Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Using Supers Games When You're Not A Supers Fan

I grew up surrounded by friends who loved comic books, and I've picked up a lot of knowledge about them through osmosis. When a friend of mine in junior high school wanted to play Marvel Superheroes, I was the only one remotely capable of running it. So I buckled down with a bunch of copies of his Marvel character encyclopedias (I forgot what they were called) and cooked up a game. It went pretty well, and everyone had fun - it actually spurred me to buy Villains and Vigilantes, Heroes Unlimited (although I used that more for TMNT), and even Champions. Up until the point where I unloaded a lot of my rpgs in the late '90s, I probably had at least one superhero rules set in my collection even though I don't play strictly superhero games. Likewise, a very good friend of mine was a huge comic collector. I used to go with him to the comic shop all the time when he picked up his issues. A few people I know used to work in comic stores. On top of that, there have been a number of comic stores that also stocked rpgs where I used to go.

Still, I never quite developed the taste for comic books that others did (surprisingly, I totally dig the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although I'm not crazy about X-Men, Spiderman, Batman, etc.), and since high school I've never really explored super hero rpgs in any depth. The last I can remember was a Champions game when I was 18 or 19. It took me a few days to create my character. Unsurprising to anyone who knows my interest in powered armor, mecha, etc. it was a battlesuit with some kind of wacky liquid-crystal armor.

This got me thinking: what are some possible alternate uses for superhero rules sets? What are some of the lessons that can be learned in terms of power levels and handling edge cases that can be gleaned from them?

Off the top of my head, I think they tend to be flexible enough to handle crazy stuff. There are obvious parallels between some games and super hero games in terms of power level, even if the game itself isn't a "superhero" game. Exalted is fantasy supers, they just trade in the tights for an anima banner. When I was running GURPs, I used GURPs Supers to round out powers, spells, etc. for fantasy games. The same with Heroes Unlimited and Ninjas & Superspies for my Palladium games. It's nice to keep the toolbox stocked with a variety of tools, even if it's that funny shaped one that I only ever use once in a blue moon.

So, with that in mind, I decided to take a look at Venture City Stories for Fate Core, to see what I might be able to use for a non-supers game.  As I've come to expect from most good Fate products, the meat of the system-related portions is only a couple of pages. There's not a laundry list of powers or a complex power creation system. It's distilled down to a couple very simple principles: one, that a "power" is a collection of related stunts. They have a drawback and a special effect. So far, that's pretty super-powery, but I supposed it could be used for other types of powers, magic, etc. The gem in there is the collateral damage effect - basically something that you can invoke that gives a big bang, but also has other big, unintended effects.

I could see using something similar to this for the weapons package for a mech. Instead of building out each weapon individually, it's an ordnance package with a couple of stunts for each weapon system, a special effect, the drawback (like reloading or heat) and the collateral damage effect.

So, there we have it - that's why I like to at least look at supers games even though I'm not really interested in playing them. And, honestly, Venture City Stories looks like a decent spin on the genre that I probably would give it a try.