Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Plotting the G+ Campaign: Superheroes Year One (Part One)

Earlier I posted campaign ideas I handed out to a group for a G+ game (post here). In the end the group chose the "Superheroes: Year One" pitch. I've been putting materials together for that and I thought I would share what we have so far. Here's the set up material: 

Original Pitch
Premise: Each player chooses an existing superhero they will play. This can be from any universe (DC, Marvel, Milestone, Amalgam, etc). The premise will be that while there have been supers for a short while, they’re relatively new. You will play these heroes in their early days, with the founding of the group as a starting point. You don’t have to stick to the existing details of the character- you might want to changes details about the origin, switch genders or races, modify the source of their powers, etc. The characters you pick will establish some of the premises of the world (if you pick Zatana, then we know there’s magic; if you pick a thawed out Captain America we know that there were secret heroes during WW2).

Of course you’re also going to be lower-powered beginning characters. So even if you choose Superman or Adam Warlock, you may have some of those powers but fairly constrained. I will be writing up the characters based on your input- so you’ll have a chance to establish what you want to focus on. We’ll establish a campaign city depending on the player choices.

System: We will be using Mutants & Masterminds 2e. That’s a fairly simple d20 based supers system, requiring a single die roll for most elements. You can easily find the pdf and there’s also a nice pocket version out there. Please note that we’ll be using second edition and not the more recent third edition if you choose to buy anything. I’ll be using material from the Ultimate Power sourcebook, but reserve the right to veto certain powers and abilities.

Alternative: As an alternative, the group may want to decide to pick heroes from one particular superhero universe for consistency. If that happens then I’ll try to bring in classic elements from that. 

Follow Up
I'll have more details in the future, but let me set down the basics and what I'll need from you guys. The plan is to play on the Wednesday night, probably using a G+ hangout. Ideally we'll aim for tight sessions, trying to get things done by 10pm, no later than 10:30p ET.

We'll be doing the Superhero: Year One from the list I sent. I'll have more details on rules and set up in the next couple of weeks. Basically we'll primarily be using Mutants & Masterminds 2e for the rules. I have a couple of minor changes and modifications to that system but nothing radical (more about handling movement and such to make it easy).

If you want a copy of the rules I recommend picking up the //Mutants and Masterminds Pocket Player's Guide//. I has all the basics and you can find it relatively cheap. You can also find the pdf on RPG Now. As necessary I will also be using the power options from the Ultimate Power supplement.

I will be making up the characters based on your choices and input. You will start out fairly low powered and inexperienced. You are among the first/second wave of heroes in a modern world. They appeared perhaps 18 months or so ago and the public's torn about them. No superhero teams have yet formed- you will be the first. You should choose a character you like, who could be a solo hero and who could function as part of a team. I reserve the right to veto or ask you to modify your choices. We'll determine the campaign city depending on everyone's choices.

I'd like to get a sense now of who everyone wants to play- since that will have an impact on what the world looks like. We won't get started for a few weeks, but this will help me think about the game. The characters you choose necessarily suggest background elements. For example, if you select Booster Gold, I know there's time travel. If you select the Sub-Mariner, I know there's Atlantis. If you select Green Lantern, I know there's a space corps out there. I you're thinking about a distinctly different treatment of your character from the usual (for example a black Batman who was trained by an Equalizer-like figure as we had in another game), tell me that.


  1. I will be running this as a G+ hangout, because of the simple tools that offers. The Tabletop Forge app allows simple maps, token, and offers a dice roller. You’ll need to have a gmail/G+ account for this purpose; I hope that won’t be a problem for anyone. The G+ hangouts allow for video and audio, but you don’t have to have video, that’s up to you. We’ll probably have some teething problems with the tech as you can imagine. I was thinking perhaps June 20th for a start date- I’m just putting that out there to see what people think. If that clashes, we can move that. That should give me time to get things reasonably set. I will be posting material on a wiki for reference: http://superheroesyearone.wikispaces.com/. I’ll send everyone an invite to that.

  2. Rules: I’m pretty loose on rules, and I will be making a few modifications- more to how I’m handling things than to the specifics of the rules. Since we’re going to be playing by forum, I do have one request. I’ve run M&M 2e several times, but as I’m not a rules savant I do get things wrong from time to time. While we’re playing I’ll make the calls and we’ll stick with those. If you think I’m wrong, I’ll ask that you make a note of that and bring it up after the session. That should keep us from rules look-ups or debates in play. I’m more than willing to wrangle with those issues after play. In some cases, I may ask a player to make a call on a rule. If I do so they have the authority and the same standard holds- if the interpretation seems off, then we’ll discuss that after play.

