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MoonHunter Sayeth 20180702


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Meta - Setting: The Bolt(s)

Yesterday, there was a massive blue lightning bolt from the sky (ionosphere to be exact), striking the center of Times Square. Electrical systems all over The Square shorted out. There is a glassy spot where that manhole cover is in the center of things. It is amazing that the auto crashes and other issues did not kill anyone. (The one guy with a pacemaker was resuscitated). Lots of people were injured though. However, like all New Yorkers, they got on with their lives.

Yesterday, people around the world (a hundred or so) began to develop "abilities". (There is a greater concentration of people effect with proximity to The Bolt). All of these abilities have to deal with super speed (or time related abilities) and electrical abilities. Today there are two costumed superheroes and one super villain in costumes dukeing it out downtown. They took him down and brought him in. When asked why they wore costumes, they said, "Because it is cool" and ran off. Now others are doing it.

The existence of Bolts seems to be distributed across the social, economic, and political spectrum (though a concentration in North America and New York). We have good bolts, bad bolts, bolts with no affiliations, bolts working for the government, and ones working against. They seem to be able to sense each other (or at least the use of Bolt Powers), so someone doing a lot of super speed activity (like assembling a bomb) will bring attention from other Bolts.

All Bolts have super speed related abilities, electrical abilities, and some limited time manipulation. Some have metabolic regeneation (speeding up healing). They can sense the use of bolt powers innately in the world around them (like a radar). Most have related disabilities, hyperaging, hyperactive metabolism, requiring hypobolic sleep to even out their ageing, superspeed seizures, and other things (like bordom - as the world runs so slow).

Eventually there will be more bolts in other locations creating more loci of super speed/ electrical abilities, but for now New York is the fastest city in the world.
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This is one of my favorite supers settings, from one of my favorite supers thread. Some day, when Convergence Point is done, this will be a published setting. I like it for a couple of reasons...
  • Not a "Kitchen Sink Setting": It does not have aliens, wizards, giant robots, intelligent apes, and all the weirdness that comes along with 80+ years of comic book history.
  • Focused Conceptions: Everyone's Power Source is the same and the timing is often the same. Luckily, the powers all have a theme or a spread, but are not identical. (Time Powers are not travel but slow and speed.)
  • It all started "today":There is no back history or secret stuff going on with powers before powers publicly existed.
  • We have "Mask": The whole costume/ uniform/ mask thing evolved naturally from the theatrics of the first few Bolts that were public. Thus we have "heroes" and "villains".

It is all simple, clean, and direct. We now have people with powers and those same people and the rest of the world coping with them. These people will impact the world, but they will not change it.

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Most gamers, even those that like comics, don't do superhero gaming.

Super Hero Gaming, let alone super powered gaming, has a lot of elements that need to be addressed. The settings are more complex than most, and the players often have to interact with the complex elements. The characters are also more complex than most characters, and have more capabilities. The story conflict needs to be adjusted because of the existence of powers. In short, every plot line needs to be tailored to the characters in the setting... as their impact is greater. On top of all that, the expected genre emulation has many elements that are harder to game.

In short Supers Gaming is hard to "get right" and have a "comic book" feel - as there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of player buy in.

It is hard to get right.

When you do get it right, it is a lot of fun to play.

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Let us start with The Conception
The setting design is all about The Conception. Settings have conceptions, just like characters. They impact everything that goes on in the chronicle, so the right choices that are comfortable for the GM and the Players are important.

The Conception includes, date of power, powers/ power sources, scope of things, and the setting with history.

The GM also needs to define which things of the Setting Conception are Hard Points (unchangeable) and which are Soft Points (flexible to a degree).

You would think most supers settings would be easy. They are just the real world plus powers. You would think that. It is not the case. It all depends on when powers "went live" publicly and when they did behind the scenes.

If both dates were very recently, if not yesterday, then there is less going on. You just have to factor in the activities of the first empowered beings and the governments' response to them. (In the case of Bolts, they need to sleep, eat, and drink, and they are not bullet proof.)

