Friday, July 21, 2017

Ideas in a superhero setting

There are some things that I keep coming back to in superhero settings. I don't know if they'll show up in the Strange City setting, but if one doesn't, it's because I've made a conscious effort to keep it out. You might have mental tics like this too, wells you keep returning to.

The underground complex. Whether it's mines or a forgotten city, I often have some kind of dungeon/subway complex/tunnel situation, complete with people or things living there.

Some journalists are scum. While I greatly appreciate the estate of journalism (having spent years on the school paper), I also recognize that some of the practitioners are, well, media whores. It's much easier to put this kind into a story than the good kind, though I try to have both.

The really stupid parody hero. I can't help it. I might be parodying something that's years out of date, but hell...I gotta.

Trying to justify certain superhero tropes with law or technology. A common superhero game, and one I won't stop with because I like certain superhero tropes, even if they fall apart when you think about them.

The missing heroes. I love legacy settings, but I want the players to be the important ones in the setting. Maybe not in the world of the setting, but in this area. Sometimes that means that everyone else is missing. (Or they're busy.)

The antagonistic base. An intelligent base that has an agenda different from the heroes? I'm all over that.

So I run into old Crimson Claw (he tried to kill me back in the day), and it turns out... Hey, both heroes and villains are still people. Some of them must give up and do something else.

I didn't comment because you didn't want me to. Sometimes, they know you're a superhero, but they're respecting your privacy. Kinda like when Ollie Queen was mayor, and the beard made it kinda obvious that the vigilante was the mayor.

Hey! My name is trademarked! For some reason, I just think that names should be trademarked. I don't believe there should be superhero schools or community colleges that teach heroism (though a weekend course that ended with you getting your Vigilante Certificate could be fun), but I keep going back to characters with the same names and trademarks. Villains would ignore the IP laws, though.

It's a secret ID, dammit. Look, if you want to have a secret ID, you can. I'm just gonna make it tough on you.

Hidden in plain sight. A lot of strangeness will have a perfectly ordinary appearance and be out in public, if you know where to look.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Sketchy Background

I'm going to try to create a background for stuff I produce. A first draft of a few items is here:

Strange City background

Don't be surprised to see other ideas that I have proposed make their way into this.

For now, I purposely want to keep this short. I don't want a thousand pages that players or GMs have to read through, but I want it to provoke ideas, and it doesn't do that yet.

Eventually, I will release it under a Creative Commons license of some sort, but not now.

EDIT: I should actually release this in parts on this blog, rather than requiring you to download and read a PDF. So maybe I'll do that.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Oh, there's an odd concept

Well, not odd in the sense of "new theory" but odd in the sense that I can't recall seeing it in a character before.

So Legacy is the latest in a long, long line of superheroes, and her ability is to manifest the powers of any of her super-powered ancestors. How would you do that in ICONS specifically or any game system generally?

It probably isn't Alter-Ego because that either limits the number of alter egos or forces them to be random. You'd want a defined list of ancestors, and "long, long line" might mean twenty ancestors...

So as a GM, I'd probably want to see a list of ancestors.

Maybe it would best be done as the Magic power--you take a panel to commune with the ancestors and then manifest the powers.

Of course, this could be considered a variation of the Transformation power, where the power level sets an upper limit on your abilities, so it might be Transformation (Ancestors) 8.

Or it's kinda like the Nemesis power.

Anyway, there are a number of precedents for an alter-ego kind of power that isn't Alter Ego.

(Watch, it'll turn out to have been done as an Adversaries character who I am not remembering.)

Okay, stage one...

My intention right now is to pick a time and be available to host a game at that time, probably on Roll20. Weekly, if possible. If people show up, we'll play. If they don't show up, I'll wait a bit and then go do my own thing.

To make it easier, I've finished a bunch of pre-generated characters people can grab. (The kinds of characters are dictated by the art I've purchased and can re-use. Archer, Armored Suit, Blaster, Crimefighter, Ice Controller, Feral guy, Martial Artist, Mystic, Paragon, Psychic, Speedster, Tank, and Wizard, where the latter is essentially a Green Lantern or Starman kind of figure who can do anything.)

I have a couple of ideas for game sessions in case I actually get started.

So I'll write down the game ideas, then think about what auxiliary info each needs. At that point, I'll be ready to pick a time.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A clarification about stunting in ICONS


So over on Facebook, I asked, in a long-winded way, this:

Looking for a clarification here.

Do extras on a stunted power cost additional Determination points or Advantages? (That is, stunting a power with an extra costs 2 DP, and requires two Qualities activated.)

The situation is that I was playing a phased character, and I wanted to simulate the gag of "hurt someone by turning solid inside them." I figured I needed to stunt the Blast, so that was fine--I had one Determination point, so I stunted off the Phasing and had a Quality that was appropriate. But I needed the "Affects Solid while Phased" extra, and I would have liked the "Burst" extra as well. (I was looking for a way to destroy an item from the inside.) So I needed to stunt a complex power: a new power with two extras.

