Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Character Templates In The Classic Marvel Super-Heroes RPG

Over the years I have run a lot of games with the Classic Marvel Super-Heroes RPG. I've been writing more about the game lately here on the blog because it is what we are currently using for our weekly campaign.

I love fantasy comics and magical super-heroes, more than I like fantasy novels to be completely honest. Give me Warlord or Stalker or Amethyst or Dr. Weird any day. One of my goals is to eventually write a magical super-heroes/urban fantasy RPG using the 4C retroclone rules for the Classic Marvel Super-Heroes RPG. I have talked to a couple of publishers, but so far nothing has materialized in getting this game made. No day, though. I have faith that someone else who loves super-hero comics and RPGs as much as I do will see the utility in this game.

I'm not really interested in a copy of the existing Marvel game because, well, we already have that. In my mind we don't need an exactly clone of the game, but using it as a foundation to build upon to create the game that I want to play works for me.

One thing that I never liked in play of the Classic Marvel Super-Heroes game over all of these years is how it handled things like alien species, monster types and all of those similar things that tend to get short shift in the game. Yes, there are "sample" members of some of the alien species, but they tend to create generic characters. In my piece about player-defined powers, I talk a little bit about using those to simulate alien/weird creature types, but they may not be for everyone.

Klarion The Witch Boy from DC Comics' New 52.

This leaves adding a bit more complexity to the rules, as they stand, and adding a step where a player can pick a template for their character. If "balance" is a concern for you, you may want to have a player give up a power roll for their character in exchange for a template. Mechanically, I think that these templates are going to work in a similar manner to how I want to expand character Origins in the game as well. Both of these I see as taking an inspiration from *World playbooks, but without being directly mechanically influenced by them. If that makes sense.

This idea is still under consideration, so some concepts may change. Basically, I want to find the sweet spot of adding more useful detail to characters without adding more complexity to them. The simplicity of the Classic Marvel Super-Heroes RPG is one of the things that attracted me to it, and I don't want to lose that.

Medusa Template
Once, when the world was in the sway of the wilder forms of magic, medusae were much more commonplace. They were beautiful women with serpentine hair whose gaze could turn the toughest of adventurers to stone. Glyphs and wards scribed into eyewear could create protective coverings, so that they could interact with others without fear of turning others into stone. A studious, and often solitary lot, they would drift into the study of magic or other scholarly pursuits. Their longer than human lifespans would mean that they could be a repository of mundane or arcane knowledge.

While some medusae are urban creatures (these also tending to be more social of creatures than their sisters), many more prefer the solitary existence of far away forests or mountains. This solitary existence comes from the misunderstanding that their uncontrollable powers were more hostile than they actually were.

Some say that the molted skin of the snakes that make up the "hair" of a medusae can be "read" by those who understand the language of the snakes and that they contain strange, unknown magics.

Bonuses: A medusa character gets a +1 CS to their Reason and Intuition.

Talents:  A medusa character gets the bonus talents of Chronicler of Magic and Occultist (see the Realms of Magic supplement for more information on these talents).

Turn To Stone: One look from a medusa can turn any living creature to stone. The creature must make a Red Endurance FEAT roll to avoid being turned to stone. Anyone who successfully avoids being turned to stone by a medusa is thereafter immune to being turned to stone by any medusae! This effect is permanent, except for various tranformative magics and powers that can reverse the effect.

Long-Lived: While not completely immortal, medusae do have much longer lifespans than humans. They can live to be 200-300 years of age, keeping their youthful appearance and beauty for the entirety of their lifespan.

Elven Template
Some say that the Vanir and the Elves of the Nine Worlds are similar races, while others put the Vanir over the Elves, using the fact that Freyr of the Vanir was lord of the Elvish realm of Alfheim. Most of this is argued by those Elves still remaining and the few surviving Vanir. Most Elves found in the world today, however, are in fact Half Elves who are the result of generations of interbreeding with humans.

Those of Elvish decent are faster and more hardy than their human brethren and, like many supernatural creatures they have very long lives (often living to 150-200 years).  Elves share a common background with the many Fae and fairy races scattered throughout the universes. They are creatures of magic who are able to use magic in ways that humans cannot imagine. They also are known to be interested in combining the secrets of magic and technology into new, and often terrible, things like weapons or mystically-powered automatons. Where Dwarves excel at the crafting of magic into objects and weapons, Elves make staggering and often unimaginable advances in magic and technology.

Elves can also be powerful warriors of magic, using their advanced, magic-powered devices to fight where warriors are needed in the never-ending wars of the various magical factions throughout time and space.

Bonuses: Elves receive a +1CS to their Fighting and Endurance.

Talents: All Elvish characters get the Engineering and Occultist talents for free.

Long-Lived: Elves, even those whose ancestors have intermingled their blood with humans are longer lived than most humans. One average, an Elven character will live to be about 200 years of age and retain their capabilities until the end.

Magical Crafting: Elves are drawn to scientific or technological pursuits, and as part of their supernatural nature, integrate them with their powers of magic. So-called "technomagic" is not unusual, but few are able to blend the two as effortlessly and powerfully as Elves. They can imbue any magical spells or powers that they posses into technological devices or advanced weapons with a Yellow or better Intuition FEAT roll. They prefer to create their own devices rather than magically imbue existing creations of others, but will sometimes do so if the challenge is great enough, or there is enough money given to them.

Those are two sample of how you could use templates to add variety and verisimilitude to your Classic Marvel Super-Heroes RPG characters. Creating new templates should be fairly easy to do for an experienced GM or player. I am still thinking about how these should work in character creation, and how they complicate characters, so things may be subject to change at any point. For now, this is what we have to work with.