If the dates go back, you need to develop an entire "secret history" of what the empowered were doing from when the powers came into existence and why nobody knew about them until "the public date". This secret history includes various groups of empowered people, groups that use empowered people, and government responses to them. (Maybe even other big institution's responses to them.) The Secret History continues on and on, as there will always be things that happen that are not publicly known.

So detailed histories, lots of explanations, and how the world works, are just the beginning of things to consider. This is still the conception phase, so these are not "final details", but still the general idea of how things are going to go.

One needs to address are there secret societies, secret species, secret science, and so on. Do they exist? When did they get here? Have they had any impact?

You could set The Bolt as the public date and main power source. There might be occult/ mystical paranormals and aliens in the generally secret part of the background. That secret history goes back a few thousand years and needs to be detailed out by the GM (and slowly revealed to the players). This is just an example not the actual case in The Bolt setting, but it could be.

The Cape Tradition:
This is one thing that needs to be addressed. Does the caped/ masked/ costume genre convention come into play? When does this come into play and why? The secret identities aspects, make a great deal of sense, as one can not be "on their guard" at all times. The colorful figure element may or may not depending on the history of the world. And there may be laws or considerations in place if Capes have been around.

Powers and Power Sources
What powers sources (F/Xs) are available? This could be genetic powers, mutant powers (atomics+genetics), magical, alien (alien genetics), technologic, cybernetic, etc, etc. For the players, they need to know what is available and for which power effects and power levels? In your normal kitchen sink supers setting, anything goes. Most GMs try to "sculpt" things, with restrictions on what exists and how they exist. So, your setting might not have magic and many supernatural things are aliens. The world only has mutant powers (or might have everything, but PCs can only have mutant powers only). Perhaps powers only come from special treatments (science! or alchemy!). You can be a "trained in the ancient temple" kind of martial artist, but you are limited to a lower power level for any powers. The GM needs to anticipate what the players might want in the setting and address the permissions if any.

The Bolt is the only power source in this setting. This unlocks various super speeds options, Enhanced DEX, Reflexes, Speed, various movement abilities, super speed, various electrical abilities (bolts, deflections, absorbing, shaping, etc), regeneration (super speed healing), and a few other things not listed, but fitting the special effect. (Speed drain, slowing of objects, speeding other things, and so on are also time options.)

This is where most of the activity of the Chronicle will be occurring. This ranges from the physical map to all those important things that exist that the characters might interact with. If something from beyond that scope is regularly involved in the setting, they are included "in the setting". This is the primary stages of the chronicle.

For Bolt, it is all about Greater New York City and all boroughs and areas around.

Setting Beyond
This is beyond the regular setting for the chronicle, including the rest of the world and maybe other worlds. Things happening in other cities could impact the setting and the player's chronicle. In a super hero chronicle, the "civil war" happening in a galactic empire far away could impact the setting (insert mystic empire and other dimension if needed). The setting beyond will be things that could impact the main stages of the setting eventually.

This would include the other cities. Washington is part of the setting, as The Government is involved early on. There are other possibilities. Imagine a bunch of school kids from Boston were just leaving the area of The Bolt, when it went off. Boston would become a hot spot. The one lone European traveler goes home and becomes a bolt criminal. Thus in Europe all Bolts are considered criminals. Maybe Taos becomes a hot spot for some reason.

Character Framework
Related to the settings, this is what characters are expected to be, what is their current situation, and so on. It is "the expected starting place" for the chronicle's characters.

The GM needs to define the expectations for characters early on. If you want all heroically inclined characters, or characters that are everyday people that might follow the law, or the characters are all shady and inclined to be on the wrong side of things.

We would assume that most players would play Bolts, but there is always one. The GM must determine if this is a hard or soft point.

So once The Conception for the setting is a bit fleshed out, it is time a proper blurb, any player input/ bits, and the GM to begin to work out the details (beyond just some ideas).

You know, The MoonHunter Way.

You can see that a super hero game has a lot more involved than your normal setting. While you don't have to build everything (because it is based on CYCW), there are a lot of points to consider. And you need to consider them early on... so you can make sure that all the details that the setting will require will all fit.
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