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Tryskhell

What does a Champion campaign really looks like ?

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That's the story.  If I be sure that it would be okay copyright-wise I would consider some day writing up my GAC campaign.  I had several years plotted out, lots of real-world historical event interactions.  I'd have to alter some of the NPCs though.  Batman, The Shadow, guys like that were all in the game... as bad guys.  Until the PC heroes showed up there were no good guys.

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I know this is going to sound odd, and I'll try to get something more explanatory up tomorrow night (too late tonight), but I would like to offer something that has served me _wonderfully_ over the years:

 

If the players, by accident or by intent, offer up a better plot, better twist, or better behind-the-scenes activities than you had planned-- and _especially_ of they are surprised (in a positive, excited sort of way) that either they have "figured it out" or that you "really managed to pull that off without us knowing!", then _by all means_ abandon what you had planned and run with it.  Even if you worked two weeks on your idea, and you actually like it a bit better, if the players are stoked by something they _think_ you're doing, then do that thing.  Always.  Excited players are happy players, and have solid, positive memories of their time at your table.  Plus, since they really think that they-- either as themselves of as their characters-- were invested enough and clever enough to figure it all out---  well that just increases their willingness to invest themselves in the game.

 

Steamroller them into what you had planned, and-- while it may be an even bigger success-- you are risking two things:  their disappointment at being wrong (and perhaps being wrong "yet again") and the possibility that what you had in mind ends up having less appeal to them.

 

 

Hell, I've built my entire setting that way, over the years.  I've got two players left from our original "'82 Crew" that have been adventuring in Campaign City (on the shores of Lake Campaign) since Day One, and while there are, _today_, maps, institutions, cultures, backstories, people and personalities and venerable old traditions-- even those two players from way back when have no idea just how much of this place they built themselves.  The best part of that is that they _like it_ here.  :)

 

The same can (just "can;" it's not a regular thing) happen with your plots and stories as well.

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For superheroes? In this day and age nothing could be easier even if you have no background in printed comics. Just watch some superhero movies / tv shows / and or cartoons and then try to emulate the bits from them that you and your friends like. 

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On November 4, 2019 at 2:41 AM, Killer Shrike said:

For superheroes? In this day and age nothing could be easier

 

I can second this.  I now have a fractional knowledge of comic books: something along the lines of Diddly/Squat. 

 

Most of what I "know" about comic tropes comes from paying attention to how my players reacted to things I set in motion and that first Christopher Reeves Superman movie.  (to this day I tend to prefer "master villains" whose only "power" is meticulous long-term planning with numerous contingencies. 

 

I'm getting better at changing it up, but still, there is a tendency.... 

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Nowadays you can go on YouTube and watch full episodes of Justice League and Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Those animations were made by comic fans who know the genre and treat it seriously. They parallel the genre precedents closely; each episode can be compared to one issue of a comic, with comparable themes, conventions, characterization, and action. Their stories feature both episodic and long-term plots, and demonstrate how to weave the two together.

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On 11/2/2019 at 3:04 AM, Tryskhell said:

I'm having the  hardest time wrapping my head around this, but I can't for the life of me imagine what a Champions campaign looks like in action.
I'm coming from D&D 5e where there's a clear path, clear maps, there's a dungeon and if not, at least the party sticks together...

But I can't see this working with super heroes. Maybe the clear path part works, but clear maps ? I don't know, of lairs, maybe, but clearly not as much as in D&D, modern cities are much harder to map out... Also, the secret identity stuff really messes with my ability to visualize a "party" of super heroes.

 

So far, I'm imagining it more like a west marshes game, where people join in with their characters if the characters are free and interested, and where there's a lot of one-on-one DM/Player short sessions, or sessions with much less people.

 

But I don't know, I never actually played the game (I'd love to, though) and the books aren't very good at explaining it either (but overall I must admit I love them, theorycrafting powers is one hell of a hobby). So I come to you guys asking what your actual sessions look like, how do you manage the civilian/super dichotomy ? How do you manage a much more complex world ?

 

You thought about listening to a podcast.  Chimpions is a decent play podcast (UK based) using Champions and playing through some of the modules available to buy (like the Coriolis Effect).

