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M&M Setting Design: Justifying Tropes

 
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virgil
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 9:52 pm    Post subject: M&M Setting Design: Justifying Tropes Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm planning on running an M&M campaign in a month or so. It's already been decided that the PCs are going to be on the upper-end of street level (PL 7 or 8). Tone and aesthetic is necessary, since there's a world of difference between X-Men, One Punch, Doctor Strange, and Teen Titans. I need/want to decide on the metaorigin - at least a rough excuse or two of where superpowers come from (mutant genes, the Event, etc). There is a strong urge to include some level of trope justification.

Joker Immunity: An iconic one, where your super villain just gets captured and sent to prison, rather than shot in the head. I've seen a few ideas...
  • Magneto the Lobbyist - Some super villain has taken the mantle of supporting the rights of metahumans, and will start tossing nukes if he thinks they're getting unfairly killed.
  • Vigilante Legislation - The gov't isn't as dystopian as real life, and actually forbids capital punishment even for the Joker. Whether it's self-employed or gov't contract, metas are given favorable legal infrastructure so long as they play by these same rules.
  • Kaiju Metagene - Any metahuman that dies released some kind of localized catastrophe (super plague, actual kaiju, explosions, etc). Heroes don't kill villains because they don't want to fight that. Villains tie up heroes and put them in a death trap so they have time to run beyond the blast radius.
  • Requisite Personality Trait - Just say it's a genre convention and ask the players to not make the Punisher.

    Reed Richards is Useless: Mainly for the science-based metas, but the world is recognizably like ours (besides the metas) despite the revolutionary technology being thrown about.
  • Powers are New - Super powers are sufficiently new that none of the tech has filtered down to the level of people on the street. Its presence can be felt in places like military bases, research facilities, or that billionaire's house.
  • Magic Feather - None of the supertech is truly, independently functional. Some metahumans essentially have inspiration to build what they think is functional tech that only works for them.
  • Unobtanium - All of the supertech requires either plutonium or is essentially artisanal and can't be reasonably mass-produced.
  • Super Privilege - Technically kind of wishy-washy, but essentially say that it's a mix of all of the above combined with institutional inertia and mildly bad luck (research data with cancer cure destroyed by stray plasma beam).
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    angelfromanotherpin
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    PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    It used to be that the Joker straight-up was killed at the end of each of his sprees, in a way that made finding the body problematic. Then each new Joker story would start with him explaining his survival, or just not. The point was, Joker didn't used to get captured. Alan Moore's Painted Doll character was a play on that trope.

    I remember there was one setting where superpowers would reincarnate if their bearer was killed, so the government was happy to keep the villain imprisoned rather than deal with a new unknown powered person.
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    maglag
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    PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:25 pm    Post subject: Re: M&M Setting Design: Justifying Tropes Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    The real question is who's paying the joker's medical bills. Ghotam City sure has great free healthcare otherwise the streets would be filled with all the crippled thugs batman leaves behind.

    Then there's Lex Luthor who makes sure to simply have a great lawyer team covering his tracks and also constantly runs propaganda plus offers to the chairty so that the majority of the population thinks they're a great guy.
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    Dogbert
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    PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 2:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    TL;DR: "Justify genre conventions" is an oxymoron.

    <REALITY CHECK>
    If you feel an urgent need to JUSTIFY the most basic of assumptions inherent to a work of fiction, then chances are that genre is just not for you, and you'd be better off playing anything else, preferably something that doesn't challenge your WSOD.
    </REALITY CHECK>

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    deaddmwalking
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    PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 3:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    If the law is generally capable, they may be willing to turn a blind-eye to vigilantism as long as nobody gets (seriously) hurt. If you kill the Joker you're likely to be on the most wanted list and taking you in becomes a major priority. You have to balance your illegal activities with maintaining an image that makes the police on your side.

    Superpowers can be 'granted' a la Captain America, but the process is extremely dangerous with a survival rate of less than 10%. The powers that be (officially at least) are not trying to create any new supers. There are possibly exceptions [rogue scientists/covert military]. Existing supers were created accidentally for the most part before the 'secret' was discovered - most of them were treated for a deadly disease (like cancer) and a combination of treatments resulted in the granted powers. Even after refining the process, the flaws haven't been worked out. If it only works on people that have deadly cancer, the number of candidates is also relatively small. Plans to increase cancer rates have been generally discarded.
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    hyzmarca
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    PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 3:48 am    Post subject: Re: M&M Setting Design: Justifying Tropes Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    virgil wrote:
    I'm planning on running an M&M campaign in a month or so. It's already been decided that the PCs are going to be on the upper-end of street level (PL 7 or 8). Tone and aesthetic is necessary, since there's a world of difference between X-Men, One Punch, Doctor Strange, and Teen Titans. I need/want to decide on the metaorigin - at least a rough excuse or two of where superpowers come from (mutant genes, the Event, etc). There is a strong urge to include some level of trope justification.

