Thursday, April 12, 2012

Saving The World Proactively

In response to my last post, wherein I stated...

"Unless really, really into the game, my players can be a bit lazy. This means they are not proactive in the game and I have to do all the work."


"It seems they are most proactive in Champions, actually generating plot and subplot ideas themselves and often pursuing exploration of the setting."

Justin Davis of the visually brain-blasting A Field Guide to Doomsday commented...

"You mention how your players aren't proactive enough. Perhaps you could elaborate further...?

Because what you're touching on is one of the fundamental issues of superheroic gaming itself. If the villains don't act first, what are the heroes supposed to do?

(I'm not busting your chops. As I've mentioned before, I've paid my dues GMing the funnybook genre.)"

Justin is quite right in his assessment that proactive adventuring seems counter intuitive for most Superhero gamers. Indeed, the genre itself seems to enforce the practice of a crime being committed, someone or something alerting the heroes and the heroes then responding.

Comic book Superheroes don't usually go hunting for criminals. Or do they? It's certainly been done. Punisher does this from time to time but the arguement can be made that he is really a 'superhero' in the traditional sense. The Authority are certainly more proactive then most superhero teams.

The truth is there are lots of ways for heroes in the Supers genre to be proactive and many of them can learn to new adventure ideas and a much more involved campaign.

For example...

Ways To Incorporate Pro activity In A Supers Game:

Invent Something.

Take a cue from Prof. Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. Many issues of the Fantastic Four begin with Reed having just invented some bizarre device or interdimensional portal that leads the team on a crazy, Kirby Krackle-filled adventure.

If you're the 'Tech-Guy' on the team, build stuff. Don't wait until you need to build an Anti-Time Dilation Device...start the game trying to make one just in case you need one some day. Maybe, after having had a hard time stopping the villainous Baron Barometer again and again, you decide to try a construct a Weather Control Machine of your own. If the Baron gets wind of this (weather...gets wind of it...heh, I kill me) he will surely try to steal this invention. Instant plot.


Suffering Speedsters people! Why doesn't anyone go on patrol anymore? I remember myself and many of my old Supers GMs starting the game with the time and the day and "Where are you?". My answer, "Out on patrol". What's really cool about this isn't just the idea that you might randomly run into crime but think about what out on patrol means for different types of heroes.

Spiderman out on patrol is swinging through the city with his Spider Sense alerting him of street crime or gang violence. Superman out on patrol is flying overheard and using his X-ray vision if he hears something odd with his super-hearing. Next thing you know he is swooping out of the sky toward an apparently abandoned warehouse which hides a high-tech weapons building operation.

Now go further...What is out on patrol for Silver Surfer? Aquaman or Sub-Mariner? Supernatural characters like Dr. Strange, the Spectre or Ghost Rider?

Be A Leader

One of my players has become proactive in finding the next generation of Superheroes.

It seems that new heroes are popping up here and there and with the superhero community having suffered some recent losses, the chance to increase the ranks of the good guys is well worth investigating. Dave's character Night Knight hopes to not only recruit and train some young heroes but also get to them before a like minded villain makes a similar move.

Explore/Investigate The Setting

The Superhero world(s) I run often have mysteries built in. Whatever happened to that World War II patriot hero who seemed to turn coward when we needed him most? Each time we meet Lady X her powers are different and even her personality seems to change. Why? Last adventure we fought Dr. Vicious and, while we all know villains seem to escape death all the time, we were absolutely certain he was killed in that explosion three months ago. Is this the same guy or a copy cat?

I love it when players look at these things and go, "I'm going to look into this."

I have some more ideas on the subject and a few other often overlooked areas of Superhero gaming which I want to address in the near future. THIS is why I like getting comments. It spurs me on to answer not only your questions but some of my own.

Barking Alien


  1. In my old Champions group (which has suddenly re-started playing our old campaign over PBEM), there was such a thing as defensive character creation -- essentially creating DNPCs that wouldn't be too much of a pain when the GM used 'em!

    But now, we're older and that's changed somewhat. We even add to our cast of characters without getting points for them.

  2. This is definitely something I've seen in the past but my current crop of players are not so familiar with this or simply aren't into it.

    I am attempting to encourage it a bit but don't want to push the point. My current Champions campaign is very sandbox oriented and if players want to pursue a certain avenue or not pursue it, it's really up to them.

  3. Sorry for being late to this party--I didn't realize you'd responded.

    Everything you mentioned is gold. And I love the lost art of the simple patrol.

    I always try to keep the PCs engaged by always having something going on with their personal NPCs. Never had any problems of them lacking things to do that way.