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Re: [icons-rpg] A sort of a rant, on adventure locations

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  • Gareth-Michael Skarka
    I know it s a horrible, horrible tease -- but there s a section addressing this in TEAM-UP. Specifically -- the section on Universe-Style Play, where you and
    Message 1 of 11 , Apr 3, 2013
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      I know it's a horrible, horrible tease -- but there's a section addressing this in TEAM-UP.

      Specifically -- the section on Universe-Style Play, where you and your players craft your campaign world, but can still do "pick-up" games.   A bunch of rules and guidelines for doing so.   There's a bit about adapting published adventures in there as well.

      -Gareth




      On Apr 3, 2013, at 11:23 AM, John McMullen wrote:



      I was prepping to run part of the new Marvel Heroes game mini-session Breakout and listening to the latest BAMF podcast (the actual play of Through The Looking Glass) , and I realized that they all have the same sort of problem for me.

      The thing I keep running into is that the adventure takes place *elsewhere*. Whatever the heroes' home stomping ground is, wherever they have their dependent non-player characters, be they loved ones, rivals, foes, annoying fans, whatever, the adventure takes place somewhere else. The story takes place in another land or country, another dimension, someone's body, a small coastal or farming community, and so on.

      I mean, Breakout takes place on the superprison for criminals, and in the Savage Land. For a game where part of the fun is dealing with J. Jonah Jameson or Sif or Wong, these seems like a stumble..

      In a pickup game like ICONS, I can sort of see it: you have no real history with these characters (you made them up that night), so there seems to be no reason to tie yourself to one location. But if you run a second adventure, or a third one, and suddenly you've got a loose campaign or a series of connected events, suddenly an adventure like that makes is very hard to insert Mary Jane Stacy, the punk supermodel girlfriend, or Lucius Pennyworth, the financier who buttles for your family because he promised his father, or Lois Potts, the fangirl who wants to be your character's administrative assistant, or...

      I first became aware of this when running Retcon Quest, but I know I chose not to run Dunsmouth, Aoterea Gambit, and Whiteout because of that. In fact, both the Ad Infinitum adventures and the Fainting Goat Games Improbable Tales run about half "home" and half "away." (I assume that you've chosen a campaign location where some things are possible--I mean, if you have your game set in Kansas, any coastal adventure just isn't going to work period, and if your campaign is set in a rural area, there are fewer high-tech companies to have strange accidents. Mind, if you set your campaign in a high school for supers, maybe you deserve what you get.)

      I know that it isn't a problem for everyone, and I'm pleased that it's only about half (I felt like "other places" adventures made up a higher fraction), but maybe adventure writers could add a small bit to jump-start our brains on ways to get important NPCs into the session, either by transplanting the game to "home" or by bringing them along. (Though I admit that the Improbably Tales stuff does that, for the most part.)

      Or maybe my scale is too small: I'm thinking in terms of one city, and these adventures are written for globe-spanning groups.

      Or maybe I'm just frustrated at the Marvel thing and grumpy that I couldn't use the cool new adventures even if I could get the group to play ICONS again...

      John

       
      John McMullen (Searching for a .sig)
      jhmcmullen@...



    • Icosahedrophilia
      Dear John et al., ... I hadn’t really thought about this phenomenon before, but John has a good point. A high percentage of published adventures for ICONS
      Message 2 of 11 , Apr 3, 2013
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        Dear John et al.,

        On Apr 3, 2013, at 9:23 AM, John McMullen <jhmcmullen@...> wrote:
        The thing I keep running into is that the adventure takes place *elsewhere*. Whatever the heroes' home stomping ground is, wherever they have their dependent non-player characters, be they loved ones, rivals, foes, annoying fans, whatever, the adventure takes place somewhere else.

        I hadn’t really thought about this phenomenon before, but John has a good point. A high percentage of published adventures for ICONS are “road trips.” Some of this simply reflects the needs of the adventure itself, whose existence is, of course, driven by the authors’ interests. Adventures like Danger in Dunsmouth or Murder of Crowes wouldn’t work nearly as well if transposed to a large metropolitan area, while The Aotearoa Gambit tied into real-world events in New Zealand. Improbable Tales ended up with a fairly large number of road trips, but the series reflects the voting from its Kickstarter backers.

        I don’t think it’s entirely the case, though, that road trips avoid ongoing NPC plotlines; they may in fact create interesting problems for PCs to solve in their personal lives. Imagine Bobby Barker’s dilemma when he heads out to Dunsmouth to investigate supernatural activity. Since this is the comics and not a superhero movie, his identity as Arachnaman is a secret from everyone, including girlfriend Mary Jane Stacy. So he tells MJS that his boss, K. Klaus Kristofferson, is sending him on a photojournalistic assignment out of town. But Kristofferson has given him no such assignment, and Bobby has cited a family emergency to the Daily Trumpet as a reason for his absence from work. When both discover that Bobby lied, sparks could fly. I think Marvel probably handles this sort of thing better than ICONS mechanically, because this could cause Bobby mental stress, etc. Or if Megaman’s reporter girlfriend knows his secret identity, maybe she wants to come along on the road trip. Etc.

