Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Spitballing: The Superhero Sandbox

Would supers games benefit from a vigorous sandbox-like approach to mapping and statting out the parts of the heroes' home city? You could use the Wilderlands/Traveller numbered hex approach.

1032 McSleazy's - bar containing 3d6 cheap thugs and d6-1 wise guys

1034 Museum district - see submap 3

1036 warehouse lair of Professor Doominstein and his Funtime Cyborg Jamboree

Or you could assign each neighborhood some stats. A make-your-trait system like Risus can be handy for this.

declining neighborhood trying to recapture former glory(3) domain of the O'Bryan Mob(2) best bakeries in the city(2)

Heck, you could probably get a lot done with just some encounter tables with built-in change conditions.

Uptown Patrol Encounters, Night
2 Mr. Ripper encounter [capture to remove from chart]
3 d8 teen punks with nothing to do
4 Petty crime in progress, d8 cheap hoods [break up 6 times to swap with spot 3 on the chart]
5 Mugging in progress, d4 muggers [bring in 10 muggers to swap with spot 6]
6 d12 carousing hooligans, nothing more severe than drunk & disorderly conduct
7 Robbery in progress, 2d6 cheap thugs
8 Monster rampage

This way diligent heroes can actually make the city a better place, one neighborhood at a time.


  1. Anonymous1:00 PM

    I like it a lot!

  2. I tried, back in the day, I really tried.

    I tried to draw a map of my city, for my Champions campaign.

    I got as far as a part of the University area. There was a commons, some labs, a bookstore and a nearby coffee shop. But that's about it.

    Y'see, back in the day, I thought such things had to be meticulously planned out and marked down. Today, having been exposed to the likes of S. John Ross and his brilliant and inimitable Risus, I know better.

    I like both your Risus suggestion and especially your encounter table. Were I running a superhero game today, that's definitely the way I'd go.

  3. Back when I first picked up the classic MArvel Super Hero RPG from TSR, I thought to do something just like this. Rather than New York, I'd pull a DC and create my own city, that way I wasn't beholden to any sort of history.

    I still think it is a great idea. The best way to go with this, though, is to map it by district and thence by street address, with maps of the city by district (and major cross-city routes, street and otherwise), then each district mapped out by block and building, much like the Trolls are doing with Yggsburgh (but obviously on a much larger scale). Don't need to describe every building, of course, just the major ones that might be important to the campaign.

    As there's little chance of a C&C Supers style game, I've got long-term plans to eventually do something like this for the major cities of the Star SIEGE setting I'll publish. But that's waaaay down the line...

  4. This is veering close to a modern-day superpowered update of Ars Ludi's West Marches setup: Just stat out the world and let the PCs go exploring. I've always appreciated this approach.

    Superhero gaming, however, needs something more, some implied buy-in to keep the player's interested in venturing out into the wilderness. It's hard send the PCs on "missions," especially when they're high level. Something else needs to be their motivator.

  5. Slow down, cowboy. How do you propose that a sucka use those Risus stats for a location...?

  6. PCs want to run the O'Bryan mob out of town. They need to beat two dice to put the heat on in Argentville. Maybe they can organize the community and actually use those three dice of "declining neighborhood trying to recapture former glory" working for them in a team-up. Using the bakeries to bring down the mob would allow them to make an inappropriate cliche attack.