Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wet Bones recap of part 1

SYSTEM: ICONS

For the BAMF podcast, we're doing this ICONS actual play of an adventure that I'm tentatively calling "Wet Bones."

We ran the first half weeks ago but schedules have not coincided. We're going to (cross your fingers) run the second half this Friday.

For everyone's sake, we should probably remember what happened. I put together a summary of what happened and a couple of things that I'll slide in as happening during the break. I present it here, and welcome corrections from Walt and Mike.

Obviously, if you want to come to the adventure without preconceived anything, you shouldn't read this. Just skip it.

Wet Bones — Part 1 recap

The start of a new school year in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada. Both natty architect Matt Walsh (aka Sable Lynx) and CEO Matteo Rodrigues (aka the Cowl) have been invited in their secret identities to the local high school to give talks about their jobs as part of Career Guidance. They are done and chatting as they head out to their cars when there is a hullabaloo at the college, which is next door. (Well, kitty corner, but adjacent.)

There is a fast partial costume change, and they head over to the college building. Students are streaming out of the college, so Sable Lynx enters through the roof: the college is a large low building, and the roof door is unlocked, it being during the school day. The Cowl forces his way past the exiting students, encouraging them to get out.

Sable Lynx can immediately see a group of people, probably students, who have been transformed into hirsute wildmen, ferociously attacking anyone nearby. A small knot of students is standing by a door, arms linked, robotically repeating, "None shall pass" and "He must stay safe."

From his vantage point, the Cowl sees the hairy wildmen—what I call "ragemonkeys" in my notes—but he also sees some grenade-sized shiny mad scientist kind of object on the floor, near an unconscious burly man in a suit.

Both heroes notice the tang of salt in the air: the marine simulator tank clearly has salt water in it, which is unusual but can happen if someone pays for the research. The top of the marine simulator tank dominates this entryway and is about chest height so visitors can look into it. It extends about thirty feet down, where there are other windows. There is a hoisting mechanism above the tank, to get things in and out.

The Cowl immediately tries to get the grenade-like thing out of play. He throws a...I don't recall what it was; I think it was something he grabbed...to hit the grenade and knocks it through an open doorway into a lab. (The lab has a poster on its door that advertises a "trickle down" event, where people sell their blood to vampires; the event was two days ago.)

When the Cowl does this, some of the fight seems to go out of the ragemonkeys, and Sable Lynx manages to calm most of them down...except one, who is already in the process of throwing a student into the marine simulator. The Cowl sees that there are sharks—yes, sharks—in the simulator pool: two of them. The sharks do not have lasers on their heads. (Yet.) There was a netting over the tank but that seems to have been broken in the melee.

The Cowl improvises a snag line and gets the student out before the sharks get to her.

In the meantime, Sable Lynx is looking at the students guarding the door. As a specialist in the occult, he knows things that are not common knowledge, such as the fact that any vampire who drinks your blood can attempt to control you...and the vampires split and mix the blood obtained at these "trickle down" events to makes sure that each vampire can control the maximum number of people.

Sable Lynx convinces the mind-controlled students that he is here to help, so he can be let through. The door leads to an office, which has clearly had some kind of a fight: the metal desk has been thrown and bent, the desk chair and filing cabinets are overturned, and there are holes and dents in the walls. And a dead body slumped in the guest chair.

There is also a bit of a locked room mystery here: The office has no other doors or windows.

The dead man has been killed by a stake through the heart. Sable Lynx examines the stake without touching anything, and notices something odd about it: It is thin, with a seamless veneer of wood around a translucent core that looks like fingernail. Sable Lynx recognizes him as Lester Noble, one of the Noble family, who are essentially the Dark family in town.

The Noble family have money and influence in this area. They have their fingers in nearly everything, and the patriarch of the family, William Noble, has tried to buy every superhero ("Spark") in town.

"Poor Uncle Lester."

The person saying that is also a student, jumping to see over the mind-controlled students who are still guarding the door. She's young and blonde, maybe twenty, and introduces herself as Faith Thomson. She is the daughter of Lester's sister, Hope.

