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Galactic Champions-eque material?

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I'm thinking of running a Galactic Champions-esque game for my next campaign. I say "-esque" because I'm not sure how much of the actual GC/Champions Beyond setting I'll be using; like most games I run, it'll likely wind up being a mishmash of stuff from whatever source material strikes my fancy. In terms of tone, I'm thinking of a somewhat tongue-in-cheek game ala Thor Ragnarok & Guardians of the Galaxy.

 

I've never run a GC game before, and aside from this thread last year there really isn't a lot of GC discussion here. Any suggestions for material from other games/systems that might have some useful stuff? (I already have all the relevant Hero books.)

 

And in terms of source material, any good suggestions beyond the obvious: Legion of Super-Heroers, Green Lantern Corps, and the various Marvel "cosmic" titles?

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What kind of point level are you thinking of for the PCs?

 

If they have a patron, like being members of an organization like the Green Lantern Corp, that gives a slightly different feel than something more free-wheeling like Guardians of the Galaxy.

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When I have played around with "Galactic" type games, I tend to see them come out in two different modes...

1) sci-fi super heroes, or...

2) new gods

 

For example: Legion is pretty much straight superheroes (low level and high level, depending on the era) with basically just sci-fi trappings. (High technology, space travel, other planets, aliens, etc.)

 

But something like Kirby's New Gods... or, more obscurely, The First from CrossGen (back in the '90s) has more of a real "cosmic" feel... and you get "otherworldly"... "science at the level of magic"... "characters that shape reality itself" etc.

 

I guess it is possible to mix the two, but... I'd suggest being really clear about what level you are playing at (not just point levels, but expected ability to shape the universe). I know I've struggled with the first category, as supers tend to feel outclassed, and "less super" when there is technology all around them that puts their abilities to shame. I'd be really interested in how your game works out in terms of keeping the PCs feeling important and powerful and doing super things that somehow stand out in a "galactic milieu"

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Currently printing, the Royals from Marvel is at the cosmic level.  Several of the last Justice League events and the Universe smashing event in Marvel are Cosmic level.  Though to be honest, I am kind of tiring of reading cosmic level crisis-es in comics.  They tend to constantly seem to tumble the power orders of each respective universe and add something to top it just for sake of topping it.

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2 minutes ago, Steve said:

A lot of mileage could be had with a team composed of CU Empyreans from Earth wandering the galaxy looking for trouble. Maybe some of the other races in the galaxy have their own versions of Empyreans.

 

Maybe do something with the Ancient Empyreans who left Earth millennia ago to find their Progenitor creators. There's no official word of what happened to them.

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BDH, do "relevant Hero books" include the Star Hero line? Scourges Of The Galaxy includes details and NPCs from the Church of the Infinite Dark, and a time-traveling future version of Tateklys, who would make fine foils for GC PCs.

 

From other games, I would suggest Rifts Conversion Book Two: Pantheons of the Megaverse from Palladium Games. Mythic gods from multiple pantheons wielding sci-fi ultratech, interacting with superhumans and aliens. Aliens and cosmic entities masquerading as gods. Ignoring the system, the book is a goldmine of innovative and bizarre ideas. Some of them are horrific, others quite comical. (Personal fave touch is the god Hermes' man-portable rail gun, which he calls "the Herminator.")

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I'm a fan of the world/universe setting of Fading Suns. The idea of playing superpowers in this kind of "dying society' would be totally my kind of game. A society based more on superstition and religion than reason and science, holding on to old "near magical" technology, etc. Taking some classic, global superhero types and inserting them into this bleak future... now that would be a game I'd love to run or play in.

 

https://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/14/14343.phtml

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19 hours ago, RDU Neil said:

When I have played around with "Galactic" type games, I tend to see them come out in two different modes...

1) sci-fi super heroes, or...

2) new gods

 

For example: Legion is pretty much straight superheroes (low level and high level, depending on the era) with basically just sci-fi trappings. (High technology, space travel, other planets, aliens, etc.)

 

But something like Kirby's New Gods... or, more obscurely, The First from CrossGen (back in the '90s) has more of a real "cosmic" feel... and you get "otherworldly"... "science at the level of magic"... "characters that shape reality itself" etc.

 

I guess it is possible to mix the two, but... I'd suggest being really clear about what level you are playing at (not just point levels, but expected ability to shape the universe). I know I've struggled with the first category, as supers tend to feel outclassed, and "less super" when there is technology all around them that puts their abilities to shame. I'd be really interested in how your game works out in terms of keeping the PCs feeling important and powerful and doing super things that somehow stand out in a "galactic milieu"

 

One thing I'd suggest to keep superheroes "super" is to steal something from the old Mayfair DC Heroes game.  In one of their Legion of Superheroes supplements, they explain why starships aren't as super-powerful as you might expect.  You don't really get Super Star Destroyers or Death Stars in the Legion universe.  Instead the starships are smaller and less powerful.  Somebody wanted to know why.

