Our gamemaster has never told the story he wanted. He has been a gamemaster for 17 years and not one of his stories have gone as he wrote it. The ones that were painstakingly prepared, were effortlessly sundered. Why? He always says "Players; you can plan for every freaking thing, but not the players."
This is of course an exaggeration. The games were fun while they lasted, despite us taking the story off the rails. Still, a common complaint from any gamemaster will be, "I couldn't get my players to follow my beautiful ...". Then they will wax poetic about the intricate plot, their favorite little GMPC that didn't shine in the right light, or the villain that got hosed because things didn't go the way the plot was demanding.
It stinks, but it's unavoidable. It is written in the by-laws of the Lake Geneva convention. The treaties signed between player and gamemaster long ago (the 1970's, you know LAST MILLENNIUM) that outlined proper gaming etiquette. Not really. The Lake Geneva Convention treaties aren't real. Just a nod to TSR. Ha Ha how old are we?
Players will go left when you want them to go right, they will fight when you want them to flee, and most of the time win against all odds. That's heroics, it's what makes role-playing worth playing. For that chance to become legends and the opportunity to taste it with friends. Being a gamemaster is a tough role but it serves as the mediator between the game and the players. We're not there to make you into heroes or villains, we simply give you the world with all it's muck, grim, dirty places, people and things. We give you the tools, but gamemaster puts it into perspective and the players bring it all to life.
If you don't believe us, look it up. In the Lake Geneva conventions.
Creativity is essential in any role-playing game. It opens the door to expression and imagination that shape characters, NPCs, and the very world of the game. What better way to exercise creativity than through crafting? With a craft system you can build augmentations for your character or use your character to build wonders that reflect their perception of their world.
A good craft system gives the GM and the Players a tool kit; filled with sparks for ideas and mortar for settings. You should be able to equip your unique characters with complimentary gear and fill interesting settings with important details. If you live in a police state surrounded by electric eyes the craft system needs to be able to reinforce that feeling of oppression with night vision and thermal cameras used by Brother Big, the city's Savior machine. In a city of smog, the craft system better also be able to spit out fashionable respirators, personal sonar visors and neon lights to calm those who haven't felt the touch of the sun in ages. We know craft systems can be seen as too tedious and not worth the time to make if you have a large enough equipment section. However, with our game it's not just about equipment. We believe the best craft systems help build context.
Imagine your newly built character survived a gunfight against a Slavic gang during their first session by taking cover behind a brick wall. The next day you see the elderly matron of the gang you defeated, Lady Matroska, turn a similar brick wall to powder with a backhand. Now you have an idea of how frighteningly powerful she is. The thing that saved your life last night is nothing but a pebble in the road to Lady Matroska and without having to directly interact with the matron, you now know you're out of her league. In another scenario, a mercenary team outfitted with Green Industries’ bleeding-edge technology can find themselves faced with the challenge of their lives trying to break into your secret base. Your supernatural, MacGuyver-like ability to build a fortress out of mundane items like aluminum siding and duct tape can be great enough to foil such a threat.
Our craft system has been designed to go past weapons and personal equipment. We have designed it to be flexible enough to allow for creativity in every respect; weapons, gadgets, armor, setting pieces, props, and even materials used for construction. This isn’t to say by any means that you will be forced to use the craft system if you want to get anything done or built, but that the option to take your game and characters to stories and worlds, past the one we have created for you, will always be there.
Context built, leagues established, hero pose.
What we’re creating is not a superhero game. Sure, we have superpowers, but we have dragons in there somewhere too. We could say that this is a game of superpowers, but even then that’s more of a pun than an actual description. For us, saying this is a superhero game is like saying that CSI: Miami is just as much a part of the sci-fi genre as Star Trek, since science is central to both franchises. The reason we take this stance is because much like science, “Superhero” is not a genre in and of itself.
“Superhero" does not evoke a specific emotion in the same way as “Action”, “Thriller”, or “Horror.” It is at best a sub-genre, and the best way to use superpowers are as a spice, not a full meal. Others have also taken this metaphorical approach to superpowers so we see some merit to it as more than just the pretentious ramblings of an out-of-touch and literate group of geeks just nerd-sniping each other all day with theories.
Take a look at Luke Cage, one of the Netflix original series by Marvel. Luke Cage is basically a western movie with a superhero instead of your standard Eastwood gunslinger. (SPOILER WARNING) Luke is a stranger in a “lawless area”; he stands up for the masses and becomes a hero to the “townsfolk”; and in the end he cleans things up a bit and “rides off into the sunset.”
This is the stance we have taken with our system. The settings and characters our players choose and create are the spices they add to the meal that is our system and the versatility is affords. It won’t matter if you play a flying, bulletproof femme fatale fighting a cult of drug-fueled corporate executives in the rough and tumble underworld of New York City or a mighty, musclebound and fleshy barbarian lord riding a giant man-eating hawk from a mystical kingdom, the rules for getting stabbed will be the same in both worlds as will the rules for attacking, defending, healing, hurting, or even just resting to recover; the system is versatile enough to handle all of these “spices.”
To reiterate, “Superhero” is not a genre and this isn’t a superhero game. What we’re making is a role-playing game that explores power, because power can come in all kinds of forms: financial, political, criminal, and supernatural, just to name a few. This is a game about powers, yes, but more specifically it’s a game about a world that is conflicted by powers and how you will wield what little portion of power you have, whether it’s in your hands, your mind, shooting from your eyes, or in your bank account.