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HERO System, M&M and assessing incoherence

Started by buzz, April 18, 2006, 02:26:09 PM

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Wow that's great, thanks Ron agenda questions all clear.  I was seeing all kinds of bangs in the set up once you started interweaving the characters so I'm not surprised that utilizing Champions lead to kickers and bangs. 


Okay, I've been out of town at the Windy City Pulp Convention. 

But onto tackling this.  Ron, I designed Beacon purposively on autopilot.  As blank and generic as I could.  Partly this was forced on me, I didn't have much sense of your world.  Marvel of the 80s is a pretty wide open place.  Partly, because I think that is the point of this thread. 

So, if Demon is woossy in your book, I know that now, but not before your feedback.  I happen to think Demon, especially presented in 5th ed, is not all tha woossy... nor as MY experience in 4th ed play ever susggested that.  Precisely the kind of situation that is going to crop up between experienced Champions folks who've never gamed together... crossed expectations.  I would have been happy to creating "better" mystical bad guys for Beacon's past... but this was a convienient shortcut and oh-SO-champions.

QuoteShe's a "magic rich-chick with her mysterious family gone missing - Storn, you're slacking. This is pure no-beef cliche right down to its toes. All right, I'll put that aside for later evisceration and check out the Disadvantages.

Dude!  Its Marvel's 80s!  Cliche is the foundation of superheroes.  I'm not sure what you are expecting here.... I didn't feel like I had the freedom (and constrained by Marvel's collapsed timeline) to say "oh, She's Clea and Dr. Strange's daughter!   Doc doesn't know about her!   Clea hid the birth!"  To be honest, I have a tough time working within license universes... just what this exercise should expose.  I think Champions, despite being so wedded to the Marvel's 80s vibe, actually channels folks into coming up with their own worlds, even if Cap. America or Doc Strange is a NPC in the world... soon as Beacon and Polestar impact the table... it is no longer the Marvel Universe as presented in 80s comics... it is an amalgam of Marvel and Champions tacked on.  Not that this is a bad thing... just a thing.

QuoteThe Council of Mages, ah geez, whatta pain ... if they're such a big deal, why don't they solve the world's problems instead of Bianca? Fucking no-account pompous Jedi Council, that's why. Erase! Beef up the Donatello family instead. That serves the story role of "Council of Mages" ten times better

Interesting and good suggestion.  I'm not sure if I got the energy to put into doing a whole "Family of Amber" relationship map before play.  But something that we could craft together over time.... that would be cool by me.  Sorta Clan Destine (Alan Davis comic of the 90s but one of the things that I really liked and was a phenominal group idea for gamers)

QuoteGrab that wonderful demon snitch and rack him up to 25 points worth of Disadvantage, pronto.
How?  Why would a DNPC become worth 25 pts?  You have a different idea of the impact a DNPC has than I.  Another experience disconnect.  Not unsolveable to be sure. 

QuoteThe Black Paladin bites - gotta be transformed into a character whose POV toward Bianca makes arguable sense, which means think, think.

Again, pre-exp disconnect.  Black Paladin seemed pretty cool to me.  Tying him better, sure... I agree.

QuoteThe Rival, Strange Destiny, and Boyfriend all left up to me?? What? No way!! This is like serving up a stuffed pizza and telling me I have to stuff it.

Well... yeah.  You're the GM.  I'm giving you HUGE openings.  Take advantage of them in terms of driving story (I'm being silly)....  okay, okay.. again, pre-exp disconnect.  This is something that I've GM'd before in OUR group to great success.  It is something that RDU Neil loves... that free floating generic idea that might tie together with something in the GM's mind that the Player doesn't know of yet.  It is a Punt (as opposed to a Kicker)... a cooperative Kick.

I did Beacon purposevilly totally based on if I was going to be in another RDU game.  Because it serves this thread.  It shows precisely how these same game mechanics can be intereperted by different groups in different ways.

