The girls were eager to meet the Amazons Who Ignore The Words of All Men, but so far have only found:
-a severed tongue
-a hunting party seeking a hart whose horns map the flow of the River Slith
One contained a starving snow leopard, another contained a lot of beets and a champion rat named Ribboned Jenny, escaped from the fighting pits of Rotting Crowns.
Ranger rolled a 2 to befriend the snow leopard, then just got bored and shot it, but then a nat 20 to befriend the rat so...you win some you lose some? Now she has a rat.
It was an oddly quiet session, but kind of nice--just enough inertia that it felt like the players were genuinely trekking around a frozen doomforest looking for clues. It nicely built suspense.
AD&D Monday Feb 1--
Other group: The Inexplicable Isles. They found themselves (inexplicably) in a dungeon with a guy on a platform in the middle of some lava guarding a narrow causeway. The 12th level wizard incinerated him, then appeared in his place, now compelled to guard the causeway from the other PCs.
Yeah so whoever kills the guardian becomes the guardian (and yeah old trope, fucking works too). But Mandy's there so she's like Wait I have the Hammer Of Exorcism!
She has been carrying this thing since 2011 and has never used it. Which is a shame because it is so. Much. Fun.
Basically you have to beat the possessee in the head with the hammer until they're unconscious and then the evil spirit flees. Also: chance of side effects each round.
Which is hard when the patient is a 12th level wizard who doesn't want you to do that and also funny.
So the party take out years of frustration and inferiority complexes on their acid-spitting mutant wizard and grapple him, regrapple him and eventually tie him up beat the bad thing out of him and then it then possesses the barbarian. Who for some reason I can't remember was carrying the wizard down the causeway when it happens. So he throws the wizard down to run back to the platform and guard it, but throws poorly, so the wizard falls in lava. 3d6 damage on top of having already been beaten unconscious, the hallowed wizard was a cocked die away from permadeath in lava.
Now in a miracle of D&D-time, in the other half of the initiative (possessee goes first), Mandy runs over to the wizard (30 feet, half move) casts Heal and heals him (touch spell) as he is in the lava then wins initiative and rolls a crit success to yank him out. Which technically all can happen since as soon as you see a barbarian about to throw a tied up wizard you start running, that makes sense.
They then beat the shit out of the barbarian and wisely fled, leaving the spirit casting around for someone else to possess. Probably gonna go back in, though.
Hannah Von Berlin, electrical-touching mad scientist played by Actual German Matze goes in search of #1 Most-Wanted Jewish Terrorist (or, if you're not a Nazi: Petty Car Thief) The Shocker. Instead she finds the masterfully deadpan confused everyman Dr Velocity, who pretends to be The Shocker because Hannah seems insane and can fry people like spit pigs just by touching them.
Meanwhile The Sleepless, a paranoiac with a self-programmable endocrine system discovers an ordinary commuter train harbors Morgenstern the Man Who Fell To Earth Only To Be Put On TV By Fascists Who Claimed He Was A Perfect Aryan From the Future And Is About To Betray Them With Plasma.
In what the GM feels comfortable calling a coincidence, all four witness-, and somewhat participate in-, a high speed chase ending in a 3-cop-car pile-up next to a moving train and then kill a bunch of Stadt cops who can't shoot straight.
For lack of anything better to do, our heroes go look at a massacred underground cell in a brownstone. Then our heroes notice they're being watched...
As the moon rises, Sleepless snipes one of these undercover minders white-van only to discover these are no ordinary plainclothes Gestapo but the might Weremacht, skinchanging man-beasts who can only be harmed by silver!
So a lot of brand-new superheroes are about to be eaten by Nazi secret-police wolves, but then two things happen:
1) Morgenstern asks the neighbors where they keep the good silver
2) -False Patrick wakes up and realizes he missed the first half of the game. The Shocker rolls up in a stolen car. And realizes Hey you may not be able to kill that wolf that stopping short just sent hurtling through the windshield but you can sure park a Mercedes i8 on top of it.
...so, breathing heavily, Dr Velocity, Morgensterm, Hannah Berlin, Sleepless and The Shocker survive their first adventure and are about to find out what's in a van...
When the 12 Medusa sister transformed the primordial demons into the rock from which the world is hewn, a girl accidentally caught their eye. She lives in the sky now, unmoving, gleaming.
