Kapow! Introductions

We had our first real session of Kapow! on Sunday.  Mostly the group just role-played through getting together.  Mike D’s character Redline is putting up a warehouse to serve as the group’s base, and started the ball rolling by getting in touch with the sole remaining member of the Beacon City Police Squad, Public Defender (Mike B’s character).  He figured that, even though the Police Squad had been stood down by the city after cost overruns and a disastrous mistaken battle with the world’s premier super-team, the Astralnauts, they might have some idea of where to find some supers who would be willing to form the core of a new, private team.  Public Defender ran it by Captain Carlson, who didn’t want to hear anything about it or anything that would lead to the Department being seen even remotely to be involved in forming a new team, however unofficial.  That said, he conveniently went for a cup of coffee leaving the file containing the information PD was looking for open on his desk.  From this PD gleaned the name The Wraith (Doug’s character) and set out to contact him.

Oddly, before he could do so, the Wraith (a former undercover officer with the Police Squad) showed up…the Wraith has good sources of information.  Using his myriad contacts throughout the city, the Wraith tracked down some potential recruits and persuaded them to go to the warehouse where the group’s not-so-mysterious backer would meet them.  There was a certain amount of hilarity as Doug strove to find exactly the mysterious voice he wanted to use for his character…particularly because it strayed perilously close to Montgomery Burns at times (“From time immemorial mankind has dreamt of … blotting out the sun!  Er, forming a group of do-gooders, I mean. … Eeexcellent.”)  But they all showed up anyway:

  • Redline, Mike D.  Founder of the group, paraplegic ex-motorcycle racer and inventor of the powered armor that transforms into a motorcycle; or is it a motorcycle that transforms into powered armor.
  • Akela, or Jungle Gal as she’s called by the press, and her jaguar Nushka.  Wendy was busy with Google, as you can see.
  • Namaste, the yogini, Elyssa.  Super strength, flexibility, breath control, and mental tricks, plus the power of Karmic Retribution.
  • Public Defender, Mike B, a force-field projector.  Police officer, last member of the disbanded official police superteam Police Squad.  The rest turned in their equipment, but it was built into Public Defender, so…
  • The Wraith, Doug, mystery figure in a trench-coat, with gloves that can drain super powers and stun.
  • Andrew Jackson, Dan, no super name yet.  Has-been extreme sport star with the power to phase through solid objects.

Together they form….  um, actually, the group hasn’t settled on a name yet.  I’m sure they’d be grateful for suggestions.

After their introductions, they did a little light sparring so the players could get used to the system and the characters “wouldn’t seem like a bunch of big doofuses in their first battle”, to quote Mike D.  That went pretty well, though I realized that I hadn’t fully defined how control powers work if they don’t achieve a “knock out.”  (I have since rectified this: a partial victory lets the controller command the target to perform one action, then the control lapses.)  It went pretty quickly, anyway, and I expect it will be quicker still once people get the hang of it.

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.)

This Looks Like A Job For…

This month’s blog carnival, hosted by The Chatty DM, is on the theme Super Heroes in RPGs.

Superhero RPGs are actually one of my favorite genres, though my current game group….well, let’s just say that our last couple of attempts didn’t work out.  I don’t want to be pointing any fingers at Badger Lord (Master of the Super-Sonic Tunneling Vampiric Badgers) or Kikko-Man (chinese food delivery bicyclist with the power to create illusions…of chinese food), but it’s never really clicked as a campaign.  I’ve had much better luck with one-shots where the PCs have super-powers, but the setting doesn’t assume any of the standard superhero tropes.

In the past, though, ah, the glorious past….

I believe our very first super-hero campaign, back in High School, used Superhero 2044, the very first superhero RPG ever, but we played them all at one time or another: Superworld (one third of the Worlds of Wonder),  Villains and Vigilantes, Champions…I don’t really remember much about it, although I do recall that it had a somewhat unusual setting (it all took place on an island nation in the year 2044) and that my brother Alex’s character in that, a super-speedster called Silver Streak, was carried over into successive campaigns as we tried new systems.  I think that was also the original home of an NPC hero that reappeared in campaign after campaign of mine, PyroMan of the International Agency Command.

The next one we tried was Villains and Vigilantes, which I remember mostly for its generation of super-powers via rolling on random charts.  Thus was born one of my only PC super-heroes of that era (since I mostly GMed): Kodiak, Bear Detective… a private eye who could shapeshift into a bear and had laser-beam eyes.  I decided that the bear form was actually his real one, and his power let him shapeshift into human form.

Somewhere in between Villains and Vigilantes and Champions, I created a home-brew system, and most of our super-hero gaming was done in that, though towards the end of High School we did some gaming with Champions.  I liked it a lot, but most of my gaming group didn’t want to be bothered with the bookdeeping, either for character generation or playing out the combats.  They were much happier with the freewheeling style of my home brew.

Notable characters of that period include:

  • Silver Streak: super-speedsters, perrenial in every system
  • Thunder-Fist: martial artist with kinetic energy absorbtion powers that gave him an “Iron Fist” like attack.
  • Defender of Israel: an Israeli Captain America, played by my brother’s Israeli girlfriend
  • The White Princess of Oz : I think this was played by my kid sister…
  • Megaman: powered suit that gave the user one super-power at a time, based on Ultra Boy of the Legion of Superheroes; this was about 7 years before the Capcom game…

In college and beyond, I played a lot of Champions, but that’s a story for another time…