Quote12d6 is the effectiveness cutoff they simply must reach in offense, defense, movement, and "other" or else they cannot imagine playing

I totally agree with your poiints on cost shavings, power frameworks and all of that.  One of the reasons I don't run Champs anymore.  But, I would not even start to play unjtil I got a sense of what is "effective, average, and low powered" for your campaign.  If you tell me that Beacon get along just fine with a 8d6... I will be happy to take your word for it and change accordingly.  In RDU, 8d6 will not cut it.  That is a low powered attack.  The dice are meaningless until compared to the world in which they exist.  You cannot assume I know what you are thinking is a good Doc Strange at 250.  THAT is a conversation!  That I would be so totally open to having, btw.

Quotewah! A Killing Attack, snuck in right under the radar of the parameter "no killing attacks." Big black sharpie slash, outta there. And then there's that END reserve, which is one of those 4th edition rules that can bite me. Why so much effort was expended in that edition to make sure that characters would never be limited by END, I'll never know. If you're going to go to all that trouble to make END ineffective

First off, Killing attack is where you have a fight on your hands.  Just because Beacon has a Killing Attack, doesn't mean she uses it on people to Kill.  KAs are more useful for doing in a locked door than a Normal attack.  AND!!! if for dramatic reasons, I really, really want to kill someone... I want to be able to attempt it.  Here is where I would ask you to trust me; I really don't like hurting people in combat period, much less killing them in games.  Trust me to use this power extremely judiciously... you will not be sorry.

As for the END thing... I think END is one of the great travesties hoisted by Champions on the superhero genre.  But first off, why did I do it?  Because I wanted her to be able to cast spells as Beacon, but that would be very debilitating, tiring.  The cool scene in my mind?  "to cast an Image to hide the demon imp who is trying to contact her during a cocktail party"  I don't know how strict of a GM you are about using powers in minor, fun, color ways... but that is something I like the freedom to do.  The alternative is that I have to beef up her Con and/or END... and that doesnt' feel like the character to me.  And to be fair to me, i've never used END Res for a character, ever...and I have 30+ Champ PCs.  So.  It was an experiment.

As for why END is a travisty.  It is extremely rare that we see a Hero pushed to the limits of their END in comics... unless it is a specific uber power (Iron Fist's Iron punch might be an example) or they are truly going beyond their limits (Spidy lifting a bus when usually he can barely manage a car) or unless they've been fighting for HOURS!!!! (Supes vs. Doomsday)  To be exhausted in 24 or 36 seconds is ludicrious and simply NOT genre...and is a left over "govenor" from wargamming concepts.

But.  How would you know that until this issue rears its head?  That is what is really striking me as cool about this exercise.

Quotemagical in the fantasy-fic sense rather than the cosmic-cool Dr. Strange sense. She has no unique style in the visual sense, nor any passion-driven combination of outlooks that make her do stuff, rather than just react. Goddam Mercedes Lackey character, all over.

You show me how to Doc Strange... and I will be happy to do it.  Hell, Beacon has more unique style that Doc strange, who waves his hands around and says whatever mumbojumbo the writer wants and his magic works in context of the story.  Now show me how to do that game mechancis wise.  Beacon is BEACON.  A mystical Light that stands against the darkness.  That is a much more cohesive idea that Doc Strange.  Beacon might have a multitude of attack powers, but they are LIGHT oriented.  I would be happy to negotiate dropping, say Entangle, you could nail me there... but mystical bonds of light seem pretty cool to me!!!  The effectiveness (2d6 or 4d6 or 6d6) is totally negotiable... I don't care if her Entangle works only part of the time or if it is really effective (ala Wonder Woman's lasso)... I only care that I can attempt it.

I like options in combat.  I like to use my imagination.  My beef with Champions is that GMs seem to be happy if for 5 rounds of combat you say "I blast with my xd6 Normal attack"... that ain't for me.  Champions FORCES me to have multiple powers to do ONE SFX's job.  So I succumbed to the system and tried to work within it.  To glean out different, cool comic ways of doing stuff in combat.  This isn't out of a desire to be able to "handle any situation" but out of a desire to "guess" how I can be imaginative.

