Thursday, November 30, 2017

Okay, next learning step: soap opera


I think the Drop-In went well. I think I'm at the point where I can reliably put forth a three hour game session, where there's enough combat that doesn't overwhelm the players and force us to go to another session.

But the sessions have been largely combat. So the next learning step is soap opera.

Not a huge amount of soap opera, but a chance to bring in supporting characters. To a certain extent, this has been organic in that the players get to be dramatic with the NPCs as they investigate or prepare to fight, which is good.

What I want to try now is creating opportunities with appropriate supporting characters, and that requires either knowing who is coming (sort of difficult for a Drop In game) or building something in, like the base staff. I deliberately went for an environment where the base is superfluous, so that option was out.

So my intent now is to provide opportunities to interact with NPCs: Find a logical reason to include an NPC, preferably one who triggers a Quality, and see how the players respond. If they seem interested in anything, expand that character's screen time to create modular subplots.

For instance, Gold Tiger has essentially the Tony Stark collection of Qualities. I could certainly include a session from the major domo or HR person about these people who get hired, or I could bring one of them back. Diriel as a Demon of Justice is a bit harder, but I could certainly do next session about some occult threat and introduce an occultist. New character Lum will need to have a counsellor developed, and there's an opportunity there.

Nothing grasp on timing is still tenuous so I don't want to blow it out of the water.

And I want to respect the players' wishes, too: if they want it to be mostly tactical, or mostly soap opera, that's the direction I should go (at least so far as I'm comfortable; I count, too).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Dark vs Spark one-pager: a draft


Here's my one page world for players in the world of All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault, including the ICONS rules that I suggested. Comments welcome (especially if it turns out you can't read it*).

*Since I accidentally sent an empty zip file yesterday, mistakes are fresh in my mind.

That went...well


Okay, ran the young'uns through part of the opening bit of Sky King's Thunder—you know, the free part. I made a couple of changes to the setup (I put the temple farther away so they had more opportunities to fight goblins before the bells were quieted). We didn't do nearly as much as I had expected, mostly because I had forgotten just how fragile first level characters are in D&D: I didn't fudge any die rolls but characters were dying left and right, due to fumbles and such-like. As a result, the goblins got even stupider and the pair of worgs behaved like my dogs: fierce one moment, timid the next.

Now, I intend for this to segue over to Temple of Elemental Evil (sort of; I found someone's conversion notes to fifth edition, and a description of the module elsewhere, and that's pretty much all I need to make stuff up). I'll have to gin up some connection between Nightstone (which now takes the place of Hommlet) and the abandoned moathouse in ToEE, but the presence of a festering ancient evil is all I need to make work most of the other plot threads I dropped in. So that was fine.

But after years of playing and running competent superheroes, I had forgotten that it can be a lot of fun with a group of characters who can't cross a drawbridge stealthily, are unable to hit the goblin up by the top of the windmill, who are >this close< to dying after a single arrow shot.

And it was, frankly, a joy to watch delight in the students' faces when they pulled off the impossible arrow shot to work the drawbridge mechanism at a distance (necessary to keep somebody from dying). I don't think I'd want to listen to somebody tell me about their campaign or character (so I'll shut up after this, unless there's a point to be made), but certainly we can have fun playing our own adventure.

From looking at the conversion notes for ToEE, the author of the conversion (I'll find the name and post it later) talks about some of the differences between D&D then and D&D now, not least of which is that it was originally written for 5-8 adventurers, and this group is four only because I have them an NPC meat shield. (Who I should have made second level, but at first, the barbarian is as bad as the rest of them. Still, in this group the barbarian takes the position of Character Who Will Press The Big Red Button.)

They say they want more, so I'm guessing this will continue for a bit.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Last minute cancellation of Drop-In


My wife's folks are staying with us for a few days before they do the snowbird thing and head to Phoenix for the winter. And they're going to take us out.

I can't refuse, and I know there's no way that I'll get back before 8:00 pm, so the only sane thing to do is cancel (or delay).

