View Full Version : RPGs are different from comics

02-05-2010, 08:24 AM
I have to point out that role playing games are different from comic books and some established conventions of the comics just don't work in a game and must be done away with, or severely modified.
Non Heroic Subplots: Oddly enough, many superhero role playing games put a lot of emphasis on this sort of thing. They say it adds depth and interest to the character, but a role playing game is not a creative writing assignment ! And it's been my experience that no one plays a superhero game to be Clark Kent, they play to be Superman. Being normal is what we do when we aren't playing the game. It is good to have the non heroic I.D. As part of the character. It's ok to have stories start out with the character in his secret I.D. , But never let the secret I.D. be the focus. Get to the action and mystery.
Secret I.D. Plots: Sometimes in the comics a whole story will revolve around a hero trying to maintain his secret I.D. Such stories are usually humorous but they have to be, because they come dangerously close to reminding the readers just how silly, and basically dishonest secret I.D.S are. Plus plots like this have too much chance of the players failing.
Sidekick on His Own: A plot that revolves around a sidekick stepping out on his own can make a great story but players don't want to be sidekicks. And if a sidekick goes missing the players will probably get mad.
Romantic Complications: Players like having their characters find a girlfriend and might even enjoy a few plots revolving around their love interest (maybe her ex or her uncle is a super villain), getting married is even a good subplot too, but the game is primarily about superhero action, and players don't really want the GM roll playing their girl friends or doing a lot of personal interaction of this sort. It's just uncomfortable. So jealousy, and loneliness don't work in the game. (But a player who dumps his normal girlfriend for a Superheroin will always have to face some sort of revenge as the ex becomes a super villain)
Giving Up the Mask: In the comics Superheroes often struggle with the idea of giving up their costume and living a normal life, but here is no reason why a player would ever do that. Maybe you could make this work by having an N.P.C. concider it and let players convince him to continue the fight. This wont work unless the players know the N.P.C.'s secret I.D. Or he announces his intention to quit in front of them (perhaps dramatically taking off his mask as he does so).
Reluctant hero: This is a very popular plot device in fiction of all sorts, but it doesn't work in role playing games of any sort, because it means the GM Will have to force the players to play his game. Now once I saw a GM Who pulled it off with effective humor by having a blue lightning bolt shout "you, get on up that mountain !" that was great, but it's one of those "exception that proves the rule" kind of things. Really, the only reason anyone is playing is because they want to.
Funny Bad Guys: Think about the comics you've read where the bad guys were funny. You had a good laugh reading them, but did the hero have any fun ? no he didn't. That doesn't mean this can never work. Unlike the other devices on this list, I think you should try to use this one, but it's on the list for a reason. You have to be really careful using funny villains because they stop being funny really fast, especially once players start losing HTH. The best way to handle them is to make sure the players aren't the butts of the joke. Let the villain be funny enough that he doesn't have to belittle the heroes. And funny attacks should always cause stun tangle or hold type effects, not damage !
Coming to the Rescue: In the comics, Superheroes often rescue people from car wrecks, plane crashes, burning buildings and other mundane hazards. It shows that the heroes are really heroic and not just crazy people who trash the city with endless violence. This sort of thing can also make for exciting stories and give ordinary people a chance to be included, instead of just heroes and villains. The trouble is that, in a role playing game, these situations usually aren't much fun to play. Players simply describe actions and they work. If the GM Requires a die roll for a standard rescue, then the hero might fail and no one wants to be the hero on the scene when a civilian isn't rescued. Remember the game is supposed to be fun. However there are 3 ways to make a rescue work:
TRAPThe villains put people in danger to trap the hero
DISTRACTIONA call for help suddenly gets the heroes attention, the villain willhave to wait till later.
NARATIONThe scene opens with the hero completing a rescue, and as he isbeing thanked, the action begins.

The post starting this thread is actually a long quote from my game Super Crusaders RPG. I've posted it here for discussion I hope you'll enjoy it.
By the way, right now is not a good time to check out my game because I'm working on a new version of it. It wont be ready for a while yet and when it's up a lot of the stuff that's on my site now will be taken down.

02-05-2010, 10:20 AM
Actually it's the same in many other games. One of the Shadowrun missions has the team make a moral decision whether to kill a child or not.

It's a game folks. The team whacked her and demanded their nuyen. Same with blackmail. "If you don't do X I'll turn this tape over to the authorities." Yep, _that_ will scare them.

Part of it is how the GM runs it but if the team doesn't treat it like it's somewhat "real" as in "acting", then it's just a game of hack and slash.