Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Some Team Framework Options to Get Your Game Started

1. The X-Men

The X-Men is a classic set-up where the team is focused on finding and protecting mutants from the rest of humanity, in a nutshell. The fact that they're also trying to remain hidden ups the stakes and makes it more interesting than just a monster-of-the-week in a find out what's going on with this new mutant that has shown up in some form or another. Though it's already better than monster-of-the-week though because the premise is usually such that the people the team is tracking and going after is already sympathetic to them and they're trying to help rather than harm (even if it doesn't always work out that way).

2. X-Factor or Heroes for Hire

X-Factor has a similar premise to the X-Men but they're a detective agency that is out in the open that basically anyone can hire to do jobs for them. In the beginning they were actually making money off of anti-mutant sentiment and haters who hired them to reign in new mutants that were going out of control. They charged for their services and that kept the business open, most of the time. There are obviously lots of complicated situations that can come out of this style of business, and there is always a lot of interesting conflicts. We need money, so how picky can we be about jobs? How ok are we with our patron and what they're asking us to do, and so on. Heroes for Hire is a similar take on things but I absolutely love X-Factor so lead with that.

3. New Mutants

The New Mutants is a fun premise in that they're kind of the B-team to the X-Men, in a way. I like that they're kind of in the shadow of the X-Men sometimes, and that they're young and are still trying to get a handle on everything - even more so than the X-Men. In the beginning they weren't even being groomed to become an X-team (or at least, that's how Prof X rationalized it anyway before soon realizing that yeah, they're basically going to have to be groomed to become an X-team) and were focused more on learning and going to school and such, just crazy stuff kept happening to them. The reason I put them as distinct from the next title is because I like the idea of the team working and living in the shadow of the bigger and more famous team who are veterans and know their stuff. When we playtested Worlds in Peril we had a lot of fun running games where the A-list super team got taken out and the B and C strings were called up for action out of the blue and it was great, great fun.

4. Wolverine and the X-Men

This book concentrates on the inner-workings of the school and being a student that attends it. It's got high school drama and has the benefit of being able to focus on the stuff going outside the school as well as inside. Stuff happens when they go on field trips to outer space, the savage land; when teenagers get angsty and have omega-level powers; when enemies of the X-Men come to visit. It's a really awesome premise for a comic, and a great one for a game as well.

5. All-New X-Factor

The more recent X-Factor book had the team being sponsored and brought together by Serval Industries under a big-wig CEO with a ton of cash, claiming to only do so for benevolent reasons. Working for a corporation with complex motivations is a neat premise - it's too bad the comic got cancelled, but there was a lot of interesting stuff going on in it. A private jet and everyone living together has a familiar team premise, but they're living in a corporate HQ, doing stuff that must ultimately service the company's interests, presumably, and access to resources to deal with stuff all over the world.

6. The Fantastic Four

One of the things I don't like about a lot of the team set-ups that are common in comics is that it usually has the families of the characters left by the wayside and only brought in if they're threatened or killed most of the time. If the team itself is a family then you get an interesting dynamic there, and you bring the family aspects to the forefront, along with high-stakes fights and people that mean the absolute world to your character - imagine fighting for and alongside your children and spouse!

7. Uncanny X-Force

The Uncanny X-Force book put together a team that was designed to do one thing - and do it well. A much darker, grittier book where the team's missions centered around black ops and assassination missions where they went in and took out, often killing, targets for various reasons. Not at all a common super hero team, but one that does a great job focusing on the drama and damage that doing that kind of thing can do to a character.

8. Cable and X-Force

While the Cable and X-Force premise would take more doing to set-up I think it could be a lot of fun. The book revolves around Cable's abilities - particularly his precognition, which gets augmented and goes out of control in the book. Whichever way you choose to set it up, the premise is that the team becomes aware of dangerous events that take place in the future X amount of time before they go down. It's their job to make sure those events don't take place. 

9. The Captain Britain Corps

The Captain Britain Corps are a group of soldiers from across the multiverse that specializes in taking down threats to certain worlds or to the multiverse itself. This allows for all kinds of play that could be as gonzo or as serious as the table wanted. Worlds where everything is the same except all the Avengers have bears, dystopic worlds that resulted in the deaths in certain key figures, or unknowable horrors consuming the fabric of reality or multiversal tissue itself. All kinds of possibilities exist when you can travel to any universe and planet, throw in time travel and the mind boggles. 

10. The Avengers

The Avengers strategy is the easiest one to roll with and the one that I use the most often. Basically, each hero has their own personal life and does their own thing, but they come together when they need help or something big shows up. They've got resources if they need them, they've got other people they can call on, and when the dust settles they can go home and try to clean up the destruction their superheroing wreaks on their personal lives.

