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Author Topic: [Animated Heroes] First Pass  (Read 2130 times)
thwaak
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« on: July 12, 2006, 08:50:03 PM »

Hello Gang,

As you might remember from this thread ( http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=20252.0 ), I had worked on a background chargen system to determine the number of points players have to develop their characters. Now I have a setting (sort of) and some additional rules I'd like to run past you fine folks, plus some questions based on this.

The game is called Animated Heroes. It's (yet another) Super Hero RPG, but I'm trying for something very specific in the genre. I'm trying to capture the feel of the animated DC Heroes shows; specifically, Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Justice League (and Justice League Unlimited). Obviously it's an inspired game, not an actual DC animated game. My goal is to create mechanics to simulate the feel of the shows, but also to provide the narrative control needed to pull off the intangibles in a traditional GM/Players environment.

In a nutshell, these are the steps I've chosen to create the game.

Step 1: The heroes of these shows come with an immense amount of emotional and historical baggage based on years and years of comic books. I can in no way hope to capture that, but by using the above mentioned background generation, I hope to at least have some detailed history to draw upon for game play. This background generates the points the players use to build their heroes.

Step 2: Easy to use skill and powers system where everything is rated from on a Scale of 0 to 10 (Zero equals the average human potential, while 10 represents god-like ability) and everything in game is referenced to this Scale either in actual capability (eg, A tank weighs '4', so anyone with a Strength of 4 or greater can lift a tank) or as a bonus when engaged in opposed conflicts (eg A hero with Mind Reading 3, adds +3 to his roll). Ideally, this negates the gritty level of detail of many pounds a person can lift, how fast they can run, and so on. Otherwise, there are no fixed stats. If a PC does not take Strength, then they have a 0 in it. Tasks which are not actively opposed and fall within the capabilities and Scale of a hero, automatically succeed.

Step 3: Characters have levels of Pain..that is...how much Pain they can take before failing in the conflict. If the conflict is physical, and they have suffered maximum pain, then they are unconscious, or beaten beyond the ability fight back. If the conflict is emotional, and maximum Pain has been suffered, they have given up or have surrendered. No one is actually ever hit with bullets, except those that can take the hit (eg. Thugs shoot at a unarmored hero and inflict Pain. The thugs have not actually hit the hero, but have fatigued him, or caused him hesitation. The thugs then shoot at an armored hero and manage to inflict Pain. The thugs have hit the hero.). It's a small point, but necessary for keeping the feel of the animated shows.

Step 4: Additional options are available at chargen that allow some narrative control over game play, such as Boosts (temporary bonus' to an existing skill or power to simulate pushing the limits or to simulate power stunting), Recovery (removing all Pain suffered so far - for the ever popular beaten hero rising from the rubble to keep fighting), Gadgets (fortuitously having a needed device on hand), and Luck (allowing the hero to create dead ends during a chase, creating entrances or exists, "writing in or out" NPCs from a scene, having the flag pole to catch as they fall from a roof, and so on).

Step 5: Players may 'borrow' Boosts, Recovery, Gadgets, and Luck from the GM if they should run out of their own, but doing so they gain no Growth from the Episode (ie Adventure). The GM also adds to a pool whereby in the future the GM can spend from it to negate the use of a boost, recovery, etc.  This ensures the heroes always win, but at a possible sacrifice for the future.

Step 6: Growth of the character is based on being true to the backstory, rather than accomplishing tasks or defeating villains. When the backstory is followed, the player gains a single point which may be saved up to purchase more power or options or more importantly, affect the direction of future Episodes (eg A player may spend a few points to add another Recovery option, but also spends his points to create the next episode. The player chooses a flashback episode on how his character got his powers. The GM is then obligated to create the next episode based on this decision). Deviation from the backstory puts the hero into the negative from which he must 'pay off' before he can continue to grow. Remember, heroes in these shows do not get better, or more powerful or even worse...their story just gets more explored and you find out more about them.

That's about it for the rules so far.

Now for the questions I have of you:

1) Can the Indie RPG scene stand another Super Hero RPG?

2) Is the animated hero angle a draw or a detraction?

3) Would you play it?

4) Do the rules (from what you've seen) make sense with what my goals are?

5) Currently there is no attached setting ( a specific city like Gotham or Metropolis for example).
    * Would you expect an attached setting or a separate book detailing an optional setting?
    * Would you want an attached setting or advice/rules on creating a setting?

Thank you in advance for time in reading, commenting, and answering my queries.
-Brent Wolke
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- Brent Wolke
Currently writing Scairy Tales for Savage Worlds.
Currently mucking with Animated Heroes for myself.
Ken
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« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2006, 01:36:46 AM »

Brent,

Interesting stuff. Looks like you have put a lot of thought in this. I'm kind of rushed, so I'll just address your questions and maybe pipe back in later.

