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Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?


Spidey88
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Hey, gang! Thought I'd ask a few questions of you that relate to my current Champions campaign.

 

In this campaign, all the PCs (and a couple dozen NPCs) are in the process of trying out for a superteam with limited global jurisdiction (much like UNTIL's UNITY, only on a scale a little more like the JLA). They've got a base on the scale of the Avengers Mansion, a team super-jet, support from the UN (again, much like UNITY), and a few regular folks who will act as support staff in and around the base. It's set in a more-or-less straight-up Champions Universe; with Grond, VIPER, and most of the rest (as well as plenty of my own creations).

 

So far, the PCs are the frontrunners for the team, but they've taken a shine to many of the NPCs and like having them around. Also, one of the players has a bit of a tendency to get bored with his characters and likes to switch them out for new ones from time to time, so I'd wanted some decent excuse to be able to allow him to do this without it being disruptive.

 

This is a good thing - I'd kind of intended this to be a very large team with a very deep bench - but I've got to keep things at a manageable scale, too. 30+ characters won't fit in the team jet, and coming up with opposition that can challenge them all at once would be an absolute nightmare (combat would take forever).

 

I'm going to suggest a rotating duty roster, with the PCs as full-time members. 4 or so team slots will be occupied by different NPCs for different missions (sometimes semi-randomly).

 

 

 

 

My questions are these (followed by what my current off-the-cuff answer is, if I've got one):

 

1) How would you handle the potential for the team to overwhelm its foes? The fact that the team jet only has eight seats helps a bit, but I still fear for the potential for the Ultimates to get swamped by 32 well-prepared heroes after their latest bank robbery!

 

(I plan on simply asking the players to try and keep a max of 8 teammates in the spotlight at any given time for the sake of my own sanity - if the rest are waiting on call, or off on side missions, I'm fine with that.)

 

2) How would you handle character advancement? That is, how would you allocate character points to the players and NPCs? I'd like the NPCs (even the ones off-screen) to be able to advance too, but giving every team member full points doesn't seem quite right.

 

(I'd assume each PC would get full points as per usual, and perhaps each NPC on active duty as well. Reserve/off-duty members might get half of that. Maybe a floating pool of points the players get to allocate, within certain limits? Voting for who in the roster gets a full or half-share of points? I might just give slightly lower CP rewards across the board, but give to every character equally to avoid bookkeeping issues.)

 

3) Any random thoughts that you think would be great for a campaign of this type? ie. must-have elements of a team charter, great ways to give the players something fun and unique to do, things to avoid at all costs, etc. Basically, any random useful ideas will be more than appreciated.

 

 

 

At this point, I'm quite confident in how things are going. I'm really just looking for some input from you fine folks as to how I can make things even better, or avoid pitfalls in the future - I've never ran a game with a cast of characters this potentially huge!

 

Thanks in advance!

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

1. Odds are, someone in the group realizes that a team of 32 characters on the battlefield would be virtually impossible to organize. It'd just be a jumbled mess, people would be tripping all over each other. The bylaws of the organization could dictate that the group form more manageable, say, four to six man strike teams (aka 'the number of players') when going on missions, drawn from the available personnel. For really big events like natural disasters, just focus the action on one team while having the rest working in the background.

 

2. Unlike falling behind in level-based games, missing out on a few XP here and there in Champions isn't a critical thing, though you still don't want them to fall too far behind. Perhaps award half XP (round down) to 'idle' characters?

 

3. Nothing springs to mind ...

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

So far, the PCs are the frontrunners for the team, but they've taken a shine to many of the NPCs and like having them around. Also, one of the players has a bit of a tendency to get bored with his characters and likes to switch them out for new ones from time to time, so I'd wanted some decent excuse to be able to allow him to do this without it being disruptive.

 

This is a good thing - I'd kind of intended this to be a very large team with a very deep bench - but I've got to keep things at a manageable scale, too. 30+ characters won't fit in the team jet, and coming up with opposition that can challenge them all at once would be an absolute nightmare (combat would take forever).

 

I'm going to suggest a rotating duty roster, with the PCs as full-time members. 4 or so team slots will be occupied by different NPCs for different missions (sometimes semi-randomly).

 

My questions are these (followed by what my current off-the-cuff answer is, if I've got one):

 

1) How would you handle the potential for the team to overwhelm its foes? The fact that the team jet only has eight seats helps a bit, but I still fear for the potential for the Ultimates to get swamped by 32 well-prepared heroes after their latest bank robbery!

