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Old 04-17-2017, 10:08 AM   #1
Buzzardo
 
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Default Advice for the Supers GM?

I'm toying with the possibility of running a Supers campaign. I've been GMing fantasy since GURPS 1e in 1986 and, before that, in the Arduin Grimoire since 1977. However, I've never done a Supers campaign, so I have some questions for the folks who have done it (and others with informed opinions):
  • What point total works well?
  • How can the GM challenge characters at that point total? (I've GM'd a 300-point campaign with characters that grew to 400 or so points.)
  • How do I keep it from bogging down?

Thanks, folks. :)
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Old 04-17-2017, 10:23 AM   #2
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Default Re: Advice for the Supers GM?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Buzzardo View Post
I'm toying with the possibility of running a Supers campaign. I've been GMing fantasy since GURPS 1e in 1986 and, before that, in the Arduin Grimoire since 1977. However, I've never done a Supers campaign, so I have some questions for the folks who have done it (and others with informed opinions):
  • What point total works well?
  • How can the GM challenge characters at that point total? (I've GM'd a 300-point campaign with characters that grew to 400 or so points.)
  • How do I keep it from bogging down?

Thanks, folks. :)
It really depends on the type of supers.
For me Supers really start at 500 pints and Four Color can be several thousand.
However I could see a street level or Pulp Supers on 250.
Can you provide a few examples?
Challenge also depends on the genre, but can be other equal or more powerful foes, organizations, character driven, etc.
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Old 04-17-2017, 10:50 AM   #3
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Default Re: Advice for the Supers GM?

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Can you provide a few examples?
Think City of Heroes (which I loved and still miss). So I guess that'd be ordinary people discovering they have powers and doing something with them.
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Old 04-17-2017, 11:26 AM   #4
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Default Re: Advice for the Supers GM?

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Think City of Heroes (which I loved and still miss). So I guess that'd be ordinary people discovering they have powers and doing something with them.
I'm not familiar with that. But my recommendation with this is to build the characters at a fairly low power level, maybe 250 or 300 point, but provide for them to grow rapidly.

Thoughts:

* If you really mean "ordinary people," have the players first build characters on, say, 75 points, though perhaps with up to 50 points allowed for disadvantages to give more flexibility. Then have them take maybe 100-200 points in abilities of a power, depending on how "super" you want them to be at the outset.

* Don't start them out with power talents. Let them save up earned points to buy suitable talents.

* Instead of just giving out large amounts of experience, you could give them each around 100-150 "reserve points" that they can use to buy new powers after they develop Talent, or to buy their existing powers up to higher levels.

* You might also award each character a "secret advantage" of your choice, costing say 5 or 10 points, but worth 10 or 20, and allow them to spend earned points on paying the remaining cost after they figure out what the advantage is. I did that in a fantasy campaign and it worked well.

Note that I've run a GURPS Supers campaign where the PCs were built on around 1500 points. It went well; I was satisfied with the workability of GURPS at that power level. But it might not fit your premise.
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Old 04-17-2017, 11:36 AM   #5
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Default Re: Advice for the Supers GM?

Not familiar with that game or setting so this is just based on a quick search.
Looks like they went from street level to if not Four Color at least pretty powerful.
That setting might make for an interesting game in which case you could use your experiance in it to help.
Figure out or set up some motivations for the players. Getting more power? Exploration? Fighting bad guys, publicity, working for someone, save the world, protect the city, avenge wrongs, save the environment, or simply making a living.
The main thing i the entire group needs ot have compatible motivations, they dont have to be the same just compatible enough to work together.
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Old 04-17-2017, 11:53 AM   #6
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Default Re: Advice for the Supers GM?

A few tricks I've discovered for character generation:

Set a point value for the characters before powers - and here I count "super-normal" traits like combat skills above 15, stats above 15, Gadgeteer, Weapon Master, Trained By a Master, and higher levels of Luck as "powers". I find anywhere between 150 and 250 points to be viable.

Set the point values of the power set based off not a single value but off the concept. Remember that some concepts - including a brick or Alternate Form-based battlesuit hero (my preferred method for Iron Man and his kin) - require more points than others. A brick or battlesuit can be 1500 to 2000 points just because of DR, Super ST, and IT:DR alone, while blasters can get away with a single or a small range of under-50-point attacks.

