourselves, leave it to the original comic book super hero to try and bring us together.

“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Yes, it's Superman, strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way.”

- Dr. Barrie (not a real doctor)

The First 1000 (Action Comics 1000 Review)

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Superman was the first. I don’t mean he was the first comic book superhero, which he is, but he was the first superhero that I ever saw! I can remember watching the old George Reeve Superman TV show on Nick at Nite as a kid with my family. I would put on my blue long johns, toss a reddish towel over my back and even had a pair of red underwear…I mean trunks…that I would wear to watch! 

Superman captured my imagination, and when I go back and watch those old episodes now, I see how much he has evolved over the years. This past Wednesday Action Comics issue 1000 hit the shelves, celebrating the 80 year history of the Man of Steel. Some of the best writers and artists from DC Comics took part in this issue, writing short stories about the our favorite Kryptonian, including the introduction of Brian Michael Bendis to the DC writing team.

This issue doesn’t have any huge events or world shattering stories that will reshape the face of Superman. What it does have is an intricately written letter of appreciation to Kal-El and the whole Superman family. Each one highlights the impact that Superman has in the DC Multiverse as well as in our culture today. These stories remind us that Superman is still human, with a family and hope. These stories remind us that Superman strives to show us the best humanity can be, while stumbling through mistakes and trials that threaten to break his will and the universe he lives in. 

My favorite story was written by Peter J. Tomasi, drawn by Patrick Gleason and colors were done by Alejandro Sanchez. The story follows a narrative told by Superman himself; in it we see him travel through all the different eras that he has existed, starting with the 1930s. Every page brings a different look as we see the Man of Tomorrow fly through his past. We see his powers grow, his look modernize, and his willingness to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves shine through. Most importantly, we see his love for his family. There wasn’t anything huge at stake (well maybe there was, without Superman who will tease Batman?) Really, in the DC world Superman is the beacon of hope that rallies the people of Metropolis to be better, and the Justice league to battle when necessary. 

I know my good friend Dr. Barrie is not always fond of Superman, but these stories even impacted him. He and I were talking about another story called “The Car.” Geoff Johns along with Richard Donnor share the story of what happened after that first fateful night that Superman intervened. The colors, once again by Alejandro Sanchez, make you feel as though you are in the 30s. Of course, when Superman shows up, he does something that many of us may not expect; he gives the bad guy a second chance. The last panel makes it look as though he makes good on that chance as well. 

Whether you love Superman, or barely pickup a Superman comic, this issue is one to have. It has the feels, the laughs and the memories that remind us why Superman has been around so long!  

-Manderson, the Son of Mander

Cap's Burden

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One was a scrappy guy from Brooklyn who just wanted to make a difference. The other was born to an empire. The former accepted an opportunity and put himself at risk in order to make that difference possible, while the latter grew to reshape his empire into one that protects humanity rather than destroy it. Both are opinionated and stubborn when it comes to their core beliefs, but their end games share equal meaning: to fight the wars the rest of us can’t and preserve a safer future. These two men disagree quite frequently but will unite when the time calls because in the end, they’re fighting for the same thing. These two men are Capt. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark; Captain America and Iron Man.

However, there was that one moment, where it was nearly impossible for these two to look past their own positions. These two heroes felt so strongly in their differing viewpoints that it came down to physical altercations; a civil war pitting friend against friend. While there was a moment where it seemed the two could work together within this struggle, one secret would tear it apart. A secret that had been kept by an unlikely subject from someone who is usually the one playing things close to the chest. A moment where an enhanced being, a super soldier, makes a humane and somewhat flawed decision that eventually tears at the roots of his egocentric, genius ally’s family tree.

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The decision? The choice one made in keeping a devastating truth from the other. The truth that Steve Rogers’ best friend from his past, Bucky Barnes, is the man responsible for the deaths of the parents of his closest ally today, Tony Stark.

Cap’s burden is not taken on until the end of the events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Rogers has spent the entirety of this film fighting the inner stranglehold that Hydra has had on SHIELD for decades, along with the assistance of Romanov, Fury, Sam Wilson, Maria Hill and whatever true SHIELD agents remained. Everything he had believed SHIELD to be was merely a mask worn by the malevolent organization he fought over seventy years prior. On top of that, he discovers that his own best friend, the one he thought he had lost on the train back then, was not only alive but now this organization’s own super soldier assassin. Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, is Hydra’s surgical weapon. While Cap is able to thwart Hydra’s plans, he has still lost his best friend and is uncertain if there’s any chance to reach him.

Then, there’s the Hydra file on Barnes that Romanov discovers and presents to Rogers. 

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The contents of this file would flip Rogers’ world upside down. Discovering his friend is responsible for the murders of his old friend Howard Stark and his wife. The parents of the man whom he had just formed an alliance with just a couple of years before in the Battle of New York. The man who along with Thor, Hulk, Romanov and Barton, stood by Cap’s side as they protected the city from Loki and his Chitauri invasion. He and Tony had fought and bled together. A mutual respect and potential friendship had begun. Now, Rogers must wrap his mind around the fact that Bucky is the reason why Tony’s parents are dead. Somewhere between Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Cap comes to a decision on what to do. He decides to keep this information to himself for now. He will carry this knowledge on his shoulders and live with it secretly.

