Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cinco de Marvel: The Future Ain't What It Used To Be

Someone thought giant death robots were
a good way to deal with a serious social
issue. Good thinking, everyone.

For Cinco de Marvel, I am writing five full-sized campaigns for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. They can all exist inside the normal Marvel universe and they all support between 3-6 characters.

The Future Ain't What It Used To Be

Marvel has established many dire possibilities for its futures, from being conquered by the evil mutant Apocalypse, to living under the iron boot of Doctor Doom (and his many robot duplicates) to having humanity's population controlled by Sentinels.  A common plot in Marvel is that someone comes back from one of those futures (often someone we already know from the present) to warn the present of the possibility, or to prevent it happening.

Well, what exactly happens when they succeed?  They end up staying here, often becoming the worst characters in Marvel continuity. (Hi Cable. Hi Stryfe.)

The concept for this campaign is that all the characters are from one of Marvel's dark futures, and they've teamed up to make the future a better place.

Character Creation

Already-Existing Characters

If you want to use feature Marvel characters, the future version of Kitty Pryde came back from the Days of Future Past one time and she makes a good model for how that can be done successfully.  You could even try to make Cable a good character (you can't do this, this is impossible.)  

The nice thing is that any feature character can be made into a dark future version by giving them some kind of visually obvious change related to how bad things are, like an eyepatch, a cybernetic leg, a bar code on their forehead, or a weird deformity.

I am not kidding about this.  You need to have some visual way to easily distinguish the future version of the character from the current version of the character in order for it to succeed as a comic book. You don't have to change their stats, though maybe a new SFX would be fine and if you want that new fiberoptic hair to actually do something it might be worth doing a new Power Set.

And the nice thing about dark futures is there is one for literally every single megalomaniac in the universe.  To create a background for your character, select some bad guy or evil force in the Marvel universe.  That bad guy is the one that is responsible for the dark future you come from.
Example: I decide I want to make a future version of Daredevil. No particular reason, I just think Daredevil is awesome.  The first thing I do is give him a cybernetic arm, because at some point he got his arm ripped off.  The second thing I do is pick some evil force that is responsible for the future he's from.  Because I like the social justice aspects of Daredevil, I pick Mojo, the psychopathic interdimensional media monster - at some point in the future, his evil machinations bring Earth's dimension under his control and the world becomes a cross between a Running Man style deadly reality show and a Roman orgy.  I like this because it's thematically sound but Daredevil has never fought Mojo before and doesn't normally deal in that mutant business.

Making Your Own Characters

A similar principle can help you make your own original characters.  What are the issues in the present day that you want to cope with - who's the bad guy responsible for your character's situation.

Another cool thing is that this is a group where time travel powers or devices are not fact, they fit right in!  Many times people avoid time travelling characters or ideas because they cause all kinds of causality problems.  Since the whole point of the game involves time travel, you can play that renegade Time Variance Authority agent or Doctor Who-a-like that you've always wanted to.

The Team

The team obviously should have someone who is the science genius who can talk about time travel and time distortions and TIEM PARADOX and all that kind of stuff.

Likely the present day authorities are going to want to keep some kind of tabs on the group, so someone from SHIELD or the Department of Weights and Measures (didn't you know that they're charged with making sure time keeps working properly?) could be a good addition.

Some established teams have time travel or time travelling adventures regularly, especially the Fantastic Four, so some overlap there could benefit everyone.

And obviously you need to have someone who can punch the timestream - if it worked for the Distinguished Competition, it can work for Marvel, right?  Right.


The formation of the team should be all about discovering a new dark future and trying to bring it to a halt.  By recognizing that everyone has some stake in creating a good future, not just preventing a bad one, the team comes together as...THE CHRONONAUTS.  Or maybe the PARADOXICON.  Or whatever.the players decide.

Other events can include assaults by bad guys from the future (Apocalypse and Sentinels do this a lot), or even appalled time travellers from the past trying to prevent the "evil future" we currently live in.  ("You mean NEGROES can VOTE?!?! Why, Captain Confederate will never stand for this!" )


"Fish out of water"  Milestones can help a time traveller from a dark future express how they slowly grow to fit into modern society:
Example: 1 XP when you make some reference nobody understands, don't get a reference someone else makes, or assume something is true when it really, really, really isn't.
3 XP when you have some misapprehension about the way things work in the present that show how bad things got in your timeline.
10 XP when you say something really horrible about your timeline wasn't so bad and take steps to see that it happens.
Other Milestones might relate to stopping or coming to terms in some way with the evil deeds someone hasn't done yet, or the future betrayal of someone who is presently your friend.  If you wanted to get really paradoxy you could have a Milestone about dealing with your past self, trying to give them some kind of insight into their future mistakes.