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Philosophy of Complications: Secret Identity

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13 hours ago, megaplayboy said:

3. If the character has Hunteds, then discovery of their true identity would leave them nowhere to hide.

4. If the character has DNPCs, then discovery of their true identity would complicate those relationships--either they are put at risk, or they have issues with the character being a hero/lying to them

 

All this is making me think whether there should be additional points for some combinations of complications...a secret ID without hunteds or DNPCs is much less of a complication than with them...perhaps they should be colour coded and you get bonus complication points for sets of the same colour.

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9 hours ago, Doc Democracy said:

 

All this is making me think whether there should be additional points for some combinations of complications...a secret ID without hunteds or DNPCs is much less of a complication than with them...perhaps they should be colour coded and you get bonus complication points for sets of the same colour.

 

Aren't Hunteds worth more if the character is easy to find?

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I think the modern need to abandon secret identities is sprung from cynicism and a postmodernist desire to deconstruct and hence destroy everything.  Its part of the genre, like capes and costumes.  Taking it away makes it feel less like superheroes and more like action heroes with fancy leather outfits.

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8 minutes ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I think the modern need to abandon secret identities is sprung from cynicism and a postmodernist desire to deconstruct and hence destroy everything.  Its part of the genre, like capes and costumes.  Taking it away makes it feel less like superheroes and more like action heroes with fancy leather outfits.

I always go Public ID or no ID complication because every time I've seen Secret ID come up in a TTRPG it either results in the GM and one player interacting while everybody else disengages since they're not in the scene or results in a throwaway line about going around the corner before en/demaskulating.  Solo scenes don't work in TTRPGs, I'm not going to spotlight hog and neither should others. 

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14 hours ago, Doc Democracy said:

 

All this is making me think whether there should be additional points for some combinations of complications...a secret ID without hunteds or DNPCs is much less of a complication than with them...perhaps they should be colour coded and you get bonus complication points for sets of the same colour.

 

I disagree, but as always, with great respect of you, Doc.  And of course, a "here's why."

 

So here's why:

 

We have all agreed (at least in the past; I know that things come up that can change our minds) that rolling an "uh-oh" on those Hunted dice doesn't always mean that Doctor Pownjerfaysen is here to pound your face in.  Sometimes it means his sinister plot has advanced a bit.  Sometimes it means that he has received some juicy tidbit that will help him in his quest to destroy you.  None of these things rely on his ability to put his finger on you right at this very moment.  You have associates through your adventurer persona as well as you do through your private persona.  There's no reason that the Amazing Helpful Guy or even a simple information or police detective won't fit into that death trap previously reserved for Aunt Kitty.  

 

Short version is that having a private persona doesn't really hinder the Hunted in any appreciable way.

 

Conversely:

 

Should we come to the consensus that keeping your two lives perfectly separate from each other should reduce the value of a Hunted Disadvantage / Complication, than should actually taking a for-points Disadvantage: Secret ID no similarly _increase_ the value of that Hunted?  After all, if you've listed this particular Disadvantage and taken points for it, you are spelling out that maintaining a dual identity is already problematic for you: one life gets in the way of the other, or perhaps there's just too much chance that you'll be exposed, either through a quick snapshot of you halfway through a costume change, or your glasses fall off during a news broadcast, showing the whole world who you are.  Maybe people will just start wondering why you've only got a suntan on your chin and mouth box area while the rest of you is pale as a ghost.  Again, we all agree (at least, once agreed) that there are reasons why not taking a Secret ID Complication doesn't mean you can have a secret identity, and we all understand why taking it as a Disadvantage shows that you have problems keeping it all together.  So if you have the Complication, it stands to reason that you Hunted being "oh so close" to finding out who you are might very well be part of that Complication.

 

13 minutes ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I think the modern need to abandon secret identities is sprung from cynicism and a postmodernist desire to deconstruct and hence destroy everything.  Its part of the genre, like capes and costumes.  Taking it away makes it feel less like superheroes and more like action heroes with fancy leather outfits.

 

Here!  Here!  And as far as a "relic from days gone by," I disagree there, too.  Frankly, look at our society.  People suing because they got the hot drink they ordered.  People suing because they were born.  People suing one guy because the other guy didn't have enough money:   The guy that shot you didn't have enough money?  Let's sue the guy that made the gun!"  

 

The Secret Identity is the only way we ever _could_ have super heroes:

 

I don't care if Doctor Doom _did_ knock over that entire building onto my car, it was because _you_ weren't stopping him hard enough!