  • Does it require three DP/Advantages to do this? Or just one, stunting a power will the extras involved?

    In the moment, I spent the DP, did a maneuver, and took Trouble for the last one (because I failed the second maneuver roll--I stunted Slashing instead of Blast, and took damage from the explosion.
  • Do Limits offset Extras when stunting a complex power like this? (Normally, a stunted power lasts until the end of the chapter, according to my imperfect memory, but I guess you could make requiring a new stunt/DP into a Limit for this purpose.) Inventing Limits didn't occur to me in the moment.
    Also, if it requires multiple DP/Advantages, they have to activate separate Qualities in order for them all to go off in the same panel, right?

And Steve Kenson answered back:

Generally speaking, the answer is no, stunts involving powers with extras generally don't require a character have advantage more than once or cost more than 1 Determination Point, although the GM is free to make exceptions for extremely powerful or unusual stunts. In my opinion, worrying about balancing all of the "moving parts" of a stunt is more work than is needed in the midst of game play.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Actual play: A solo superhero session


If you follow this link, you get to a PDF of a solo superhero story I just did with the Mythic GME version I've been tinkering with (apparently the Mythic Yahoo group has one similar to it; I can only say that I have never looked at it, but I will now) and ICONS Assembled.

I wrote it mostly as if it were a story because that's what I do, but it should serve as an example of the things that can happen. (It's not a story because it's not focused enough, but random rolls, hey.)

Note that there are lots of errors and inconsistencies, like where I changed a character's name half-way through and might not have gotten all instances. And there's a weird thing in the PDF that I thought I'd gotten rid of, but apparently not.

And it got me to ask for a rules clarification from Steve Kenson, but I'll post that tomorrow.

The Concorde campaign

This is mostly a piece to record memories of a campaign. It will probably be boring to anyone but me, but I'll throw in some commentary about what I did wrong or right. (If you played with me, feel free to chime in and correct my memories because it has been a long time, and I might well have things wrong.)

So I had given up roleplaying pretty much, and one camping weekend in 1983 my friend Jim Gardner came with this game, which was Champions, first or second edition. We played, I enjoyed it. I think it contributed to the breakup of my relationship at the time (me being an asshat provided the lion's share of it, though). And Jim started running a campaign, set in Felicity, a thinly-disguised Waterloo which had been the setting for several radio shows and plays that Jim had worked on.

Eventually I wanted to run something, so I pestered and eventually Jim allowed as how he was doing other things so maybe running every other week wouldn't be awful, and wouldn't it be nice to get to play once in a while?

So I created an alternate alternate Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, Concorde (not to be confused with the actual Concord, Ontario). It was a bit grittier than Felicity but not much; the grittiness mostly came from the fact that I grew up in Kitchener, a former manufacturing town, so early settings tended to be things like an abandoned cannery plant or a warehouse or an alley. Concorde used to have a supers population, but most of them had moved to Toronto after the main superhero, the Gray Wolf, disappeared. (In fact, it was a running gag that the two UNTIL agents in the city had picked Concorde because it meant they weren't likely to have to face supers. Agents Murcheson and Traynor were supposed to be a kind of alert system, and just call in competent people if there were a problem.) (Later campaigns were set in the future of the Concorde universe and featured James Nicoll's vampire PC Harker Westenra, and the Bureau of Extremely Foreign Affairs, and even later ones the Anderson Disk.)

We had pretty much the same characters through Concorde's run (though recently I updated it when we tried out Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition). Player characters included:

  • T'A Shrin, a humanoid fox from another world, equipped with flight harness, force field, and blaster. (Brian)
  • The Lensman, a Lensman from the E. E. Smith novels pared down to the requisite number of points and plagued by spectacularly bad dice rolls. (JWB)
  • Silver Mirror, an alien from Gallifrey in flying armor with silver quantum blasts. He had seen the truth once across a crowed street and let it go by (that is, he told whatever story was useful at the time). (Jim)

Honest, there were others and I'm not slighting any of you people, but at this second, I don't recall who your characters were. (Everyone seemed to pick aliens. I'm not sure why they were protecting Earth. I think we explained it at some point, but I don't recall it.)

So: I did a good thing getting rid of the heroes and letting the PCs be the star of the show. Of course, one of the early things I did wrong was send them somewhere else...I had in mind an alternate world shaped like a spool, which had three places: the disk on top, the disk on bottom, and the area where the thread would go. I forget how they tied in, but Gray Wolf had been exiled there, and the PCs rescued him. He promptly retired, giving his blessing to the PCs.

Memorable NPCs...

