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Supreme

Paranormal-Teen HERO

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Ever watch "Smallville," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," or "Roswell?" Seems to me that this is a nascent sub-genre that needs a little attention. The idea's a little kooky, but effective and identifiable. There's a humble, little town somewhere where things go bump in the night more than other places in the world. These bumping things are something which the authorities are incapable of dealing with so it falls to a single teen, or small group thereof, with extraordinary abilities to deal with this recurring paranormal threat. Granted, in the TV shows there's usually only one paranormal teen, so in a game you may want to make that a small group of teens with paranormal-related powers.

 

There are other distinct aspects of this sub-genre. First, the basis for the paranormal teens' abilities is always directly related to the paranormal threat. On "Buffy" the Hellmouth which resides beneath Sunnydale draws the slayer-protagonist towards it, just as it draws vampires, demons, and everything else. Another aspect is that the paranormal dangers facing the teens are always allegories for various teen issues (abuse, sexual tension, drugs, etc.).

 

So let's talk about this!

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Paranormal teens

 

It is almost like Xavier Academy minus the facility somedays isn't it? :)

 

Cool thread idea though. It might be kind of fun to expand on. I particularly like your idea of the antagonists being symbolic of RL issues the youth have to face.

 

One thing I've noticed that whether it be a group or a single individual, most of these settings have one buddy or part of the team that is the "everyman". Xander Harris in Buffy, Pete in Smallville; they are normal guys backing the main hero. Might be tricky in a game situation to balance out this with the paranormal sorts.

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First, welcome back Supreme.

 

Second, it's best if the allegories are more subtle than just the old "Magic equals Drug Addiction" hammer of the past couple of seasons of Buffy.

 

The invisible girl and the alienation of the teens from society is a much better model.

 

The normal guy is a good archetype. In a point based game system normal guy ends up with a lot of points of nothing. My normal guy had resources (not stuff, more contacts "Uncle Albert, Uncle Mike, Aunt Dana", seems like he was related to half the people in the country. ;)

 

D

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I think you are on to something here. The subgenre of 'Teen Hero' is actually more imitative of Gaming groups themselves. Instead of the single hero with a score of NPCs and DNPCs, you have a group of Characters that evolve i their own right. (I'm thinking Buffy more than Smallville).

 

In the beginning, you have the Hero (Buffy) and a group of neophytes. As the seasons go by, Giles is revealed to be a genuine Bada$$, Willow becomes a more and more powerful Witch, Cordelia (who goes to Angel to gain her own set of powers) is replaced by the Ex-Demon Anya, etc.

 

This is classic Experience points at work. This is something we haven't seen in comics since Sue Richards learned she could do more than become invisible.

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Re: xander

 

Originally posted by Hermit

I begin to think Xander has spent a lot of points in Luck, and Combat Luck ;)

 

Well, the Luck seems not to apply to his love life...

 

Let's not forget the HUGE number of points he spent in PS: Carpenter

;)

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Michtendorf

 

I've planned a "sublet" of this for the NeoChampion Universe. The hometown of the first Nova (Hyperion -- yes, the founder of Sanctuary) has since become a hotbed of low-end superpowers (I'm talking 200 point supers in a campaign where the PC's started with 400). Given that around 1 in 100,000 people in the US erupted into novas cf Champions Universe pg 31), on Michtendorf Island there are around 30 in a population of abou 50,000.

 

It's a hotbed of weirdness, especially because a high percentage of those have chosen to keep their nova-ness secret due to the harshness of the Nova Registration Act in my campaign.

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Thanks for the feedback and welcome backs, fellas.

 

Personally, I'd either interpret Xander as a follower, or as the guy who has all the useful non-combat skills -- and yes, luck. Let's face it Xander has consistently, more than any other character, has been there to pull Buffy's fat out of the fire more than once.

