Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bumblebee Boy

Welp, finished up my Supers one-sheet micro-game and am considering uploading it to Ye Old MediaFire for wholesale download by the masses. In fact, I might as well since games are meant to be played and yadda-yadda-yadda.

The only thing that brings out my paranoia is my proprietary DMI system being so blatantly present in the one-sheet. On the other hand, who cares?

And really, who does? It seems like a lot of folks (including several regular role-players I know and with whom I game) are not big fans of the superhero genre...for a variety of reasons. Me...well, I grew up taking long road trips with my family before there was such a thing as laptop computers and portable DVD players: the parents would simply buy a bunch of random comics and toss 'em in the backseat with my brother and I, and we'd read them all the way to Montana, thrilling to the likes of Daredevil and Ghost Rider and The Avengers.

Last night, my two year old son was running around the house wearing a cape and pretending to be a superhero. Why? Not because of his weirdo papa or his games or comics or superhero DVDs (all of which are kept well out of reach...Star Wars and show tunes are enough "bad influence" from the Old Man). Nope...the nanny took him to the library yesterday and he came back with a a big picture book called The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy, a story about a young boy dressing up as a superhero and being pestered by his younger brother until he finally relents and adopts the munchkin as his heroic sidekick. It's a cute book filled with the fun of make believe and echoing the experience of older brother childhoods all over the world.

Anyway, D wanted a cape so he could be "Bumble-Boy," too. I tend to be indulgent when my child shows interest in my own interests.

But my boy is not your average 20-something gamer (he's got a couple decades to go) and to a lot of younger folks who didn't grow up with the Silver Age (or even Bronze Age) of superhero comics they really don't get what all the fuss is about. The movies might make pleasant diversions (or not) but their initial point of reference is more likely to be a cartoon than a comic...the former of which I find to be a pale knock-off of the original medium, nice voice acting or not.

So anyway, just in case I haven't mentioned it, I AM working on a supers RPG for which this micro-game provides a nice little abstract. And the full-blooded RPG already has more that a few pages written for it, though it's far from complete. Here's a couple paragraphs culled from the introduction of the full RPG that (I hope) kind of sums up my reason for bothering to spend time designing a game for this tired genre:

Why Superheroes? 
Fantasy role-playing games exist in a variety of genres including swords & sorcery, super spies, and science fiction. All these games allow players to enjoy the fantasy escape of pretending to be someone different from ourselves, and to experience adventures from the safety and comfort of our gaming table. People in real life don’t get the opportunity to explore strange planets or fight monsters with spell and axe or single-handedly end the Cold War with the help of a few James Bond-style gadgets; role-playing games allow us to do these things, at least in our imagination.
In some ways, playing a superhero is the ultimate in wish fulfillment fantasy. The superhero genre doesn’t take place in a faraway galaxy or some Ancient Time inhabited by dragons…it takes place in the here and now of the 21st century. And the powers available to superheroes…winged flight or super strength or magical might or incredible inventions or whatever…are limited only by one’s imagination. Comic books provide a huge range of diversity, from aliens to playboy millionaires to sorcerers to living plants to mutants to demigods to super-soldiers to robots, all interacting with the normal folks walking the streets of Any Town, USA.
That’s pretty cool.
In addition, people familiar with the comic book genre know that much of the game revolves around fighting foes and villains that no one else can; adversaries that will, left unchecked, run roughshod over everything good people hold dear: life and love, truth and justice, public and private property. It is the responsibility of superheroes to provide that check on the Forces of Darkness…and in general that means going out and kicking ass. In real life, the problems of the world – poverty, exploitation, tragedy, natural disaster – can’t be solved with a punch in the mouth. Pretending to be superheroes can, at least for an evening’s play, allow us to imagine a world where problems are so easily solved.
And that’s pretty cool, too.
Look, I am fully aware that designing superhero games...especially a game not based on the intellectual property (and built in fan-base) of an established comic book a pretty lost cause. Table-top RPGs themselves are already a niche market, and a "generic hero" game is going to be two stages more "niche" than that. But I find I just cannot help myself sometimes. Just let me at least put together something that I can finally say satisfies my personal biases and design sensibilities; let me just do that and then I can stop messing around with the thing altogether. And I'll go back to working out the details of D&D Mine (something I hope to be writing more about later this week, by the way).

Play-testing is going down on Thursday. Depending on how things go, I'll have something available for public consumption shortly thereafter. We'll see if it's working.

[just BTW, Blogger tells me this is post #1313, which is of numerological me, anyway]


  1. My girls love the Bumblebee Boy and Ladybug Girl books. I'd recommend all of them for young boys and girls. They do a great job showing how the world seems like a much bigger magical place when you're a little kid.

    I never liked superheroes, especially for RPGs. There's no inherent power curve in the genre, like fantasy's peasant-to-hero arc.

  2. gimmeh! a 1-page supers game is just what i need right now. :)

  3. For what it's worth, generic supers games are pretty much my favorite genre to game in. I even tried my hand at designing one, with mixed results. Best of luck to you!