  • Angel O'Shaughnessy was a one-armed private detective with minor psychic abilities. She had been a superhero vigilante, but retired and became a detective. She was the daughter of Sam Spade and Brigid O'Shaughnessy, which I don't think every came up.
  • Murcheson and Traynor have been mentioned. (In the M&M campaign, one of them had been turned into a woman by a villain and she then married the other, and they had a child...featured in the Steel City campaign as Canadian Lass.)
  • (Name Escapes Me...Gordie?) the Ghoul was a ghoul, from an early run-in with ghouls, who had been a fifties greaser and still dressed the part. Silver Mirror convinced the ghouls that they were the saviors foretold by prophecy, and they called on him whenever they had an inconvenient corpse to dispose of. His tag line was, "Are you guys saviors or what?"
  • Professor Grainger was the mad scientist at one of the local universities. He would help the players and then casually mention that he'd been thinking of moving the Earth out to the orbit of Jupiter because the observation facilities there would be better, and have to be talked out of it. (Yes, I had just gotten a copy of The Blood and Dr. McQuark.)
  • SAT, but I don't recall that I did a huge amount with them, because they were pretty plainly American, and my game was set in Canada.

I had to share published villains with Jim. We'd go through new Enemies books and divvy them up, laying dibs on any we were particularly interested in. I think I got Deathstroke, but Jim had most of the villains from the main rulebook. Anyway, villains I can recall:

  • Jack the Ripper homage in that cannery plant.
  • The ghouls, already mentioned.
  • Bad Day, a fast regenerating slasher. Bad Day's regenerating power was so great that he could grow back from a tiny fleck; the rest of him was destroyed and that fleck was kept in an evacuated bell jar, in case. This was the first time that I had handed disposable normals to the players to be near a character (and mostly killed, I think) during his origin. As a pre-transformed human, he kept saying, "I'm having a bad day," so that became his name. That was a useful idea, by the way. (I think Viktor's right; Bad Day was a Waterloo villain.)
  • Kick-Axe was a (superpowered) wanna-be rock band who held the courthouse hostage on the day of their sentencing, but who could be distracted by free pizza. Because I loves me some stupid villains.
  • Gratz, from The Circle and METE. He was so successful that when I tried to introduce Elisabeth Bathory later, they fried her just to prevent that sort of infiltration again. Never really got to use vampires again. Shame; Jim and I loved vampires.
  • Dark Silver was an evil female Silver Mirror, but she was an escapee from a mental asylum. They did talk her down in a climax that I found affecting.
  • Chicle was a stretcher-brick, as I recall. The follow-up M&M campaign revealed that he had married Dark Silver and they had a child, who was featured in that Steel City campaign.
  • Rapture and the boys (uh, Obelisk, Micron, and... I no longer recall) were a mercenary team. She was a mentalist, and the smell of fresh-cut grass was a sign that she was tampering with your brain. She would snipe from hiding and the others would do the overt things. They were a problem for the team for a while.
  • The Arthropoids. This was the villain threat that actually ended the campaign, because it took me years to figure out how the heck they were going to defeat them. They were alien slavers after T'A Shrin, and they were parasitic: they'd implant grubs in a human and it would eventually burst forth, killing the human. Eventually, while running a DC Heroes campaign in yet another alternate world (Wellington) I figured out how to defeat them, so the Wellington heroes travelled to the Concorde universe, I rewrote some of the characters as DC Heroes characters, and we finally dealt with them (the city was under an impenetrable "silken" dome by that time, and much horror could have been had).

Okay, in retrospect, there was a certain amount of killing, which might have contributed to the slightly grittier feel.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A D6 Mythic GME

A version of the Mythic GME I've been trying out is here:

More info at some future time.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Bizarre idea

Is the process of D&D 5E moving back to its roots itself a kind of populism? I'm loathe to treat gaming as anything but a side note in people's lives, but it does reflect some of the people who play it, and that can be ugly...witness the ugliness of GamerGate.

I float the idea only because it occurred to me and I have no filter, rather than because it's based on deep study or even reading the rules of fifth edition.

(Having floated it, I will now abandon it to sail away from me.)

Some updates

I updated the Freedom Force characters and the conversions I did of Hero Games characters; appropriate links in those entries.

It's a long weekend here, so you may or may not see more of me. Hope the Canadians are having a good long weekend, and hope the American 4th of July goes well. (And for those who think that the USA has passed on its mantle of world leadership, that might be so, but the Romans endured for centuries after they stopped being a democracy. Just a bleak thought to speed you on your way.)

For gaming, I thought yesterday of doing a form-fillable PDF that would be printed on one of the Avery business card sheets, and each card would be a condition or quality that you know you're going to use, so there would be "Controlled" and "Off-balance" or "Tied up" or whatever. Then you could just hand them out. In practice, would it be as handy as a sticky pad and pens? Maybe not, but I notice that since the brain operation I feel like I write very slowly, and having a set I could pre-print and hand out would be useful to me.

I just have to figure out what conditions I want to represent (though making them form-fillable eases that somewhat). Off the top of my head, there's In Alternate Form (stone, ice, swarm of bees, light, etc.), Controlled, Big, Small, Immobilized (I suppose you could print both sides so there's Restrained and an Immobilized to represent different degrees without handing two different cards), Off-Balance, Prone, Phased, and Stunned. (Slammed moves you somewhere; it's harder to represent with a condition card.) If you have someone with Element Control, you might have On Fire or Encased in Ice. Heck, if the cards are form-fillable, the right design lets you also represent Determination Points, Advantages, or Troubles.