AGE of Heroes – Design and Development 1: Broad Changes

I’ve been looking at my superhero skin for the AGE system again recently after starting to watch the first season of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! on Netflix with my wife. After doing some brainstorming, I’ve finally hit upon a couple of key features.

The AGE Engine will tend to produce characters that, while heroic, are generally going to be “just a cut above the rest” when starting out. While this might be fine for the setting the game is designed to be run in (that of the Dragon Age computer games), that doesn’t jive well with superheros, who should be beating the crap out of street toughs by the alleyway full. After thinking of a few ways to address it, I think I’ve hit on it, along with a way to drive the full background the character home.

When creating a character, you select from two background. The first one is the Origin, which describes the “how” of your characters powers. What happened to him that gave him his powers. The second one is the Event, or the “why” of your characters motivation. Something happened to him in his past that turned him towards a life of fighting crime on a super-heroic level. Two backgrounds is going to give you characters a fair bit more power starting out. That, combined with power talents suitable to the feel of the game should go a long way towards making level 1 superheros feel more heroic.

For those curious, I have six Origins, and ten Events.

The Six Origins

Accident: You were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe it was the right place at the right time depending on how you view your powers. Maybe you were present when a nuclear reactor went critical and the radiation changed you. Or maybe you were caught in a freak storm and empowered through the energy of the storm when struck by lighting.

Alien: You are not of this earth. Maybe your entire species shares the powers you possess or mayber you are unique among your own people. Whatever the case, you are a stranger in a very strange land.

Endowment: You were given your powers by an outside force. Maybe a dying hero transferred his powers to you, or maybe you discovered an artifact that bestows the power of an ancient hero to whoever is worthy enough to wield it. Or maybe you were just lucky enough to be born as the reincarnation of a fallen hero. Whatever the case, whether gift, blessing, or birthright, the powers are yours now.

Experiment: Whether you were abducted by an outside force or volunteered for it, you were the subject of a more than likely dangerous experiment that gave you your powers.

Mutant: You were simply born different. Whether you’ve known about your powers all your life or developed them later, you’ve always known you were more than a little bit different from everyone else.

Training: You worked hard to develop your powers, be it esoteric karate techniques, mental powers derived from being born with a genius level IQ, or preternatural skill with a certain weapon. (This would be the realm of the “super-normal” archetype.)

The Ten Events

Orphaned: You lost your parents to a violent crime. Maybe you were present and maybe you weren’t. It doesn’t matter beyond the amount of psychological scarring you likely suffered. The point is, this is the event that pushed you towards a career of crimefighting.

Victim: You were the victim of a violent crime. What the exact details of the crime were aren’t important, but it was the driving force behind your call. You don’t want anyone to have to feel as helpless as you did that day, and as long as you have anything to say about it, they won’t.

Last Survivor: Whether you are the last survivor of an alien race sent to Earth or the only surviving member of a monastic order that was attacked, you’ve sworn to honor the memories of those fallen with your deeds until you are able to join them.

Drafted: You have little choice in why you do what you do. Perhaps an organization has information that could damn you if you don’t do what they tell you to do or you were pressed into service early in your powers and your superiors M.O. is all you’ve ever known.

Sense of Duty: You’ve been given these powers for a reason, and while that reason may not be entirely clear to you, you feel you have a responsibility to use them properly. Protecting those who cannot protect themselves may sometimes be a thankless job, and sure, some may misunderstand your true intentions, but you know the world would be a lot worse off without you here.

Revenge: At some point in your past you were horribly wronged by someone. Unlike others who have suffered similar experiences, you are able to direct your pain and rage at an individual who stands over you like a shadow… and you want revenge. Who he is and what he is are irrelevant to your burning desire to bring your justice upon him.

Love: You do what you do out a need to protect someone you love, be it a family member, a wife, a child, or a lover. Whether they are still with you or gone, you fight for them, either to keep them safe or to honor memory.

Restitution: At some point in your past, you did something really bad with your powers. Maybe you caused severe damage to several major cities or worse, maybe you killed an innocent. Whatever the details, you’ve sworn to use your powers to make it right.

Fear: You’ve seen the evil that can be wrought with your powers, either by your own hand or by someone else’s, and now you live in constant fear of seeing it happen again. Training yourself and seeking proper channels to use them is absolutely vital to keeping yourself in check.

Seeker: You’ve always been in search of something. These powers are another means to that end. This could be a lofty ideal, something material, or even something as basic as an adrenaline rush. Whatever the end, these powers are a means to it.

I’ve added a number of new focuses, as well as a number of new talents. The various weapon style talents are gone, rolled into Weapon Training. There are also three “unarmed” styles – Street Fighting, Boxing Style, and Martial Arts, each lending themselves to a slightly different feel of fighter. The classic superpowers are there as well, such as Superstrength, Superspeed, Supersenses, Movement (flight, teleporation, wall crawling, etc), Energy Affinity, Gadget, and Telepathy. I’m also working on a Sidekick talent that should be a lot of fun.

For your edification, I’ll include the first write-ups of the Boxing Style, Street Fighting, and Martial Arts talents in a later posting along with a behind the scenes look at my design and development choices behind them.

Weapons were another sticking point. The Dragon Age game has a number of weapon groups, which is well and good, but those superheroes that do use weapons are so widely varied that its hard to define them into definable “groups.” So, weapons will now fit into one of nine categories: Melee One-Handed, Melee Two-Handed, Thrown One-Handed, Thrown Two-Handed, Shot One-Handed, Shot, Two-Handed, Melee Improvised, Thrown Improvised, and Unarmed. Individual heroes won’t have to worry about being trained in different weapon groups, but various talents will improve the use of their chosen weapons should they go that route. Of course, in a game where its fully possible that your main form of attack could be shooting lighting bolts out of your eyes, weapons can really take a backseat.

There will be more of these – “Design and Development” articles as I continue to work on the skin. Until next time.

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Filed under AGE of Heroes, Dragon Age, Projects, Roleplaying

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