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Re: [icons-rpg] Never Run Supers

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  • Theron Bretz
    Do you read superhero comics? If so, figure out what fits the style of play you want. If not, I recommend watching some cartoons or movies. My personal faves
    Message 1 of 9 , Mar 16, 2013
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      Do you read superhero comics?  If so, figure out what fits the style of play you want. If not, I recommend watching some cartoons or movies. My personal faves are the DCU cartoons from WB, particularly Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Marvel's got some good ones too in Avengers Assemble! and Wolverine and the X-Men, not to mention the live-action movies. 

      The next step is to make sure your players are on the same page for style. Nothing kills a zany Silver Age campaign faster than a loner gunbunny. 

      After that, I recommend a fairly light hand. Let the heroes be heroes. My approach to plotting is to come up with the villain's plan, how the heroes find out about it, and what happens if they don't do anything about it. How they stop it is part of my fun. 

      As for good beginner adventures, The Skeletron Key is a good intro session. Danger in Dunsmouth is fairly straightforward, but does have a couple of potential stumbling blocks. 

      The best intro supers adventure of all time is Crisis at Crusaders' Citadel for V&V, though if you can find a copy, it would be pretty easy to adapt to ICONS. 

      Sent from my iPhone

      On Mar 16, 2013, at 11:11 AM, Michael Garcia <thecrazygm@...> wrote:

      How do you go about prepping for a supers game? I'v had *years* of experience as a GM, but never in the Super genre. I know I need to consider power level i.e. Batman vs Superman would make two totally different arcs.

      On the same note what is the best module to introduce and teach a beginner in the Super Genre?

      Thanks,
      Michael Garcia, a.k.a. The Crazy GM

    • Soylent Green
      A few years back I was in the same boat; I wanted to run a supers game but I could not see how to structure it without it falling into a villain of the week
      Message 2 of 9 , Mar 16, 2013
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        A few years back I was in the same boat; I wanted to run a supers game  but I could not see how to structure it without it falling into a villain of the week rut. But, thanks also to advice and encouragement from Tim "Silverlion" I did take the plunge and I am so glad I did. Years later I can confidently claim the superhero gaming is the prince of roleplaying; it's so much fun and such a natural fit.

        The common thing about superhero adventures is that superheroes tend to be reactive. In a lot of games it's the PCs who have a goal (strip the dungeon of anything of value) and it's the NPCs role to stop them (the monsters who happen to live in said dungeon and would rather hang on to their stuff). In a superhero game it's usually the other way round; the super-villain NPCs have goals (dastardly goal like stripping the city of anything of value) and this time it's the PC's job is to stop them. 

        From a structural point of view that makes superhero adventures more like horror investigation adventures for games such as Call of Cthulhu which are also normally about preventing something bad happening. 

        For me preparing a supers game all starts with super-villain's master plan. Looking at the plan from the super-villain's point of view I find helps. Give him some sort of complex goal, something which possibly involves multiple stages and possibly, if appropriate, have his henchmen (super and not) deal with these. For instance if the villain is building a doomsday device he may need secure weapons grade plutonium, a special detonator, the help (willing or not) of a world class scientist and maybe some other bits and pieces. 

        Next you need to figure out how to get the heroes involved. Generally speaking the heroes won't know the supervillain's plan or possibly even who is behind these individual crimes. As the super-villain's plan unfolds, various criminal incidents will draw the heroes' attention. Sometimes they may only learn about the crime after it happened, sometimes they may find out about it just in time to stop it. But until they figure out the pattern and work out the clues the heroes are basically playing defence.

        At some point the heroes should have enough clues to piece the supervillain's plan and/or identity together so that they can finally go on the offensive. Now the PCs have the initiative. They can track down the super-villain to his lair, try anticipate his next move, set a trap or whatever they come up with. The moment in a game the initiative switches is usually very exciting.

