Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Sleep-deprived superhero GMing advice

I wrote this at 4.37 a.m. but I think it still mostly makes sense. See what you think.


Unless you're writing an adventure for general use, tailor it to the PCs and their power level(s). Put in villains and situations that these particular PCs are equipped to handle better than someone else might be. If one of your PCs is The Fastest Man Alive, some of the problems you throw at him should definitely involve doing things really quickly.

Crank the villains up. Generic goons are fine, but give the villains showoff names, catchphrases, visuals and power effects. These don't have to be good, either - the players in a long-running Marvel game I played in remembered Paste-Pot Pete more fondly than most of his gang.

Include escape routes for the villains. Let the PCs catch some and put them into the unreliable supervillain prison, let others escape due to taking hostages, let your mastermind fall into his own death trap which "nobody could have survived"...

Bear in mind the reactions of the public. Unless the PCs are "plain clothes" supers or "urban legend" characters, they should be on the front page of their local newspaper (run by a larger-than-life eccentric editor) frequently, booed or cheered by the crowds depending on their actions and other issues.

And they're not alone. Unless they're set up as the only superheroes in the setting, have some of the other heroes appear in crossovers. And if they are set up as the only superheroes in the setting, keep that status quo long enough that they'll be surprised when someone else manifests powers like theirs.

Decide if you're going kitchen sink or not. Even in a shared universe, Blade tends not to meet the Hulk or go to the Shi'ar Space Empire. (Although the former would be awesome...) And either way, ask the players for what kinds of future "issues" they'd like to see. You can add your own ideas and interpretations, of course.

And remember, above all else... everything's better with a monkey.


  1. Good advice - my biggest concern is the first adventure, which I aim to squeeze in after chargen, because by its very nature it's going to have to be generic as until that moment we won't have any idea what the characters are like.

    After that, of course, I can start tailoring adventures, bringing in their 'dependent NPCs' etc

    I'm also very excited about this first session as I'm giving them an almost blank slate to come up with any kind of character - using V&V wonderful random system (as long as he/she looks human, at least to start with, so I can play up as many emotional sub-plots as possible).

    I'm then confident (fingers crossed) that I'll be able to take the campaign in any direction that suits the players.

  2. You can always start with Generic Villain Man robbing a bank. But I'd be tempted to go for something more immediately crazy, like an alien invasion. If it turns out nobody's an alien or particularly well equipped forspace adventures, rebadge. If they're all mutants, for example, it can be quickly rewritten as an Evil Mutant invasion. Something relevant to the team and their series... at least sort of.

    Personally, I prefer to see what the players want their characetrs to be like before breaking out characetr sheets. This can be difficult if you're going full-on random of course, but I presume the players can still bring some ideas to the table?

  3. Oh yes, I've asked them to think about their "secret identities" and DNPCs (their MJs, Aunt Mays, J Jonah Jameson's etc), but origin type and powers will be decided on the night - although V&V is loose enough to allow both these factors to be tailored pretty much to the player's whim.

    I was thinking 'giant monster attack', as in Fantastic Four #1, but alien invasion is another, possible campaign-defining, opener :D

  4. I can't argue with giant monsters.

    Well, I can, but usually only when I'm playing Buffy.