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Brian Stanfield

What makes a complete game "complete"?

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Well, we can't touch the rules, but a book that has enough pieces to allow characters to be snapped together might be possible. (Characteristic set + Skill set (package) + Power set + Complication set = Complete Character?)

 

Add a bit of setting info, a bunch of NPCs, some GMing advice and, of course, adventures.

 

But basically that's a setting book, and we've already got a bunch of them.

 

And of course, words are cheap, art and layout are expensive.

 

A whole bunch of smaller products (a product line!) might be more realistic.

 

Of course a short, not-necessarily complete, presentation of the rules might be handy. Shorter than Hero Basic or Sidekick. But the rights to the rules aren't available, barring a special agreement, like that for Champions Now. You would need to be someone with a proven track record for that.

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35 minutes ago, assault said:

Well, we can't touch the rules, but a book that has enough pieces to allow characters to be snapped together might be possible. (Characteristic set + Skill set (package) + Power set + Complication set = Complete Character?)

 

Add a bit of setting info, a bunch of NPCs, some GMing advice and, of course, adventures.

 

But basically that's a setting book, and we've already got a bunch of them.

 

And of course, words are cheap, art and layout are expensive.

 

A whole bunch of smaller products (a product line!) might be more realistic.

 

Of course a short, not-necessarily complete, presentation of the rules might be handy. Shorter than Hero Basic or Sidekick. But the rights to the rules aren't available, barring a special agreement, like that for Champions Now. You would need to be someone with a proven track record for that.

It'd be very easy to write a software companion for such a snapfit character book that handed the user a bunch of choices and at the end spat out a .hdc file for them.  That'd add at least a bit of unique pizazz. 

I also feel that a good couple dozen archetypes with half a dozen sets per would be a great thing to introduce newbies to the system.  Mutants and Masterminds had such a thing and it was a godsend for the couple people in the group who were mechanics-uninterested. 

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4 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

Well, you sort of do.  You need enough "setting" to place the adventures in, and let the players build a backstory in.  What you don't need is an atlas and a complete world.  You need enough pieces for the characters to exist, and those first adventures to happen.  And no more!

I played D&D for years without ever thinking about a "setting" or a "campaign world".  And it was still fun.  All you need is the map of the location where the adventure takes place - the Haunted Ruins of Castle Hufarb, and maybe the village nearby where the players buy their equipment and supplies and meet up in the tavern, and all the people warn them not to go near those ruins, "No one has ever come back!"  And then you need the map for the next adventure, and then the nest one after that.  You really don't need the map of the land between them, where nothing the players care about is happening.  You don't really need to know where Metropolis and Gotham City are, with respect to Chicago and New York, to play the game.

 

Don't get me wrong:  I love world-building, and I enjoy detailed worlds, and I love epic story arcs that tie all (or many) of the adventures together, but they aren't necessary to start playing.

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12 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

I love world-building, and I enjoy detailed worlds, and I love epic story arcs that tie all (or many) of the adventures together, but they aren't necessary to start playing.

 

Quite true.

 

However, I think the goal of any "complete game" initiative has to be much much more than just addressing "what is the minimum necessary to start playing?" The over-arching problem at hand is an inability to draw new player interest in the system, and the solution goes way beyond providing entry-level introductory material.

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Fair enough, but that's really two different goals:  1) To make a "complete" game, and 2) to draw new player interest in the system.

 

I guess I'm not quite clear on what we mean by "complete game".  So... what do we mean by it?

 

For #2, it seems fairly obvious to me that the way to draw new player interest is with the ultimate goal of this - and every - game: to have fun.  If you have some pregen characters and a ready-to-run adventure module, then you can jump right in and start having fun.  You don't need to know the epic backstory of the world in order to start having fun.  You don't need to know all the little details of how to build powers and talents with all their Advantages and Limitations, and END costs, and Base Points and Active Points and Real Points, and how to construct new Martial Arts maneuvers, in order to start having fun.

 

-----

 

And re: electronic-vs-hard copy formats, yes, you print out the charts and tables you need to refer to often.  Have them handy as separate sheets (or a GM screen - or a Player's Screen).  You don't want to have to flip through the big book to find the right chart.  The book is for things you have to look up only once in a while.  And ideally, the computer only has to be turned on very rarely during play - and with a handy search feature so you can find out what is supposed to happen if a player tries to do something weird.  Most of the computer/PDF work happens during preparation:  character generation, adventure planning, world-building, etc.