        One the biggest challenges in running a superhero game is getting the pacing right. If you just run the various events relating to the villains master plan one right after the other you can fall into a "villain of the week" sort of rut. Also, you don't get that sense of build up and time passing. If you look at the example above it is easy to imagine that in a comic book days could pass between the theft of the plutonium and kidnapping of the scientist. The events might even be split in different issues. You want to capture that feeling. 

        The trick to get this right, in my experience, is to multi-thread plots - that is to say have several supervillain plans or other challenges on the boil at the same time. So when one story arc is reaching its climax you are already setting the seeds and foreshadowing the next one. And perhaps even more importantly it mean that at any one point the player have choices regarding which of the various threads to priorities and pursue. And, well at any rate, that's the way Stan Lee used to do it. 

        That's goes mostly for campaigns. For a one shot adventure I strongly recommend getting the Therom's Icons adventure "Sins of the Past"; it's a masterclass on how to create an adventure with a strong, even poignant theme, a flexible framework and with equal doses of action, investigation and character interaction.


        To: icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com
        From: tfbretz@...
        Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2013 11:24:36 -0500
        Subject: Re: [icons-rpg] Never Run Supers

         

        Do you read superhero comics?  If so, figure out what fits the style of play you want. If not, I recommend watching some cartoons or movies. My personal faves are the DCU cartoons from WB, particularly Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Marvel's got some good ones too in Avengers Assemble! and Wolverine and the X-Men, not to mention the live-action movies. 

        The next step is to make sure your players are on the same page for style. Nothing kills a zany Silver Age campaign faster than a loner gunbunny. 

        After that, I recommend a fairly light hand. Let the heroes be heroes. My approach to plotting is to come up with the villain's plan, how the heroes find out about it, and what happens if they don't do anything about it. How they stop it is part of my fun. 

        As for good beginner adventures, The Skeletron Key is a good intro session. Danger in Dunsmouth is fairly straightforward, but does have a couple of potential stumbling blocks. 

        The best intro supers adventure of all time is Crisis at Crusaders' Citadel for V&V, though if you can find a copy, it would be pretty easy to adapt to ICONS. 

        Sent from my iPhone

        On Mar 16, 2013, at 11:11 AM, Michael Garcia <thecrazygm@...> wrote:

        How do you go about prepping for a supers game? I'v had *years* of experience as a GM, but never in the Super genre. I know I need to consider power level i.e. Batman vs Superman would make two totally different arcs.

        On the same note what is the best module to introduce and teach a beginner in the Super Genre?

        Thanks,
        Michael Garcia, a.k.a. The Crazy GM


      • Tim K.
        ... 1) Keep it simple. 2) Find out the tone you want--silly/serious/soap opera/adventure focused/gritty. Make sure you get your players on the same page. Talk
        Message 3 of 9 , Mar 16, 2013
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          On 3/16/2013 11:11 AM, Michael Garcia wrote:
          How do you go about prepping for a supers game? I'v had *years* of experience as a GM, but never in the Super genre. I know I need to consider power level i.e. Batman vs Superman would make two totally different arcs.

          On the same note what is the best module to introduce and teach a beginner in the Super Genre?




          1) Keep it simple.

          2) Find out the tone you want--silly/serious/soap opera/adventure focused/gritty. Make sure you get your players on the same page. Talk to them explain the tone you want if you want something with the tone of Spider-Man of a particular era, show them if you have comics, or explain to them. If you want it like the Avengers: EMH cartoon, show them a few episodes of that. Get them into the feel.

          3) Let them do heroic things. Don't focus just on fighting bad guys, and don't give them unsolvable dilemmas (often.) That means let them rescue people, let them punch out the bad guy and clearly decisively "win" for a while and for the side of good to triumph.

          4) Let them do wild and crazy things, catch missiles in mid air? Sure. Ask them to be descriptive--very descriptive in their actions, frame it like a series of comic book panels if they can.

