Saturday, December 16, 2017

Setting Material I'd Like To See

SYSTEM: Almost any superhero setting

Over on the ICONS Facebook group, I started listing setting material that I'd like to see for a superhero game. Obviously, these ideas might not apply to a game with a very different setting, but are assumed for a Big Two kind of environment.

Warning that this might be highly idiosyncratic and others won't care.

For this post, I've collated them and added reasons why they'd be player-facing, rather than just cool setting details...because if the players can't interact with them, they're better off as one-line descriptions that you can steal for your games.

I mean, I'm going to write these if no one else does, but it would be much easier for me to just buy them. :)

  • The religious group that quite literally worships supers, though they've had a schism: most think that supers are blessed by God, and the others think that supers are gods.
  • Nine Realms I picked nine out of a hat: the idea is multiple descriptions (somewhere between three and ten). None of these are huge descriptions—maybe a half-dozen pages, plus some npcs. They fall into two groups: The PCs might go there, or the realm might launch an invasion.

    Places the PCs might go:

    • So you'd have the three hells as one realm
    • the Astral Plane (if you can find a way to make it interesting: you can make the Astral Plane also the realm of the Lost Dead Souls)
    • the Dreamworld

    An invading force:

    • Urbtech, the realm of computers and logic, where magic doesn't work
    • a dimension that, like a shark, must conquer other worlds or fall to the rot within
    • Maybe an invading dimension random generation chart

  • The Darwins is the organization that helps people who have just discovered their powers; it helps them get adjusted, learn to master them, and integrate back in the larger society. But some people suggest that they have a hidden agenda. Like maybe they're behind some accidents that cause superheroes? Maybe they're rooting for the mutants to take over. Maybe they're trying to foster human-mutant cooperation, but like the famous intervention experiment in the 1930s makes things worse.
  • Hoodlums is a chain restaurant decorated with a superhero/supervillain motif, where all the waitresses wear skimpy versions of costumes, and which has a structure that leads to a certain number of them having supervillain groups on the payroll.

    The inspiration for Hoodlums is a friend of mine (James Nicoll), who included this gem in a bit of backstory for his character, a villain turned hero who at one point discovered that the heroes don't care if you've clearly labelled the porn featuring actors in their costumes as "a parody" and beat you up anyway. Which, combined with thoughts on sexism in comics, made me think of a restaurant that quite literally uses and institutionalizes that sexism.) The real question to me is how to make it player-facing. Oh, you can drop stuff in as a setting detail ("We went to Hoodlum's last night") but how do you make it personal for the players? Well, if their costumes are on display without their permission; if someone else is using their Hoodlums costume while committing crimes (I mean, no one is going to think the player did it, but it still looks bad). Maybe a particular restaurant is a front for, as James had, pornography using the player characters' costumes. (That could be very trigger-y or, with the right players, it could be funny: imagine playing out the discomfort when you discover that your cis hetero hero is a gay icon, and that the actor wearing your costume has starred in a successful series of films.)

  • One Percent An action group that is trying to paint supers as being the actual privileged as opposed to people who just have most of the money. Clearly funded by a group of wealthy people whose private motto is, "Being rich is the best superpower."
  • The place or person who handles medical needs for heroes/villains/vigilantes, which may or may not be the same as provides medical needs for mutants or aliens. This is mostly a practical need, but it might tie into the database mentioned under "Supers fight club," below.
  • The Ark, a living facility for supers with special needs for living, started by some member when he or she realized that the available choices were a government institution. With help from some acquired lost Thulean gold, the Ark was built. If there are diplomatic relations with the Atlanteans, they might rent part of it out with water as living space. Other rooms contain red sunlight generators, maybe gravity generators if your tech is wobbly enough, atmospheric containment and such-like. The kitchens are a nightmare.
  • Supers fight club, but I’m trying to think of an angle that isn’t Roulette or Unlimited Class Wrestling. The intent is to give players an excuse for fights and fight training. Tying it in with some kind of “heroes database” would be useful, because then you have a rationalization for bad guys who know your player character “tells”. If it's set up as coercive, maybe the players could rescue someone from it, or from an abusive manager. It might be where newcomers and has-beens go, the former to learn, the latter to recapture a bit of fading glory.
  • A list of gigantic world-ending threats that the other (NPC) heroes in your setting have to deal with, so your players have to deal with the threat that's "only big."
  • I have been thinking of a hero group. They're in a band. (This was partly inspired by seeing the Good Lovelies in concert last night.) Tickets sold with a disclaimer because there is a non-zero chance of a supervillain attack during the concert. I don't think they'd do a lot of superheroing, but they've done a bit, and accumulated some bad enemies. Heh—you could drop individuals into a campaign by introducing them after the band has broken up. And someone is trying to kill them...a celebrity stalker or a cape killer? (This might be better done as an adventure.)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

No Drop-In this week


I have to go in to Toronto tomorrow so that eats up the time between 5:45 AM to7:00 PM. if I’ve just got home at 7:00, I can’t start a game at 7:00.

