This is a site for discussing roleplaying games. Have fun doing so, but there is one major rule: do not discuss political issues that aren't directly and uniquely related to the subject of the thread and about gaming. While this site is dedicated to free speech, the following will not be tolerated: devolving a thread into unrelated political discussion, sockpuppeting (using multiple and/or bogus accounts), disrupting topics without contributing to them, and posting images that could get someone fired in the workplace (an external link is OK, but clearly mark it as Not Safe For Work, or NSFW). If you receive a warning, please take it seriously and either move on to another topic or steer the discussion back to its original RPG-related theme.
The message boards have been upgraded. Please log in to your existing account by clicking here. It will ask twice, so that it can properly update your password and login information. If it has trouble recognizing your password, click the 'Forgot your password?' link to reset it with a new password sent to your email address on file.

Author Topic: What makes a good Superhero Adventure Module?  (Read 1047 times)

Lurkndog

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 308
    • View Profile
Re: What makes a good Superhero Adventure Module?
« Reply #15 on: January 06, 2021, 10:27:46 pm »
I think this depends on what you mean by "JLA" power level. If you mean -- what they are most likely to do with the characters most of the time in stories and cartoons, then perhaps. I would guess many games are actually closer to what Avengers characters can do, though.
I'm not sure I understand the distinction you're trying to make between the JLA and the Avengers.

Thondor

  • Superhero
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 126
    • View Profile
    • http://www.composedreamgames.com
Re: What makes a good Superhero Adventure Module?
« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2021, 03:42:19 pm »
I think this depends on what you mean by "JLA" power level. If you mean -- what they are most likely to do with the characters most of the time in stories and cartoons, then perhaps. I would guess many games are actually closer to what Avengers characters can do, though.
I'm not sure I understand the distinction you're trying to make between the JLA and the Avengers.

It is generally agreed that JLA characters are a lot more powerful then Avengers characters. So much so, that I often point to the difference between them to illustrate the difference between Cosmic Tier characters and Planetary tier characters when I am talking with players of my system.
An easy example is the Flash and Quicksilver. They are both speedsters, but the kinds of things they can do with their speed are not really comparable.

I don't personally find that comparing the most ridiculous thing that a character has ever done to be useful, but what they do routinely still points to this.

This could easily become a thread derailment, so perhaps I will leave it at that.
Simple Superheroes #0 is now in print! You can get your copy at the Compose Dream Games Marketplace or at Indie Press Revolution

Designer of Simple Superheroes: The Roleplaying Game of Infinite Powers and Possibilities
www.ComposeDreamGames.com

Thondor

  • Superhero
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 126
    • View Profile
    • http://www.composedreamgames.com
Re: What makes a good Superhero Adventure Module?
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2021, 03:55:07 pm »
*Account for various combination of superpowers, or their lack.  More than many other genres, you need to account for "Oh, the central conflict of this adventure is something I regularly resolve in my downtime."  Murder mystery? Needs to deal with super-science, super-senses, necromancers, reanimators, and many more things.  So, you'll need a pretty strong understanding of the underlying system, and what is and isn't possible, in order to make the adventure feasible.

*Absolutely no "Your powers don't work here!" areas.  They're tedious and played-out.  What are fun are "This villain or scenario has these effects, here are some interesting ways they interact with other power sources in the setting."

*Strongly-characterized NPCs.  This, I think, is probably the most important part of any module; in my experience, PCs are far more likely to stick with a module and care about the outcome if the people they are interacting with are fun and interesting, and if they want to keep said people around after the adventure is over, you've got build-in sequel hooks.

*Good (but not overwhelming) ties to the existing setting / metaplot.  Most games will at least gesture in the direction of the existing setting, so having things that tie into that

The Adventure Module itself provides a lot of the "setting" material. The plan is to write a series of these, each with a little more details on the city/universe. Frankly, I may be a little too heavy on the ties to the setting, but that setting is what helps to give each of the NPCs a important place. Agreed with your "Strongly-characterized NPCs," this is one of the things I had in mind when I started the thread.

Handling the open ended possibility of different powers is part of the fun but it is challenging. (Writing for a set of pregen characters does not interest me in the least.)


One of the favorite extended modules that I ran for my group was for Mutants and Masterminds 2E, called Time of Vengeance.
snip

I may have to check that out.

3. Bring the Dungeon!: what I like from many of the V&V modules is at some point the PC supers have to infiltrate the BBEG's HQ, which brought a 'dungeon-crawl' kind of experience that connected to my D&D play.