She tells them that someone has been targeting the Noble family. Quickly summarizing:

  • Lester is the second to die; Uncle Ray's second wife, Alexa, was killed last May.
  • Three of the family actually aren't Darklings yet: her, her father, and her cousin Connor, who's off at Yale. Or Harvard. Or someplace; he gets kicked out of a lot of places. They aren't Darklings because they're not old enough; by law you have to be 18 but William won't pay for it until you're at least thirty and William approves. (Her uncle Ray didn't become a werewolf until he was in his sixties.)
  • Right now, all the Nobles go in pairs; they suspect Sparks (superheroes).
  • The Nobles bought the grenade things and a germ from a mad scientist. Anyone who was donated blood since last May got infected, and the grenade thing turns any of those within hearing range into ragemonkeys. (She rummages in her purse and pulls hers out; the Cowl takes it.)
  • The man on the floor was Lester's bodyguard. (She has a bodyguard: a big Amazonian woman who probably lifts weights and does mixed martial arts.)
  • She's not sure she wants to become a Darkling; they've denied it to her dad.
  • If someone were to provide motive, it's probably Raymond, who spends a lot of time at a shoreside chapel these days ("Shore Kirk").

They decide to solve the murder, to eliminate the chance that the Nobles will set off these transformation grenades. ("I'm sure there's something in the blood donation contract that makes it legally plausible," Faith tells them. "They're kind of obsessive about the appearance of legality.") The heroes decide to interrogate Raymond.

When the car gets to the Shore Kirk parking lot, it already has two cars and a truck in it. As they pull in, something mechanical or robotic bursts out of the truck and races into the church, through its wall.

Things that nobody asked about:

  • The mind-controlled students will receive counselling because they were under a compulsion to protect Lester and they failed.
  • Matt Walsh was there because his sister manages his social engagements and she was punishing him for not letting her be a superhero.

Information that Faith shares by phone as they are on their way by car to the shore-side chapel ("Shore Kirk", a member of a splinter sect) For time reasons, this information ws not in the session but logically would be.

  • The Noble family owns lots in the area.
  • Both parents are Darklings (William & Victoria). They've never said what they are, but she's definitely a vampire and he probably is.
  • Three kids: Lester, Raymond, & Hope. All married, Raymond more than once.
  • Lester: Vampire. Wife Patricia: Were-tiger. Son Michael: Demon
  • Raymond: Werewolf. Ex-wife Alexa: Demon and dead; mother to Connor, off at school. Ex-wife Sarah Goode Noble: Vampire, mother to William Jr, died in a motorcycle accident at age 11, riding with his father.
  • Hope: Vampire.
  • Also converted to darkling: Peter "Meat" Cleaver, William's old fixer from union-busting days.
  • Some of the family can't go out in the daylight (William, Victoria, Hope, Sarah Goode Noble).
  • Faith lets slip that they know it wasn't internecine action by family members is because everyone has been forced to give their blood to Victoria.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Grinding is, well, a grind

SYSTEM: Any

So with my daughter and her friends, I'm running them through a seriously crocked version of Temple of Elemental Evil, and they're in the moathouse. And I'm finding that there's a lot of fun in the I've-got-seven-hit-points-oh-god-let's-not-fight and I-fumbled-my-roll-again-how-can-a-d20-roll-1-this-often. So there's a lesson for me, because I hated the zero-to-hero process in D&D. Once my character was up to fifth level, great. (I hated the system mastery required in 3, 3.5, and 4, but finding 5E okay.)

But.

But the stuff here in the moathouse in this adventure is seriously old school, and not in a good way. "We are exploring the moathouse for our friend, who fell through the floor where we couldn't see, because if the ceiling can't take a gnome, it sure isn't going to take an elf, a halfling, and two humans (one in plate).

It is grinding. Enter the room, see the monster, kill the monster (or blow up the room: they've exploded two rooms so far; it's becoming our motif), recover your hearing (ad hoc rule: CON save, DC is 5 points per d6 of explosion; every point you miss by is another ten minutes of deafness, whole thing can be mitigated by smart playing, like covering your ears), on to the next.

It is, quite accurately, a grind.

And it bores me.

Now, the reason this is SYSTEM: Any and not SYSTEM: D&D is because I noticed that the podcast I was doing for BAMF suffered from some of the same problem. Time was tight, so we did the combat and only a little bit more.

And that isn't satisfying for me. I can totally understand if that's your jam: hard week at work and all you wanna do is win over some monsters (sing that Cindi Lauper song: "Girls...just wanna slay orcs!"). I see the appeal.

But it's kind of a bore to me. As GM, I can nuke the party or make it a cakewalk if I want. I think that combat is necessary: it's one of the domains where you can be scrupulously fair, and it's important to be fair, to look fair. (Not necessarily the same thing; I mean both.)

But conversation, and consequences, are where a lot of the fun lives for me.

So the superhero adventure that I'm currently writing can be totally sidestepped by saying the right things.

(And when you listen to the first BAMF podcast, you'll notice a part where Sable Lynx's actions stop every villain but one, who throws a person into the water tank...because I wanted to establish the presence of sharks. For later. Because the combat is necessary, and I wanted sharks with frickin' lasers.)

