Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Recent Purchases...

So I've blown huge chunks of my profits from Otherverse America into picking up PDFs of Green Ronin's Freedom City setting. I love this world so fricking much.... It's got me hankering to do a superhero RPG of my own.

I know that'll be way down the line, as I have too many other projects to get out right now, but I would love to do I superhero RPG.

My initial thoughts:

1. Lower the point buy numbers. It's like an unwritten rule that all Superhero games are point buy, however I hate the huge 200+ point math that most games involve. That's something I deliberately avoided with FURSONA. You're working with 4 build points, maybe 6-8 if you add in some disadvantages. Now, I know superheroes are more complex mechanically than furry characters, but I'd love to get the numbers chopped down a bit. I'd love to work on a system where you could build somebody as mechanically complex as Dr. Strange with like 20 points.

I bring up Dr. Strange for a reason. Most superheroes can't handle magic well- they assign sorcerer type characters a 'dynamic' or free floating power set. To me, magic superheroes don't really do that. Dr. Strange doesn't really have Unlimited, dynamic type powers. Instead, he's got a basic energy blast spell, an astral projection ability, can see through illusions, has some exorcism/uncurse type powers, and he can fire off the Crimson Bands of Cytrorak as either a personal forcefield or mystic prison. Sure, he occasionally does other stuff, but in every comic I've ever read, he defaults to those basic powers I just listed. Basically, you could really simplify the write up, and just mention that Dr. Strange can do lots of power stunts or use lots of Hero Points or whatever.

2. I'd also like to design a system that makes things feel less generic. I hate gadgets in superhero games, even M&M 2, which is my current favorite. A pistol isn't a Glock or a Colt 1911, it's a Blast +5 with the device flaw. And don't get me started on the FUCKED-UP gadget system in the old DCU Adventures game. You get to the point where the stat blocks suck all the life and individuality out of the characters, because you start seeing the same numbers and power modifiers in everybody.

For instance, you've got Cyclops- he should be simple character, a guy with a cool energy blast and excellent leadership abilities. Instead, he's a basic Blast power with tons of power modifiers and a couple of flaws tacked on, not a viable character, or even an interesting character sheet.

This generic-ness, is the only reason I picked D20 Modern over a M&M iteration for Otherverse America. To me, classes and levels and racial choices that matter are more fun and result in more interesting characters than just giving the player 150 build points (or whatever the budget is) and telling them to build something. D20 Modern has more 'flavor' than M&M2, even though M&M2 is mechanically a better system.

3. I'd like a high lethality system with HP, not damage saves or condition tracks. I really like the Image Comics/Ultimates/Warren Ellis era of comics, where superheroes are living weapons that can absolutely kill the hell out of an ordinary human, rather than the Silver Age 'no killing' default most superhero RPGs go for. Give me a lethal system with lots of equipment crunch and 'weapon porn' and I'm happy.

4. Less emphasis on experience points and character advancement than even that found in M&M2. In comics, the only guys that seem to get better are gadget users (like Batman or Iron Man) and young heroes (like Robin, the New Mutants, most of the Legion of Superheroes). Ironically, those are among my favorite characters in comics, but I digress.... Spiderman never really gets better, or gains new capabilities. Superman's abilities fluctuate at the needs of the story, but Iron Man's suit has been on a consistent upward powercurve since the 60s. I think it's because his suit is meant to be 30+ years higher tech than what we've got in the real world, and as the real world has caught up, he's had to stay competitive. I mean, an iPod today has better processing power and better electronic warfare capability than his first VC-era Iron Man suit.

Heroes in training get better steadily over time; they learn new skills, in the case of guys like the New Mutants, they buy off some pretty heavy power limits after a few issues, the Legion turns joke powers into things that are amazingly tactically useful, and so on.

I wonder if limiting character advancement to certain genres of heroes would be appropriate. If you're playing a Thor or Martian Manhunter character, you'll be kick ass from the beginning, but won't get much better by the end of the campaign, but your sidekick might eventually grow to equal or surpass you....

Anyway, more thoughts as they come.

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