4. Media Attention: the PCs' public activity should find its way onto TV, radio, newspapers and the web. Maybe the heroes are portrayed as heroes or vigilantes or criminals or a combination that impacts how NPCs react to them.
There is a couple moments like #3, they'll probably be more of that in one of the sequels.
4 is a really important point, that I hadn't specifically addressed yet. Thanks.
Simple Superheroes #0 is now in print! You can get your copy at the Compose Dream Games Marketplace or at Indie Press Revolution

Designer of Simple Superheroes: The Roleplaying Game of Infinite Powers and Possibilities
www.ComposeDreamGames.com

tenbones

  • Poobah of the D.O.N.G.
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4701
    • View Profile
Re: What makes a good Superhero Adventure Module?
« Reply #18 on: January 12, 2021, 03:12:31 pm »
It is generally agreed that JLA characters are a lot more powerful then Avengers characters. So much so, that I often point to the difference between them to illustrate the difference between Cosmic Tier characters and Planetary tier characters when I am talking with players of my system.
An easy example is the Flash and Quicksilver. They are both speedsters, but the kinds of things they can do with their speed are not really comparable.

I think it's not generally accepted. I don't even think Marvel and DC generally accept this distinction. The Avengers vs. JLA 4-issue limited series is a *fantastic* love-letter to the history of both these teams and it even uses your example as meme within the story... yet the context of what these two teams do within their settings are very much the same. They deal with cosmic level threats as well as high-powered terrestrial threats as a norm.

If you're going to go tit-for-tat Thor vs. Supers, Bats vs. Cap etc etc. that's kind of not the argument being made, right? It's what do these two teams represent. The JLA/Avengers crossover does all the talking on that topic one could make: Busiek + Perez, not modern hacks honoring both teams and universes contextually.

What makes a good Superhero adventure? I'm going to say:

Interesting conflict where danger matters and stakes are high.

Interesting villains that aren't stupid and have a plan, while still being vulnerable because of their flaws.

The adventure should take the players to an interesting environment (or multiple environments) where you can hopefully challenge as many of the heroes as possible. Who doesn't like the idea of the X-Men being sent to the Savage Land or the Blue Area of the Moon? The Teen Titans suddenly caught in the interstellar war of the Citadel?

The adventure should allow breathing room for the players to indulge in the story/setting - where their character have moments to shine. This might take a little forethought, or if you're in the moment, keep an awareness of events that will let you pit your PC(s) in question to test themselves in/out of their element. Nothing makes a Superhero adventure hit that Next Level(tm) more than making your players feel like big goddamn heroes. EVEN IF THEY FAIL - make it heroic.

Almost_Useless

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • A
  • Posts: 101
    • View Profile
Re: What makes a good Superhero Adventure Module?
« Reply #19 on: January 12, 2021, 09:07:04 pm »
Regarding buy-in, I've had good luck with players telling me why they're bought in.  In the last supers game I ran, I told the players at the beginning, I needed to know what their opinion of the main NPC was.  I didn't care if they loved him or hated him, they just couldn't be neutral.  That way, they'll care one way or the other what happens to/with that character.  Tell me why the Midtown Museum is important to you.  Everybody knows Det. Kwan hates supers -- how did she mess with you?  Stuff like that.

When I'm making a supers adventure, I try to make sure I include a problem they can't punch their way out of.  Something they'll have to think their way through.  Not to make their powers useless, but make them get creative.

Something I'm not always good about is keeping up a sense of urgency.  Don't let the PCs plan like a SWAT team.  If they don't move, the bad guys hit somewhere else.  If they take too long, they hear about the bad guys making a major score they *know* will be bad.  Keep them moving and keep them on the clock.

Thondor

  • Superhero
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 126
    • View Profile
    • http://www.composedreamgames.com
Re: What makes a good Superhero Adventure Module?
« Reply #20 on: January 13, 2021, 01:25:59 pm »
It is generally agreed that JLA characters are a lot more powerful then Avengers characters. So much so, that I often point to the difference between them to illustrate the difference between Cosmic Tier characters and Planetary tier characters when I am talking with players of my system.
An easy example is the Flash and Quicksilver. They are both speedsters, but the kinds of things they can do with their speed are not really comparable.

I think it's not generally accepted. I don't even think Marvel and DC generally accept this distinction. The Avengers vs. JLA 4-issue limited series is a *fantastic* love-letter to the history of both these teams and it even uses your example as meme within the story... yet the context of what these two teams do within their settings are very much the same. They deal with cosmic level threats as well as high-powered terrestrial threats as a norm.