          5) Don't kill NPC's/Heroes, unless you want a grim game. Don't make the heroes think the best solution is to kill someone either. Explain this to your players and set a switch "no killing/ok killing" and stick to it. Cheat if you have to in a no killing game to keep people alive. Dramatic deaths where a hero chooses to die to save others, or a villain offs a minion? Sure. Others not so much. Keep foes in prison for a long while, make clones/robots/or new foes when you need that person again before breaking them out of prison.

          6) Keep determination flowing. Determination helps them do cool things, so empower the players to have the oomph to do cool things with their characters.

          7) Don't sweat the rules, be fair. If something rules wise is sticking or your are unsure on--make a temporary fix up, and review it AFTER the game. Try and rule in favor of the heroes.

          8) Have fun.

          9) Read comics and steal ideas.

          10) Keep it simple.


          As for adventures? I rather like Skeletron Key for beginners. Theron suggested Crisis at Crusader Citadel, but its rather old school and doesn't explain what to do with it well. It can be fun as it lets the heroes rescue other heroes.
          I'm sure there are others, of course.

          If you have any further questions, ask, I've been running superhero games for over 20 years, I am pretty sure Theron has too. :D





        • Tim K.
          ... Listen to this man. He is brilliant, this Soylent Green chap. In fact its a good idea, to pretend to be the villain as if you were a player
          Message 4 of 9 , Mar 16, 2013
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            On 3/16/2013 2:08 PM, Soylent Green wrote:
            A few years back I was in the same boat; I wanted to run a supers game  but I could not see how to structure it without it falling into a villain of the week rut. But, thanks also to advice and encouragement from Tim "Silverlion" I did take the plunge and I am so glad I did. Years later I can confidently claim the superhero gaming is the prince of roleplaying; it's so much fun and such a natural fit.

            The common thing about superhero adventures is that superheroes tend to be reactive. In a lot of games it's the PCs who have a goal (strip the dungeon of anything of value) and it's the NPCs role to stop them (the monsters who happen to live in said dungeon and would rather hang on to their stuff). In a superhero game it's usually the other way round; the super-villain NPCs have goals (dastardly goal like stripping the city of anything of value) and this time it's the PC's job is to stop them. 

            From a structural point of view that makes superhero adventures more like horror investigation adventures for games such as Call of Cthulhu which are also normally about preventing something bad happening. 

            For me preparing a supers game all starts with super-villain's master plan. Looking at the plan from the super-villain's point of view I find helps. Give him some sort of complex goal, something which possibly involves multiple stages and possibly, if appropriate, have his henchmen (super and not) deal with these. For instance if the villain is building a doomsday device he may ne


            Listen to this man. He is brilliant, this "Soylent Green" chap.

            In fact its a good idea, to pretend to be the villain as if you were a player character--temporarily while starting up your villains master plan. Think like a PC, decide what your villain wants, and how he needs to go about it. What tools does he need, what devices? Does he have minions or robots to do it or will he be building those first?  Have your villain take his first step, make sure it gets noticed by someone. Then let that information get back to the PC's through their jobs, through there friends/allies/coworkers what have you, then let them investigate, or make a plan to stop further events in the chain. They might fail the first one and that's alright, just make sure there are enough steps that they can try and stop the villain a couple times before he or she completes their plan.


          • Michael Garcia
            Thanks guys, i m starting to see the trend here. I ll be sure to ask more as time progresses. Thanks, Michael Garcia, a.k.a. The Crazy GM
            Message 5 of 9 , Mar 16, 2013
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              Thanks guys, i'm starting to see the trend here. I'll be sure to ask more as time progresses.

              Thanks,
              Michael Garcia, a.k.a. The Crazy GM



              On Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 3:27 PM, Tim K. <silverlion@...> wrote:
               

              On 3/16/2013 2:08 PM, Soylent Green wrote:
              A few years back I was in the same boat; I wanted to run a supers game  but I could not see how to structure it without it falling into a villain of the week rut. But, thanks also to advice and encouragement from Tim "Silverlion" I did take the plunge and I am so glad I did. Years later I can confidently claim the superhero gaming is the prince of roleplaying; it's so much fun and such a natural fit.