Cool feedback Ron.  But I wouldn't set foot in your campaign either until you revealed your expectations better {although after some blending ideas together, I feel that it would be a great game!).  Beacon is simply the starting negotiating point. 


I've "buzzed" over Polestar.  I need to come back to him later.

But a key problem or situation is immeditely evident.  Are Polestar and Beacon meant to be duo?  Or to exist in the context of a more typical Champions group ala Defenders, New Warriors?

Because Duos can be a blast, but then even more negotiating between two players and GM is needed.

Ron Edwards

Whoa, whoa. First, Storn, this isn't a debate. You're helping me demonstrate some things to Buzz, and that's what's up. Work with me. Yes, I know you brought Beacon in under different assumptions; that's part of the dialogue of making characters. But don't fight me step by step, and if possible, accept the associated mockery with grace. Again: the point here is to help Buzz with his question to me about how to do one, specific thing. I'm showing him. Help me out. (And actually rewriting Beacon isn't part of the plan. Never mind about that.)

Here's one really good point about Beacon. You're on the right track about the differing expectations. Buzz, do you see how brutally I am forced, as GM, to retool her? I mean, hard core, to the extent of devaluing Storn's expectations because without mine in place, the game cannot occur successfully?

If I were to take Beacon and Polestar as written and try to GM them with the intention of making the two of you happy, then phooey. We'd get smooth, or rather not-so-smooth blah Champions, ultimately based on me making up the back-stories, me making up the scenes to be played, me making up the information and interactions of each scene, me determining the outcome of each scene through fiat regardless of various dice results, and me faced with what's effectively been all my doing, as the foundation for doing it again. You guys would get to roll to hit once in a while and would have to satisfy your own agendas in short-term ways or out of play.

Which is incoherent play. Which, Buzz, is what you've been doing, to the extent that the very proposition of having your character do anything seems like fun to you, in contrast with what you do most of the time during a session.

Another point, and again, Storn, work with me. I'm going to use your work with Beacon as a hard-core negative example, and I'm expecting you to suck it up a little and not react like I'm throwing darts at you. This is for Buzz.

Buzz - Storn wrote that he made up Beacon on autopilot. Do you see that right there, right there, is potentially a fundamental breach of Social Contract? OK, not really, because we don't have a Social Contract about our game - the game is hypothetical. But I can point back to actual play to illustrate this point very easily - in fact, in reference to one of my Champs games!

I met a guy named Mike while trying to organize a new group, after I'd moved to a new area in 1989. I wanted to play more Cyberpunk (1st edition) and met a few folks, eventually organizing a get-together. Mike was one of them and we had a conversation about the character he might make up. For those who aren't familiar with it, the first edition of Cyberpunk was pretty character-heavy, with an extensive lifepath system. If you wanted to play stuff like Neuromancer instead of "combat cyborgs vs. the mechs," it required a lot of prep or you just got a 'tac squad.

Mike called me up a couple of hours before the get-together. He said, "Well, I don't really have my character together," and cited a few cliches that he wanted to use. I told him, "Don't bother." He was pretty stunned. This was totally new to him, that I'd meant what we'd talked about earlier and wouldn't, basically, put together and position his character into my prep for him.

The good news is that a while later, in organizing my Champions game, Mike insisted on being involved and busted out a phenomenal, proactive, central character. I was sort of surprised at his enthusiasm; instead of being turned off or feeling rejected by my excluding him earlier, he saw this game as an opportunity - at last! - to play with a group with concrete expectations and a sense of raising the bar.

The lesson - ask, is the person prepping for playing this game with you, or for playing this "game" in an abstract or uncommitted sense, just-another Champs, or even just-another-RPG that happens to be Champs this time? The latter flatly eliminate the character and quite likely this player from the group which you and I are discussing at this time.

Now we have to turn to those open Disadvantages, which is a related point, and I want you to consider this very carefully, 'cause Storn put it very well.

QuoteYou're the GM.  I'm giving you HUGE openings.  Take advantage of them in terms of driving story (I'm being silly)....  okay, okay.. again, pre-exp disconnect.  This is something that I've GM'd before in OUR group to great success.  It is something that RDU Neil loves... that free floating generic idea that might tie together with something in the GM's mind that the Player doesn't know of yet.  It is a Punt (as opposed to a Kicker)... a cooperative Kick.

