Archive for category CSIHC

Tales from the Game Table – One in a Million Shots

Ages and ages ago it seems I was playing in a regular Call of Cthulhu game group. We all came up with some very interesting characters. My character was a soldier who had been a sniper in Word War 1. I even worked out a history for him that had him in places that could have suggested that he might have been responsible for things like a specific shot at a specific Arch Duke. He was one of those characters that was not really socially comfortable and only really felt at home in a conflict.

He was brought into the campaign by a newspaper add that was looking for someone who could handle challenging work with combat experience. His interview for the job was an interesting bit that ended up with him and his interviewer in a private shooting range. If my character could back up his talk about how good he could shoot the job was his. So at range he looks at the constructed target. A few silver dollars can be easily seen. Focusing a bit he could also see nickles that were a little covered up. But my character was a pro and had a knack for spotting weak points. Critical success on the spot roll and he has the spot noted that would bring down the who target structure. Now then in Call you need to roll low on percentiles. So I line up the shot. 03 on the roll. DM says he needs a back up roll if I really do want to destroy the structure. 01. Needless to say he got the job and was made part of the team. DM kept a close eye on my rolls from then on because that was just too good to be true. But no… I didnt fake it. In fact my luck with that character tanked for several months. Nothing I could not get out of in the end, but… yeah…

So a few months after that incident the group of investigators is in with a band of primitives in a region that was… not quite Earth. Anyway our investigators had teamed up with a tribe. My character had been going over defensive measures with them and helping them fortify. Things had been getting hostile and so we were expecting an invasion from at least one other tribe. Invasion comes. Our cult busting mystic is setting up spells but needs time. Out other team members are getting ready to help with the wounded. My character goes to the ramparts of the hastily constructed defenses and yells down to see what the invaders want. Trying to buy time. The invaders leader steps forward and demands certain things and people from us in order to leave peacefully. Everyone on the team shakes their heads no at me and so I have my character ask if there is anything else he wants to negotiate for. Leader yells back it is not a negotiation and that we will submit.

So my character shot him. 01 right in front of the DM. He sighed and asked me to roll again because my character was using a high caliber hand gun and it might have had more kick to take things off a bit. 01 again. DM takes a look at his own specially prepared critical hit tables and it appears that with that handgun and my characters skill level that I also took out two people standing behind the leader.

And so what do I do next…. “Anyone else want to ‘Negotiate’?!”

We had been prepped for all out war. Heavy losses and likely losses of sanity on all parts as spells that we should not be playing with get cast to help the tribe we were allies with.

Fight ends in one shot. My character became a hero/demigod to the tribes. Not wanting to play outside my role, when the NPCs came to my character to lead, he told them that he was just a messenger and negotiator. The Mystic and the Business man were the ones who could lead them.

To be perfectly honest I have forgotten if the movie Fifth Element had come out before or after we did that last session. I think it came out before the session and I was just pulling a favorite line and putting it in a new place. But as long as I remain confused I dont have to admit to having stolen the line for my own fun in the game. 🙂

Sure I have had other critical hits in my life of gaming and even done a few more spectacular things in my games as well. But those two shots in that one game series just… mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. tasty 😉 heh

That campaign continued for a good while after that and I really had a lot of fun delving ever deeper into the character and really setting some interesting goals for him that fit his personal… mindset… yeah mindset, lets not call him a psychopath or anything, cause noooo… mindset it is… in a way I dont get to do very often in a game group.

Ok so gimme the dice, I need to see if I can get a critical hit on breakfast.

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New series topic – Character Creation

Hey there readers

Now then anyone with a way back machine or a love of slightly older desktop computer RPGs might recognize the image above, or most of it, from Ultima 6. One of the best in the Ultima series of games. It had one of the most unique character creation elements I had ever encountered to date… well save for the other Ultima games… ok so lets just say I liked the way you created a character in most of the Ultima series.

Having done several series about world building, I thought it would be an interesting time to go more in depth into characters. Both the ones we play and the NPCs that GMs torment us with on a regular basis.

Even though I have talked in the past a bit about differences in Point Based game engines and level based character evolution, I have not touched on character personality and background and all the stuff that gives you the ‘character’ and not just the collection of stats you are going to use.

I plan on pulling up examples for the mechanics from several different game engines, and even a few computer or console examples because a creative table top group can incorporate them into the mix or use them directly.

Not sure when this series will be starting up but it will kick off with Character Creation 101 and be touching on… well I am not quite sure what it will be touching on yet. There are a lot of potential elements to talk about. If anyone has any ideas on things you think should be covered in regards to character creation leave me a reply in the comments and I will be happy to consider driving that point home.

Keep playing out there and having fun in the mean time folks.