              The common thing about superhero adventures is that superheroes tend to be reactive. In a lot of games it's the PCs who have a goal (strip the dungeon of anything of value) and it's the NPCs role to stop them (the monsters who happen to live in said dungeon and would rather hang on to their stuff). In a superhero game it's usually the other way round; the super-villain NPCs have goals (dastardly goal like stripping the city of anything of value) and this time it's the PC's job is to stop them. 

              From a structural point of view that makes superhero adventures more like horror investigation adventures for games such as Call of Cthulhu which are also normally about preventing something bad happening. 

              For me preparing a supers game all starts with super-villain's master plan. Looking at the plan from the super-villain's point of view I find helps. Give him some sort of complex goal, something which possibly involves multiple stages and possibly, if appropriate, have his henchmen (super and not) deal with these. For instance if the villain is building a doomsday device he may ne


              Listen to this man. He is brilliant, this "Soylent Green" chap.

              In fact its a good idea, to pretend to be the villain as if you were a player character--temporarily while starting up your villains master plan. Think like a PC, decide what your villain wants, and how he needs to go about it. What tools does he need, what devices? Does he have minions or robots to do it or will he be building those first?  Have your villain take his first step, make sure it gets noticed by someone. Then let that information get back to the PC's through their jobs, through there friends/allies/coworkers what have you, then let them investigate, or make a plan to stop further events in the chain. They might fail the first one and that's alright, just make sure there are enough steps that they can try and stop the villain a couple times before he or she completes their plan.



            • L M
              Some general advice: http://towerofzenopus.blogspot.com/2013/03/extremely-expert-dm-advice-5-supers.html A good starting adventure would be Fainting Goat s
              Message 6 of 9 , Mar 16, 2013
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                Some general advice: http://towerofzenopus.blogspot.com/2013/03/extremely-expert-dm-advice-5-supers.html


                A good starting adventure would be Fainting Goat's "Day of the Swarm" - it's a classic scenario, it gives a reason for new heroes to show up and work together, there are opportunities for some big heroic action without complications like time travel or railroading or NPC heroes getting in the way. It's a great way to kick things off right after creating your characters.


                On Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 3:55 PM, Michael Garcia <thecrazygm@...> wrote:
                 

                Thanks guys, i'm starting to see the trend here. I'll be sure to ask more as time progresses.

                Thanks,
                Michael Garcia, a.k.a. The Crazy GM



                On Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 3:27 PM, Tim K. <silverlion@...> wrote:
                 

                On 3/16/2013 2:08 PM, Soylent Green wrote:
                A few years back I was in the same boat; I wanted to run a supers game  but I could not see how to structure it without it falling into a villain of the week rut. But, thanks also to advice and encouragement from Tim "Silverlion" I did take the plunge and I am so glad I did. Years later I can confidently claim the superhero gaming is the prince of roleplaying; it's so much fun and such a natural fit.

                The common thing about superhero adventures is that superheroes tend to be reactive. In a lot of games it's the PCs who have a goal (strip the dungeon of anything of value) and it's the NPCs role to stop them (the monsters who happen to live in said dungeon and would rather hang on to their stuff). In a superhero game it's usually the other way round; the super-villain NPCs have goals (dastardly goal like stripping the city of anything of value) and this time it's the PC's job is to stop them. 

                From a structural point of view that makes superhero adventures more like horror investigation adventures for games such as Call of Cthulhu which are also normally about preventing something bad happening. 

                For me preparing a supers game all starts with super-villain's master plan. Looking at the plan from the super-villain's point of view I find helps. Give him some sort of complex goal, something which possibly involves multiple stages and possibly, if appropriate, have his henchmen (super and not) deal with these. For instance if the villain is building a doomsday device he may ne


                Listen to this man. He is brilliant, this "Soylent Green" chap.

