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Re: A sort of a rant, on adventure locations

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  • John McMullen
    Plot Points? Oh--I have Rippers around here; I should read it and see how that structure plays out.
    Message 1 of 11 , Apr 3, 2013
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      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?
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      > 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@...
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      > 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 2 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 3 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 4 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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