Friday, April 27, 2018

Adventure modules...what we want, what we can give

SYSTEM: Any

So because I had nothing to do at lunch today, I started to think about superhero gaming products, specifically adventures.

Now, adventures are great. I like adventures. I guy adventures. But if I were ever to release adventures formally, I was wondering what I could do to distinguish mine. So I was thinking about adventures.

An adventure has a GM part and a player part. You're not going to sell them separately, but if you're doing PDF releases, is there any point to having a player product? For most of them, the player part is setting information and maps (which are, of course, setting informational). The product might include pre-gens, which would be in the player package. (Side note: it is kinda interesting to build an entire campaign world with pre-gens and setting material in the adventures. Most publishers do the setting material but not the pre-gens. Would that work? I dunno; maybe it would, but maybe it would give you too many heroes who might take away from the players.)

On the GM side, I write lots of words and I'd hate to give that up. (Imagine an ironic smiley face emoji.) One of the things that I thought of adding is a point form version of the adventure for GMs. I do this already with my adventures—I have a spreadsheet, and for each planned scene, I jot down the goal, the who and where (in ICONS terms, the location's Qualities) and the two or three things that I have to get across.

A summary sheet that presents short forms for the five or six villains, too. For reading, you probably want to have half-page or full-page size character write-ups, but with PDF you could produce a version of the page that has, say, eight character spaces and you can choose the order with a drop-down to select the character in each one. That would give you a summary sheet to play with.

More people play with VTTs now, so also including something that might work on something like roll20 or Fantasy Grounds might be an idea. (I have no idea if that's technically viable.)

Anyway. What do you want to see in superhero adventures?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Random thoughts

SYSTEM: ICONS

Doing the BAMF podcast made me think again about running a game...an Actual Play...and podcasting.

Between illness and the insanity that is commuting to Toronto (leave at 5:40 am! Return at 7:00 pm, if you're lucky!) the Drop-In died a quiet death. But maybe (he said, dreaming) I could do something that was, say, three hours every month. Something three hours that got recorded could be broken up into three or four chunks that were released once a week, giving you a three or four per month release schedule and keeping the actual podcasts down to 45-60 minutes. That would seem possible.

Except:
  • From an editing standpoint, that's something to think about. Breaking something up into three or four chunks? Even if Google Hangouts/YouTube does the initial recording, it would require some/a lot of editing. Me being me, I'd want to cut out dead air. I'd want incidental music (though I could live without it). I'd want the occasional fade.
  • Who am I kidding? I'd want to be good at it. Which means trying something smaller to learn on, something like a weekly fifteen minute discussion of some aspect of superhero gaming. Heck, I neglect this blog as it is; what makes me think I could try a different medium, even if it's instead of this?

So it'll stay something in the back of my mind, though I'll look for free editing software and things that would be useful if I were to do such a thing. For instance, if I could find something to edit raw footage on my ancient iPad, I could do it during commutes. I'm not sure I would, but I could.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Metal Men

SYSTEM: ICONS

I was a kid in the 1960s. (I know, I'm old.) I loved, unironically and completely, things like Magnus, Robot Fighter and Challengers of the Unknown and Angel and the Ape and The Inferior Five.

And I loved the Metal Men.

They were goofy, you bet. They probably don't hold up to close examination now: Any kind of "realistic" modern treatment would have Tin quitting to seek self-actualization and Mercury doing something awful and poachers stealing Gold and Tina becoming a prostitute (well, if Frank Miller were writing it).

(In fact, the Morrison reboot had a bunch of real-body angst that I'm not sure I want in there. And I liked some of the stuff in the reboot. "Death Metal Men." Heh.)

Their schtick was that adventures usually ended with them being destroyed (except for their responsometers) and Dr. Will Magnus rebuilding them. I loved them anyway.

Anyway, my mind drifted to the Inferior Five the other day and thence to the Metal Men, and I contemplated how to write them up...and realized that all of the Metal Men are (ahem) stamped out of the same mold.

They all have:

  • Artificial (with Supreme or Fantastic Life Support)
  • an Amazing amount of Transformation (objects)
  • a point of Immortality, because so long as their responsometers were saved, they could be rebuilt
  • the quality "Robot like <metal>" which they use for justifying certain stunts

Each one has a Quality or two for personality ("Unrequited love for Dr. Magnus" or "Inferiority complex" or "Natural leader").

Everyone gets Alternate Form at some level, to reflect that they're made of that metal, and the limit "Constant."