See, my view utilizes the extremely negative interpretation of the term Punt, meaning, "I can't be bothered so I'll give it to you to do for me." This is not an indictment of Storn's other group. It is, however, an indictment of using that tactic to play in the fashion I'm trying to explain to you. (Storn, you're with me on that, right? Don't be testy.)

In the fashion I'm explaining, you as GM will utilize those Disadvantages anyway, and always. The most specific Disad in the world - I mean, say Storn were to have written up the love-interest all the way down to his very last little spent character point - is still wide-open for GMing. It's no less "open" and "available" than saying "Love-interest, to be determined by GM, a little inappropriate and a little dark." Because, you see, the GM still gets to play the guy, or gal, or demon, or whatever.

In that case, what's the difference? Well, the advantage of doing it this way for present purposes of this discussion (i.e. the way to play you're asking about) is this: Beacon would be positioned in terms of ethical choices, which it would then be my responsibility as GM to include and hammer hard during play itself. Right now, I'd have to invent them as well as include them and hammer them ... and hey, just on the off-chance, let's say whatever I invented wasn't to Storn's interest at all. Flat empty rubber ball hits the floor.

And I know that's a common event during play of this kind. The GM who tries to invent, develop, and spike interest from the ground up will eventually become exhausted, and the prep and scenarios start to show it. The players become alternatively (a) wholly cooperative, uncritically, because they know they have to be interested or the game won't be playable at all; or (b) resistant to being forced to care about whatever it is, and basically turtle out.

Storn, I'm not saying this is happening in your group. I am saying that it's obviously, fully, and past-point-of-recall happening in Buzz's group.

Best, Ron


QuoteWhoa, whoa. First, Storn, this isn't a debate.

Oh, I'm not debating.  Please, I'm a poor writer... that was not my intention at all.  My intention was to point out WHERE the disconnects happened and OUR different takes on everything from Champions mechanics, to what marvel comics is COULD be indictive of when experienced Champions players play with each other for the first time.  I'm supporting your calls by showing what I was thinking when I was doing it.

That wasn't meant to be defensive, but rather illustrative.  I'm not annoyed or defensive feeling in the slightest.  Contrary, I'm enjoying the dialogue.  Really, I was trying to back you up.

QuoteSee, my view utilizes the extremely negative interpretation of the term Punt, meaning, "I can't be bothered so I'll give it to you to do for me." This is not an indictment of Storn's other group. It is, however, an indictment of using that tactic to play in the fashion I'm trying to explain to you. (Storn, you're with me on that, right? Don't be testy.)

Absolutely.  I think you find that quite disdainful.. and that is GOOD TO KNOW!  It was not meant to be lazy on my part, but rather, respecful of you as a GM.  Truly, to give you hooks into my character.  Now, I can engage you (if we were really playing) and ask "okay, help me get there.  Can I get a bit more of the campaign world?  Who would make a rocking love interest for Beacon?  What do you need from me?  Would "X" be okay?  Would "Y" be okay?"

I'm not totally convinced that a "punt" (a half "Flag"?) is necessarily a bad thing.  I had great sucess with GMing a character with amneisa and the player WANTED me to have carte blanche in surprising him in an espionage, Jason Bourne Identity context.  It worked great and I did surprise him with a totally twisted espionage mystery that he unraveled over several episodes (about 12).  That was what the player wanted.  Not the GM (me), but it was fun to implement.  Is that "wrongbadfun?"  But if you want to table that discussion... I understand.

QuoteBeacon would be positioned in terms of ethical choices, which it would then be my responsibility as GM to include and hammer hard during play itself. Right now, I'd have to invent them as well as include them and hammer them ... and hey, just on the off-chance, let's say whatever I invented wasn't to Storn's interest at all. Flat empty rubber ball hits the floor.

a-HA!  Got the point.  The amnesia example above was invested, despite a really insanely wide open canvas, because the investigation for the player was the point, not the actual details.  You are worried that I would not be if you suddenly have Vampire Lord X or supervillain Y show up and point to him and say "Beacon, you are drawn to him" and I go 'eh' and go through the motions, but not truly engaged.  You see too many pifalls potentially.  Got it.  Cool.  Have to think about that for a bit.


