My Mountains of Madness. Don’t Let Me Show You Them

20 03 2009

COH I4 MA OMG WTF BBQ is a delight. It truly is. It’s got JUST enough complexity, JUST enough customization, JUST enough simplicity to work for me. I’ve ranted about this before, but I figure hey, I have nothing else to discuss, I’m gonna frakin’ blog about it again and you lot are gonna sit through it and like it or I swear to god I will cut you.

*ahem* So. Let’s get to it. Author’s notes and exploration of the process below the cut, cut mostly for length. If it’s any consolation, these also serve as good studies of the creative process and game design theory. And it’ll probably be my last post for awhile on this.

ArcID: 2897
Title: The Do-It-Yourself Laser Moonbase Project
Length: 4 Missions – Long
Morality: Villainous
Level Range: 1-54

“Tired of being a hired thug running errands to help the schemes of other villains? Let Igor Underhench, classically trained lackey to the stars, help you ransom Paragon City for ONE MILLION DOLLARS with a newly built lunar death ray platform!”

Generally speaking, City of Villains was awesome in the variety of high-quality content available to you compared to the more generic pile of beatings City of Heroes provided. The contacts were actual people and not just generic citizens, people with motivations and stories and goals. The problem was you were pretty much just a tool for their goals and had none of your own. Any tabletop RPG designer can tell you that’s not gonna work, the game is the story is the means for expression of the players. You make them jump through firey hoops of death and all they get out of it is gold and XP and that’ll only satisfy the most unimaginative of powergaming twinks.

MA lets us take different approaches, fortunately, and I’m not alone here — I saw a LOT of these “contacts who work for you instead of the other way around” arcs when I was browsing. I guess my idea’s not too unique, but that’s fine, because I enjoyed putting my own spin on the classic villain tropes.

You won’t find innovation here, depth, greyscale characters, or meaty rich goodness. No, you’ll find asses to kick and stuff to steal and cities to threaten and all the wonders of being a punch-them-in-the-nuts evil mastermind powerhouse. Sort of a cross between Doctor Doom and Juggernaut, in that you design your own goals which make yourself more and more awesome and then achieve them by applying gratuitous violence. It’s all quite silly, fortunately, no GRIMDARK PIRATE COMICS here. (“You may ask, Igor Underhench, why you put Self Destruct Button in Master’s laser moonbase? Because Igor Underhench believe in tradition. Villains lack appreciation for classics, Master.”)

ArcID: 5159
Title: Me, Myself & My Other Selves
Length: 4 Missions – Long
Morality: Heroic
Level range: 40-54

“Young heroine KopyKatt has a bit of a problem with herselves. Her mutant power to generate self duplicates recently went a bit nuts, and her clones are running wild all over Paragon! Rustle up this herd of teenage girls and figure out the cause of this incident before the whole world is overrun!”

This one started with a simple idea — use ONE costume, and make a whole faction based on it for maximum file space savings! but, well, MA doesn’t apparently work like that. Still, I’ve always had a soft spot for clone-power characters (Multiple Man, DupliKate, DeeDee, etc) and I had to run with it anyway, so I came up with a plot that fit the lore of COH and the lore of our local roleplaying group: the Malta organization, and their attempts to co-opt metahuman heroes for their own causes.

One things I liked about doing this were how it starts out VERY silly (a rowdy gang of teenage clones ranting about shoes and music and shopping and boys) but then gets weird and then dark and grim and just ends on a complete down note. KopyKatt is completely in over her head, and she slowly realizes this as her world spins out of control. In the end, terrified of the REAL implications of her previously fun fighty time punchy kicky mutant power, she retreats from heroism, possibly forever, to sort her emotional mess out. It’s a good gradual downspin though, with some humor elements, and coasts nicely instead of hitting WHAT A TWEEST territory — and shows how COH lore runs from punching street thugs to fighting international terrorism as you climb from being a young hero to a veteran.

ArcID: 6265
Title: The Hydroponic Psychotropic Freak Out!
Length: 1 Mission – Short
Morality: Villanous
Level range: 1-54

“Arachnos asks so little of you — other than your complete obedience. When drafted to war to defend your proud homeland, serve with pride! But these damn dirty hippies don’t seem to care about patriotism. They just want peace, goodwill, and free love. We can’t have that! Go pound those treehuggers!”

