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GM Joe

What's the second-best superhero RPG?

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I did pick up Super powers companion 2 ed. Kids enjoyed it. I stared a martial arts game at pulp level. Can SW do everything that Hero can? No way. But as of now with my work schedule, it'll suffice. (Who knew chocolate has an overtime season?)

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I've been creating my campaigns the same way, long before I heard of Savage Worlds and Plot Points. To be honest, I sort of thought everybody did it that way.

I wish I could write like this.

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NIMBY'S ?

It has pretty much expanded to be the "It's fine as long as I am not inconvenienced at all crowd". I demand better bus service, as long as it happens over there. I demand a new bridge, as long as you build it over there. And so on.

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I wish I could write like this.

It's not about writing. At least for me, it is about knowing the players, their characters and having a pretty good idea of how and where they fit in. I tend towards improv campaigns where I dangle a few hooks to see which ones get nibbled at. Then, with the help of some basic resources*, we're off.

 

It's not all about the players though. I intertwine my own imprint upon the campaign as we go. When all goes as expected, my players and I have some memorable adventures. It mostly works.

 

On the other hand, I cannot find reconciliation between my style and convention style games. I'm too serial and not very episodic.

 

* bestiary, rogues gallery, maps, etc.

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Nolgroth here let me give you an idea what my problem is. In SA:CoH there is a villain named Bloodsport. His background is that he is a clone. I had a great idea for a campaign for all the players to be clones of Bloodsport. Basically same stats except each character would have a different set of martial arts. And that's it. I have no idea where to go from there.

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Nolgroth here let me give you an idea what my problem is. In SA:CoH there is a villain named Bloodsport. His background is that he is a clone. I had a great idea for a campaign for all the players to be clones of Bloodsport. Basically same stats except each character would have a different set of martial arts. And that's it. I have no idea where to go from there.

 

I'm not sure that's a writing issue per se. That's an idea generation problem; i.e., you have a premise, but nothing else.

 

Strictly speaking a premise is not a story, and without a story to tell, there's nothing much to write. The writing issues that revolve around having to structure, organize, and document something as elaborate as a Plot Point Campaign don't come into play until you're beyond the basic premise and have an actual story to tell.

 

I have the same problem when it comes to fiction writing in general. I can come up with one premise after another, but I have grave difficulty coming up with actual stories to tell based on those premises. I rarely even get to the stage where my writing skills (or lack thereof) become the next obstacle to overcome.

 

Then again, maybe it's all just semantics. To some, "writing music" primarily (if not strictly) refers to formally composing on staff paper, whereas to others it can refer to something as informal as improvising a catchy guitar riff.

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I have the same problem when it comes to fiction writing in general. I can come up with one premise after another, but I have grave difficulty coming up with actual stories to tell based on those premises. I rarely even get to the stage where my writing skills (or lack thereof) become the next obstacle to overcome.

 

I have the same problem too. Millions of ideas and very little follow through.

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Nolgroth here let me give you an idea what my problem is. In SA:CoH there is a villain named Bloodsport. His background is that he is a clone. I had a great idea for a campaign for all the players to be clones of Bloodsport. Basically same stats except each character would have a different set of martial arts. And that's it. I have no idea where to go from there.

 

Edit: Replaced Placeholder Message with Real MessageTM

 

On its face, this is not a bad idea.  The biggest potential stumble is your players. Are they aware of this? Do they approve of this? Without a buy-in from your player base, this idea is going to fall flat as a pancake. I'm not saying that it is a bad idea, but being the identical clone to not only a bad guy, but every other character at the table, will inevitably turn some players off. Players are individualistic critters and love to leave their own mark on the campaign world. Perhaps one player wants to play a female character or one a slim one compared to the beefier "base" model.

 

Here is an idea I have used to great effect before. Have Bloodsport's DNA be an essential ingredient in each characters, but not necessarily make them an identical clone. During the course of the campaign, maybe a mission brings them in contact with a source of information (person, project logs, video files, etc.) that hints at their own heritage. Later, they find another one and then another one and so on until there is no mistake that Bloodsport has some genetic parentage to the characters. This allows for some pretty diverse characters.

 

But now we have an amended premise (and still not necessarily better) you are still stuck on where to go from "here."  I am presuming that your premise has no path from premise to story. This is where knowing your players and what their preferences are, is very important. Are they combat monsters? Do they like sleuthing? How 'bout intense negotiations that can go south at the blink of an eye? Do they like or hate conspiracy shows? This is where you get the opportunity to set the stage for your audience. Whatever the group prefers overall, go with it. They like Mission Impossible inspired heists (complete with dangling mere inches above alarm lasers), give it to them. Make this about what your players LOVE to do. If you are starting up a group for the first time, session one should be feeling out what each player likes and having a serious discussion about compatibility with what the overall group and you like to do.

