Gremliny Stuff

Dec 17, 2010

Game Musing - Strange GENEration

A guilty pleasure of mine of late has been the Cartoon Network live-action series "Tower Prep."

It is, by no means, a great show, though much, much better than their previous series "Unnatural History." But it has a certain charm to it, I think from the different media it seems to be borrowing from. You can feel the bits of Heroes, Lost, X-Files, X-Men, and Buffy all swarming about, trying to find a certain cohesion. And then there are the moments that make you really start paying attention. I was just watching the episode last night involving their "bigfoot" monster called Red Fang, and the nature hike the kids go on where they learn more about their school and their schoolmates, when they should be busy identifying flora and fauna. Pretty been-there-done-that stuff. Until you get near the end.
There's this "security force" that covertly patrols the school grounds called "Gnomes." Armor, funky helmets with lights, etc. Meant to scare the kids into staying, but apparently able to kick some ass as well. We've known for a few episodes that the Gnomes are actually other students, though we never know which ones...until this episode, where Ian's rival and thorn-in-the-side decides to surrender to the Gnomes, and in turn joins their forces, telling Ian to send his farewells to his crush CJ (I don't know why I'm bothering to use their names, since I can barely remember anyone's name anyway). Hence, the Gnomes WERE students, but give that up to become the Gnomes. Which...sounded a lot better in my head when watching the show...not so much on a blog.

Anyway, what does this have to do with gaming?

I have long been toying with the idea of running a game where characters are beginning superheroes, pretty low-powered, at a specialized school that trains them not only to be heroes and hone their powers, but also so they can deal with the outside world in general. Kinda like Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, but without all of the mutant hunts, more actual curriculum, and not as many special effects.
There's been a few games to try this, but typically they allow for not only a broad range of powers, but also a bizarrely broad range of origins. My friend Conrad made a valiant effort to run such a game several months back, using first the classic Marvel Super Heroes game, and then the D6 version of DC Superheroes. In both cases, we had a strange selection of "youngsters" with dizzying powers that made them impossible for the school to really control, but were still not powerful enough to face the Super Skrull (as to why the kids were fighting the Super Skrull? That would be called bad adventure writing on the part of Conrad...).
Another game that was kind of working in that direction was Danger Sxool. It was a hack, I believe, of Mouse Guard, and even though I have a copy of that game, the rules seemed kind of nebulous and a bit hard to decipher for me. But it was closer, at least in the less-structured style, to what I wanted from the high-school superpower game.
Finally, and most recently, there is the Smallville RPG, which I just picked up a physical copy of. While I strongly dislike Smallville (which I think of as DC meets Dawson's Creek), the game itself is a brilliant version of the ...Cortex system, was it? Plus, the way it builds relationships and connections with everyone was a stroke of brilliance. But the system was definitely too complex for my needs.

But combining these ideas recently, particularly after that last episode of Tower Prep, my mind has been trying to make its own super-teen game, that shall be called, at least for the time being, "Strange GENEration."
Characters are measured by their typicaly youth cliques: Jock (athletics and masculine appeal), Geek (knowledge and creativity), Punk (attitude and resistance), Prep (coolness and social access), Glam (dramatics and feminine appeal), and Fool (tricks and trouble-making). They also have one power, which will either be a special effect or extensions of the other abilities (such as Telekinesis being the athletics portion of Jock, but from a distance). Abilities are measured in size of dice (1D4, 1D6, 1D8, 1D10, 1D12, maybe even 1D16 and 1D20, just cuz I'm a nerd), though I want a way to build your abilities based on your background and relationship with other characters, kind of like in Smallville RPG. Of course, how to accomplish that without making this game waaaaaay too complicated is another question.
In any case, the rolling will be done similarly to John Harper's still-in-the-works Wildlings. Your task lets you roll one die, and results of 4+ determines how many Outcomes you can choose (probably up to 4 or 5 for superheroic abilities). The Outcomes and their effects will feel a bit like Wildlings, but with more detail like Apocalpse World.
Also, if there is anything affecting the possibly success of your action, such as opposition or difficult odds, you roll an additional die for each. When all the dice have been rolled, you place one die on your action, and one on each risk. If the dice placed on a risk is 1-3, then that risk comes true, with the number determining certain effects, like Health lost, Stress suffered, Humiliation, etc. Still trying to think of possible conditions.

Anyway, that's what I'm thinking of right now. Which is bad, since I should be thinking about Screw You Rebel Scum and Adventurers & Artifacts (formerly known as DungeonCrashers). Bad, bad me.
Post a Comment