 

The answer is because those mega-ships are really expensive, and no matter how tough you make them, Superboy can still smash through them without a problem.  The really high-end supers can take apart a fleet of giant warships in an afternoon.  To avoid that occurrence (which could bankrupt your entire empire), you build smaller ships so it doesn't hurt so much if you lose one.  This can help keep a lot of the super-tech rare, especially when it would outclass your PCs.  They aren't engaging in space combat with ships that have 100 PD and 30D6 RKAs, because Captain Super Surfer, who has a 9 Speed and a 250 point Cosmic VPP, can make the Imperial Colloso-Dreadnought vanish.  And won't Emperor Glurgg be pissed that you wasted so much of his money.

 

Even if the average member of the Legion of Superheroes can't take down those massive ships, guys like Superboy, Mon-El, Cosmic Boy, and Element Lad can.  The galaxy just has to have enough ultra-powerful people to make those things not cost effective.  So instead you're getting enemy ships that do damage and have defenses that your players can deal with.  Galactic Champions was for characters around 700 points, as I recall.  Attacks somewhere in the range of 20D6 or so.  That should be plenty powerful for an enemy spaceship.

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5 minutes ago, massey said:

 

One thing I'd suggest to keep superheroes "super" is to steal something from the old Mayfair DC Heroes game.  In one of their Legion of Superheroes supplements, they explain why starships aren't as super-powerful as you might expect.  You don't really get Super Star Destroyers or Death Stars in the Legion universe.  Instead the starships are smaller and less powerful.  Somebody wanted to know why.

 

The answer is because those mega-ships are really expensive, and no matter how tough you make them, Superboy can still smash through them without a problem.  The really high-end supers can take apart a fleet of giant warships in an afternoon.  To avoid that occurrence (which could bankrupt your entire empire), you build smaller ships so it doesn't hurt so much if you lose one.  This can help keep a lot of the super-tech rare, especially when it would outclass your PCs.  They aren't engaging in space combat with ships that have 100 PD and 30D6 RKAs, because Captain Super Surfer, who has a 9 Speed and a 250 point Cosmic VPP, can make the Imperial Colloso-Dreadnought vanish.  And won't Emperor Glurgg be pissed that you wasted so much of his money.

 

Even if the average member of the Legion of Superheroes can't take down those massive ships, guys like Superboy, Mon-El, Cosmic Boy, and Element Lad can.  The galaxy just has to have enough ultra-powerful people to make those things not cost effective.  So instead you're getting enemy ships that do damage and have defenses that your players can deal with.  Galactic Champions was for characters around 700 points, as I recall.  Attacks somewhere in the range of 20D6 or so.  That should be plenty powerful for an enemy spaceship.

 

I guess... but as soon as you try to force justify something in a superhero universe with "money" or pseudo-science or whatever, it is a slippery slope. The simple fact is that Legion and many of even current cosmic super-stories are based on a "Don't think about it too closely, or at all, becausethe entire concept unravels pretty quickly." type of premise. Problem is, most players I know don't just blindly follow genre-conventions, but question them intensely. With your explanation, that Superboy and Monel are still godlike, even vs. magically advanced technology of the future... well then I really want to know why a) anything at all is a challenge for them? Why do they need a Legion when they are so unstoppable? or b ) why haven't those powerful characters become galactic rulers, since nothing can stop them... benevolent gods?   or c) why isn't society not vastly more weird and warped if such powerful beings existed...as people worship them, institutions and societies grow up around them... or d) how is the Legion allowed to exist I the first place, what keeps them in check, and if they have the power to keep them in check, why do you need a Legion?

It all spirals into "This just doesn't make sense."

 

Social order would collapse and change into something unrecognizable in very short order if metahumans were real, especially if Superman or that level of power in a single individual actually existed. 

 

I've said this before... so many of comic book genre conventions and the kinds of stories they tell (superhero comics) are, at best, highly inconsistent... and at worse, completely absurd. One of the challenges of RPGs, when you start to put stats and rules and simulations to a genre... is that it exposes these ridiculous tropes, and most gamers don't support them any longer. As our average person becomes at least a bit more scientifically literate (and gamers tend to be higher on that scale) so many ideas written in comics just don't hold up to much scrutiny at all. When you start placing a supers campaign in a sci-fi milieu... it only exacerbates that trend. Everyone wants to know exactly how the technology works and why it works that way, and what are the ramifications of such technology, and the fact of supers and how they are defined, and what makes them super in comparison to sci-fi tech just spirals into collapse of the entire game... unless you've really thought through this kind of thing ahead of time, and have some very tight, consistent, and in-depth set of answers.