I hope my last reply was "working with you".

If it wasn't, can you shoot me a PM to explain HOW I can do that via Buzz?  What your expectations of me are?

Ron Edwards

You're doing great! We're on the same page.

Also, in a little bit, I'm going to post the complete guidelines for that old Champions game (one of my favorites ever), and you can see how far I took it. The ones I posted before were just a little scratch on the surface for dialogue purposes.

Buzz, what are your thoughts at this point?

Best, Ron


Quote from: Ron Edwards on May 06, 2006, 06:10:35 PM
His Psych disads need beef. If he's such a boy scout, why can't he suck it up and work for the government, killing their enemies?
I guess I saw a difference between the sensibility of a boy who grew up believing in honor, valor, and justice for Queen and country... and covert wetworks, even if it was in the name of the greater Canadian good. He thought he was being roomed as a hero, and instead he's a secret weapon.

Quote from: Ron Edwards on May 06, 2006, 06:10:35 PMFirst, drop VIPER and gratuitous empty-point-bags like Teleios...
I've always had a problem nixing the "empty point bags". The 100-150 points in disads common to Champs, at 5-20 points a pop, seem to demand adding a lot of Hunted and DNPCs... unless you're going to venture into "blind, berserk, destitute, with a limp" territory. And Psych Lims...

Quote from: Ron Edwards on May 06, 2006, 06:10:35 PMThe Psych disads are the real place to work on him, though. This guy needs some rage, some righteous power. He wants to "do some good?" Well freakin' define that in a specific, goal-directed way and point him in that direction with 20 points.
I wonder how the heck you turn "do some good" into a Psych Lim that's a meaningful source of points. I mean, is having a personality a Disad?
A.k.a., Mark Delsing


Quote from: Ron Edwards on May 08, 2006, 07:10:50 PM
Buzz, what are your thoughts at this point?
I'm sensing that the point here is something that I've read in the texts of games like Burning Wheel and, iirc, DitV: the players need to be proactively involved in the initial creation of the campaign. The back-and-forth between you and Storn looks like an example of exactly that. Each of you is sussing out exactly what the other needs, weighted heavily on the side of you (as GM) making clear what it is you need in order to run an enjoyable game. "We're going to play Champs" is, as I understand it, a meaningless statement. It's not telling you anything about what everyone's goals and perspective are. Hence, the "autopilot" that results (and Polestar, mechanically, was definitely me on autopilot; I need more time than most to suss out point-constructs). There's far more conversation and review that needs to occur before the campaign can start.

And this is pretty much how the big Champs campaign started. We were still emailing before our first in-person meeting, and all we had was "superheroes" and "125+125 points, here are your AP limits". Mike has done tons with what I gave him, i.e., the sketch of my character's family. But was what I had intended be done? Or how I really saw them? I dunno. I pretty much rolled with whatever he threw at me.

Or am I just parroting general Forge advice and there's something more you're trying to convey? I've been buried deep in Burning Wheel lately, so may be regurgitating some of what I've read.
A.k.a., Mark Delsing


QuoteI wonder how the heck you turn "do some good" into a Psych Lim that's a meaningful source of points. I mean, is having a personality a Disad?

Funny how it is easier to see someone elses stuff than one's own.

I don't want to steal Ron's thunder, but I did have an idea for Polestar.  If he was to be this uber agent for the Canadian Secret Service, not only should he have been trained in all the typical spycraft-y stuff (as is evident in the write up), but a cover should have been in the training too.  Special Forces/Delta Force often have skill sets and covers that are very civilian, yet allow for travel.  Languages are a big deal to these guys.  Maybe this is where you can glean a bit more unusual aspects of Polestar.

Background in international finances or something. 

