Sunday, May 20, 2012

Some artwork for a campaign I'm not running

I used to draw a lot more than I do now, and I thought I'd try to pick up a pencil and pen and try again.  Like Rob Liefield, I am having trouble with drawing feet.  Time to do some studying.

This guy is a villain I've thought about for a supers campaign.  Not that I'm running one right now, mind you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where things are in May

I realized, amidst my waxing on about non-existent fictional campaigns, that I hadn't been talking about how the game I'm actually in is going.

Right now I've taken over running the 4E game for my group, a solid group of six players (including my son).  I'm doing a sort of urban sandbox-style campaign where the PC's are presented with multiple options for minor or major quests and choose how they wish to approach them.  I also keep the encounters a little less structured--for some there is a sense of location, but others are more fluid.  For example in the last session the PC's were being tailed by a group that is intended to ambush them.  The PC's then find a place (using a Streetwise roll) to go where it will be difficult to be ambushed and make their stand, setting up a counter-ambush with their bow-themed ranger.

It's interesting to see how a city-based campaign plays, because I've never done one before for D&D.  For one thing, the sense of resource management is different.  One PC has begun using hirelings, which makes a lot of sense.  At this point the PC group has quite a stash of unspent gold, and given 4E's treasure inflation they now are quite wealthy in comparison to the average peasant.  Thus the PC's can throw a little coin around having people run errands, track down leads, even work as bodyguards.  Also the pacing is a little interesting; with no immediate issues, the PC's can just go home, get some rest, and recover their dailies in a way that a group that is deep into a dungeon can not.

Plot-wise, the PC's uncover a series of disappearances in town all linked to a certain area.  The PC's set up one of their own as "bait," and reel in quite a catch: a vampire!  The vampire is connected to a mysterious society called the Icicle Club, which the PC's investigate.  There they discover that not only is the club a nest of vampires but is being run by a baelnorn lich called "the Ice Lord."  In the last scene of the session the PC's are ambushed by one of the vampire lords whom they had met earlier, but it appears that he was operating without the lich's knowledge.  Now the PC's have to decide if they want to try to infiltrate the club again, or just launch an attack on the lich's nest.

Monday, May 7, 2012

How to build a supers campaign the easy way

I continue to contemplate the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game, and my biggest stumbling block has to do with whether or not, should I ever run it, to use Marvel Comics' own universe or a homegrown one.
Licensed universes, regardless of genre, have their pro's and con's.  The pro's are that you have a background familiar to at least some of your players and a load of pre-generated characters.  The con's are that the PC's are relegated to second-tier figures in comparison to the established protagonists, or at least start significantly less powerful than they are.  With MHR's very fuzzy ruleset the power discrepancy is less of an issue, but the otehr's remain.
Plus, there's the fact that really well-informed players have a tremendous knowledge of the universe far beyond what the PC's would, and you end up with some meta-gaming issues.
Homegrown universes have the plus of avoiding all the fore-knowledge issues of pre-generated ones, and you can tweak it to look just like you would want (no magic, aliens, or mutants, for example) but have one big downside: they are a lot of work.  Unless you have a supers universe where supers haven't existed before the campaign begins, the GM (or excuse me, "Watcher") has to at least come up with the concept, if not the stats, of dozens of other heroes, villains, agencies, etc.
So late last night I'm up because of work and so I'm wresting with the issue of how to do a homegrown supers universe without having to do so much front-end work.  And then it hits me: the Justice Society of America.
For those who don't know, the JSA was a superhero team that began in 1940 and featured lesser-known characters that didn't have their own book.  Eventually JSA was canceled and then revitalized as an extra-dimensional counterpart to the Justice League, and then finally merged together after the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
In 2006, after a very brief and controversially-aborted run in the early 90's, a new JSA was put together featuring a combination of Golden/Silver Age heroes and various proteges of earlier heroes.  These "second generation" heroes spanned former sidekicks, descendants, inheritors of power, etc.
JSA Vol. 3, #1 Variant cover

And that's the hook.  Have each PC be a second-generation hero of some kind: anything from a reincarnation of a WW2-era hero to someone who just was inspired by the earlier figure.  There's loads of possibilities, and that means you have not only a PC, but a pre-existing NPC that can be worked into a story.  I might even allow a person was has descended from a villain but has adopted the mantle of a hero.  Really creative players could even work an arch-rival of their "parent" hero into their backstory.
And it really works for players who struggle to come up with a "hook" for their characters but instead just slap together an impressive set of powers, and you have a reason for the team to be together.

I have to think on this, but I like it.  Comments welcome.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Pathfinder Experiment, Part Two

We finished up our Pathfinder campaign last Friday.  It wasn't a long session for a couple of reasons but the biggest being that we still had a couple of players who could dish out 60+ points of damage in a single blow.
This actually illustrates for me my biggest gripe about the entire Pathfinder experience, namely that the effectiveness of PC's in combat is directly proportional to how well you understand the game, and it's a steep climb.  Many players just build fairly straightforward PC's without a lot of examination of the feats, etc. while others went online and spent quite some time figuring out the best combos.  The latter group ended up dominating combat over the others, almost to the point of being detrimental.  This was especially the case for younger players who really didn't understand the rules.
I don't blame the guys who spent time researching their characters--their PC's were by-the-book and totally street-legal.  It's just the gaps that existed between people who were taking out CR 6 opponents with one blow (at fifth level) and the ones that complained that they were "just shooting toothpicks" were really painfully obvious.
After it was done my son were upstairs and later came down and apologized for how badly he thought it had been.  He was one of the low-end PC's, a druid he built just to have an animal companion.  I told him people had fun and there were some good moments in the game, but I think that he won't be hassling me to play this again for while.

Not-so-super villains