 

The Master drowns Buffy: Xander performs mouth-to-mouth (an experience that I'd trade 100 points of powers for)

 

Buffy and Giles are ambushed by Chumash Vengeance spirits: Xander comes to the rescue. Okay, Willow, Angel, and Anya were there too, but Xander had friggin' smallpox and syphillus when he did it.

 

Buffy runs out of tricks for taking on Glory: "And the glorified brick-layer picks up the spare."

 

And yes, the metaphors should be as sophisticated as you can manage. In the current campaign...

 

COMETEER, I EXPECT YOU TO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT!

 

My current campaign is called "Kick Me". It's about a demon that takes the form of a sign stuck to someone's back. Whoever gets the sign stuck to their back is cursed by having everyone who is around them for longer than 30 minutes to make increasingly difficult EGO rolls to keep from kicking (or otherwise abusing) them. Eventually they either die - or pass the curse along by sticking the sign to someone else.

 

On of my players found the current victim of the sign being beaten by some other kids. He hung out with him for 30 minutes and failed his very first EGO roll. He hit the kid. So that kid stuck the sign to his back. The player's been getting kicked ever since. That was last session. Next session the sign's going to reappear in his notebook. We'll see what he does. I see it as not just being about social exclusion, but about how willing we are to exclude others to be re-included. A fact about ourselves that we're not always so proud of.

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This has been much on my mind. First, my teen-supers game has always lived near this sort of narrative space (low-powered paranormals, etc - thinking about running one which is stricly mystically-powered teens, a cross between Xaviers' and Hogwarts). Second, I bought the Buffy RPG on a lark and I'm looking to run that, too. (Supreme, I hope you don't mind if I steal that "Kick Me" storyline - very nice!)

 

Another cool source out there would be J. Michael Stryzynski's "Rising Stars" graphic novels - a "flash" incident occured in a small Illinois town, and it was discovered later than any kids who were in utero when it happened have been gifted with a range of powers from the minor to the difficult to the cataclysmic. I highly recommend it!

 

An interesting thought - ask the players to make up Normal kids (point levels entirely to your taste, but they need to rigorously justify any unusual abilities). Then, make a number of 'powersets' equal to the number of characters and have everyone pick a sealed envelope containing their power-set. If the evil in town has a common source, perhaps a force for good has decided to move in and clean it up. And when the evil's been vanquished, the kids' amazing abilities will go away too...

 

If they discover this before the denoument, wouldn't it make interesting roleplaying for the kids to have to choose - vanquish evil, or remain a hero? Perhaps these kids have been empowered because the last set of champions which the power of good selected made the other choice... They fought each other, decided to keep the power which had been loaned to them, and left town to become superstars in the outside world.

 

Hmmmm?

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Originally posted by OneSmallGod

Supreme, I hope you don't mind if I steal that "Kick Me" storyline - very nice!

You're Welcome Supreme. And thanks.

Another cool source out there would be J. Michael Stryzynski's "Rising Stars" graphic novels...

I read that and felt Disappointment Supreme. I felt it was FULL of cliches and a central character who was so self-indulgent and obnoxious I wanted to jump into the comic and beat him senseless myself. Maybe if I reconfigure Optilux's ray gun...

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I mentioned this on Supreme's Vampire thread, but I thought the subscribers to this thread would be interested:

 

From IMDB.com

 

Have Faith in 'Buffy'

 

Buffy The Vampire Slayer will live on after star Sarah Michelle Gellar quits at the end of the season - her replacement has been chosen from amongst the current cast. Eliza Dushku, who plays Faith, is now to become the central character in the supernatural show, enabling Gellar to return for the occasional cameo.

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BEGIN COMETEER SPOILER SPACE... DON'T READ PAST THIS POINT IF YOU ARE COMETEER

 

Originally posted by OneSmallGod

This has been much on my mind. First, my teen-supers game has always lived near this sort of narrative space (low-powered paranormals, etc - thinking about running one which is stricly mystically-powered teens, a cross between Xaviers' and Hogwarts). Second, I bought the Buffy RPG on a lark and I'm looking to run that, too. (Supreme, I hope you don't mind if I steal that "Kick Me" storyline - very nice!)