My apologies.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A possible change

So the perils of young love: my godson stopped dating the GM for his and my daughter's D&D group. She asked me to step in for a session or two (or three or just the one; depends on how we all like it: children can be fussy about parents being around). In the mean time I will be glad of the Drop-In on Wednesday, because I get to stop thinking about how the hell I'm supposed to run D&D5E. (I have never run D&D.)

So you might see more D&D content as I try to figure stuff out.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Superheroes don't miss


Having watched Thor Ragnarok and Justice League on two successive days, this morning in the shower I came to a realization:

For the most part, superheroes and supervillains don't miss.

Oh, they fail to do damage...but they rarely miss. They catch the thickest part of the armor, or hit the magical bracelets, or hit the suddenly-manifested shield, or fail to hurt someone because they are invulnerable, or their omniforce field disintegrates the bullets before they hit.

When they do miss, it's part of the hero or villain's schtick or niche: lots of foes miss against the Flash or Quicksilver, because a big part of his thing is being so fast that he moves out of the way. Batman frequently can't be seen (but his foes tend to be more in the human range than the supervillain range.) Spider-Man is so agile that foes miss him.

This is just a narration thing, but I suspect it will give much more of a superhero feel to things. A failed roll doesn't mean a missed shot. For some heroes or villains it will, yes: figure out who that is. But for everyone else, figure out a list of reasons why the super's attack failed to do damage.

(I'm sure I've read this advice before, but coming to it myself makes it more powerful. I'm going to try it at the Drop-In on Wednesday. Of course, those who go to the Drop-In and read this will know I'm trying this, but that shouldn't matter.)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Various campaigns

Another reminiscence post. Skip if you want interesting.

I'm trying to remember the campaigns I've run. Some of them were short because they didn't work (the universe-hopping one seemed like a good idea, but it was flawed). Others were short because of gamer ADHD or because people got bored. Not in chronological order.
  • The Concorde campaign, which I've talked about before. It was run in Champions, second printing to fourth edition.
  • The Wellington campaign, which used DC Heroes 2nd edition and 3rd edition.
  • The Patriot City campaign, which used 1st edition Mutants & Masterminds, and took place in Patriot City decades after the events in Freedom Force
  • The Minotaur campaign, which used 2nd edition Mutants & Masterminds, and used both Freedom City and the city of Bedlam...though it was really more the one adventure.
  • The Emerald Knights campaign, which tested out 3rd edition Mutants & Masterminds for us, and which I set in the Concorde universe's version of Detroit, Steel City.
  • The Aegis campaign, which used Fantasy Hero (though later I revisited it with CORPS).
  • The EABA playtest I did. It was set in the distant future of some other campaign I'd run, though I don't recall which one.
  • The Bureau of Extremely Foreign Affairs campaign, which used Espionage and later Danger International, and took place in the far-off years of the 2130.
  • The Alderson Disk campaign, which was set in the future of the BEFA campaign and ended when I painted myself into a corner.
  • The various ICONS things I've run, set in Halifax, in Toronto (the Hope Prep stuff), in Vancouver, and now in Strange City.
I suspect more will come to me, but those are (I think) the biggies. I don't count the Marvel Heroic playtest or the Masks playtest or the Supers! adventures...they were never campaign-like.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

And we just got back from Justice League...


And it wasn't bad. I certainly didn't feel like I was watching a polished turd (to refer back to Vanity Fair).

And for context, I was underwhelmed by Man of Steel and tolerated the theatre version of Batman v. Superman. But I caught MoS on TV a couple of years ago and found that it was much better than I remembered. What I wanted was something that heartened back to the original Superman film, and it wasn't that. It wasn't great, but it was not the thing I remembered. It was decent.

Was Justice League great? No. But it was, I think, better than the theatre version of Batman v. Superman. The jokes landed, for the most part. Everybody got a bit of character time, though it really wasn't a character movie. It's a group team-up movie, so the assumption is that a lot of the character stuff has happened elsewhere. The CGI for Steppenwolf missed the mark pretty consistently, which I thought was a problem. Some of the CGI on the running Flash seemed off but I didn't notice any problems from the moustache.

Both Barry Allen and Victor Stone are hampered by the fact that this is really their first movie; it would have been nicer if the' had a film each to develop, but I understand why they didn't. I look forward to the Aquaman film, and I'd watch a Cyborg-Flash film.