        For ICONS, I think Stark City is poised to become a more stable “home base” where a lot of different types of adventures can happen. In Stark City, a “road trip” could just be to the other side of town, and threats from alternate dimensions are woven into the fabric of the city. It shouldn’t be too difficult to reskin a fairly good number of already-published ICONS adventures to give them a home in Stark City.

        I think Marvel is in a somewhat different category, since you will be playing with established Marvel heroes, and doing a lot of globe-trotting as a result. The events they’ve released—Breakout, Civil War, Annihilation—simply aren’t local-scale events.

        I kind of see the same thing going on in comics, too. The “in thing” seems to be huge world-shaking events, especially for Marvel. Civil War, Fear Itself, AvX, now Thanos … it seems that the current crop of writers for Marvel and DC have a hard time writing compelling stories on city or neighborhood scale.

        In the end, I think John’s comments serve as a good invitation, or even challenge, for (aspiring) adventure writers. It seems there is a market for more published adventures set in the PCs’ own backyards. Takers?


        Chris Heard
        Icosahedrophilia Blog and Podcast
        http://drchris.me/d20
        ><> ב״ה



      • John McMullen
        Part of the problem, such as it is, is scope and perspective: Are you doing a neighbourhood story where our PCs have to clean up the block/district/city, or
        Message 3 of 11 , Apr 3, 2013
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          Part of the problem, such as it is, is scope and perspective: Are you doing a neighbourhood story where our PCs have to clean up the block/district/city, or are you doing big JLA/Avengers style adventures where they have to deal with the Fate Of The World(TM), or are you doing even bigger crossovers like Crisis On Infinite Civil Wars?

          Let's subdivide them, calling the former "gang" stories, "team" stories, and "cross-over events".

          MWP has deliberately gone with the cross-over event for MHR. This makes sense because they're dealing with established intellectual properties, and they figure that the best way to get lots of players is to provide lots of different characters for them to play. Since by design they want you to play established characters, they want something that lots of characters are involved in, so it's Avengers Vs. Mutants Vs. Gods Vs. Aliens style play. The problem that they're solving--the macguffin for the story--has to be huge to justify that they're bringing in the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and the X-Men, with a side helping of Kree, Skrull, and the Inhumans. (The DC game could well have gone this way, too, but they weren't planning on ongoing sales, just a commemorative thing, so it's more of a toolkit.) 

          A team book is a book that brings together characters from a bunch of different books. Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Spider-Man have all been on the Avengers and all have their own books. For most of its existence, Justice League has been about what the Big Players do when they get together--but Batman and Superman and most of the rest already had books where all the keen interpersonal stuff happened. They don't need to do a lot of character interaction except in the context of the problem du jour. What personal stuff happens, happens either between characters on the team or with characters who don't have their own books. In New Avengers, we learned lots about Luke Cage and Jessica's lives because they didn't have their own books; we didn't learn so much about Spider-Man. In the same way, we don't see much about Clark Kent in the Justice League books. (There are exceptions.)  The movie The Avengers worked primarily because they did all the character stuff for most of the characters in the other movies. 

          We saw lots about Blue Beetle and Booster Gold when they didn't have their own books. For Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark, we saw a panel where he went home and then in stark surprise we got "You--!" and the editorial note "To see who that is, see the latest issue of Spider-Man/Batman/Iron Man" or whatever.

          In gang books, the characters are generally not appearing anywhere else. The Outsiders (in each of its incarnations) was a gang book. Shadowpact was a gang book. The Fantastic Four is sort of a gang book, with elements of a team book. Essentially, members of a gang book don't appear anywhere else (although they might have previously). Like solo books or team-up books, what you're gonna see about the character has to be in that book. 

          And my current contention is that those books, gang books, are most like a roleplaying session. MHR can get away with its structure because the players are bringing in this knowledge of the Marvel universe. For the rest of us who don't have an established IP, what you see about the characters has to have been made evident in the game sessions. So you have to structure the adventure or game sessions for that information to get played.

          Maybe this is in Team-Up...I'd love it, and I'm still on the preorder list (though I'll contact you offlist to see what's going to happen to my copy of Villainomicon, Gareth). The important thing isn't that you don't do road trips, it seems to me--but that you provide the opportunities for the interpersonal stuff and the consequences of the road trip. And when I'm using an adventure because my brain is just too fried to come up with something that's my players, I'd love the help in fitting it in. Hints on an epilogue, hints on places or ways that you can fit in established NPCs, maybe something else that I haven't thought of.

          Jeez, this isn't a rant: it's a screed. (I think I'll put it on my blog, too.)
           
          John McMullen (Searching for a .sig)
          jhmcmullen@...


          From: Icosahedrophilia <d20@...>
          To: icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 1:21 PM
          Subject: Re: [icons-rpg] A sort of a rant, on adventure locations



          Dear John et al.,

          On Apr 3, 2013, at 9:23 AM, John McMullen <jhmcmullen@...> wrote:
          The thing I keep running into is that the adventure takes place *elsewhere*. Whatever the heroes' home stomping ground is, wherever they have their dependent non-player characters, be they loved ones, rivals, foes, annoying fans, whatever, the adventure takes place somewhere else.