 

If you have those answers, I'd love to play in your world.

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At risk of immodesty, I'll suggest my Spells of the Devachan mini-supplement (available through the HERO store!) as a source for a galactic-scale magical milieu. No one has shown enough interest for me to write Foes of the Devachan, Worlds of the Devachan or anything else, but I'm sure you can file the serial numbers off other Hero System material and use it as the demonic Catabolics, the sword-and-sorcery magi of savage Perilune, the plasma entities of Irradion, and so on.

 

Dean Shomshak

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11 minutes ago, DShomshak said:

Your experience, then, is quite different from mine. But I do not claim to know what "most players" are like: only what the people I play with are like.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

I said "most players I know"

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Neil, for me superheroes don't become interstellar tyrants and gods for the same reason they don't on Earth -- they're super heroes. They're the best of us, they stand for ideals, they use their might for right. The would-be tyrants and gods are the super villains, who are kept in check by the heroes, exactly as they are on Earth. If you need an overarching rationale for that, you can say it's a manifestation of cosmic balance, the Light and the Dark of the Force, as it were.

 

I haven't seen a greater desire to explain the science of supers in a sci-fi setting, than in the universes of Star Trek, or Star Wars, or Babylon 5, which have their own superhuman beings. As long as there's some general reasonable rationale, internal consistency and logic are far more important than the precise physics.

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10 hours ago, RDU Neil said:

 

I guess... but as soon as you try to force justify something in a superhero universe with "money" or pseudo-science or whatever, it is a slippery slope. The simple fact is that Legion and many of even current cosmic super-stories are based on a "Don't think about it too closely, or at all, becausethe entire concept unravels pretty quickly." type of premise. Problem is, most players I know don't just blindly follow genre-conventions, but question them intensely. With your explanation, that Superboy and Monel are still godlike, even vs. magically advanced technology of the future... well then I really want to know why a) anything at all is a challenge for them? Why do they need a Legion when they are so unstoppable? or b ) why haven't those powerful characters become galactic rulers, since nothing can stop them... benevolent gods?   or c) why isn't society not vastly more weird and warped if such powerful beings existed...as people worship them, institutions and societies grow up around them... or d) how is the Legion allowed to exist I the first place, what keeps them in check, and if they have the power to keep them in check, why do you need a Legion?

It all spirals into "This just doesn't make sense."

 

Social order would collapse and change into something unrecognizable in very short order if metahumans were real, especially if Superman or that level of power in a single individual actually existed. 

 

I've said this before... so many of comic book genre conventions and the kinds of stories they tell (superhero comics) are, at best, highly inconsistent... and at worse, completely absurd. One of the challenges of RPGs, when you start to put stats and rules and simulations to a genre... is that it exposes these ridiculous tropes, and most gamers don't support them any longer. As our average person becomes at least a bit more scientifically literate (and gamers tend to be higher on that scale) so many ideas written in comics just don't hold up to much scrutiny at all. When you start placing a supers campaign in a sci-fi milieu... it only exacerbates that trend. Everyone wants to know exactly how the technology works and why it works that way, and what are the ramifications of such technology, and the fact of supers and how they are defined, and what makes them super in comparison to sci-fi tech just spirals into collapse of the entire game... unless you've really thought through this kind of thing ahead of time, and have some very tight, consistent, and in-depth set of answers.

 

If you have those answers, I'd love to play in your world.

 

Ah.  I see the problem.

 

Your group doesn't like superheroes.  You like people with powers.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  But I'm not going to be able to explain to you what is cool about a particular genre, any more than you could make me like jazz by talking about it.

 

It's like if I'm saying what a cool movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure was, and you go "why didn't they just go back and murder Ted's dad?  Then he can't send Ted to military school..."  I can't logically explain why they didn't do that, except that's just not what you do in an 80s teen comedy.  I guess if you don't like those movies, it doesn't really make sense?  But, damn dude, I can't explain why D&D characters want to get treasure and magic items either.

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9 hours ago, massey said:

 

Ah.  I see the problem.

 

Your group doesn't like superheroes.  You like people with powers.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  But I'm not going to be able to explain to you what is cool about a particular genre, any more than you could make me like jazz by talking about it.