Now gimme the dice, I gotta see what goes great with level one new players… 😉 heh

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Tales from the Game Table – My favorite Deaths 1

Ok so everyone knows that in an RPG the death of your character is something that may happen. If you are playing something like Call of Cthulhu then a good death may be the best you can hope for… But there comes for all of us who game the high and low points in the death of a character. Sometimes a death is a good one in which we go out in a blaze of glory becoming the person of legend who will be remembered until at least the next game session. Sometimes the death of a character is just… plain… stupid.

Well when you see the My favorite Deaths header on a tales from the game table I am going to be talking about some of the best, worst or most inconclusive deaths I have ever put a character through… as a player and as a GM.

Gonna roll this out with one of my personal favorite deaths that happened to one of my own characters.

So the entire party was camped around the fire in the middle of no where. This was not the most cliche of nights but hey no one ever said this game group was subtle. And suddenly a lich. Just roll with it.

Everyone jumps up and gets running into fighting mode, because yeah, we bad. My character tries to use his freakish magically enhanced speed to grab a log from the fire and charge into the lich, Because its undead, and undead hate fire right?

So when you have boots of speed, potion of speed, a haste ring and have had training to go faster, well… yeah you got some speed. I figured if nothing else I would distract it so the others could do something.

Oh and just as a note this was in AD&D first edition. With a GM who felt that if you roll a one you botch and a twenty is a critical hit…

Soooooooooooooo…. yeah super high speed character with a flaming log charging realllllly powerful undead ickyness. You might think you know where this is going but you are only partly right…

So I rolled to hit with  a charge with my flaming log of speed…. and I botch…

I am stumbling, trying not to kill myself as I go speed stumbling past the lich…

And the lich attacks, With a clothes line… And a crit… It was starting to look like a bad pro wrestling moment but it gets worse.

The stumble and the clothes line crit were actually enough to kill the character…. and yet the lich, having been insulted by the fact that my character would attack it physically with something so mundane as a log, used its next action to cast disintegrate on my character. Who is already dead.. and still tumbling through the air…

And I almost botch the save.

Fortunately there was enough ash that could be assembled and poured into my magic boots that a cleric could be found to bring me back later….

But yeah…

That was….

Spectacular….

 

Ok so gimme the dice… I need to make saving throws against my own dumb ideas.

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World Building 308 – Whats your story?

Ok so I am finally going to close out the Supers world building series.

Now then with everything else that has been put into this series about world building you most likely are wondering why in the monkey I would save the actual story until last.

Well the reason is because of the evolution of comic books themselves. Just to use Marvel comics as an example… If you look back you will see a number of comic book titles that were created early on. And then for marketing and profitability they put some of their more popular characters together to create the Avengers. And THEN they started thinking about continuity. I know that this is a massive oversimplification and that there are some rather beautiful examples of characters and storylines surviving even from the earliest days of comic book publication. However if you look at comics in general it takes a while to get characters and titles to cross over. And the actions taken in one story rarely directly effect what is going on in another characters book. Or even the books that the character is involved with as a team member (**cough cough** Wolverine **cough cough**) unless the character dies.

When those crossovers finally happen you usually end up having to rewrite so many of the rules on how the world functions, or how powerful one character is in relation to another that you end up changing the nature of characters. When that sort of thing happens in comic books it is not always bad, and can lead to some interesting follow up stories. However when you are playing in an RPG it can really piss players off if suddenly the physics of the world changes. Or suddenly one of the minor villains accidentally becomes unstoppable because now all his stories about magic being real are no longer a joke and no one in the game has magic powers because they were not part of the world and so you cant counter him (sorry personal grudge there). Or when your power levels are not clearly defined and a single agent can take on a super hero (crap another grudge there). Are you getting the picture there?

If you put your story ahead of your world, and your characters, then from my personal experience 7 out of 10 times you will piss off at least half of your players. And yes I have had enough experience in bad supers games to make that assessment.

The second big part of it is that when you are building a world you are going to start finding all sorts of things you want to limit or put center stage. You will discover you want to encourage certain types of characters or NPCs to be a part of the world. And once you have it all laid out that makes it fairly easy to wrap a story into your world.

So all of that is why I save the story for last.

Now then there is absolutely NOTHING stopping you from going the other way around about it. You can totally start with your story and build a world to fit it. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with doing things in a different order. This is just the order that makes the most sense to me and has worked best in my experience.

The other benefit of doing things in this manner is that if you are someone like me who works with a bunch of different game engines you can pick the one that really suits the world you have built up and take advantage of everything you want to do. That way your world, your game engine and your story all compliment each other. If you have only one engine you like to work with then this sort of order might not make as much sense because your world and story will need to fit into the engine you are using. And if you are using a licensed product then you will have a predefined world to fit everything in to.