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To draw new player interest, we need more people GMing.  

 

To get more people GMing, we need to give them support. 

 

Hence, a "complete game" version of Hero that a GM can pull out and get six people playing within an hour.  

 

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I've said it before and I'll say it again: Setting is King.

 

If you make a "game" that really intrigues people, they will form groups and elect a GM without any fanfare. The key, from a publisher's standpoint, is to present something so compelling that people want to play it, regardless of the system, and regardless of the fact that, quite possibly, none of them have any previous experience with the system.

 

This is what happened with Vampire: The Masquerade. The premise of the game, along with its atmospheric setting, was enough to draw people in droves. Whether the game system was good or not, easy or difficult to learn/use, or compatible with anything else was immaterial. People wanted to live in that world and they learned whatever system they had to in order to do that.

 

The HERO System needs the same thing. A premise/setting (and accompanying product line) that is so compelling that people will learn the system just in order to experience the setting. Of course, it would help tremendously if the system was presented in such a way that it didn't become an outright obstacle to getting started easily/quickly, but the primary focus should be on the setting.

 

I define a "complete game" as a product line consisting of:

  • A core rulebook containing the core mechanics (including character creation, spell descriptions, etc.), the setting described in enough detail to get an initial campaign started (including gear, allies, villains, etc.), and at least one starting adventure with pre-built characters. Ideally the setting would include an overview of its over-arching crisis in terms similar to a Savage Worlds Plot Point Campaign.
  • A series of adventure "modules" (for lack of a better, more modern term).
  • A series of "gazatteers" providing more details for various regions of the game world.
  • A series of bestiaries, be they monsters, aliens, villains, or whatever.
  • Organization books (villain groups, cults, wizard orders, etc.)

And so on...

 

But everything listed above must be in service to expressing and detailing an epic setting that players simply can't resist. Like the World of Darkness was during the 1990s. A reasonable example of this today might be StarFinder. The product line is robust, but the setting isn't one that has people buzzing, at least not from what I can tell. So they only half succeeded, IMO.

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1 hour ago, zslane said:

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Setting is King.

 

No, it is not.  Adventure is King.  Getting people playing the game is King.  Supporting GMs is King.

 

As far as a "complete game" (defined as discussed in this thread) is concerned, setting is useful only to the extent that it exists as a place to put that complete game.  If all I have is an adventure with only an implied setting (see also any D&D module, ever) I can sit down and run a game with it.  If all I have is a setting with no adventure, I'm still stuck having to come up with a goddamn adventure.  

 

Want more players?  Get more GMs.  Want more GMs?  Support GMs.  Best way to do that?  Adventures, IMO.  We know they're not profit leaders.  They're still necessary.  

 

"Complete game" can stand in for "adventures", if by that we mean, an adventure with some pregen PCs, pregen monsters, enough implied setting to run in.  If that has to include a magic system then so be it.  I don't need to know the political situation between kingdoms X and Y and guilds zed and double-zed, to be able to run an adventure.  

 

I'm not trying to pooh-pooh setting, long term.  But I'm here begging for something I can break out and have six players playing in an hour.  I don't have time to come up with that myself, and I certainly don't have time to come up with that myself in someone else's setting.  

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A setting that some find intriguing, others will find off-putting.  A setting that some find compelling, others will find contrived.  A setting some find "epic", others will find boring.  A setting you - or anyone else - comes up with, that the author thinks is the greatest setting ever, a large percentage of the general potential gamer population won't like.

 

And the most obvious example of setting not being all that important is Champions - it's the real world, with superheroes.  You don't need a world atlas specific to the setting, because a world atlas for the real world works just as well.  The only "setting" bits are deciding what region of the world the PCs live in, which is presumably where the adventures take place (or at least start from).  Sure, there may be some secret criminal conspiracies going on that don't exist in the real world, but the players don't necessarily know about them when the campaign begins.  Likewise, with any good-guy superhero organizations.  Note that the setting of Marvel Comics has been quite compelling to very many people for many decades now, and it's still just the real world with superheroes, despite the existence of Ironman's armor, the various aliens that have invaded, magic, etc.  It's still just the modern-day real world, with all that stuff added.  And why is all that stuff added?  For the sake of the adventures.