          I hadn’t really thought about this phenomenon before, but John has a good point. A high percentage of published adventures for ICONS are “road trips.” Some of this simply reflects the needs of the adventure itself, whose existence is, of course, driven by the authors’ interests. Adventures like Danger in Dunsmouth or Murder of Crowes wouldn’t work nearly as well if transposed to a large metropolitan area, while The Aotearoa Gambit tied into real-world events in New Zealand. Improbable Tales ended up with a fairly large number of road trips, but the series reflects the voting from its Kickstarter backers.

          I don’t think it’s entirely the case, though, that road trips avoid ongoing NPC plotlines; they may in fact create interesting problems for PCs to solve in their personal lives. Imagine Bobby Barker’s dilemma when he heads out to Dunsmouth to investigate supernatural activity. Since this is the comics and not a superhero movie, his identity as Arachnaman is a secret from everyone, including girlfriend Mary Jane Stacy. So he tells MJS that his boss, K. Klaus Kristofferson, is sending him on a photojournalistic assignment out of town. But Kristofferson has given him no such assignment, and Bobby has cited a family emergency to the Daily Trumpet as a reason for his absence from work. When both discover that Bobby lied, sparks could fly. I think Marvel probably handles this sort of thing better than ICONS mechanically, because this could cause Bobby mental stress, etc. Or if Megaman’s reporter girlfriend knows his secret identity, maybe she wants to come along on the road trip. Etc.

          For ICONS, I think Stark City is poised to become a more stable “home base” where a lot of different types of adventures can happen. In Stark City, a “road trip” could just be to the other side of town, and threats from alternate dimensions are woven into the fabric of the city. It shouldn’t be too difficult to reskin a fairly good number of already-published ICONS adventures to give them a home in Stark City.

          I think Marvel is in a somewhat different category, since you will be playing with established Marvel heroes, and doing a lot of globe-trotting as a result. The events they’ve released—Breakout, Civil War, Annihilation—simply aren’t local-scale events.

          I kind of see the same thing going on in comics, too. The “in thing” seems to be huge world-shaking events, especially for Marvel. Civil War, Fear Itself, AvX, now Thanos … it seems that the current crop of writers for Marvel and DC have a hard time writing compelling stories on city or neighborhood scale.

          In the end, I think John’s comments serve as a good invitation, or even challenge, for (aspiring) adventure writers. It seems there is a market for more published adventures set in the PCs’ own backyards. Takers?


          Chris Heard
          Icosahedrophilia Blog and Podcast
          http://drchris.me/d20
          ><> ב״ה







        • Soylent Green
          Interesting points. I think a lot comes down to the difference between one-shot/ convention style gaming and campaign play. The two style of play work very
          Message 4 of 11 , Apr 3, 2013
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            Interesting points. I think a lot comes down to the difference between one-shot/ convention style gaming and campaign play. The two style of play work very differently. A bit like short stories, one shot adventures tend to rely more on some sort of central gimmick (hence the road trip aspect) rather than exploring the characters.  Campaigns are more like novels. In both what actually happens is almost less important than it's impact on the main characters.  

            Many of the ICONS adventures are designed I think to work as one-shots. In part this may because, right or wrong, ICONS is seen very much as a good choice for pick up games.  But also I think there is more of presumption that for campaign play the GM is more likely to run his own material.

            That does not apply to everything of course. I always end up talking about Sins of the Past but I think that would work well as part of an ongoing campaign. It would give the GM time to introduce the Golden Agents and maybe some of the villains, foreshadow some of the key events of the adventure and even allow the heroes ageing to happen a little more gradually.
            And while I am not personally that familiar with it, I imagine most of the Hope Prep school series works as one campaign.

            Still it could be interesting to see someone a Savage World's Plot Point style campaign for ICONS.


            To: icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com
            From: jhmcmullen@...
            Date: Wed, 3 Apr 2013 11:09:19 -0700
            Subject: Re: [icons-rpg] A sort of a rant, on adventure locations

             

            Part of the problem, such as it is, is scope and perspective: Are you doing a neighbourhood story where our PCs have to clean up the block/district/city, or are you doing big JLA/Avengers style adventures where they have to deal with the Fate Of The World(TM), or are you doing even bigger crossovers like Crisis On Infinite Civil Wars?

            Let's subdivide them, calling the former "gang" stories, "team" stories, and "cross-over events".

            MWP has deliberately gone with the cross-over event for MHR. This makes sense because they're dealing with established intellectual properties, and they figure that the best way to get lots of players is to provide lots of different characters for them to play. Since by design they want you to play established characters, they want something that lots of characters are involved in, so it's Avengers Vs. Mutants Vs. Gods Vs. Aliens style play. The problem that they're solving--the macguffin for the story--has to be huge to justify that they're bringing in the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and the X-Men, with a side helping of Kree, Skrull, and the Inhumans. (The DC game could well have gone this way, too, but they weren't planning on ongoing sales, just a commemorative thing, so it's more of a toolkit.) 