Visually, it's definitely a Zack Snyder film, and parts of it are gorgeous. And his Batman is fluid in motion, which was nice to see. It's very comic book.

Things I have to adjust in my Justice League writups.
  • Superman has super-speed, at the same level as the Flash's or very close.
  • Wonder Woman's bit of banging the bracers together to create a shock wave...that's got to be a thing.
  • A single parademon has Batman on the ropes for a lengthy part of one scene—the parademons are still minions, but clearly they have to be upped a bit.
  • Cyborg is smarter than I had him, and his data access abilities are pretty much "anything that ever got put into a computer or on a network"...not represented really by the Interface power; I might model it as postcognition.
  • Aquaman's pitchfork (not a trident; it has five tines, so maybe a pentadent?) gets used a certain amount. He never uses talking to sea life, though he refers to the ability obliquely. There seems to be a bit of water control there, but it might be a stunt.
  • Steppenwolf never uses his cable, but he spends time with the electro-axe. He's kinda a generic sort of bad guy, which is part of the reason the movie isn't great.

Atlantean terrorists


You know, hundreds of nuclear weapons have been lost at sea. (I believe it was hundreds, the New York Times did a story on it late in the 1980s, early in the 1990s.) Heck, whole nuclear submarines have been lost at sea.

You know who has the resources and abilities to fish out those nuclear weapons?

Yup, Atlanteans. People who breathe water and can swim and sense things down to the depths of the sea.

Is there some arrangement in your superhero world for them to fetch out the nuclear weapons? I'm sure that they retrieve them: when the casings corrode away, the bombs are a danger to local sea life. But do they just do it, saving the bombs in a storage compartment under the sea, or do they have an arrangement with a surface organization? Like, say, a government? Or Greenpeace?

And even if they do have such an agreement, what if there is a splinter group of Atlanteans who really want the bombs? Because surface dwellers, they do a lot to muck up the oceans, between plastic and chemical pollution and oil spills. They'd be perfectly justified, in their minds, in nuking us. It wouldn't take many nukes...and they probably think that they can eliminate the surface infestation and they'll be safe down in the sea.

Except, of course, let off one nuke and certain governments get antsy and toss other nukes around, and what what a surgical strike becomes a life-ending conflagration. The oceans become uninhabitable, even for Atlanteans.

The Atlanteans have another group that's against nuking the surface dwellers, even if their reason is self-preservation.

So how do you turn the concept into an adventure?

Well, it could be a one-off where everyone's an Atlantean or can travel underwater. Or it could be a situation where the Atlantean terrorist organization has to get the bomb to its proper place for a messy detonation. It's an old bomb, liable to fall apart in the very messiest way if treated the wrong way. A Good Atlantean discovers the plot but too late to stop it in the ocean. Instead, they know where it came out of the water and the name of one person who was acting as their surface contact. First you have to find that person (who has a bomb shelter and figures he or she will ride out the conflagration). Then you have to find the people he or she hired...who are supervillains, of course: maybe the type who don't know what's in the package, maybe the type who know and don't care.

Your players find them, but the bomb has already been set. Fight the bad guys, disarm the touchy bomb, and meanwhile warn all the nuclear-capable countries that there might be a tiny incident in the area...

In the meantime your players can argue the propriety of leaving unexploded nuclear weapons in the oceans, the state of diplomatic relations with the Atlanteans, and whatever eco-things they want.

Easy. Sounds like an evening's play to me.

Thor Ragnarok and being off the scale


Yes, Thor Ragnarok is a fun film that doesn't take itself seriously while demolishing huge swathes of the Thor mythos. There are spoilers galore ahead, as there will be when I finally write up the characters...even though this is mostly about writing up the characters.

This is a movie that moves the scale... so much of it is off the scale. Hela's Strength. Surtur (who is clearly a plot device with a weakness, which Thor takes advantage of at the beginning of the film).

See, when you have these characters in a movie with normal people, then you kinda have to fit them into the range of 8-9-10. Hulk is the strongest one there is, so he's a 10...except Thor generates lightning that knocks him on his butt, and Hela...well, Hela catches and crushes Mjolnir.