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On 2/12/2020 at 12:58 PM, PhilFleischmann said:

As opposed to the design and logistical nightmare that it is now?  In an active-linked PDF, you almost don't need to worry about the order information is presented in, because you can link directly to another section of the rules when you need to.  Electronic formats allow you to solve those logistical problems.  Hard copy does not.  If a particular rule makes reference to one other rule, then you can put those rules next to each other.  If a rule makes references to multiple other rules, you can't put them all next to each other on a piece of paper, but you can link them together in an electronic format.

 

Y'ever shop online?  Y'ever shop out of a big hard copy catalog?

 

Yes and no. Having made more than a few e-docs, having to go through a doc after it's designed and hyperlink every little keyword to various parts would be a PITA for most. Is it worth it? Maybe. If you're planning on having both print and PDF projects could lead to extra time that can't be afforded, as you'd have to have separate files for each. Having a hyperlinked Index and ToC would be a better way to go about it IMPO. It's much easier to implement and wouldn't take so much time.

 

And yes, I've shopped online and in hard copy catalogs. The difference here is a system that would emulate online shopping would be more like a wiki-based book that would live online. But that's a whole other topic. ;)

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I would assign more faith in setting, if-  well:

Millennium City

Vibora Bay

That college Steve has up in the store

Atlantean Age

Valdorian Age

Turakian Age

Tuala Morn

Hidden Lands

Stronghold

Terran Empire 

Meriquai Falls

Johlros

Hell's Half Acre

Kazei 5

Widening Gyre

Monster Island

The Mystic World

Hudson City

Worlds of Empire

 

And I can't remember how many other setting books from even further back- 

 

Had attracted an audience larger than _us_.  By that I mean people already big into HERO. 

 

A setting is a picture of a place that you use as a backdrop for your story.  Yes; you need one.  But you don't need two-hundred-odd pages of a setting to sit down and play a game, or to even be interested in playing.  I started playing Traveller with the little black box.  There really wasn't much in there for setting. 

 

I started playing D&D with box whose color I don't remember, but I remember that the rules were thinner than the 1e Champions book (though it would be a year or two before I learned that), and the highest level listed in the book was _three_.   Yep.  Third level.  It didn't have _crap_ for setting, not even the vague inferences that having to join a service made about the Traveller universe.  The closest thing we had to "setting" for D&D was pencil and ink lines on graph paper. 

 

The list goes on, or course: Star Frontiers:  we don't like these worm-looking guys.  Have fun. 

 

Gamma World:  there was an appoclypse, maybe nuclear, not sure.  Anyway, mutants. 

 

Aftermath:  something really horrible has happened that has brought about the end of the world.  You decide what it was. 

 

Twilight 2000:  the war's over, and you're stranded in Poland.  No; there are no maps.  You don't have orders anymore, so....   Well, it's Poland.  Do what you ordinarily do in Poland, but with guns and maybe a Humvee.  A green one. 

 

Seriously.  And some of those games have launched legacies. 

 

Even Champions-- the game that we come here regularly to celebrate and discuss, had _no_ setting. 

 

First edition was published in '81. Seriously, damned near all of it: rules, Enemies 1, Escape from Stronghold (Hillariously subtitled "Adventure #1 for Champions" ) , and Island of Doctor Destroyer.   That was.... Setting, I guess? 

 

Even wieder was that all the published adventures throughout 2 and 3e were totally unrelated to each other.  I think Circle and M.E.T.E appeared in the same book, but had no relation to each other.  Same with Blood and Dr. McQuark:  neither was filled out enough to make a 24 page book on thier own,  UT if we combine them..... 

Scourge From the Deep was just _nuts_ if you wanted to work it into any cohesive setting (though it did give us the drowning rules). 

 

To be honest, that campaign book that came with Justice, Inc?  Dude, that was positively _decadent_ in terms of setting for the games then.  But we still play it. 

 

 

It was forty years ago, and we are still in love, so I'm thinking that "setting is nice" might be more appropriate.  ;)

 

The problem with setting is best illustrated with the current HERO books, and that classic example of setring: World of Darkness (or Vampire, for those looking for a short handle). 

 

Yes, it blew up _tremendously_ huge, and some of that can be contributed to setting.  Timing and topic had a lot to do with it, but the setting was undeniably very popular.  There was tons of it!  The just kept pumping it out.  Hell, why add new races and new monsters?  Think of a monster?  Build a damned game around it and toss it in World of Darkness!