1) I hope so, I've been working on one for about 8 years.
2) Personally, I think that if you are going to link the concept of your game specifically to the animated super hero genre you need to take every opportunity to wrap your rules around these shows. What makes these shows different from just reading comics? Find out what makes these animated shows (and their characters) unique, and then distill these qualities into rules for your game. I think most modern super hero rpgs are already infuenced (at least in part) by these shows already (and the slew of less slick cartoons that have been around for decades more), so you need to take it up a notch; make your game inexorable with the animated genre, or just make it a super hero game.
3) I don't know that I'd ever get around to playing, but I'd certainly buy a copy.
4) The Pain thing has a lot of potential. I really like that. This seems like the element that is most linked with your chosen genre. I also think you are right on with your growth idea.

The rest of the rules so far seem pretty standard fair, which is not a bad thing. I experimented with the 0 to 10 thing when I first started my super game. Its a great quick system idea. The main drawbacks are that normals (or zeroes, as we called them) all resided in one characteristic range, which kind of made them less diverse. (Bill Gates,your stats are all zero/ Arnold Swartzeneger, your stats are all zero.) Still, in this genre, its not really a character's skills and powers that make them important, its the story.

5) Settings are always good though often ignored.

Outta time. I hope that I've helped in some way. Interested in seeing what you come up with.

Best

Ken
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thwaak
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« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2006, 08:50:35 AM »

Hello, Ken.


2) Personally, I think that if you are going to link the concept of your game specifically to the animated super hero genre you need to take every opportunity to wrap your rules around these shows. What makes these shows different from just reading comics? Find out what makes these animated shows (and their characters) unique, and then distill these qualities into rules for your game. I think most modern super hero rpgs are already infuenced (at least in part) by these shows already (and the slew of less slick cartoons that have been around for decades more), so you need to take it up a notch; make your game inexorable with the animated genre, or just make it a super hero game.

Very true. I do have some other mechanics involving fortune based and narrative based resolutions which I didn't outline, that I hope helps with the immersion into the simulation. When a PC wins a conflict, the player narrates the resolution as well as applying whatever mechanical effects are given for success. Example: Hero is in a physical conflict with a Villain on a catwalk. Hero punches. Villain attempts to dodge, but fails. Not only does Hero inflict Pain, but the player narrates the resolution to that round of conflict, and states that his character punches Villain, and knocks him off the catwalk and he falls 20 feet down into a pile of crates. Success means that a player (or GM) can apply the results of fortune, and change the dynamics by narration.

In essence, I'm trying to allow each player to be both a character, and a writer of the Episodes. Whereas the GM is the director or producer. I understand this has some similarities to PTA, but I have yet to purchase it, so I don't know the specifics.


3) I don't know that I'd ever get around to playing, but I'd certainly buy a copy.

Thanks! :-)

The rest of the rules so far seem pretty standard fair, which is not a bad thing. I experimented with the 0 to 10 thing when I first started my super game. Its a great quick system idea. The main drawbacks are that normals (or zeroes, as we called them) all resided in one characteristic range, which kind of made them less diverse. (Bill Gates,your stats are all zero/ Arnold Swartzeneger, your stats are all zero.) Still, in this genre, its not really a character's skills and powers that make them important, its the story.

Granted, but remember that I'm aiming to simulate the animated series: Robin, a young boy, routinely trounces big, muscled, Arnold types. It's only when he runs up against someone exceptionally strong (Killer Croc, Bane, Clayface, and so on) that he gets out of his league. I'll have to see how it works in playtest, but I think this models the animation 'physics' fairly well. As far as a Bill Gates goes, I do have to simulate the Lex Luthors and Bruce Waynes, so I need some kind cutthroat business acumen ability. I'll have to work on that.


5) Settings are always good though often ignored.

Mainly I was considering whether to include a setting (details of a city) within the rules, or to provide a setting as a separate document.

Thank You for your thoughts, Ken.
-Brent

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- Brent Wolke
Currently writing Scairy Tales for Savage Worlds.
Currently mucking with Animated Heroes for myself.
dindenver
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« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2006, 02:46:21 PM »

Hi!
Quote
1) Can the Indie RPG scene stand another Super Hero RPG?
  Sure why not, if none of the other games have filled you need in a Supers game, then there must be a niche left to fill...

Quote
2) Is the animated hero angle a draw or a detraction?
  Sounds cool to me, I loe all thoseshows and don't forget Teen Titans...

Quote
3) Would you play it?
  Yeah, as long the scale works out. I don;t want to play a first level hero nad have to get Rat man out of the Basement...

