Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Soft Reboot

Since I had a little time in the last two weeks between classes and projects, I pulled out the good ‘ol Echo City rules and rolled up a few characters for fun. And then, as they always do, the wheels started turning. As I was reading through, I realized that I really, really, like this game. Sure, it’s got a small wart here or an odd turn of phrase there, but by and large this is a great little game.
Sentinels of Echo CityHowever, the area where I was less pleased with the overall game was in the presentation of the game world. For every solid character with a great background, there is a weaker character or (worse yet) a character who is simply a surrogate from a well-known property with the serial numbers filed off.

In thinking about the game world, I have two competing schools of thought.

1) The game world should provide a rich roleplaying opportunity for the players; the setting’s characters (especially the heroes) should fade to the background. Games are about the PCs, not the system’s default heroes. This is one of the problems with playing in established universes; why is my level 3 hero needed when the Justice League is literally living in a bunker around the corner?

2) The game world is defined by the main characters. This one is trickier. Gotham City is not just a setting for comics… it is an extension of Batman’s entire persona. You have to understand Batman in order to really understand Gotham.

While I want #1 to be true, I think you have to embrace #2 at least in part for the setting to really pop.

In effect, we are talking about the inherent symbolism of characters, and what they can communicate. The best characters carry powerful symbolism with them, and that symbolism extends into their adventures, their adversaries, and their environment. If you want to create an iconic setting, you need to create iconic characters who inhabit it. So, if I’m going to reboot the world of Echo City, I need to start with the characters who live there. So, I’ll be posting (as time permits) my thoughts about Echo City’s characters, rebuilding them from the ground up.

In effect, I get to play a fun minigame for the game… if I am designing a cinematic universe for my own unique superhero world, what goes into it, and why?