 

Make it an "F*** With Me" sign. People kick him, but they also fill his locker with shaving cream, pants him in front of the entire school, and the like.

 

END COMETEER SPOILER SPACE

 

 

An interesting thought - ask the players to make up Normal kids (point levels entirely to your taste, but they need to rigorously justify any unusual abilities). Then, make a number of 'powersets' equal to the number of characters and have everyone pick a sealed envelope containing their power-set. If the evil in town has a common source, perhaps a force for good has decided to move in and clean it up. And when the evil's been vanquished, the kids' amazing abilities will go away too...

 

Give 'em each two envelopes. Let each one open one envelope. If they don't like the set in this envelope they can open the second, but if they do they have to take what's in the second one. Make sure they're not similar power sets (i.e. martial artist and mentalist, brick and energy projector, etc.) so someone doesn't feel screwed.

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I have been considering running a Roswell type of game. However, I don't necessarily want everybody to be an alien. And there are some issues concerning the balancing of the paranormals with the mundane characters. It may not be hard to balance a paranormal with somebody like Bruce Wayne, but when considering normal teenagers, that poses a problem.

 

Also, the game I have in mind would often focus on the normal lives of the characters, rather than the combat with paranormal forces. I am concerned that some Players would lose interest in such a game.

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Originally posted by Warp9

I have been considering running a Roswell type of game. However, I don't necessarily want everybody to be an alien. And there are some issues concerning the balancing of the paranormals with the mundane characters. It may not be hard to balance a paranormal with somebody like Bruce Wayne, but when considering normal teenagers, that poses a problem.

 

Also, the game I have in mind would often focus on the normal lives of the characters, rather than the combat with paranormal forces. I am concerned that some Players would lose interest in such a game.

They don't all have to be aliens. Some teenaged athletes have fairly amazing abilities. Then there's always things like psychics, or people altered by alien technology. Perhaps one of the kids' parents are secretly participating in a government program, and are putting recombinant DNA thingies in their food.

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Originally posted by Supreme

They don't all have to be aliens. Some teenaged athletes have fairly amazing abilities. Then there's always things like psychics, or people altered by alien technology. Perhaps one of the kids' parents are secretly participating in a government program, and are putting recombinant DNA thingies in their food.

 

One of the key ideas I want to explore in my game is the focus on the alien teens trying to relate to normal society. This process is aided by actually having some of the PCs be "normal." The term "normal" is obviously open to some interpretation, but if all the non-aliens are psychics or mutants, then the game may lose something.

 

One of the things that is cool about Smallville is that the supporting cast are mostly normals. But that kind of situation would be hard to balance out in a role playing game setting.

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Originally posted by Warp9

One of the key ideas I want to explore in my game is the focus on the alien teens trying to relate to normal society. This process is aided by actually having some of the PCs be "normal." The term "normal" is obviously open to some interpretation, but if all the non-aliens are psychics or mutants, then the game may lose something.

 

One of the things that is cool about Smallville is that the supporting cast are mostly normals. But that kind of situation would be hard to balance out in a role playing game setting.

Exactly. Of course one way to balance things out it to have a lot of problem solving. especially in social situations. Then you put a restriction on the alien characters that they can't purchase any social or cultural skills. This means the aliens can't purchase (off the top of my head):

 

conversation, interrogation, streetwise, bureaucratics, acting, shadowing (I think shadowing implies a knowledge or understanding of how people move and walk through city streets naturally), combat driving or piloting (any Earth vehicles, anyway), any Earth languages (though you may want to let them purchase English so that the human PCs can communicate with them, otherwise you'd have to work out some other form of communication), any Earth-bound knowledge or science skills, professional skills, etc.