And all of this is done without double-checking the write-ups in DC Adventures.

Everybody gets:
  • Specialty Science Master, but only as it relates to the metal
  • Amazing (8) Transformation (objects)
  • Weak (1) Immortality (destroy the responsometer, kill the robot)
  • Amazing (8) Life Support (can still be melted or frozen)
Metal ManPCSIAWSTADETPowersQualities
Gold55454391
  • Fair (4) Alternate form: Gold Limit: Constant
  • Fair (4) Stretching
  • Robot of Gold
  • Natural leader
  • Expensive to make
Platinum46454591
  • Alternate Form: Platinum Limit: Constant
  • Fair (4) Stretching
  • Robot of Platinum
  • Thinks she's a real woman
  • Unrequited crush
Iron548334122
  • Amazing (8) Alternate form: Iron Limit: Constant
  • Robot of Iron
  • Good-natured
Mercury36343472
  • Fair (4) Alternate Form: Liquid Limit: Constant
  • Robot of Mercury
  • Mercurial
  • Proud of the fact he's liquid at room temp
Lead447235122
  • Great (6) Alternate Form: Solid Limit: Constant
  • Robot of Lead
  • Ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray
Tin45234462
  • Alternate Form: Tin Limit: Constant
  • Robot of Tin
  • Inferiority Complex

Prowess and Coordination might be a bit high, because the Metal Men weren't really into punching, but they could grab quite well, and I don't recall that they got caught often (unless it was dramatically appropriate).

Iconic teams?

SYSTEM: Any

Okay, sure, the Justice League, the Avengers, the X-Men. Any other teams that rival them for actual iconic status?

I can name other groups, sure (Challengers of the Unknown!). But each of them kind of has a place (well, the real difference between Justice League and Avengers seems to be DC vs Marvel). X-Men are hated and afraid. Doom Patrol are all about weirdness.

Fantastic Four? Aside from being roughly the four elements, they are the first family.

I was thinking of it more in terms of creating your game.

What's each group about? I mean, really, the fact that they're the PCs counts for a heck of a lot, but do you have a kind of theme statement that guides the adventures you create?

  • The major hitters (your Avengers or Justice League)
  • The outcasts (your X-Men)
  • The dealers in weird (your Doom Patrol), except they are often also...
  • The dealers in magic (your Midnight Sons, your Justice League Dark
  • Your corporate sponsored team (has been done, but no example is leaping to mind)
  • Your losers (Great Lakes Avengers, Justice League Antarctica, Mystery Men, and gah, I'm getting old: the DC team from the sixties with Dumb Bunny, Merryman, Awkwardman, White Feather, and the Blimp) EDIT: The Inferior Five
  • Your patriots (must have been done)
  • Covert Ops Deniable Assets (CODA), a villain team used by the government, along the lines of Suicide Squad or the 1997 Thunderbolts (Ed Ortiz)
  • Street Level team isn't losers so much as restraining their activities to a neighbourhood. Individuals might be quite powerful, but usually only one of them is extremely powerful. (Ed Ortiz)
  • Space Heroes work in space. The stories are generally in different places (Wagon Train), and might be cosmic in level but they don't have to be.

The other teams are a bit more constrained in the kind of stories that they appear in/adventures that they have on a regular basis.

TeamStories
Major HittersThe Major Hitters can get anything as a problem...even something small scale is a change of pace, and maybe you'll have a brainstorm and it will turn out to be the innocuous thing that leads them to the conspiracy.
OutcastsStories might be about the act of being excluded or closeted; about saving the world and not being recognized for it.
Dealers in MagicThe threats are usually occult (in the sense of hidden); there can be the occasional Scooby-Doo episode (and in fact, a Dr. Thirteen/Scooby Doo team of debunkers might be interesting). The characters often wrestle with odd rules for living to keep their powers, relationships with faerie or other dimensions, or curses. This can be small-scale or large.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Incredibles, updated for Icons Assembled

SYSTEM: ICONS
Well, since The Incredibles 2 is due to come out, I thought I'd dust these guys off and convert them to ICONS Assembled. Mistakes in conversion and updating might have happened; let me know about them.
Background information is based on information from http://pixar.wikia.com/ as of when I wrote these.

Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Dashiell Parr, Violet Parr, Jack-Jack, Frozone, Syndrome, the Omnidroid, Lucius, Rick Dicker and so on are all trademarked by Disney/Pixar. No infringement is intended.

Because it's such a big thing in the movie, I have assumed that all the supers except for Syndrome and the iterations of the Omnidroid have the origin Birthright. This is modeling, rather than strict point-buy, so I'm not worrying about the effects of their origins.