Quote
4) Do the rules (from what you've seen) make sense with what my goals are?
  Yeah, but you might want to find a mechanic that follows the three act story telling technique

Quote
5) Currently there is no attached setting ( a specific city like Gotham or Metropolis for example).
    * Would you expect an attached setting or a separate book detailing an optional setting?
    * Would you want an attached setting or advice/rules on creating a setting?
  Well, you might want to setup an implied setting. Meaning you don't have a map and what not, but the examples of play are all from a consistant setting and set the player's expectations of what life in this game world are like.
  Sounds like you have a good game brewing, good luck man!
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billvolk
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« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2006, 07:29:38 PM »

1) Can the Indie RPG scene stand another Super Hero RPG?
Sure. There hasn't been one that's so good as to make all others obsolete.

2) Is the animated hero angle a draw or a detraction?
I find it to be a big draw. Potential GMs instantly know what you're getting at, and players have a way to visualize things, even if the GM can't draw. I loved Batman: The Animated Series as a kid, and I was a Bruce Timm fan even before I knew his name.

3) Would you play it?
YES! See question 2.

4) Do the rules (from what you've seen) make sense with what my goals are?
I disagree with the angle of having a hero's history and other baggage be important. Those Bruce Timm series didn't assume that the audience already knew the heroes' history, the way that DC comic books do now. For example, when a never-before-seen but previously-existing villain was introduced, the episode would usually portray the villain's origin. Harvey Dent existed as a character for many episodes before he became Two-Face, since the audience would feel less drama if the long friendship between Wayne and Dent were only understood.
How does this relate to the game you're making? I don't know. Perhaps you should let the players play out the important moments in the lives of their characters, rather than simply write them on a character sheet for points.
HOLY CRAP! I HAVE AN IDEA! People who read Batman comics knew in advance that Harvey Dent was going to become Two-Face, even during all those episodes where Dent remained Dent. This didn't spoil the story, though; it created dramatic tension. In another example, when Doomsday showed up on Justice League Unlimited, everyone who read the comics knew that Doomsday had permission, so to speak, to kill Superman. This made him scarier than an original villain might have been, because there's no way that some punk who shows up for the first time on the show is going to kill Superman. Have your players list hardships and tragedies that will happen to them in the future! This could create the feeling of pre-established characters, even when the PCs are original. This also gives the players expectations for the GM to mess with.
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thwaak
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« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2006, 06:43:18 AM »

dindenver said,
Yeah, but you might want to find a mechanic that follows the three act story telling technique

I have something in mind for the story structure regarding this, that not only follows the three act set up, but also allows for the Introduction scene to each episode, and a epilogue. That you brought this point up shows that my efforts in this direction are not in vain. Thanks!


For the next reply, I said,
Quote
Step 5: Players may 'borrow' Boosts, Recovery, Gadgets, and Luck from the GM if they should run out of their own, but doing so they gain no Growth from the Episode (ie Adventure). The GM also adds to a pool whereby in the future the GM can spend from it to negate the use of a boost, recovery, etc.  This ensures the heroes always win, but at a possible sacrifice for the future.

And then billvolk said,
Quote
Have your players list hardships and tragedies that will happen to them in the future! This could create the feeling of pre-established characters, even when the PCs are original. This also gives the players expectations for the GM to mess with.

..and suddenly I have a much better mechanic! Thanks billvolk!  I can keep those 'bad karma' points to invoke a hardship or tragedy from their list. It's significantly better than simply denying the player a use of his character. It's truly the opposite of the ability to write the next Episode by spending Growth: The player gets to choose something cool for himself. This way, karma is really biting him.

I am wondering if after invoking a hardship, the player should add another to his list to make sure there is always something there. Otherwise, there may come a time when the hero has had all his hardships invoked, leaving the player to 'borrow' with impunity.

Thanks again to you both.
-Brent
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- Brent Wolke
Currently writing Scairy Tales for Savage Worlds.
Currently mucking with Animated Heroes for myself.
sean2099
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« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2006, 04:23:24 PM »

Hi there,

1.  I wouldn't be posting here if there was no market for that kind of game.
2.  If someone suggested playing such a game, I would play.
3.  Mechanics - just a question but what about using 2 scales of 0-10 - one for normals and one for heroes.  i.e.  strength could be 4N(normal) or 3S(super).  If nothing else, super attribute powers could be made (you have the option of turning normal attribute X into super attribute X - Anything not turned into a super attribute is a normal one.  A bit more work but it would take care of normals all having 0 stats.
4.  I think the mentioned cities have certain things in common.  i.e. corrupt parts of government, the mega business with its fingers in a lot of pies, etc.  You could make an implict setting just on using common elements of super settings.

Good Luck,

Sean
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billvolk
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« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2006, 06:19:53 PM »

I am wondering if after invoking a hardship, the player should add another to his list to make sure there is always something there. Otherwise, there may come a time when the hero has had all his hardships invoked, leaving the player to 'borrow' with impunity.