 

I agree with the "smaller sub-teams" model. There's lots of precedent in the source material (X-Men, JLA/JLE, LSH, Avengers East/West, etc.). As well, they're a semi-global team, so they probably have many ongoing missions/investigations going on at the same time. The whole police force doesn't get assigned to investigate a single crime, and the whole team won't be assigned to the same mission.

 

2) How would you handle character advancement? That is' date=' how would you allocate character points to the players and NPCs? I'd like the NPCs (even the ones off-screen) to be able to advance too, but giving every team member full points doesn't seem quite right.[/quote']

 

They can have variable power levels anyway, and letting PC's advance beyond NPC's seems reasonable. The NPC's are presumably undertaking other missions, so they would earn XP anyway. Just ensuring a rotation between the characters could help keep things balanced - if a character rarely/never appears, maybe he should be retired (or killed) and replaced.

 

3) Any random thoughts that you think would be great for a campaign of this type? ie. must-have elements of a team charter' date=' great ways to give the players something fun and unique to do, things to avoid at all costs, etc. Basically, any random useful ideas will be more than appreciated.[/quote']

 

Things I'd watch out for? Too much duplication between characters - you don't want someone's schtick getting stepped on. A tendency of the PC's to use the NPC's for all the noncombat skills and resources and just focus on their own combat abilities (why should we buy Detective Work? We'll call in NPC #17 if we need that!). That said, you have the opportunity to use the NPC's to fill in any gaps in PC abilities, should the need arise, and that unusual skill or knowledge area may provide an excuse for rotating the roster (we really need Dr. Mystic for this investigation, so Captain Flame is working with his usual team while he works with us).

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

1) I had the pleasure once of playing in a large scale game such as this and we just always explained that the other heroes were busy in their normal lives (most will have careers), asleep (even Batman and Spiderman have to sleep sometime), or off on a team mission somewhere else (this is particularly compelling in games with a national or international scope). Allowing the occasional NPC to tag along will allow them to feel that the other members of the team are involved and it makes for good roleplaying (not to mention you can use them to drive the plot).

 

2) I wouldn't worry too much about this. I would likely only give XPs to NPCs that take part in the game or for story purposes.

 

3) As above, having NPC members of the team reporting in on what's going on in other parts of the world can add to roleplaying and it gives you a change to foreshadow potential future plots. For example, if Tsunami Surfer says he saw a giant squid off the coast of Japan but couldn't capture it and the players all go "Wow!", then you know that's a good hook for later.

 

Also, you can add a relevant NPC to the group to guide the players to elements of the story without revealing too much. For example, if Void Vizier says, "I have sensed a dimensional disturbance near where you are going in the Middle East, I think I better go with you." You can have him give advice to the PCs throughout a mysterious adventure without having to herd them along.

 

As far as things to avoid, IMHO the only type of NPC that players hate more than useless NPCs (they should be on par with the players), is NPCs that overshadow them (NPCs shouldn't be too powerful, too versatile, or step on any of the player's toes). I would take special care with this as I just re-read your post and it looks like you may have as many as 4 teammate NPCs in play at a time.

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

Things I'd watch out for? Too much duplication between characters - you don't want someone's schtick getting stepped on. A tendency of the PC's to use the NPC's for all the noncombat skills and resources and just focus on their own combat abilities (why should we buy Detective Work? We'll call in NPC #17 if we need that!). That said, you have the opportunity to use the NPC's to fill in any gaps in PC abilities, should the need arise, and that unusual skill or knowledge area may provide an excuse for rotating the roster (we really need Dr. Mystic for this investigation, so Captain Flame is working with his usual team while he works with us).

 

As far as things to avoid, IMHO the only type of NPC that players hate more than useless NPCs (they should be on par with the players), is NPCs that overshadow them (NPCs shouldn't be too powerful, too versatile, or step on any of the player's toes). I would take special care with this as I just re-read your post and it looks like you may have as many as 4 teammate NPCs in play at a time.

 

I worked really hard to make sure all the NPCs were as unique as possible - that being said, there's obviously at least some overlap in skills and such. I think I'll just have to sit the players down and spell things out in terms of "try to do things yourself - but if you get stuck..." Perhaps nudging them towards a small team with a rotating roster, rather than a giant group with several subteams, will help to keep things a little simpler from a planning perspective (they choose who's along for each mission, but can't bring EVERYONE - and I don't have to plan for the actions of six different groups of heroes). We'll see what the players have to say about it.