So lets take a look at the world I have been building here…

  • 301 – Origin of Power – A cosmic/celestial event causes mutations. Also technology.
  • 302 – Which Earth – Our earth
  • 303 – Timeline – Slightly in the future. So that things like cybernetics and power armor could be possible.
  • 304 – Percent of power – 1 / 25000 have mutation. Specific tech that could be called super powers is more common.
  • 305 – Perception of power – Mutants are the new target of fear and racism, Tech characters are seen as heroes.
  • 306 – Power level – World – Mutants vary but low power is more common, and that does mean power, all mutants have something extra. Tech is fairly standard and can make one man equal to about a Main Battle Tank. Game – Mutants will be on the higher end but not the top. Tech characters will have unique toys that go well past the current standards.
  • 307 – Known Earth – There is going to be an alien research vessel that knows about Earth. They noted the unusual solar flare activity and they have been monitoring the effect on humans since. Both physically and sociologically. They trade out teams on a regular basis and have rules about interacting with humans. I have no intention of introducing the aliens any time soon. I think if the players get creative they might be able to find them and go chat. But unless the game needs a kick in the butt, I have no intention of dropping this in the players path.

So this world gives me a few types of stories I can tell…

  1. Humans who fear mutants and use tech to keep them at bay.
    1. Using tech to take away their powers
    2. Using tech to be more powerful
    3. Using tech to imprison or drive off the mutants
  2. Mutants who want more than what they have
    1. Rule the world
    2. Be free of oppression
    3. Live in peace with everyone
    4. Escape earth and find a world of their own
  3. Mixed groups who want to unite mutants and humans for whatever reason
  4. Normal people living day to day

Personally I want to tell story about characters who want to see how far they can push both technology and mutant powers. And that being heroes is a great way to exercise that growth. This means they are going to be put in the path of human supremacists, mutant supremacists and be looked to in regards to how to develop both tech and powers. They may decide that one side is wrong, or all sides are just too messed up and that they should find another world to inhabit or something else along those lines but that is going to be up to the players to decide.

The game engine I have decided to use is Palladium Books Heroes Unlimited. The reason for this is because it has clearly defined classes for mutants and tech based heroes. And while it wont stop a mutant from taking up tech and using it, there is no way they will ever be as good with it as a pure tech character. Also it is not possible for a tech hero to mutate without a complete change in character class and loosing most of their ability with tech. This division makes the kinds of stories that I can tell in this world a lot more powerful because there will be rules that enforce what sort of stories I want to tell already built into the system. Also there is a random power table that players can use to get their mutations. And personally in a world like this I find that to be a great option. Sure you dont have to use it, but it can make for some very interesting combinations of powers that you would not usually see.

I do have some home brew rules I want to add on the mutant side so that I can have a few over the top powerhouses in the world that will still fit the environment. Such as in the original rules they have a strict rule that if you roll a power more than once you have to reroll. However the publishers have made some NPC characters that have a single power more than once and I want to incorporate that. Specifically into some characters like Dust. If I stack the teleportation power multiple times on the character it will have the same effect that Dan originally wrote up for the way his powers worked.

Any way, that rolls up the world, the setting and the stories I want to tell with it.

Not sure what the next World Building series might be but I will do another in the future.

Keep gaming and keep having fun, all while thinking your own thoughts on how you want to game and what you want to game with.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many NPCs I can fit into an ordinary shoe box.

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So what CAN be an RPG?

Hey all… been a while since I did a quick question/rant/whatever thing and so I thought I would just toss this out there… especially since a while back I tossed out a topic called ‘What IS and RPG?

Back in that older post I talked about Table Top, Live Action and PC/Console RPGs. But also that the origins of RPGs are really the “Lets pretend with rules.” I have also been thinking about some of the odd combinations of games that have come up over the years and… well ok so my brain runs in odd circles some times. Just let me roll this out and I hope you will see what I mean.

In my opinion, in the end, EVERY game that has characters, or that you can add a character to, can be an RPG. Let me start out with this example. Magic the Gathering, when it was first introduced instructed you that you were a great wizard, and your deck was your spell book and your resources, and so on. So you were playing out a wizard duel. They also very quickly  came out with a few oversized cards that were supposed to represent you as your wizard self. In some ways that sounds like having a character sheet and a random system to determine success or failure. Not only is your deck your randomize but it is also your inventory list. Pretty much how you do things in an RPG. Some of my friends and I build decks to tell a story. We put things in there that have a main character and supporting cast and all the things they need to complete their story, and everyone else’s decks are the bad guys. Again that is like lets pretend with rules…

There are a number of games that have incorporated miniature combat into an RPG so you can do strategic combat and still role play your heroes. Things like Heavy Gear where it was built that way from the ground up, or BattleTech which added Mechwarrior so that you could take your pilots out and continue the story. So why not go all out and grab something like Hero Clix and make an RPG session with it since almost every figure is a character by name?

Or how about taking all the angst and drama in Zombicide and just going ahead and add an acting/in character element to it and turning it into an RPG board game?

