Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Campaign Proposal: Mutant Dawn

My apologies again for last week's herk-da-jerk and even the late post on the fact that Monday would be a day off for the blog. Not sure what happened aside from life got away from me, and I'm hoping to get things back on track. As such, for the foreseeable future the goal is to have posts done, ready, and up by 12:00pm EST as opposed to the normal 8:00am. Maybe this will grab more readers, maybe not. We'll find out.

Anyhow, today is another entry into the 'Campaign Proposal' series. This series is one where I make a proposal for a game that I would like to run, but for various reasons I can't right now. It goes over the basics of the Who, What, When, Where, and How (the Why will be different depending on PCs) and you can feel free to grab any ideas you want from here for your own games. Many of these won't be super unique, as I tend to find that a simple premise that the PCs make complex naturally works a lot better.

Mutant Dawn
Marvel Comics' X-Men comic book has run a long time with a simple backdrop to help add social and mental tension to what is otherwise an action packed story. The hook is namely this: the super heroes are not accepted by society. Humanity fears mutants, fears the coming of evolution, and fears the teenagers that are running around with the ability to out fire-power a platoon of Marines. Stories told over the years have shown both sides of these, and the general theme of the book seems to be acceptance. The X-men work for a world where mutants are accepted alongside normal humans. Many of the villainous mutants they face work for a world where Humanity is put in its place and mutants take their rightful place as the new dominant species.

It is a backdrop that is full of tension and, more importantly, choices to be made. While I am sure it has been done before, I want to set a game here.

I can't think of a much better time to set this story than in the 'now.' Right now, especially with the social media explosion, it is a great time to have a story about this taking place. Extremism on both sides is rapidly apparent, and the real world is full of great - and famous/public - figures to base your own key people around. Need someone that is anti-mutant? Grab one of the anti-gay activists and just switch "gay" with "mutant."

The added benefit is that the real world is one that most people are comfortable with. We can visualize a smart phone, we can visualize an SUV. We can do these things because we see them all the time. Mostly though, the presence of things like Facebook, Twitter, and the internet for all sorts of news and global communication just makes things too sweet.

Generally stories like this are told in a big city (read: New York.) However, I don't see a reason to necessarily do that. The issue at hand here is global, and as such there isn't a need to tie the PCs down to one city or location. That said, it does make things easier to keep people tied to one location, especially in the early stages before the PCs band together under one common banner, whatever that may be.

The idea here is that the PCs would all be new mutants. This can cause problems in a superhero RPG because there are always folks who want to dictate their own origin. While the story could be made about the difference between Supers and Normals, you lose some of the punch the mutant angle has. Mutants aren't aliens, nor do they have magic. They are born with something that enables them to do more, which brings up a lot of lifestyle issues. Any sanction against mutants is a sanction against someone who was simply born different, and who - for the first chunk of their life - thought they were just a normal person.

Magicians, Science Experiments, Tech Heroes, normal 'trained' heroes, and even aliens have made a choice some where along the way (usually anyhow.) But a mutant? They didn't get a choice. They were born that way, and it adds a lot of tension to things.

That said, if someone wanted to play a normal human involved in the social aspect, I could see about making room for it. However, this would essentially be playing the game in 'Nightmare' mode, so the player would have to be very sure (and mature) about it.

The How is probably the easiest. The game would - at least to start - be low power level. You put work into establishing the "who" behind each PC. Who are they before they find out they're a mutant? How do they act? This could take a session, or maybe even two depending on what happens. Then, have some sort of traumatic event happen to cause the eruption. GM Bonus points if you tie the event so the powers that emerge would let the person survive what is going on.

From there, it is down the rabbit hole. Do they keep it secret? Does how they end up coming into their power allow that? Do their friends feel ok with it? Family? What do you do when you're a mutant and your parents are constantly complaining that the state doesn't do enough to control mutant activity?

The idea is to keep the focus as much on the social as you do on the action. If possible, and when possible, use the action to bring the social tension into play. A PC saves people from an out of control roller coaster, but then everyone freaks out and runs because they're a mutant. The police get called in, and the act gets billed as an act of "Mutant Aggression" despite the PCs attempts to help. How long do they stay straight and narrow? Would a small person saying thank you, or not being afraid of them, help keep them grounded?

Ultimately, the question would be which side do you come down on when most of the world hates and fears you? Do you strive for acceptance, or work to take a "rightful" and more elevated place in society?

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