Thursday, December 7, 2017

Not-so-super villains

The Red Hood's gang of re-furbished C-listers
The general consensus among my kids is that they want me to continue to run a superhero campaign, but are getting a little sick of the rules-light system Bash! (always with the exclamation point in the title).  So I'm considering re-tooling the campaign with new rules, if not resetting the entire story.  Because Bash! was supposed to be a "beer and pretzels" game to get me by until the next big thing, I hadn't bothered going too deep, plot-wise.

So right now, I'm thinking about the foundation for a new supers game, and what's on my mind is Brian Michael Bendis' run on The New Avengers and the several iterations that followed, up through the "Siege" storyline.  This isn't too surprising since it is Bendis' work that formed the core of the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game, which I ran for a long while.

Bendis began his arc with the "Breakout" event in which Electro is hired to bust Sauron out of the Marvel version of Supermax called the Raft, an island off the coast of New York City (because that's where you ought to keep all your supervillains).  Containing the subsequent chaos is what brings most of the heroes together who will form the core of the new Avengers roster: Captain America, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, etc.

But the Breakout event also established a group of supervillains who would become the core of the antagonists throughout his run, individuals who had successfully escaped.  Over the next many years, very few new villains would actually be introduced, but instead Bendis would rely on using and re-using the same characters.  Most of the time the villains would be under the command of a smarter, more powerful chief antagonist such as the Red Hood or Norman Osborn.  There were some heavy hitters like the Living Laser and Count Nefaria, some mid-tier threats like the Mandrill and the U-Foes, and some that barely qualified as mooks like Crossfire or Razor Fist.  Eventually the Red Hood would resurrect most of the downright D-listers that were casually killed by the Scourge at the "Bar with No Name" massacre.  You can find a complete list of the Red Hood's gang (and hence most of Bendis' roster) here.

Bendis had decades of material to sort through and pick out some pretty lackluster character concepts to overhaul.  But it did get me thinking about world-building for superhero RPG's.  One could get by with a pretty decent campaign with really only about a dozen low- to mid-tier villains, and two or three major archvillains.  Like in the case of the Bendis Avengers, the lower-level villains could show up with some regularity as henchmen for the arch-villains or as convenient in media res sub-plots for sessions.

So time to crank out a bunch of new villains, much like I did ages ago with the "25 Villains of Christmas."  Those 25 villains were the flesh and bone of the MHR campaign.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Boldly going where we maybe shouldn't

Good gravy, it's been forever since I made a blog post about gaming.

So, I'm currently playing in a Star Trek RPG using the Last Unicorn Games iteration (my friend Adam's favorite).  I'm not sure if the game has hit its stride yet, mostly because there are a whole slew of pitfalls, and we seem to be stumbling into a lot of them.

  • Complex narratives and sporadic attendance.  Sometimes OSR people have the right idea when it comes to dungeon crawling campaigns.  A complicated multi-session storyline is a bear to maintain when different people show up for each session.  I missed a big one and hadn't a clue what was going on the last time we played.
  • Psionics.  I seem to remember there being a TNG episode about the ethical murkiness of someone using a Betazed as an interrogator, but I could be wrong.  We have two Betazed PC's--mine and someone else's, and it is hard not to ask the GM if the NPC is lying or not every time we talk to someone.  I've yet to play an RPG where telepathy didn't ruin everything.
  • Superpseudoscience.  I will confess to this pitfall myself.  I nearly wrecked most of the plot by suggesting a ridiculous pseudoscience option.  We are trying to help negotiate a deal with a planetary authority to get dilithium for the Federation.  It wasn't going well, and I posed the question of whether a Galaxy-class starship could, using the ST:TNG-level technology, made the planet's supply of dilithium worthless.  The panicked look on the GM's face told me a lot.
In the meantime, I need to get serious about my own game, which mostly involves me picking something and making a commitment to it, which is always difficult for me.  I'm always looking for that perfect game that will suit me and my legion of players, be easy to learn but complex enough to keep intelligence people engaged, with just the right level of crunch and flexibility.  

Which is ridiculous, but it keeps me from making the decision between options like Dungeons & Dragons, Blood and Treasure, and Shadow of the Demon Lord, all of which offer essentially the same genre using different rules.

Over at Strange Vistas