How about that other superhero game I’m working on? And no, not Vigil, but the other other one, which I’m calling Cosmic Zap.
Quick review: this is work for The Chaosium, using HeroQuest as the chassis, specifically the HeroQuest SRD, itself a bit of a work in progress.
Here’s the logic of the project: they said, hey, we’re putting together the HQ SRD and we thought of you, and I said, “spoo!”, and “do I ever have Thed and Chaos and Gbaji and Rashoran whatnot for you!”, and they said, uh, that’s nice, but actually, we were thinking about superheroes. And I said, “super heroes, goddammit, I’ve been writing about nothing but for over two years and working on this new vigilante design thingie that Vincent and Jared are so excited about, then Hero Games seduced me into doing my dream project with Champions too, now you have one of the other top properties that I’ve wanted to work with all my my life, and you want me to do super heroes?!”
Then I got to thinking. My time with HeroQuest ranks among the top role-playing and perhaps even aesthetic experiences of my life, due to the system’s capacity for generating not just “fantasy” as most often construed, or even genuine fantasy as I fancy some few games manage (perhaps a couple of mine), but actually trippy-powerful fantasy-myth.
Hey. That means, if it can do that fantasy, it can certainly do this sort of superhero. The kind of things you paint your van about. “OK,” I said. “But this isn’t going to be a generic supers game, this is going to be that stuff I disturb people with at the blog.” Hippie Jesus, outer space is actually inner space, Cerebus goes to the moon, and have you ever really looked at your hands?
The game itself fell into place fast, since I knew already that the keyword system needed to be based on the concepts of Cosmic, Super, and Personal, that each one “overrides” the next, with Personal looping back around. As for the most deviant part from titular HeroQuest, that sprung from my brainstorming in less than a minute too, so most of the design is working out how to say it, rather than wondering what we’re doing. Now, here in this session, procedurally, it’s a total mess because I knew what it was supposed to do but not the best way to do that. Specifically, chain-GMing, player 1 does player 2, player 2 does player 3, but there’s also a “real” GM in a limited way.
The idea is this: whether or how what just happened affects what comes next is totally elective. I call it “irresponsible story,” in its complete lack of obligation to make it make sense and to draw it together – for which rising action is completely emergent, especially when no one is trying at all to engineer it. And even though my exact procedure is totally fucked in this session (it gets way better as we go; we’ve done four sessions as of this writing), it still actually worked.
For more thoughts on those precise functions, see the Monday Lab GM Half Full, as the second half of concern the design features of this game.
The video’s not that pretty; brace yourself for borked explanations and misapplied comprehension throughout, and there’s one NSFW moment which left us helpless with laughter but may not actually be entirely tasteful. But the shocking part of actually working is worth it, I think.
I’m not sure if Chaosium is OK with me sharing any document summaries of rules or anything like that, but I’m pretty sure it’s all right to include the starting character summaries that you’ll see built in this video.