Encourage players to take a single wildcard skill that matches their concept. Players wanting an investigator type (ala Batman in his "Dark Knight Detective mode) should invest in Detective!, while folks wanting to play Tony Stark, Hank Pym, or Reed Richards may want Inventor!. Not every character needs a wildcard, but they help streamline play for those who otherwise need a lot of skills.


For challenging your players, think about what kind of campaign villains you want to toss at them. Honestly, the worst villains my group ever encountered were the Lex Luthor and J. Jonah Jameson types running smear campaigns against the PCs, folks the heroes could not physically fight without proving the bad guys right and becoming the menaces to society the bad guys were portraying them as. Do yourself a favor and watch a season of Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash (current or 1990 version), DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Young Justice, X-Men: The Animated Series, or X-Men Evolution for villain and plotline ideas. (Sad to say, Marvel does not have much in the way of really good team series outside of X-Men.)

Unless the enemy is central to a PC's back-story, discourage the PCs from taking the Enemy trait, especially if you're starting off early on in their careers when they haven't built up a rogues gallery.

Also, be sure what flavor you're going for: the late Silver Age and early Bronze Age where life is not cheap and the death of a PC is a major plot point is contrasted with the later Bronze Age and the Iron/Dark/Dork Age where 90s Anti-Heroes who scowl have no regard for human life. (I don't want to touch the Modern Age "line between hero and villain is so blurred the true villains are making out like bandits while the heroes fight each other every other issue"... getting so tired of it.) And make sure the players know what feel you're going for as well! Nothing is worse than you having a late-Silver/early-Bronze Age idea in mind for the tone and the players having a '90s Anti-Hero mindset. (Me: "You are to be the shining beacons of light and hope." Player: "I want to play a Punisher clone!" Me: *facedesk*)
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Old 04-17-2017, 12:02 PM   #7
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Default Re: Advice for the Supers GM?

Challenges depend 100% on the group skill/power set. If they have no skulker, detective, or scientist, they can be stymied by a simple mystery. Blaster heroes can be challenged by having innocents in the line of fire. Of course these story-level challenges should be few; if the players don't get a chance to hit (or be hit by) something with their bricks, they'll lose interest.
I ran a couple games where the PCs were roughly 1600 points. They were not overpowered for the Marvel world, but they were in the low end of the big names, power-wise. I have a new group starting up with 800 points, and they're coming up with some builds that are powerful combat wise, and others that good for utility. Definitely have the players discuss roles they wish to fulfill within the group, and if they wish to have a team of specialists, or a group where each person can fill in for the other where needed. If they're all bricks, suggest large amounts of serendipity to allow them to just run into the bad guys and start punching.
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Old 04-17-2017, 12:42 PM   #8
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Default Re: Advice for the Supers GM?

I tend to think of Supers as more of a set of genres than power level. So getting the right feel is more about campaign switches and certain optional rules turned off.
Who ever bleeds to death in comics, for example? Enemies always somehow give warnings, so snipers don't rule over all.
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Old 04-17-2017, 12:55 PM   #9
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Default Re: Advice for the Supers GM?

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I tend to think of Supers as more of a set of genres than power level. So getting the right feel is more about campaign switches and certain optional rules turned off.
Who ever bleeds to death in comics, for example? Enemies always somehow give warnings, so snipers don't rule over all.
And be sure to turn down the lethality of your explosions.

Name one comics character who died in an explosion and stayed dead? I can't.
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Old 04-17-2017, 01:26 PM   #10
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Default Re: Advice for the Supers GM?

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What point total works well?
As others have said, this depends on what sort of game you want to run. Street-level games of gritty vigilantes who have to worry about a thug with a gun getting lucky are very different than cosmic epics where a hero can tank an asteroid with her well-toned abdominal muscles.

Actually, a good way to both determine point value and to figure out challenges for your characters at the same time is to do some benchmarking. What that entails is thinking about what sort of thing you want the characters to be fighting regularly, and determining how many points they'll need to resist or be immune to that damage.