 

But it's gone now.  Sure: there are, just like HERO, some diehards still plugging along.  But for the most part, it's just as dead as HERO.   But how, with that amazing setting? 

 

Too damned much of it.  Too much setting, too much restriction imposed by the setting, too much sameness.  In short, people gobbled up every little thing they could read about it, and after the information overload, they just got tired of it. 

 

Why was Lugosi the best Dracula?  You didn't see anything!  You knew there was the monster.  You _saw_ the monster as he stalked his victim.  Then there was a close up on his grotesque and lurid grin, he hunched and dove--

 

And the scene cut, or his cape obscured eveything-  his directors knew that nothing was better than what the audience would invent in their own minds.  There was enough setting to get you moving, and nowhere near enough to mire you down. 

 

Complete?  Give me an adventure, or enough setting that I can make something appropriate to what's been give.  Don't give me two hundred pages of an entire world:  the party isn't going to walk too terribly far from the starting point, anyway, not for months.  Don't bother me with what I don't need. 

 

The most popular setting book of all time, according to some, was Greyhawk.  I owned it, as I am sure many of you did.  What was that little miniature staple-bound book, anyway?  Maybe 40 pages?  Sure, it grew, but it grew over time; it didn't beat the zeal out of me with six chapters on political intrigue and four more on tax-funded infrastructure.  I don't want to play Phantom Menace; I'll call you if I get bored. 

 

A setting is a backdrop for your adventures; it's nice scenery, and names for the places in the distance.  Other than that, at least for the first few months, it's an oil painting.  Stunning, if done well.  But no matter how well it's done, you can't play it.  Not even a little bit. 

 

So: nice, but _almost_ optional. 

 

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17 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

A setting that some find intriguing, others will find off-putting.  A setting that some find compelling, others will find contrived.  A setting some find "epic", others will find boring.  A setting you - or anyone else - comes up with, that the author thinks is the greatest setting ever, a large percentage of the general potential gamer population won't like.

 

Yeah, but we don't need everyone to love it. We only need a good bunch of people to be intrigued by it, and then to like it once they've try it. We really only need more people to be intrigued by it than play the HERO System now, which is a very low bar to set. But with the right setting, you'll draw in an order of magnitude more players than we've got now, maybe even including a gaming demographic we don't normally see much of, kinda like how VtM brought more females into TTRPGs than any other game product before or since.

 

18 hours ago, Chris Goodwin said:

Adventure is King.

 

I respectfully disagree. Adventures don't exist in a vacuum. They occur within a setting. Without a setting you don't have much to hang campaign tone on, or a sense of history, or that the game world is "real" (for the characters). You can run all the one-offs you like but that won't attract new players on a broad scale. That will only attract a few new players you've found yourself. A successful product line has to think on a scale way beyond the convention environment or the we-only-get-together-once-every-couple-of-months-to-play-one-off-adventures crowd.

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4 minutes ago, zslane said:

I respectfully disagree. Adventures don't exist in a vacuum. They occur within a setting.

 

One of the D&D 5e adventures (White Plume Mountain) was brought in from a non-Forgotten Realms setting.  Their advice for running it in the Forgotten Realms was a single paragraph in length.  I've run the adventure for several groups and it's always a good time.

I agree you do need *a* setting, but adventures don't have to be locked into a specific setting to be enjoyable.

 

Otherwise I do agree with you.  The products will perform better as part of a cohesive set instead of a series of one-offs with no over-arching plan.

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11 minutes ago, zslane said:

Yeah, but we don't need everyone to love it. We only need a good bunch of people to be intrigued by it, and then to like it once they've try it. We really only need more people to be intrigued by it than play the HERO System now, which is a very low bar to set. But with the right setting, you'll draw in an order of magnitude more players than we've got now, maybe even including a gaming demographic we don't normally see much of, kinda like how VtM brought more females into TTRPGs than any other game product before or since.

That sounds like a fine way to sell movie tickets or adventure novels.  Our primary goal is to get people to play the game.  Those are very different things.  I know a woman who was a big Doctor Who fan (old-school, Don Baker - which was all there was at the time.  She went out and bought the Doctor Who Role-Playing Game from the 1980's because she was intrigued by the setting.  But she never actually played it, because she wasn't necessarily into role-playing, and even to the extent that she might have been, she would have preferred not having to be so restricted by the setting.  She already knew the story of Doctor Who, and it's not any fun to just play out the script that you already know.  If we get a gaming group together, and we all love Doctor Who, and want to play this game, only one of us can be the Doctor.