 

http://chimpions.co.uk/

 

Doc

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The thing to keep in mind with Champions is that unlike D&D which has some pretty solid pre-defined roles and expected character abilities, Champions is a superhero game and you can have ANYTHING coming into the game as an ability.  So scenarios can't be written quite as predetermined or on the rails as with fantasy.  Yes, you have magic in a fantasy game, but its very rigidly controlled magic with specific abilities.

 

In a Champions game you can have people who can teleport others around, walk through walls, move to other dimensions, fly at the speed of light, shot put a volkswagon, and on and on and on.  So the scenarios are designed with a story and plot in mind, and then things turn out.. well the way they turn out.  Its easier to design your own based on the abilities of the team.

 

For example, a mentalist in my game bought the power to give others mental defense.  That doesn't sound like much, but if every character on the team has 10+ mental defense, then a lot of scenarios are now very difficult to run, because what was once "this guy takes control of a party member" now becomes "this guy tries to take control and gets beat to a pulp."

 

Now there are two ways to approach this:

1) Tell the player that they can't buy that power for their character

2) Let them take it, then design the scenarios with that in mind

 

A published scenario might have a specific scene in mind where the telepath learns a secret or a mental illusionist tricks the party.  With this kind of setup, that's going to be challenging, at best.  So writing up Champions scenarios is challenging for publication and always has to have a lot of "if this won't work then..." or "in the case of..." bits.

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<Nod> Very true!

 

In prepping for "Keystone Konjurors," I *deliberately asked* for players to give their PCs "plot breaker" mystical powers such as Telepathy, Retrocognition, EDM and Astral Form. What you can look back in time to see how something was done? You can go anywhere in the world, at will, invisibly and intangibly? You can vanish to another dimension when things get hairy? How can a GM possibly run excition scenarios under such conditions?

 

Well, you do it by accepting that the PCs have these abilities -- and you build scenarios that not only *accept* these abilities, they *require* them. Like, yes, the PCs *will* look back in time and find the next plot coupon. Oh, and occasionally give them chances to be cool by using their powers to effortlessly solve problems that other people find impossible. (A good story technique to keep in mind for any Champions campaign. The PCs are super, so let them show it off!)

 

Dean Shomshak

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3 minutes ago, DShomshak said:

Well, you do it by accepting that the PCs have these abilities -- and you build scenarios that not only *accept* these abilities, they *require* them. Like, yes, the PCs *will* look back in time and find the next plot coupon. Oh, and occasionally give them chances to be cool by using their powers to effortlessly solve problems that other people find impossible. (A good story technique to keep in mind for any Champions campaign. The PCs are super, so let them show it off!)

 

Quoted for truth and signal boost. This basic technique has been at the core of my GMing style for many years. 

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(A good story technique to keep in mind for any Champions campaign. The PCs are super, so let them show it off!)

 

Yeah, film and TV writers don't seem to understand this basic concept.  Show them being heroic, let them do something magnificent and amazing once in a while, particularly at first.  That way they feel powerful and super, but also it gives them perspective.  Those street gang punks could really dance well but they were no match for our powers!  But this guy is tough!

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1 hour ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

 

Yeah, film and TV writers don't seem to understand this basic concept. 

 

Some film & TV writers don't seem to get it (my personal pet peeve is the need some superhero show writers seem to feel to do an episode arc or sequel based around preventing a hero from using the abilities that make them super--very aggravating!), but some writers do get it. I would argue that the Marvel movies by and large generally get this right, offering heroes that are relateable but also allowing them to cut loose with their powers and focusing on threats that remain challenging and require the heroes to be super to overcome. Some of the DCUA cartoons do this too. Most recently, Young Justice is to me a pretty good template for team based supers campaign.

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To start out the campaign, I'd give the players a rough idea of power level and setting, and then build the rest of the world through the choices they make with their characters.  The Marvel movies did that.