For example, say you want to play that gritty urban vigilantes game I mentioned. You could decide that the worst weapon anyone was likely to pull out would be a high-powered rifle, and check the TL 8 Sniper Rifle stats in Basic (p. B279). It does 9d+1 pi damage, which is an average of 32.5 damage, and a max of 55. DR 33, limited to bullet damage only, would cost 99 points, while DR 55 with similar limitations would cost 165. So if you want characters to be pretty resistant to that damage, but still vulnerable to higher rolls, give them something like 100 points for powers, while if you want them to be invulnerable, give them 165 or more points.

On the other hand, if you want them to be regularly fighting tanks and taking hits from a tank's main gun, you'll have to go higher. The best tank cannon in High-Tech (the Motovilikha D-81TM, High-Tech p. 140 for stats and p. 141 for description) does 6dX7(10), an average damage of 147, and a max damage of 252, with a big armor divisor. At this level, Injury Tolerance (Damage Reduction) is really the better buy compared to DR, so we'll use that for the benchmark. Enough IT (DR) to reduce the average tank gun damage to 3 would cost 250 points, while enough to reduce the max damage to 3 would cost 300 points. So those would be your benchmarks for point totals for a character expected to fight tanks.

Using the amount of damage the characters are likely to face as your baseline is a good idea because defenses tend to be more expensive than almost anything else in GURPS. Giving characters just enough points to be immune or resistant to your most common threats means that someone who devotes all their resources to resisting damage will just be able to do so, while characters with more diverse powers will have to be more vulnerable to damage as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Buzzardo
How can the GM challenge characters at that point total?
Well, as mentioned, this depends on what challenges you want to throw at them. However, one thing that is important, and only becomes more important as point values go up, is to make sure that the characters don't diverge too much in combat ability, particularly in their ability to resist damage. If one character is a glass cannon who's spent all their points on one uber-attack, and the other is an immobile fortress who can't be damaged but also can't hurt anyone because they have no damaging powers, it's going to be very difficult to create battle situations where they're both going to be useful contributors. Encourage your players to take a more balanced approach, and ensure that they're creating heroes who cover each other's weak spots. People have already mentioned separating out character points, giving them some to create the "base" character and others to build their powers, but it's not a bad idea to subdivide the powers further, giving them, for instance, 50% of the points to build defensive abilities, and the other 50% for either offensive or defensive abilities (so that someone can build a super-defensive tank if they want, but it's harder to build someone with all offense, no defense).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Buzzardo
How do I keep it from bogging down?
Especially at high point values, there's a strong temptation in GURPS to build characters who are incredibly broad types, capable of doing almost anything. High attributes plus a point or two in a whole bunch of skills can produce protagonists who can make a good attempt at almost anything. Similarly, a character can take a wide variety of abilities, with many different settings and options. Resist this tendency, steering your players into building characters with strong niche focuses. Again, enforcing a division between the "base character" and their powers with points helps here, as long as you prevent buying skills or unmodified attributes with the powers point budget. Allowing wildcard skills helps quite a bit as well, reducing the size of the skill list the players have to go through to see if they can accomplish something.

When helping the players build powers, focus on spending most of the points on a couple of big abilities, or a collection of thematically-linked similar tricks, and steer them away from buying a bunch of different, disconnected abilities.

While you're running the game, don't worry too much about checking all the modifiers that apply to a given situation. Instead, I'd suggest using an option from Dungeon Fantasy, of applying a -1 penalty for every negative adjective that applies to the situation. So if the heroes are fighting on top of a slippery, dark rooftop, that what would be -3 to all their rolls. If you find that doesn't add up to enough penalties to seriously challenge the heroes, increase the penalty per adjective (just make sure the adjectives are sufficiently extreme to justify the higher penalties). This has the dual benefits of making assigning penalties easier, and ensuring that you're describing scenes in an evocative way.

Another suggestion is to allow players to spend points for success and to add elements to scenes. The basic idea of this is laid out in Basic ("Optional Rule: Influencing Success Rolls", p. B347), but it's greatly expanded in Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys. I'd strongly recommend getting that book, and using the ideas presented in it - it's a cinematic option that's appropriate for, in my opinion, practically all superhero games. Even the most grim-and-gritty sort of supers games tend to have cinematic conventions that Impulse Buys can support - things like dramatic second winds, hits that turn out to be only flesh wounds, and so forth. And the more "four-color" supers have many more cinematic options that are nicely supported by a variety of options in Impulse Buys.
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