 

Tolkien's Middle Earth is one of the most popular settings ever, but it's never been all that popular for role-playing games.  A Twilight sparkly-emo-vampire setting might also bring in girls, but I don't know how many will actually play in it more than once, and I don't want to play in it at all.

 

25 minutes ago, zslane said:

I respectfully disagree. Adventures don't exist in a vacuum.

Actually, they do.  As anyone who played D&D prior to, say, 1990, can attest.  Adventures existed in a vacuum.  Many of them.  You play the game, you play the game some more, you enjoy the game, you really get into the game, you play lots of adventures, and only then do you wrap a setting around the adventures - maybe.

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3 minutes ago, zslane said:

I respectfully disagree. Adventures don't exist in a vacuum. They occur within a setting. Without a setting you don't have much to hang campaign tone on, or a sense of history, or that the game world is "real" (for the characters). You can run all the one-offs you like but that won't attract new players on a broad scale. That will only attract a few new players you've found yourself.

 

For a long term campaign, setting is king.  I'll give you that.  

 

If all I have is a rulebook (assume Champions Complete for the sake of argument) and an adventure, I can get started playing.  If all I have is a rulebook and a setting, I still need an adventure.  If I have a rulebook and a couple of adventures, I can start a campaign.  

 

Personal experience here.  I tried to run a Champions campaign.  I had players, I had characters, I had villains, I had setting.  I didn't have an adventure.  I bombed.  I didn't turn them in to Champions players.  This was the group I'd been playing D&D with for two years, starting with the D&D 5th edition Starter Set and the 5e Players Handbook.  

 

True, the Starter Set assumes the Forgotten Realms, but it gives about a page of countryside map, not much setting other than the actual areas the adventure takes place in, monsters, spells, the minimal rules needed to play characters up from 1st level to 5th.   To me, that is a complete game.  

 

This is not me saying what I think is needed.  This me saying what experience, successful and not, has shown me is needed.  The D&D 5th edition Starter Set is a complete game, IMO.

 

6 minutes ago, zslane said:

A successful product line has to think on a scale way beyond the convention environment or the we-only-get-together-once-every-couple-of-months-to-play-one-off-adventures crowd.

 

In order to get a successful product line, we need more people playing the game.  Period.  

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1 hour ago, Chris Goodwin said:

In order to get a successful product line, we need more people playing the game.  Period.  

 

I've been running 1 or 2 tables a week for over a year now.  The crappy part is that I have to use D&D 5e or Pathfinder adventures for the most part.

 

Hell, I'd like to make my own, but with a demanding job and a family I don't have that kind of time.  I think many of the veteran players are in the same boat.

 

Production Values are a major concern.  The WoTC and Pathfinder products are works of art.  Even if you don't play the adventures they are just cool to look at and there are generally enough back story bits for the DM to be an entertaining read.

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To look at it from a different direction: the $13.95 or so I spent on the D&D Starter Set drove about another $150-200 in sales to WotC.  It would have been really nice if I could have driven that money toward Hero Games instead. 

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I think there is a disconnect/difference between "set-up" and "setting". I think the "set-up" is vitally important to drawing in fans and players. The "setting" can come later. 

 

Now what is the difference? 

 

Well the "set-up"  for D&D (and almost all other fantasy games) is: 

 

You are in a medieval type world where kingdoms have risen and fallen for hundreds of years, leaving behind lost and forgotten ruins and civilizations.  Magic and monsters are real. From incredibly powerful necromancers and dragons, to orcs, goblins and other horrifying beasts. The chance for adventure and discovery are everywhere, but also the threat of danger and death. You are intrepid adventurers, maybe seeking fortune and fame, or righting wrongs and saving people. From saving your village, or kingdom or even the whole world from epic threats and monsters, your band of heroes may be all that stands in the face of darkness. Welcome to the world of XXXXXXXX. 

 

And that is the set-up. The Setting comes later with maps, and cities and npcs and histories of different nations and sourcebooks and so on. Players can incorporate those into their game or not. The adventures written for the game can be used or not. My game which started before the setting was fully fleshed out will be different from someones who started with all the books already released, but they will still be playing the same game. 

