Thursday, 23 June 2011

Relaunching without rebooting

So your game's been away a while, in and out of character. Circumstances like players coming and going encourage you not to pick up exactly where you left off.

Not enough to reboot but enough to consider what's happened and what to change about the format as a result.

(Inspired in no small part by the DC Comics reboot/relaunch/rebrand/rethink/remake thing, but also by a page of Buffy Season 9 Issue 1 online for Joss Whedon's birthday. Happy birthday Mr. J!)

So how has the status quo changed by and for the PCs and major NPCs?

How long has it been? Last time DC rebooted itself it went "one year later" to excuse various changes to all sorts of titles. TV series may or may not acknowledge the gaps between series, often depending on whether they ended with a cliffhanger last time. The Buffyverse is always quiet during the summer, but things may still happen before the first episode of the new season kickstarts the year's mayhem.

Who's around, who's not? This can reflect changes around the table, but applies to NPCs as well. Season three of SteveD's The Night Watch started with the Watchers' much-loved invigilator replaced by a much sterner instructor. A new academic year (in and out of character) brought new PCs and NPCs to The Watch House as well.

Has a PC powered up or down or changed in some other significant way? If so, how and why? If there was a major change at the end of the last adventure, how is that being dealt with?

Are two nations over there now at war or making peace, have the stars fallen from the sky, has Atlantis risen, did someone behead Vecna again?

Depending on how you left the game, this could be a slight streamlining of the setting, a "back to basics" issue 1 relaunch, a "nothing will ever be the same again!" development where things may or may not ever be the same again depending on the players' preferences, a post-apocalypse nightmare where the PCs were around for the apocalypse, a the-PCs-ascended-to-godhood-what-now? emergency depowering, a Next Generation...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Gaming 101: How I got started.

(See what I did there?)

I was pre-geeked. My earliest entertainment memories are Star Wars for movies, The New Avengers for TV, 2000AD and Doctor Who Weekly for comics and hearing The Hobbit being read to my brother and I for books. So I was primed and ready when, about age ten or eleven, a cousin gave me City Of Thieves and I got The Forest Of Doom with my own money. (So a lot of this is the artist Iain McCaig’s fault.)

And from there to miniatures as they were stocked nearby and were shiny, back when local big department store John Menzies (a) existed and (b) carried that kind of thing, to playing once and then GMing Fighting Fantasy - The Introductory Role-Playing Game to visiting my first FLGS (Gamesmaster, on Forrest Road), to my first proper game (let us never speak of the shortcut again) to starting high school and finding players for an ongoing thing, to getting one of the first copies of Vampire when it came out (Mac’s Models, on Canongate) as I was getting bored of mission-based games, to writing for The Last Province to university- and pub-based game societies to RPGnet to...

Monday, 20 June 2011

Free Stuff For Kids

It's my hundredth post here, so have some free stuff.

Free RPG Day was Saturday, and now the pdfs of the free adventures and things are sttarting to hit the web (as well as the physical copies horrifically marked up on eBay by grasping scum).

Among others, The World Of Darkness now has a quickstart separate from Vampire: The Requiem which is cool.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Building a superhero universe? Consider some stock elements.

The relaunching and partial rebooting of the DC Universe, the Green Lantern movie, and all that has me thinking about archetypal superhero universes.

1: A Semi-Coherent Mass Origin
The Marvel Universe started with this, with science empowering some deliberately, some accidentally and some by birth. Until Stan got bored and the wizard and the Norse god turned up. This can provide a useful shortcut when the players are stuck for an origin, can suggest interconnections between characters, and if the effects can be duplicated it can lead to new characters with similar power sets showing up and fighting the originals.

2: A Golden Age
Running from some time in the 30s until the end of World War II, starting with pulp mystery men in fedoras and masks and ending in Hitler-punching patriotic supersoldiers who remain an inspiration and whose scientific advances have never been duplicated seventy years later. Few of these characters are still around, unless someone wants to play one. Other historical periods include the Silver Age (the Swinging Sixties, and quietly ignore that the characters from the era are about five years older now), the Western/Victorian period, and World War One (British comics only).

3: The Big Team
If the PCs aren't the Big Team, consider what the Big Team is like. Archetypal characters, world-challenging powers, and the all-important question of why they don't solve the problems the PCs have to deal with. One trick (seen in Superhero 2044, Champions: The New Millennium and Mutants And Masterminds) is to kill off the previous Big Team so the PCs have to make a new one.