            A team book is a book that brings together characters from a bunch of different books. Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Spider-Man have all been on the Avengers and all have their own books. For most of its existence, Justice League has been about what the Big Players do when they get together--but Batman and Superman and most of the rest already had books where all the keen interpersonal stuff happened. They don't need to do a lot of character interaction except in the context of the problem du jour. What personal stuff happens, happens either between characters on the team or with characters who don't have their own books. In New Avengers, we learned lots about Luke Cage and Jessica's lives because they didn't have their own books; we didn't learn so much about Spider-Man. In the same way, we don't see much about Clark Kent in the Justice League books. (There are exceptions.)  The movie The Avengers worked primarily because they did all the character stuff for most of the characters in the other movies. 

            We saw lots about Blue Beetle and Booster Gold when they didn't have their own books. For Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark, we saw a panel where he went home and then in stark surprise we got "You--!" and the editorial note "To see who that is, see the latest issue of Spider-Man/Batman/Iron Man" or whatever.

            In gang books, the characters are generally not appearing anywhere else. The Outsiders (in each of its incarnations) was a gang book. Shadowpact was a gang book. The Fantastic Four is sort of a gang book, with elements of a team book. Essentially, members of a gang book don't appear anywhere else (although they might have previously). Like solo books or team-up books, what you're gonna see about the character has to be in that book. 

            And my current contention is that those books, gang books, are most like a roleplaying session. MHR can get away with its structure because the players are bringing in this knowledge of the Marvel universe. For the rest of us who don't have an established IP, what you see about the characters has to have been made evident in the game sessions. So you have to structure the adventure or game sessions for that information to get played.

            Maybe this is in Team-Up...I'd love it, and I'm still on the preorder list (though I'll contact you offlist to see what's going to happen to my copy of Villainomicon, Gareth). The important thing isn't that you don't do road trips, it seems to me--but that you provide the opportunities for the interpersonal stuff and the consequences of the road trip. And when I'm using an adventure because my brain is just too fried to come up with something that's my players, I'd love the help in fitting it in. Hints on an epilogue, hints on places or ways that you can fit in established NPCs, maybe something else that I haven't thought of.

            Jeez, this isn't a rant: it's a screed. (I think I'll put it on my blog, too.)
             
            John McMullen (Searching for a .sig)
            jhmcmullen@...


            From: Icosahedrophilia <d20@...>
            To: icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 1:21 PM
            Subject: Re: [icons-rpg] A sort of a rant, on adventure locations



            Dear John et al.,

            On Apr 3, 2013, at 9:23 AM, John McMullen <jhmcmullen@...> wrote:
            The thing I keep running into is that the adventure takes place *elsewhere*. Whatever the heroes' home stomping ground is, wherever they have their dependent non-player characters, be they loved ones, rivals, foes, annoying fans, whatever, the adventure takes place somewhere else.

            I hadn’t really thought about this phenomenon before, but John has a good point. A high percentage of published adventures for ICONS are “road trips.” Some of this simply reflects the needs of the adventure itself, whose existence is, of course, driven by the authors’ interests. Adventures like Danger in Dunsmouth or Murder of Crowes wouldn’t work nearly as well if transposed to a large metropolitan area, while The Aotearoa Gambit tied into real-world events in New Zealand. Improbable Tales ended up with a fairly large number of road trips, but the series reflects the voting from its Kickstarter backers.

            I don’t think it’s entirely the case, though, that road trips avoid ongoing NPC plotlines; they may in fact create interesting problems for PCs to solve in their personal lives. Imagine Bobby Barker’s dilemma when he heads out to Dunsmouth to investigate supernatural activity. Since this is the comics and not a superhero movie, his identity as Arachnaman is a secret from everyone, including girlfriend Mary Jane Stacy. So he tells MJS that his boss, K. Klaus Kristofferson, is sending him on a photojournalistic assignment out of town. But Kristofferson has given him no such assignment, and Bobby has cited a family emergency to the Daily Trumpet as a reason for his absence from work. When both discover that Bobby lied, sparks could fly. I think Marvel probably handles this sort of thing better than ICONS mechanically, because this could cause Bobby mental stress, etc. Or if Megaman’s reporter girlfriend knows his secret identity, maybe she wants to come along on the road trip. Etc.

            For ICONS, I think Stark City is poised to become a more stable “home base” where a lot of different types of adventures can happen. In Stark City, a “road trip” could just be to the other side of town, and threats from alternate dimensions are woven into the fabric of the city. It shouldn’t be too difficult to reskin a fairly good number of already-published ICONS adventures to give them a home in Stark City.

            I think Marvel is in a somewhat different category, since you will be playing with established Marvel heroes, and doing a lot of globe-trotting as a result. The events they’ve released—Breakout, Civil War, Annihilation—simply aren’t local-scale events.

            I kind of see the same thing going on in comics, too. The “in thing” seems to be huge world-shaking events, especially for Marvel. Civil War, Fear Itself, AvX, now Thanos … it seems that the current crop of writers for Marvel and DC have a hard time writing compelling stories on city or neighborhood scale.

            In the end, I think John’s comments serve as a good invitation, or even challenge, for (aspiring) adventure writers. It seems there is a market for more published adventures set in the PCs’ own backyards. Takers?


            Chris Heard
            Icosahedrophilia Blog and Podcast
            http://drchris.me/d20
            ><> ב״ה








          • Seamus
            I think a lot of this is can be handled in how you look at the games in question. Marvel has Transition Scenes where the characters can deal with NPC-type
            Message 5 of 11 , Apr 3, 2013
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              I think a lot of this is can be handled in how you look at the games in question.

