Thursday, September 4, 2008

RPGs and Superheroes

It'd be my wife that got me into role-playing games: she being a long-time gamer, and me, well, not. I'd never had much interest in them before, but after sitting around the table with her friends who'd she'd been playing with for nearly 20 years (a fully co-ed group of surprisingly well-adjusted, sociable people), I kind of warmed to it. The fact that the group has built their own superhero universe that has a 20-year history documented in a 500-page "bible" makes it all the more intriguing to me. Hell, their universe is at this point the third richest/longest running superhero universe outside of DC and Marvel.

It's all terribly geeky, I know, but quite enjoyable.

I had played the MMORPG City Of Heroes/Villains for about two years, but I was mostly keen on character creation and not so much the dull, repetitive nature of trying to "level-up" my vast assembly of characters. Real paper'n'dice RPGs are far more interactive (although can prove frustrating depending on the staunchness of the players to adhering to rules) ans so the characters I enjoyed playing in City of Heroes have been transferred over into the paper universe, where I'm enjoying them quite a bit more.

Devon's post yesterday reminded me of the set-up for an RPG... (pick out your Tank, your scrapper, your controller, blaster and defender). I certainly looked at is as a challenge of not "who would be most effective" but "what characters would be most interesting/entertaining to play or play with".

Earlier this year I started my own "campaign", modeled after the epic crossover miniseries of the 1980's, and it's a tremendous amount of work, coordinating the story, and collaborating with the other GMs and players to ensure no toes are being stepped on. When it comes right down to it, it must be partly what if feels like for Geoff Johns or Brian Bendis when they sit down to put one of these behemoths together. I have a new respect for the event comic, anyway, if not the end result at least the challenges that go into making them.

At this point, though, I don't see my role as GM so much as storyteller, and if anything I like constructing these games because it's a form of collaborative storytelling. At the end of each game I scrawl out a 10-page summary of the game, written in prose, which makes for some pretty entertaining reading (though directed at one of the smallest audiences possible... and yes, I sometimes have far too much time on my hands). I have to wonder, are there any writers that do this? Are there comic writers that sit down, construct a story, roll some dice and figure out how their story will pan out or how their characters will fare? That would be silly.

Or would it?

3 comments:

TTTWLAM said...

As someone who's played almost every super-heroic RPG released since around 1983, I'd LOVE to read more about your wife's group and their game. Do they have a website or an e-group?

(I'm a Champions/HERO System guy myself, and if you know the geeky gamer archetypes, I'm a Genre Fiend of the highest order. I've been lucky enough to find a great group of like-minded players, and we've played together--with only minor lulls--for almost 15 years.)

Since I've been in the dicing trenches for so long, I'm curious about your your "newcomer" perspectives and GMing style and such.

Graig Kent said...

hey tttwlam,

well, the system we're using is based off DC Heroes v.3 but it's more of a guideline for rules than anything (we occasionally use Feng Shui in another gaming universe we distract ourselves with from time to time).

The gaming group has seen more than a few players come and go, but there's been a core group of four or five (my wife included) that have been together from the start that have a great love for the universe.

There's nothing on-line (that's public anyway) about the universe. The group like to keep things close.

Nearly each regular has a different ongoing campaign they run, all of them superteams from different regions of the parallel earth.

For my campaign, I wanted to toy with standard GMing practices and instead of playing with a new team, I'm playing with an "Event Comic" idea where I have them build new teams for some games to execute certain parts of the story and sometimes co-chair other games with existing teams to tie it into the universe as a whole. Each game is stand alone but weaves with the others (Morrison Seven Soldiers style)... I'm run the games less concerned with the rules and more concerned about getting a good story going.

Thus far I have about 80 pages of notes and almost 40 pages of prose summaries and we've only done 4 of the 8 games. Drop me a line on my gmail account (geekent) and we can chat further.

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