If you're going to go tit-for-tat Thor vs. Supers, Bats vs. Cap etc etc. that's kind of not the argument being made, right? It's what do these two teams represent. The JLA/Avengers crossover does all the talking on that topic one could make: Busiek + Perez, not modern hacks honoring both teams and universes contextually.

I love Busiek's stuff (I have all of Astro City, just read a 'Red Tornado" issue by him from '85, enjoyed his run on Thunderbolts and Untold Tales of Spider-man), I should check out that mini-series.

I think your pointing out something that I make a distinction about that you don't seem to be: the scale of the action != the power level of the character.

In SS#0 I talk about the Scale of Action (the political and geography context of a story-arc) being: Street, Regional, Global, and Galactic.  This is separate from the Power Tier (what the characters can do with their Talents/powers): Vigilante, Empowered, Planetary, and Cosmic.

You can have a scenario with Cosmic Tier characters at the Street scale of action, and then in your next session move to a new story-arc at the Galactic scale of action.

Yes both the Avengers and JLA mostly have stories at the Global and Galactic Scale of Action. You correctly point out that this is their role in their respective universes. That does not (necessarily) mean they are at the same Power Tier.


What makes a good Superhero adventure? I'm going to say:

Interesting conflict where danger matters and stakes are high.

Interesting villains that aren't stupid and have a plan, while still being vulnerable because of their flaws.

The adventure should take the players to an interesting environment (or multiple environments) where you can hopefully challenge as many of the heroes as possible. Who doesn't like the idea of the X-Men being sent to the Savage Land or the Blue Area of the Moon? The Teen Titans suddenly caught in the interstellar war of the Citadel?

The adventure should allow breathing room for the players to indulge in the story/setting - where their character have moments to shine. This might take a little forethought, or if you're in the moment, keep an awareness of events that will let you pit your PC(s) in question to test themselves in/out of their element. Nothing makes a Superhero adventure hit that Next Level(tm) more than making your players feel like big goddamn heroes. EVEN IF THEY FAIL - make it heroic.

On your last point -- I'm not sure how a written adventure module would do this. It is solid GM advice of course. Anything you can elaborate on in that way?
Simple Superheroes #0 is now in print! You can get your copy at the Compose Dream Games Marketplace or at Indie Press Revolution

Designer of Simple Superheroes: The Roleplaying Game of Infinite Powers and Possibilities
www.ComposeDreamGames.com

Thondor

  • Superhero
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 126
    • View Profile
    • http://www.composedreamgames.com
Re: What makes a good Superhero Adventure Module?
« Reply #21 on: January 13, 2021, 01:31:54 pm »
Regarding buy-in, I've had good luck with players telling me why they're bought in.  In the last supers game I ran, I told the players at the beginning, I needed to know what their opinion of the main NPC was.  I didn't care if they loved him or hated him, they just couldn't be neutral.  That way, they'll care one way or the other what happens to/with that character.  Tell me why the Midtown Museum is important to you.  Everybody knows Det. Kwan hates supers -- how did she mess with you?  Stuff like that.

When I'm making a supers adventure, I try to make sure I include a problem they can't punch their way out of.  Something they'll have to think their way through.  Not to make their powers useless, but make them get creative.

Something I'm not always good about is keeping up a sense of urgency.  Don't let the PCs plan like a SWAT team.  If they don't move, the bad guys hit somewhere else.  If they take too long, they hear about the bad guys making a major score they *know* will be bad.  Keep them moving and keep them on the clock.
All good points, thanks.
On the first one -- I have been contemplating including a connection web option in an appendix. No real mechanics, just a way for players to related how their characters are connected to and feel about major NPCs, locations, and organizations.
Simple Superheroes #0 is now in print! You can get your copy at the Compose Dream Games Marketplace or at Indie Press Revolution

Designer of Simple Superheroes: The Roleplaying Game of Infinite Powers and Possibilities
www.ComposeDreamGames.com

Two Crows

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 80
    • View Profile
Re: What makes a good Superhero Adventure Module?
« Reply #22 on: January 15, 2021, 01:49:35 am »
Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't most superhero RPG systems assume the "JLA" power level as the default? So Superman is mostly strong and tough, with some heat vision and cold breath, but doesn't have Flash levels of super-speed. Flash's super-speed lets him do speedster stunts, but doesn't let him actually do more per round than anybody else. (Systems like HERO which do allow speedsters to have more actions generally result in speedster bans at chargen.) Batman is the detective/brains/tactician of the group, and has enough plot armor to keep him from getting squished in the first round of combat.

Characters also tend to lose limitations that would interfere with operating as a group. For instance, Aquaman usually doesn't have a limit on the time he can spend out of water.

