From the Champions Now! Question Outpost:
Joel Davis – Ron, if I understand the playtest document (plus everything you've said in your videos), the campaign is built around two premise statements:
- A defining trait of superheroes, supervillains, or powers in the campaign
- Campaign themes in a campaign location
To wrap my head around this, I thought of some actual comics and pin down those two statements. For example, Batman:
- Criminals are a cowardly superstitious lot
- Crime and corruption in a gritty metropolis
Since you suggested not defining power sources, the X-men might be:
- Heroes and villains battle to determine the fate of mankind (or mutantkind).
- Coming of age in Westchester
However, in your San Antonio session zero, you gave the example of the Fantastic Four as "Technocosmic." Doesn't that define types of powers and sources? If so, would the defining power statement for the X-Men be "Mutants"? Since these premise statements really seem to set the scope and feel of the campaign, some more advice for crafting good ones would be appreciated. Thanks.
Ron Edwards – Hi Joel! I have yet to arrive at the perfect teaching-phrasing for this, but for the first statement, the idea is to describe any or all of "super-powers, heroes, villains," "powers as social phenomenon," or "look-and-feel." Just one will do though.
That's why "techno-cosmic" is good but "mutant" isn't. We all know what the first means, but the second will only take on meaning within this exact fiction, so it's not a reference point for getting into our fiction.
Also, it's super, super tempting, but don't use a comics title.
In your case, you were going the other way, saying, "for a comics title, what would they be," and that's OK strictly as an exercise for discussion. It's not intended to be a useful technique, believe me, I know the hard way. To do this, we need to go by year and specific creative team. In that case, "techno-cosmic" is referring very definitely to the Fantastic Four in 1966-67, when the Inhumans and Galactus and whatnot boomed, and when things got very Ragnarok-y over in Thor.
For the second statement, and if we're doing this reverse-engineering from the comics strictly as an exercise, then it's worth considering just what really happened in the comics. The New X-Men (1977) weren't coming-of-age, they were all in their twenties at least and the whole "school" thing was pretty much an anachronism at that point; also, they may have been based in Westchester, but the series itself was aggressively international, and focused strongly on a minority's place in the world, especially more and more as things went on.
I'm kind of rushed right now so this may not be the best-phrased or most pedagogical answer – let me know what helps or makes sense.
Joel Davis – Thanks for your thoughts. I knew the statements I suggested were highly debatable, but you are correct that I was doing it more as modeling exercise. Your point regarding specific titles and eras makes complete sense.
I'm still trying to wrap my head around these statements, but it sounds like they need to have a concrete (single) meaning that can be approached from multiple viewpoints as to allow a broad range of options for player applications.
alanb – I'm struggling a bit with these statements too. I've come up with some that work, but the ones that aren't quite so serious/Grimdark aren't quite coming together.
For example, the following doesn't quite work for me. I might be overthinking it, but it says nothing about who the villains are:
- Australia's Greatest Heroes are based in… Toowoomba?
- Classic superhero action/adventure in 'Straya, mate'. Based in (but not limited to) Toowoomba, Queensland.
This might not work for more serious minded players!
My assumption is that the players will pick up any premise and run sideways with it. I certainly hope they would. So in this case, they would decide how much is "Hometown Heroes" and how much is globetrotting internationalism.
And yes, "Hometown Heroes" is a possible premise too, especially for those of us who don't live in Big Cities.
At some point I might rant on about that: Smallviile, Happy Harbor, Westchester…
Joel Davis – Alan, I think you're right on players affecting the scope of the campaign (hometown vs. international). As for the villains, I think they will be born from the development of the player characters, and will fall under the premises specified. This is why I am giving a lot thought to these two statements. These statements are the cornerstone for the entire campaign, setting the tone and direction for player choices, and I could see the choice of statements making the difference between fizzling out after a few sessions and Strike Force.
alanb – My hesitation about the villains is that the players have to come up with them without any guidance.
Mechanically, it's about Hunteds, of course, but that's not the real problem.
"Running sideways", as I described it, is good, but "brain freeze" isn't. New players, especially, won't be able to come up with suitable villains without prompting. In theory, of course, the villains they come up with will be things the GM would never thought of. But they still will tend to sit there and look at you unless you prompt them.
I'm tempted to mention that Ron taught at a US college/university. He knows what students do. (I've never taught, but I was one.)
Santiago Verón – Oooo, I want to try my hand at this!
* There have been superpowered people in all cultures for the past two centuries, but superheroics is a mostly American phenomenon, like baseball, wrestling, stand up comedy and – sorry- public mass shootings.
* Superheroes and supervillains in Argentina, dating at most ten years old, some fashioned strictly in the American style and some acknowledging local, forgotten superpowered traditions.