Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Premise Beach: Metropolis/Gotham

In my continuing "what do I want to run now that I've been asked again" series (better known as "Premise Beach" from the old Kids in the Hall skit), I present another premise.

To understand it, first I want to talk about one of the bigger differences between DC and Marvel Comics.  While Marvel is set in the "real world," with most of the superheroes living in and around New York City, DC has always relied on ersatz versions of American cities, the two best known examples being Metropolis and Gotham City. There's others: Keystone City, Central City, etc. all featuring pretty generic names and looking just as generic.  But Metropolis was always Superman's city, while Gotham was the Batman's home.

Both cities have a different feel, more than just "New York by Day" and "New York at Night."  Metropolis was always modern, bright, and fairly prosperous, fitting for the Man of Tomorrow.  Gotham was always decayed, dark, and poor, just the haunt for a man living constantly in the trauma of the past.  In both comic book mythologies, the city itself possesses the qualities of a character unto themselves, much like how in FATE a location has Aspects like a PC.

So here's my idea.  I have two groups: a novice group of mostly pre-teens, and a veteran group of adults.  I run two supers groups in the same city, but the novice group is the flashy, four-color group.  The veteran group is the gritty group.  It's not dissimilar from what happened in Aaron Allston's Strike Force campaign (which used Champions II at the time).  The initial group had a real mix of PC supers types in terms of style and theme, and eventually several of the PC's split off to form a separate group, Shadow Force.

So again, like the sci-fi concept before, I can re-use locations, NPC's and even tie together plots, while keeping their general "style" distinct.  Maybe the Shiny Hero Team foils a bank robbery while the Shadowy Hero Team discovers that they wanted the money to fund a takeover of the city's major crime family.  This also allows for the occasional cross-over, like when Wonder Woman patrolled Gotham in the Batman's absence.

In theory the new Valiant Universe RPG is due out tomorrow, and I've got it pre-ordered on Amazon (my FLGS wasn't planning on stocking it).  But since Amazon is still telling me they really don't know when they will get it, I'm not holding my breath.  But there are loads of other supers RPG's out there.  My group ran Marvel Heroic for almost a year and liked the system a lot.  Mutants & Masterminds is a crunchier option, or I could take ICONS for a spin.  I'm half tempted to unearth Champions, which is near and dear to my heart, if only out of sentimentality (Fourth edition, none of that later stuff).

Again, thoughts? Man it sure is quiet around here these days aside from my friend Buffra (for whom I would build her dimension hopping barbarian queen for this or any of the campaigns)...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Premise Beach: the Space Station

So at the last gaming session, it was announced to the group that we will be now having two monthly games, one run by one GM, the other by myself.

I will share what I have been thinking about, which capitalizes on the fact that I have possibly two groups, not one, for my future game.  One group is my current group: mostly adults who have gamed for some time.  The other group is largely children (girls, in fact) and novices to gaming.

My idea was to put the entire campaign on a space station, sort of a much larger DS9 or Babylon 5, something more akin to a small town in space.  One group (the novices) play the staff of the station, and are responsible for its safety and operation.  They would be the Star Fleet personnel, a more directed and reactive group.  The other group (the veterans) would play a group of civilians on the same station: freighter captains, merchants, and other associated ne-er do well's.

Map by Daniel Swensen

So I could have one location (the space station), a single pool of NPC's (the crime boss, the nightclub owner, the local politico, the troublesome starship captain, etc.), and storylines that jump from one group to the other.  I could on occasion have a PC jump groups too: the staff of the space station are investigating a crime and need the insight of a civilian informant, or the civilians seek the help of the station's medical doctor in treating a sick crewmen.  In my mind it would have a bit of an "upstairs/downstairs" feel to it.

I could use the Star Trek: the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine RPG's by Last Unicorn Games to do this, or Traveller, or the new Firefly RPG.  Lots of possibilities there, both in licensed and unlicensed products.

What do you think?  Interesting?  Overly complicated?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Premise Beach: Gaming the first season of Mission: Impossible

I've been watching the television series Mission: Impossible from start to finish, and am now done with the first season.

For those who don't know, the first season didn't star Peter Graves as Jim Phelps, but instead the main IMF agent was Dan Briggs, played by Steven Hill (who went on decades later to plan DA Adam Schiff on Law and Order).  More trivia: Hill agreed to the role as long as they respected his orthodox Judaism.  The producers did, not realizing that meant that he wouldn't work on the Sabbath.  As a result, Hill was often unavailable and the series had to rely more heavily on other cast members, especially Martin Landau, who had not wanted that active a role on the show so he could be free to do movie roles.

While the cast would settle into the same five regular characters, the initial premise of the show had one sole full-time agent who would draw from a pool of volunteers or contract agents.  Despite having a consistent cast in the credits, in actuality the first season's roster of IMF agents was fairly fluid, and could have as few as two or as many as eight (although almost all of them had Martin Landau playing Rollin Hand).

I like the idea of part-time spies, and the light-hearted, clever, relatively non-violent (especially for this day and age), and moralistically black-and-white nature of the show really appeals to me these days.  In the wake of national events I'm having a bit of introspection about hobbies that have innately violent elements, so the notion of out-thinking an opponent rather than killing them has some traction with me.  Although to be fair, a lot of the bad guys in M:I would often end up being killed by their communist or criminal overseers as a consequence of whatever hijinks had occurred.

There's two ways to go about re-creating a Season One-style Mission: Impossible game.  One is to use a rules-heavy modern era game like d20 Modern or Aether.  The other is to go with a game based on a modern-day M:I premise: Leverage.  It's pretty straightforward for that system: Briggs, and then later Phelps, is the Mastermind.  Barney is the Hacker (early version).  Cinnamon is the Grifter.  Rollin is the Thief (and a little Grifter).  Willy is the Fighter.  I should stat these guys out sometime.
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