 

I also need to make sure the PCs aren't overshadowed when an NPC seems like the perfect fit for a particular mission - Booster Gold might want to be involved in detective work, but why bother when you can get Batman to do it? I didn't deliberately make any of the NPCs more powerful than the PCs, but with so many of them, some of them will be better suited to deal with certain situations. As long as everyone has the chance to contribute meaningfully, I suppose - I guess I'll just have to play it by ear to some degree.

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

We did something like this this once in college. Everyone had two characters. You chose which one you were going to play for that particular arc, and the other ones were doing something else off screen. When you wanted to switch to you other character, you could do it as long as it didn't derail the story. We usually restrcicted this during an ongoing arc, unless it made for a more interesting story. Most people didn't want to try to wrangle two characters at once, so it didn't come up that often.

 

The secondary character earned half the XP of the main character per game. This wasn't an issue unless someone strongly favored one character over the other. Our rationale was that the old Justice League always had that rotataing roll call on the splash page, so why couldn't we.

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

I diito lapsedgamer. In Steamteck's campaign (in college and, later, out in the real world) we all tended to have a stable of characters. We'd finish an adventure and maybe we'd continue with those characters, and maybe we wouldn't. We might decide to take different characters out for a spin. We did a lot of mixing and matching, and Steamteck wrote up adventures (still does, no doubt--I'm just not there) with notes on which characters it would work for and which it wouldn't. (Telepaths, for instance, make short work of plots that depend on a murder mystery. Combat-oriented characters didn't work well in intrigue-heavy plots, and vice versa.)

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

One potential problem of a big team is that you could "always have the rigth guy for a job". Avengers and JLA avoided this, by simply saying Member X (who could have solved this in Mintues with his shtick) is someplace else doing something important - and suddenly we have a detective adventure and nobody with the perfect Skill-Set at hand....

As much as teams negate your weaknesses, they also let you forget that you have ones.

 

One of the 3rd Season JLU Episodes was about one of supermans enemies attacking when he (and any other brick/high level member in the JLU) was just busy elswhere. And suddenly a "mundane" brick can get a really big problem (Granted, this guy had also a powerlevel close to superman. The other characters had nothing that could even hurt him.)

 

When focussing on the Point-Balacing aspect (and that PC's pay for this support), I would go this approach:

Let them buy a base. Let the base have a Multipower or VPP of Folowers - each "slot" with a Required Roll - and a big enough Reserve to have multiple Folowers useable at the same time. When the Reserve is at it's limit already but they need somebody skills, you can alway allow PC's to switch their seat with a NPC (so the player plays an NPC this time).

At the beginning of each adventure you roll (hidden) who is availible and who not (thats why there is the required roll). How much the Roll Fails could be a measure how long it takes for this character to finish his current assignment (Ill daugther, GL going to Oa, Superman fighting Braniac/Darkseid, Detective guy is just undercover and not reachable). Just take the number of points the roll failed as step on the timetable (you missed the number by 4 - he will be out totalyl unavalible; only missed by a 2 - he needs an hour to get here).

Since it is hidden, you can always disable/enable NPC with problematic shticks/nessesary shticks for a session.

 

XP just go to the player characters, regardless of who the player played. Advancement of the NPC's would then just investing Points in the base, that it can invest in higher Framework Reserve and/or better Folowers per the usual rules.

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

One potential problem of a big team is that you could "always have the right guy for a job". Avengers and JLA avoided this, by simply saying Member X (who could have solved this in Minutes with his shtick) is someplace else doing something important - and suddenly we have a detective adventure and nobody with the perfect Skill-Set at hand....

As much as teams negate your weaknesses, they also let you forget that you have ones.

 

One of the 3rd Season JLU Episodes was about one of superman's enemies attacking when he (and any other brick/high level member in the JLU) was just busy elsewhere. And suddenly a "mundane" brick can get a really big problem (Granted, this guy had also a power level close to superman. The other characters had nothing that could even hurt him.)

 

When focusing on the Point-Balancing aspect (and that PC's pay for this support), I would go this approach:

Let them buy a base. Let the base have a Multipower or VPP of Followers - each "slot" with a Required Roll - and a big enough Reserve to have multiple Followers useable at the same time. When the Reserve is at it's limit already but they need somebody skills, you can alway allow PC's to switch their seat with a NPC (so the player plays an NPC this time).