    Joker Immunity: An iconic one, where your super villain just gets captured and sent to prison, rather than shot in the head. I've seen a few ideas...
  • Magneto the Lobbyist - Some super villain has taken the mantle of supporting the rights of metahumans, and will start tossing nukes if he thinks they're getting unfairly killed.
  • Vigilante Legislation - The gov't isn't as dystopian as real life, and actually forbids capital punishment even for the Joker. Whether it's self-employed or gov't contract, metas are given favorable legal infrastructure so long as they play by these same rules.
  • Kaiju Metagene - Any metahuman that dies released some kind of localized catastrophe (super plague, actual kaiju, explosions, etc). Heroes don't kill villains because they don't want to fight that. Villains tie up heroes and put them in a death trap so they have time to run beyond the blast radius.
  • Requisite Personality Trait - Just say it's a genre convention and ask the players to not make the Punisher.


  • Joker Immunity is really easy to justify in a RPG. Prisons actually work. That's it. Prisons actually work. People who go to jail usually stay in jail. Escapes are rare. Multiple escapes are rarer.

    This can be combined with the second justification, that superhuman prisons exist in order to keep the really powerful villains around, just in case they're needed to stop an alien invasion or something in the future.

    Recurring villains would be the smart ones who hide their identities and escape.


    Quote:

    Reed Richards is Useless: Mainly for the science-based metas, but the world is recognizably like ours (besides the metas) despite the revolutionary technology being thrown about.
  • Powers are New - Super powers are sufficiently new that none of the tech has filtered down to the level of people on the street. Its presence can be felt in places like military bases, research facilities, or that billionaire's house.
  • Magic Feather - None of the supertech is truly, independently functional. Some metahumans essentially have inspiration to build what they think is functional tech that only works for them.
  • Unobtanium - All of the supertech requires either plutonium or is essentially artisanal and can't be reasonably mass-produced.
  • Super Privilege - Technically kind of wishy-washy, but essentially say that it's a mix of all of the above combined with institutional inertia and mildly bad luck (research data with cancer cure destroyed by stray plasma beam).


  • The first justification is the most believable and functional, but it ends with your players deciding to play Logistics and Loises, not that this is a bad thing.

    The others are really cop-outs that are going to annoy people and will still fail when anyone puts effort into Logistics and Loises. Even Magic Feather fails if Superman just turns a giant turbine constantly. But if you want to do Supertech, I'd do it without supergeniuses. The reason it doesn't trickle down is that the heroes found it, they didn't build it, and no one can duplicate it.

    Metaorigin: October 20, 1997, 3:21PM GMT, a five mile wide, half-mile thick disc, presumed to be an alien spacecraft, appears in the skies above North America and zooms away. It's sighted on every Continent afterwards, until 3:33PM GMT, where it rises high into the upper atmosphere and explodes over the Atlantic Ocean. Debris rains down across the world. In the wake of the explosion, some people develop unexplainable powers. Others recover intact technology from the ship, which possesses amazing capabilities. To this day, no one knows where it came from, why it came to Earth, or why it exploded.
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    OgreBattle
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    PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 5:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    I think it'd be more fun to not justify these tropes and just play campaigns with a definite end, so the Joker can get executed in Texas and Reed Richards can change the world of technology at the end of the campaign.
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    Thaluikhain
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    PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 5:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    " Vigilante Legislation - The gov't isn't as dystopian as real life, and actually forbids capital punishment even for the Joker. Whether it's self-employed or gov't contract, metas are given favorable legal infrastructure so long as they play by these same rules."

    That doesn't exclude a justified killing to prevent an innocent person to be harmed. Batman might not kill, buts police (and citizens) in Gotham carry firearms.

    Personally, I like the idea of villains doing a deal with the Suicide Squad and then getting released. If you squint a bit it almost looks sorta believable.
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    Chamomile
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    PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 7:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Another Joker Immunity option is:

  • Dystopian Aristocracy - Team Blue and Team Red have a system whereby captured supers are ransomed back to one another and it is considered dishonorable to kill a defeated enemy. Team Blue supers put Team Red in jail, and Team Red put Team Blue in theoretically lethal but pragmatically just irritating funhouses of doom, and eventually Team Blue swaps a captured villain for one of Team Red's heroes, or else one side or the other just escapes. Supers who kill other supers are considered part of Team Black, blacklisted by both sides of the conflict. Nobody cares if you kill someone on Team Black. No one cares if you kill cops, bystanders, or goons. There's a lot of rhetoric about the importance of pacifism and the sanctity of human life that gets attached to it, but fundamentally what it is is that Team Blue likes being celebrities with disproportionate say in local governments due to being critical to security, but they don't want to have to be a potential target of the Joker's next spree in exchange.
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    G‚tFromKI
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    PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 7:39 am    Post subject: Re: M&M Setting Design: Justifying Tropes Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    virgil wrote:
    Joker Immunity: An iconic one, where your super villain just gets captured and sent to prison, rather than shot in the head. I've seen a few ideas...
  • Magneto the Lobbyist - Some super villain has taken the mantle of supporting the rights of metahumans, and will start tossing nukes if he thinks they're getting unfairly killed.
  • Vigilante Legislation - The gov't isn't as dystopian as real life, and actually forbids capital punishment even for the Joker. Whether it's self-employed or gov't contract, metas are given favorable legal infrastructure so long as they play by these same rules.
  • Kaiju Metagene - Any metahuman that dies released some kind of localized catastrophe (super plague, actual kaiju, explosions, etc). Heroes don't kill villains because they don't want to fight that. Villains tie up heroes and put them in a death trap so they have time to run beyond the blast radius.
  • Requisite Personality Trait - Just say it's a genre convention and ask the players to not make the Punisher.

  • There's one thing players care above all : xp. If you want to incentivize a behavior, give xp bonus; if you want to de-incentivize a behavior, give xp penalty.

    "XP: at the end of each story, each PC gain 5 xp. If some villain died during the story, each PC involved in their death lose 3 xp."

    Players may decide to kill a villain they particularly hate. They know the consequences, and won't do it often: their incentive is to play the "pure" hero who tries to save everyone. If they're not stupid, they'll understand it's not a problem (from a player perspective - it is a problem from a character perspective) when a villain escapes from jail: anyway there were going to be a villain in the story, so whether it's a old one or a new one...


    hyzmarca wrote:
    Metaorigin: October 20, 1997, 3:21PM GMT, a five mile wide, half-mile thick disc, presumed to be an alien spacecraft, appears in the skies above North America and zooms away. It's sighted on every Continent afterwards, until 3:33PM GMT, where it rises high into the upper atmosphere and explodes over the Atlantic Ocean. Debris rains down across the world. In the wake of the explosion, some people develop unexplainable powers. Others recover intact technology from the ship, which possesses amazing capabilities. To this day, no one knows where it came from, why it came to Earth, or why it exploded.

    You could add "The study of the technology has allowed some serious breakdown in science - but it is so recent and complex, the researchers are far from understanding every implication of those new theory. Anyway, some super-genius are able to create technological items using their interpretation of those theories".

    This is how real science work: quantum physic was created in the early 1900's, a consistent theory of supraconductivity was created 50 years later (although it is a pure application of the quantum formalism) (and we still don't have a consistent theory for high temperature supraconductors), Bell's inequalities were invented in 1964 (again, it's only an application of the quantum formalism vs the Einstein's interpretation), etc: it takes a lot of time to derive every possible application from a new theory.

    You could add the following rule:

    "special-tech item require constant maintenance - or they can stop working, or worst, generate random effects. Usually, only the creator of a special-tech item is able to maintain it - he conceived the item with his own understanding of the underlying physic, which is not the same as the one of another super-genius, and writing a complete documentation about every possible issue he can think of and the required maintenance action would take more than his life - and wouldn't even be exhaustive. Usually they discover new issues during maintenance and solve it thanks to their understanding of their own creation.

    Rules: usually it is possible to lend a special-tech item for a one-use utilization in a near future - if Prof Doom lend you his singularity grenade so you can throw it in the next 5 minutes, it should work.

    In any other case, each time you want to use an object you didn't conceive, roll [...] . If you use the item more than once, the difficulty increases by [X] at each subsequent use. [possible effects in case of failure, etc].

    Studying an item: a super-genius may study an item created by another super-genius. [Rules are essentially the same as the rule for creating new items]."

    Depending on your intend, you can balance this so it's suicide to use an item you didn't create, or you can balance it so super-geniuses may fill a niche of "potions/grenades/wands/other limited-use items crafters". (You could also imagine a system with "maintenance points": a level N super-genius has X maintenance points, it represent the amount of stuff he's able to maintain at the same time. A level-appropriate laser-handgun costs 1, the Shield's Helicarrier costs a lot).


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    Occluded Sun
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    PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    As I understand it, Joker Immunity exists so that future stories involving the Joker are possible, and writers who might want to use a very popular villain in a future work can do so.