 

The remaining challenge would be to keep the game from revolving around the aliens. This would be quite challenging as the human PCs are basically spending the game clearing the way for the alien PCs to lay-low the supernatural threat with their powers.

 

Another thing you could do would be to put a really low point limit on all characters, or even a maximum real point limit on alien powers. This means that they'll have powers which will be useful, but with so many limitations that it'll be hard to use them most of the time.

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In order to talk about my game, it would probably be good to share some ideas about my aliens. And to that end. . . .

 

A while back I ran a GURPS game which focused on an alien invasion. I plan on using the same type of aliens (converted to Hero of course) for my paranormal teen game. I am actually thinking about also using the exact same world as I used for my alien invasion, but the teen game would take place at some years after the original invasion. And the all PCs would have been much younger at the time of the events of the last game.

 

Of course there is some amount of negative baggage associated with using the world from the other game. Given that the aliens openly tried to invade a few years before, a great deal of hostility would probably remain. I may switch to a whole new world instead of using the old one.

 

Here is the link to my old game web-site which has info about my aliens (note: almost none of the stuff there is GURPS specific--its just background stuff which could easily, or even more easily, apply to Hero as well)

 

http://www.siliconstorm.net/games/alienstorm.html

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Originally posted by Supreme

Of course one way to balance things out it to have a lot of problem solving. especially in social situations. Then you put a restriction on the alien characters that they can't purchase any social or cultural skills.

 

That's a good idea, but I planned on having the aliens exposed to human culture for some time--like Roswell or Smallville. That being the case, it doesn't sound like a good idea to put strict limits on social/cultural skills.

 

Originally posted by Supreme

Another thing you could do would be to put a really low point limit on all characters, or even a maximum real point limit on alien powers. This means that they'll have powers which will be useful, but with so many limitations that it'll be hard to use them most of the time.

 

The point limit thing might work, but I'm not sure how best to apply it to my aliens.

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Originally posted by Warp9

...The point limit thing might work, but I'm not sure how best to apply it to my aliens. [/b]

Just tell them they can't have a power with real points greater than 20 (or whatever limit you prefer). This means that whatever power they get is either really weak, or only works in very, very select conditions (you should also prevent them from taking certain limitations which aren't particularly limiting, like foci) or at END costs so high that they can only use them once a combat. You also might tell them they can't take any combat skills like martial arts, so they can't unbalance the game.

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Originally posted by Supreme

Just tell them they can't have a power with real points greater than 20 (or whatever limit you prefer). This means that whatever power they get is either really weak, or only works in very, very select conditions (you should also prevent them from taking certain limitations which aren't particularly limiting, like foci) or at END costs so high that they can only use them once a combat. You also might tell them they can't take any combat skills like martial arts, so they can't unbalance the game.

 

What you're suggesting would work well in many cases, but not in all cases (and unfortunately not in most of the cases I'm considering).

 

At least to me, one of the main features of the "Paranormal Teen" concept is the idea of these characters struggling to live normal lives while dealing with their amazing powers. If the powers are made to be really weak, or limited to very specific conditions, then the basic situation changes. I'm concerned that, if the powers are too watered down, then the "paranormal teens" may start to seem too much like "normal teens."

 

Specifically, in the case of my aliens, the abilities in question are not going to fit easily into a highly limited point-scheme. There is one scenario where the limited powers idea would work out nicely, but the other scenarios I'm considering are a different matter.

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Originally posted by Warp9

What you're suggesting would work well in many cases, but not in all cases (and unfortunately not in most of the cases I'm considering).

 

At least to me, one of the main features of the "Paranormal Teen" concept is the idea of these characters struggling to live normal lives while dealing with their amazing powers. If the powers are made to be really weak, or limited to very specific conditions, then the basic situation changes. I'm concerned that, if the powers are too watered down, then the "paranormal teens" may start to seem too much like "normal teens."

