Friday, April 21, 2017

Gods of the Fall - Gods of the [blank] part 5 - Gods of Modern Myth

I'm totally going to cheat here ...

Superhero comics are often called modern mythology. The stories are larger than life, the protagonists and antagonists resound with us on deep fundamental layers, and a lot of the best stories can be simplified down to essential plot points that are not dissimilar to those stories from antiquity.

But there's a difference in playing Cypher System Superheroes and a Gods of Modern Myth game.

Firstly, superheroes tend toward varying origin stories. There are often heavily co-joined themes (hello rich white guys with a very specific skill set, last aliens of their species just trying to make a life, and mutants/metahumans), but if you look at the big two you will see a diverse mix of origins within their upper tier of characters. Characters in a Gods of Modern Myth game are going to share a common origin: They. Are. Gods. Which brings me to ...

Secondly, We rarely spend any time with comic book superheroes when they don't have powers/skills. Sure after 70-odd years you get a Batman: Year One type story, but generally origins are quick and we move on to the superpowered "good parts". Not so with Gods of Modern Myth. These characters need to gestate and realize their powers. Depending on the players and GMs they may be little more than heroic but otherwise average people for 4 to 8 sessions before they finally gain their "super powers" (e.g. power/divine shifts). This has the advantage of both getting to know characters before they become larger than life heroes/gods, but also to help establish that the opposition is greater than the average person; in other words it lets the GM set the scale of the game.

Thirdly, the scope of a Gods of Modern Myth game should be broader than the average superhero comic. Gods of Modern Myth should be tackling citywide problems from the start and by tier 3 they should probably be saving the world Justice League style, or even the whole cosmos like the Guardians of the Galaxy. The scale, as I mentioned before, should be bigger, but so too should the scope. If your characters aren't shaking the pillars of the universe at tier 6 what are they going to be doing, and how could it possibly match up?

So yeah, Gods of the Fall reinterpreted as superheroic modern myth. It's probably not for everyone, but maybe it should be. 😄😄😄

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #115 - RPG Blog Carnival - Dungeon of Mega

Mega dungeons. Some people probably get excited at those two words. A call to arms to delve deep and plunder long forgotten treasure.

Not me.

I have never had much in the way of experience with mega dungeons. I played a little bit of Undermountain in high school back in AD&D 2nd Ed, a game I just didn't enjoy much, but beyond that I've never really done the deep dark dungeon crawl on the scale worthy of the appellation "mega dungeon."

I think what I disliked about the Undermountain experience was that it felt forced. My issues with 2nd Edition aside I don't know if the GM for that game wasn't very good, or just felt pigeonholed into running the dungeon as designed. The whole thing felt stiff, wooden, a little bland. There was no life in the GMs descriptions of things, and I personally think that this comes down to ownership. He hadn't created the dungeon and so he didn't feel that he owned it. That showed, at least for me as player, in his depiction of the place and its occupants and hazards.

Which doesn't mean I'm not willing to try it myself. I recently picked up Castle Whiterock. It's perhaps not as well known by name as Undermoutain, but it got my interest as a GM because it has a deep backstory and it's many levels present space for both a long term campaign but also for shorter contained story arcs. Of course, I'm also going to tinker with it and convert it into a post apocalyptic ruin of the ancients. I figure that'll give me the leeway I need to make it my own.

I guess if it comes down to one thing I have to offer this month it's that you need to own your mega dungeon. Whether or not you designed it, or merely co-opted it, you as GM need to be able to bring it to life, and part of that is feeling a sense of ownership. Being willing to make changes great or small will help that, and being willing to completely skip a room or level, or cavern because you understand that it doesn't fit into your narrative; all of these things are important in giving your players a good game. And if you can't give them a good game what's the value in a mega dungeon?

What the heck is the RPG Blog Carnival? Check out Johnn Four's header page for the circus here.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Story Seed - Absolute Zero: A Visit to Venus

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"Venus doesn't seem so bad," I said, pressing my face against the window. Clouds roiled below, mostly sulfur dioxide and other toxic chemicals. Here though, as we approached Aphrodite station, the hellish planet seemed for more pleasant.

The pilot spared a moment to snort derisively between communications with station control. I ignore him. The station was a dichotomy of industrial and elegant. Atop, it was a beautiful golden geodesic dome. Below, it was entirely functional: airlocks, thrusters, cargo pods, and the like. The shuttle was gliding toward one of those airlocks now, cutting through the atmosphere under computer control. I'd never ridden in an aerodynamic lighter than air shuttle before, and it felt more like being in space than being into atmosphere.

While the shuttle docked I reviewed what I knew of Aphrodite station. It was one of six, at the moment, stations that provided research and atmosphere cycling. The Venusian atmosphere was just lousy with carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide among other unpleasant but useful chemicals. The stations cracked the carbon dioxide and sold the components; elemental oxygen was a commodity for anybody who wanted to breathe, and carbon in any number of forms proved nearly as valuable as a construction material.

So here I was coming to the second most hellish place in the system (trust me, Io is worse by far) tracking down information about shipments of carbon nanotubes. To put it another way I was looking for a needle in a factory full of needles... and hay. I wondered if I was chasing nothing, or if the information I had was accurate. As useful as carbon nanotubes were, I couldn't imagine why anybody would hide shipments of them, let alone in the quantity that appeared to be being masked, but then, that's why I was here.