Monday, October 5, 2015

All the Threats

Something that I like to think about representing in play is how to stat up and run unconventional threats, or how to make a set piece in a battle that would not commonly show up in a comic.

For example, threats like fires or other environmental factors. Things that could be feasibly dealt with, just could work differently (or not) with the mechanics in the game, and how satisfying which takes on it would be.

In particular, one thing I thought that G. Willow Wilson did with the latest adjective-less X-Men series before it ended with the launch of Secret Wars was putting the X-Men up against something that they really couldn't just pummel with their fists. It was also a great way to get inside each character's head and get to the root of each character, but it was mainly the fact that the threat she put them up against was the very earth itself.

The heroes charge in, like they do, and start trying to pummel stuff, especially the strength-type heroes, but it only leads to bad stuff going down (and probably some bad rolls getting made). She puts the heroes in tough spots (like a good EIC) and busts them down - what are their fears? What do you do when your powers don't really help you all that much? I mean, you're trying to fight the planet, basically.

So yeah, one take away is to remember to put them in tough spots, including ones where their powers just don't really work - it's a pretty common trope, but it's a great one when done well because it allows for some time to really get to know the characters and who they are beyond their powers.

As far as actually representing these threats mechanically in Worlds in Peril, I've always statted them up just like regular threats and villains - a Condition Threshold, some moves to make sure the scenes with them are interesting. I've had scenes where the heroes went in to fight a fire (that ended up being sentient, but that's another story) and just had them use Take Down and the other basic moves as needed and it worked really well, but I've got a few custom moves rattling around in my head that could see the light of day soon. I'm always hesitant to give them something that just can't be messed or dealt with by force because I've always had at least one or two player characters that were focused on bashing stuff, but now I kind of want to put my player characters in front of something they can't beat - at least, not until I get a couple scenes where I can get into their heads and as the players what their characters are feeling right now, how it relates to their Bonds, and who they are underneath. I mean, even in Willow's stories she knows that there needs to be way to resolve things (and she lobes a number of intriguing ideas out there before settling on perhaps the most unsettling one).

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Worlds in Peril Actual Play Episode 4: The Silver Snail

This ended up being the last game we played with these characters. Benji and Jack glean some information from the good doctor, Benji struggles to reconnect with his family, and Jack learns what his wife was keep secret from him.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Worlds in Peril Actual Play Episode 3: Double the Trouble

Picking up where we left off, Benji and Jack try to escape from the scene, only to find the yellow monstrosity give chase. Jack realizes that his wife has been keeping secrets, just as he has. Benji decides to strike a deal to try and get his friend back.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Worlds in Peril Actual Play Episode 2: Mind Power

We open up with downtime and the players using Fit In to recover from some Conditions a bit, and then trying to suss some intel out with Gather Intel. What they learn has them breaking into Mind Power (the company Benji's father founded and the source of some trouble in the first episode) where things start to get a bit messy.

(Intro music by Marc Minier)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Worlds in Peril Actual Play Episode 1: Strange Beginnings

We wanted to do something to show off the versatility of the system so Jason decided to play a very powerful, Superman-esque character while Adam went with a more low powered, Hawkeye-type character with some interesting mystical aspects going in.

I also decided to make it a lot more personal than I normally do since I'm only running the game for two players. Instead of having a bunch of stuff happening in the world that they need to take care of, which is the normal format I opt for, I cooked up a Master Plan that directly involved both characters and had the trouble come to them. We didn't get too far in this game, but I've got some fun ideas for where to go with it and ideas wacky enough that they could end up anywhere.

We only see mooks this game, along with a certain doctor that is sure to play a larger role in the future, but danger surely lurks around the corner. If we don't do downtime via email it should be included at the start of the next episode.

(Intro music by Marc Minier)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Worlds in Peril Podcast Episode 1: First Timers

Show notes:

In Part 1:

1. Chit-Chat - What's New at Samjoko Publishing:

  • Adam - Reading: Digging into old Dragon magazines and the Savage Sword of Conan, among others, for inspiration. Working on: Working on: an as-yet-unnamed hex crawl, cities as  adventures in themselves, creating a sense of danger even when behind the walls of a city.
  • Jason - Reading: Powers (the comic book). Spider-VerseBackground characters becoming main characters. Mixing genres. Working on: Avalon City, a supplement for Worlds in Peril and the campaign setting for superheroes Jason's been running for close to two decades.
  • Kyle - Reading: Gibson's Neuromancer, Dark Matter (Science fiction from the African Diaspora), Ghost in the Shell and other Japanese cyberpunk like Serial Experiments Lain, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, etc. Working on: a game that draws on main cyberpunk elements, but in different, completely new (Africa) and optimistic (bringing 'authentic' culture and art back to the world) and with different gameplay than typical cyberpunk (PCs play people that are salvaged from cyberspace a la Matrix, and begin a life of delving back into cyberspace and the ruins of the world to find and bring back authentic culture (all art and media is produced by machines). Aims to keep players as fish-out-of-water, new to and always learning about the setting, while having an anchor of knowing your culture and it being what you have of value to the people in the setting as some people fear it, and some people fetishize old 21st century culture from North America and other countries destroyed during The Collapse. Also dealing with religion having not only survived, but prospered, what Lagos and Johannesburg might look like in such a future.

2. First-Time Players

  • Adam - Just roleplaying yourself, everyone wants superpowers, think of how you would react, what may drive you as a hero if you were bitten by that radioactive spider?
  • Jason - Roleplaying a character you already know from your favorite comic or fiction.
  • Kyle - Using the mechanics of the game to determine background and extrapolating from there.

Tips for playing in the AW engine specifically and in WiP

  1. Having your Drive picked out so you have a goal to work towards.
  2. Using Bonds and not being afraid to burn them.
  3. Making sure to react and seize opportunities to do stuff in downtime.
  4. Asking and answering questions.
  5. Don’t worry about something is a move or not, just do what you want to do and worry about whether it triggers a move in the fiction later (the EIC, at the very least) will help with that.

3. First-Time GMs

  • Adam - Personal stories, the PCs after that first Master Plan. Keeping players engaged by tailoring the dangers to their characters. Giving each PC time to shine and a reason to be invested in the story. Help their bonds come alive, particularly as it relates to the other players. Why do you hang around with this sorry lot? Duty? They can’t get it done without your skill? What angle will you shoot for?
  • Jason - Creating campaigns from villains and organizations first via worldbuilding first. Figuring out what drives them, what goals they need to get what they want, and how to put the PCs in between them and their goals. Maybe developing a nemesis, etc, but only after you’ve got the characters together, etc.
  • Kyle - Good starting storyline is an invasion. Means you can get the players reacting, you can start bringing the whole world to life. Easy way to get heroes to join up at the scene of the first phase of stuff you’ve got in store for them. As you go along, with showcasing how politics work, the army, and kind of introduce that motif that there’s always a ton of stuff going on, so you have to choose what you need to do, what’s important to you. If the world is in danger you’re going to worry about your family and those close to you, so we’ll naturally be able to slip in some Bonds questions by asking the players who they’re thinking or worried about, maybe even do some flashbacks. A Master Plan should have various phases, with ideas of where to go from both success and failure from each one (move into talking about phases at the bottom of the doc).

Tips for playing in the AW engine specifically and in WiP

  1. Have a general idea with stages in the plan, an idea of what would happen if the PCs weren’t there to get in the way, then be prepared for them to get in the way, reevaluate each time.
  2. Good to have some villains and mooks prepared so you have something to throw at them whenever you need to, but in a pinch just choose a number of Conditions equal to how many players there are and have some general ideas of cool things they can do, and off you go.
  3. Ask questions all the time. If a player asks a question and it’s not defined yet, turn it back on them and ask the players what they want from that.
  4. Making moves - Because of the dice is the obvious one, but also all the time to drive the fiction. If there isn’t stuff to react to, then players will probably use that chance to engage in downtime - healing, recovering Bonds, checking in on loved ones, etc, which is fine if that’s what you want. When it’s not in downtime, there should be stuff for them to react to often. Soft moves are things that happen in the fiction they have agency to engage and react to. Hard moves are things that happen that they have no control over, and are usually because of ignoring a soft move (ignoring or having to choose between stuff going on in the fiction), or because of a die roll that that isn’t a 10+.
  5. Imposing Conditions and the balance act between Minor (deal with or could get worse), Moderate (penalty to certain things - real injuries) and Critical (on the road to death).
  6. Know your players Origins, Drives and Powers. It will just make everything easier - for fights and enemies you can scale difficulty easier, you can come up with characters that intersect their lives in other ways, and put them in the way of the PCs goals’ as well.

In Part 2:

Adam and Jason introduce their characters and I ask a few questions to set us up for the gaming next week.

Jason's character, Starheart, followed by Adam's character, The Specter.

(Intro music by Marc Minier)
Part 1 and Part 2: