Showing posts with label 4c. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 4c. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sometimes Super-Hero RPGs Don't Have To Be About The Superpowers

Two of my favorite comic runs are John Ostrander's Suicide Squad and Kieth Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' Justice League books from the late 80s/early 90s. Both of these spun out of one of DC Comics' post-Crisis on Infinite Earths events called Legends. Legends was a pretty cool mini-series written by Ostrander and with art by John Byrne that dealt with one of Darkseid's many plots to conquer the Earth (this time by attacking the "legends" of Earth's super-heroic guardians in order to soften them up for his attack).

One of the things that made these comics interesting to me was the fact that they focused as much on the characters of the books as they did super-powers, sometimes the focus was even more on the characters.

This is good because on of the things that tabletop RPGs do well is to focus on the player characters and their interactions. For many gamers, whether with new or old school approaches to gaming, this is why they tell stories around their characters. For fans of these kinds of games, it makes comics like these excellent models for their games/campaigns.

One of my longest running Classic Marvel Super-Heroes RPG campaigns was influenced by these two books, mostly because they were what I was reading each month as I GMed the campaign. Roleplaying was important to these campaigns, and while we would have elaborate knock-down, drag out fights in the games the players also spent a lot of time talking and developing their characters. Relationships happened. Characters married NPCs. Characters died as players left the group, or decided they wanted new characters. It was interesting because, when we started the campaign, most of the people had never played the game, so I asked them what they wanted for a character and modeled it for them in the rules, or game them a character from my notebooks and they ran with it. One of the cornerstone characters of our campaign, a stereotypical conservative super-hero named Real American, was based off of the character of Golden Boy from the Wildcards novels. The player (who was not all that conservative in real life came up with someone who was a play on conservative super-heroes like Guy Gardener) took the bones of the character and molded a new personality and motivations for the character and made it his own.

One of the ongoing protagonists in our campaign was the super-terrorist group The Jihad from the Suicide Squad comic. After one of the players spent a Christmas missionary trip to Haiti (weirdly during the Haitian Revolution in the 90s), I added a Haitian character to the group patterned after the New Warrior named Night Thrasher. In fact, that player's character was a semi-generic "ninja" who split from the Kali Cult that the Jihad member Ravan belonged to.  Grey Mist tried to turn his training into something for good.

However, this post isn't about how to appropriate characters and tropes from comic books and to use them in your super-hero games. That could probably be a post all on its own.

Honestly, you have to have the "right group" of players if you want a game that is going to focus on characterization and interpersonal relationships. Not wanting to do this isn't a bad thing, but it isn't going to be what ever group is interested in doing (or even capable of doing). You have to be upfont about wanting to run this sort of game, so that players do not have the expectations that this campaign will be more "standard." There is a certain type of player who wants to fight everything all the time, and while they may have a place in some others they can be a detriment.

Now, obviously, you can play this sort of game with any type of roleplaying game, if that is what you want to do. We did it for years with the Marvel Super-Heroes game, so it can be done. Again, though, not everyone is going to want to use a game and "never touch the dice for sessions." They are going to want some sort of mechanical basis for these sorts of interactions. For that, I suggest going with their preferred game to handle these sorts of things mechanically.

For me, running this sort of game could easily be handled by the Fate Accelerated rules without any sort of alteration to the rules. Remember, we're talking about super-heroes "without the super-powers," so a game with a laundry list of powers and abilities could be detrimental to what we want to do. Plus, Fate Accelerated has a number of free options available for grabbing the rules to the game.

One of the first things that you have to come up with, for this kind of game, is a strong theme. For the Teen Titans you could say that the theme is "Teens coping with their powers and difficulties by joining together and helping each other." For the Suicide Squad it could be "Misfits and criminals looking for redemption." The theme for the Justice League of the time could be "B-List Heroes Looking For Recognition." You could probably come up with a couple of variants on these themes, or different ones all together, from each of these comic's stories. The idea is to figure out which sort of story that you want to tell.

Next, once the theme is decided, the players need to decide how they want their characters to fit into this theme, and what sorts of personalities that they want for their characters. Using Fate Accelerated was our guide, we can come up with aspects for Suicide Squad stalwart character Deadshot like this:

High Concept: He Never Misses His Shot...
Trouble: ...Except When He Loves A Woman

I don't think you're often going to see two interrelated aspects like this very often in a Fate character. It fits for the characters, at least as how it was interpreted back in the 80s, and they both work. I like how they sound like a tagline from a movie poster. Some GMs might want you to make these into one aspect, but I think that would be too specific of an aspect, personally. You could change the trouble aspect into something more social like "...Except When He Wants To Fit In" instead. I like the idea of the tough as nails character who knows that he has that flaw when it comes to women/relationships. It makes for a very noirish type of character. Can that trouble be flipped to "...Except When He Loves A Man"? Of course! Play your game how you want to play it.

