Category Archives: Fluff/Inspiration

No capes!

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Capes, costumes, secret identities are the common tropes of the superhero genre. But there are people who think that adult men and women clad in skintight spandex suits with masks and fancy capes just look silly. Recent superhero movies have done away with skintight suits in most cases (and replaced them with leather suits for example) and the superhero cartoon “The Incredibles” gave us a lot of arguments why capes are just evil!

So, can you pull of a superhero campaign without some of the most common superhero tropes? Sure. Look at the superheroes TV show “Heroes“. There you have people with incredible powers but no capes, no costumes, no secret identities, no silly names. In my opinion the premise of “Heroes” could make a great base for a superhero campaign.

  • Origins
    Most (if not all) characters have the same origin. Let’s just go the X-Men/Heroes route and they all have some genetic mutations that give them super powers. Call them mutants or homo superior, whatever tickles your fancy. Another possible origin could be super powers that are caused by nano bots in the supers’ bloodstream (like in the computer game “Deus Ex”). Whatever it is it should be grounded in natural science. No magic, no aliens, no gods!
  • Secrecy
    Superpowers are real, there are heroes and villains, but the majority of the world has not taken notice of them. Most supers keep their powers secret in fear of being repressed by normals or not to become a guinea pig for ruthless scientists who want to find out the secret of their powers.
  • It’s the world as we know it
    You don’t need to make changes to the world as we know it. Everything is pretty much the same, there are just a few people starting to dicover their emerging powers. Perhaps add in a secret organization that controls supers (like the Company in “Heroes”)
  • Start small
    If I would start a Heroes-inspired campaign I would probably use Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition. A good starting power level would be around 5 or 6. During the campaign you of course can rise that level as it suits the story.
  • Grey is better than white
    As we’ve seen in Heroes, most “heroes” have their bad sides. No one is 100% perfect like most Golden Age heroes. The player characters should have some flaws too. Let even the villains have some redeeming qualities.
  • Not everyone is super
    A PL 5 or 6 campaign should allow you to add people without any super powers to the team. It could be someone like Hiro’s friend Ando or Dr. Suresh, the scientist, who is trying to find and help these special individuals.  
It could also be interesting to let the players create their characters without any powers first. So they start like normal humans and the GM grants them some powers during the first adventure. So the players have to find out what their powers are first.         

The character concept should always be viable without the powers. Nathan Petrelli from Heroes for example was (and still is)  a politician first before he even knew about his flying ability, Sylar was a watchmaker, Hiro a corporate employee, Clair Bennett is still going to school. Keep that in mind when you create characters. A superhero that is focused on his super powers alone without any other skills is not recommended for that kind of campaign.

I am still trying to convince my gaming group that we should do a superhero campaign. Perhaps if we go the “Heroes” way, I can win them over. 🙂
 
Note: The ChattyDM is hosting this month’s RPG Blog Carnival. The topic is “Super Heroes in RPGs” and this post is my contribution.

Tales of Asecia

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“Tales of Asecia” is a short story (or a start of something more, who knows…) set into the world of Asecia I wrote some time ago. Perhaps it helps to set the mood for what I have in mind with my campaign setting in the making.

It was raining again. But even the heavy rain couldn’t clean up the smog-filled air in Cerynia’s industrial district. The streets were filled with tired workers of all ages who slowly made their way to their homes. Their individuality was robbed by the dirt, oil and grease on their faces and clothes. Since it was late autumn, sun was already down and only the white-blue light of the magic powered streetlamps shone upon the wet cobblestone street. Tycho Starkweather was working his way through the crowded side-walk. It was obvious that the adventurer didn’t belong here. The most obvious sign was the heavy leather coat he was wearing that was clearly of Tovenari design and the rifle he carried in a scabbard on his back. If the wide-brimmed hat and the bad lighting hadn’t concealed his features his looks would have been another indication of him being foreign to these parts. With his right hand he pulled a golden pocketwatch from his coat. It was almost eight o’clock. His informant had asked him to meet at a local tavern this evening. This was most unusual, so Tycho had made sure he was well-armed. Cerynia’s industrial district was a dangerous place especially if you were an agent for the Principality.

The tavern was a small brick house near one of the major Cerynian factories. When Tycho arrived there were a few workers sitting at the tables, playing cards, talking about their work or drinking. The common room was filled with the stench of sweat, beer and tobacco. But the room was pretty well lit by the warm light of gas lamps and the fireplace provided a comfortable warmth. Behind the bar a large muscular man was standing, chatting with some patron about the latest sports events. While heading for the bar, Tycho searched the room with his eyes. Still no sign of his informant. “Excuse me, gov’ner. We allow no guns in ‘ere”, the tavern’s owner said to him. Only now Starkweather noticed that the man’s right eye was blind and that his face was scarred. He had obviously been the victim of a knife fight or one of the many industrial accidents. Without a word Tycho produced a scroll from his pocket and showed him to the one-eyed man. “Oh, I didn’t know you had a permit of the mayor. No offense, gov’ner. ‘Ave a seat and take a beer on the ‘ouse!” the man exclaimed. “Thanks, good man”, Tycho replied and sat down.

He had almost emptied the pint of beer when suddenly the door swung open and three men with a grim demeanor entered. They were all heavily built and were wearing blue workers clothes and heavy boots. And all of them were armed with heavy clubs. “Starkweather, this is your last beer. Drink up and come with us”, one of them cried out. With a sneer he added “If you don’t I will have to crush that pretty face of yours.”
His companions were laughing out when he said that, obviously enjoying the idea. Slowly Tycho turned his head towards the ruffians. “If I were you, I wouldn’t make any claims I could not fulfill” he said slowly. The three men came slowly closer, clubs in hand. The tavern’s patrons were retreating from the intruders and the owner hid behind his bar mumbling something like “please don’t break anything”.