Maybe that will get retconned in a later movie as special power that she had over artifacts commissioned by Odin, or she's special because she was the original owner of Mjolnir. Maybe not. But on a normal 1-10 scale, she's probably strength 13 or more (the amped-up Thor is still less than she is). She is just off the scale, and when she gets into Asgard, her power grows (we're told). So Hela might have certain abilities that are just off the scale.

We could just redefine the scale, which you can certainly do: re-define Asgardian nobility as "normal humans" and suddenly Thor becomes a 6, so Hulk is an 8 and Hela is a 10 in Strength...except you don't do bunches of characters like this so they can't interact with characters from other want them to interact. So redefining the scale doesn't help our ultimate goal of putting all the toys in play. We have to say that she and Surtur are off the scale, or we give them numbers over 10.

For ease of play, I'd probably just say that her Strength is 10, and she has the Quality "Goddess of Death, First-born of Odin" that lets her accomplish things like catching Mjolnir and crushing it.

Her other powers—generating weapons from nowhere (a Slashing/Shooting pair of powers, plus the axe she gives poor Skurge) probably fit into the scale. The giant spike she generates to hold back the spaceship seems to me like a stunt, some kind of Quality like "She and the land are one" being activated and used.

Oddly enough, for a Goddess of Death, she has to use the Eternal Flame to bring the dead back as Minions—she can't just snap her fingers and do it. And I rather expected (with Christopher Yost as one of the scriptwriters) that there'd be some of "every warrior I kill becomes one for my side"...but no.

We probably have to put down a generic Asgardian warrior package, which we can then augment for the Warriors Three. In this movie, they're cannon fodder, but we've seen them in previous films and they're dang good. So your average Asgardian warrior is probably Prowess 5, Coordination 5, Strength 7: Captain America or some other member of the Avengers can out-do them, but they will mow through humans pretty easily. Asgardian nobility are incredibly long-lived, but that doesn't really affect gameplay except when you throw in someone with aging powers.

Whatever that package offers, we up it for Valkyrie: she's strong, her Prowess is high, as high as Thor's or higher, and she's within a point of his Strength, wherever you set it.

Thor swaps out Mjolnir (well, flight, really) for a kick-ass electrical control power that does not seem to include immunity to electricity. (I'm presuming the little control disks are effectively tasers; the jolt they deliver is pretty clearly electricity, so maybe there's a double-talk reason why it works. On the other hand, his lightning fries the Hulk in mid-air, so scientific accuracy isn't at the heart of this film.) When he decides to really be the God of Thunder (well, Lightning), he gets an Aura and some darned powerful takes him a turn to re-set his multipower, as it were, but then he's good to go. But that power could be off the scale as well; I choose to believe it was a great roll by Thor's player,

Fenris is probably Growth 9. His main power is being big and intimidating; Growth 9 gives him that and a little space where Hulk can slowly beat him down. (Hmmm. I never thought of Hulk as having Fast Attack, but the thing he does in repeatedly whipping Asgardians around like rag dolls would certainly qualify. Maybe he can only use it when he's established a hold on someone.)

Anyway: when my Thor Ragnarok builds appear, there will be a number of items marked OTS. Hela's off-the-scale powers represent a 15, if you need a number, and Surtur's a 20.

Unless I change my mind by the time I actually write them down.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thoughts on SuprTindr


I saw a preview over on G+ for Green Lanterns that mentioned a dating app for superheroes. And I started thinking about an app for supervillains and superheroes. Not to date, but to have combats.

Actually, I'm not joking (though I'm sure it has been used as a joke).

Here's the thing: if you have a superhero world where there is a significant amount of celebrity to being a super, where the business of threatening the world and saving the world are objects of interest. Seanan Maquire's Velveteen stories are the kind of world involved.

Now, there probably isn't a market for such an app...but there would be a market for the generic hookup app you imagined first...and it could be a feature in the app. A dating app essentially lets you present a profile to people and it allows people to filter out candidates and choose from them. Really, the same app could be repurposed for a number of things. The pool of possible candidates is probably small.

You a hero looking for another hero to date or hook up with? Use the app. You can filter based on sexual preference. Heck, you can probably predefine whether you want someone who self-identifies as a hero, as a villain, or something else.