IIRC, and the 80's were a long time ago, MSH had "suggested" heroes that gave you an idea of the power levels involved.

Ex. Spider-Man level vs. Avengers (or Punisher vs. Thor).

In the old DC game, Hero Point range was actually specified in the module description.
If I stop replying, it either means I've lost interest in the topic or think further replies are pointless.  I don't need the last word, it's all yours.

Two Crows

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 80
    • View Profile
Re: What makes a good Superhero Adventure Module?
« Reply #23 on: January 15, 2021, 01:53:24 am »

It is generally agreed that JLA characters are a lot more powerful then Avengers characters. So much so, that I often point to the difference between them to illustrate the difference between Cosmic Tier characters and Planetary tier characters when I am talking with players of my system.
An easy example is the Flash and Quicksilver. They are both speedsters, but the kinds of things they can do with their speed are not really comparable.

I don't personally find that comparing the most ridiculous thing that a character has ever done to be useful, but what they do routinely still points to this.

This could easily become a thread derailment, so perhaps I will leave it at that.

No, you are correct.

At least through the 1990's.

Superman was "Cosmic" level for Marvel (Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, maybe the FF combined).

The Avengers were much more like the Jr. Justice League (Nightwing, Jericho, Starfire, etc.).
If I stop replying, it either means I've lost interest in the topic or think further replies are pointless.  I don't need the last word, it's all yours.

Two Crows

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 80
    • View Profile
Re: What makes a good Superhero Adventure Module?
« Reply #24 on: January 15, 2021, 02:03:09 am »
Almost_Useless is saying something similar to what I'm trying to say.

Sub-Plots.

Superhero games, in the end, are not about "leveling up".  They are about pursuing stories the players want to pursue, in ways that are interesting.  The Sub-Plots are what the superheroes are speaking directly to our psychology, and that is ultimately what the genre is all about.

"My guy can beat-up anything and always wins" is a child-like, personal fantasy that will grow old quickly, IME.  It's the problems that still exist, and how they are resolved, despite god-like abilities, that makes the Super Hero genre popular.

It was, LITERALLY, what Stan Lee is famous for.

I realize this can be tough for a module.  Maybe you can generalize to a level that will reach across groups?

Ex. Romance Subplot:  Character A's love interest does B, and X happens to them in Scene 3.

Self-Doubt Subplot: ....

Outlaw Subplot: ...


Etc.


Let's face it, most of these fall into broad-strokes categories.  You can give the GM plenty, and still let them customize it to their group.
If I stop replying, it either means I've lost interest in the topic or think further replies are pointless.  I don't need the last word, it's all yours.

Thondor

  • Superhero
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 126
    • View Profile
    • http://www.composedreamgames.com
Re: What makes a good Superhero Adventure Module?
« Reply #25 on: January 18, 2021, 02:08:57 pm »
Almost_Useless is saying something similar to what I'm trying to say.

Sub-Plots.

Superhero games, in the end, are not about "leveling up".  They are about pursuing stories the players want to pursue, in ways that are interesting.  The Sub-Plots are what the superheroes are speaking directly to our psychology, and that is ultimately what the genre is all about.

"My guy can beat-up anything and always wins" is a child-like, personal fantasy that will grow old quickly, IME.  It's the problems that still exist, and how they are resolved, despite god-like abilities, that makes the Super Hero genre popular.

It was, LITERALLY, what Stan Lee is famous for.

I realize this can be tough for a module.  Maybe you can generalize to a level that will reach across groups?

Ex. Romance Subplot:  Character A's love interest does B, and X happens to them in Scene 3.

Self-Doubt Subplot: ....

Outlaw Subplot: ...


Etc.


Let's face it, most of these fall into broad-strokes categories.  You can give the GM plenty, and still let them customize it to their group.

Thanks. I think there are some things I can do relating to characters relations here. (Heroes start with 3 relations to people, places or things/activities in Simple Superheroes.)

I've got to add though, I got to play in an extended campaign of my own system recently. One of the surprising experiences I had was how much I wanted and thought about what new Talents my character would gain/develop.
I think there are lots of Superhero games that do not support advancement as well. While many people conceive of the genre as having characters with relatively static powers, I don't really agree with that. There are lots of examples of heroes improving their powers, developing new ones, gaining useful contacts and resources etc.
 
Simple Superheroes #0 is now in print! You can get your copy at the Compose Dream Games Marketplace or at Indie Press Revolution

Designer of Simple Superheroes: The Roleplaying Game of Infinite Powers and Possibilities
www.ComposeDreamGames.com