I think that the GM should be able to do bad things to the PCs that aren't listed. Characters in shows adapted from comics aren't immune to events that didn't happen in the comics. On a similar note, I like Ultimate Spider-Man, a parallel storyline in which Spider-Man is younger, because it's interesting to see how things play out differently when given a second chance to happen. Perhaps, in your game, the listed tragedies could just be able to do more than GM fiat tragedies. For example, perhaps no character can kill a PC unless it's listed that that character will do so.
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Ken
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« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2006, 07:20:40 PM »

I can keep those 'bad karma' points to invoke a hardship or tragedy from their list. It's significantly better than simply denying the player a use of his character. It's truly the opposite of the ability to write the next Episode by spending Growth: The player gets to choose something cool for himself. This way, karma is really biting him.

I am wondering if after invoking a hardship, the player should add another to his list to make sure there is always something there. Otherwise, there may come a time when the hero has had all his hardships invoked, leaving the player to 'borrow' with impunity.

I think that its cool that you are allowing so much player input on story elements. It can be tough for GMs to find ways to engage players when stories may not have anything to do with their characters. This way, the GM kind of ensures that their stories will be of interest to their players. It allows players to ask for challenges they want to see their characters fight, or even design villain ideas that make sense for their "rouges gallery". Good show.

I think your right about always keeping a bank of hardships for the GM to invoke. As far as picking NEW hardships when one is used; this could be as simple as putting an "I'll be back" next to defeated villains that the players really want to see come back. Also, potential hardships may develope during a game (you may introduce a character or element that the player wants to see come back or become a major plot point).

However you do it, the players should never borrow with impunity. Getting helped out of a jam by the GM should always have consequences, even if its minor stuff like taking damage, losing a vital clue, or giving the villain a chance to slip out. It does always have to be major plot device stuff, but its nice to have the option when the timing is right.

Great stuff. Good luck. Looking forward to hearing more.

Ken
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Ken

10-Cent Heroes; check out my blog:
http://ten-centheroes.blogspot.com

Sync; my techno-horror 2-pager
http://members.cox.net/laberday/sync.pdf
dindenver
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« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2006, 08:41:27 PM »

Hi!
  It has nothing to do with this Genre, but you may want to look at "...In Spaaace!" its mechanics will usually lead to some good 3-act storytelling.
http://www.gregstolze.com/inSpaaace.zip
  Basically, the optimal strategy is to lose conflicts early in order to win conflicts later in the story...
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stefoid
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« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2006, 12:14:13 AM »

there is a thread about diceless combat which sort of goes hand in hand with this thread.  With super heroes, one character can usually win reliably against another character in specific types of contests.  In a brawl, character A will allways beat character B, all other things being equal, because their powers are measured in orders of magnitude. 

in a brawl:  Thug (0) < Batman (1) < Spiderman (4) < Superman (10)   every time.

But thats not to say Batman can never get the better of Spiderman in a brawl, just that he has to gain some edge in order to do it.  Random factors, or "just trying harder" isnt going to be enough, under any cricumstances, for batman to knock out siderman in a straight up, toe-to-toe fight.  he would have to come up with secret weapons, traps, or change the type of conflict away from bralwing in order to win.

Also, in case of a tie:  batman (1) vs. capn america (1)...  randomness shouldnt decide the outcome.  it should just be a tie.  they beat on each other all day and take no significant damage, and neither can gain a decisive victory -- all other things being equal.  (mussed up hair and nose bleed isnt significant damage)

So I think you need to come up with a system where characters need to apply an edge in order to play outside their league.

love the Pain idea, although I would call it punishment because it sounds nastier.  sometimes a superhero goes into a fight, without an edge, knowing that he cannot win.  In order to distract or hold up the opponent.  So maybe how much punishment a character can take is related to how outclassed they are.  i.e. A thug with low Pain score (say 2) can last 2 rounds against batman and then he is out, whereas spiderman or superman would take the thug down in a single round no sweat.  Batman, with Pain 5 can last two rounds against spiderman before he is out, because spiderman dishes out 4 Pain per round...

Maybe thats where your 'just try harder'  boost comes in.  Maybe you can last longer (increase your pain threshold) that way.. 
thats funny.  maybe when you use your pain boost you have to verbalize your thought balloon/ voice over to the playing group:  "musn't... black... out..."

Im not sure how edges would work.    i.e. Kryptonite bullets in your uzi gives you a +11 edge vs superman only, as long as you keep the weapon secret.  Now any dope with such a weapon can take out superman, if they apply the weapon in secret.  (he has a propensity to smile while letting bullets bounce off him... ego thing.)  but if he knows the bullets in the gun are kryptonite, he can easilly dodge and take out the attacker.

someone in the 'diceless comabt' thread suggested this - suprise is the random attribute.
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