 

For instance, in the first Iron Man movie, they introduce the "arc reactor" technology.  This is really what sets the Marvel world apart from our world.  Tony Stark invents some really awesome stuff, and the "super" tech that we see all comes from him.  Of course his dad was brilliant too, and so if we need to have some existing supertech that Tony didn't invent, it probably came from his dad.  Then we get the Incredible Hulk, and we know that there's this serum the government has been messing with for decades, and if you do it wrong it produces monsters.  Then we get Thor, and we learn there are aliens who have been messing around on Earth for eons, and a lot of our old myths probably come from their exploits.  They've got advanced technology that looks like magic to us, and they aren't big on explaining themselves to humans.  Finally we get Captain America, and we not only see what the super-soldier serum does when it works right, but we also see the glowing cube thingy that (among other things) gives Nazis supertech.  This all comes together with the Avengers movie, where we get glowing cube thingy, brainwashing staff, alien armies, super-agents, and a flying helicarrier.

 

Everything we see in the early Marvel movies has its origins in something tied in with the "PCs" of that world.  Look at the origins of the main characters, and that gives you your villains.

 

So say you've got 5 players.  Bob wants to be a ninja.  Dave insists on playing a chain-smoking Scottish wizard who wears a trench coat and fights demonic creatures.  Ricky has designed a power armor character who spent all his points on the cool armor, and doesn't have any skills or wealth.  When forced to come up with an explanation, he says he's a military pilot and was given the armor for this special assignment.  Frank plays an alien from another world who gets his powers from Earth's reflected moonlight or something.  And Sarah wants to play an anime character she really likes.  She's got a teenage girl who changes into a super teenage girl and shoots rainbow beams of power.  She does this to fight off the evil queen from Planet X.

 

What do you do?  Well, you've got two characters with asian themes, so that'll probably feature heavily.  We know that ninjas are real.  You've also got two different alien races (Planet X people and also Frank's character, though you might tie them together somehow).  The government has advanced enough tech to hand out a power suit to Corporal Moron.  And we've got shadowy demon creatures running around in the background thanks to our cynical mage, Harry Trainspotter.  That gives you a lot of possible enemies for these guys.  Then you can gradually build out the world based on what happens with these characters.  Just go with the logical conclusions of their actions and how they describe their backgrounds.  It sounds to me like evil cults should be a thing, maybe they hire ninja clans to guard their meeting places?  And if the governments of the world know that aliens are real, perhaps they are trying to use their super-suits to prevent possible invasion.  That sounds like a good reason for them to build a lot of different experimental units, many of which can get stolen.  And then sometimes Planet X could send some advanced scouts to Earth, and maybe they get captured or they drop an important alien tech thingy  (and somebody else finds it).

 

Anyway, when you introduce a new villain, it can help to tie it to one of the characters.  Sorry Bob, but the cyber-ninja that tried to kill the mayor seems very familiar to you -- he reminds you of a dead man, someone you once killed.  You're honor bound to investigate.  And Ricky, that laser sword he used looks like something you saw in the testing center when they gave you your armor.  You're almost afraid to ask your superiors where it came from.  Something is definitely up.  You don't have to resolve the problem immediately, in fact it may be better if you just let it linger for a while.  Bob can get revenge and knock the villain off a building into the river (where he disappears), but Ricky is still left wondering who he can trust within his own organization.  Each game session, you might have a villain that is related to a different hero, or maybe multiple heroes at once.  The players end up being tied together by circumstances, because all the villains link back to their own backgrounds.

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4 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

The thing to keep in mind with Champions is that unlike D&D which has some pretty solid pre-defined roles and expected character abilities, Champions is a superhero game and you can have ANYTHING coming into the game as an ability.  So scenarios can't be written quite as predetermined or on the rails as with fantasy.  Yes, you have magic in a fantasy game, but its very rigidly controlled magic with specific abilities.

 

 

Also remember that these abilities are constrained by the number of points in the ability.  An Ironman clone built with standard beginning points, they will not have all abilities of Ironman issue 200+.

 

It may seem obvious, but expectations do need to be handled.

 

I like to use pre-gen PCs as introduction characters.  It lets players kick the tires and try things out before making their own characters. 

 

I also recommend that the first PC they build is their second best concept.   First builds tend to not be exactly what they intended.

