Iconic Heroes – part 2

As all the players I can reasonably expect to enter the game, should the campaign survive the design phase, have seen Heroes, I suspect that I will dispense with origin stories. Such things can be set firmly in the hands of the players to relate. I think the focal point should rest on the development of things once the characters have accepted their newfound gift, and gotten some form of control over it. The intent of the game would be to explore how the lives of the characters change, either by choice or by accident as a result of this newfound element in their lives.

A clear example of what I mean is with the character of “Claude Rains.” What may once have been a happy, well-adjusted young man became a very bitter one, due to his power enabling him to see people for what they really are. The circumstances of living his life on the run influence this outlook, of course, but disillusionment with humanity in general seems to be more of the underlying cause. I feel it is for that reason that he chooses to live on a NY rooftop with only pigeons and sarcasm for companionship, rather than a more congenial place.

If the intent of the game is to explore the concept of change among the characters, the types of stories approached would therefore be those which involve as many elements of ‘real life’ as possible. Jobs, responsibilities, families, friends, parking tickets, dental appointments, and blind dates all become fodder for highlighting the alteration of the character. This connects in with Change’s job moonlighting as Fate, but we will get there at a later point.

Attached to this framework would be the theme of action vs. inaction. As each story would be built around the idea of exploring how the onset of a special ability has brought change to the life of the character, it gives us the opportunity to work with some distinct themes. As I have run a plethora of games dealing with the themes of responsibility, duty, sacrifice, and faith, I do not want this one to go in that direction. Instead I would like to focus on their opposites: freedom. The themes I think which surface very nicely in the first season of Heroes are choice, chance, and change. Although the characters in the show speak in terms of destiny, duty, and determination, that heaviness does not really pervade the mood of the show. Peter and Hiro are as enamoured of their newfound abilities as they are excited about the ability to have a say in what happens to the world. Other characters, such as DL and Nikki are much more involved in the day-to-day minutia of their lives than in such high concepts as Fate. Those behind the scenes are clearly acting on opportunities and options, not responding to some call or reacting to some sense of noble responsibility. As a result of this, I want to explore a lighter mood than I tend to provide, and take every opportunity to allow characters to revel in their gifts, improve their lots and lives, and/or… save the world. Like the themes themselves… it will be up to the characters. In this set of stories, Fate will be a toothless old bitch. It is a character’s choices which determine the course of their lives.

However… that does not mean that I will discard the importance of tides and threads through history which forms such a significant part of the core storylines of ‘Save the Cheerleader, Save the World’ and ‘How to Stop an Exploding Man’ in the show. Fate will still have its say on what choices there are to take. What I mean by this is, Fate determines that the Cheerleader’s death or survival at Homecoming is a pivotal moment. What the characters do about that pivotal moment is entirely up to them. They have the freedom to act, not act, and most importantly – how to act. Given your druthers, which Peter would you rather be? Scarred or Unscarred? Which Hiro? Somewhere in this concept lies the core of the game I hope to run.

As a part of this, I plan to use one of the design elements of the game to support the themes of the game. Icons provides for both a random generation system, and a point-buy system. If players are willing to explore what chance provides for them by going with the random generation system, their characters will enter the game world as wild cards – tied to no faction, free of the grip of groups who have been breeding for specific traits, and on no one’s radar. Those who seek to have more control over how their character is built, will be able to do so, but with the understanding that the design control they are exerting will be reflected in the game world by someone or some group having had a say in their coming to be. It might be a case of ‘Nathan’s fling in Texas,’ or it might be a lot more contrived and controlling: Nikki and DL getting together via Linderman’s manipulations and producing Micah.

Neither of these routes is superior to the other. While the former method seems to provide more freedom and fewer hassles, this is of course untrue. This freedom comes with a lack of support, a lack of defined protection from forces seeking allies and pawns, and reduced access to those who can guide a character to the next stage of their ability. The constraint of having his birth planned and produced did not seem to significantly affect the freedom to act of either Peter or Nathan. Micah is constrained more by his age, tiredness, and fear than anything else.

And so… we have a clear intention for the game, and this intention is supported by clear and communicable themes. In the next entry we will delve more deeply into how to tie the setting and system together.

Please stay tuned~

Read the previous instalment: Iconic Heroes ~ Part 1

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