Monday, May 21, 2012

Power Creep

One of the players in my Champions campaign is starting to depress me.

Originally awesome, he is now sort of obsessed with increasing or at the very least diversifying his personal power.

That does not bother me in and of itself. What bothers me is his reasoning and somewhat childish approach to why he wants to be more powerful.

Recently in the campaign, two other PCs and a number of NPCs solved one of the unsolvable subplots of the campaign setting.

There exists in the setting a Meta-Disease, a virus with super powers if you will, that has afflicted a select few (very few) NPC heroes (and possibly villains) but which ties into the background of numerous supporting characters and their relationships to each other and to the PC heroes. It's all very complicated but the heroes made strides into solving the mysterious connection surrounding them all. They did this by curing this incurable illness.

I was duly impressed by the whole session. The role playing was superb. There was some Oscar quality dialog going down. OK, Emmy quality at least but still very moving.

A major (if not 'the' major) villain of the campaign came to help when word of the situation got out. It was like those issues where Sue or Valeria is sick or injured and Doctor Doom shows up to assist. The dialog, ranging from heartfelt to challenging to snarky between the villain and the PCs heroes was just awesome.

The PCs applied their superpowers in really creative ways. The players used their own ideas and knowledge, both of comic book science and real science, to make the whole thing work and make sense. In the end they were successful and it is, quite literally, a game changer.

Only one PC did not participate. He hasn't participated in a couple of the major cool moments now. He is sort of playing a solo campaign with other people there.

Today he contacts me asking why he can't apply his powers this way or that and how come these other guys can do this but he can't etcetera. He mentions reading on the Marvel Wiki that people with the same power he has can do XYZ and how come he can't.

I never get pissed about this stuff. I got a little pissed.

I am not used to this in my games or gaming groups. I have never really had a power gamer or a player go cry baby on me like this. I didn't lose it but I did tell him straight up...
First, they are them, you are you. You guys have completely different powers.

It's Champions. You want a power? Buy it. Nothing comes free with another power. This ain't a two for one sundae sale at Friendly's.

Instead of whining about what other people have got, worry about what you've got already and aren't using well.

Get involved. The other PCs saved a Space Station and a dozen astronauts. The other PCs teamed up to save a long time fellow hero who was suffering from an illness that would kill her in a few years or less.

You didn't join them. You didn't pitch in. You had other ideas and 'another agenda'. Now they are getting the accolades and you aren't. They seem to be able to do more then you can because they are doing more then you. They are actively deciding to do something. Participate. Try being a hero.

It is after all, a superhero game.

Sorry to vent but I needed it.

More then ever, I think we need a break, a change of pace. I need to begin working on my next campaign. Not Supers I think. Need to clear the palette.

Barking Alien


  1. I never thought of using the super virus as a subplot in my m&m game. I'm stealing that!
    I understand your problem though. I've been gaming with a similar player for years now. In other games like Shadowrun or WOD it's ok, but in a supers game it drives me nuts. I try to be cool since it's a longtime friend but he makes it hard. Example 1: The teleport attack. I used this power once years ago but quickly retired the character because I saw how annoying it was to the GM. This player doesn't think that way. Why shouldn't he rip giant holes into the adventure I planned by teleporting villains into an alternate dimension where there is no earth? So I have to start making all the major villains have some defense against the power. But wait, in his eyes that makes me a killer GM.
    Example 2: His long running character the Viking is a regenerating weapon master type. The Viking has to be a Bruce Wayne type so he has a giant multinational corp with a fleet of dirigibles and ore mining on the moon. But wait! All of this stuff is off limits in play in his mind. When the secret ninja group hijacks a dirigible i'm being a dick GM.
    This same character has an annoyingly high regeneration power. So after lots of melee heavy adventures designed to highlight this character suddenly they start sporting armor because he was tired of me beating up on his character. Ok, apparently threatening the pc's with danger is being a bad GM. Next I bring in a telepath that easily mind controls this character. The next week the Viking suddenly has mental defenses built into the armor. It goes on and on and he still doesn't understand why we all think the character is munchkiny. I've often thought I should just ask him what he wants to happen in the game. Not in a running a game your players want sense but literally tell me what should happen since he seems to only want to show off how cool his PC is but don't actually put him in threatening situations. Ok, now I'm just venting...and the Vikings going to catch a super disease that can bypass his regeneration...

  2. The disease itself is a work of wicked genius.

    Essentially it is a virus that feeds on cell breakdown and decay. It then uses the energy gained from feeding on the cell deterioration to generate a molecular distruption field, basically a damage shield quicked force field, on a microscopic, cellular level.

    So, inside a victim is a virus that is very slowly disintergrating them. Attempts to cure or attack the virus must go up against its force field with damage shield without harming the victim. In addition, the virus has a damage shield and feeds off decaying/destroyed cells...which are constantly being created as more cells are damaged and decaying by the field. This means that the process begins slowly but speeds up as more damage is done. The thing is like living entropy.

    Scariest thing of all? In this universe it was created by a villain called Plague who is basically Infectious Lass from the Legion of Substitute Heroes (DC Comics) treated as a serious threat.

  3. Mechanical take on it: I thought about this and Champions isn't really designed for on-the-fly stunting. So, if a player wants to be able to do something he saw in a comic book I think it's worth having a conversation about the crunchy ways to do that - this power, that advantage, etc. and then spend points on it to make it a permanent part of your bag of tricks. If his powers do what he thinks they should do then maybe he will get more involved.

    If he wants a ruleset that lets him adapt on the fly by default then Champions may not be his thing - M&M and Icons are both built with that kind of play more in mind.

    In the Viking example mentioned above I would consider giving that player something that lets him tweak his character every session to keep him happy. Something like a 20-30 point variable power pool - call it "Loki's Gift". Let him know that Loki is capricious so he can only adjust it at the beginning of each session and then it's frozen for that session, regardless of how much game time passes. If that doesn't hack it then it might be time to get a little old school and let him know that if he's that unhappy with my game then he's free to not play - especially if he's disrupting the rest of the group.

    BA: I'm ignoring your disease.

  4. @Blacksteel - Meta-Microcellular Necrophasic Materporosis Can Not Be Ignored! But now, it can be cured. Please, won't you give to The Scaramangler Foundation M-MNM Fund? The superhuman you save could be your own.

    Now then...

    I actually think that Champions is perfect for stunting powers but agree that on the fly stunting can be tricky. Generally, when PCs have the kind of powers that lend themselves toward stunting, a list of pre-built variation moves comes in very handy.

    In college, my friend Aris had this very cool Dr. Strange-riff type character named Mr. Twilight. Mr. Twilight needed to rhyme to cast his spells and so he made a list of his most popularly used spells/rhymes. I suggested putting the point costs next to them so the math, like the wording, was figured out in advance.