Some say she is the eldest goddess, for her idols are the most ancient. Some say that, wait, since like all broken statues are sacred to her and supposed to be her, then maybe those old statues aren't statues of her they're just statues of like random women that broke because they're old and then we found them. Some say Oh fascinating theory wise guy, nice statue of Vorn you got there, would be a real shame if somebody sledgehammered the top of its head off and then hey look at that it's consecrated to the White Lipped Goddess now. Some say Fine, fine, whatever, it's the Queen in the Moon, they're all the Queen in the Moon.
Anyway opinions differ is the point.
The Queen in the Moon, who has a mouth but no face, does not get on well with Vorn. Her children are lycanthropes and sublunary men, she watches, eyelessly, over assassins, orphans and adulterers.
Frozen lakes and shattered fortresses are sacred to her.
In a typical superhero world, it's hard to have a sandbox campaign. The real superhero normally must always pursue the greatest threat they can, not a chosen target from a target-rich environment.
Not so totalitarian worlds: if the heroes are undermining the regime, you're back in a target-rich environment, where weighing chance of survival versus juiciness of target in an overall plan makes sense.
This does rather tend to undercut both the moral and social order the traditional superhero game rewards upholding here in what Hannah Arendt called "the world of the dying, in which men are taught they are superfluous through a way of life in which punishment is meted out without connection with crime, in which exploitation is practiced without profit, and where work is performed without product, is a place where senselessness is daily produced anew" you're gonna be doing less rescuing kittens from trees and more punching cops and taking their stuff.
So for my new Marvel campaign, I had to rewrite the standard Karma and Popularity awards. This should also work for other similarly terrible worlds like Days of Future Past or Darkseid's planet Apokolips. Aside from "crime" no longer being a meaningful category, I also slightly lessened the karma loss for failing to stop atrocities since basically all day it's atrocity.
I also threw in some things that just reward the players for being cool.
Wear a costume in front of enemies/witnesses (ie represent a counterforce): 20
Be visibly stigmatized in front of enemies/witnesses: 15
Major act of photogenic vandalism: 5
Violence against innocent: Stop/Prevent 40
Violence against the innocent: Stop/Prevent in front of witnesses 15 more
Theft against innocent: Stop/Prevent 10
Theft against innocent: Stop/Prevent in front of witnesses: 5 more
National offense: Commit 15
National offence: Commit in front of witnesses 5 more
Local conspiracy: Commit: 20
Local conspiracy: Commit in front of witnesses: 5 more
National conspiracy: Commit: 30
National conspiracy: Commit in front of witnesses: 15 more
Global conspiracy: Commit: 40
Global conspiracy: Commit in front of witnesses: 25 more
Other significant crimes: Commit: 10
Other crimes: Commit in front of witnesses: 5 more
Rescue in front of witnesses: 10 more
Multiple rescues (5+): 100
Multiple rescues in front of witnesses: 20 more
Aid anyone visibly stigmatized in any way: 10
...in front of witnesses: 5 more
-Shift X: 150
Commit violence against an innocent: -70
Destroy the property of the innocent: -50
Steal from the innocent: -30
Public defeat: -60
Private defeat: -10
Permit violence against the innocent: -10
Permit destruction of the property of the innocent: -5
Permit theft from the innocent: -2
Permit new nationwide disaster: -20
Permit other crime: -5
Permit death of innocent: -all but 10
Noble death: -50
Mysterious death: -50
Making a commitment: +10
Failing a commitment: -20
Random acts of aid to the underground: +popularity (max 20)
Role-playing (personality tic): +1 until it gets easy
Role-playing (very in character act): +10
Role-playing (so in character it hurts): +15
Awesome plan/idea: +15
I LOL: +5
I LOL and you're in character: +10
Make up something cool that builds the world: +5
Have a rule handy when another player needs it or otherwise lessening the GM's workload: +5
Popularity scores work in reverse when dealing with anyone loyal to the Stadt.
Ignore it if you're not making a character for that game.
-If you don't have it, download the Marvel player's handbook here. This character gen system is totally different than what's in the book.
-Think up a concept, if you don't have any ideas you can start here, just ignore all the stuff about points.
-You start with 70 points to put into the basic 7 stats:
-...and 50 points to put into powers and talents.
-You may also just think of it as having 120 points total, if you want. I figured the less crunch-oriented among you would appreciate me breaking it down a little further though. An easy way to start is to put 10 in each stat and 50 in some power and then adjust from there.
