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A Web of Heroes

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  • A Web of Heroes

    So I was thinking about the typical fantasy game---the kind that has characters trekking across the world or even to other planes of existance---and one thing that struck me was that, without a cohesive and continuing plot, characters have no real reason to stick together.

    Of course, the idea is generally that everyone becomes friends so they support each other no matter what. But I've been in games where character-tension existed. Or the party did things that were diametrically opposed to one or two of their world views.

    Really, that's just a form of metagaming. "The party needs to stick together, so if two characters have competing ideologies, Too bad! Work it out."

    In cases where the party members aren't friends, but rather a group of strangers hired for a job, there's no reason they would stick together after the job is over. The paladin wants to clear out the ghouls haunting the crypts, but probably wouldn't care that two nobles are spreading false rumors about each other.

    Enter the Web of Heroes.

    The idea is simple. Players start the game with one character, give it a detailed backstory, complete with motives, personality, etc. Whenever the campaign takes a turn that the character logically would not be invested in, the player can "retire" the character for a new one that's more inclined to participate in the adventure.

    The retired hero is not gone nor forgotten though. They are still out there adventuring somewhere, just doing so behind the scenes. Whenever a player wants to pull an old character out of retirement, they can. That character gains enough XP/advances to bring them up to the current party's average.

    In this way, old friends might meet up again out of chance, or an earlier hero might join a party of all new people, unaware of the links tying them to his previous companions.

    To keep things from getting out of hand, I'm thinking limiting the number of heroes each player can have in rotation to three. This keeps things managable while also helps to keep players invested in their characters.

    Any opinions on this?
    Have you done something similar?
    If so, how'd it work out?

  • #2
    I've done something similar with a rotating GM game. When we were GMing, our player characters were elsewhere, presumably working on other adventures or on our own goals. We had an agreement that another GM's PC was off-limits and never appeared when they were GMing, in order to avoid having GM-PCs show up at any point. When we became players again, our PC came back and was assigned to work with the group on the current mission again. We swapped out PCs if we wanted to do something different, but we kept all our PCs up to the same level so we could play whichever character we wanted.

    I had two PCs in that game that I swapped between when someone else was GMing, a Catholic demonslaying knight and an alchemist based on the Igors from Discworld. It worked fine; the only real restriction we placed on it was that PCs that weren't "in use" were just GONE and couldn't be reached as a resource. They were assumed to be busy or out of town. That game was mission-based from a central authority, so it was easy to just say that they were busy on another mission.


    • Deskepticon
      Deskepticon commented
      Editing a comment
      Yeah, that would be the idea... PCs that weren't in use would simple not be available. I also wouldn't let them "swap out" mid-mission. It would need to be between adventures (in town, or randomly on the road, etc.). They don't become NPCs either, so I'd have no control over them.

      Some of the inspiration came from old JRPGs like Shining Force, where you' have something like 30 characters but can only select 10 for any particular mission.

  • #3
    There's a form of this called "Troupe Play". First I heard of it was in Ars Magica, where everyone has at least two characters--a "Grog" (low-powered servitor) and a Mage, who is the big bad boy on the block. The idea is that for any given adventure, one person plays their Mage, and everyone else plays a Grog. (Some variants have multiple Grogs, so that the Mage picks those he thinks he'll need as back-up). I always that would be a good set-up for a Star Wars setting game--everyone gets a Jedi, sure, but you only have one Jedi on a mission.

    It could also work with a Justice League style Supers campaign. In SW, you'd have everyone create a single Heavy Hitter and then some Four-Colors (or maybe a Heavy Hitter standard and some Rising Stars Heavy Hitters).


    • #4
      This idea existed in another, "most popular" fantasy game. Adapting it would give you a total of 4 characters and each time the active character gains an advance, one of the others also gains one. In this way, you can manage your web with two tiers (two characters who always advance and two who are perpetually starting characters) or spread the XPs around a bit more.


      • #5
        You could also take inspiration from the Crew Support rules from the Star Trek RPG. In short, every player controls one character one the ship, but although the tv series like to pretend otherwise, it isn't logical to send the senior staff on every away mission and for them to be present at every special occasion. And some players could also want to play a character that isn't a senior staffer.

        Whenever a character cannot play his main character (or when additional characters are needed), the group may invoke the Crew Support rule (only available a limited number of times per adventure, based on the size of the ship) and add a character to the roster. When a character is created, he is only represented with a name and basic stats. If he survives and is called again in subsequent adventures, he is fleshed out pieces by pieces. First instance, the second time the party uses him, he gains an hindrance and 2 skill points. The thrid time he gains an Edge, the fourth time he gains a second Hindrance and an attribute point, etc. Pretty much like Barklay, when first introduced, was only an engineer with an holodeck addiciton, then was developed further with each apparation.

        The players always have one ''main'' character, but can always use another one if needed (new or already introduced)

        I personally find this rule brilliant.