Mr. Incredible (Robert "Bob" Parr)

PRWCRDSTR INTAWRWIL STADET
578 453 111
PowersSpecialties
  • Fair (4) Damage Resistance
  • Weak (1) Super-Speed
  • Weak (1) Super-senses [enhanced hearing]
  • Average (3) Leaping
  • Business
  • Power (Strength)
  • Weapon (throwing)
  • Wrestling
Qualities
  • Family Man
  • Mid-life crisis
  • Middle-aged: overweight and bad back

Background

At his peak, Mr. Incredible was one of the most popular supers in the world, and one of the best. (The Kronos database gave him the highest threat rating of any super we see.) We also know that he refused to have a sidekick (though, to be honest, taking one in just before his wedding would probably have been a bad idea). He's devoted to his wife, Helen, and respectful to other women.


Conversion Notes

As part of his workout, we see him pulling a train (er, a physical train: I don't mean the slang expression). That pretty much defines his strength right there, since one of the benchmarks in ICONS is the weight of a train. According to the various sources I read, he has some invulnerability, but it's clearly not huge, not in the "totally bulletproof" range. It might be higher, I suppose. He also has apparently a slight amount of superspeed, but I didn't notice it, so it's low. The Leaping is self-evident, and I keep forgetting to include it because I think it ought to be concomitant with high strength.

Elastigirl (Helen Parr)

Well, she's not really Elastigirl any more and we don't know what superhero name she uses now...but I'll go with Elastigirl. You can find a picture at the same site I used.

PRWCRDSTR INTAWRWIL STADET
553 455 81
PowersSpecialties
  • Fair (4) Damage Resistance: physical only
  • Good (5) Stretching
  • Good (5) Transformation Limit: Tell
  • Average (3) Leaping
  • Business
  • Martial Arts
  • Pilot Expert
  • Power (Stretching)
  • Stealth
Qualities
  • Supermom (and the responsible one in the family)
  • Connections from the old life
  • Making a go of hausfrau

Background

Helen Truax was Elastigirl, and we see her first as an accomplished superhero, something of a feminist in an alternate 1950s world, who sets aside her dream of being a top-level superhero when superheroes are outlawed. She is Supermom: she runs the home (hence the Business specialty I gave her). We really don't know what oother specialties she has; I made a guess based on what's in the movie, but I might have missed something.

She's fiercely devoted to her children and her husband. In the arena outside superheroics, she's much more capable than Bob, but Bob does have one thing he does well. (The business of...insurance!)

Conversion Notes

In this writeup, Transformation gets top billing, but she's known for Stretching. I chose a tell because (a) we see it in the film and (b) she can take on some of the attributes of the new form, though not all: I figured it was self-evident, and didn't make it a limitation. (That is, as a thin sheet, she catches the air, as a boat, she floats, but if she formed a wall, she wouldn't be bulletproof because of that.) I don't recall where the damage resistance came from...is it just because she's stretchy, or is it from Edna's updating of the hobo suit?

Her strength isn't high enough to hold a Winnebago, nor is her Stretching, but nothing else she does is consistent with high strength, so I'm going to propose that she can use her Stretching to add to her Strength; it's a stunt but it's probably free for her because she's done it before.

Violet Parr

Kind of problematic in terms of aspects because one of the threads of The Incredibles is about her getting over her desire to be normal and inconspicuous. But here's a take on Violet.

PRWCRDSTR INTAWRWIL STADET
243 54352
PowersSpecialties
  • Average (3) Invisibility
  • Amazing (8) Force Control Extra: Burst Extra: Constructs
  • Stealth
Qualities
  • Family above all
  • Wants to fit in
  • Concerns of a teenager

Background

The eldest child of Robert and Helen Parr, Violet starts the movie as a shy high school junior, poised between being a girl and a woman. She wants to be normal. She wants to be unnoticed. Her powers are symbolic of that: she can turn invisible, though not her clothes or things she touches.

Conversion Notes

Her Strength might be 2, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt because she does knock out at least one minion with a single blow with a dead branch. She has a low Invisibility because she doesn't turn anything else invisible, and a high force field because she does manage to keep the Omnidroid's weight off them and her mother at least expects that she will be able to stop the missiles.


