World's Greatest... Superhero RPG House Rules

In my last superhero RPG series, I'd started using a couple of funky rewards for players who'd put a lot of time in using the old comic book convention of giving heroes hype-happy descriptors (the Amazing Spider-Man!) and shock and awe nicknames (the World's Greatest Detective!). The role-playing campaign I'm running now is about to end, and a new one is about to start - a Supers game using DC Adventures - and the 3e Mutants & Masterminds engine I think will allow me to port those house rules pretty seamlessly. (I have a sneaking suspicion that I was inspired to do this after reading someone else's idea, so if I took it from you, please chime in!)

A special reward you say?
Yes. Because I use a "roll call" to deal with having more players than can fit around a table, not every superhero created for the game gets to play each week (or is available to). Some players are more assiduous than others. In DC Heroes, my former game, players who showed up more frequently of course had a better chance at advancement, but since rewards were in Hero Points, and Hero Points could be spent during a session, you could very well have a hero who stalled at the same level forever, despite playing more games than the next guy. I thus instituted a program where the number of games actually counted for something and gave the players rewards at certain intervals. For me it was every 25 sessions, which made sense at the time, but that could easily be reduced to 15 or less, according to how long your series/campaigns last.

In M&M, there is a separate reward used for advancement called Power Points, so I think I'll tie my special rewards to Power Level. My player's will start at Power Level 10, and gain one reward every time they go up a Level (which shouldn't be very often, admittedly, but makes for a nice "graduation bonus").

Descriptors and Nicknames
Whether given after X number of sessions or when they graduate to another level, I like to alternate between the two following reward types:

Descriptors: The Invincible Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Mighty Thor... Marvel heroes tend to have awesome adjectives in front of their names. IF they've earned them, of course. When your hero reaches the required mark, choose an adjective for him or her. From then on, once per session, when that character does something worthy of the adjective, he or she gets a bonus (getting to do it for free without resorting to paying Hero Points, or a nice bonus). Is the Hulk doing something Incredible like ripping the Golden Gate Bridge from its moorings? Is Iron Man dealing with incredible damage to is systems? And so on.

Team Descriptors: Teams can also earn descriptors (Uncanny X-Men, Mighty Avengers, etc.). Allow this when the group has reaches a certain number of games, even if its members have not. The bonus would only take effect on actions the team collaborates on.

Nicknames: The Fastest Man Alive, the Dark Knight Detective, the Boy Wonder... DC likes its nicknames, but Marvel has them too - the Green Goliath, the Armored Avenger, the Man Without Fear. When your hero reaches the next required mark, he or she chooses a nickname. Though descriptors are often chosen because they sound good next to the hero's name, nicknames should reflect the character's strengths and reputation. Nicknames don't take effect once per game, they're a flat +1 bonus to one Power/Skill/Trait relevant to that nickname. For example, the Flash might have +1 to Superspeed feats, Batman to investigation, and the Aquaman, the King of the Seven Seas, to leadership interactions. In M&M, Power Level 12 characters are described as having such reputations, which suits me perfectly.

Doubling Up: There is no real limit to how many descriptors and nicknames a character can rack up. Characters with multiple titles, and who thus have played a lot of "sessions" tend to have many. Spider-Man is at once Amazing, Spectacular, Sensational and Friendly Neighborhood. Superman is the The Man of Steel (+1 to resist damage), the Last Son of Krypton (+1 to Kryptonian knowledge), and the Man of Tomorrow (+1 versus scientific threats).

No descriptors sound right? Try Catch Phrases: Sometimes, you can't get a good alliteration going. DC Heroes seem particularly resistant to such things. Your hero could instead take a catch phrase. He could say these himself ("It's clobberin' time!") or trigger them in bystanders ("It's a bird, it's a plane..."). Either way, these work just like descriptors, giving a once-per-session bonus to the character. In the examples given, the Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Thing (he's got plenty of descriptors already) would get a bonus to that attack, while Superman might boost his charisma (awe-like intimidation) or his flight.

I find these are great for adding color and don't result in overwhelming bonuses. Descriptors have limited strength, and nicknames are well known by villains, who can be justified in planning for them. From now on, you can call me the Stupendous Siskoid, the Geek King (hm, needs work).


Trey said...

Interesting. Sounds like a cool way to handle things. I think it will be fun in play.


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