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Always great advice on these boards.  And the best answers come with someone new to Hero asks a great question.

 

In my own case when I run Champions I treat it like episodic TV shows.  Think of it as bad-guy episode #52 "Mole men attack the university" and next week "Mind controlled senior citizens robbing grocery stores and banks."  The campaign always takes place in the city I live in and I insist that all the characters be themed around something connected with the current location. This gives the characters a nice common theme and background.  Usually they have a few adventures before the local or national authorities show up and let them know they need to either get registered or be prepared to pay for property damage.

 

I run my Champions games as something in between my Fantasy campaign sessions when we know someone isn't going to be available for a session or two.

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Just find a villain or an organization, and have the heroes meet for the first time.  They form a team and have the heroes roll for their hunteds.  Instant Campaign.

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23 hours ago, Doc Democracy said:

 

You thought about listening to a podcast.  Chimpions is a decent play podcast (UK based) using Champions and playing through some of the modules available to buy (like the Coriolis Effect).

 

http://chimpions.co.uk/

 

 

Doc

 

So funny, I just found this night before last on accident looking for Gaming Music. It is actually very enjoyable so far! Do you know what tools they are using for distance communication? Tools etc?

 

+1 worth listening to.

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21 hours ago, DShomshak said:

<Nod> Very true!

 

In prepping for "Keystone Konjurors," I *deliberately asked* for players to give their PCs "plot breaker" mystical powers such as Telepathy, Retrocognition, EDM and Astral Form. What you can look back in time to see how something was done? You can go anywhere in the world, at will, invisibly and intangibly? You can vanish to another dimension when things get hairy? How can a GM possibly run excition scenarios under such conditions?

 

Well, you do it by accepting that the PCs have these abilities -- and you build scenarios that not only *accept* these abilities, they *require* them. Like, yes, the PCs *will* look back in time and find the next plot coupon. Oh, and occasionally give them chances to be cool by using their powers to effortlessly solve problems that other people find impossible. (A good story technique to keep in mind for any Champions campaign. The PCs are super, so let them show it off!)

 

Dean Shomshak

 

A character in my just-completed Champions campaign has Retrocognition and can talk to spirits of dead people.  The players used both of these a *lot* to get the straight poop on what was going on.  When I noticed they were basically 100% trusting (and utterly relying upon) the visions or what the ghosts said, I occasionally threw a monkey wrench in there.  My favorite was when a DEMON Morbane figured out she could see what happened in the past, so he taunted her before casting a spell (Darkness to Retrocog Clairsentience) that ended her vision before she could see what he actually did.  He also created a spell that made her see what was going on in an alternate dimension, so one of her visions contained incorrect info.  Man, did she hate him! 

 

In a recent adventure involving Shadow Destroyer, one of his underlings was transformed to look like someone else (whom he was holding captive), and then ordered the underling to commit suicide.  The PC heroine was baffled when she couldn't summon that person's spirit (since the person wasn't actually dead yet).

 

(Note:  I didn't do this sort of thing often, just mainly when that Morbane was involved, or that one case with Shadow Destroyer.)

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Maybe this will help as kind of an example.

 

Session 1 -- The intro

 

The PCs are all presumed to know one another.  Even if they aren't a defined "team", they have all been operating in the city for a few months and they are at least on speaking terms with each other.  Now we just need a reason for them to get together.  So we'll say there's a bank robbery.  Two of the players are there in their secret identities.  The other players happen to be close by (let's say they can arrive within a turn of combat starting). 

 

The supervillain Ogre busts his way into the bank, flanked by a squad of masked goons.  The goons have generic comic book blaster guns, which they point at the people in the bank.  Ogre makes his way to the underground vault, and starts yanking on the door, trying to rip it off its hinges (Ogre is not quite as strong as he thinks he is, this will take him a minute).  One of the tellers hits a silent alarm.  The players who aren't at the bank will be alerted that something is happening, and they'll start to make their way there.  The players who are at the bank now have the opportunity to find a place to change into their costumes and either attack the goons, or attack Ogre.  Neither the goons nor Ogre should be tough enough to stand up to two heroes for very long.  If the heroes learn to cooperate, this will be a quick fight ("Thanks GM!  Now I know!"  "And knowing is half the battle!").  If they don't cooperate, things can get embarrassing.  Even if the heroes split up (one takes Ogre, the other takes the goons), they should do okay as long as they aren't getting in each other's way.

