Sunday, October 25, 2015

Genre shifting - superheroes in fantasy

I have to admit - I have always wanted to run a super hero game in fantasy world. I’ve tried it a couple of times, and it hasn’t worked as I had hoped. I think this is because I have treated the games like they were FRPG and not super hero games. What do I mean?

Willie was a mild mannered alchemist working in the lab when a magical explosion sprayed him with all sorts of alchemicals. When he woke up the next day, he realized he had magical flame powers (or anything else you like).

Shelagh was messing around with her mother’s old books when she scrawled a pentagram on the floor and summoned up a demon. The symbol held the demon, but he seduced her with the promise of power. She let him in, and he granted her mastery over magnetism (or any other power you want). OK - Maybe she’s the bad guy.

The point is, that all of those goofy super hero origin stories are just as easily (if not more so) done in the fantasy realm. I have done campaigns where there were wererats in the party, or the girl born under a certain magical sign that made her a super charged battery for other mages, or had regenerative powers. If you think about it, some magic items or powers gained at certain points are really close to super powers anyway - armor that teleports around you when you summon it (or a weapon), beasts/steeds that come when called, any of a hundred special abilities assigned to magical swords. Even spells themselves, after all, Dr. Strange isn’t a super hero in a FRPG, he’s just another character.

Where I’ve gone wrong is in what they face. Comic book heroes rarely face a squad of orcs. They need something flashier, like a demon or a powerful poltergeist, maybe a black knight trying to take over the countryside only to be revealed at the most dramatic time to be the king’s daughter. Then again with innumerable gods and demons to use, why not have some evil god bestow powers on a bad guy. Maybe the bad girl used the summoning circle to let in a whole list of bad spirits/demons who are now possessing people and granting them new powers. Now we need a team of heroes to chase them down and eventually close the portal.

It’s not the character creation that drives us in the wrong direction; it’s the types of missions. Running a super-hero fantasy game isn’t that hard, as long as you don’t run them through the normal style of FRPG missions. Think - what would Alligator Man do in one of his adventures instead of what would a group of elven archers and scouts fight. I’m pretty sure that this is the trick!

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