One year later, The Avengers must reassemble.

From the start of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Tony Stark’s greatest fear is realized due to a “vision” infused by Wanda Maximoff. He sees the Avengers defeated and suffers the guilt that he could have done something to prevent it. This drives him to create Ultron, an idea he views as a protective shield over the world that backfires into the planet’s next big threat. As Steve and Tony debate at one point about the pros and cons of “ending war before it begins”, one can’t help to wonder what is going on in Steve’s mind as he witnesses what is fueling Tony.

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Could the loss of his parents be why Tony yearns for this need for protection? Has the creation of a the new element in his arc reactor, due to the inspiration from his father beyond the grave, reconnect Tony with his father? What would it do to Tony right now if he were to tell him what really happened to his father?

It’s understandable why Cap would not have told Tony this during their current predicament with an AI seeking world control. They needed to remain focused on the issue at hand. However, think of those moments where it’s just Cap and Tony. Chopping wood at Barton’s house. After the creation of Vision.  Their small chat outside Avengers Headquarters before Tony drives off. These small moments where their relationship reveals how close they actually are. These brief periods where, no matter their differences, there is a shared respect between these two; a bond that ties them. Imagine the pain Cap could be feeling in the pit of his stomach.  “Hey, Tony. Listen, there’s something I need to tell you... you might want to sit down for this one.” I can imagine Steve running these words through his mind, but never delivering them. He could ultimately believe that it’s better this way. Tony is doing well, the Avenger initiative is evolving, and maybe Cap feels this buys him more time to eventually find Bucky and turn him back to the guy he grew up with.

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Nonetheless, fate would remain in control and a civil war would be the setting of this emotional reveal.

The incident in Lagos during a mission lead by Cap. Tony confronted by the mother of a slain young man in Sokovia. The Sokovia Accords. Bucky branded as public enemy number one for the bombing in Vienna. These very elements alone pit Rogers and Stark, along with their allies and friends, on opposite sides of this personal and aggressive debate. These obstacles help light the fuse to the dramatic realization. Even as it becomes apparent that Bucky was not behind the bombing and Cap and Tony team up to corner Zemo, a flicker of a small television running a videotape from December 17, 1991 destroys any hope of a continued alliance.

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This dark secret Steve has been holding onto has been revealed to the one man he was keeping it from, his Avenger ally. Tony is filled with rage and wants nothing but to kill the man responsible for the murder of his parents, Bucky Barnes, even if it means battling both he and Steve at once. The emotional impact of this revealed truth is not the only important aspect of this tragic twist. It’s the fact that the man who kept said secret is the last person anyone would expect to keep something like this.

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Steve Rogers has always been the super soldier with the highest moral standard. He is the beacon one looks up to when pondering what is the definition of perfect morality. He is the epitome of what it is to be an American. Tony Stark is the example of the flawed man trying to do what is right. His intentions are noble, his goals are righteous, but his methods are of a more questionable manner when compared to Rogers. Yet, this very moment in the MCU, where Steve admits he knew the truth regarding Howard and Maria, shows us the flawed humanity that exists in the famed Captain. 

At the same time, while the audience knows that Bucky was brainwashed those years ago, one must look at it from the perspective of Tony Stark. After years of believing that your parents died in an accident, you’ve learned that they were murdered by this metal-armed assassin. Moreover, this truth was kept from you by not only your closest ally, but the man your father revered and honored. Given the history, pain and anger now residing inside him, Tony’s reaction is understandable. By the end of this battle, Tony has blown off Bucky’s metal arm, but sits in a powerless suit thanks to Cap’s shield. As Cap carries an injured Bucky, Tony makes one last demand: that Steve leave behind his shield, stating it belongs to his father. Given what just occurred and the pain caused by this great reveal, Steve feels it is the least he can do to the man he once called friend. A loud clang rings throughout the area as Rogers drops the heavy, star-spangled vibranium disk.

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In the end, it is short-sighted to claim that there was a right and wrong choice here. Steve’s decision to keep this from Tony wasn’t made out of disrespect or out of righteousness. It is a rare moment where Steve’s humanity shines through. His superior strength and abilities can’t provide an easy way out here. Steve makes an honest, human choice to protect both his friend from the past and his ally today by keeping this secret close to the chest. He takes the brunt of dealing with this decision internally. He does so hoping it will never see the light of day. When it is revealed, his worst nightmare comes to fruition, not only because one friend is trying to kill the other, but because this moment will change him as well. The “good man” has a brief moment of flawed humanity, while the billionaire playboy realizes first hand how it feels to have something kept from him, in possibly the most heart-wrenching manner.

As someone who absolutely loves these two characters, I do hope to see a reunion. In the final moments of Captain America: Civil War, we see what could be the seeds that rebuild this alliance: Steve’s letter, apologizing for his actions and lending his services whenever Tony may need it. Tony may even be ready to accept Steve’s olive branch, as he’d rather put a phone call from Thaddeus Ross on a permanent hold then hear what he has to say. Personally, I hope time helps to heal these wounds. The earth in the MCU is in better standing when Steve and Tony are on the same page. These two have been through enough emotional pain. Let us have a reassembled Avengers in time for their next important battle. One that is clear from the stranglehold of Cap’s burden.

—“The Azorean One” Anthony Esteves of The Capeless Crusaders

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