 

You might try putting the most inexperienced players in this initial encounter.  It gives the GM a chance to baby-step them through a fairly unimportant combat, and you've already got reinforcements on the way (so it won't feel artificial when the cavalry shows up).  Once the rest of the heroes show up, Ogre and the goons are done for.  If the first two heroes have already won, then when the rest of the team shows up, they see a high-tech looking van parked out in front of the bank.  There are also some goons standing outside of the van, also with blasters.  The van has some kind of radar dish and laser cannon on top, big reinforced side doors (for Ogre to climb out of), heavy plates of armor, and can outrun a police car.  It also transforms into a submarine, which was their escape plan (drive right off a bridge into the river below, and cruise away underwater).  The laser hits hard enough to knock a hero for a loop, probably around the campaign max (12D6 or so for an average game).  It gets a bonus to hit on the first shot because the heroes don't see it immediately.  If Ogre and friends won the fight inside, they'll come running out of the bank right now with the money.  They'll pile in the van and try to drive away.  The goons may leave Ogre behind as a distraction (they can always break him out later if he gets caught).  If Ogre and friends were defeated in the bank, then when more heroes show up, the van will take a pot-shot and drive away.  The heroes will need to decide who chases the van and who stays at the bank.

 

Regardless of whether they catch the van or not, or if the villains succeed at the robbery or not, it should be immediately obvious that someone else is pulling the strings.  Ogre is not known for his brilliant scientific mind, and the goons you capture are just career criminals with some high tech guns.  Somebody is supplying these guys.  Don't feel the need to help the bad guys escape -- these guys are all losers, and the master villain doesn't really care if they get caught or not.  If the players do well and capture the bad guys that's great, it's good for them to succeed.  If they do poorly, the bad guys are just after money.  They won't stick around to boot-stomp the heroes, they'll just leave.

 

Now you've got to rope the heroes into being a team.  Exactly how you do this will depend on your specific players.  I'd suggest leaving a clue that ties it to one or more of the players' backgrounds.  One of the unconscious goons has a weird tattoo that means he works for a rival ninja clan.  Or maybe there's a mystic symbol on one of the guys' forehead or something.  Anyway at least one of the players realizes that he's personally connected to this.  Or if the bad guys got away, maybe they kidnapped one of the PC's girlfriends or something.  So one or more of the players realize that this is a bigger deal than it appeared at first glance, and they need to request the assistance of these other heroes.

 

If this adventure takes up all the time you have that evening, then that's a wrap for your first session.  If the players rocket through it and you've still got half the night left, then another villain encounter will be handy.  It can be completely unrelated to the first one (not everything has to tie to a larger meta-plot).

 

Session 2 -- The Villain Team

 

This could serve as a continuation of the first session if it goes fast enough, or it can be saved for the second time you play.

 

A group of loser villains have come together to commit some type of crime.  You'll want a change of scenery from a bank robbery.  These guys have attacked the local hydroelectric dam, or high tech science lab, or whatever.  They have an evil plan they'll shout out at the top of their lungs ("With this blah blah blah, you'll never stop me from blah blah blah...").  The villains are roughly on par with the heroes, except for a few shortcomings.  Maybe one of them has a harsh vulnerability to a particular hero's powers.  The killer robot has a x2 vulnerability to Captain Lightning's attack.  Or perhaps they're fairly even, but they average about 1 point less Speed than the heroes.  Or maybe one of the villains doesn't have a real movement power -- he gets left behind during the fight and can't catch up.  Perhaps the villains all have about 10 less Stun than the heroes.  Or some combination of all these.  The villains have the same number of characters as the heroes, one villain per hero.  In a straight-up fight, each villain should lose, even if the heroes aren't that coordinated.  Don't play the villains as exceedingly deadly or vicious (maybe they're beginners too, and they're very overconfident in their powers).  Your players can still lose this battle even if everything is stacked in their favor (never underestimate the players' ability to waste their time with ineffective tactics).