4: Secret Organisations For Good Or Ill
With superheroes running around, it makes sense that governments and other bodies are going to take an interest. It may make slightly less sense for them to come up with snappy ACRONYM names and flying aircraft carriers, but don't let that stop you. Likewise, criminal organisations may resemble Dick Tracy style exaggerations of genuine groups or shadowy conspiracies that worship snakes or something.

5: Legends Are Real! Ish.
Like history and pop culture, mythology and storytelling can be brought in and used as inspiration. (The more genres you can pull in, the better for a large setting.) So feel free to have gods, demons, vampires, King Arthur... or not, if your PCs are science heroes.

6: Space Police!
Science heroes might feel more at home with space opera - alien invaders, clashing intergalactic empires, Lensmen-style groups of alien defenders who can grant power to an Earthly hero. Rhyming oaths are optional, but if you're going full ersatz you might as well.

7: Legacy Heroes
If this isn't a universe where the PCs are among the first demonstrable superhumans, then think about who went before, and what legacy and spinoff characters might be around these days.

8: Dinosaurs And Gorillas
I trust this point needs no explanation.

9: A Plucky Reporter Romantic Interest
The Plucky Reporter is a good thing to have in a setting with lots of organised crime, espionage, and heroes and villains with secret identities. The Plucky Reporter also makes a good Romantic Interest due to a tendency to run into trouble armed only with a notebook and a stubborn streak.

10: An Archvillain
He can kick the ass of the whole team. He has his own country, or a satellite base or moon colony or something. He wears a lot of black (or green and purple). He may have a wide variety of powers, or one power used as cleverly as a PC would. Some writers will show up his sympathetic side and the reasons for his wickedness, and he'll team up with the heroes to save the world because he lives on it too.

11: Some Piker Villains
A superhero setting has mooks (nameless Snake Cult soldiers, killer robots, any number of ninjas greater than one) but it also has its jobbing villains who have a neat gimmick they use to rob banks and who show up often enough that the players will get to enjoy running rings around them.

12: Another Title Or Two
If you aren't using an established universe, the PCs being the only team of heroes can feel rather isolated. So think up some archetypes and stereotypes not represented by the team (like the Big Team or the Space Police or the hero of the Legends that Are Real or the legacy of the Golden Age or a heroic Agent of ACRONYM or somesuch) and work out what they're up to elsewhere every session. If you're feeling particularly meta, you could work out blurbs for their issues in a 'Bullpen Bulletins' page. They can appear in crossover issues as well, optionally fighting the PCs over some misunderstanding before teaming up to fight Doctor Sordid.

13: Crisis!
Now you have a universe, it's time to threaten to destroy it. (This is only recommended if the PCs are of a suitable power level. Much as I'd like to see the Punisher fight off Galactus I'm willing to admit it's a rather silly idea.) A really big invasion that might connect to a prominent PC's backstory, a big play by the archvillain, a parallel universe overwriting ours... something that'll make the PCs team up with ACRONYM, the Space Police, the mythic gods, the Golden Age heroes returned from the dead, everybody and anybody. Imagine George Perez doing the cover.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Nationals 2012, Day -305

Planning for the Nationals 2012 is underway, including the all-important "new categories" phase.

Currently in the running:

The separation of the old and new WoD systems - will both get enough people? Personally, when I was playing WoD I liked a bit of variety... as long as I didn't have to spend half the adventure in the bloody Umbra again.
A Pirates! category - surely that's more something you attack other categories with? If you can't fit pirates into an RPG category you're just not trying.
The various 40K RPGs - I'd suggest WFRP as well, the grand old man of British RPGs seems like it deserves a shot.
Doctor Who - which I like, as you may have gathered, but I'm not sure the game's big enough to get a category to itself. And I'm not just saying that as I want to run it in my category what I made up.


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Distinct Lack Of Progress Report

Of Gods And Men?

Of Men And Gods?

Hmm. I dunno.

Still haven't decided on a system. Ideally I'd come up with one myself and create my own small-press indie game thingie, but I'm not a system head.

Something where Gods are specialists and mortals can be more generalist. And possibly have Drama Points or the like in higher measure, although I want them to be able to stand proud rather than rely on player narrative trickery.

Of course, this only matters if we have Gods and mortals in the same group - the idea's big enough that either or could also work.

A God being able to do something superhuman and occasionally useful, maybe? Like, say, Jack Harkness's serial immortality. Or Thor's ability to hit things really hard and take similar damage, obviously useful in a fightin' game but not uniquely so.

Maybe everybody gets An Amazing Thing that they can do, be they God or mortal. After all, with a group of four or so, this doesn't seem unreasonable.