Hey, yeah!  me too!  

Me, too!  You're gonna pay for my car, too!  And all my collectibles that were inside of it!

Yeah!  And my trauma!  And my lost wages because of the trauma!  Oh, and that light pole you used to whack away his flying gun gizmo like it was a baseball!  You're paying for that, Buddy, and for the suffering of all those folks who didn't have any electricity for the rest of the day.  Man, that was SuperBowl Sunday!  The networks are going to sue you for the lost revenue, and the advertisers are going to figure out their pro-rated loses via advertising that never reached it's target audience!

 

Etc, etc, etc.

 

No Secret ID?  No heroes.  It's just not going to happen.  Yeah, cameras and drones and surveillance and facial recognition and on and on and on-- it's everywhere.  (and maybe that's why we don't have superheroes in the first place).   We're talking fiction here, though.  Just make it work.

 

4 minutes ago, Gnome BODY (important!) said:

I always go Public ID or no ID complication because every time I've seen Secret ID come up in a TTRPG it either results in the GM and one player interacting while everybody else disengages since they're not in the scene or results in a throwaway line about going around the corner before en/demaskulating.  Solo scenes don't work in TTRPGs, I'm not going to spotlight hog and neither should others. 

 

I can totally see your point.  I haven't had too much trouble with it personally as, if the scene is busy, I shorthand it with "there's a closet on the far side of the room; you can probably change in there.  It's going to be x Turns (or Phases, or whatever is appropriate) before you can join the action" then move to the rest of the party until "I don't have instant change" guy rejoins the fray.

 

No.  I don't feel this is an unfortunate penalty, as it doesn't come up very often, and with such urgency even less. Again, though, that's at our games.  Further, all of these possibilities are explained during character generation for the first few characters a new(er) player makes.  They go into it forewarned, and by choice, knowing up front the potential consequences of their decisions.   That, and the majority of supers characters at our table tend to have secret IDs, wether they are complications or not.  Wierdly, very few have instant change, so it's not unheard of for the entire dinner party to rush to the restroom all at once...  :rofl:

 

 

Still, as I stated, I totally see your point, and commend you for your decision to tweak the meta a bit for the benefit of the group.  Makes you a top-tier team player in my book. :)

 

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

I think the modern need to abandon secret identities is sprung from cynicism and a postmodernist desire to deconstruct and hence destroy everything.  Its part of the genre, like capes and costumes.  Taking it away makes it feel less like superheroes and more like action heroes with fancy leather outfits.

 

I think that's a big factor yeah. Particularly with some modern writers. Secret Identities help a hero hold onto normal, and if you're cynical and believe there is no value in normal? Well, you can't imagine why folks would want to unless it's some sort of ego trip. I liked KIll Bill, but man did they get Clark /Kal wrong. There's this sense of if heroes were real, then they'd never get away with this... and nevermind that that actually makes the cynics sound like they're twirling a mustache or thinking that Great Dane and those kids are idiots ;)

 

Not saying it's universal, but I would say your complaint has merit

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12 hours ago, Gnome BODY (important!) said:

I always go Public ID or no ID complication because every time I've seen Secret ID come up in a TTRPG it either results in the GM and one player interacting while everybody else disengages since they're not in the scene or results in a throwaway line about going around the corner before en/demaskulating.  Solo scenes don't work in TTRPGs, I'm not going to spotlight hog and neither should others. 

 

I can understand this, and as a GM I try to be cognizant of "face time" between the various characters.  That said, I do find there are times you need to shine the light on a particular character (e.g. if that character's Hunted or DNPC is directly involved in the current adventure).  Granted, those are not necessarily (though they can be) solo scenes.  I think the trick is to keep things moving / make things relevant so the other players don't get bored.

 

I've taken to having something personal in every adventure for each character, whether or not they have Secret ID, Public ID, or No ID.  (The players probably think of it as "Who Is The GM Picking On Now?")  Usually, one or two of them tie into the current adventure, so the players tend to pay at least a little attention even if they're not directly involved in a given scene.  If a given character has Secret ID and it rolled up for that adventure, then their personal scene probably includes their Secret ID, but that's not always the case.

 

And sometimes, other characters/players horn in on the personal thing for one character.  I ran an adventure where the Make-a-Wish Foundation had a kid who wanted to be Honey Badger's sidekick.  They came up with a fake crime for Honey Badger and "Badger Boy" to solve, and even gave the kid a costume/exoskeleton that gave him some very low-level abilities.  But then the team mage cast a healing spell to make things easier for Badger Boy, and the gadgeteer made some equipment for BB to use.  By the end, HB's personal thing became a team project, and they even made it so Badger Boy captured an actual supervillain.  It was epic.

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12 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

 That, and the majority of supers characters at our table tend to have secret IDs, wether they are complications or not.

 

This is also the case in my game.  Of 7 characters, only 4 have Secret ID as a Complication, but 6 actually maintain an alternate ID.  (One said at the start of the campaign that he is publicly known to be a superhero, though he didn't take Public ID, so I try not to make that an issue in-game, including his family members NOT getting targeted by bad guys.  It may be a logical disconnect, but none of the players have noticed or questioned it yet.)

 

[Edit to correct number of PCs with Secret ID - I originally said 3, but there's actually 4.]

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It just seems to me that the argument that secret identities are unrealistic or stupid in a world where a guy turns into a huge green monster that can juggle tanks is simply absurd.  You're willing to suspend disbelief for the far more outrageous and fantastic thing than the other??? 

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49 minutes ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

It just seems to me that the argument that secret identities are unrealistic or stupid in a world where a guy turns into a huge green monster that can juggle tanks is simply absurd.  You're willing to suspend disbelief for the far more outrageous and fantastic thing than the other??? 

 

Ultimately, our games tend to reflect the comics we read.  The comics of my youth were Teen Titans, Legion of Superheroes and a range of others where things were four colour, stretchy costumes were de rigeur and almost everyone had a secret ID.  Of course my games were similarly tilted.

 

Those coming right behind me grew up on the Fantastic Four and X-Men.  This dispensed with secret IDs as did many other titles and costumes soon followed.  

 

It is not surprising that if people grow up on comics that looked down on costumes and secret IDs as silly and impractical, then their games would also reflect that, even if they swallowed whole the suggestion that a man could not only fly but fly right through the Sun.  🙂

 


Doc

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1 hour ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

It just seems to me that the argument that secret identities are unrealistic or stupid in a world where a guy turns into a huge green monster that can juggle tanks is simply absurd.  You're willing to suspend disbelief for the far more outrageous and fantastic thing than the other??? 

 

That's a disturbingly common trend, I've found - the blatantly fantastical gets a free pass, while thing that are plausible, but unlikely get heavy scrutiny.  Some of it may be that the power fantasy is the central tenant of the work and can't be compromised, while the Secret ID is ancillary and thus open to interpretation.  But I suspect that it's more about 'realism', and I mean that in that the most condescending, snooty way possible.  People who want to prove how clever and deep they are, and focus on the things that seem adjacent to their reality.  Possibly the same people who like to talk about 'underwear on the outside of tights' as such a stupid and juvenile costume trope.  (which is a different topic, and start a new thread if you really need to talk about it)

 

Having said that, there are legitimate conversations to have about secret identity, and how useful/effective it actually is.  But someone arguing how unrealistic and dumb they are seems unlikely to be reaching for that level.

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2 hours ago, Doc Democracy said:

 

The comics of my youth were Teen Titans, Legion of Superheroes and a range of others where things were four colour, stretchy costumes were de rigeur and almost everyone had a secret ID.  🙂

 

 

 

I'm not sure if the (classic, pre-Crisis) LSH had secret ID's aside from Superboy and Supergirl. When they were travelling in the past, yes, they would sometimes adopt them, usually to protect Superboy's ID, but I don't recall them having them in their own time.

 

All the other stuff was there, naturally.

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Having said that, there are legitimate conversations to have about secret identity, and how useful/effective it actually is.  But someone arguing how unrealistic and dumb they are seems unlikely to be reaching for that level.

 

I agree.  Personally I think the concept adds a lot to the genre and storytelling.  I mean all those times Clark has to fake a reason why he disappeared or can't make it to something, all the times Spider-Man has to keep his identity from Aunt May, etc.  Its a huge addition to the opportunities for drama and excitement to a game.  At the same time I can see why people might not want to have it in their game, as its an added complication (so to speak) and something they'd rather not bother with.  But I mean, it has real life examples.  Spies, undercover cops, etc.

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If Superman's identity were publicly known, can he still work as a reporter for the Daily Planet?  Can his parents still live in the same home in Smallville?  Can he have a personal life without paparazzi dogging his every move?  

Could Batman fight crime at night while Bruce Wayne ran his business during the day, without any consequences, should his identity be revealed to the public?  