              Marvel has Transition Scenes where the characters can deal with NPC-type characters. It can be a little hand-wavey, unless the Watcher decides there's some good in playing it out narratively. In the case of Arachno-Dude and his French girlfriend Jean-Marie, the player can say he went home to spend time with her between Action Scenes for whatever reason.

              Also, significant parts of Civil War take place in both the X-Mansion and 4 Freedoms Plaza = 'home base' styled locations. The reason these places are used is because they're important to the plot.

              In ICONS, I think that sort of thing can be brought about through Aspects. If a person lists a Depepndant or HQ on the Character Sheet, I'd say it's because they want it to be used, so call it out. If someone has been neglecting a relationship, place the NPC in danger, or find some other way to get them involved. There have been more than a few Spider-Man stories lately where Spider-Man has to call Aunt May by a certain hour and he's fighting a supervillain when that time comes. Compel the Dependant (Aunt May) by having her call during a fight, and offer a DP if Spidey answers his phone. Just an example.

              The thing that makes this tough is that bad guys tend not to plan crime sprees around hero HQs, and heroes don't usually live at the First National Bank.

              If you want to have games that happen at the home base, I'd say hold off until heroes get an adventure or two under the utility belt, and then look for the good places to insert drama.
            • Bill Olander
              The difficulty in writing an adventure set in the characters own back yard is that you aren t really in a possition as the adventure writer to know what is
              Message 6 of 11 , Apr 3, 2013
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                The difficulty in writing an adventure set in the characters' own back yard is that you aren't really in a possition as the adventure writer to know what is going on in the back yard. For a well done super-hero game, you aren't just going to be playing heroes/adventurers in someone else's world, you're going to be the people who shake the world. The example I like to use is that if you're playing the Tony Stark/Bruce Wayne analog of your universe (and if you are a tech character on the world's most prominent super team why wouldn't you be?) then the nature of your powers really should be influencing everyone else. Bad guys should have tech that is pirated copies of your software and that rifts off of the themes of your character.

                Someone writing an adventure for general consumption just can't know those details.

                One thing you can do with ICONS, and really any other system with an aspect related mechanic (FATE and MHR come to mind) is to provide suggestions up front. Let the GM know that this adventure is going to involve a hostage situation at the Midnight Star by members of the Dominici crime family and so encourage the players to take one of the following aspects: "Secret ID revealed by Midnight Star tabloid", "Dating Jenny Jane, intrepid reporter.", "Secretly Boss Dominici's daughter".

                On Wed, Apr 3, 2013 at 1:21 PM, Icosahedrophilia <d20@...> wrote:
                 

                Dear John et al.,


                On Apr 3, 2013, at 9:23 AM, John McMullen <jhmcmullen@...> wrote:
                The thing I keep running into is that the adventure takes place *elsewhere*. Whatever the heroes' home stomping ground is, wherever they have their dependent non-player characters, be they loved ones, rivals, foes, annoying fans, whatever, the adventure takes place somewhere else.

                I hadn’t really thought about this phenomenon before, but John has a good point. A high percentage of published adventures for ICONS are “road trips.” Some of this simply reflects the needs of the adventure itself, whose existence is, of course, driven by the authors’ interests. Adventures like Danger in Dunsmouth or Murder of Crowes wouldn’t work nearly as well if transposed to a large metropolitan area, while The Aotearoa Gambit tied into real-world events in New Zealand. Improbable Tales ended up with a fairly large number of road trips, but the series reflects the voting from its Kickstarter backers.

                I don’t think it’s entirely the case, though, that road trips avoid ongoing NPC plotlines; they may in fact create interesting problems for PCs to solve in their personal lives. Imagine Bobby Barker’s dilemma when he heads out to Dunsmouth to investigate supernatural activity. Since this is the comics and not a superhero movie, his identity as Arachnaman is a secret from everyone, including girlfriend Mary Jane Stacy. So he tells MJS that his boss, K. Klaus Kristofferson, is sending him on a photojournalistic assignment out of town. But Kristofferson has given him no such assignment, and Bobby has cited a family emergency to the Daily Trumpet as a reason for his absence from work. When both discover that Bobby lied, sparks could fly. I think Marvel probably handles this sort of thing better than ICONS mechanically, because this could cause Bobby mental stress, etc. Or if Megaman’s reporter girlfriend knows his secret identity, maybe she wants to come along on the road trip. Etc.

                For ICONS, I think Stark City is poised to become a more stable “home base” where a lot of different types of adventures can happen. In Stark City, a “road trip” could just be to the other side of town, and threats from alternate dimensions are woven into the fabric of the city. It shouldn’t be too difficult to reskin a fairly good number of already-published ICONS adventures to give them a home in Stark City.

                I think Marvel is in a somewhat different category, since you will be playing with established Marvel heroes, and doing a lot of globe-trotting as a result. The events they’ve released—Breakout, Civil War, Annihilation—simply aren’t local-scale events.

                I kind of see the same thing going on in comics, too. The “in thing” seems to be huge world-shaking events, especially for Marvel. Civil War, Fear Itself, AvX, now Thanos … it seems that the current crop of writers for Marvel and DC have a hard time writing compelling stories on city or neighborhood scale.

