Sunday, December 5, 2010

Black Friday

As per tradition, I always try to run something when I visit the states, so my players can see me in running a game in person (plus it's far easier to get this group of luddites together in person than online).  This time around, I was inspired by twin revelations: Iron Man + L4D2.  First, I have a friend named Walter whom I have gamed with for years (friend?  I should probably call him my step-brother now ^_^ but one can be both, hmm?) and we often have a hard time gaming with one another.  Specifically, I had been misreading his gaming style for years, and watching Iron Man finally let me grasp what he wanted.  For example, he often wanted to play an inventor character, but hated the grunt work involved.  After seeing Iron Man, I grasped that he wanted to be like Tony Stark (one of his favorite characters) or Doctor Who (another favorite): To be a clever super-hero who solves his problems with his mind, but is always central to the action.

Playing L4D2 got me thinking about zombies.  Normally, I see zombie horror stories and post-apocalyptic scenarios as gritty and a struggle of survival.  You play low powered characters and see if you can handle the situation or not, right?  Walter loved these genres as well, but never really meshed with my vision of them.  It wasn't until I read this article (warning: is known to devour your time!!) that I saw another vision, another way to tackle those genres, and I was reminded of the appeal of Rifts.

With these ideas in mind, I set out to create a character Walter would love in a world that would appeal to my group.  In a continuation of my experiment to stuff as much awesome into a single session as I could, I wanted to give the players this feel of an entire world with just a snippet of character and a single session.  I also wanted to experiment with strong, highly cinematic characters with unique play styles, and to do that, I borrowed from the more cinematic options found in GURPS (and suggestions from the forum).  Those systems tend to involve the expenditure of character points, which I don't disagree with, but once you call them character points, players are less likely to use them.  So I called them "Action Points" and gave them 5 at the start.

For the world, I drew a core inspiration from Rifts, creating a post-apocalyptic world that combined magic and technology, with dystopian dictatorships fighting monstrous madness with the players and survivors caught in between.  I drew further inspiration from L4D2, tossing in crazy assortments of zombies and leaving whispers and hints that the dystopia was created from the corrupt remnants of the CDC, and then added a Supernatural vision of a post-apocalyptic world: Demons as possessing spirits rather than titanic beasts of fire and shadow, subtle rituals meant to fend off monsters, and with tough-but-ordinary men fending off the night.  Finally, I layered a good dose of GURPS sensibilities, including a tech level disparity of 7 (the survivors) and 9 (the remnants of civilization that have moved on) and adding a grand conspiracy for the Illuminated, and then leapt with both feet into the session.

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