-That's not a lot. If you want more points you've go to take some Disadvantages, see below.
-Popularity starts at 0, Resources start at Poor (4).
-You can pick any powers you want that fit your concept but because ranges are fucked in the original game and everything is fucked in the Ultimate Powers Book so I may alter the precise parameters of a power before play. If you need ideas, the power list is on p 72.
-Powers cost their rank--so Laser Beam: 30 costs 30. The ranks go 2, 4, 6, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 75, 100, so you can't buy like 86 of something. 6 is average, 100 is like the Hulk's strength.
-Talents (p 89) have no rank and cost 5 each. There are some other talents I've added below.
-Any extra points left over go into Karma.
-Roll your home randomly on a d6
1 Queens--Gain a language.
2 Outer Brooklyn--Gain Drive.
3 Hipster Brooklyn--Gain Trivia (subject of choice).
4 Staten Island--Gain a martial art of your choice.
5 Manhattan--Gain Heir To Fortune or alocal hook-up (roll below).
6 Bronx--+1 Endurance rank.
Contacts for Manhattanites (roll d6)
1 Upper East Side/Upper West Side or North Tip
2 The General's Labyrinth (formerly Harlem/Spanish Harlem)
3 Little Italy (bigger now, encompassing Bowery and Soho as well)
4 Azocial Zone (formerly East Village/Lower East Side/West Village/Alphabet City)
5 Neo-Tokyo (formerly Chinatown, Tribeca and Lower Manhattan)
6 Joy Division (formerly Chelsea/Midtown/Hell's Kitchen)
-I'm trying this new thing where instead of rolling d100 and looking at the chart, you roll 3d20 and try to hit a target number as many times as possible. So 0 successes=White, 1=Green, 2=Yellow, 3=Red, so write all these target numbers next to the ranks each time they appear:
Shift 0: Target 20
Feeble 2: Target 19
Pr 4: Target 18
Typical 6: Target 17
Good 10: Target 16
Excellent 20: Target 15
Remarkable 30: Target 14
Incredible 40: Target 13
Amazing 50: Target 12
Monstrous 75: Target 11
Unearthly 100: Target 10
Shift X 150: Target 9
Shift Y 250: Target 8
Shift Z 500: Target 7
New Talents (again, these cost 5 each)
Familiarity (specific area)--This means you know your way around some geographical region. The game starts in New York, now known as Vornheim, so that's a good bet of a place to start. You get a +1 to checks involving finding stuff in the Familiarity place you pick.
Well-travelled--You have been around--you know many places. This works like familiarity only, for the cost of 20 karma (during the game), you can say you're familiar with any one specific normal, populated place on Earth. Like you show up in Boca Raton and spend 20 karma and go "Oh yeah, Boca, I hate this place".
Crime/Insurgency--This is just a catch-all term for a variety of skills like stealing cars and fencing stuff and picking locks and all that. You get a +1 to checks involving these kinds of things when they come up. Credentials--You still have some official job with the Stadt and, as of the beginning of play, haven't lost it yet.
Drive--You don't need this to just drive unless you're underage but if you've got some Fury Road shit planned, it gives you a +1 to driving stuff.
Pilot mech--You can pilot one of the Automacht's robot war machines. Without this skill you're just pressing buttons and praying.
Disadvantages--You gain points for taking disadvantages
5 pts-- Recognizable: Though not necessarily in trouble yet, you have a distinctive appearance. Any witness would be able to describe you easily. Superceded by Notorious, Visibly Low-Caste, Inhuman-looking, Visibly stigmatized, etc. --don't take those, too, you have to pick one or the other.
5 pts--No papers: You don't have any more major thing that would immediately identify you as an enemy of the Stadt, but if they ask for your papers you don't have them or even a decent forgery. Superceded by Notorious, Inhuman-looking, Visibly stigmatized, etc. --don't take those, too, you have to pick one or the other.
5 Minor Disability--This is a disability serious enough that it might affect some checks. Like missing a finger, bad hearing, blind in one eye, etc.
5 Invisible Stigma -Nobody could tell to look at you, but you fit some category the Stadt considers unfit to live--you're Jewish or gay etc etc. If someone runs your fingerprints, you're immediately caught. Superceded by Notorious, Inhuman-looking, Visibly stigmatized, etc. --don't take those, too, you have to pick one or the other.
