Thursday, October 16, 2014

Superhero RPG Appendix N Blog Challenge

I came across this interesting Barking Alien challenge by way of +Lowell Francis:
I challenge you, the Superhero RPG GM, and/or player, to list between 5 and 10 Superhero comic books, and 5 to 10 Superhero live action or animated shows or films, that typify your style of Superhero RPG campaign.
Having just started a new super-hero campaign, this stuff has been on my mind quite a bit, so all right, here we go:
  1. Fantastic Four - From as far back as the flea markets could provide, up through much of the Byrne era.
  2. Avengers - Mostly the mid-70's through the mid-80's.
  3. Rom: Spaceknight - All of it.
  4. Micronauts - All of it. This and Fantastic Four were the first comic books I followed.
  5. Uncanny X-Men - The Claremont/Byrne and the second Claremont/Cockrum run. I don't mean any slight to the others; this is just the bit that influenced me.
  6. Nova - The original series, from the 70's, with Marv Wolfman and Sal Buscema (and later, unfortunately, Carmine Infantino).
  7. Alpha Flight - Byrne through Mantlo. 
And for the shows & films... Sometimes I feel the need to justify these, so there's some blather about why I think they fit:
  1. Farscape - Farscape is the gold standard for all my role-playing games, super-hero or otherwise. Its style and attitude had a huge influence on the games I run now. If you can figure out how the characters in this show, each with their own, often violently conflicting, agendas, can come together - or somehow muddle through the crisis without coming together - you can deal with any group of players. 
  2. Transformers - Season 3 (the original series). 
  3. Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes - (I mean the Avengers cartoon that was prematurely terminated, not the obnoxious one with the movie-based costumes and Red Skull's League of Villains Least Likely to Ever be Part of a League.) I almost hesitate to count this, because watching it feels so much like reading the comic book that I take pretty much the same inspiration from it.
  4. Archer - No, seriously. While, again, not about four-color spandex super-heroes, this is another study in how wildly conflicting characters act when thrown into a dangerous situation... or an office building. And, while the comedy does often find its way into lighter moments, the way this show plays out has a lot of influence on even the more serious of my ongoing plots.
  5. Aqua Teen Hunger Force - I don't know. It's really hard to find movies or shows that have anywhere near as much influence in this area as even the most cursorily-perused comic book, and it would be cheating to count something like City of Heroes as a movie or show.
Okay, your turn.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Assembling Some Icons

So, updating from the other day: Last Friday, I took the first step towards that super-hero campaign I've been pining for.

It was over Roll20, which is a nice platform. I'd rather play in person, but you take what you can get. Somehow I think meeting my friend from Tulsa every other week in person might become impractical. Plus, I guess it's just less of an investment for everyone. That's kind of sad, in a way, but hey, whatever gets the dice rolling.

Anyway, what we did this time was play out a bank robbery with some pre-generated characters that I handed out. Emergent (well, a dude version... although who's to say the same character couldn't go back and forth?) joined some of our old City of Heroes characters in taking on The Angry Beet and his beet mite minions. Seemed to go pretty well. I made note of a few minor things to keep fixed in my brain for running Icons and things to remember for using Roll20. The plan is for them to make characters, or at least come up with a concept and three qualities so I can make a character (for people who haven't bought the rules yet) and get together again in two weeks (well, just a little over one week, now).

Crossing my fingers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I've got to get a campaign going.

Sure, I can always run convention games, but what I'm really craving is something ongoing, something that can evolve its own storylines instead of relying entirely on me to force them into place. I've got several ideas. And what I mean by that is, I've already worked out the details of several campaigns. I'm not even going to list the stuff that occasionally flits across my brain, like the 70's style UFO hunter thing or the Lost Room spin-off. These are the ones that I'm serious about, that I've already thought through and could jump right into, given the chance.