 

Getting from players to characters, who are these characters? Super spies part of some secret organization? UFC contestants that have joined some illegal and dangerous fighting circuit? Undercover cops with ninja skills? This is important, because you don't want to send UFC fighters on a Mission Impossible heist. That's just SyFy movie madness right there. So take that information and combine it with the first piece and you should have a pretty good idea of the first mission. Read the Disadvantages/Complications. Any social based ones like Hunted or Pysch Lims that would motivate the character. Good fodder there.

 

Now what do YOU get out of the game? What sort of stories do you like to tell? If you get nothing from the campaign, then ultimately the campaign means nothing to you. This is so important and your players need to understand that you are not just the rules referee and the guy the drops obstacles in their path. You get something from the campaign and that has to be part of the alchemical formula that makes your campaign magical. If you are invested, the players will notice and if you are enthusiastic, that will probably rub off on them a little (or a lot). Once everybody has hit that compromise spot, the game can really become great.

 

Now comes the plotting and planning.

 

Who is your major campaign villain? Is it Bloodsport? Is he a pawn of the Big Bad?  Does the Big Bad employ other agents and intermediaries? Hint: The answer to the last question should be "yes." These other agents may not even know that they are working for the bad guy, but they are. What is his motivation and what do the characters get from opposing (or even joining in on) those goals. In other words, what keeps the players coming back. Just hitting things can be fun for a spell, but eventually the big "why" question is going to come up. If there is no answer, narratively speaking, then the players may get bored with your game.

 

Now who is the BBG's first henchman that the characters are going to showdown with. What does that character get from the deal with the BBG?  Are they loyal? To what extent? Are they playing a con on the BBG? Build them up. Full character, no stars. 

 

Now build some agents/thugs/minions. They are the fodder for your characters' collective ass whuppin' skills.

 

Now build some other characters. Don't make them too specific. A few skills, stats and powers (as needed) and a very loose idea of the concept. A couple of lines on an index card is all the details you need for now. Skeleton now. Flesh later.

 

Now draw some basic maps. You can also download them. File them for later.

 

You've now got some basic resources. Hopefully you now have an idea of the kind of game you are going to plop down. Give the players some options? Do they hunt down some connection that they find evidence of? Do they infiltrate a lab or secret hideout? Do they enroll in the Death Tournament?  Let them decide. Use your resources and flesh it out as you go. Drop more hooks. Let them decide which of those to follow. Just remember to drop hooks to stories you want to tell or at least help shape and sooner or later, you will be looking back on all the good times. When it is time to wrap the campaign, wrap it up. Let it go and build another one.

 

Sheesh. That was a long message and only scratches the surface. Maybe I think too deeply. :)

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Here is a "pitch" that I wrote up for a Superhero Fantasy Game. For me, a "pitch" is not just for the players but for myself. A way to solidify the basic premise. The actual "pitch" to a potential group would start with the section call Monstrous Hunters. The early section has too much information on the bad guys. I hope this gives you a basic idea of what I am trying to convey. I don't have any actual character (PC or NPC) write-ups done, but almost everything else is in the germination stage. 

 

Disclaimer: This is not a finished product. Most of it is stream of conscious stuff, slightly dressed up to be somewhat formatted and "pretty."  Character images are from some of my Skyrim characters. Mostly used as filler while I flesh out some things. I also tend to write as if I am some narrator to a story yet untold, so if the prose is too purple, well there you go. I do intend to use this someday. Hopefully a little more fleshed out. The characters are merely samples that will be/are intended for quick start.

MonstrousHuntersPitch.pdf

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Nolgroth here let me give you an idea what my problem is. In SA:CoH there is a villain named Bloodsport. His background is that he is a clone. I had a great idea for a campaign for all the players to be clones of Bloodsport. Basically same stats except each character would have a different set of martial arts. And that's it. I have no idea where to go from there.

I like the basic idea. I think I would pitch it to the players as a one-off session to see how it works and whether it might have legs for a campaign. Once they have played it, then you will see whether it works and whether it has potential. Nolgroth is right that the players will want some serious ways to distinguish themselves from each other if it is to go to a longer campaign.

 

The switch to one-off also helps with where to go next. you need an idea for one session. If that session does not throw up the questions and thoughts for a campaign it is not fit for purpose.

 

A one-off can be anything - I think it would be cool if they all met in jail as they get picked up in a DNA sweep, each of them with a positive ID for being the person who committed a crime. The rest of the scenario is catching the real villain...

 

 

Doc

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I'm glad people liked my premise. Going back to my problem is how do I go from Premise to game? Even a one-shot? Now with this one-shot, I could do pre made characters. I know some of my paralysis is wanting the players to have their own characters but then being concerned on how they will all fit into the story. Like I said on another thread, I like plot seeds but I can't grow them at all. Does anyone use concepts for creative writing to help them flesh out a game?

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Start with a story concept you like. Since the topic is about superheroes (and we have deviated far from the OT :) ), what would be a comic book storyline that you like? When you run a game, it is, in great part, about telling the stories you want to tell.