And if you were a person with a fixation on dating supers (or a particular super) wouldn't you really want the app so you could maybe meet your dream? Superheroes have to have groupies. Heck, supervillains probably have groupies, which might make for an interesting evening...trying to find the young man who wanted to date Ivory Toxin, the supervillain who sweats mind-altering chemicals before he succeeds and finds her).

And, just to bring us around to the idea of things you can use in your supers games, wouldn't that be exactly the kind of app you'd want to hack, so that the phone involved would always be telling you where a particular super is at any given time?

No Drop-In tonight, November 15

It turns out that tonight is the only night that my son can join his mother and me in seeing Thor: Ragnarok.

So a one-time family event trumps gaming.

Take care tonight, all, and I hope things are well.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Episodes 7 and 8 of the Drop-In: Interlude, and The Panopticon of Hell


Episode 7: Interlude and Episode 8: The Panopticon of Hell

I'm combining these two because, unfortunately, I wasn't running at my best and session 7 of the Drop-In was a largely improvised interlude getting the heroes from outside the security door to the hall.

So I apologize to the fellow who showed up for episode 7 and chose to play Longbow, because he didn't get much to do.


Gold Tiger, George and Professor Jelinek were joined outside the security door by Diriel (a demon of justice, because Hell is all about justice and rules and maybe a bit of entrapment, if I think about it) and Longbow, who have seen the message that Gold Tiger left on various superhero boards and came to join them.

They got in and discovered (a) the moss is omnipresent and (b) they were at the level where the tau generators were, the repair bays were (and one unmentioned nuclear generator). The femmebot Liza was there, strapped to a repair dock and deactivated. Security robots came down, and there was a fight, during which the repair robot followed its protocol, which was to halt repairs and clean up, so pieces can't be used as weapons. Eventually, the heroes won and crept up the stairs.

The center of the building was circular, and by tapping into the security system, Gold Tiger could see that Dr. Warp was in the center part (which also had the elevator to the basement). He had three femmebots, a closeted mysterious platinum android, and improvised living quarters there. He looked rumpled, like he hadn't shaved for a week.

The moss had clumped itself up into a sort-of humanoid form as big as the ceilings and was walking a slow circle around the section where Dr. Warp was imprisoned. Professor Jelinek's tau-sucking gun was full.

As they were discussing plans, Professor Jelinek revealed that the big problem with tau radiation was that it's not properly radiation at all: it's energy moved from other dimensions. The liberal use of it weakens the extra spatial dimensions of ours (predicted by superstring theory) and essentially opens the doorway to Lovecraftian monsters.

(If we want to be nice to Professor Jelinek, he figured this out very recently. It involves the kind of maths they didn't have at the start of his career, and he has acquaintances in Moscow and Geneva who do the new math for him. It is totally in keeping with comic books for him to have known this for twenty years and be the roadblock that has kept people from implementing tau radiation generators.)

We were having technical difficulties, so we called it there.

The Panopticon of Hell

Alas, the extra player did not return, so we had Gold Tiger and Diriel and everyone else was a GM character.

The switch to turn off the tau generators was in another room and was largely non-functional. Diriel's teleportation only worked to places he could see (except Hell; he can always go to Hell, and my assumption is that there are a limited number of "landing zones" there that he has memorized). Using his control of the security system, Gold Tiger jury-rigged a projection of the image of the proper room, and Diriel opened a portal. The two of them left George, Professor Jelinek, and Dr. Warp behind while they went into The Room.

The Room was covered in moss, and the on/off switch was partially melted or corroded by the moss. Gold Tiger started to repair it, but the moss started to gather together and attack, so Diriel was holding it off as Gold Tiger was working. Fortunately, we had established that the moss was sensitive to flame and Diriel is aflame with the Fires of Justice, so... (I formalized this as having all attacks be one degree better against the moss: narrow misses were actually marginal successes, marginal successes were moderate successes, and so on.)

