First off, I did not write this.
KA wrote this many moons ago and published it in a thread right here on this forum.
The problem is I doubt I could find it after all these years.
However, as I recognized the wisdom he was bestowing on us all, I saved it to my hard drive. I now pass it on to all of you here today.
Building a Campaign for Newbies
I am basing this on the problems I have had over the years introducing new players to Champions, and some of the solutions that seem to work.
They may not work for you, but here they are.
1) Start with comics. If you don't own, and don't want to buy, the kind of comics you hope to recreate in your campaign, check your local library, or the 25 cent bin at the local comics store. Find things that very closely match the kind of world you want to have. (See below for suggestions on that)
Insist that the players do their "homework" by reading at least some of these before you even begin to create characters.
You will save yourself endless frustration if you and the players are on the same page before you get going.
2) Plan a day with each player to create their character, individually, in private, and run through at least a simple scenario.
One player at a time.
This will give you much more of a chance to get the player "into" their character. They will also be able to try out powers and see what they do, try out skills etc.
My advice would be to come up with a scenario that allows for multiple solutions.
A bank robbery with one or two hostages.
Gathering intelligence on a Viper base.
You can run each character through the same thing, since you will be doing it one player at a time.
This will give them a good idea of what their character can do, and what they might want to change.
Be sure to let them know that this is a "simulation" or something, that doesn't count in the actual campaign.
The easiest way to kill a new campaign is to have a bunch of players who don't know who their character is supposed to be and what he can do.
They all just wander about, either killing everything they meet or doing nothing at all.
Or the one "alpha male" Player starts bossing everyone around, and all the rest of the pack establish a pattern of just doing what they are told and never making any decisions.
If you let each player get the feel of their character first, without the other players around, they will act more like the teams in the comics do.
3) No matter where you want your campaign to eventually end up, I would try to start out fairly close to Silver Age.
Well for one thing, it is not hard to darken a campaign as you go along.
The players can find out that Police are corrupt, Friends can't always be trusted, etc.
But it is almost impossible to lighten one.
Players that aren't used to the Superheroic Genre will often act like they are The Punisher with a better gun. They will see no reason not to just kill anyone who gets in their way. Which means you will quickly have The Authority on your hands. The characters will have done things that no society would accept in the name of "right". The society will react by attempts to capture, incarcerate, or kill the characters, in turn feeding their anger and paranoia, and you will quickly end up in a showdown where the characters will either rule the Earth or be buried under it.
You need to let the players get the feel of being Heroes.
Give them the chance to actually do some good.
Don't taint every victory with some sort of negative side effect.
Some campaigns seem to run on the theory that "No good deed goes unpunished."
GM: "You know that little girl you rescued from the fire last week?
She was actually the clone of Hitler's mother. A neo-Nazi group is going to rapidly age her into a teenager and create a Fourth Reich of genetically enhanced Hitler clones that release hard radiation out of their testicles.
Even if you kill all the Radioactive Hitlers, millions of people are going to develop cancer just because they were using the subways to travel around and everything is contaminated."
Even if you don't want things to be clean and perky all the time, allow the players to actually help some people and accomplish something in the beginning.
For instance, you could have UNTIL gradually become corrupt and/or anti-metahuman over the course of the campaign, due to internal problems, outside influence, etc. rather than having the players start in a world where basically everything was against them.
Heroes struggling to do the right thing in an imperfect world, is a lot more interesting than cynical jaded beings with powers, doing morally neutral things, in a cynical jaded world.
But if the players start out feeling like "everyone is against them" they will quickly descend into a Rusty Iron Age mentality.
"Who cares what we do? Everyone hates us anyway. Let's go steal some weapons from UNTIL and start blowing things up."
4) I would start out with the idea that the team is already formed. Let the players know that they are building a Team Member, not an Individual Hero.
You can come up with the background for how and why the team formed after you know who the characters are, but make sure that the players know they are part of a team.
For some reason perfectly reasonable people can be utter bastards when it comes to this topic.
It is just like the old sitcoms where someone who has never acted before gets a bit part in a movie, and is suddenly demanding to know
"What's my motivation?"
"You're at an ice-cream stand. You walk up, and say 'Give me a vanilla cone.'
How much motivation do you need? You just want an ice cream!"
"But why do I want the ice cream?
Am I trying to recapture the innocence of my childhood?
Do I have an eating disorder?
Do I have an oral fixation?
Is the ice cream symbolic of the ever-changing state of man's existence?"
I have read stories here on the boards of GM's who were never able to get their team together.
The players just kept coming up with crap like:
"Well, sure, I hear the Police sirens, but why would I follow them? Those things go off all the time. It could just be a car theft or something. I am going to stay where I am and see if the bus station comes under attack by aliens.
After all, my character does have Xenophobia as a Psych Lim!"
"Why would I tell this person how to contact me?
I don't know them.
What if it's some kind of trick?
They could be an enemy trying to discover my Secret ID.
I am going to wait until they are distracted, and then fly into orbit.
Then I will follow a random untraceable path to the Paranoia Cave and activate all the defense systems.
After that, I am not coming out for six weeks.
That way they can't find me."
You are much better off just telling the players how the team got to be a team and going from there. If you start up another campaign with these players some day, then you may want to roleplay it out, but with a bunch of newbies, it can be like herding cats.
5) The Inevitable "Loner"
Anyone who, during the creation process, starts down the "moody psychotic loner" path, should be asked:
a) Why is your character on this team? What does it mean to him? Since he hates all authority figures and won't work with anyone, what in his personality is so overwhelming that he puts up with being on a team? Why did he join in the first place?
Expect this to come up in play, often.
When your character wants to stalk off into the night, there should be a hook that pulls him back before he is out the door.
What is it?
Because I am not going to run an individual campaign for you while everyone else sits around and stares at the wall for three hours.
You can have that "type" of personality, but there must be a strong reason why, even though you don't like it, you stay with the team and follow orders.
Otherwise, come up with a concept that is more of a team player.
b) Why would the other team members put up with you?
If you are such a foul-tempered, uncontrollable, individualist, why would rational people with powers of their own put up with your crap?
Are you just crusty on the outside, with a "heart of gold"?
Do you bravely throw your body in the way of attacks that might kill other team members?
Are you the guy who "will not leave a team-mate behind" even if you die in the rescue attempt?
Why weren't you kicked off the team the first time you opened your mouth?
The other players aren't going to come up with reasons to put up with you, you have to come up with reasons you are worth putting up with, and then make sure you live up to them!
Anyway, hope this helps.