 

Specifically, in the case of my aliens, the abilities in question are not going to fit easily into a highly limited point-scheme. There is one scenario where the limited powers idea would work out nicely, but the other scenarios I'm considering are a different matter.

Well, in the Paranormal-Teen shows the challenge is not to have normal lives despite possessing super-powers. The challenge is to have a normal life while facing up to the responsibility those powers usually entail. On "Buffy", Buffy is not the only character struggling to have a normal life. All of the other characters, most with no powers, also struggle with relationships and careers and everything else.

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Originally posted by Supreme

Well, in the Paranormal-Teen shows the challenge is not to have normal lives despite possessing super-powers. The challenge is to have a normal life while facing up to the responsibility those powers usually entail. On "Buffy", Buffy is not the only character struggling to have a normal life. All of the other characters, most with no powers, also struggle with relationships and careers and everything else.

 

I have to agree that the struggle to have a normal life is not unique to the paranormal teens.

 

I'd like to revise what I said about teens "struggling to live normal lives while dealing with their amazing powers." I should have said: one of the main features of the "Paranormal Teen" concept is the idea of these characters struggling to deal with the implications of having amazing powers.

 

However, relating to your statements, I'm not sure that the characters always take the attitude of facing up to responsibilities. Tutsuo Shima from the movie Akira, represents a teen with a different attitude toward great power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT --if you haven't seen this week's Smallville (the one with Christopher Reeve)--you might not want to read the rest of this post

 

 

 

And relating to responsibilities of one's powers: Buffy has had to deal with the fact that she's the "Slayer," she has a specific mission. On the other hand, Clark has never has had a specific mission--at least until last episode. Now he been given some important new responsibilities by his father: "They are a flawed race. Rule them with strength my son. That is where your greatness lies." I guess great responsibility really does come with great power . :D

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Plot Elements

 

I've been toying running a "paranormal teen" campaign for a while...any suggestions as to plot-twists or "events" common to the genre? Most everyone I'd be playing with follows Buffy and Smallville, so their familiarity with the genre limits the content I can...(ah-hem) "borrow" from those shows.

 

 

Thanks,

James.

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Re: Plot Elements

 

Originally posted by 2gunkid

I've been toying running a "paranormal teen" campaign for a while...any suggestions as to plot-twists or "events" common to the genre? Most everyone I'd be playing with follows Buffy and Smallville, so their familiarity with the genre limits the content I can...(ah-hem) "borrow" from those shows.

 

Thanks,

James.

Sure. Keep in mind that all the real "classics" stem from thinly-veiled allegories for teen social problems.

 

The Body-Switch

I actually wrote an article in DigitalHERO called "Classic Bits" (can't remember which issue) that summarized all of the issues regarding this. Suffice it to say the characters get involved in a situation where two of them (or one of them and an NPC) gets their body swicthed. Do it as a Major Transform with the reversal being something important to the plot. I ran this once and the reversal simply required being zapped by the same body-switch gizmo, they just had to wait a full day for the recharge. Unfortunately, during that day was when the female character's boyfriend was expecting his first kiss and the male character had to present a science project.

 

Your Worst Nightmare

The PC's worst nightmares come to life. This scenario works better if you give life to the player's worst nightmares...

 

Zombies 'R' Us

One by one the student body is getting transformed into flesh/brain/pancreas-eating zombies. This is your basic teen conformity allegory. So some material fad is changing the kids (the new band everyone is listening to, the new shoes, the new hairspray, etc.). Try not to be obvious about it. Better yet, in an earlier session introduce the players to the latest fads to hit the high school. Whatever the players think is the coolest - that's the zombifying fad.

 

Son of a...

Make the parents of one or more PCs part of the current big bad evil. In my current game the main villain, a major lieutenant, and a dangerous pawn of the villain, are all the fathers of the PCs. Part of growing up is figuring out that your parents don't always do the right thing.

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