                In fact its a good idea, to pretend to be the villain as if you were a player character--temporarily while starting up your villains master plan. Think like a PC, decide what your villain wants, and how he needs to go about it. What tools does he need, what devices? Does he have minions or robots to do it or will he be building those first?  Have your villain take his first step, make sure it gets noticed by someone. Then let that information get back to the PC's through their jobs, through there friends/allies/coworkers what have you, then let them investigate, or make a plan to stop further events in the chain. They might fail the first one and that's alright, just make sure there are enough steps that they can try and stop the villain a couple times before he or she completes their plan.






                --
                Blacksteel
              • Bill Olander
                My general approach for super hero adventure design is to create a bad guy who is doing bad things. The heroes will want to stop this. Spend some time trying
                Message 7 of 9 , Mar 16, 2013
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                  My general approach for super hero adventure design is to create a bad guy who is doing bad things. The heroes will want to stop this. Spend some time trying to guess how the heroes will attempt to stop the bad guy. Figure out some interesting traps, minions, or other situations that will prevent the heroes from easily getting to the final battle. Be prepared to improvise when the players come up with a completely brilliant idea.

                  My general approach for super hero adventure design is to create a bad guy who is doing bad things. The heroes will want to stop this. Spend some time trying to guess how the heroes will attempt to stop the bad guy. Figure out some interesting traps, minions, or other situations that will prevent the heroes from easily getting to the final battle. Be prepared to improvise when the players come up with a completely brilliant idea and go a completely different way than you were expecting like shaking down the mob boss from 3 adventures ago that you'd completely forgotten about. And goood luck to you.

                  On Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 12:11 PM, Michael Garcia <thecrazygm@...> wrote:
                   

                  How do you go about prepping for a supers game? I'v had *years* of experience as a GM, but never in the Super genre. I know I need to consider power level i.e. Batman vs Superman would make two totally different arcs.

                  On the same note what is the best module to introduce and teach a beginner in the Super Genre?

                  Thanks,
                  Michael Garcia, a.k.a. The Crazy GM


                • Theron Bretz
                  ... reactive. In a lot of games it s the PCs who have a goal (strip the dungeon of anything of value) and it s the NPCs role to stop them (the monsters who
                  Message 8 of 9 , Mar 16, 2013
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                    >>>The
                    common thing about superhero adventures is that superheroes tend to be reactive. In a lot of games it's the PCs who have a goal (strip the dungeon of anything of value) and it's the NPCs role to stop them (the monsters who happen to live in said dungeon and would rather hang on to their stuff). In a superhero game it's usually the other way round; the super-villain NPCs have goals (dastardly goal like stripping the city of anything of value) and this time it's the PC's job is to stop them. 

                    From a structural point of view that makes superhero adventures more like horror investigation adventures for games such as Call of Cthulhu which are also normally about preventing something bad happening. <<<

                    That bit up there is, perhaps, the most important thing to understand when running supers.  I've never seen a successful "sandbox" superhero game.  I've seldom seen a successful one where the GM sat back and reacted to the PCs plans (at least not one that lasted long).  In terms of genre emulation, you've got to plan for the heroes to react to the world, not the other way around.

                    Theron
                    Houston



                    From: Soylent Green <gsoylent@...>
                    To: icons group <icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com>
                    Sent: Saturday, March 16, 2013 2:08 PM
                    Subject: RE: [icons-rpg] Never Run Supers



                    A few years back I was in the same boat; I wanted to run a supers game  but I could not see how to structure it without it falling into a villain of the week rut. But, thanks also to advice and encouragement from Tim "Silverlion" I did take the plunge and I am so glad I did. Years later I can confidently claim the superhero gaming is the prince of roleplaying; it's so much fun and such a natural fit.

                    The common thing about superhero adventures is that superheroes tend to be reactive. In a lot of games it's the PCs who have a goal (strip the dungeon of anything of value) and it's the NPCs role to stop them (the monsters who happen to live in said dungeon and would rather hang on to their stuff). In a superhero game it's usually the other way round; the super-villain NPCs have goals (dastardly goal like stripping the city of anything of value) and this time it's the PC's job is to stop them. 