 

If you can work in the scenery into the battle plan, that's even better.  A fight on top of a hydroelectric dam is awesome, particularly if somebody gets blasted off of it and falls a long way.  Or if a hole gets blasted through it and the heroes have to spend some time stopping a massive water leak.  Playing with the environment around you in a way that fantasy characters can't is part of what makes superhero games so much fun.  

 

Anyway eventually the heroes defeat the villains.  The PCs get to wait around for a bit until the PRIMUS team (i.e., the government agency who investigate supercrime, are ineffective at fighting villains, and run the revolving door superprison) shows up to take the bad guys into custody.  Agent Jerkface is in charge, and he doesn't like superpeople.  He's going to bitch and moan to the PCs, and try to intimidate them.  He might actually have a heart of gold, or he might just be a jerk.  It's up to you.  He'll complain about having to "clean up your messes", while conveniently ignoring the fact that his PRIMUS team was woefully incapable of stopping this minor supervillain team.  Hopefully one of your players makes a comment about leaving him some sloppy seconds, and the PCs can have a wonderfully antagonistic relationship with the people who are supposed to be helping out.  Regardless, PRIMUS will load the defeated supervillains into some armored cars, or maybe an armored helicopter, and take them to some detention facility.  It's perfectly okay to have Agent Jerkface be halfway through a holier-than-thou speech about "competent professionals" being better than a bunch of amateurs, and then there's a loud BANG in the distance as the doors are blown off the helicopter and the villain team jumps to freedom.  It should be far in the distance, so the heroes don't really have the movement to get over there, nor do they feel like they're supposed to (it's clearly the crushing force of irony coming down on the agent -- don't worry, he won't learn his lesson).  Perfectly silhouetted against the setting sun, these tiny little figures jump out of the side of the smoking helicopter, and they fly away.  Agent Jerkface about chokes on his cigar, and the players have a good laugh.

 

After the fight, the PCs meet Doctor Von Scientist, the man responsible for whatever thing the bad guys were attempting to take.  He's a nice guy, but lacks wisdom.  He of course had zero foresight that anybody would want to steal his Mega Ray or whatever it was.  "Oh, the consequences of that would be catastrophic!"  Of course even if he destroys the prototype, he knows how to build a new one.  Anyone with the ability to read minds and a massive technical lab could capture him and get the secrets from him.  We call this "foreshadowing".  He's okay for now, and he's friendly to the PCs.  But he's going to be more of a pain in the ass than an actual asset.  Have him be an expert in some field that the players don't have covered.  That way if something comes up later, they can go bother this guy about it.

 

----

 

Anyway, that should give a general idea of how Champions games feel.  The "metaplot" doesn't have to move forward each session.  You can have nice little self-contained stories each week.  And occasionally you'll refer back to something that happened before.  Just plant some seeds and give them enough time to develop into properly develop.  Feel free to steal from cartoons, movies, old comic books, new comic books, other people's campaigns, etc.  Old Ninja Turtles cartoons are almost superhero stories, the same with Transformers and GI Joe.  An evil organization works great, particularly if they've got some super-powered enforcers on the payroll to stop those meddling heroes.

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The very first Champions Adventure way back in the 1st Edition had a group of heroes recruited by UNTIL to rescue a VIPER defector.  They went up against a group of mercenary Supervillains.  If they saved the VIPER Defector it led to a mission to recover some microfilm that would expose a VIPER Base.   If they got the microfilm they would raid a VIPER base and captured the key to the VIPER computer network.

 

 

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2 hours ago, massey said:

It's perfectly okay to have Agent Jerkface be halfway through a holier-than-thou speech about "competent professionals" being better than a bunch of amateurs, and then there's a loud BANG in the distance as the doors are blown off the helicopter and the villain team jumps to freedom.  It should be far in the distance, so the heroes don't really have the movement to get over there, nor do they feel like they're supposed to (it's clearly the crushing force of irony coming down on the agent -- don't worry, he won't learn his lesson).  Perfectly silhouetted against the setting sun, these tiny little figures jump out of the side of the smoking helicopter, and they fly away.  Agent Jerkface about chokes on his cigar, and the players have a good laugh.

