Super good

Before anything else, permit me to clarify the photograph. Yes, that is the actual tram here in Norrköping, where our game is set. The Kungsgatan traffic circle it runs through, the site of the action in our session, is a short distance behind the tram in the photo; it is pretty big and notably empty inside, except for a few trees. One more thing: the photographer has apparently pulled a trick to imply that the local topography is similar to San Francisco. It is not. The elevation just traversed by the tram in the photo is about a fifth of what it seems there.

On to our game. It so happens that I had idly created some characters recently, rolling 3d6 for the attributes instead of basing them on anybody, and therefore purposing them as villains was the obvious preparation in the absence of character creation so far.

I must stress the morality embedded in the game. This is very idealistic superhero comics, grounded in the 1960s and 1970s nostalgia for a super-good Golden Age of Comics which was a fandom construction and in fact had never existed. Good is good, identified 1:1 with law-abiding and prosocial. Evil is evil, identified 1:1 with deliberate criminality and either negligent or malevolent harm toward others. You do good by preventing evil people from breaking laws, and in case you didn’t know this, the game text provides you with the contemporary New York state criminal code for reference thereto.

I did not want to deconstruct or subvert this in any way, but I did want to make it a tad more interesting. Given that one of the characters I’d casually created recently had Dimensional Travel, I defined a trio of extra-dimensional visitors, or actually lost in dimensionality, for whom our world was essentially the Star Trek evil mirror universe – nothing in it was good, as far as they could tell, and they would be, effectively, evil in hating everything about it and wanting to destroy it. By “effectively,” though, I mean really, i.e., they’ll destroy whatever they can, and it’s not all just a misunderstanding. Here are my original notes for them, although you should remember that a lot more sat in my head for which the notes act as trigger.

So Johan, Helma, and Filip joined me for play. Character creation took some time, as I wanted to do a thorough job with a lot of knowledgeable player choice, and to make sure that I wasn’t leading or directing anything. The game relies on the whimsical “whatever” feeling from the same comics I referenced above, which drew upon four decades of absorbed IP from multiple sources, so dis-unified and divergent powers and concepts are a big plus. We ended up with an alien fungus, a frog-themed psychedelic-magician, and a one-armed whip-wielder, united for the Good, Society, and the Law.

They didn’t write in their powers yet and played off their character creation notes, learning how they worked during play. I’ve summarized those here:

Part of character creation is rejecting one or two of the powers that you’ve rolled. In this case, Filip rejected Dimensional Travel, making his character the most grounded and human of the bunch … and significantly, severing a possible link to Goggles Girl that I was turning over in my mind before he did so. More generally, they coincidentally all include Heightened Endurance, meaning a rather durable bunch; note too that the dice produced a far more focused character for Doctor Fungus than one might have feared, given that Johan rolled maximally both for number of powers and for the number of powers inside the Plant/Fungus category.

And now for what happened! … with the serious criticism that I forgot the damage rules. When you get hit, you can divert some or all of the points away from your hit points into your Power. During play, I thought, “Wait, these guys are going down really easy, I don’t remember it working that way,” and I didn’t manage to page-flip to the right place to clarify anything. So now I might mess with some backstory or circumstances which led our foes to be taken down so hard, and consider that they have both the ability and the intention not to let that happen again.

Later, in summarizing play and preparing further, I was pleased to find some superhero silhouettes which matched our heroes perfectly.

It’s time for some more play!

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2 responses to “Super good”

  1. This post was a pleasure to read and listen to for several reasons.

    First, it convinced me that I MUST find a way of playing V&V. I’ve owned a copy of the second edition for decades and have many of the adventure modules, but I mostly used it for inspiration for my Champions games back in the day. I only played it once, and that was a little less than a year ago for somebody else’s game, and we used well-crafted pre-gens, which undoubtedly robbed the game of all the delightful spontaneity and discovery through play evidenced in this actual play.

    I love the way you all embraced the moral assumptions of the game. The silence among the players, when Ron introduced this aspect of the game, is akin to how I suspect many of the folks I play with would react, but Ron’s playful way of moving through what I read as mild trepidation and the players’ willingness to dive into and explore something that might not be their default approach was both instructive and refreshing, modeling both clarity of purpose and a healthy play culture.

    I also enjoyed watching all the players, especially Helma, dive into the superhero idiom. I say especially Helma because she’s previously expressed a lack of affinity for superheroes. However, she and the other players (with help from the character generation system), created charming characters in Hippie Frog, Dr. Fungus, and Stinger. You all took the idiom, made it your own, and played it better than perfect! And that’s not hyperbole!

    In my own experience, I started superhero gaming with the style of play y’all so beautifully demonstrated in this V&V session. However, by the 1990s, many factors (too complex to reflect on here) moved me into a far more authorial mode, where getting the look, feel, motivations, history, personality, and everything else about the superhero games I ran became of paramount importance. (I cringe and shudder thinking about that now, but that’s the way it was.) Champions Now helped me to course-correct, so that I can once again have fun in the discovery and imperfection of play, and watching you all figure it all out during play was one more reminder of the power (and sheer fun) of this approach!

    Oh, and I loved the Trio. Their disgust for our baseline reality, the interactions between each other and the heroes (as prompted by the reaction rolls), and their assault on the tram – it was its own thing, but it also reminded me (in the best possible way) of early Super Friends episodes and even a little of Giffen-DeMatties-Maguire era Justice League (specifically the Champions of Angor arc).

    Finally, I got a special kick out of Goggles Girl because the first TTRPG superhero my eldest daughter ever made was named Goggle Girl. She and her younger sister’s character, Owl Girl, fought rogue VIPER agents played for laughs in a Power Puff Girls-inspired SUPERS! Revised the game that I ran for them 15 years ago, when they were 6 and 3 respectively. Not surprisingly, those sessions were fun too in all of the important ways.

    • Regarding the Trio, I think I walked myself into a play-problem, even though I “solved” the initial concern that led me to make them.

      Briefly, they’re too precious and conceptual. I need criminals, not some deconstruction of the Good/Evil paradigm the game is founded on. I was happy with the tram attack as it was exactly my kind of desired solution for these characters, i.e., that when all is said and done, they fulfill the requirements for Evil … but I decided after playing that I had taken a very long circle around the mulberry bush to get where I could be simply by staying in place.

      It helps that I located a copy of the modern Swedish Criminal Code, so now I have a kind of … villain manual, as far as the game is concerneed.

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