I have been thinking alot about Superhero RPG’s lately. I am a fan of them and I have been since the TSR Marvel Super Heroes Role Playing Game came out in the 80’s. I went on to run multiple games in multiple systems, but Champions certainly got most of my time.
I love comics…let me restate that…I LOVE COMICS!
I read a whole bunch of comics. I have been reading them pretty much since I learned how to read. Most of them were superhero stories, so enjoying superhero RPG;s ties into that. I fell off playing the superhero RPG’s about a decade ago. Over time as the design sensibilities of RPG’s moved on, but a lot of the superhero games did not follow those changes. There have been a couple of major games developed since I stopped running them, so maybe they caught up. I recently started watching Calisto6 rpg streams. It is a superhero game set in a cyberpunk future, using the Cypher system, and involving the players from the Star Trek RPG stream, Shields of Tomorrow. They are doing a good job with the games and it has refreshed my desire to make a good superhero RPG of my own.
With that in mind, here are some design guidelines I would use and look for in a superhero RPG.
Let me tell you about my love for Persons of Interest. The show was on the air between 2011 and 2016 and dealt with a range of complex notions in the framework of the shows premise, which is described in the opening narration.
You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered irrelevant. They wouldn’t act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You’ll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number’s up…we’ll find you.
I proposed a question a while back. Are immortal PC’s a problem or are they workable? The consensus appears to be that they are workable. I decided to take a pass at setting up a framework for using it in D&D. Death is ultimately just a small challenge after all. Immortality offers a range of cool stories that make the PC’s feel special in the world, which is sort of the point.
When I began writing a post apocalyptic fantasy setting, I knew a radiation or toxic corruption would be a recurring theme. It is part and parcel in the genre. The Blight Elves were part of that, and so is today’s offering. There will be others. Thing is, I am not personally afraid of all things nuclear. I grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This is where the material for the first atomic weapons came from. My grandfather was scientist at the labs, and I grew up understanding that nuclear was not necessarily a bad thing. Nuclear medicine was saving lives daily and nuclear power, while not yet perfected, was easier on the environment than coal burning plants.
That said, nuclear war is the thing that kept you up at nights back in the cold war. It was terrifying to think of a war where dying in a flash was probably the “good” option. This vision of apocalyptic war shaped the genre. The irradiated mutant is a trope that comes up often. With this in mind, I wrote this little variation on orcs.
Monsters are often born of myths and legends. Oh sure, there are some born of fiction. There even some created specifically for games, like the Beholder. Many of the iconic monsters pull from real world legends, though.
The Dragon is one of the oldest of man’s monsters. There are legends of dragons all over the world and they seem to even predate written language. Could be someone saw a dinosaur fossil and wondered about the monsters.
I address the comments going around about the Mike Mearls twitter posting. Note: think I need to do some work on my audio set up.
So, if you are a rules or lore expert and do not want to be a gatekeeper, what do you do? My experience is that it helps to take a mentoring mindset, rather than coaching. Here’s a starting point: https://t.co/8uOHFnGmBZ