They defeated the moss, turned off the generators, and then portal'ed back to Dr. Warp, where they discovered the two new problems.
  1. Using the miniaturization possible in the modern era, Dr. Warp had built a miniature tau generator inside the new platinum robot, which was tougher than the femmebots.
  2. Dr. Warp wasn't actually forthcoming about helping, having sold the tau weapons to Russia and the CIA and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Diriel opened a portal to a cell in Hell, and Gold Tiger knocked him through. Diriel closed the portal.

But Diriel's "Injustice Sense" said that someone was still thinking evil thoughts. Yes, George was one of them, but there was someone else...

Yup, other-dimensional invaders had got access to the platinum robot, and it was in the process of becoming spidery-er, with the back at an improbable angle and extra joints having appeared in the arms and legs. (I called it a Cybershoggoth.)

Professor Jelinek discharged his tau weapon to power up a femmebot. Moss was trying to get to the tau generator. Longbow fired to no effect.

Gold Tiger asked Longbow if he had a magic nullification arrow somewhere in that quiver; Longbow replied that he did, because of a recent experience with a demon ("No offence," to Diriel). The Cybershoggoth half-melted the femmebot; Professor Jelinek missed the shot that would have sucked tau radiation out of the robot. George was knocked unconscious.

Eventually, the magic nuffication arrow was fired (and Longbow doesn't miss). A portal to another cell in Hell was opened up, and Gold Tiger pushed the robotic beast through.

Then Diriel and Gold Tiger went through a new portal to just outside the cell, in the panopticon of Hell.

A winged demon approached and said that (in Hell-speech) it was fine unless the auditors gave them guff, which would be when they'd have to release them. (The Cybershoggoth because it was extradimensional and they might not have jurisdiction, and Dr. Warp because he wasn't technically dead.

Through difficulties they discovered that the Cybershoggoth was the first invader of a force ("this world..." it hissed. "It needs conjugation." The PC characters assumed that was bad.)

With Diriel's help, Gold Tiger managed to turn off the robot, and they reached an agreement about under what conditions they would retrieve the robot.

Lights down.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Some GMing Thoughts


I'm hit and miss on Johnn Four's GMing newsletter. A lot of it is very D&D-focused, which doesn't mean anything to me. But today he had a couple of pieces of advice that I'd like to re-spin in my own way. And this is basic stuff, because I don't seem to grok advice from Robin Laws and Ken Hite on designing choices into adventures. (I suspect it's terminology, and I feel like there's an insight on the opposite side of the advice, but I'm not getting there.)

Anyway, restated tidbit #1: If there's no interesting results for both making and not making the roll, don't make the roll. I'm not saying there's no point to randomness. (Hey, I play ICONS—of course there's a place for randomness.) Some details are totally fine left to chance. "Do we have Fainting Goat Snack Cakes to distract the demon cow?" "I dunno, you have the Gadgets power; roll on it to see if you can scrounge together a tasty non-meaty treat."

But if you just assumed they'd find the clue about Thutmoses III, don't make them roll to find the book on Egyptology was open. Say, "And the book on Egyptology is open with a passage about Thutmoses III underlined." Or you're pretty sure the bad guys will just execute them if the minions actually defeat them in battle? Use a pyramid test, and instead of determining if they get into the secret base, the pyramid test determines when they get to the headquarters. They get in early, they get some tidbit that makes things easier (they might prevent the launch of the nuclear missile, even though they'll still have to beat the bad guys) or if they get in late, something else has happened that makes it tougher (every time it takes them three pages to eliminate the pyramid test, they have to face another batch of minions...and every pyramid test after the first means another missile readied for launch, for example).

And if someone has an appropriate Specialty or Quality or background, maybe they just get the information or do the task. They can ask to roll if they want more.

Restated tidbit #2: Doing something is better than debating about doing something. Sometimes a dilemma is a part of your hook or your climax. I understand. As a player, I've sometimes had characters had to make tough choices, and they didn't always decide the way the GM thought they would. A scene with the character's romantic interest is doing something. This isn't about that. This is about the entire group waffling about what to do.

"Well, if we go after Dr. Mind-nought directly, we get at the root of the problem, but if we do that, innocent people might die while we're attacking him...but if we stop the people, then Dr. Mind-nought will have a chance to get his hooks into more people and then innocent people might die..."