 

It's like if I'm saying what a cool movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure was, and you go "why didn't they just go back and murder Ted's dad?  Then he can't send Ted to military school..."  I can't logically explain why they didn't do that, except that's just not what you do in an 80s teen comedy.  I guess if you don't like those movies, it doesn't really make sense?  But, damn dude, I can't explain why D&D characters want to get treasure and magic items either.

 

Actually, I'd totally agree with that. The long running games were exactly that... people with powers, and what does that mean? It is what I've wanted for nearly fifty years of reading comics... it is what superhero comics promise ("Here is this fantastic, interrelated universe of people with powers!") but never deliver ("Oh, don't expect consistency, or actually well thought out plots or character development, and we'll just ignore or rewrite anything that is inconvenient to the fan-fic I currently want to write.") etc.

 

The whole point to playing Champs and creating our own world and developing our own characters was to do the things the comics never did, not just simulate what has already been done. (Mainly because what is done in comics is wholly inconsistent... want to simulate Batman? Well, which version, in which milieu... the pulp detective, the dark knight martial arts crime fighter... the god-like has-an-answer-to-everything-can-somehow-stand-next-to-Superman version?) The game system just reinforces this. As soon as you stat out exactly what a characters energy blast looks like, or exactly how heavily armored a tank actually is... you start to run up against these inconsistencies (wait... how much STR do I need to actually demolish a tank like the Hulk does with one punch? 200 or more? wait... what?).

 

There are other systems that more accurately support "genre simulation" than Hero. Hero's deconstruction of everything down into codified mechanical effects forces a level of "realism" in how the super PC interacts with the world environment. Once this is established, it pretty much locks the "physics" of the game shared imaginary space, providing a solid basis for logical "cause and effect" to play out in a way that comics rarely do. (Hey, that street level martial artist really can't stand up to this demi-god of fire, so the idea they are equal parts of the same team doesn't make sense... etc.)

 

So many genre conventions are immediately called into question by the mechanics of Hero... the rest start to fall, if you think even remotely critically about them.

 

And yes... I can't stand D&D, and every time I've played, I'm sitting there going, "What is the point? Why is my character doing this? What is my motivation? Why should I, the player, care about what's in the next room?"

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15 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

Neil, for me superheroes don't become interstellar tyrants and gods for the same reason they don't on Earth -- they're super heroes. They're the best of us, they stand for ideals, they use their might for right. The would-be tyrants and gods are the super villains, who are kept in check by the heroes, exactly as they are on Earth. If you need an overarching rationale for that, you can say it's a manifestation of cosmic balance, the Light and the Dark of the Force, as it were.

 

I haven't seen a greater desire to explain the science of supers in a sci-fi setting, than in the universes of Star Trek, or Star Wars, or Babylon 5, which have their own superhuman beings. As long as there's some general reasonable rationale, internal consistency and logic are far more important than the precise physics.

 

I get this argument, but to me that is a really limited view of what "hero" means.  Is a hero only the one who supports the status-quo of a mid-20th Century America? What about the hero who fights for the disadvantaged members of society who are being abused by a corrupt law enforcement system? Take that to the level of a god-like character of Superman or whoever... why isn't he a hero for overthrowing 40,000 years of human "civilization" that only exists by having an expendable workforce to exploit, and instead ushers in a era of peace and prosperity for all under a benevolent dictatorship? Seems pretty heroic to me.

 

And yes, when it comes to the science, there isn't a need to have it all detailed out like true physics, but being extremely consistent (like Star Wars is not... I rather groan at all the absurd inconsistencies in Star Wars 'science' all the time)... where as B-5 (great show... terrible acting... but great show) really worked hard to be internally consistent with its demonstrations of science and super-science. It doesn't have to be perfect, but the effort needs to be there.

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39 minutes ago, bigdamnhero said:

(Longer reply when I have more time, but for now...)

Actually I’m enjoying the discussion, so derail away. 

 

Ok... you asked for it... :)

 

(Seriously... only bother reading if you have any interest in an overblown perspective on science fiction and superhero gaming.)

 

So, let me show a scenario that actually began to be explored in our game. Hopefully it demonstrates the kind of "science fiction" I think supers, or people with powers, can explore:

 

There was a long running PC named Thermal. (Super scientist type with flame-on type powers)... years of playing the character, he went from an awkward guy running a soup kitchen and trying to figure out what to do with his powers and knowledge, to the leader of a nation of metahumans who had a seat on the UN, forged alliances with other nations to balance the belligerence of the US and Russian "super power" aggression... lead an army of supers into China to end WW3, etc.