                In the end, I think John’s comments serve as a good invitation, or even challenge, for (aspiring) adventure writers. It seems there is a market for more published adventures set in the PCs’ own backyards. Takers?


                Chris Heard
                Icosahedrophilia Blog and Podcast
                http://drchris.me/d20
                ><> ב״ה




              • John McMullen
                Plot Points? Oh--I have Rippers around here; I should read it and see how that structure plays out.
                Message 7 of 11 , Apr 3, 2013
                • 0 Attachment
                  Plot Points? Oh--I have Rippers around here; I should read it and see how that structure plays out.

                  --- In icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com, Soylent Green <gsoylent@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Interesting points. I think a lot comes down to the difference between one-shot/ convention style gaming and campaign play. The two style of play work very differently. A bit like short stories, one shot adventures tend to rely more on some sort of central gimmick (hence the road trip aspect) rather than exploring the characters. Campaigns are more like novels. In both what actually happens is almost less important than it's impact on the main characters.
                  > Many of the ICONS adventures are designed I think to work as one-shots. In part this may because, right or wrong, ICONS is seen very much as a good choice for pick up games. But also I think there is more of presumption that for campaign play the GM is more likely to run his own material.
                  > That does not apply to everything of course. I always end up talking about Sins of the Past but I think that would work well as part of an ongoing campaign. It would give the GM time to introduce the Golden Agents and maybe some of the villains, foreshadow some of the key events of the adventure and even allow the heroes ageing to happen a little more gradually.And while I am not personally that familiar with it, I imagine most of the Hope Prep school series works as one campaign.
                  > Still it could be interesting to see someone a Savage World's Plot Point style campaign for ICONS.
                  >
                  > To: icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com
                  > From: jhmcmullen@...
                  > Date: Wed, 3 Apr 2013 11:09:19 -0700
                  > Subject: Re: [icons-rpg] A sort of a rant, on adventure locations
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
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                  > Part of the problem, such as it is, is scope and perspective: Are you doing a neighbourhood story where our PCs have to clean up the block/district/city, or are you doing big JLA/Avengers style adventures where they have to deal with the Fate Of The World(TM), or are you doing even bigger crossovers like Crisis On Infinite Civil Wars?
                  >
                  > Let's subdivide them, calling the former "gang" stories, "team" stories, and "cross-over events".
                  > MWP has deliberately gone with the cross-over event for MHR. This makes sense because they're dealing with established intellectual properties, and they figure that the best way to get lots of players is to provide lots of different characters for them to play. Since by design they want you to play established characters, they want something that lots of characters are involved in, so it's Avengers Vs. Mutants Vs. Gods Vs. Aliens style play. The problem that they're solving--the macguffin for the story--has to be huge to justify that they're bringing in the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and the X-Men, with a side helping of Kree, Skrull, and the Inhumans. (The DC game could well have gone
                  > this way, too, but they weren't planning on ongoing sales, just a commemorative thing, so it's more of a toolkit.)
                  > A team book is a book that brings together characters from a bunch of different books. Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Spider-Man have all been on the Avengers and all have their own books. For most of its existence, Justice League has been about what the Big Players do when they get together--but Batman and Superman and most of the rest already had books where all the keen interpersonal stuff happened. They don't need to do a lot of character interaction except in the context of the problem du jour. What personal stuff happens, happens either
                  > between characters on the team or with characters who don't have their own books. In New Avengers, we learned lots about Luke Cage and Jessica's lives because they didn't have their own books; we didn't learn so much about Spider-Man. In the same way, we don't see much about Clark Kent in the Justice League books. (There are exceptions.) The movie The Avengers worked primarily because they did all the character stuff for most of the characters in the other movies.
                  > We saw lots about Blue Beetle and Booster Gold when they didn't have their own books. For Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark, we saw a panel where he went home and then in
                  > stark surprise we got "You--!" and the editorial note "To see who that is, see the latest issue of Spider-Man/Batman/Iron Man" or whatever.
                  > In gang books, the characters are generally not appearing anywhere else. The Outsiders (in each of its incarnations) was a gang book. Shadowpact was a gang book. The Fantastic Four is sort of a gang book, with elements of a team book. Essentially, members of a gang book don't appear anywhere else (although they might have previously). Like solo books or team-up books, what you're gonna see about the character has to be in
                  > that book.
                  > And my current contention is that those books, gang books, are most like a roleplaying session. MHR can get away with its structure because the players are bringing in this knowledge of the Marvel universe. For the rest of us who don't have an established IP, what you see about the characters has to have been made evident in the game sessions. So you have to structure the adventure or game sessions for that information to get played.
                  > Maybe this is in Team-Up...I'd love it, and I'm still on the preorder list (though I'll contact you offlist to see what's going to happen to my copy of Villainomicon, Gareth). The important thing isn't that you don't do road trips, it seems to me--but that you provide the opportunities for the interpersonal stuff and the consequences of the road trip. And when I'm using an adventure because my brain is just too fried to come up with something that's my players, I'd love the help in fitting it in. Hints on an epilogue, hints on places or ways that you can fit in established NPCs, maybe something else that I haven't thought of.
                  > Jeez, this isn't a rant: it's a screed. (I think I'll put it on my blog, too.) John McMullen (Searching for a .sig)
                  > jhmcmullen@...
                  >
                  > From: Icosahedrophilia <d20@...>
                  > To:
                  > icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com
                  > Sent: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 1:21 PM
                  > Subject: Re: [icons-rpg] A sort of a rant, on adventure locations
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                  > Dear John et al.,
                  > On Apr 3, 2013, at 9:23 AM, John McMullen <jhmcmullen@...> wrote:The thing I keep running into is that the adventure takes place *elsewhere*. Whatever the heroes' home stomping ground is, wherever they have their dependent non-player characters, be they loved ones, rivals, foes, annoying fans, whatever, the adventure takes place
                  > somewhere else.
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                  > I hadn't really thought about this phenomenon before, but John has a good point. A high percentage of published adventures for ICONS are "road trips." Some of this simply reflects the needs of the adventure itself, whose existence is, of course, driven by the authors' interests. Adventures like Danger in Dunsmouth or Murder of Crowes wouldn't work nearly as well if transposed to a large metropolitan area, while The Aotearoa Gambit tied into real-world events in New Zealand. Improbable Tales ended up with a fairly large number of road trips, but the series reflects the voting from its Kickstarter backers.
                  > I don't think it's entirely the case, though, that road trips avoid ongoing NPC plotlines; they may in fact create interesting problems for PCs to solve in their personal lives. Imagine Bobby Barker's dilemma when he heads out
                  > to Dunsmouth to investigate supernatural activity. Since this is the comics and not a superhero movie, his identity as Arachnaman is a secret from everyone, including girlfriend Mary Jane Stacy. So he tells MJS that his boss, K. Klaus Kristofferson, is sending him on a photojournalistic assignment out of town. But Kristofferson has given him no such assignment, and Bobby has cited a family emergency to the Daily Trumpet as a reason for his absence from work. When both discover that Bobby lied, sparks could fly. I think Marvel probably handles this sort of thing better than ICONS mechanically, because this could cause Bobby mental stress, etc. Or if Megaman's reporter girlfriend knows his secret identity, maybe she wants to come along on the road trip. Etc.
                  > For ICONS, I think Stark City is poised to become a more stable "home base" where a lot of different types of adventures can happen. In Stark City, a "road trip"
                  > could just be to the other side of town, and threats from alternate dimensions are woven into the fabric of the city. It shouldn't be too difficult to reskin a fairly good number of already-published ICONS adventures to give them a home in Stark City.
                  > I think Marvel is in a somewhat different category, since you will be playing with established Marvel heroes, and doing a lot of globe-trotting as a result. The events they've released—Breakout, Civil War, Annihilation—simply aren't local-scale events.
                  > I kind of see the same thing going on in comics, too. The "in thing" seems to be huge world-shaking events, especially for Marvel. Civil War, Fear Itself, AvX, now Thanos … it seems that the current crop of writers for Marvel and DC have a hard time writing compelling stories on city or neighborhood scale.
                  > In the end, I think John's comments serve as a good
                  > invitation, or even challenge, for (aspiring) adventure writers. It seems there is a market for more published adventures set in the PCs' own backyards. Takers?
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                  > Chris Heard
                  > Icosahedrophilia Blog and Podcast
                  > http://drchris.me/d20
                  > ><> áØä
                  >
                • L M
                  I agree with a lot of what others have said but I will also point out that this is kind of a tradition: First published adventure for Champions: The Island of
                  Message 8 of 11 , Apr 3, 2013
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                    I agree with a lot of what others have said but I will also point out that this is kind of a tradition: 