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I'm glad people liked my premise. Going back to my problem is how do I go from Premise to game? Even a one-shot? Now with this one-shot, I could do pre made characters. I know some of my paralysis is wanting the players to have their own characters but then being concerned on how they will all fit into the story. Like I said on another thread, I like plot seeds but I can't grow them at all. Does anyone use concepts for creative writing to help them flesh out a game?

Have you not used Villainy Amok? It is like a handbook to create a plot. I think it is a fantastic supplement and while focussed on supers, the principles are easily applied to other genres.

 

Use it like a random dungeon generator, see how it generates the infrastructure and you will begin to get an idea of how to generate your own (better) infrastructure.

 

I think you might be getting too hung up on what you do next instead of just doing it! :-)

 

Doc

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One idea that comes to mind is not clearly defining what the personality of the person they are all clones with is like. Make clear this is a metagaming thing: as soon as one player does something that seems to define some sort of character aspect, other players might take actions that change the context of that trait. Or might reinforce it. Or might nullify it completely, oh, we're not really that kind, we just like people to think we are. I'm thinking maybe a short campaign would be interesting this way. As GM, you're stuck figuring out who your villain is from what your players do. How do these traits, played out heroically by the players, make the villain a villain?

 

That way, NO ONE is being forced to play someone they don't like, everyone is not only defining themselves, but each other AND their opposition, and driving the GM mad while doing it. And what player doesn't like driving their GM mad?

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Have you not used Villainy Amok? It is like a handbook to create a plot. I think it is a fantastic supplement and while focussed on supers, the principles are easily applied to other genres.

 

Use it like a random dungeon generator, see how it generates the infrastructure and you will begin to get an idea of how to generate your own (better) infrastructure.

 

I think you might be getting too hung up on what you do next instead of just doing it! :-)

 

Doc

I have it. Perhaps I used it wrong?

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I have it. Perhaps I used it wrong?

I will go dig it off my shelf and o through how I would use it with your initial idea.

 

Might not be tonight, my wife has ideas on how my time might be better spent.....and after 22 years marriage those ideas are rarely the same as they were 20 years ago. :-)

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I will go dig it off my shelf and o through how I would use it with your initial idea.

 

Might not be tonight, my wife has ideas on how my time might be better spent.....and after 22 years marriage those ideas are rarely the same as they were 20 years ago. :-)

I totally agree! ; ) And I should dig out my copy and also try it too.

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OK, she decided on an early night. :-)

 

So. Looking in Villainy Amok, the most appropriate genre here is Science!

 

The Experiment, who knows? We don't know who created the clones or what they were trying to accomplish.

 

The Horrible Consequences, we have a set of clones, all of one man, a villain, none if them with any memory of that, none of them knowing each other or the villain. Nice set up.

 

There are a couple of elements in science that might be related to this (which might give me ideas of where to go). Instead of the time machine and future or past selves (which is still a possibility) this might be a dimension machine pulling alternates from a variety of different dimensions. It may also be experiments in looking for the right alternate dimension to invade. The cloning technology might be part of experiments for the mad scientist to cure his beloved. The clones might be part of an experiment on immortality (either as a spare part bank or each has a different treatment as part of a double blind experiment!). It might be a brain stimulator that has created physical ghosts of the villain, each believing they are the original but displaying a different aspect of his personality.

 

Lots of potential here that fit the original premise and might begin to point to the reason the clones exist.

 

I think to begin, we need to choose one. We could always go back and start again. I like the brain stimulator version of things, I am going to run with that.

 

So let's begin with the intro. I like the "view from orbit". I am going to say that the clones have been identified as they appeared when the brain stimulator overloaded and each clone "landed" in a glowing ball of light. The authorities brought them all in and identified the source of the light balls. <pick your favourite mad scientist character>.

 

Developing the scenario. I like the device disabled in act II was only a prototype. What was going on? Perhaps the prototype was supposed to create duplicates so that the villain might have an army to defeat a hero, or pull off some major heist?

 

The final confrontation. Well, either we are looking at confronting the villain, who also has a set of multiples. Or the mad scientist who might be seeking to delete these failures before the villain comes looking for him.

 

Aftermath? Well this is the bit where you get the players to decide if they liked it, whether they work as a group on a normal campaign or whether the campaign is based around the mad scientist and stopping his nefarious experiments or working against the efforts of the villain to take over the world?

 

That looks like a decent framework for a scenario to me. All I need now is to firm up the basis of the duplicates, the relationship between the scientist and the villain and the ultimate goals of one or both of them.

 

Doc

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Late to the party, but I'll have to put V&V as my second, simply by virtue of being the only other one I've played aside from Champions (however it does pre-date Champions for me and I have quite fond memories - I would have gotten V&V around 1983 or 1984 and started on Champions in 1985). I do have DC Heroes 1st ed but we never got around to trying it.

 

Hey, 22 years of marriage here too, Doc! And much the same deal with the wife regarding time spent :)

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