I was thinking about supers games and some of the requests I have had for characters over time. “I want to be the strongest person EVER”; “I want to be just like Superman except I want my eye beams to freeze people”; “I want to be invulnerable to EVERYTHING”. Then I read the below tweet from RPG Gamer Dad. RPG Gamer Dad runs an awesome blog and podcast that focuses on gaming with kids. I just happened across it all today and because this is one of my passions too I suggest you go and take a look at it! But on to the tweets!
#HeroQuest session with GamerBoy & Girl concluded. INSANE loot. If you want OP PCs I recommend 6-year-old GM.
It was almost like a synergy and I responded;
@RpgGamerDad I was a big fan of OP PC’s right up to 12 🙂 Then I spent the next four years trying to have my bad guys catch up!
This to and fro got me thinking. In fact, generally, whenever I see a post that talks about kids playing RPG’s I always listen to them because kids can live in a world of make believe. Who better to talk to about making games about make believe than someone who sees it every day as a normal part of a day.
Supers are a good example. Games that are created for super heroes are designed to handle extremes. However supers give universal systems a run for their money. I never really did Universal games until I found FATE. GURPS is not me by any stretch and although I have been told I have to play Savage Worlds to appreciate it – the read through left me cold. FATE bought out the FATE toolkit to expand these ideas to handle areas the base rule kit could not handle.
The Cypher System from Monte Cook games takes supers as a base arena but it was with trepidation I think. I remember reading a tweet from Monte Cook or Monte Cook Games toward the end of play testing that said that it was a relief that supers ran so well and it was time to get the book out there!
People talk too much of balance in games. What we should be looking at balance from the perspective of would be the balance of fun. I looked at my reply and realised that I did spend much of my teens punishing players for how free and easy I had been in previous games. What is the point? The Hulk has troubles. Without them there would be no comic. Superman has his own issues, again there would be no comic without them. You don’t simply insert someone stronger to fight the Hulk (or Superman) because they are the strongest ever. That means there is no one else. To do so would be to cheat the player. But introduce something that needs softness, or humility and these heroes may find them a little out of their depth. They will have memorable interactions, not because of what they can do, but what they can’t.
That is not to say that you should target only weak spots. Have the thing that is attacking behind a bunch of goons that can be smashed. Have a tank drive out and let them throw it into orbit, but as the climax sneaks up, hit them with both barrels and see what they come up with!
Games are structured to be able to present a play session that can handle the expected. The expected can be fun and it is why some of the most famous games out there work. But if someone wants to play something different I think the real idea is to see what you can do to break the rules to allow it. In most cases this type of challenge generally comes along when new players to RPG’s give it a try. I have had this situation come up many times and I cringe now at the thought of me having this conversation;
Hi, my name is Jess and Tom told me a bit about how this works. I’d really like to play a ghost that has risen with the powers to make people visit their greatest regret and face it head on.
Hi Jess, I’m Mark and it is great that you are excited about this. Lets start from the beginning though as you can’t do that because…
I KNOW I have done this, and really what I should have said was;
Hey Jess, I’m Mark. That character concept sounds awesome. It would make the game so much more interesting. Lets talk about how you see it working and I’ll fit it into the rules.
A ghost that can make you face your deepest fears head on – AWESOME! To say no to that because it does not fit the powers in the book is a crime, or even that the supposition of the setting is that there is no such thing as ghosts. Change it unless it breaks everything you have ever done – make it fun and try to give the players what they want. Design to the player’s perspective of their character and make them memorable adventures that uses a balance of where their character can do what they were designed to, but be challenged by the things they did not foresee. A team group that can help out where a character is rendered helpless strengthens the social bonds of the group and makes for a great variety of play!
It was a happenstance meeting on Twitter that got me on to this but it has now got me thinking about everything I have done and how this would affect my games. RPG Gamer Dad and I tweeted back and forth a little building up a few ideas along these lines and it was fun coming up with these ideas. I have to leave you now to your pondering but please let me know what you think in the comments. I will be over at RPG Gamer Dad’s blog listening to some of the podcasts! Come and join me!