Considering that it is an Augmented Reality game Pokemon Go is sort of the largest Live Action MMO RPG that I have encountered. I just thank my stars that most folks dont dress up in person for that one unless they are at a convention.

If you watch things like the Poker championships on cable sports channels as yourself how many of those players are dressed up and taking on a persona and are not their usual self. Are they role playing? Does that make their poker games a role playing game?

I think that pro wrestling might be the very first live action RPG. I mean sure things are scripted but they have to have some kind of flexibility just in case an accident happens. If someone gets hurt for real you need to adapt your script to compensate for that and the narrative planning has to spin. So reality becomes your randomizing factor. But you are still playing lets pretend with rules.

And then what about things like Fantasy Sports Leagues? You are creating fictional teams with real players. Again reality becomes your randomizer. I have heard water-cooler talk about how a players comments really fit his play, or how they could imagine the player saying that to the team members the League player had selected and that is why all of his team members did so well. Its still lets pretend with rules.

In the end depending on how thinly you want to pull at the strings I am pretty sure you could call just about anything an RPG in the end… dealing with your boss? Talking to the IRS? How many other things could you rack up where you are a character in a narrative with supplies and a random factor that can change the story at any moment? I wont go that far but I may have made you at least think about it for a second. 🙂

So in the end for me… I say that anything with characters in it… fictionalized entities in any way… can become an RPG with just a little effort and or imagination.

Just my opinion… whats yours?

Now gimme the dice I need to see how many NPCs I am interacting with on a daily basis.

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World Building 307 – How well is your world known

We are closing up on the end of this series about world building for supers. This installment is about how well the outside universe knows about your world. I left this one for this close to the end for a few reasons. Things like the origin of power and your timeline may have already introduced aliens, magical entities or spirits. And if they have not then you will still want to know, at least in a rough outline, what is out there so you can play with it later if you want to go that way.

If you take a look at the two biggest publishers for comics right now, in their universes the Earth is sort of central to everything. It was designed that way on purpose. That way every angel, demon, and alien powerhouse in the universe has a reason to visit. They all know the planet is there and many of them want to conquer it, and a few want to protect it. Or in one case over in Marvel the alien race see Earth as an asylum world filled with dangerous mad men/women who have too much power and should be quarantined.

On another side of the coin you can see in the Image series Invincible that while there were a couple of alien races that knew of the Earth, most the ones that knew of the planet didn’t care at all. Until the main characters got involved. The series tends to avoid magic and the supernatural so you cant really say whats going on on that side of the spectrum, but given the nature of the author, I figure he had a plan for it all just in case he decided to experiment with it in the story.

In another title from Image, Spawn, you see the supernatural not only fully aware of the world but it wants control. I did not follow Spawn for long but I do not recall aliens other than an occasional guest character.

So I think that you can see, depending on who knows about your world, and how popular it is for engagement, you can have a whole lot of influences sitting around waiting, or actively participating in the fate and the actions of the world you have built. As I mentioned earlier, from your work on your origin of powers and your timeline you should have an idea already if any race or group outside of the Earth knows about the planet at all. This step allows you to flesh that out in as much detail as you would like ahead of setting your game in motion.

In my own campaigns I like to mix it up a bit. Sometimes everyone knows about Earth. Sometimes it is a very small group of outsiders but none of them are directly interacting with the Earth. And of course everything in-between. The easiest for me is to start with limited interaction off world if any. And build into it. It allows me to expand the universe and the story for the game at the same time. As an example, I ran a game for a few sessions based very loosely on the Psi World RPG from FGU. The idea was that a small percentage of humans had developed psi powers and the world was reacting. Well the source of the powers turned out to be alien interaction (I can hear my wife crying out ‘I told you it was the Aaaaaaaaaaaaliens!!!’) and one of their ships had been left behind. About half of the players were human investigators with nothing really special other than high skill levels to their name. By the third session those players were feeling really under-powered. And so the group discovered the original alien research vessel that had crashed to Earth and caused the Psi outburst in the first place. Now the whole group had access to alien technology but it was the investigators with their high skills who could really take advantage of it. This introduced for the players that there was more to the game universe than they thought. The thing is in my back story the aliens (It was Aaaaaaaaaaaaaliens!!!’ sorry just cant get that our of my head now) picked Earth because as far as they were concerned Earth had a barely intelligent and just kinda sentient lead species and the planet itself was far enough from the galactic core to be a middle of no where place that no one civilized would care about at all. And by galactic standards in this setting, they were right. So while there were aliens out there, none of them gave a rats patootie about Earth one way or the other.

So take a look around at your idea so far for your game world. How much do you want to have going on in regards to outside influence? Or even simple acknowledgement of existence? And as always, remember that writing out what you want does not mean you have to do a 120929803790 page dissertation, you can have something as simple as – Aliens and demons know about Earth. Demons like our bars and hang out alot. – in your world notes and that can be used to take you places later. Thats right… just breathe… you do not have to populate the universe and multiple adjacent dimensions before you get going… you can build it as you go, but knowing the starting point ahead of time can make the interaction with players so much easier.