 

The Vampires set-up was: 

 

Vampires are real. They've been lurking in the shadows since times long ago, moving and growing with the societies they feed off of, but always in secret lest they be discovered and hunted down. You are a new vampire, born in blood and set free on the streets of Chicago. But life is dangerous for a vampire, even with your superhuman strength, toughness and other special abilities, you must remain hidden and form alliances to survive, not only from the humans who surround you, but from the ancient politics and maneuverings of the vampiric clans that fight for control of the city. 

 

Boom. That is the set-up. You are a new vampire, you have cool abilities but you have to remain in hiding and there are tons of politics and intrigue going around you have to join in or fight against. That is all the players and GM's need to start playing, but once all the Setting books come out it opens up the world with more details, npcs, cities, abilities, histories, etc... which make it more interesting and save the GM time from creating everything themselves. 

 

A good Set-Up will bring in the fans and players because they go "cool! that sounds interesting and fun! I wan't to play a character in that world!" 

 

A good Setting will keep the players and fans around because the world keeps growing with them and there is more to learn and discover. 

 

I feel a main issue with Champions has always been that the Set-Up has never really been that interesting or unique. It has been generic to allow GM's and players to do whatever they want at whatever power level they want. But that isn't very exciting. It doesn't draw many people in. There is no "cool" or "wow" factor to it. 

 

I feel that any new Champions game/complete game or whatever, would need a very strong Set-Up to bring people in to play it. Because if Marvel and DC can not get enough players interested in playing their RPG games that they make (and keep cancelling) then another generic superhero game (with no name recognition, multi-million dollar movie empires and thousands of comics published over the last 60 years) is going to get the market excited. 

 

(More to follow)

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42 minutes ago, Scott Ruggels said:

Yes we need a stripped Dow focused system, ...

 

I'm not sure we even need that.  We have plenty of system, stripped down or maximized.  I don't think we even need to reprint rules.  I'm happy enough if book X plus Champions Complete (or Fantasy Hero Compete or 6e1/6e2 or Basic or...) equals complete game.

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Just now, Chris Goodwin said:

 

I'm not sure we even need that.  We have plenty of system, stripped down or maximized.  I don't think we even need to reprint rules.  I'm happy enough if book X plus Champions Complete (or Fantasy Hero Compete or 6e1/6e2 or Basic or...) equals complete game.

How is John Q Consumer going to react to "Now go spend another $$$ on the rules!" though? 

The only TTRPG I'm aware of that gets away with multiple books required to play is D&D, and even then only one person needs one additional book.  Zero additional books if they're running a module with baked-in stats. 

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(continued)

 

So what makes a good "Set-Up"? Well, in comics books (I'll use Marvel as an example) if you go back to the beginning, most of their individual team books had their own set-up. For the X-Men is was: Mutants are real and slowly growing in number across the world. Feared and hated by humans because of their powers and differences, mutants must remain in hiding. But one man, Professor Charles Xavier dreams of a world where mutants and humans can live together in harmony. He has started a school to teach mutants how to use their powers to help defend humanity from other, evil mutants who would use their abilities for power, violence and crime.

 

That is the Set-Up for X-Men comics and all that has come since. They also happen to take place in a world with tons of other super powered beings and gods and such, but they have their own little set-up and theme/story that they do. You could (and they should) split all the mutant titles off from the main Marvel universe and it would still have it's own unique set-up and room for stories and growth. (An aside, I never liked how "mutants" were so hated in the MCU when that same world had numerous aliens, alien invasions, literal Gods, etc... all in the news every day and yet no one hated them or hunted them down, but damn, a kid with wings or a girl that could turn intangible, well we better hunt them down and kill them. It never made much internal sense.)

 

So I feel that any new Champions book/setting or what-not, should have a unique Set-Up, not just a generic "kitchen sink" super hero hodgepodge. 

