Part Five: The Setup
Since the game was supposed to be a part of a consistent world, I gave all the players their characters some months in advance but didn't include any information on the game situation. The players knew who they were and what in general they did, but not what exactly the game would be about. I would give them this information a week before the game; before that, I wanted them to get to know their characters and the other people in their team. I kept the complete list of players a secret, and didn't tell anyone what other players or characters there might be in the game.
The players then organized team meetings, discussions on strategy and interpersonal relationships. They designed their costumes, with some input from the gamemasters. The Nighthawks and Arctic Light were mostly unaware of each other. Even though both groups were mentioned in the world information booklet, so were five or six other teams. The characters started to come alive weeks before the game.
Because it was fairly certain that there was going to be a big battle at the end (unless the heroes decided to leave before Scourge and his boys ever got there, which I wanted to make possible, though not easy), the two miniature modelers of the game staff put together a fairly impressive scale model of the house I had rented for the game, as well as counters for all the characters. They also created some props and sets: since one of the characters would start the game in need of surgery, an operating room was set up, complete with gore and a machine that went 'bleep'. In the end, we didn't have that many special effects or props (I didn't see the point, considering that the use of super powers would in any case have to be just described by the players) but the ones we did have were fairly impressive.
Finally, five days before the game, I emailed everybody their personal data on the actual situation, mostly including the facts that Nighthawks were currently in Canada, that Scourge had just been found and his ship had been sunk, that they had met Arctic Light and that all the heroes were in a helicopter bound for the house of one Acidhand, an ex-AL member. I also declared 'radio silence': the players were not to discuss any part of the game between themselves, and any and all questions would be directed only to me. The situation at the start of the game was supposed to be confused and panicky; the data I had sent reflected that, and communication between players might disrupt the balance.