To go back to the world I am building lets see it by the sessions…

  • 301 – Origin of Power – A cosmic/celestial event causes mutations. Also technology.
  • 302 – Which Earth – Our earth
  • 303 – Timeline – Slightly in the future. So that things like cybernetics and power armor could be possible.
  • 304 – Percent of power – 1 / 25000 have mutation. Specific tech that could be called super powers is more common.
  • 305 – Perception of power – Mutants are the new target of fear and racism, Tech characters are seen as heroes.
  • 306 – Power level – World – Mutants vary but low power is more common, and that does mean power, all mutants have something extra. Tech is fairly standard and can make one man equal to about a Main Battle Tank. Game – Mutants will be on the higher end but not the top. Tech characters will have unique toys that go well past the current standards.
  • 307 – Known Earth – There is going to be an alien research vessel that knows about Earth. They noted the unusual solar flare activity and they have been monitoring the effect on humans since. Both physically and sociologically. They trade out teams on a regular basis and have rules about interacting with humans. I have no intention of introducing the aliens any time soon. I think if the players get creative they might be able to find them and go chat. But unless the game needs a kick in the butt, I have no intention of dropping this in the players path.

Ok so the next step is putting it all together and setting your setting in motion.

Play hard and play often folks.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many pages I can roll for on a 1d everything roll.

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World Building 304 and 305 Percent of Power and Perception of Power

Hey there readers. So yeah I took a week off to take care of other things and rest up a bit and never said a bloody word. So it goes some times. 🙂

With these two parts of creating a world for supers being so tightly interconnected most of the time I thought I would save myself a little work and put them together into a single entry.

The overall percentage of people who have power in your world will change things dramatically. If you take a look at most superhero settings in comics you will usually have something like a 1 per 10000 to 1 per 100000 ratio of people with super powers compared to people who do not have super powers. Although I think in Marvel Comics the City of New York is getting closer to the 1 per 100 ratio.

If you would like another comparison there is an episode of the old Disney Darkwing Duck series (I think, I cant find it so I am not really sure if I did not imagine the whole sodding thing) in which a superhuman from another world comes to DWD’s world and says there is a mission only he can resolve. Well it turns out that everyone on that world had super powers and they needed someone without powers to be the constant victim who needed saving.

There is also a difference between high power and low power levels. If you look at DC comics Legion of Superheroes. They are in a setting where many of the alien races have what would be considered to be super powers. And for the most part every member of the race has them. There are some powers though that are essential to survival in their native world, but seem silly if not useless outside of that environment. (cough cough Matter Eater Lad cough cough) Most of the time this results in the character being considered useless and relegated to the Legion of Substitute Heroes, or just kicked out. However when Superboy/girl (now that would be an interesting character) shows up with so much power, he/she is in without question.

And then if you want to see how that all ties into the overall perception of power in the real world… just take a look at political or military or even business leaders. The folks without power (in whatever way you measure it) are usually afraid of the people with power unless they have a way to level the playing field.  Or if there is a method by which you can take the power away from them.

I think by now you are getting the idea.

Low power and high frequency of powers usually means that acceptance is easy.

High power and low frequency usually means a lot of fear and really stupid things begin done to protect the innocent against this strange and powerful threat. (Think X-men)

I mean in psychological terms it is really common in humans to fear what you do not know or do not have.

But the thing is that you are going to be creating your own world. With your own timeline and setting and reasons for powers. Well, if you want to you will be. So why don’t you decide?

Personally I like using the fearful masses type of setting because it gives me an excuse to have a lot of people doing stupid things to protect themselves when they dont have to. It can really establish a sense of, “This is why we need to be heroes, to save them from themselves.” into characters.

But when I created Delta City I set that environment up so that unless you were from out of town, seeing someone fly by on a carpet, or in a cone of energy was just a “Hmmm 9am, must be Tuesday.” level of acceptance of the strange, and different and powerful. Heck in that setting the scariest things are the trash men and women because they have means of dealing with ANYTHING that might pop out of the wood work when they are picking up trash.

That is also why I put these steps at this time in the world building process for supers. You already know where, why and for how long powers have been around. That can help you scale the every day persons reactions. And give you some great story elements. I mean if powers are showing up in 1 out of every 10 people. And they have been around for a couple hundred years. Acceptance should be rather high. Actually at the couple hundred years point as long as the supers have not tried to take over the world too often even at the 1 out of every 10000 should be having a very high acceptance of powers.

But it is your world, and you dont have to do it that way if you dont want to. And thats the fun of it. You build your world and explain it how you want it to be.