 

Here is one I like (re-imaged for present day)(lets see if any of you old timer comic book readers recognize it):  On Feb 3rd 2020 the sky around the world lit up with a bright white light last a few moments before disappearing. Even on the night side of the earth the sky turned to a blinding daylight for a brief time. No one knew what caused it or even how it was possible. Scientists suggested that it might have been a brief flash from a far off super-nova or other cosmic event. Over the days and weeks that followed since what the media dubbed "The White Event" a small number of people began developing strange new abilities. Not understanding what was happening to themselves most  chose to hide their new abilities, but some went seeking help to doctors or the government.  The government quickly covered up these people, unsure of what was happening, but they started to investigate. Months later more and more people learned they had abilities and it wasn't long before mega-corporations and secret government agencies across the globe were in a race to locate and bring in these new paranormals. Some were caught and forced into government service, or captivity. Others went on the run. Occasionally people with abilities would clash in public and slowly (despite the governments best efforts) rumors and word spread across the globe of these super humans. This all came to a head when two super powerful people clashed in the air and ground around Washington, DC live on tv. Thousands were killed in their battle, before the one heroic being gave his life to defeat the evil one. Now everyone in the world knew that super powered individuals walked the earth. Governments across the globe raced to find them and build super teams and soldiers for what was sure to be the next arms race for control of the planet. meanwhile, some super beings started to dress up in costumes, like the characters out of comic books, and fight crime on city streets. These vigilantes were quickly hunted not only by local police, but also federal agents.  Then came "The Black Event..." 

 

I could go on, but that is the Set-Up for Marvels (failed) New Universe line of comics. I thought it was really good at the time and a great storyline developed with it, including the Black Event, what cause the White Event in the first place,  the Draft storyline where all super beings were forced to enlist in the military, and then the War storyline where a war broke out and you followed a lot of the main characters from the different series come together on the front lines and in covert teams, etc... 

 

But the thing is, it was a unique Set-Up. it gave the Gm and players all they needed to know to start playing. You had built-in limitations and guidelines (no magic, no super-man, or fish-man or aliens) it was "low level" to start but with lots of room to grow in power. Etc... The TV series HEROES did much the same thing 25 years later. Or The Wildcard novel series (which actually came before The New Universe) and still continues of to this day. 

 

Now obviously not everyone may like the Set-Up of any particular game but I think you get more traction and stronger fan support if you do have a cool Set-Up gather then a very generic one. (D&D being the obvious exception, but almost everyone loves the standard Fantasy world, and the characters all start out "uniform" at a set level , with set abilities, etc. 

 

 I personally would be much more interested in a super hero game with a cool set-up (set world, set powers (to start), specific background, etc...) then just another generic "Super Hero!" setting. 

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7 minutes ago, mallet said:

Marvels (failed) New Universe line of comics.

 

I knew it, but couldn't remember the name right away. I used to have subscriptions to all of their titles for the first year. I think I quit before the series died out, but I can't remember anymore.

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6 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

That sounds like a fine way to sell movie tickets or adventure novels.  Our primary goal is to get people to play the game.  Those are very different things.

 

It turned out to be an exceptional way to get people playing the entire line of World of Darkness games. If it can work for that, it can work for any game setting, regardless of its underlying mechanics, provided it is conceived, written, and produced well enough. Oh, and provided it really catches people's imaginations. I'm not saying this is easy, only that it is necessary.

 

6 hours ago, Chris Goodwin said:

For a long term campaign, setting is king.  I'll give you that.

 

Yes, sorry, I was assuming that campaign play was the norm for most players. The disconnected, one-off convention style play feels like the sideline, not the main attraction. The very roots of TTRPGs were inextricably tied up in the notion of ongoing campaign play in an established fictional setting (Blackmoor, Greyhawk, etc.). AFAIC, that has not changed in 45 years.

 

6 hours ago, Chris Goodwin said:

In order to get a successful product line, we need more people playing the game.  Period.  

 

Well, not in this case. We don't have the luxury of a large player base to sell new products to. Instead, the product line has a different job here. It's job, from a marketing perspective, is to bring in new players, just like VtM did. The World of Darkness had no established player base. It had to create one, which is more or less the same position that the HERO System is in now.

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On 2/13/2020 at 6:02 PM, Duke Bushido said:

But it's gone now.  Sure: there are, just like HERO, some diehards still plugging along.  But for the most part, it's just as dead as HERO.   But how, with that amazing setting? 

 

World of Darkness died when they decided to reboot it and rebrand it for the 3rd(?) edition. 

 

The gave some kind of apocalyptic meta story arc that pretty much killed off/combined a lot of the "monsters" and totally changed the way things interacted and the world worked.

 

As you can tell, nobody liked it so it died.

 

This a case of the setting being good and well liked enough to launch an phenomenon and then that setting got changed and those that played the game didn't like said change and the rest is, literally, history.

 

Note: My information is maybe a decade old so I could have somethings wrong . . . but I know *I* stopped playing it when they changed everything.  And so did a few of my friends.

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