Dash aka Dashiell Robert Parr


PRWCRDSTR INTAWRWIL STADET
242 543 52
PowersSpecialties
  • Great (6) Super-Speed
    • Extra: Surface Movement
    • Extra: Fast Attack
    • Extra: Damage resistance Limit: physical, only to falls and collisions while running
  • Athletics
Qualities
  • All boy with half the attention span
  • Loves to show off
  • Tries to be good

Background

Dash, the middle child of Robert and Helen Parr, was born into this hidden existence and all he wants to do is compete and excel, which is a kind of showing off, given his abilities. He knows how to push his sister Violet's buttons, and takes delight in doing so.

Conversion Notes

Given that he runs out of sight in effectively one panel, I gave him Superspeed 6 even though some of the official material claims he can only run somewhere about 135 mph. I also gave him the Resistance because he falls several times at speed and is not hurt. I did not give him full Damage Resistance because he still seems afraid of fire (the rocket blast) and bullets: this is only for friction and damage while running. Again: I'm trying to preserve the vulnerability of the characters for ease of use.

Jack-Jack

Is a plot device.

Frozone (Lucius Best)

And here's Mr. Lucius Best, aka Frozone, last of our intrepid quintet of heroes.

PRWCRDSTR INTAWRWILSTADET
363 343 52
PowersSpecialties
  • Great (6) Cold Control Limit: Source
    • Extra: Blast
    • Extra: Constructs
  • Ice Slide (Weak (1) Flight Limit: less than 60 feet from ground
  • Average (3) Damage resistance (his super suit)
  • Snow Goggles (Average (3) Sensory Resistance Limit: Sight)
  • Immune to cold (Weak (1) Life Support vs. Cold)
  • Athletics
  • Some kind of specialty related to work
Qualities
  • Motivation: For the greater good
  • Honey is the greatest good he'll ever know, and he better not forget that
  • Whatever he does, it can afford that apartment so some kind of professional

Background

Because he's not the focus of the movie, we know less about Lucius than about the Parr family. During the Golden Age of Superheroes, he was a well-known super, but not considered a great threat (the Kronos database lists him as mid-level). He was best man at the wedding of Robert Parr to Helen Truax. Lucius eventually married Honey, who styles herself the greatest good he will ever know. (Apparently, there is much more information in The Incredibles comic, but I haven't read that.)

Conversion Notes

I chose to give him Cold Control but only at Great level because the Omnidroid destroys his ice wall quite easily.

Do they mention what his daytime job is? He can afford an apartment in midtown with a secret compartment (and he still fits into his supersuit after 15 years: you go, guy!), so he does something well-paying. He can also go "bowling" every Wednesday with Bob, so it's probably not being a doctor, which often has time constraints. Lawyer? Business executive? Investment banker? He should probably have a Specialty in it, whatever it is.

I certainly think it would be reasonable to give him a higher Intellect or Awareness, or a point higher in Prowess or Strength. We see him freeze bullets in mid-air; I choose to think of it as a stunt of Cold Control (a kind of TK). Arguing otherwise is totally reasonable: I was either unaware or didn't make that choice.

Syndrome aka Buddy Pine

Syndrome is the emotional villain of the The Incredibles, the one whose actions bracket the movie.

PRWCRDSTR INTAWRWIL STADET
353 544 7*
PowersSpecialties
  • Amazing (8) Gadgetry
  • Extra: Bracers (Arsenal) Known Gadgets:
    • Amazing (8) Zero Point Energy Freezing (vs. Will) Extra: Ranged
    • Amazing (8) Telekinesis Limit: Things already grabbed with zero point energy
    • Great (6) Interface Limit: Control Omnidroid only
  • Jet boots (Average (3) Flight)

  • Business
  • Power (Bracers) Master
  • Science
  • Technology Master
Qualities
  • Hates Mr. Incredible & therefore supers
  • Genius inventor & successful arms merchant
  • If we're all special, you won't be

Background

Buddy Pine idolized Mr. Incredible to the point of stalking him and, finally, inventing rocket boots (and presumably other gadgets) and naming himself Incrediboy. When Mr. Incredible rejected him, he transferred that adoration into hatred, and extended that hatred to all supers.

Power and Conversion notes

You could also call him a Gimmick hero. Your choice; his physique certainly indicates that.

Because he rarely misses when he's actually trying to "freeze" I made the Coordination a function of special aiming technology in his bracers, because his physique isn't meant to resemble someone who spends a lot of hours in the gym. In the movie, he almost always uses the "zero point energy" from surprise, and he fails in his one fight even though things are rigged in his favor.

I have him using the optional rule that his Power (Gadgeteering) skill adds to his intellect for the purposes of his Gadgets power, like Rex Mundi. That keeps his Intellect at 6, but he can still create mad inventions. We don't see any of the other consequences of a world-shattering intellect, so I kept it to "human" levels and gave him the Quality.