Granted, this can suck easily 20 pts (Delta Force often speak 5 languages), but it can also springboard for some cool disad possiblities as the former "cover" generates the disad.  Maybe Polestar's civilian guise is doing consulting for the World Trade Organization and has caught wind of a horrible conspiracy.  Maybe his face has been photographed a bit too much, and is showing up in the NY Times and Wall Street... Polestar might be new... but his face isn't.... luckily, not revealing sources is still prevelant in Marvel Universe's 80s Press.

Dunno. just suggestions.  But I think if you think of a cover that is cool, then a whole new range of both skillsets and disads might present itself.  If you went with war correspondent and "To Do Good is To Reveal The Truth"... you might have a juicier Disad for Ron.

I have an L5R character who seeks for "Truth behind History" as L5R's history is very much myth and intrigue and interested parties re-writing "official Imperial history".  This throw away Disad is now driving much of the storyline and my PC is very much front and center, cutting across the social grain of the society.  Fun stuff.

Now, I will shut up and let Ron get back to your points.

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Storn! Yeah, baby!! Don't shut up when you're talkin' like that.

Now for the post ...

I'd like to emphasize that I'm not advocating total pre-play programming of everything about one's character. However, I'd like to get across the textually vanishingly rare point that the strongest, most reliable unexpected elements to arise in play, arise from concrete sources of conflict.

Those sources themselves may be general or specific. In Sorcerer, for instance, they're very general and only emerge after at least one session of "baking" in actual play. Whereas in Primetime Adventures, for instance, whatever the protagonist of the moment ends up coping with in a Spotlight Episode, and most other times too, it's gotta be specifically tuned to the character's pre-set issue.

If one's going to play Champions in this fashion I'm describing - and remember, the entire point of this current discussion is to show how conflicts arise from player actions - then either specific or general is OK, but vagueness isn't useful. It's a "dead ball," like I've described before. The fun thing about an inflated red ball is that it bounces. Toss/bounce it to me, and if it's totally deflated, I'm standing there with a hanging wad of rubber. Sure, I could toss it back to you, and you toss it back to me. Does that sound fun? Not in the context of having conflicts arise from player actions, it doesn't.

Therefore, my point is that such conflicts reliably arise from tensions that exist. If I get a bunch of vague "fill-in" stuff on the characters' sheets, then maybe the emergent properties of role-playing will produce (a) fun tensions, (b) relevant scenario content, and (c) satisfying confrontations, regardless of outcomes. But in practice, this becomes extremely recognizable Ouija-Board play at best, and more typically this grinding tedium fueled by hopeful glimmers.

Perhaps the strongest way to look at it is across characters' sheets, which in this case is Polestar and Beacon. When I say "tensions," I mean stuff like Beacon's determination to be an ultra-happy inspirational hero in combination with Polestar's boy-scoutiness. Sound like a match made in heaven? Ha! Not when politics and morality clash. What if Weapon Mega is still sanctioned by a joint committee between U.S. and Canadian military forces, and that committee is classified, so Congress etc doesn't know about it? Right? Wrong? Should Polestar go and serve his time with their pre-emptive assault on a suspected terrorist base in international waters?

My point is that Beacon and Polestar, in combination, provide ideas for interesting conflicts and decisions the players have to make, (a) when their stuff is contradictory and (b) when their stuff is similar. Don't get me wrong - I am not talking about excuses for them to stand around and spout angst prior to stepping up obediently to the combat against the alleged terrorists. I'm not saying, "Ha! You have boy-scoutiness! You have to do what Weapon Mega says and get into my adventure now! And like it!" I'm saying that Beacon and Polestar are going to have to decide for themselves, as determined by the players, where heroism lies in a case like this. As GM, my job is to play the other guys.

Also consider the sheets of the various villains and DNPCs in exactly the same cross-cutting way. Conceivably, you could mentally spread out all their sheets, and draw little glowy green lines for things that coincide (as with the above), and draw little glowy red lines for the things that produce opposition. Simplistic, but not a bad start. With that in mind, scenarios, scene framing, and initial interactions are all child's play to prep, and even easier to spin off during play without pre-programming.