Along the way, Thermal's player was really into the idea that Thermal was contributing to the development of new and radical scientific theories and practices. He actually, over time, developed a comprehensive theory on the basis of meta-biology, and was awarded a PhD for his contributions. The Thermal Bio-Dynamics theorem eventually lead to the beginnings of bio-engineering and uplift technology. As the game advanced, and the world went through a massive alien invasion that lasted 10 years and wiped out half or more of the world population, Thermal brought up the debate that the only way to really save as many people as they could, and to enable people to survive and thrive and help fight off the invasion, was to begin offering bio-engineering for anyone who wanted it... and he'd actively push for it.

 

He wouldn't force anyone to be uplifted, but he couldn't understand why anyone would want to remain "baseline." Also, by making the choice not to uplift, a person opted out of the society he was building. Baseline human had no inherent value. Not being uplifted was like choosing to not be vaccinated. You can do so, choose not to play by society's new rules, means you choose not to receive society's protections and support as well. It was a powerful philosophical exploration that grew out of the nature of "people with power" and what would happen if they really existed. (we never got to take it very far, because the campaign ended up with those characters on a galactic journey that, due to relativity, would essentially result in their never returning to Earth in the timespan of the game).

 

This is the kind of sci-fi that I can get behind. These are the kind of questions that bubble up as a world grows around "people with power." This campaign had hundreds of PCs over years of various different teams, groups, time periods, etc. Characters grew up, aged, died, retired, or became something more than human which caused them to question assumptions of what "good" is, and what a moral, ethical use of power looks like.  We had PCs who became major political players, lead a colonization of Mars (the presence of supers who could fly payloads into orbit for almost free vastly accelerated space programs, super science drove advancements in technology, etc. These developments also caused massive political unrest as the question of nations and benefits, and who gets access rose up.) We had a long running exploration of god-hood, with one PC actually 'crossing the threshold' and becoming divine (essentially evolving the PC out of playability, but it was complicated) and the realization of the true nature of the "gods" of myth. It was a long running campaign that hit its 30th anniversary last year, probably ending with "And a new Era had begun..." A literal next-generation of heroes (one PC was the daughter of another PC who grew to adult hood in real time in the game) trying to rebuild Earth after the devastation of the invasion... previous heroes dead or missing... the major PCs (Thermal, Vector, Locke) off on a galactic voyage of discovery, searching for the Progenitors.

 

Essentially, I tell you all this because it meant that I wrestled with these "science fiction" questions for years, as primary GM of this world (the RDU, Red Dragon Universe, hence my login name). We had discussions as a playgroup (several playgroups over the years) about the scope of super-powers vs. technology... expectations of the players compared to source material and in the context of consistent world building. It was not always easy, and mistakes were made, and lots of meta-game discussions were had. What was the nature of interstellar transport? What was the nature of teleportation and what kind of technology could cause it? What were the economics of super-powers and super-technology? Where did VIPER get its money for hidden underground bases? How did cities handle the economics of rebuilding after a super-battle? What were the different levels of technology available, and why didn't the cops have blasters just like VIPER agents? What happens when the public realizes aliens are real, and how does that undermine traditional human social structures? Same with metahumans? What about magic and gods?

 

One of the main things I wrestled with was "What is alien civilization like? What is the "known universe" when you realize just how (nearly) infinitely large the universe really is? I had to work out at least the basics of different alien life, societies, types of technology and species motivations that would be different from humans. How high level was the alien tech? How far did galactic federations and empires actually reach.  (Like, for all its massive reach... the three main alien bodies... the Confederation, the Azure Empire and the Tresselaine Facet spanned enormous territory... but it all was contained within the Orion Arm of the Milky Way.)  There were decisions to maintain the massive wonderful size of the Universe, and not just have people jetting between galactic clusters like they were taking a cab across town. The immenseness of space, the hostile environment that is space... the uniqueness of life bearing worlds... the scope of time that is way beyond human comprehension... we wanted to keep all that. It challenged what it meant to be super, because super is relative.

 

In one meta-game play discussion, we talked about what would happen to those PCs who might be immortal. The concensus that Thermal would one day be a sentient star, a power and intelligence beyond our understanding who could affect change at the atomic level, and spend eternity learning what there was to learn, was really profound in understanding how the player viewed the game world and his charcter. I always wondered... would Thermal remember being human? Perhaps he created a a fold-space pocket dimension where he kept his encoded memories of an Earth long since quantum dust. Maybe in this "new universe" that Earth took on a life of its own...

 

All this to me is what comes to mind when someone says "galactic champions" and all that entails. My source material is as much episodes of Cosmos as it is comics. That is why I'd say I'd be fascinated to hear how others play out this kind of game... what questions do you wrestle with? What do your games end up looking like?

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