Now then for the world I am building as part of the exercise for this presentation I have decided that powers are going to be at the 1 – 25000 level. So a city with a population of 1000000 should have 40 super powered individuals in it. Yeah I know that you need to take into account the local suburban regions and overall population growth over areas that are not directly incorporated that could up the total number of supers in that city by as much as 130% but I really dont want to get that realistic) Also with a short time line I am going to go ahead with the ‘fear and loathing’ reaction of the masses.

All I can really do at this point is to suggest you think about it. Maybe on your earth there are countries and places that accept supers and some that dont. Some might seem them as agents of evil or possessing powers that should only be in the domain of deity, so they have to be purged. Maybe they are seen as saviors. Maybe no one cares.

Its your world, build it your way. And have fun.

Ok so I need to get going again…

Gimme the dice, I need to see what happens when 23 super powers converge on the same bouncy ball pit… no really I need to see this…

Have fun and keep gaming all…

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World Building 303 – Timeline

Welcome to the last post for 2018. Not a bad place to be talking about the timeline for your supers world game setting.

Picking your timeline is similar to the 302 subject of Which Earth. But it remains distinct. Because even if you have a setting that is in the future, or past, or on another world you need to know when things happened. Like who was the first superhuman? When did they first appear? If there have always been super-humans then how has that impacted things?

If you want a good example of the differences that can come about take a look at DC Comics original multiverse. The golden age version of characters became its own earth. With events having started around World War 2. The silver age versions had their own earth and had characters with backgrounds going to WW2 but most of the starting events were in the Vietnam War era. And then you stacked up other earths on top of that. Now then this is a reaaaaaaaly over simplified statement, and a big time DC Comics fan would likely pick it to pieces but I am not trying to give a history of the DC universe, just use it for an example. Both of these starting worlds had their own Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. But the timelines that they came about in were distinct. Their morals were slightly different. They interacted with the world and the characters around them differently. And that made the stories different.

Another good example would be to compare the Marvel Comics 1602 storyline to the regular modern world story setting. The characters are the same overall in regards to their powers, but with the difference in timeline it makes a massive difference in how their interactions play out.

So how do you go about picking your timeline? Well in the end that is all part of the main question of – What do you want to run a story about? Followed up by – How much work do you want to put into this setting?

If you want to use a historical setting then you really should research it so you can bring all the flavor of it to the table. You will also have to recognize though that by adding supers to the flow of history you are going to need to change it. Such as if the Roman Empire had super-humans in it, would it have been noticed? Would they have been seen as children of the gods? Would the empire have fallen when it did? Or might it have fallen sooner? Or maybe even still be going on today?

If you want a modern or near future setting then you have to think about when super-humans came into the picture. Mostly due to the fact that they will have an impact on everything from popular culture to technology. And if their power levels are really high then their fights might have given the world something like World War 3. A great example of this can be seen in the White Wolf game setting for Aberrant. The game was published in 1999. And the setting was in 2008. But the level of technology that was available to the world in that version of 2008 was quite high due mostly to the contributions of super humans.

If you want to go into the future, or be on a ‘not earth’ setting then you can go pretty wild. But your timeline is still going to be very important. If you want a great example of the impact that could be had on a future setting then I would recommend taking a look at a very specific version of the Legion of Super Heroes. This version is very much a young supers versus the establishment setting. And the impact of super-humans in the everyday world is rather well told.

Another aspect of the timeline is that it will help establish what the everyday person in your setting sees in regards to super powers. Have they been around long enough that they are now kind of mundane, “Hey Bob, yeah someone on fire just flew through the office so we have to shut down for the day again. Yeah third time this month.” Or are they so new to the scene that every time they are seen it makes international news headlines, “HEY BOB! I just got interviewed by the BBC. Yeah its about that guy that was on fire who flew through the office! You can see me on the security footage gaping like an idiot sure, but what else are you going to do when someone is flying past your desk on FIRE!” Now modify those statements based on the timelines placement in history. What would that sound like in the 1300’s? Or maybe in the 2200’s?

So some of these possible settings will take more work than others. Unless of course you are already a hobbyist/enthusiast/big geek for, any of the elements that is going to make the timeline easier for you to work with. Altering history can actually be one of the hardest to work with as you have to build your NPC’s into the context of actual history. The morals, values, methods of speech and expression, all come into play. And I can promise you that you will have players that look into world history and try and prove you wrong so they can get away with something. If you go modern you will have all he basic challenges with a timeline. Everyone will want to know when and how things changed. If you go future you can get away with just about anything because even taking Moore’s Law into account, predicting where technology, and social culture will be in two hundred years is really not all that feasible. If you are going onto another world then you end up facing all of these challenges and then some. And in that you can truly make everything your own, but then again you have to convey that to all of the people gaming in that world and help them get their grounding in that world.

Even though all that can seem intimidating you need to remember the biggest question in all of this.

What do you want to have fun with? 

Answer that question and all of these world building steps should fall into place fairly easily.