                    First published adventure for Champions: The Island of Dr. Destroyer - a remote secret island lair
                    First published adventure for Marvel Super Heroes: The Breeder Bombs  -an around-the-world tour to stop a series of bombs
                    First published adventure for Mutants and Masterminds: Time of Crisis - a pan-dimensional campaign to stop a series of bombs

                    I'm a little surprised that you would mention MWP Marvel as the starter adventure begins in New York City, which pretty much is the home base for most Marvel characters. Then the first big book for it is Civil War, which has a bunch of stuff in NYC along with other U.S. locations. Now granted the second big book is Annihilation which is completely the opposite approach but Breakout + Civil War could take months to play through.

                    For ICONS there are adventures from Skeletron Key to Flight of the Nova-1 to Day of the Swarm to Aquazombies to Primal Power to Gangbusters to Museum Mayhem that are all easily set in "Your Home City". That seems like enough to get a campaign up and running for a few months at least. Assuming you weave in some adventures of your own you can run a good long time with what's out there now and never leave home. Stark City will add to this kind of material as well.
                    --
                    Blacksteel
                  • John McMullen
                    Yeah, we played a second session of MHR, and really--though the start of the first act is in New York, most of the action is on a deliberately isolated prison,
                    Message 9 of 11 , Apr 4, 2013
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                      Yeah, we played a second session of MHR, and really--though the start of the first act is in New York, most of the action is on a deliberately isolated prison, so there isn't a huge amount of opportunity to work with NPCs: kiss them good-bye at the beginning of the act, wave to them as you leave for the Savage Land. (To be fair, that's in accordance with a lot of comic stories: the road trip stories have the continuing NPC stuff packed at either ends of the fighting, but with investigation there can be talks with other NPCs and so on.)

