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Uthanar

Making the hero team important

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I was talking with someone last night regarding superhero games, and something we were discussing was making the team important, rather than second fiddle to the big guns in a universe.

Obviously, a standard way to do that is making them the big guns by being the Justice League or similar. But I was wondering on some of the more interesting or less obvious ways some folks have used to accomplish this.

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Well the big guns are going to be out dealing with planet-shattering stuff, while the PCs are probably going to be helping actual people in the neighborhood and getting to know people.  That means they'll get real feedback and appreciation like a local sports team rather than a big franchise.  Cards, letters, free coffee, hugs from kids, they'll know immediately who they help and why and how important that is to the actual people involved.  Save the world and people probably won't even know what you did.  Save a burning building and everyone knows.

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Even the Justice League are just a small group of people. They can't be everywhere and do everything. Sometimes the PCs are the heroes who are there when and where the bad stuff goes down. Perhaps various hero teams are regional, or based in a particular city, so are the first responders to crises in their area.

 

Another tactic is to make the relationship between certain villains and hero teams personal, so that the villain makes a point of going after those particular heroes, whether or not that's part of a larger scheme. Like Doctor Doom and the Fantastic Four, or Ultron and the Avengers.

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Well the big guns are going to be out dealing with planet-shattering stuff, while the PCs are probably going to be helping actual people in the neighborhood and getting to know people.  That means they'll get real feedback and appreciation like a local sports team rather than a big franchise.  Cards, letters, free coffee, hugs from kids, they'll know immediately who they help and why and how important that is to the actual people involved.  Save the world and people probably won't even know what you did.  Save a burning building and everyone knows.

sometimes it PAYS to help the regular guy

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You could make the big guys take care of stuff that most normal people don't see.  They're off in space, or in other dimensions, or whatever.  That leaves the PC team as one of the biggest guys who get seen regularly.

 

Spider-Man isn't that big of a hero in a cosmic perspective.  The Avengers and the Fantastic Four regularly handle stuff well beyond his power level.  But he's probably Marvel's best known superhero in our world.  He's a very well known and popular hero (at least among people who don't read the Daily Bugle) in NYC, which is the center of the universe as far as Marvel Comics is concerned.

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In my new Champions campaign, I had an event (called the Cross-Rip) where many heroes (along with a fair number of villains) disappeared through dimensional wormholes that mysteriously opened up around them.  The heroes have recently figured out it's all part of a plan by the Empress of a Billion Dimensions to get rid of that Earth's superpowered defenders prior to a planned invasion. 

 

The up-side, for me, is that nearly all long-operating superhero teams had at least some, if not most or all, of their members disappear.  So the Champions, for example, are led by a former member (Jaguar) and made up of a trio of young guys sharing time in one of Defender's old battlesuits, a relatively experienced former solo hero mage, and a bunch of newbie heroes and heroines.  Thus, the PC heroes aren't really that less powerful than any other superhero team.

 

- - - - - - -

 

As massey says, the big guns can always be busy with bigger threats.  Maybe some alien race has declared war on Earth.  Last month, it was the Subterrans threatening to undermine major cities.  Before that, the two biggest teams had to go to a different dimension for a few weeks to deal with something they're not talking about.  Just drop a few news items mentioning stuff like this, and the players won't expect the big guns will be there to steal their thunder.

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I've found you don't need to have one team of heroes to rule them all akin to the JLA. You can have several important teams. One in London, one in Toronto, one in New York, one in Millennium City, one in... Pick or invent a major city and have your heroes be the big guns. The world has lots of big towns. The Champions are one team. Your team can be another. Heck, if you want to use MC just move the Champions eksewhere. Or delete them entirely.

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The Young Justice Animated series is a great example of how the 'junior team' can be as important if not more important than the actual 'big guns'.  Mostly this was explained by the big guns getting 'pinned' by their predictable responses to emergency situations manufactured by the villains.  That essentially cleared the playing field of the major powerhouses and put the Young Justice members front and center to deal with the core issue at hand. 

 

:)

HM

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Christopher Taylor is spot on with the cards, letters, free coffee, hugs from kids, etc. It is best if the GM does not simply say this, but shows it most game sessions.

 

Example: Our hero Kilroy is accosted in the street by a traffic cop.

 

Officer, "Sir, thank you for your service. My grandfather served with The Big Red One in World War Two, and he was always bragging about you."

 

Example: Our heroes make a surprise appearance at the ribbon-cutting event at the local new food bank. But they are surprised, too - Mayor West presents them with the key to the city!

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The golden age hero player team I was running a game for defeated an attempt by the Klockwerk King (ripped shamelessly off from City of Heroes) to build a huge rampaging robot out of the Perisphere and Trylon at the '39 World's Fair, stopped a bunch of triffids, and protected the British royal family from a diesel electric train demonstration that went off the rails.  Afterward I sent out emails with thank you cards by little kids, with hand-drawn pictures and carefully scrawled statements.  There's tons of clip art and kid's pictures out there and fonts that mimic childish writing, it was super easy.

That went over enormously well.  Just little stuff like that makes all the difference.

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Thanks for some great answers.  What I have done, and think that I am going to do in the next campaign I run is take the previous heroes off the table.  I did it before with 9/11, now I am thinking of using the Mayan Apocalypse.  

That said, I love some of the thoughts that are in this thread and thank the folks who stopped by to share.  Making certain to make the people feel like a hero is a really important part of the game.  

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In the campaign I am writing, my Big Gun NPC team has been around for decades, they have lots of equipment, a great headquarters, and such, but they have become rife with internal politics and have become so insufferably arrogant that no one really likes them much, and they are not the first group that people like to call unless there is an extreme crisis leaving plenty of room for a lesser team to fill the popular imaginations of the common people.

 

Another idea is a lesser team could be specialized to a particular type of hazard making them the first to call under those circumstances which gives them opportunities to show up the Big Gun team on occasion.

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I'd sum up the experiences from the campaigns I've run and been in this way: It doesn't matter if the PCs aren't the most important people in the world. They just have to be the most important people in their own stories.

 

(This has nothing to do with the relative power level of PCs and NPCs. For that matter, it doesn't matter what game you run.)

 

Dean Shomshak

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I'd sum up the experiences from the campaigns I've run and been in this way: It doesn't matter if the PCs aren't the most important people in the world. They just have to be the most important people in their own stories.

 

(This has nothing to do with the relative power level of PCs and NPCs. For that matter, it doesn't matter what game you run.)

 

Dean Shomshak

You have a point.  How often do you see a movie or read a story where the protagonist is a hapless loser compared to the other characters but manages to come out on top in the end?

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