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.)

13 thoughts on “Kapow! Playtest Starting

  1. A feed! An LJ feed! Thank you. *mwah!*

    Upon reflection, Elyssa and I might have too much overlap on hand-to-hand combat abilities. Still considering…

  2. Just for you, because we like you that much. I don’t think you need to worry about overlap in quite the same way as in some other systems; after all, unless you declare it as a Disadvantage there’s no such thing as a “hand-to-hand” ability…you just need either a justification for hitting at range or for closing range. “I leap on him with my catlike agility and smack him” and “I hurl my knife at him” are equivalent and not even mutually exclusive. Something like “Jungle-Style Fighting” would easily encompass both, even if you didn’t want to specify a separate power to cover something like a whip or lasso (so as to have something also useful for swinging through the city).

  3. Here is a background story then:

    Ray Logan, aka Redline

    Anyone who follows superbike racing knows the tragic story of Ray Logan. Rookie of the year, future champion, the boy who holds the lap record at every track he ever raced.

    They know about the tragic accident. The they discuss why oil was not cleaned from the track, and why the guard rail padding was out of place during his practice runs. Some even wince at the leaked video showing his motorcycle plowing though the barrier, leaving the jagged metal edges that severed both of his legs.

    Very few know that his meteoric racing career paid for a degree from Stanford. Or that he is the owner and chief engineer at Top Dog Designs, manufacturer of top end motorcycle parts.

    Nobody knows about the designs he keeps for himself. The ion-flux disc engines that weigh 50 pounds but provide three times more torque than the best racing engine. The ultra-capacitor plating that not only provides multiple farads of capacitance, but uses that charge to strengthen the material. The neuro-mechanical interface that lets the human nervous system directly control computers. nobody knows about these things, because they aren’t completely finished, but they are finished enough.

    You see, Ray suddenly found himself the weakest of the weak. A handicapped man with no job, forgotten by his so called friends, but well within the sights of society’s predators. While he built Top Dog in the seedier part of the city, he saw crimes. He was mugged, his shop was robbed, his neighbors and workers lived knowing that all they had could be taken at any time, and few would do anything about it. So he did.

    Ray took all of his experimental designs and built Redline. Over 2000 horsepower from four ion-flux engines. Liquid fueled rockets for extra boost. An ultra capacitor shell invulnerable to bullets, and the ability to transform from the worlds fastest motorcycle to a humanoid mecha 8 feet tall. And when he is Redline, he can walk.

    As Redline he toppled the gangs that made his neighbors live in fear. He worked with the local police to keep the streets clean, and rooted out corruption that would let the gangs back in. Slowly the area under his protection grew, until any criminal in the industrial parts of the city feared the whine of his engines.

    And now he has been invited to band together with other heroes, to protect all of the city. The time has come to let at least a few others know his identity and start releasing his creations to the world. A few old enemies may learn his identity (through patent applications if nothing else), but with real friends to help, they should not be a problem.

  4. Nice. But it’s probably goofy for him to apply for patents on his tech unless he wants villains to know the weaknesses of his suit and to be fighting hordes of copycats as one of his Complications…

  5. The only other option is to wait until some science-savvy villain he fights takes a good look, figures out what he did, and patents the ideas himself. Then he receives a court order barring him from using “stolen technology”.

    It should be possible to mask the patents. The engine prototype that he patents is a 1/2 HP model that powers a toy or a wheelchair. The ultra-capacitor is patented as a battery replacement, not as armor.

    Then he can hit copycats with an Al Capone: we can’t prove that he robbed the bank, but we can prove copyright infringement. He can even draw up a license agreement between Big Dog Designs (which holds the patents) and “The hero known as Redline”. These would be kept secret unless needed, of course.

  6. I’m pretty sure that the villains in my campaign aren’t going to comply with court orders enjoining them from using unlicensed technology when robbing banks. Just saying.

  7. Not in this campaign, unless you make that an explicit part of your Complications. To me No SF means the legal system, too. Cross my heart, nobody is ever going to serve process on a superhero…I think the stories where Vandal Savage got the courts to impose a No Fly order on Superman were among the dumbest things the Silver Age ever produced. But suit yourself. If you want your character to have patented his technology because he’s worried about that, go right ahead.

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