I'm not suggesting railroading here. But no matter which way they go, the characters do something, and while they're debating it, nothing is happening. And I'm also not suggesting there be no debate. But gaming time is limited. One of three things is probably going to happen:
  • They go after the mind-controlled thralls.
  • They go after Dr. Mind-nought.
  • They split up and go after both.
(In my example, they're not going to ignore the problem and catch a movie.)

Given that one of those three things is going to happen, give them a chance to state the pro and con of each choice, give them a couple of minutes to talk about it, and then force the issue. Ask each player what the character does, and they'll split up or attack one or the other. If they split up, you'll have to interweave the two scenes to keep both groups engaged, but at least they're doing something.

Is one choice optimal? Sometimes. Are they going to get to do both things anyway? Maybe. Obviously, they get to go after Dr. Mind-nought whether they go after the thralls or not. If the choice is between Bank robbery by Cashflow or Hostage situation by Strongarm, maybe they're choosing which adventure to play tonight, and this will eventually lead to the discovery that the villains are tallying up their villain Q scores, to figure out who can be used as a distraction by the others.

Anyway, two thoughts for designing and running your adventures.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Yes, there will be a Drop-In this week


I haven't made the decision to go bi-weekly yet, and we gotta get out of Dr. Warp's base first.


I was not particularly happy with last week's session (totally aside from the technical snafus). Problems happen if I don't prepare correctly: we get sort of aimless sessions without enough for everyone to do. I hate that. It's not a great experience for me, and I'm sure it's not a great experience for the players.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A guess at the Justice League


I'm planning to see Thor: Ragnarok this week, so I'll put off writeups of those characters until after then. Instead, have pure guesswork on how the heroes of the Justice League move will be presented.


Aquaman (Arthur Curry)
Specialties Leadership (+1); Underwater Combat Master (+3), Weapons (Trident) Master (+3)
Aquatic (Swimming speed ~400 mph)10
Trident (Blast)7
Command all sea life (Mind Control Extra: Telepathy; Limit: Sea life only)8
Survive in the ocean (Life Support 3: Breathe underwater, pressure, cold)3
Half man, half Antlantean
Rightful heir to Atlantis

Stunts I imagine include:

  • Stunting Burst with the trident (hitting everyone in the area)
  • Mental blast (stunting off "Commands all sea life" to affect the piscine portion of the brain)
  • Acrobatics of various kinds (stunting off Underwater combat)

At this point, I don't see evidence of an above-average intelligence, but there certainly is in the comics.


Batman (Bruce Wayne)
Specialties Acrobatics Master (+3), Investigation Master (+3), Leadership (+1), Martial Arts Master (+3), Stealth Master (+3)
 Extra: Armory (Exploding grenades: Burst Strike 5, Grappling Gun: Swinging 3, Glide Cape: Flight 1)5
Fast Attack6
Secret ID: Billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne
Justice instead of vengeance
Not as easy as it was ten years ago

Heh. I had Investigation Maser there for a day. Kinda makes me want to invent an investigation maser (Postcognition 5).


Cyborg (Victor Stone)
Specialties Athletics, Technology Master (+3)
 Extra: Armory (Blast 7, Interface 7, Dimensional Teleport Extra: Portal Limit: Extra Only 7)7
Damage Resistance5
Super Senses (IR, UV, various scans)5
Alien technology is now part of him
Public ID: Victor Stone, son of scientist Dr. Stone
"I didn't choose this identity."

The New 52 version has flight; the original had Leaping. I don't know which they'll go for in the movie. I have the ability to create Boom Tubes (a New 52 thing) as Dimensional Teleport, but I'm not sure it will show up in the movie. It might be cool if he had the ability to take over Parademon armor; I can totally see a player using that ability.

The Flash

The Flash (Barry Allen)
Specialties Investigation (+1)
Super Speed8
 Extra: Surface Movement8
 Extra: Fast Attack8
 Extra: Defensive8
The fastest man alive
"I've never done battle. I push people and run away."
The geeky enthusiast: "I need...friends."

Even though I love the TV Flash, I'm looking forward to Ezra Miller's version. Since he's clearly a beginner at this, I expect a number of stunts as he discovers his powers.