Buzz, that's why Psychological Disadvantages and DNPCs take on a wholly new meaning for this kind of play. They are "disadvantageous" in the sense that the player cannot avoid them. However, in terms of fun, they are wholly advantageous. I am well aware and well committed to the idea that if a Disadvantage does not inconvenience the character, it's not a disadvantage and should not get points. But note what I specified: the character.

Example from actual play: the character was a musician and the DNPC was his guitar named "Marilyn." First scene in a session was the character on a trip of some kind, arriving in his hotel room with his luggage, including Marilyn. Player say, "I flip open the case," and I say, "Marilyn's gone. The case is full of heroin."

The player lit up like a light bulb and instantly switched into character voice, facial expressions, and pantomimed actions. And the rest of the players all jumped up and down too, and the session hit high gear.

I thnk this is a little different from the old, "Your girlfriend bitches at you" + "Mucus Man kidnapped her again! Go save her!" I've seen more DNPCs simply abandoned during play, due to this lame-ass approach, than you can imagine ... and the player basically tells the GM, who's pointing to the disad on the sheet and insisting that the player care, to fuck off. Instead, because the players know I'm inconveniencing the character but giving them something to work with, we're off to the races. And notice that I didn't invent Marilyn, her status as a guitar, the character's sentimental affection for her, or the player's enjoyment/fantasy of the character being a musician.

Let's also take a few looks over some of the details of the past few posts, and show you, Buzz, where you need to be a hard-ass.

1. People will, in fact, ignore things even when you say them totally clearly. "No killing attacks" is right up front and straightforward, as a phrase. Storn put one on the sheet and said "But she won't use them on people." It doesn't matter whether she will or won't; that's not the issue. The issue is, does "no killing attacks" mean what it says, or doesn't it? Role-playing traditions include the weird and rather disturbing viewpoint that no, it doesn't. Apparently an up-front statement of "let's do it this way" is subject to the response, "OK, but I'll do it the other way," and that response is treated, for some reason, as agreement.

So you have to be a hard-ass about the preferences that you really have. It so happens that I had a number of reasons and experiences that led me to that conclusion regarding the Champions game I wanted to play at that time. The gamer-response to that is, "Oh yeah? What are they?" because he wants to continue the negotiation, and he can always say "Well, I don't see it that way" and continue the same "I agree except that I'm not doing it like that" line of behavior. My current point to you is that a flat statement is a flat statement. It could be justified by something totally loopy, in my mind (killing attacks in Champions games increase the severity of global warming, or whatever), and that doesn't matter - it is a preference, in the strongest sense of the word.

2. The distinction between Duo and Group boggles me. To me, a duo is simply a two-person group; there seems to be this idea that if there's a "group," then at least some of the characters are support ... a term that rings no bells with me at all, in terms of playing Champions in the way I'm trying to explain here. Support for what? Combat effectiveness, apparently. These characters are there to beef up the team tactically and provide a little color-y dialogue every so often.

However, in the kind of play I'm talking about, there is no upside to having these characters around at all. In practice, their empty points typically remain empty, to be filled in some day or in a fashion that fills them in without providing any new stuff for play. (The absolutely classic example is the whole thing where a team member gets replaced by an android or demonic duplicate; the player is enlisted by the GM to play the bad guy secretly for a while; the bad version of the character does stuff between sessions that betrays the team, but in play the character is just played as normal; finally a session comes along when the GM reveals the traitor, the other players just shrug and pound the character into paste without thinking twice. It's never fun. Ever.)

3. Which leads me into the autopilot point. Autopilot character creation is flat-out not going to work for the kind of Champions play I'm talking about. It produces characters which don't "move," but merely occupy space. They may be very handy for the tactical squad. They may be handy for the GM who has all sorts of stories and ideas to bring to the game and needs a player-character to insert them into. They are not going to be a damn thing for the kind of activity you, Buzz, were asking about.

There's no real point in providing reasons or justifications or context that might be relevant to another group and another game. Buzz, be a hard-ass - no autopilot character creation. You  can spot'em a mile away, and you just say forget it.