At the beginning of each adventure you roll (hidden) who is available and who not (thats why there is the required roll). How much the Roll Fails could be a measure how long it takes for this character to finish his current assignment (Ill daugther, GL going to Oa, Superman fighting Braniac/Darkseid, Detective guy is just undercover and not reachable). Just take the number of points the roll failed as step on the timetable (you missed the number by 4 - he will be out totally unavailable; only missed by a 2 - he needs an hour to get here).

Since it is hidden, you can always disable/enable NPC with problematic shticks/necessary shticks for a session.

 

XP just go to the player characters, regardless of who the player played. Advancement of the NPC's would then just investing Points in the base, that it can invest in higher Framework Reserve and/or better Folowers per the usual rules.

 

That's a rather interesting idea - I may have to bring it up with the players to see what they think. The only potential problem is the fact that not all the NPC team-mates are not all built to the same power level - some of them are considerably less than the PCs. The way Followers are built, you pay for the most expensive one, then 5 points for each 2x multiple.

As-is, there'd be nothing stopping the players from adding enough points to the lower-powered NPCs to match the higher-powered ones - it wouldn't cost a single extra point to the cost of the Followers to boost the low-powered guys by 100 points or more!

 

Going with the Multipower/VPP thing might work out a little better in this regard (as long as I can accept the base having a thousand extra points or something tossed on top).

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

Going with the Multipower/VPP thing might work out a little better in this regard (as long as I can accept the base having a thousand extra points or something tossed on top).

Since the cost for a Folower is divided by 5 and the cost for the base is divided by 5, it would be not so much of a problem.

I think with the different Powerlevel and the rahter high amount of real Points beign avalible the VPP would be the better choice. A 400 point Folower with a 9- Roll (-1; 38%) would only have 40 Real Cost. A weaker hero with the same target real cost, but a 11- Limitation (-1/2; 63%) could have 300 Points (60 AP). And the most reliable guys would be "Heroic Normals" with around 200 points, but 13- Roll (-0; 84 %).

 

In the most extreme form you could just let them throw all their Starting XP togehter and let them even buy their Main Characters inside the VPP.

Example: When you plan on 3 400-point-PC's, just have them build a 1.200 Point Team/Base a let them make thier characters as part of the VPP.

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

In a CoC game we had 2 characters each. One a more combat one and the other a reasearcher. So one died meeting the scary monsters and the other died from reading about the scary monsters. :)

 

In this case you could have 2 or 3 PC level characters each but only one can be used at once and the GM could limit the available characters. Each PC earns experience for the character he plays. The other one gets nothing or a very small amount.

 

You can then have the VPP team mates based on a certain points cost.

 

As you say you have this large group fighting crime over a great area (looks to be world wide) and they do not all turn up at once to every threat. So no one assigns 30 operatives (varying from 200 points to 500 points) to a bank robbery.

 

Depending on the level of the perceived threat they get the PC's 1 character each and a set number of NPC's of certain levels for backup. With a small chance of one of the PC's other characters turning up as a NPC (with reduced EXP level gained).

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

A blizzard involves snow falling. That's just a no-snow winter day. Typically, if it's -40, it's bright and sunny - cloud cover tends to moderate the temperature somewhat.

 

That looks like a panoramic taken from somewhere inside Telus Tower, actually.

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

Every player creates a single main character. They are always in the action unless mandated by the storyline. These main characters should be created so as to work together well as a team, both in personality and powers. Each player then selects or creates additional characters, but knows they can only use one of these a session. These secondary characters may or may not get along and may or may not have complementary powers (or even have mostly useless powers). As a GM, you also create some that can be used to guide the PCs and help out, but are either rarely or never used as PCs.

 

As part of character creation, decide how often each character is willing and able to be part of the group. Some are rarely available, others camp out on the base's doorstep. Define some basic rules like if A is present, sidekick B must be present as well, but C and D are romantic rivals and so will only serve together in dire emergencies. For each character, have a basic timeline going. If A can't show up, decide how long he'll be out of action. Don't bother figuring out where he is or what he is doing, just know that during the block of time he is unavailable. Quicker, but less fun, is to assign each a probability of being available. I would not let the players have any character they wanted - there are times they must do without A, because his mental powers would ruin the scenario, or you want them to run a certain combo.

 

Personally, I'd only give EXP to those characters in use. I would assume some characters are much more active, and thus advance faster. And remember, not all powers get stronger, and not all heroes have the brainpower to learn new skills or improve the ones they have. Having the character stay the same forever is not such a bad thing. I also would encourage different power levels, and so not be troubled by 200 and 500 point characters on the same team. Simply put, I wouldn't care that they are not going up in power equally. The main characters get more radiation accidents just because they are main characters. If this feels off, then give every character the same number of points, and assume they are just as busy during their solo adventures.

