Friday, July 3, 2015

Opponents Unlimited: Crossroads Character Creation and Development

The shows this is based on have a core hero with a bunch of non-powered but helpful friends. This can work in a gaming sense (the RPGs for Buffy and Smallville both work quite well) but it’s not natural for V&V. My recommendation is everyone design PCs as if the 1d6 roll for number of powers came up a 2. The PCs will end up with 2 powers or 3 powers and 1 weakness.

Life is much easier with a shared origin story for the PCs, but given the Crossroads nature of the game you aren’t wedded to one. Still if everyone could decide which of the tables will be their go to for rolling – Powers, Devices, Magic/Psionic items or Magic/Psionics – it will set a tenor for the game. The advanced training implied by the Skills table doesn’t lend itself to a teen hero game, but one way to make it work is to have some of the PCs be prodigies rather than superhumans – opting to take all of their rolls on Skills. These kids have exceptional potential, but end up being one of the normal people helping out the secret superuman(s) in their class. Given how V&V works there shouldn’t be a lot of balancing issues with this at the table.

Another option is to be completely “normal”. One or more players skip rolling Powers and instead roll play a character who acts as the team’s heart, confidence, emotional support and plucky sidekick. Give that PC Luck points per session equal to 1/10 C * Lvl that let them stumble into things, show up at key moments, have other people show up at key moments, reduce fatal blows to incapacitating and other blows to stunning, etc. If the GM doesn’t like giving unfettered story point manipulation you can force a d20 roll against C for this to work, or maybe d% vs. Cx3. If a player opts to do this they can give one other PC an extra power roll, keeping the team power level balanced.

To look at this through the lens of season 1 Smallville, Pete is the ‘normal’ guy, giving Clark an extra power roll. Clark has Ht. Strength B, Invulnerability, Ht. Speed and Ht. Senses (stretching a little originally this is his lightning calculator ability, but he quickly develops X-Ray vision) and Vulnerability. Chloe is a Prodigy with Ht. Senses (Wacky Theories Are Always Right, Catches Things On Camera) and Ht. Charisma A. Lex has Heightened Intelligence B and Pet, which my group has always given the option of using as a sidekick or, in this case, a support organization and resources.

As characters gain experience they get better at fighting, but they also learn new ways to use their powers. I strongly recommend a house rule where inventing rules can be used to expand powers. (A bunch of other house rules here might help:

If you watch any of the Monster of the Week shows the first 5 minutes are dedicated to the origin or first local appearance of this week’s monster, and more time is spent later showing what the monster is doing while the PCs try to track it down. In this paradigm the MOTW should always claim a first victim/victory. The PCs start investigating that event while the MOTW moves to event 2.

Depending on how well the PCs are doing on the investigating they may interrupt event 2 but it is likely that the MOTW has some secret ability that lets it evade capture or overpower the PCs temporarily, people show up on the scene that kicks in the need for secrecy or become endangered civilians. The GM shouldn’t necessarily force an inconclusive result, but it’s fitting. This may continue in event 3.

In and around event 4 the PCs succeed in taking care of the threat, having discerned its origins, motivations, weaknesses and perhaps invented a means to defeat it.

While these are going on we have personal subplots for the PCs – there are likely longer term investigations of the seasonal arcs and the melodrama that make up teen angst stories. How much your players want to engage in this is up to you, but something is needed to fill out some of the time. Alternately you could rely on multiple cut scenes to the MOTW and longer term adversaries to show what the other people in the campaign are doing. This might goad your players into action.