4. And finally, a word about cliches. This term carries judgmental content which is often lost in role-playing discussions. What makes a cliche bad is not its familiarity, even though that's how it's usually interpreted, but rather its lack of conflict/thematic potential, to the real people involved, as expressed in this particular case.

A patriotic hero at odds with his government, and particularly the military, is familiar. But if constructed with powers, Psychological Disadvantages, Hunteds, and DNPCs which provide all that fun context for conflicts, then the very familiarity is a blessing. The response among the whole group is, "Hey, this looks like it'll play out really cool," with the unstated implication, "... this time!"

It's the same character with nothing there except a sort of vague reminder of similar characters in the past, that blows. (Interestingly, the "Weapon Alpha" or "Guardian" character from Alpha Flight was himself a lame-ass cliche, in the bad sense, who was only written in order to be killed soon anyway; hence Polestar as written is actually a copy of a copy, with all that entails.)

Buzz, I hope you can see that this approach to Disadvantages means that you no longer have to (a) make the character blind, humpbacked, allergic to food, and afraid of water in order to make your points; or (b) take 75 points of totally meaningless Hunteds ("generic mean villain, hates me for some reason") and Watcheds ("government").

Best, Ron


Quote2. The distinction between Duo and Group boggles me.

Oops... I didn't explain myself well there, did I?

IMO, a group allows for more disparate types.  You Brick, Me Psi.  NPC ally: Battlesuit.

In a duo, the classic duos are more tightly woven together.  Either by origin, ex: Cloak and Dagger.. or by similar battlegrounds, skill sets, issues to be tackled:  Capt. America and Falcoln.  Cap and Falcoln are both dealing at the same power level (street level, low end of the pnorm scale, ie. not Galactus, Silver Surfer).  Both are dealing with different aspects of the American Dream, racism is very much the point of their team up.  Both are patriots.  Both are superb athletes and warriors, although varied from each other. 

So, if we are looking at Beacon and Polestar to totally carry the story on their own, I would approach that prospect differently.  I would want to tie myself more closely to Polestar, either in the differences or similarities (as you also said, and suggested in the fixes).

In a group, there is simply more opportunities to spark off another player.  In a duo, the sparks better be really crafted from the get-go.

Even though I'm a big fan of group chargen in either case, duo or group.

Make sense?

As for the term "support", I didn't mean that Beacon should be a space occupier and not drive story or be proactive (although I will concede that motivation is a bit typical generic)... but rather, she isn't the one to win with brute force on the battlefied...   It is her role to have the power that slows the bad guys down, makes their position tougher, and allow her teamate(s) to apply the coup de grace.

Btw, "Marilyn' was brilliant.


So, where do we go from here?

Also, would it be okay if I eventually posted the new PC I'm using for Mike's game for critique? Or is that not relevant?
A.k.a., Mark Delsing

Ron Edwards

Hi Buzz,

Well, it's your thread. One thing I'm not seeing in your posts is acknowledgment regarding my points to you. You asked, "How can Champions be utilized such that player-decisions during play lead to conflicts arising?" I hope I've shown that it can be done, and especially, that the GM is still an active player whose decisions work pretty much like everyone else's in this regard.

Is that the case? Have my points addressed your question? Are there gaps in my explanations where they don't seem to make sense?

Best, Ron


Quote from: Ron Edwards on May 12, 2006, 09:22:52 AM
Have my points addressed your question? Are there gaps in my explanations where they don't seem to make sense?

I tried to repeat back to you what I understand your point to be in my post above (a couple posts up). I believe that you have essentially addressed my question, though I would like to see the guidelines from your old Champs games you mentioned earlier. Would it be possible for you to formulate "rules" that informed the exercise we just went through?

The basic thing I'm getting is that there needs to be a lot of communication between player and GM (and maybe even player-to-player) in the chargen process, and the GM needs to be adamant in getting specifics about the aspects of the PC, as well as demand that the data on the character sheet be a concrete source of conflict/momentum for the campaign.
A.k.a., Mark Delsing