So, in no particular order:
  • Dungeons & Dragons (5e) - Nothing groundbreaking here. Like a lot of people, I'm just excited about the new edition and really want to dive in. I had a Sea of Dust (Greyhawk) campaign a long time ago that would be fun to re-hash. Plus, just, you know, D&D.
  • Robinized Rocket Age - I'm seeing a similarly life-supporting but somewhat less populous solar system than the one described, borrowing a lot from the Martian Chronicles for that particular planet. Much of it I would use as written - like the creepily domineering Europans and the jungle highlands of Venus perched above the toxic cloud-covered lowlands. At least, I would make them toxic. They might just be extra hot in the game. I do a little bit more tinkering in my head every time I open that book. It's just teeming with inspirational nuggets.
  • Mostly Micronauts - I'm fairly certain I would use Icons for this. Another option would be an adaptation of Rocket Age, but, looking at how I would adapt the characters, I think the assumptions of a super-hero game work better. Anyway, this would be mostly based on the comic book, but would incorporate other stuff, including bits of the Farscape universe, my own creations, and various other tidbits that I've been daydreaming about adding for years. A lot of my Micronauts musings have already taken shape as bits of Qalidar, but I'm craving more of the pure gonzo space opera stuff now.
  • Straight-Up Super-Heroes - Speaking of super-hero systems, I'm still gearing up to run a four-color comic book campaign. I think this is the one I'm most likely to really do. From a starting place like that, I can still jump into Microverse or basic space exploration action as the mood strikes me. The hometown would be Beta City, mostly to give me an excuse to use our menagerie of City of Heroes characters as NPCs. 
Doctor Who almost made the list, but I'm fairly satisfied with convention gaming for that. Not that I couldn't be talked into a campaign if someone were to ask. And convention gaming is probably where all but one of these will take shape. It's a pity, because it's hard to get the "exploration" vibe in a one-off adventure, and there are things you can do with recurring characters that don't work when you just say, "you know _______ and he's always pulling stuff like this," but oh well. I really can't complain about the amount of gaming I get to do.

I mean, I will, but I probably shouldn't.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Don't mind me. I'm just gonna set this down here for now.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Bringing Theater to the Mind

Andre Kruppa is an excellent GM with a great gleaming hoard of unique experience, and he's very generous with it in this book.

I'll be honest, I'm mostly too stubborn to take advice on my Game Mastering. Or lazy. I don't know. Either way, I tend to stumble along on my own and just deal with it if I find myself on an unfriendly path. Also, while I find the idea of using special lighting and other mood effects appealing in the abstract, I know that it will lose every last shred of that appeal as soon as those things move anywhere near the concrete. Heck, I don't even like miniatures. Even so, I found some useful tips for my games in here, stuff I will probably use.

Where this book really shines, though, is its practical advice on all that stuff that I don't do. If you have any interest in adding lighting, sound, and stuff like that to role-playing games, this is the book you want.

I guess that's it. If you really did read this review, I'm sorry. Your time would have been better spent earning back the paltry $3.95 it would have cost you to go ahead and buy the book on Amazon.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Trying Out Icons - Character Generation

Out of the whole assortment of my Gen Con and recently pre-Gen Con acquisitions, the game with which I had the least familiarity in advance was Icons so, after a brief wallowing phase during which I alternated between browsing various items as the mood struck me, this is the one I've spent the most time trying to absorb.

Having read through most of the book, I'm really excited by the possibilities, but it could be a while before I have the chance to try it out in person. I'm hoping to start a local campaign set in my own version of Beta City but, even if that doesn't work out, I'm already having visions of Micronauts-inspired convention games.

Anyway, Icons does have a random character generation system in addition to the point-buy one, so I can at least play around with that. I used to have all kinds of fun rolling up weird Villains and Vigilantes characters in between sessions.

Diving right in, I rolled my origin and got Artificial, which means some kind of technological or magical construct, with a +2 bonus to Strength and the Life Support power as a bonus. I rolled a 1 for the level, though, so it's not as life supporty as it could be.