5 per thing--Stuff-Based Powers. If you have a power that is based on a piece of equipment extrinsic to you, then you get 5 per each power (or heightened ability) that fits this description. So like if you're ability to see in the dark comes from goggles, well then take 5 points.
Half-price--Pathetic Power. ....and also take half the price off the cost of seeing in the dark, since that's a pretty wimp power. Also fitting this description: water-breathing, don't need to eat, etc. Things that don't really help immediately except in very specific situations.
10, 20, 30 or 40 "Kryptonite"--Your powers are cancelled out by (10) or you start to die if exposed to (20) some substance. If the substance is common, take 10 more. Like Green Lantern would take 20 because his powers are cancelled by yellow and yellow's everywhere. Mon-El would take 30 because he's allergic to lead.
10 Underage. You aren't old enough to go into like bars and if people see you out during school that's like probable cause right there. Can't legally drive.
10 Monolingual. Most people in the Stadt can speak German and English. If you can only speak one of those, take 10.
10 Visibly Low-Caste. You don't look full-on stigmatized, but you look visibly less than the creepy Aryan ideal, meaning Stadt officials will be real dicks to you. Severe acne or just being really short is enough. Superceded by Notorious, Inhuman-looking, Visibly stigmatized, etc. --don't take those, too, you have to pick one or the other.
10 Illiterate. Can't read.
These blue ones overlap, you can't have two of them
15 No Chill. You are extremely traumatized or angry or cowardly or something and so your role-playing awards will tend to be for behaviors that probably are pretty counterproductive, larger-saving-the-world-mission-wise. 15 Zealot. You have a genuine moral or political code you have to live up to ferociously, so your role-playing awards will tend to be for being zealous--perhaps overzealous. Perhaps to the detriment of other priorities. 20 Psychotic. You can't be counted on to make decisions and believe things that make no sense at all.
20 Serious physical disability. Like one arm, in a wheelchair, etc.
20 Visibly Stigmatized--It's obvious on sight you belong to a category of human the Stadt has declared unfit to live. Many people with serious physical disability also have this.
20/30 Notorious-You are a wanted criminal. If the Stadt only knows what you look like in-costume or out of costume that's 20 if they know either way or you wear no regular disguise that's 30.
30 Inhuman-looking. Like The Thing. Any civilian would freak out if they saw you.
40 Catastrophic disability--You're blind, paralyzed, etc.
As an example I'll use the PC Mandy's playing, a psychic girl...
Health: (Fighting+Agility+Strength+Endurance=) 14 Karma: (Reason+Intuition+Psyche=) 90 * Popularity: 0 (You all start at 0) Resources: RM 30 (Free because Bianca is from the Upper East Side and is an heir)
Mind reading: Good (10)
Telepathy: Excellent (20)
Mind Control: Remarkable (30)
First Aid (5)
(164+5=169 which means we're 49 pts over the limit)
Heir to Fortune (this one's free because she's from the Upper East Side)
Ok, I do love the Marvel Superheroes RPG but, seriously: It's 2016. Marvel Superheroes RPG came out some time before the Roman Conquest. Why isn't there a better superhero RPG yet? W. T. eff?
To establish context, let's start with the game's massive flaws:
-Character Generation Is Basically A Big Shrug
The only way to make a character is just make them up and ask the GM "is this ok?" or else roll powers totally randomly. This is fun d10 times and then you start going "Ok, can my fish man have fish powers instead of Blimp Control?" The little bibs and bobs around the edges--Aliens have a 5% chance of being able to lift 75 tons, Robots have a 2% chance, Mutants never can--seem to be aiming at genre conventions only Jeff Grubb could see. In a niche where it's already very hard to get the players to keep a straight face, Marvel's character gen system does not help.
-Low-Powered Heroes Feel Alike:
Well ok Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu, he'd have....Martial Arts A, B, C, D, and E, surely? I mean, he's not the fucking Bachelor of Kung Fu. And Captain America has...the same. There's no real way to have Cap be unbelievably hardcore and Shang Chi to be also unbelievably hardcore but in a different style.
-Magic is Half-Assed:
Just like in the comics, really. In the basic set it's just like regular powers except called 'magic', with the special magic book it's suddenly immensely complicated to the point of almost being a whole new game. Plus lots of Michael Golden pictures of Dr Strange.
