A bit of GM thought rambling generated by our Session 1 of M-Hero/The Victors (Champs Now beta)…
So… first sessions are always awkward for me as a Gm, even when playing with long time partnerns in crime. I still feel stressed and like I'm groping in the dark to have something "stick" that will make the session work. (By "make" I don't mean GM sole decision, but more my ability to properly respond to what the players generate and and sew the discordant sounds into some kind of melody.)
Assuming players and characters have a few sessions under their belt, the ability to bubble some order out of the chaos becomes easier, because I learn what 'hooks' to jump on and feed back to the players. First sessions, that isn't there, yet. Often this bubbling happens in play via the NPCs and DNPCs of the players.
Before our Session 1, the PCs didn't have too many specific "people" named in the lives of their PCs. I asked them to each just give me one name, and a relationship… friend/lover/partner/rival/enemy, whatever. Specifically prompted, they all came up with something clear to start with… their key business partner who knows a lot, but not everything… the best friend and confidante… the lab rival who may or may not be an asset… the coach who might have a hidden past, etc. Good outlines… but I still had no idea what to do with them. They made sense why they would be "in the story" but not how they would be meaningful. I had an NPC I was introducing (young super heroine looking to connect, but on the run) that I had a strong voice for, but I felt stuck trying to figure out to bring the others into play. Only one had a cameo at the end, evoked by the player who created her, as a classic NPC handles the annoying paperwork moment. Not wrong, but hardly a momentous introduction.
Now, nothing went critically wrong here, and such NPCs can easily take on life in further sessions, but I was wondering about a more rule/mechanic based way to encourage the invocation of NPCs that drives eventing. I felt I would have liked a way to give me more of a nudge from the players on how I should use the NPCs.
I'm thinking that there could be something tied to an NPC/DNPC on the sheet that acted as some kind of "bennie" in the game. The player can "bring the NPC into play" for an advantage of some kind (gets them a key piece of information, access, resource, whatever) but this also signals the NPC is in play for GM plot.
Now, I realize this can be done by just urging the players to do this, but I find that mechanics as simple as chits/bennies/extra dice, whatever that are physical and represent "here… i'm using this game resource to activate this forward motion/eventing" tends to get a powerful and positive table response. Players 'lean in' when another throws a Luck chit in our other RDU Hero System games. The idea that such bennies could be tied to a DNPC, which encourages having one, letting them be seen as important to the PC, and getting a group reaction of "Ok… this character is in play now" can be very visceral and satisfying.
I think that such a thing could apply to any Disad in Champs Now/Hero or other system that does something similar… not just DNPCs. "Ok… I'm using contacting my old criminal buddy to find out where the arms deal is going down, but this will make me pop up on VIPER's radar, so…"
Thoughts? I know that I personally was hoping for this kind of thing from Champs Now… a very, very different approach to story telling wrapped arond the genius that is the classic Hero 3d6 task resolution bell-curve.