Use one or two of the aspects remaining to talk about the character's powers, and then fill out the rest of the character's personality. With our de-emphasis on powers, we don't need to sweat a detailed writeup of what Deadshot can do. We already know that he "Never Misses His Shot.." I would use an aspect like "His Battle Armor Is His Weapon To Kill And To Keep People At A Distance." This should be easy to invoke when a combat situation does come up, and it can easily be compelled during other times. While cliched, Deadshot is certainly an archetype for the "Checkered Past" aspect, and "Can't Take The Shot Against Batman" could round out his aspects.

I enjoy this sort of a game, but it isn't going to be for everyone. The important thing to remember when adapting your favorite comic stories to gaming is to look deeper than the surface of the stories that you are enjoying. While the flashy powers are there, and available, in the games, they don't always have to be the focus of your game. There are some really good games that are all about building and using powers. However, this is why variety in available games and playstyles is important to gaming. Ultimately what is important is that each and every group find the system and approach to gaming that works best for them and gets their game on.

Friday, June 21, 2013

4C Space: Angels in the Architecture

Super-hero comics are filled with divine, infernal, celestial and extradimensional beings. It isn't unusual for a god or demi-god to join a team of super-heroes in any of the comic book universes. In this 4C Space post I talk about a group of celestial beings wandering the universe following a divine plan, and sometimes seeking vengeance in the name of their Lord.

By the way, if you aren't familiar with the 4C rules, check out the page that I made for them here.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Hollow Men: A 4C Space Antagonist Report

From the T.S. Eliot poem, The Hollow Men:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

No one is sure what the Hollow Men are, or even if they have a name. All that is known is that they attack passing space craft, in groups of 4 or more, and completely drain them of energy, leaving the dead husks of ships in their wake with the crew and passengers to die. The stories of the Hollow Men have come from those few lucky individuals who have managed to be found by passing ships before they died on their dead ships. The description of the Hollow Men are sketchy, and it is uncertain why some ships are attacked and others ignored. They are believed to be extradimensional in nature.

Ships are warned to be cautious in systems known for Hollow Men attacks, and are warned to stay clear of them.

Origins For Your 4C Space Games

4C Space Origins
Origins in 4C tell you how the character became someone extraordinary. It is a combination of their background and how they became a hero. The Origin also gives you, as the player, some hooks into how to play the character. These Origins have come from science fiction comics, novels and movies. Each character has one Origin, which can be determined randomly or, depending on the style of the campaign being played, picked for a character. This post isn’t intended to be comprehensive, just to give you the ideas with which to start your own 4C Space games. And if you haven't checked them out yet, be sure to check out the 4C System rules page.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Paladins of Space: A 4C System Supplement

This post features some supplemental rules for the 4C System, a super-heroic retroclone. I am keeping exact locations vague in this so that GMs will have some wiggle room in placing these characters in their own campaigns. Space is big, so there is plenty of room for the Paladins and the Eidolon in any campaign.

Courtesy NASA

Monday, May 27, 2013

The 4C System

I've put up a page with the 4C System rules, here on the blog. If you've never checked these out, this was an early retroclone (of a certain popular Marvelous role-playing game) that had the misfortune of coming about before people really accepted and understood what retroclones really were. Much like OSRIC, 4C was intended to be a way to allow publishers (and fans!) to make new material that would be compatible with the old game.

The game, while complete and playable, is a bit dry and barebones. One of my goals has been to do a cleaned up new edition of these rules that expand these basics, give plenty of examples and even have some sample characters included. Basically build out and demonstrate what can be done with the basics.

For now, enjoy the SRD for the game. The text of it has been released into the public domain by it's creator, so you can do with it what you will.

If you're so inclined, you can also find some cool stuff made by small press publishers for the system over at

Friday, October 26, 2007

Four Color: Free and On RPGNow

Philip Reed's Four Color (4C) System is done and ready for the public!

This complete in 34 pages role-playing system is all that you need to launch your own adventures in super-hero universes. An emulator for an old MARVELous game, the new material and old material are all compatible and can be used in each game system.