Kapow! Playtest Starting

Last night we started hashing out the parameters for a supers campaign playtesting my new Kapow! Superhero RPG System.  We didn’t actually generate characters because people wanted time to mull it over, but we discussed how it worked, and settled on some things about power level and tone.  To summarize:

  • Tone: serious, but not grim.  Superheroes don’t kill, and supervillains mostly don’t either (because it’s not their MO or they’re stopped by the superheroes).  No “Joker Syndrome”–if they catch a killer, the authorities can put him away for good.  Realistic consequences of property damage such as throwing a car or getting smashed into a building aren’t generally considered, but violence isn’t sanitized to the point where fighter planes blowing up are followed by a cut-away to all the pilots floating down on their parachutes, Saturday-morning cartoon style.
  • Scope: City-wide.  The adventures will mostly take place in a single city, but range all over the city rather than be focused on a particular neighborhood.  The PCs will be major players for their home city, but there are well-known groups and supers much more powerful than they.
  • Prevalence of supers: Supers are common, and have been so for a long time.  Every city probably has at least one hero, big cities will have a hero group, huge cities might have several.  A super group can expect to fight a wide variety of villains, not the same ones over and over. There’s a wide spread of power-levels, and many who have powers have minor ones and don’t use them to fight or commit crime.
  • Fictional Cities: the world will use fictional analogue of cities (a la the DC Universe) instead of real ones.  The players agreed they would rather not get hung up on their knowledge (or lack) of actual geography, distances, and characteristics of neighborhoods.  Play will take place in Beacon City, a fictional analogue of Boston.
  • Not SF.  The setting will be treated according to genre conventions rather than SF ones.  We just won’t explore logical implications of certain kinds of technology or proof that magic works and literal gods walk the Earth.  No explanation will be given or asked for as to why the world hasn’t changed in this or that way because of the existence of supernatural creatures, aliens from another world, artificial intelligences and so on.

Character concepts that people are leaning towards are:

  • Doug: John McClane from Die Hard as a super; he gets hurt but just keeps on going, and going.  Also has a prototype power-suppression device (used to restrain supervillains).
  • Elyssa: Namaste, a yogini who has yoga abilities exaggerated to the point of super-powers (much as various kung fu and karate-based superheroes).
  • Wendy: a Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, type complete with a big cat (lion or leopard) pet.  Possibly an ordinary woman who can transform herself and her housecat via a magic amulet.
  • Mike: a paraplegic with a transforming motorcycle/powered armor suit, or maybe a Sonic Blaster, he hasn’t decided yet.
  • Dan: a superspeedster who “moves through time at twice or more the rate of anybody else”, so he need to eat, breath, sleep, etc twice as often as everybody else, but can actually phase through solid objects (by going through the space before the Earth’s motion actually moves the object there?  I’m not sure I understood the comic-book physics of it.)