-Without the Ultimate Powers Book You're Screwed. With It, You're Also Screwed:
In the basic set Energy Absorption just allows you to avoid damage from energy but not to like do anything with it. Which is how energy-absorbing powers work in exactly no comic books ever. But then so you get the Ultimate Powers Book and you can have it work like you expect but then like there are tons of wonkily-written accidental hyperpowers like Temperature Control that basically let you kill anyone instantly.
-Leveling Up Isn't Interesting:
Your stats incrementally go up with experience. Today you're Spider-Man, but tomorrow you'll be...stronger Spider-Man.
-It's from 213 AD:
Elektra's dead, Ice Man's in the closet, Iron Man is red and white with triangles holding his arms on. Also Ronald Reagan is president. This is worse than the Wildstorm universe.
Why Is It The Best Anyway?
-Character Gen Will Not Sap Your Will To Be
Character gen in Marvel may be a mess, but unlike in Champions and its descendants Mutants & Masterminds and Wild Talents, it's not trench warfare. These systems want to help you make new superpowers. which is nice because lots of gamers like to invent new superpowers--but unfortunately only a relative wee few want to sit alone and learn what amounts to a proprietary analog programming language just to make a character. Like I said before: a system that makes a new player choose between Enhanced Disarm and Disarming Finesse is not for anyone I know.
-Combat Is Unpredictable And Kinetic
Damage is standardized in FASERIP--a She-Hulk punch pretty much always does 75 health. But this simplification is made to allow space in the standard combat round for a greater complexity--namely, a degrees-of-success system which means the game tells you whether that punch just hurts, stuns the opponent, or knocks them through a wall. Same goes for every other kind of damage. This is FASERIP's main and indispensible feature: the 4-color chart ably and easily makes every category of comic-book attack from kicking to slicing to setting a mother on fire feel and work a different way--especially once you get the hang of the dodge and evasion mechanics for the weaker, quicker characters. You can have a session that's nothing but one long fight and like it--just like a comic. Compared to FASERIP, everything else is just D&D with shinier clothes on. Except Wild Talents which is just roll roll FUCK WHAT HAPPENED THIS TIME I DON'T KNOW HOLD ME I'M SCARED. And Marvel Heroic which is just playing Artisanal Yahtzee and then claiming those dice represented something Deadpool did.
-Karma means Hippies and Metalheads can play together:
The FASERIP karma system--basically spendable xp--is neat in itself because it warps combat and risk based on how much a PC has managed to spotlight themself. The nice thing about this is you can get karma for defeating foes or role-playing or just acting heroic and responsible--so the guy who spent all morning properly working out Hawkeye's struggle to get his DVD player plugged in and the player who is worried about whether the Widow's Bite can be used to feed-back through the electrical system and short-circuit the mandroid can easily have fun during the same fight because the former's community theatre aspirations add as many karma points to their attack roll as the latter's tactical chops. Shoepixie loves this game. Proving Ron Edwards was wrong for like the 90th time.
-Actual Good Adventures:
Marvel Superheroes holds the record for RPG with the most official published adventures that do not suck: 2. Nightmares of Future Past and Secret Wars. And not just because they're inoffensive and based on fondly-remembered storylines: they're genuinely avant-garde even today--with Nightmares being designed around a nifty paranoia mechanic overlaid on your hometown and Secret Wars presenting a hex-war with random events slotted in. These were really good ideas for adventures in that neither-full-railroad-nor-fully-location-based netherzone of module formats nobody ever bothers to follow up on, so far as I know. Plus on top of that, the other adventures aren't terrible, owing perhaps to every RPG writer secretly having a slowly-nursed Marvel pitch in their back pocket for years--Cosmos Cubed has Galactus being split into weird entities named Gal, Ac and Tus.
The major game companies seem to be perfectly happy with slide-rule crunchmonsters that keep all but the most dedicated nerds away and the smaller ones are going for light-and-airy approaches where the players and GM make up all the surprises themselves and the game just tells you who wins. Which is weird, because you'd think in this era where there are live DC and Marvel shows all over tv, the Avengers movies are selling faster than flak jackets in Damascus and even a fucking Suicide Squad movie can afford Will Smith and Jared Leto somebody would see the angle in a fast-paced, newbie-friendly superhero RPG with a rich library of powers to play with and a system that keeps throwing monkeywrenches into any attempt to play boring. And the shame of it is all they'd really have to do is set their targets on the few places where FASERIP falls down and build on what Grubb and company already did.