Thursday, May 31, 2012

Marvelous Miami - Half An Apocalypse

((I swear, I'll figure out how to schedule a post properly and reliably soon...this was set for 12 pm not 12am as intended.))

Did you think I was done talking about the Marvel game? Well, I'm not. Honestly, I haven't been this excited about a game I'm running in a long time. Don't get me wrong, I love all three games I am GMing (L5R, Deathwatch, and now this) but there is just something special here. Maybe it is my love for super hero stories, maybe it is the excitement of trying out a new system, or maybe it is just the "early story" jitters that we get when we're at the beginning of something and see only the possibilities. Either way, today I want to talk about what two of my players (granted, one may only be a now and then appearance) did and what it may mean for the game.

2 Out of 4 Ain't Bad
Now, if you remember from my Head Count post, one of the players is playing the Horseman Death. For those who didn't, yes, I mean Death. Someone (a winter court fae in this case) who has taken on the actual mantle of the fourth horseman of the apocalypse - not to be confused with the mutant Apocalypse and his propensity for naming people his horsemen.

You may also remember in the Head Count post that I mentioned the possibility of some alternates. People who may, or may not, be in the game on a regular basis or hadn't made a character yet. Well, one of those players decided to make Death's older sister, War. So now, I have two of the four harbingers of the apocalypse in my Super Hero game, and on the good guys' side to boot. Weird, no?

Don't Panic
Having incarnations of such power and universality in a game can be daunting to a GM. It is something that just happens with some games and the freedom they give, but that doesn't really help now does it. So, for this, I just need to keep this simple rule in mind: don't panic. Death and War aren't the only powerful characters in the game. In fact, while I don't think the player realizes it yet, there is someone in the party who is actually more powerful than them in both terms of raw power - game mechanics - and the utility of their powers. No matter what though, panicking - especially as a GM - does no one any good. So keep calm and go for it.

A Question of Scale
The first thing when planning the game that I need to do is adjust the scale for the game. Now, I was going for more "Avengers" level than "Young Mutants" level anyhow, so that is ok. We're already dealing with things of more importance than muggers and robberies at the local Ma and Pa grocers. Also, like I said, Death and War aren't the only heavy hitters in this group - they all are heavy hitters, I just liked calling this post Half an Apocalypse - so this would be the case anyhow.

Ultimately this means that my Action sequences - the 'Physical Threat' part of the story - need to scale up to something that is worthy of a response team like what the players bring. For this I can turn to both the Justice League and the actual Avengers - in comic and cartoon forms - for inspiration for the kind of events that can happen. The threats that the team faces as a team should be big and dangerous. The threats that they face as individuals should exemplify their various strengths and weaknesses.

Outside of Action, and there will likely need to be a good amount of outside of action, the game should focus on some more personal aspects. Superman stories are rarely about the physical threat - the good ones anyhow - because there just aren't many physical threats to superman. However, go after him on the psychological or emotional levels, and you can get a lot of fun out of him too.

Not Everything Needs To Be A Challenge
This is, in general, just a good rule to follow. It becomes especially true though when dealing with PCs that are of a significant power level. Not everything they do needs to be a challenge, and - to continue the thought - not every challenge needs to be the challenge they think it is. Spider-Man doesn't have any trouble stopping muggers and beating up thugs, but he does it for his own reasons. However, sometimes those thugs do present a challenge. Not because they're thugs, but because of outside factors that are there. This can be the key to focusing on what the character will do as opposed to can do.

Will Spider-Man jump in and use his usual flashy routine when someone else is in mortal danger? Will he give himself up if Venom has a hold of Mary Jane? What if it is just some other random person? The presentation to all of these threats is physical (armed thugs, venom, etc) but the actual challenge and pay off is emotional and mental. The danger doesn't have to be aimed at the PC for it to be felt. Just find something they care about.

Anything They Can Do...
The final thing to keep in mind, if you're absolutely desperate to challenge a PC on their own level, is to remember that anything the players can do you can do as well as a GM. Nothing is stopping me from bringing in Famine and Pestilence to fight against Death and War should the need arise, and when I do I can make them on par with the two players as easily as copying the sheets if I so choose. By extension, I can do the exact same thing with every other player in my game. Heck, the guy playing the Venom/Spider-Man clone has his story practically begging for it.

The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that the power, influence, and prestige your PCs bring to the table doesn't actually change much for you the GM provided you remember to keep calm and adjust the scale of the game accordingly. Sure, it means that "we saved the world, again..." can become a factor for the game, but that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't still fun, which is the core factor. As the characters get more powerful, spend more time focused on who they are as individuals. It helps space out the world crisises that will keep popping up, and let you have fun in unexpected ways with your players and their characters.

No comments:

Post a Comment