I migh have to find another night for this if Wednesday becomes a go-to—Toronto day.

Monday, December 4, 2017

That’s juicy

Reading about Fred King, the polygamous and abusive pastor of a fringe church near Chatsworth has me totally wanting to include an abusive cult in this adventure—should it be Fred King style, or Alison Mack style?

Decisions, decisions.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Side note: Dark vs Sparks adventure(s)


As I’ve mentioned before, I want to run a one-shot in the world of James Alan Gardner’s All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault. Now, almost any generic superhero plot will work,, but I want to use the unique features of the setting. (Which might be a good rule of thumb for setting adventures in any specific universe.)

Let’s say we have a dynasty of Darklings. They might be up to almost anything—a Darkling dynasty is probably the same as a LexCorp or a Kingpin, with evil things that have plausible deniability and nothing that will hold up in court. The heroes can’t get at them directly, so the question is, how do the players hear of it?

No game starts until the players get involved, whether it’s the time-honoured technique of the bad guys trying to take them out pre-emptively, or a discovery of some clue, or a remit from a mysterious figure in an inn. So you might have a spiffy plot but if the players never find out about it (or they don’t find out about it until too later), then you don’t have an adventure.

Now, I have a gimmick in mind that uses features of the universe (which I haven’t discussed with Jim, so there might be hidden details in the universe that invalidates it). I speak no more of it.

Anyway, the gimmick will result in the murder of several Darklings, so I think that a new Darkling, embraces by the shadow as a response to the murders, will approach the heroes about this: the murders have confounded the police and the Darklings’ own Dark Guard. (The PCs are not demonstrably not involved.) The bad guy who’s killing is probably a Spark or a Darkling (though an unusual group of mortals can’t be ruled out).

In my brain, it’s a story like (but simpler than) The Big Sleep, with family and business problems. Now, the reason for these twists is only to provide motivation, not to create a logic puzzle. I plan for this adventure to be a superhero adventure, not a mystery.

As upholders of the law and the weak, the heroes have to find out who is killing Darklings.

It wouldn’t be proper if the Darkling dynasty weren’t up to no good, so the dynasty is planning on doing something that’s probably a little more exciting than rigging zoning by-laws (though that might be interesting—something that looks innocuous on the surface but as a side effect would make superhero bases illegal—but I digress. The question is, can I come up with a dynasty plot that triggers the killer to start, and somehow gives a personal connection to the PCs and give us two or three knock-down drag-out battles?

Obviously the petitioning newbie-Darkling (Dusker? Dusker who, if you like wordplay on obscure rock bands) has to approach the PCs at some event where the heroes are known to be, which means that there might also be other overt antagonists there. That would give us a chance to start in media res.

Think think think. 

Fortunately, the Darklings can be from anyplace; it’s the heroes who are constrained in space. Although Jim’s book covers Waterloo and a bit north, I could set my adventure in nearby Kitchener (because I was born here and currently live here), in nearby Cambridge—still part of the Region of Waterloo, which replaced Waterloo County—or I could go farther afield. I’ll probably stay in Canada; except for Kitchener, the cities I have lived in are claimed in the book. 

I could go for London, Ontario; for Calgary or Edmonton, in Alberta; or for either Victoria or Vancouver in BC. 

Or—oddball choice—Owen Sound, Ontario, in the Bruce Peninsula. That has a number of good qualities, actually: there are vacation homes near, though not as many as the Muskokas; there’s a chance for some angst if there’s a young hero(es) who want to move away but declaring yourself a protector locks you into the location (though I suspect not permanently). Muskoka would be a better choice demographically—more of a history of vacation homes for the wealthy—but I know (sections of) the Bruce Peninsula better. 

(Aren’t you glad that you now know some of the waffling that goes on in my mind?)