Omnidroid v10

PRWCRDSTR INTAWRWIL STADET
659 456 15*
PowersSpecialties
  • Amazing (8) Growth (includes Damage Reduction)
  • Fair (4) Extra Limbs (tentacles)
  • Amazing (8) Gadgetry
  • Amazing (8) Fast Attack
  • Average (3) Super-Speed
  • Average (3) Super-senses (enhanced hearing, enhanced sight, IR sight)
  • Incredible (7) Blast
  • Amazing (8) Mental Resistance
  • Military
  • Power (Gadgets) Master
Qualities
  • Learning robot
  • Programmed to learn quickly to defeat them
  • Controlled by bracers...but knows it

Conversion

Nemesis would have been a good choice, but I chose to go with a combination of Gadgetry and learning.

Afterthought

There is a possibility that Bob and Helen fought crime together enough that they could be considered a team, so there should probably be some kind of team write-up, with team qualities (though probably not resources). I haven't given anyone Leadership, but if you create the team, someone should have the skill.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Wet Bones: A progress report on my Spark vs. Dark adventure

SYSTEM: ICONS

The adventure I've written in Jim Gardner's universe is called Wet Bones. I will be running Mike Lafferty and Walt Robillard through it on the BAMF Podcast soon; for various reasons we have not recorded this yet. We're currently slated to record the first session this month; it's been pushed off once due to family emergencies. (Actually, I could do another playtest on roll20 to see if the last set of tweaks^H^H^H^H^H^Hmassive changes did what they were supposed to do. Holler if you're interested in a sub-three-hour adventure, preferably on a weekend. Two to four players. Familiarity with the game not needed.)

The original adventure I wrote is about four hours with the option to go longer; for Mike's purposes, he needs it to be in one or two segments of between sixty and ninety minutes. So in play, there will not be room to go down a lot of side paths. (I provided a lot of internecine conflict that might come up if the players go in a specific direction. You don't lose any of the main story by cutting it down to less than three hours, but you lose some flavour. C'est la vie.) It will have an example of a minion fight, of some research tests, stunts (many of the villain and hero powers get stunted off the "Darkling" or "Spark" qualities), and two other combats. I'll be on the lookout to bring some Qualities in, but that's really quite specific to the characters and events; I make that up on the fly.

However, it leaves me conflicted about what to do with the text of the adventure.

The adventure has a couple of goals:
  • Be a good time. I hope this will be fun to hear and to play. If you don't enjoy it, it doesn't matter if I achieve any other goals.
  • Guide people to Fainting Goat's back catalog Mike has a business, and he'd like to sell stuff. Heck, I've written for Mike and for Walt and I'd like them to sell stuff. Mike's first idea was that I run a Fainting Goat adventure but at the time I was stoked for Jim's book so I pushed for running a Spark vs. Dark adventure...but I've done Assembled edition updates of a bunch of Fainting Goat characters, and those are the pre-gens for the adventure. In the adventure, I provide only the updates rather than the whole character, so if you want to play with the characters provided, you have to get the Fainting Goat product. (Well, half of the characters are from Stark City). Villains are a mix of original and from Super Villain Hand Book and from MMM. If you don't have the appropriate Fainting Goat source, my thinking goes, you'll have to do a lot more work to run the adventure.

    At some point, I'll release the "So you want to create characters" section, but that'll be some time after I release the adventure.

  • Proselytize for ICONS There's a lack of ICONS Assembled actual play recordings out there. There are some, such as SkyFyre, but there can be more.
  • Promote Jim's book Jim is my friend and I liked the book. He can probably use the attention because the second book in the series (They Didn't Tell Me The Gun Was Loaded is the title, I think, but I might have some words wrong) is now available for pre-order. And, because Jim will mention the podcast once it's out, I hope that a few new listeners will then get something from Mike or buy ICONS or both.
  • And of course fame or humiliation for me. (Not fortune. Very little in the tabletop RPG field seems to go for fortune...)

I do explicitly state in the text of the adventure that while Jim and Fainting Goat have given me permission to use the setting and the characters, they don't relinquish rights and I have no rights beyond this one adventure. And Steve Kenson hasn't been involved at all. (All of which is true.) Given that, I was going to release it under whatever the Creative Commons license that requires attribution.

So: when to release the text of the adventure? Probably not before the podcast is released. I'm open to suggestions, but my current thinking is:
  1. Release a version when the first part of the podcast goes live. Yes, that will include the shocking twist ending; so what? (It suddenly occurs to me that the released version should have links to the appropriate Fainting Goat pages.) That version might be a simple link to a Google Doc.
  2. Six months or a year later (time to be determined with Mike), I'll release a version as a PDF (maybe laid out in Word, oh boy! or Scribus: something that looks better than a Google Doc but doesn't involve me paying someone for layout) that includes character creation.