Green Lantern

I'm guessing that he shows up at the end, because Zack Snyder did say, "Unite the Seven" at one point. However, there are no clues, so this is a comic writeup.

Green Lantern (?)
Specialties Pilot or Architect Expert (+2), Aerial Combat (+1), Military (+1), Power (Force Constructs) (+1)
Power Ring (Force Control, default of Force Field)8
 Extra: Flight 8
 Extra: FTL 8
 Extra: Blast 8
 Extra: Life Support 8
Green Lantern, interstellar cop
Prejudiced against because he's human
Unresolved issues on earth

If he shows up, which will it be? I'm hoping for the JLU John Stewart, myself, but DC might have insisted on Hal Jordan. It probably won't be Guy Gardner or any of the newer Green Lanterns.


We assume he's going to come back from the end. That feels like it might be a three-quarters of the way through the film kinda thing, suitably foreshadowed.

Superman (Clark Kent)
Specialties Art (Journalism) (+1), Aerial Combat (+1)
Kryptonian physiology (Damage Resistance)8
 Extra: Flight 8
 Extra: Fast Attack 8
Regeneration (Limit: only 1 without sunlight)5
Heat vision (Shooting)8
Last survivor of Krypton, but raised as a human
Love for Lois Lane
Willing to die for justice

For me, it was a tremendous light bulb when I realized that Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman presented a Superman who hadn't been trained—who was sort of mediocre at his job. Now, I suspect that the events of the earlier films will represent a training period and we'll get a Superman closer to the one we expect...but I might be wrong.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman
Specialties Aerial Combat (+1), Leadership (+1), Military Expert (+2), Wrestling (+1)
Lasso (Entangle Secondary effect Mind Control Limit: Tell the Truth)8
Bracers (Damage Resistance Limit: Performance)6
Amazon daughter of Zeus
Emissary to Man's World
Secret ID Diana Prince, Art historian

Mostly this is my comic book writeup, though I lowered the flight speed slightly (she learns to fly at the end of the Wonder Woman movie, I believe)


Edited to add parademons, because you have to have a villain, and I just don't have enough to speculate on Steppenwolf.

Specialties Military (+1), Power (Power Staff) (+1), Psychology (+1)
Armor (Flight)3
Armor (Damage Reduction)4
Armor (Life Support Pressure, breathing)2
See in the dark, radio communication (Super-Senses)2
Power Staff (Blast)7
Apokolips shock troops

The Psychology specialty is for intimidation only. The Power Staff specialty could be replaced by Aerial Combat; I remember a number of instances in the comics where they swoop down and pick people up.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

"Be the worst version of yourself"


Have an urge to do a game with someone granting powers that create villains. The concept I think I'll go with is a villain who can turn people (and areas) into the worst versions of themselves...the nice guy succumbs to those internal urges to take the things that don't belong to him, the tidy woman turns out to be tidy and punctual only to keep herself from being wild and violent and explosive, the town that becomes the dark and broken cesspit or ghetto that it looks to the outsider.

Even though ICONS has a power that grants powers, I don't think I'd design the big bad with that in mind; instead, the big bad would be defined with qualities. The other people get changed just because they get changed, rather than worrying about a particular power.

The adventure structure would be something like...
  1. Riot in a small area. This is probably where the access to the big bad actually is, or contains a clue to his location, if they go back to look at it.
  2. Interlude while we figure out who these people are, and what happened to them. These people probably don't have superpowers. The players figure out what's going on, and there is some indication that the bad guy grows in power through the events in the first scene. The players end by finding evidence that the bad guy has gotten to some other place that he finds a bunch of people who can be really converted... The question is where?
    • Yes, a local asylum is the first thing that popped into my mind, but I don't actually want to do an adventure that stigmatizes people with mental problems.
    • In the same sense, picking some place like a church feels like it's making fun of the religious, and I don't actually want to do that.
    • Business people might be fair game. A convention of some kind?
  3. So we're at the convention, and we face the powered-up people in the worst version of the building. The thing is, there's a nearly endless supply of people who can be converted, so even winning here doesn't really solve the problem.
  4. Which is why the confrontation that matters is against the big bad, trying to outwit him.