    M&M 2e isn’t that complicated, but does have a few corner cases. If I make a call that you think is wrong and hurts your character significantly, I hope you’ll give me the chance to look at the issue and make the situation right. I’m not too worried about this, but because we won’t be playing face-to-face, I want to establish some policies.

  3. You’ll be able to advance your character by spending PPs. However I reserve the right to ask you to avoid “Stop Sign” powers, problematic feats, or abilities which step on other player’s area of mastery. But generally I’ll give you freedom on that.

  4. I’m hoping to use the Tabletop Forge tool with G+. It looks like it will do everything we need it to. I’m going to leave a good deal of the tracking in your hands to minimize the fooling around with the interface. To keep movement simple, I’m going to borrow a concept from FATE. Combat maps will be divided into zones. Players can move within a zone as a simple move action (allowing you a standard action)- in fact since they’re represented abstractly it is simply a matter of saying where you are. Moving to an adjacent zone takes a full move action. Characters with movement powers (flight, running, teleport) will be able to move further with a simple move action:
    2-3--> Adjacent Zone--> Two Zones
    3-5--> Two Zones--> Three Zones
    6+--> Anywhere you want

    Zones will each have a set of aspects on them- descriptors or phrases. Each one can be used once to give a +2 bonus if worked into a character’s description of their action.

  5. MnM makes a distinction between standard and lethal damage, as Champions does. I’m going to worry less about that difference in this campaign. Even if bad guys are using guns & knives, they’re doing standard damage. They can still kill you if they go for a finishing blow. But generally this will be comic book damage- if you’d like a tone and approach, I recommend the Justice League, Batman the Animated Series, and Superman cartoons. If a bad guy does start throwing around lethal damage, that should be a signal to the group that this person is a significant threat.

  6. If you want to play out a scene, you’ll need to pick a partner. For example, if you want to split up to hunt down leads each team has to have at least two characters in it. That serves two purposes- to increase interactions and to maximize play time for everyone. Obviously there will be exceptions- if the bad guys split the group up or if you need to do some stuff to handle details of your character’s personal lives or secret identities. If you just “go to the roll” for something (like a Gather Information check) you don’t have to do this. If you do pair up on these checks, you can gain a bonus. But generally I’m going to try to put more emphasis on groups of characters rather than solo play. We’ll see how that goes.
  7. Hero Points: HP’s are the currency of the game. You can spend them for the following bonuses during the game: rerolls (take the better of the two; the second roll will be at least 11); copy feat (for one round); double your dodge bonus; counter a power as a reaction; cancel fatigue (usually gained from pushing a power); recover faster; shake off stun; escape death; or buy an effect/clue. You begin each session with a set of points. During play you can gain more in several ways:
    *Heroic Actions
    *Good Roleplaying
    *GM Fiat aka The GM Screws You Over aka the Bad Guy Gets Away
    *Significant Set Backs

  8. Complications are what would be called disadvantages, flaws, or trouble aspects in other games. These are issues that come up in play, rather than being structural limits. For example, Thor’s weaker identity of Donald Blake and his lack of powers there is a Drawback rather than a complication. He gets PP for that non-powered identity. However “Must Maintain Donald Blake’s Life and Identity” is a complication, introducing plot problems. Things like being a daredevil, radical philosophies, attachments to NPCs, hunted by enemy organizations, reputations, prejudices, obligations, compulsions, lack of status or wealth and so on are complications. Ideally you should write these up as a phrase on your character sheet. They should help define your personality.

    Each character should think of three complications. It is OK if one or two are more obscure or rarer. These should be complications which cause problems for you- not for your allies and teammates. Complications like Casual Killer or Lone Wolf aren’t really limitations for you, but allow you to be dickish to the other players. When your complication comes up in a scene, you can gain a Hero Point. If you want, you can play that out and limit yourself- and then ask for the point. Sometimes I’ll call on your complication to limit your choices or push you in a direction; this is called a compel. I’ll offer you a Hero Point when I do this. You can opt not to take up the compel, but you have to spend a point to do so.

  9. Campaign City: We will be using “comic book” New York as our campaign city. This is more the New York of Marvel, with a few bits thrown in from elsewhere. It won’t be accurate, it won’t be gritty, but it will be a simple city backdrop for the campaign. If you know NY then my presentation of it will seem like a horrible travesty. There will be a few “DC” cities in the world, notably Gotham, Metropolis, and Opal City.

  10. Consider how long your character has been around. How many issues of his solo series have been published? What to the press think of him? Does he have any established enemies? Superheroes haven’t been around that long (more on that in a later email). You group will be the first real public superteam. Everyone should pick one other established comic book hero who exists in this world and one established comic book villain. They may not appear in the campaign, but that will help flesh things out.