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Caring too much

Recently, a member of my gaming group named Rachel started running her own game, a zombie-apocalypse campaign using the FATE rules.  Initially I thought this would like "the Walking Dead" but Rachel has interposed weird cults and alien minotaurs (all of which are excellent) which is far afield of what you'll find on the TV show.

I asked Rachel at the onset why she chose a zombie game, given that I had never heard her express enthusiasm for the genre, she said it was exactly because she didn't care for the genre very much.  She doesn't care for brutality in entertainment, or a proliferation of firearms in gameplay.  Her argument is that she would not want to experience the world as a player, but could somehow tolerate as the GM because she knew the players would enjoy it.

It seemed really cockeyed to me, because I would think that if you didn't love the game world you were creating, it would become burdensome to continue to be the navigator and adjudicator for people in it.  But I also understand at some level where she is coming from as I kick around a side-campaign in a genre I love more than any other--superheroes.

Right off the bat, I have been grinding my gears with the players about this.  If I were to describe my usual sweet spot of superhero RPG themes I would say "Silver Age with an edge."  Give me capes and spandex and villains to battle but spare me the crypto-fascist brutality (I'm looking at you, Mark Millar).  I like icons (not ICONS the RPG, although that's okay too), I like heroism.  I will throw in the odd bit of drama and conflict that transcends the simple "villain of the month" format, but nothing too outside the plate.

My players, on the other hand, don't always walk the line.  Right off the bat I had a PC whose monstrous appearance precluded a secret identity.  Another revealed his identity and powers to the first NPC authority figure he came across. The players don't seem to be looking to gel the group into a team right off the bat.

So this is the part where I basically have to let go of the fact that I am, truly, in the words of the immortal Aaron Allston, a "Genre Fiend," and that this really is collaborative storytelling.  So if a players wants to explore the ups and downs of being a hideously mutated metahuman in today's world in a semi-realistic manner, I'll do that.  Or if a player consciously or unconsciously wants to experience the implications of having a public superhero identity, I'll do that.  Or if a player needs more of sense of why relative strangers who have a shared origin but little else would form a group, then we'll figure that out together.

Which is some ways means I let go, just a little bit.  Which is hard, but doable.


  1. I am, like you, a 'Genre Fiend'. Perhaps to an event greater degree, as I view each and every genre, and its tropes as unique and special to the character of that genre. When devising a new campaign, I often want to explore a particular genre. Much to my chagrin, my players usually want to play a game, genre be damned.

    That said, I think you may want to try to do something I did, or have done, to make it work for me. In Superheroes especially, if you can find the representative of the trope, or gimmick in either of the Big Two universes, it's easier to come to terms with its existence in your own.

    For example, the Fantastic Four don't have secret identities, and never have. It's pretty much impossible for Ben Grimm (The Thing), Hank McCoy (The Beast, or DC's Dan Cassidy (The Blue Devil) to go incognito.

    The X-Men, and early Spiderman comics features heroes hated, and feared by a world they are trying to save.

    The 'Why are we teaming up to fight evil' thing is a bit annoying (Umm...we decided not to play D&D and went with Superheroes? Ring a bell?), but could be filled in with alternate motivations. Booster Gold, Sub-Mariner, and Moon Knight certainly have different rationales for being part of the superhero community then most others (even each other), yet they still manage to be members of major teams, and work with fellow Supers.

    One thing that also makes this kind of thing more palatable for me is when there are a lot of players, or at least enough to where some of them do have characters more in line with what you were hoping for.

    Our old Champions campaign had a couple of 'full time Supers' who were always in their hero identity (for whatever reasons), but it was cool and different because most of the team had secret identities.


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