So on my side I already mentioned that I was going to go near future. My plan was to take things forward to about 2040 to have my event that adds supers. I have some details worked into that but those are for another time. Then to have the game setting active I was going to push that to about 2080. That means the world has had forty years to come to grips not only with the event and its impact, but the presence of super-humans and what they can do. It even allows time for cultural, and social bias to build up. Because fear and prejudice make such awesome story telling elements. Just ask the X-men if you don’t believe me.

Anyway so thats it for now, for 2018 really.

So keep up the gaming, keep up the fun and keep your mind open. Gaming is here for your enjoyment, so make up your own mind as to what works for you and have fun.

Now gimme the dice, I have to see where in 2019 things will go crazy…er

 

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World Building 302 – Which Earth?

Hey there readers…

So when you are building a super hero world for gaming in you need to really establish which if any earth you want to be playing in.

Just to give you a few options to think about…

  • Current Earth. History and everything else up to the start of the game is exactly as everyone knows it. This sort of world was established in Marvel’s New Universe in the 80’s.
  • Alternate Earth. Like in the Freedom Fighters by DC in which WW2 went the other way and the United States is occupied by enemy forces.
  • Fantasy Earth. My favorite version of this kind is in the Morgan Le Fay stories in the Avengers. Specifically
    • MORGAN CONQUEST: Avengers #1-4 (Vol.3)
    • Script: Kurt Busiek
      Pencils: George Perez
      Inks: Al Vey with Bob Wiacek (#4)
      Colors: Tom Smith
      Editor: Tom Brevoort
  • Future Earth. A personal favorite here is the Legion of Superheroes by DC. Pretty much any version of them as long as they have Timber Wolf.
  • Not Earth. One of the best examples of this I have would actually be not in comics, but a published game setting called Scraypers. Unfortunately it does not have a wiki of its own that I could find, so I may have to do a review later to give it more exposure.
  • Comic Book Earth Standard (CBES). SO the majority of comic books set things up so that at some point in the past superpowers became a thing. So Earth is similar to what we usually see, but there are supers in history as well. Oh and maybe gods are real too. And no I am not going to put a link in this one… you can wiki it yourself for just about every major setting.

So why go through this step at all?

Because with this simple step you can give everything you do in the rest of your world building a serious level of flavor.

Some feel that this step should come before the origin of power. And if that works for you then go for it. I like making this the second step though because the origin of power can limit or enhance your choice of Earth.

For example, if you want all powers to come from aliens granting powers to a certain portion of the population. Lets see how that shapes up with the types of starting Earth.

  • Current Earth. This gives you a pretty convenient event to start the setting up with. It also gives you a great explanation as to why there have not been powers around before. And it gives you a mystery of WHY did they do it to explore.
  • Alternate Earth. So maybe the grant of powers came in the past and from that event history changed. There could be a serious why in the story. But it could also be interesting to explore what would have happened if historical military cultures had developed powers and how would culture have changed.
  • Fantasy Earth. So who says the aliens have to be from space. Maybe they are the Fae, or Angels and Demons. Half the powers are seen as sorcery and the rest mean you have the blood of some creature in you, like a giant if you are big and strong. Then again they may be aliens from space and the local culture just refuses to understand that and goes with the magic thing as an explanation anyway.
  • Future Earth. So, maybe humans traded with another species for the way to grant powers. Or it is part of some military draft. Or maybe the gift of powers is how the aliens set up their chosen to rule the world for them.
  • Not Earth. I am way to into the weeds of this idea to really flesh out examples other than to say, what if humans were the aliens that granted powers to a culture not on Earth.
  • CBES. In some ways this fits into existing settings like in the standard Marvel continuity the Celestial’s are responsible for tinkering with genetics that develop into the mutant gene, wayyyy back in prehistoric times…. or at least in one version of the Marvel continuity that is how it happened.

So I will freely state that you can get to this same conclusion by going either way first, origin of power or choice of world. But this method works better for me. Just as I say in almost every review I do, dont just take my word for it. Think for yourself and make a choice as to what works for you.

So in the world that I am building out as an example in this World Building series I have decided that I am going to be using a celestial event for the origin of powers. A solar flare of significant proportion. Something that science as we know it says should not have done what it did to humanity. I am putting that as an event in the past of a slightly future Earth. That way technology has taken another few major steps. This way I will have genetic mutation and higher tech as potential power sets. And it is in a world where I can have some freedom to do things like having flying cars or AI and have it up and running in the same way that Gene Roddenberry had envisioned in Star Trek, if the technology is common in the setting you dont really have to talk about it until it works to do so in the story. I would not have to tell you why there are flying cars or spend ten chapters in a book explaining how and why it works. They are there and as a part of the setting you accept it because it is common place.

I also have a system picked out that I want to use, but we will go into that later.

So not that big of a post this week, but I hope you are having fun rolling forward with this version of world building.