    This is perfectly reasonable for people writing comic books. You don't want to eliminate a perfectly good source of future material. But there's no such need for people playing in roleplaying campaigns. Even if the campaign continues after one major plotline ends, it's not going to go on for decades and nothing's going to be sold to anyone. If it makes sense for the Joker to be killed at the end of the campaign, do so.

    Technology is a little harder to work with - science can be used by anyone, and engineering even more so. I recommend the suggestion given above, and say that what appears to be super-advanced technology is limited to the person that makes it, and doesn't function when it's duplicated. No scientific advances can be made by studying the function of the tech - it's really technomagic.

    It's worth noting that using such tech to perform science - such as building an extremely efficient particle accelerator to study subatomic physics, or using an antigravity generator to visit other planets - is entirely viable, and might revolutionize things on its own. But nobody can replicate that antigrav device even though Doctor Incredible built it, and his theories and explanations about how it does it don't work for other people.
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    virgil
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    PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Currently working with the following setup...

    Some time ago, aliens appeared in the sky, but it was covered up Roswell style (might even *be* Roswell). Shortly thereafter, a handful of metahumans hit the scene, none of which had super-science. Their caped antics shaped public perception of their behavior, and several pieces of legislation were created around them, especially after one conflict between a villain/hero resulted in a small town being destroyed and one metahuman dead.

    Fast forward to only a few years from the present. More aliens appeared in various places across the world. Not enough to constitute an invasion, but certainly enough to prove the cracknuts right. Then, these aliens fought each other. About a month after the fighting and departure of the aliens, many more metahumans manifested this time. Every metahuman thus far was in close physical proximity to a geographic region where aliens fought, but not with 100% distribution. Anybody who was in that area and left before the aliens finished fighting didn't gain powers. What else is known is that metahuman powers do pass down from the mother/

    What isn't known to the public is that brain death results in a metahuman's powers turning into something terribly destructive. I haven't decided whether it's an explosion, a rampaging energy beast, or whatever. The culture and legislation strongly discourages lethal force against metas (and capital punishment is definitely off the table), so there's been few enough 'mistakes' for the cover up to persist, though any meta with access to state secrets has found out.
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    Last edited by virgil on Tue Aug 15, 2017 8:51 pm; edited 2 times in total
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    Trill
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    PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Do metas live forever unless killed? Because if they have normal lifespans their life will end in a bunker or in the desert (depending on what happens).
    Or is it just trauma/poison/whatever else induced brain death not natural one that causes that destructive side effect?
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    virgil
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    PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Trill wrote:
    Do metas live forever unless killed? Because if they have normal lifespans their life will end in a bunker or in the desert (depending on what happens).
    Or is it just trauma/poison/whatever else induced brain death not natural one that causes that destructive side effect?
    Metas are not immortal unless that's one of their powers. The background reason is that there's a "spark" inside every metahuman's brain that gives them their powers, and either the passive electrical discharge or enzyme activity associated with such acts as a 'cage' for this spark. From that description alone, their lives need to end in isolation.

    If I wanted to keep metahuman retirement centers from being hidden space stations, I could have whatever happens in the brain during a violent death that doesn't occur with more "natural" causes be something that corrupts the spark into this dangerous manifestation.
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    shinimasu
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    PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    I like how several lowkey possibilities were given out to get around joker immunity and you jump right to "I know lets make everyone's head a mini nuke." Points for creativity.

    I mean doesn't the convention essentially come from "it's illegal to murder guys without due process and vigilanties don't need yet more reason for cops to make their lives difficult?" Wasn't the whole Cadmus thing from DC basically "shit how do mundane cops actually enforce laws against the supers who can bend steel beams with their minds" which resulted in a poorly thought out super powers arms race?

    Or you could just do the my hero academia thing: Everyone has a power (but not all powers are good for hero work) and "hero" is just another kind of civil servant like fireman or police officer.
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    PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Quote:
    Or you could just do the my hero academia thing: Everyone has a power (but not all powers are good for hero work) and "hero" is just another kind of civil servant like fireman or police officer.

    Can you imagine my girl Ashido Mina working a desk job!

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    shinimasu
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    PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Given that this guy is chief of police?

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    Yes I absolutely could see that.
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    PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    shinimasu wrote:
    Given that this guy is chief of police? (Puppers Chief Pic) Yes I absolutely could see that.

    Come on now! Anthro doggies and police forces are a total slam dunk. d(-_^)

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    virgil
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    PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    Meh, not interested in having enough metas to sustain that kind of societal demographic.
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    shinimasu
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    PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

    That's fair, though I do want to point out that a lot of those metas would be functionally identical to normies. "I can shoot lasers from my eyes" is one thing but 90% of the population has things like "I can take my tongue out of my mouth" or "I can taste colors."
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