My feeling is that interest will be highest at the first session. If people like it, that's the time to give them pointers to the Fainting Goat website and to a place where they can get the book/pre-order the next book.

I don't know from marketing, though. (I'm a technical writer. I've tried running my own business: I suck at it.)

The counterargument is that it could actually be popular. Maybe I'm stealing money from myself. Maybe someone will want to do a roleplaying setting for the Spark vs. Dark books and they would actually give me money for this. That sounds like a lot of ifs, though.

Anyway, that's the state of things. Feel free to comment.

The Naming of Names (and weekly roundup)

SYSTEM: Any

So it suddenly occurred to me to ask whether the word Gemini was based on a plural, and it is. So if a second of Luorno's selves dies, she can still fight crime as the singleton Dame Geminus. It gets better: Geminus of Rhodes was an astronomer in the first century BCE, whose astronomy text Introduction to Phenomena survives. Which means that if you had supervillains named Gemini or maybe Castor and Pollux, and one of them retires or dies, the other can thematically still continue as Geminus.

Two items repeated after I posted them elsewhere, because I can't get here during the week, and one of which is actually dealing with a name:

Today's plot device character: The Midwife, who gives you superpowers if you fit her stringent requirements.

For extra angst, the Midwife is a former super whose spirit was put in a body that is simply unable to support powers, and he-she-it is creating these supers in the hope that some day, one of them will have his-her-its old powerset and then phase two of the plan (takeover!) can begin....

And a longer one:

And, because I wrote about a brain in a jar recently, here are some variations that I thought of. (A brainiac 5, if you will.)

  1. The apparent brain-in-a-jar is a drone, an avatar run by some remote operator, as an actual radio-controlled thing. In ICONS, this could be a kind of Doombot for the Ultra-Mind.
  2. Variation: it's a person/alien/whatever brain in a jar and there's some technology that imprints the driver's personality on it, so that the brain-in-a-jar becomes that person for a while. The twist I thought of and decided not to write about is that the brain was from another dimension, sent to collect information, and it put up with this because it learns so much more about humanity this way...and everyone who has ever piloted the brain carries some alien taint because the imprinting goes both ways....
  3. In comics you don't see it often, but you could also do the classic Curt Siodmak novel (Donovan's Brain? Been a long time since I read it) where someone is being mentally taken over by, yes, a brain in a jar. After he or she shrugs off the brain's influence, you discover that one of the things the brain has been doing is having the victim build it a body...
  4. "Ex-term-in-ate!" Yes, a Dr. Who reference. The thinly-disguised Daleks appear and invade and the only one who can negotiate with them is...the brain-in-a-jar. And they provide a nifty upgrade to his "body," too.
  5. You know, the ancient Egyptians used to put various organs in jars (canopic jars) as part of the mummification process. I know they didn't actually care about the brain (it was removed through the nose with a hooked stick) but suppose they did. Suppose there was a splinter sect of Egyptians that put the brain in a canopic jar. And suppose the brain can control its mummified body over any distance. You have an intelligent brain, literally in a jar, and a mummy for horror fans, and there can probably be several interesting attacks before anyone realizes that the shambling bandage-clad mummy is trying to gather the five (canonically four, but I added the brain, remember) canopic jars so that he can live again! For extra fun, is the Serpent Sphinx trying to stop him or help him? Bonus points if you can fit in some family relationship with Sekhmet or one of your players.

Charles Brown then reminded me of H. P. Lovecraft's "The Whisperer In The Darkness," where the alien mi-go (the fungi from Yuggoth) put people's brains in jars to transport them across space.

That's a possible origin for a brain in a jar character: brain placed in a container by the equivalent of the mi-go and the new dangerous container has been created for the character after the jar was "liberated" from the faux-mi-go and the original body was, erm, lost or terminated in an accident or worse won't be given back by the alien invaders. So both the original brain and the original body might be villain characters in your game, along with the other faux-mi-go, complete with interesting conflicting agendas.

(Distraction: Someone invented/found a cloning machine that pumps out a copy of person X every nine months...and no one knows how long it's been doing this. Maybe five years. Maybe fifty. Maybe five hundred. One of them is a PC. Not quite Orphan Black, but the PC gets involved in it when discovering another person who looks like him. And then an older one. And all of them are sterile, which has caused at least two of them to become...potential supervillains.... Okay, I'll stop now.)