 

Generally, there are pretty good reasons why the heroes want a secret identity:

1. They want to have a personal life, free of scrutiny and harassment by the media, government and supervillains

2. They have a day job and/or family, and want to hold on to both

3. They want to protect the people they care about from the extremely dangerous foes they deal with

 

Most heroes with a public identity in comics are not burdened by these issues:  The Punisher has no day job, his loved ones are dead, and he is constantly at war with crime.  The Fantastic Four live in the Baxter Building/Four Freedoms Plaza and their day job is being the Fantastic Four.  Iron Man has the resources to deal with the threats posed by being out in public, and his "normal" identity is already subject to media scrutiny and government attention.  

 

 

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20 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

It just seems to me that the argument that secret identities are unrealistic or stupid in a world where a guy turns into a huge green monster that can juggle tanks is simply absurd.  You're willing to suspend disbelief for the far more outrageous and fantastic thing than the other??? 

 

Well said, including later posts. Same thing applies for drones, facial recognition, cel phones, etc. etc. etc.

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19 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

 

I agree.  Personally I think the concept adds a lot to the genre and storytelling.  I mean all those times Clark has to fake a reason why he disappeared or can't make it to something, all the times Spider-Man has to keep his identity from Aunt May, etc.  Its a huge addition to the opportunities for drama and excitement to a game. 

 

And humor.  I remember the running gags in Lois and Clark with his often-lame excuses to duck out, the interactions between other characters ("Is he always like this?"  [nods] "You have no idea."), and eventually Lois covering for him once she learned Clark was Superman. 

 

3 hours ago, Tech said:

 

Well said, including later posts. Same thing applies for drones, facial recognition, cel phones, etc. etc. etc.

 

Yep.  There comes a point where realism (whether in a game, movie, or comic book) can be more hindrance than help.

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On ‎2‎/‎11‎/‎2019 at 4:44 PM, assault said:

 

I'm not sure if the (classic, pre-Crisis) LSH had secret ID's aside from Superboy and Supergirl. When they were travelling in the past, yes, they would sometimes adopt them, usually to protect Superboy's ID, but I don't recall them having them in their own time.

 

All the other stuff was there, naturally.

except for SIR PRIZE and MISS TERIOUS they had none

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2 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

In the comics Iron Man had a secret ID, he may still as far as I know.  It was a good cover too: Iron Man is his bodyguard.  Makes sense, fits the lifestyle, and who'd believe that wastrel would fight crime?

Well, it was late in the game, but Tony revealed who he was. And in the movies he was always out as Iron Man. (He revieled his ID in a press conference after SHIELD suggested strongly that he cover Iron Man up as being a bodyguard).

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On 2/10/2019 at 11:24 PM, Duke Bushido said:

Yeah, cameras and drones and surveillance and facial recognition and on and on and on-- it's everywhere.  (and maybe that's why we don't have superheroes in the first place).   We're talking fiction here, though.  Just make it work.

 

For example, a super-hacker writes a virus that crawls electronic databases and purges all data on supers (or subtly adjusts it so the biometrics no longer match the secret identities).

 

This has no effect on physical records like photographs, but when was the last time you took a picture with anything other than a phone? (Alternatively, you may think Clark and Superman are the same person, but there's no facial recognition match.  It's proof that it's just a superficial resemblance!)

 

Doug

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2 minutes ago, dougmacd said:

 

For example, a super-hacker writes a virus that crawls electronic databases and purges all data on supers (or subtly adjusts it so the biometrics no longer match the secret identities).

 

This has no effect on physical records like photographs, but when was the last time you took a picture with anything other than a phone? (Alternatively, you may think Clark and Superman are the same person, but there's no facial recognition match.  It's proof that it's just a superficial resemblance!)

 

Doug

 

YUp, easy to forget that it's often the supers who have the ridiculously high Computer programming skill, if not flat out Cyberpathy and mind control over machines

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A long time ago, I had Dr. Destroyer send a virus into the internet to detect any trace of him and wipe it clean of any data. It was an interesting idea but I never did anything with it afterwards and I seriously doubt anyone remembers that game episode.

 

dougmacd, I know people who don't take photos with phones.

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22 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

In the comics Iron Man had a secret ID, he may still as far as I know.  It was a good cover too: Iron Man is his bodyguard.  Makes sense, fits the lifestyle, and who'd believe that wastrel would fight crime?

these day the public knows Tony is iron man

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