                      Now, part of it is my fault: all the roleplaying is packed at both ends of the fighting, and I skimmed it at the beginning--at the end, it was too late, we were out of time, so I skipped that. Last night, I deliberately gave some time for RP, and as a result, we spent the entire session on a side trip that wasn't even part of the design of the session. (They picked up Emma Frost and headed to fix Sentry's problem about believing his wife was dead, because they wanted him a bit more stable before they faced Lykos...and the Void showed up, and the fight took most of the night, shortened only when I realized I didn't have to use his Unleashed SFX.) Now they have Sentry (and Lindy) and are off to the Savage Land, resuming the scripted adventure.

                      But what I've found with my players, and this is not true for everyone, for superheroes, they really need the continuing characters and the consistency of setting. I theorize that, unlike some fantasy games, superhero games are largely about restoring the status quo, and working with the NPCs gives them the chance to affect things and build things. In a D&D game, you go to level 20 (or 30); in a Vampire game, you have political goals; in an Ars Magica game, you want to learn and perfect things (and possibly keep other groups from getting them). Superhero games, unless you're playing something retro with levels, don't have that spelled out, and the NPC interaction gives that players-have-a-lasting-effect-on-the-world. Your romance with Mary Jane Stacy can blossom (or be threatened by Gwen Sable, who just shows up one day).

                      So for my players, the pickup nature of ICONS works against player immersion. (MHR is probably not the game for us, though: it manages to be fiddly without tactical options, and that bores the boots of them, too--but I don't want to run Hero again; I'll play it, but I don't want to run it. I am going to try both SUPERS! and Capes, Cowls, and Villains Foul too, when I get a chance in about six months.) So far, ICONS scratches my itch best, but the players are only lukewarm about it. One of them quite likes random character generation and will spend days, it seems, generating characters.

                      Our sessions last about two to three hours, trending to two. If the fight takes that long, everything else gets short-changed.
                       
                      John McMullen (Searching for a .sig)
                      jhmcmullen@...


                      From: L M <lordblacksteel@...>
                      To: icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com
                      Sent: Thursday, April 4, 2013 12:47 AM
                      Subject: [icons-rpg] Re: A sort of a rant, on adventure locations



                      I agree with a lot of what others have said but I will also point out that this is kind of a tradition: 

                      First published adventure for Champions: The Island of Dr. Destroyer - a remote secret island lair
                      First published adventure for Marvel Super Heroes: The Breeder Bombs  -an around-the-world tour to stop a series of bombs
                      First published adventure for Mutants and Masterminds: Time of Crisis - a pan-dimensional campaign to stop a series of bombs

                      I'm a little surprised that you would mention MWP Marvel as the starter adventure begins in New York City, which pretty much is the home base for most Marvel characters. Then the first big book for it is Civil War, which has a bunch of stuff in NYC along with other U.S. locations. Now granted the second big book is Annihilation which is completely the opposite approach but Breakout + Civil War could take months to play through.

                      For ICONS there are adventures from Skeletron Key to Flight of the Nova-1 to Day of the Swarm to Aquazombies to Primal Power to Gangbusters to Museum Mayhem that are all easily set in "Your Home City". That seems like enough to get a campaign up and running for a few months at least. Assuming you weave in some adventures of your own you can run a good long time with what's out there now and never leave home. Stark City will add to this kind of material as well.
                      --
                      Blacksteel




                    • John Post
                      Regarding the use of the characters hometown as an adventure setting, I agree with most of what has been said. It s easier to set something in an exotic
                      Message 10 of 11 , Apr 4, 2013
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                        Regarding the use of the characters' hometown as an adventure setting, I agree with most of what has been said. It's easier to set something in an exotic location because if the writer uses the characters' hometown, the game master may end up rewriting a bunch of the stuff anyway, because it doesn't fit perfectly. I also think generic big town adventures can be boring.

                        I try to address this both in game mastering and writing by having the introductory scenes take place in the characters' neighborhood, let the characters build up some determination, and then go globe hopping. If you look at the four adventures with which I am most familiar, they all allow some introductory scenes where the characters connections or enemies can be interacted with and Determination can be acquired.

                        Whiteout! - the first third of the adventure takes place in the characters' home city with plenty of opportunities to allow connections and enemies to be tagged.
                        No Laughing Matter - the entire adventure takes place in a generic "big city."
                        Extraordinary Journey - the first scene takes place in a generic big city and the final scene takes places in the industrial section of that city.
                        Through the Looking Glass - only the introductory preface takes place in the characters' home base, but there is nothing to prevent connections or enemies from visiting or working in the target location and being drawn into the misadventure.

                        As someone mentioned, when Stark City comes out, Icons players will have the benefit of being able to more finely detail their connections and background using the locations provided. Instead of saying that Mary Jane Love Interest works at a tech lab, she can work in Tesla Industrial Park at Paragon Engineering or Impossible Technologies, and next thing you know she's in the middle of a couple of adventures.
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