Game on, game loud.

Now gimme the dice, I have to see how many power sets I can overload in one character at once.

 

 

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World Building 301 – Origin of Power

Hey there readers

So I cant find an image that really supports what I want to say here, but maybe you can. After reading the article, if you can find something please forward me a link to it in the comments.

So what are we talking about when we say what is the origin of the powers of superheroes?

Well lets look at a few examples…

  • The X-men all gained their powers by a quirk of genetics.
  • Green Lantern gained his powers because someone gave him a ring.
  • Superman gained his powers because he was born on another world
  • Hellboy has powers because he is a demon.
  • Hulk got his powers from radiation.
  • Doctor Fate got them from a helmet and study.
  • Batman got what counts as powers from training and cash.
  • Deathlok got a ton of machinery added to him.
  • Red Tornado got powers by being built that way.

There are tons of others out there too. So why should that concern you at all when setting up your game? Well as it turns out a lot of existing game engines come with pre-generated worlds with some interesting backgrounds as to how the powers came about. And while you do not have to use them at all, it can actually make things a lot easier on your players if you set some specifics in place.

A few examples from game engines include…

  • In GURPS Supers from GURPS second edition, the timeline for the world says that 99% of superhumans come from genetic manipulation done on humanities genetic ancestors.
  • In Champions 5th edition all of the available supers, no matter the style, stem from the fact that magic came back into the world allowing physics to be broken in some very serious ways. That’s right even super science is because of magic.
  • In Godsend Agenda powers came from alien races that could use energy called Ka, or had a genetic disposition to shape shifting (over simplification)

While in others it does not really matter because you can do just about anything for any reason as long as you pay the points or follow the classes.

Ok so again why is it important? The answer is because of how easy it can make things on you and your players. If you can literally do anything for any reason with any character… well then you can come up with a lot of things that have no reason to be together and it also can make power gaming all sorts of ridiculous. If you take an example of Grond in Champions. Most of his origins end up reading something like… “prisoner who offer to be in an experiment. Experiment went wrong and he ran. Into toxic waste. Only to get hit by lightning. And run over by a magical super. And got smacked by something cosmic. And then got shot. And then he transformed into Grond.” Not the actual origin of the character but as you can see it kinda got out of control.

It makes it a lot easier on everyone if there are only one or two ways to gain powers. In giving things limits you can have a much easier reason to gather characters together.

However if you do keep things wide open, you can get some really creative stuff out of everyone. Just getting your players to become a team after all the diversity that created them can be a serious adventure in and of itself. It is just going to take more time and more work to make sure everything meshes together well.

If you limit the origins of powers you can also get a fairly concise origin for supers in your world. Timelines are easy to establish and quick to run.

If you go wild you need to figure out how everything integrates together, if it does at all.

Lets go back to a couple of pre published game worlds.

Marvel Super Hero Role Playing Game.

In this game setting you have the entire Marvel Universe at your disposal. And that means that magic, aliens, and cosmic entities have been around forever. Mutants have been around for quite some time but they are relatively new to the scene. Genetically modified races have been on earth since prehistoric times. Since time travel exists it is possible that in some alternate futures superpowers are common to all humans. Alien hybrids are a thing too.

So now you have to figure out how all of those things come together. Or do you even care? In the end that will be up to you.

Champions 5th Edition.

Ok so everything comes from the fact that magic surged into the world. In the past surges have happened and caused human myths. It has also allowed super advanced alien races to defy physics and create ancient artifacts that others can find. And you can learn or have a genetic disposition to magic and just manipulate the raw stuff. Everything comes from magic. The thing is unless you are a mage you wont know that. So you can freestyle origins, but in the end it is all magic.

Both of these game engines allow you to do, well, anything you could want. But one gives you a singular origin for everything and that allows you to tie things up neatly even when the players think they are a mutant, an alien, and a guy in power armor. In fact all of them can do these things because of magic. You take the magic out of the environment, or even tone it down a lot, and everything would start to fail.

For myself I am using a system that comes with a few possible origins. But I am only going to use some of them. That way I can put a real origin point on each one. That will also allow me to create an environment with a few more human characteristics, like bias and prejudice being at the forefront of a lot of stories.

Now then the second reason it is important is because when you take into account the origin of all powers, you can set power limits easier. More on that in a later article, but really the origin, if you think about it… ok lets go like this.

  • All powers come from training. There is no magic. So the most powerful characters would be like Batman.
  • All powers are granted by the gods and so your average character has powers and power levels like Thor.

I think that is kind of extreme but it gives you a very clear picture of the kind of differences that origin of power can influence in other decisions later.

I will start a summary of my choices in my build an article or two down the line. So for now… thats it folks 🙂

I hope everyone is having a great time and gaming the backsides off.

Now gimme the dice, I gotta see if Batman could smack Zeus and get away with it.

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