                    From a structural point of view that makes superhero adventures more like horror investigation adventures for games such as Call of Cthulhu which are also normally about preventing something bad happening. 

                    For me preparing a supers game all starts with super-villain's master plan. Looking at the plan from the super-villain's point of view I find helps. Give him some sort of complex goal, something which possibly involves multiple stages and possibly, if appropriate, have his henchmen (super and not) deal with these. For instance if the villain is building a doomsday device he may need secure weapons grade plutonium, a special detonator, the help (willing or not) of a world class scientist and maybe some other bits and pieces. 

                    Next you need to figure out how to get the heroes involved. Generally speaking the heroes won't know the supervillain's plan or possibly even who is behind these individual crimes. As the super-villain's plan unfolds, various criminal incidents will draw the heroes' attention. Sometimes they may only learn about the crime after it happened, sometimes they may find out about it just in time to stop it. But until they figure out the pattern and work out the clues the heroes are basically playing defence.

                    At some point the heroes should have enough clues to piece the supervillain's plan and/or identity together so that they can finally go on the offensive. Now the PCs have the initiative. They can track down the super-villain to his lair, try anticipate his next move, set a trap or whatever they come up with. The moment in a game the initiative switches is usually very exciting.

                    One the biggest challenges in running a superhero game is getting the pacing right. If you just run the various events relating to the villains master plan one right after the other you can fall into a "villain of the week" sort of rut. Also, you don't get that sense of build up and time passing. If you look at the example above it is easy to imagine that in a comic book days could pass between the theft of the plutonium and kidnapping of the scientist. The events might even be split in different issues. You want to capture that feeling. 

                    The trick to get this right, in my experience, is to multi-thread plots - that is to say have several supervillain plans or other challenges on the boil at the same time. So when one story arc is reaching its climax you are already setting the seeds and foreshadowing the next one. And perhaps even more importantly it mean that at any one point the player have choices regarding which of the various threads to priorities and pursue. And, well at any rate, that's the way Stan Lee used to do it. 

                    That's goes mostly for campaigns. For a one shot adventure I strongly recommend getting the Therom's Icons adventure "Sins of the Past"; it's a masterclass on how to create an adventure with a strong, even poignant theme, a flexible framework and with equal doses of action, investigation and character interaction.


                    To: icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com
                    From: tfbretz@...
                    Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2013 11:24:36 -0500
                    Subject: Re: [icons-rpg] Never Run Supers

                     

                    Do you read superhero comics?  If so, figure out what fits the style of play you want. If not, I recommend watching some cartoons or movies. My personal faves are the DCU cartoons from WB, particularly Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Marvel's got some good ones too in Avengers Assemble! and Wolverine and the X-Men, not to mention the live-action movies. 

                    The next step is to make sure your players are on the same page for style. Nothing kills a zany Silver Age campaign faster than a loner gunbunny. 

                    After that, I recommend a fairly light hand. Let the heroes be heroes. My approach to plotting is to come up with the villain's plan, how the heroes find out about it, and what happens if they don't do anything about it. How they stop it is part of my fun. 

                    As for good beginner adventures, The Skeletron Key is a good intro session. Danger in Dunsmouth is fairly straightforward, but does have a couple of potential stumbling blocks. 

                    The best intro supers adventure of all time is Crisis at Crusaders' Citadel for V&V, though if you can find a copy, it would be pretty easy to adapt to ICONS. 

                    Sent from my iPhone

                    On Mar 16, 2013, at 11:11 AM, Michael Garcia <thecrazygm@...> wrote:

                    How do you go about prepping for a supers game? I'v had *years* of experience as a GM, but never in the Super genre. I know I need to consider power level i.e. Batman vs Superman would make two totally different arcs.

                    On the same note what is the best module to introduce and teach a beginner in the Super Genre?

                    Thanks,
                    Michael Garcia, a.k.a. The Crazy GM






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