I was right with you until this. 

Immediately portraying the authorities as unable to keep captured supervillains captured is a very dangerous move.  There's a pretty significant subset of players who will immediately ditch the prospect of handing over villains if jail doesn't keep them in.  Be it hidden superdungeons, orbital space prisons, extra-dimensional exile, or summary execution, these players will find their own way to "solve" the problem.  Doubly so for any villain who actively threatens innocent lives.  And the instant those start failing, more and more extreme measures are going to be taken. 

And this can be downright toxic to the tone of a game.  I've seen superheroes assaulting the police arresting a villain, or once even storming a jail, just to make sure that villain goes somewhere secure.  It permanently taints the entire idea of "respectable authority". 

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

I was right with you until this. 

Immediately portraying the authorities as unable to keep captured supervillains captured is a very dangerous move.  There's a pretty significant subset of players who will immediately ditch the prospect of handing over villains if jail doesn't keep them in.  Be it hidden superdungeons, orbital space prisons, extra-dimensional exile, or summary execution, these players will find their own way to "solve" the problem.  Doubly so for any villain who actively threatens innocent lives.  And the instant those start failing, more and more extreme measures are going to be taken. 

And this can be downright toxic to the tone of a game.  I've seen superheroes assaulting the police arresting a villain, or once even storming a jail, just to make sure that villain goes somewhere secure.  It permanently taints the entire idea of "respectable authority". 

Dangerous assumptions that will kill a superHERO game faster than you can spit. 

 

Supervillians escaping is a basic supers trope.

Just like superheroes getting captured.

 

If the supervillians do not escape, you will never have recurring villians, and without that you will never see an archvillian.

 

Just like your heroes will never be able perform a thrilling escape from the villainous deathtrap if they cannot be captured.

 

When you say that some of the heroes will circumvent the law and impose their own justice.  You have stopped talking about Heroes.  Instead you are discussing "people with powers". 

 

There is a distinct difference between Superheros and People with Powers.  Both are completely viable games, but thay are completely different in tone.  Superheros are, well Heroes.  People with Powers are vigilantes that may or may not follow the law or do the right thing based on their personal opinion at the moment.  A super that assaults police is not actually a superhero, they are at best a vigilante.

 

It is true that there are players that cannot stand for their PC to be captured.  For them it is a dealbreaker.  Which is cool.  Some people simply cannot play in heroic thrillers.

 

I know D&D players that are pure murder hobo's.  A perfectly fine style of play.....in a murder hobo style campaign.

 

@Tryskhell

If you are running a supers campaign, you need to establish tone and flavor from the opening gate.  If your players are going the PwP route instead of playing heroes, make sure you campaign is designed to flex that way.  In addition to villians, you may need to have NPC Superheros for when the PCs get on the wanted list.

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1 hour ago, Spence said:

If the supervillians do not escape, you will never have recurring villians, and without that you will never see an archvillian.

There's a massive difference between having some villains escape jail sometimes and having the very first batch of supervillains escape superjail immediately. 

There's also a massive difference between having some villains try to break out or be broken out while the players oppose them and having some villains escape with nothing the players can do about it. 

 

Have villains try to break out other villains, and let your players stop them.  Give them a fair chance, but sometimes they'll fail.  Still, always have a victory.  Maybe the villain gets broken out, but the heroes arrest the villain who organized the attempt to get him free.  Maybe the villains get away, but the heroes manage to prove Warden James was corrupt and he goes to jail.  Put a new or boring villain on the line and try to get some old favorites out. 

Have villains work by proxy or run at the drop of a hat.  Any villain who fights to the KO is going to jail after one encounter.  Crimemind might not be that tough, but first you've got to best his lieutenants, convince one to rat him out, track down his secret lair, and break in to Punch Evil.  And of course foil all his plots while you do so.  Pyrodozer sets a building on fire, robs it, and runs while the heroes deal with the fire.  Miss Zip reacts to getting hit by abandoning her plans, Aborting to a Flying Dodge, telling her goons to buy time, and never looking back.  They'll get caught eventually, but it might take a few tries before they get put in the slammer.  And of course, Crimemind might recruit them while they're in there and take them with him when Warden James orchestrates his jailbreak. 

Have villains who recur on their own.  CHRONOTRON, menace from the year 2500 is a robot sent from the future to steal durable valuables and hide them, then his mad scientist creator digs them up centuries later.  Punch Chronotron and send him to jail, he'll stay there.  But another will show up, until the heroes realize what's going on.  Then you get a nice final scene where the heroes are fighting to keep Chronotron from blowing up the university while a bunch of academics agree on a time travel research ban.  Then, with the stroke of a pen (ideally a scientist PC's pen), Chronotron vanishes in a puff of nonhistory.  Until, of course, a PC creates a Time Something and lets the world know, and his press conference is interrupted by reports that a jewelry store has been stolen by CHRONOTRON! 

E: I forgot:  Have successor villains.  Doctor Freako is languishing in jail, but his assistant finds his super-serum.  Now, Freako II is on the rampage!  And then it's the Doctor's son, Freako Jr.  Then somebody else gives a weaker version to some goons and you've got the Freaklings.  Then Missus Freako laces some food with super-serum during a prison visit and the entire Freako Family breaks out!  And so on and so forth. 

 

1 hour ago, Spence said:

If you are running a supers campaign, you need to establish tone and flavor from the opening gate.  If your players are going the PwP route instead of playing heroes, make sure you campaign is designed to flex that way.  In addition to villians, you may need to have NPC Superheros for when the PCs get on the wanted list.

And if you're going the Superheroes way, you have to make sure that players are incentivized and rewarded for playing Heroes.  If the Heroic thing to do is to hand villains to the police, then that should also be the sensible and correct thing to do in your game.  Jail should work, at least most of the time.  The Law should be moral.  The Authorities should be trustworthy and upstanding.  The right decision might suck for a little while, but should always turn out well in the end.  The Hero beats the villain in the end, crime doesn't pay. 

If the authorities are antagonistic and villains escape trivially, then doing the right thing doesn't make your players feel like Heroes.  It makes them feel like Sisyphus. 

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While it is true that it is cliche for Supervillains to excape/jailbreak, you should NOT do this each and every time the heroes stop them. Also, avoid creating Agent Jerkface...at least not without some guys who are nicer to the heroes in your campaign in your organization who are higher in rank than Agent Jerkface. Take a look at Batman: The Animated Series. Detective Harvey Bullock is the Agent Jerkface of the Gotham Police. Forcently, his partner, Detective Renee Montoya is much more likeable police officer. Also there boss, Police Chief Ohara (yep, him) is even friendlier to the Bat-Family. And then there is Ohara's boss...

 

(Ok...so Ohara doesn't really appear in B:TAS. It seems like Police Commissioner James Gordon controls the GPD directly in the series. Which offically is not true, since the Police Chief handles the day to day stuff of the beat patrolman, and the Police Commissioner handles the funding and bureaucratic side of things.)

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

I was right with you until this. 

Immediately portraying the authorities as unable to keep captured supervillains captured is a very dangerous move.  There's a pretty significant subset of players who will immediately ditch the prospect of handing over villains if jail doesn't keep them in.  Be it hidden superdungeons, orbital space prisons, extra-dimensional exile, or summary execution, these players will find their own way to "solve" the problem.  Doubly so for any villain who actively threatens innocent lives.  And the instant those start failing, more and more extreme measures are going to be taken. 

And this can be downright toxic to the tone of a game.  I've seen superheroes assaulting the police arresting a villain, or once even storming a jail, just to make sure that villain goes somewhere secure.  It permanently taints the entire idea of "respectable authority". 

 

The tone of my post was fairly tongue in cheek.  Obviously people know their own groups better than I do, and know how they'll respond to things.  If your group wouldn't like that, then don't do it.  I think my group would laugh it up, since it's clearly intended as a joke.

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