Rearranging attributes is an option but, since I have no character concept in mind, and probably won't play this character anyway, I decided to lay them down old school style, right in order. Here's what I got:
     Prowess 4
     Coordination 4
     Strength 6   (rolled a 4, plus the two from being a robot)
     Intellect 3
     Awareness 5
     Willpower 5

I rolled for my powers and got three:
     Mind Control 3
     Stunning 4
     Phasing 2

Another three for specialties gave me:
     Power (I'll pick that later.)

Before I move on and pick my Qualities, I need to figure out what kind of super-hero this is going to be, and possibly re-arrange my powers a bit. I originally thought of dropping Phasing to turn Mind Control into a broadcast power, but that sounded more like villain material, so I dropped that plan in favor of a slightly more action-oriented character.

The Stunning power had been taking shape in my head as a kind of focused subsonic burst, so it seemed only natural to extend that to the Phasing power and make it all a sort of "vibratory" sort of thing. I had thought about working a similar angle with Mind Control, but I really wasn't excited about playing that power for a hero, even if I limited it to machines or something, so I dropped it entirely and turned it into a Flight extra tacked onto Phasing. I went with not breathing for my less than impressive Life Support power. If I understand the count correctly, that leaves me with a Determination of 2 (6 minus 1 for Life Support, 1 for Stunning, and 2 for Phasing/Flight).

Since Stunning is likely to be her main attack, I went ahead and picked that for her "power" Specialty. Working from my remaining Specialties, I was picturing some kind of tactical analysis/sabotage droid that developed a conscience, but then I decided that I could do better than some tired old "runaway slave" angle.

So the story goes that there was a crashed alien surveillance satellite found by a military unit. They studied it for months, eventually even probing it with help of cutting edge brain-machine interface equipment. They learned what they could from it, and then put the project aside. What they didn't realize was that, while the device had never been sentient and was now barely functional, the data itself - the combination of the alien device, the military equipment, and the way the interface adapted to the human analyst - had become a living mind.

Although lacking the skills to become a widely distributed intelligence or even take control of all the systems it inhabited, the emergent mind was able to access local personnel files and adjust the procurement systems to obtain the parts and the technicians it needed. Even this outcome was not completely under the entity's control, as several of the systems were meant to be part of an experimental body armor system designed to support crowd control teams. Eventually, however, Emergent succeeded in orchestrating her own construction.

She had to escape from her collective "mother" almost immediately, of course, but she didn't hold that against humanity in general. In fact, she looks upon humanity as... well, maybe not brothers and sisters. How about second cousins? She resembles a silvery mechanical woman and, despite her comics-code compliant mechanical anatomy, wears clothes because that's just how people are supposed to act.

Okay, this leaves me with the most intimidating part of the process, picking my three Qualities. I've played games where you write down quirks as part of the process, and where personality traits could have a mechanical effect, but this particular combination of open-endedness and mechanical importance is new to me. Okay, here goes:
     A Completely New Life Form
     Eager to Socialize
     Made of Spare Parts

These qualities fit the character, and I think they open up a lot of possibilities both for trouble and advantage. They also seem to be absent a bit of the zing I'm seeing in a lot of sample characters, though, so maybe I'm doing it wrong. The other thing that worries me is that they might all boil down to the same statement. I'll keep turning it over and see how I feel about later, I guess.

But yeah, I could totally play this character.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

#RPGaDay 28: Scariest Game Played

The scariest game I've played would probably be Horror at Harwicke Castle, a Call of Cthulhu scenario by Andre Kruppa. Andre runs his games in the dark, using professional lighting rigs, sound effects, and, sometimes, a fog machine.

I played this one at Carnage in Wonderland (2011). My character didn't technically go insane (I made my rolls), but I was getting so freaked out by what was happening that I eventually turned on the other players and begged the monster not to do to me what it was doing to them. I died, but at least it was a clean death at the hands of human beings.