Without further warning the leader of the ruffians swung his club trying to hit Starkweather. But the man in the leather coat dodged his attack with incredible speed. And before the three could react he already held one of them at the throat and lifted him up from the ground. With astonishment the bullies watched as their friend was thrown through the common room as if he were a mere puppet. Then the speaker of the group realized that Starkweather must be one of the mages, one of the few people gifted with the talents of magic. And now they saw the white-blueish flame-like aura around him, as he concentrated for his next spell.  “Please don’t!” the first ruffian cried out, throwing his weapon to the ground, “We surrender. We were just doing what the boss told us.” Tycho’s aura slowly faded and he approached the two men. “Tell your boss, that I am tired of his games. Now help your friend up and take him to a healer.”
He then sat down on his stool again and emptied his glass. “Could you pour me another pint, good man?” he asked the barkeeper.

And while the ruffians were fleeing with their hurt companion, Starkweather’s informant finally arrived. “It’s good to see you again” he said, as the beautiful young lady entered the room…

(To be continued …?)

I have to admit it’s not easy to write prose in a language you are not 100% fluent in, but I hope you enjoyed it nevertheless.

Dungeoncraft: Winds Of Change

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The world of Asecia is a world constantly in the flux. That’s true in several ways. The campaign I am planning will start with a revelation that will change the world for years to come. On the other hand my thoughts about the world, my ideas are constantly changing, evolving, developing. When I wrote the first sentences in August the concept of avatars hasn’t been there yet and the world in mind looked much like Europe in the Victorian age with some magic thrown in. Asecia has changed a lot in the last weeks.

When you read all my Dungeoncraft articles in one session you’ll probably noticed that there are some things that don’t quite fit. That’s because Asecia is a world under construction. And sometimes I even introduce a new idea while I am writing it all down. My plan is to sit down in the end and write a definitive guide to Asecia. So please bear with me.

The look and feel of Asecia
During the last week I decided to make Asecia a more dark and gritty world as it has been before. But don’t fear it will turn into some horror game. Although there are already some horror elements (like the secret of Rivenar), there will be a lot of space for heroic adventure.
The major cities in Asecia have grown enormously in the last few decades and the industrial revolution is present everywhere. The outskirts of the cities are dominated by factories and the homes of the poor worker class. The city centers are usually the home of the more influential people including mage families and rich industrialists. The cities are always bustling with activity, heavy-duty industrial golems are transporting goods or constructing new buildings, airships are high up in the skies bringing passengers and cargo to their destinations.

Technomancy
Initially Asecia was planned as my version of the Arcanum world from the computer game of the same name. But early on I decided that it was much cooler to combine technology and magic instead of having a magic-tech dichotomy. This combination of both worlds is called Technomancy. Technomages from the Principality of St. Michael are using advanced technology and millenia old magical techniques to create wondrous contraptions like the war golems that are in use in many armies of the world or the airships that are the backbone of modern transportation.

Hinterland
In Asecia the cities are points of light in a dark world. Most of the hinterland is unsafe for travelers, forests are the home to many dangerous beasts that pose a danger to the communities in the area. From time to time local rulers and the central goverments send out their troops to make sure the trade lanes are kept safe. There are also a lot of ruins dotting the wilderness and many adventurous types try their luck and venture into these dark places in the hopes of finding lost treasures.

Adventurers
There are many opportunities for adventurers in Asecia. Although its a time of peace, the different nations use several methods to get advantage of the other nations. They employ spies, saboteurs, sometimes even mercenaries. In recent years many of the nations of Asecia have paid adventurers to fight monsters in the hinterland or protect caravans, because it’s usually cheaper than to send the army.
Often adventurers and mercenaries are hired as bodyguards or to help solve crimes when the local police doesn’t have enough manpower or skill to handle the situation at hand.

Clothes make the man
Clothes have been always an easy way to show off your wealth and standing. And this is still true in modern day Asecia. High ranking mages often wear the traditional sorceror robes. But a lot of younger mages combine modern suits (double-breated jackets are currently in fashion) with a lighter version of the mage robe (much like the lawyers and judges of our world, who have to wear special robes of office). The modern Asecian man usually wears a suit, leather shoes and a leather coat and hat for protection against the elements. People better off usually wear suits created out of better and more expensive cloths. The most expensive cloth is mageweave which has threads of pure magic woven into the fabric, that make it more sturdy and creates an elaborate magic line pattern.
Women in Asecia usually wear dresses but in recent years women have started wearing trousers, too, much to the dismay of traditionalists. The favorite fabric for clothing is wool but often leather is also used, especially for coats and heavy jackets. Clothes for craftsmen, technomancers and adventurers often have a lot of pockets to help store all the tools and equipment these people need.

“You’re in the army now”
The armies of the Asecian nations have been reformed greatly over the last decades. Armies of force-drafted peasents are now replaced by smaller armies consiting of highly trained individuals. The standard soldier wears a woolen uniform, sometimes an armored coat, leather boots and a wide-brimmed leather hat or a metal helmet. A modern soldier carries a rifle and has a large knife or a sword for defense in close quarters.
In earlier times most officers where sorcerers but nowadays there are only a few mages in the armies.
The age of industrialisation has brought the introduction of large numbers of war golems to the battlefield and airships allow the quick transportation of troops through the air. 

This concludes this episode of Dungeoncraft. I hope you have a clearer picture of Asecia now. If you have any questions or criticism let me know in the comments below.