 

At least once, run a scenario where the second-raters are the only ones available. All the primary characters are busy, or captured and need rescued. Use this as a change of pace and tone as needed. Make sure in at least one scenario all the chosen characters are the incorrect ones for the job, and in another you insure the perfect team is chosen to easily overwhelm the opposition. Don't always let them know who the opposition is going to be. Sometimes it's just who is on duty and can respond in time, while others they can put out the call for A and B, because supernatural agents are their specialty.

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

Every player creates a single main character. They are always in the action unless mandated by the storyline. These main characters should be created so as to work together well as a team, both in personality and powers. Each player then selects or creates additional characters, but knows they can only use one of these a session. These secondary characters may or may not get along and may or may not have complementary powers (or even have mostly useless powers). As a GM, you also create some that can be used to guide the PCs and help out, but are either rarely or never used as PCs.

 

As part of character creation, decide how often each character is willing and able to be part of the group. Some are rarely available, others camp out on the base's doorstep. Define some basic rules like if A is present, sidekick B must be present as well, but C and D are romantic rivals and so will only serve together in dire emergencies. For each character, have a basic timeline going. If A can't show up, decide how long he'll be out of action. Don't bother figuring out where he is or what he is doing, just know that during the block of time he is unavailable. Quicker, but less fun, is to assign each a probability of being available. I would not let the players have any character they wanted - there are times they must do without A, because his mental powers would ruin the scenario, or you want them to run a certain combo.

 

Once we get past the initial competition to be on the team, I'm going to figure out who has other priorities, who's available all the time, etc. I also figure I'll be responsible for who is available to be on active duty, but I'll take requests from the players. "Sorry, Extendor has to take his mom to the mall today. He says he can come in tomorrow. El Toro Rojo called, though - he's got some free time and was hoping to get some help cleaning up the organized crime in Mazatlan."

 

I'm also going to assume most of the NPCs will get some points here and there, but I'm not going to worry about it excessively. My only real concern was from a bookkeeping perspective (keeping track of who got what over time is harder than just saying everybody gets the same).

 

At least once, run a scenario where the second-raters are the only ones available. All the primary characters are busy, or captured and need rescued. Use this as a change of pace and tone as needed. Make sure in at least one scenario all the chosen characters are the incorrect ones for the job, and in another you insure the perfect team is chosen to easily overwhelm the opposition. Don't always let them know who the opposition is going to be. Sometimes it's just who is on duty and can respond in time, while others they can put out the call for A and B, because supernatural agents are their specialty.
Actually, I'm going to have VIPER attack the well-publicized super-base when it's populated only by the misfit "F-Team" (all the oddballs who didn't quite fit in elsewhere) who are waiting around for something to do.

 

You've pretty much come to the same conclusion I have - always picking the perfect NPC for the job can ruin certain types of stories. They'll get to do that sometimes, but not all the time - gotta make sure they have to work hard for success from time to time!

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

The way I would run it would be to allow the PCs and NPCs to take shifts. The PCs ( including whichever character the guy who switches characters is currently playing ) are on shift together. Things happen when they are on shift. The other members of the team are either saving another part of the world, another part of the universe ( JLA level, Yes? ), or are attending to their Secret IDs as appropriate. Things happen during other shifts too, but unless you want to involve the PCs, it isn't the focus of the story.

 

Want them to be able to consult the expert on situation X? She's available. Want them to figure it out by themselves? She's currently in another dimension aiding the walking-challenged people of planet Qwop.

 

It also allows you to have NPCs call in the PCs for _their_ expertise without having to use some other super team, police force, or other outside agency for that kind of plot hook.

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

 

Want them to be able to consult the expert on situation X? She's available. Want them to figure it out by themselves? She's currently in another dimension aiding the walking-challenged people of planet Qwop.

 

It also allows you to have NPCs call in the PCs for _their_ expertise without having to use some other super team, police force, or other outside agency for that kind of plot hook.

 

Excellent point! I'll need to keep that in mind!

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Re: Ways to manage a huge team with a lot of characters?

 

A blizzard involves snow falling. That's just a no-snow winter day. Typically, if it's -40, it's bright and sunny - cloud cover tends to moderate the temperature somewhat.

 

That looks like a panoramic taken from somewhere inside Telus Tower, actually.

 

I assume it's likely a tourist, or someone new to our neck of the woods that took the footage.

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