Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Gaming Group

When I was a child, I had dreams, as many people do. I dreamed that one day I would be a game designer.

Or not.

Last fall, I started up a supers RPG set in an amalgamverse, players picked a Marvelous characters and a Distinguished Character and merged them. We started out with the Marvel: Saga system, which I have long loved from afar (having only played it as a player, once).

With the unofficial rules on point based character creation I started statting up the characters:

Iron Man+Batman
Power Girl+Shadowcat
Ambush Bug+Deadpool
Spidey+Booster Gold

As I got into character creation, I realized there was a good amount of overlap- two regenerators, two teleporters, and obviously the Thor+Supes amalgam was... pretty powerful. Many systems, the way they are written make some powers and powersets more significant than others. Was one character the same as the other. Creating encounters with a group of villains who could stand opposed to the varying power levels was difficult to say the least. In addition, several of my players had a hard time grasping the system, as it was a bit unusual.

Hmmm.... what to do? I went back to Cartoon Action Hour (1E) and played around with that a bit, I liked the way some things were done, but still... it wasn't clicking. I was a playtester on Season Two, and think it is a pretty neat game, and I converted characters to that system, but started tinkering and wondering about things. What made Deadpools regeneration different from Wolverines? Was it really the same power, just at different levels? What about Superman and Power Girl, both essentially had the same powerset, Supes just had higher levels of powers? And villains... how is it that Lex Luthor was such a great archenemy? So, I went, instead of to a roleplaying system, to the source material proper.

Power Girl was cool and different because of who she was, her skills were a bit different, sure... computer as opposed to newspaper stuff, but beyond that.... the boob window seemed to be a big part of her character, and usually made an appearance or mention every issue or two.... Hmmmm.... and Deadpool, sure, on paper was very similar to Wolverine, but was in four colors, so very, very different. What about his ability to break the fourth wall? How did that factor in.

So, I started thinking like a comic book writer. I knew what these characters could do, and their rough power levels (Power Girl was still, powers-wise, weaker than Supes), but I stepped back... Writers don't have stat sheets. If they want the speedster to run across water, they do that. Maybe it is difficult, and they certainly may not do it all the time, but it is a cool application of their power.

I wanted a game that made that sort of cool stuff possible. Showing up at the table every session, knowing exactly what your character can do is one way to game. I wanted to try something new.

I contacted Cynthia with my idea, and she gave me her blessing to go forward with a supers game that used the foundation of CAH:S2, but went in new directions. Deadpools guns are part of his character, he spent points on them. Other folks can't use them. Spider-Man never picks up a gun. Iron Man has many suits of armor, does each one need to be statted up individually?

Add to this the fact that many players still like rolling dice, the sound and the drama they bring, and I still very much wanted a game, but I wanted a game that captured all the fun of a comic book without getting bogged down in the rules of an RPG. A game that let players have as much freedom as a comic book writer. A game that even went meta, and let Power Girl's costume play a factor in how she was played.

I kept trying to think of problem areas, powers and powersets that seemed to confound other systems, and instead of writing specific rules for them, I began to look at what they were about. A good example is Superman's plethora of abilities- hyperbreath, cold breath, laser eyes, x-ray vision, etc.... I /could/ stat them all out, but weren't they all really just part of his Kryptonian physiology, and usually, didn't he activate them infrequently. What about Iron Man's many suits of armor? Or a speedster? Or why Batman is in the trinity of the DCU even though he has no powers. How is he able to stand back-to-back with Supes against big and nasty villains time and again, being that, on paper, one punch from any of them would turn him into a fine red mist. Hmmmm..... So began my journey.

CC&VF is designed with genre-emulation in mind, both in the rules, and in the gameplay. Folks might have a hard time making characters, more because the process is quite unlike many other games. But once they figure out the mindset, there is a tiny bit of math, but creating characters can be lots of fun. "I want a character who can....." No need to craft powers to suit your needs, give your character whatever power you want. Your Ninja Trait implies alot more than just picking up ranks in stealth and knowing Japanese. Hawkeye and Thor stand side by side protecting Earth.

My gaming group is great. Because they love superheroes, I made this game. I wanted them to be able to star in their own comic book.

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