This took awhile to evolve. Originally the hippies were an enemy group idea I tied to a sort of “Al Capone vs. Samara from The Ring” idea I had, but they were way too silly for that sort of Lovecraftian madness. So, what to do with them? …then I noticed a dearth of really good one-mission quick arcs for people to enjoy when they don’t wanna sit down for an epic, and the idea evolved from there: Just walk into a commune of hippies and beat the crap out of them, done.

The two focuses here were humorous encounters and combat balance. The encounters were me using the various goal types to work dialogue in wherever possible… the suspiciously familiar looking “Protest Singer” named Bob who says things like “Hey, no reason to get excited” and “The hour’s getting late”. The group of hippies wandering in a daze around a crate named “Secret Stash” saying “I think this stuff just kicked in, man.” And my favorite, some hippies fawning over one of the hideous organic goo-monsters called the Hydra from Perez Park saying “What wonders could this beautiful child of the earth teach us?” while it basically looks confused and goes “Glorp?”

Combat balance, here’s the fun stuff. I did a LITTLE critter design in the Moonbase arc, I improved on it in KopyKatt, but this one called for tons and tons of variety. I had to experiment a lot to find powers that fit the hippie concept without being overpowered — when I tried to make a Plant controller named Flower Child, for instance, she summoned a dozen flailing vines from the earth that took 5 minutes to beat down long after we took her out. Way too powerful! It took several playthroughs and some consulting with friends, but eventually we found a good mix of theme, difficulty, and fun. Great practice for future arcs and good general game design skill development.

So, now what? Well, we’re limited to three arcs, so after I publish those, that’s kinda it until one of them gets Hall of Fame’d. Supposedly I’m about to be INTERNET FAMOUS again, but we’ll see; I can’t rely on that. If worse comes to worse I can depublish one or publish under my sister’s account, but I’d rather not. Dunno.

I don’t have any other ideas right now, except maybe doing the Street Gang / Cosmic Horror story in some new shape, or doing a lowbie-friendly arc… we’ll see. No doubt something’ll come to me.

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9 responses

21 03 2009
tozetre

Aw man, you just gave me a horrible idea for a GURPS campaign. :T Cthulu hackers.
“14! 14! (t|-|U7U fhT4g|\|!”

21 03 2009
lirazel

*falls over giggling tonelessley*

21 03 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

And there’s a PERFECT group for that in City of Heroes already, the Freak Show. Cyberpunk types who are more ambitious than intelligent with the self preservational instincts of a mayfly. They even fell in with a cosmic horror sleeping under Sharkshead Island in one arc.

21 03 2009
midnightlurker

I’ve alerted my supergroup to your arcs (many of us know your work from your Ranma/Slayers days). I think you can expect some good reviews; I know I’m going to be running the Lincoln Memorial and the Littlest Succubus through all of ’em once i14 goes live. (No room on my drive for a second copy of the game or I’d be there now.)

21 03 2009
matrix_dragon

*Loads up the Test Server* Oh man, so far I’ve been playing with making an arc of my own, but I’ve been a fan of your stuff since Penultima. I HAVE to play this.

21 03 2009
matrix_dragon

Me, Myself & My Other Selves was great fun, and I’m looking forward to playing it again when it hits the live servers. I wasn’t expecting the last boss :lol

21 03 2009
opmegs

These sound absolutely incredible.
Also, yay for more people utilizing Malta as a heavy. Most people hate their arcs, but they have such excellent story potential.
That, and this little bit here:
“And my favorite, some hippies fawning over one of the hideous organic goo-monsters called the Hydra from Perez Park saying “What wonders could this beautiful child of the earth teach us?” while it basically looks confused and goes “Glorp?” ”
Guffawed so badly. Can’t wait to try it out.
-OM

21 03 2009
tozetre

skriptees of the netherworld, heheheh. Man. I’m tempted to crack open COH but I can’t afford the timesink.

22 03 2009
matrix_dragon

Finding the Walking Compost Heap broke me.
“Glorp? Slorp.” *Compost Heap runs away from the strange scary people very fast.*

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