[Smallville] New Mutants and hacking Values

edited February 2011 in Story Games
So, I'm about to "Watchtower" ("Cerebro"...?) a Smallville game with the 80s-vintage New Mutants for some friends. I'm reviewing the book and while I feel the game rules will work nicely for authentic-feeling New Mutants stories (especially with JDCorley's mission bolt-on! Woo!), it strikes me that the thematic content implicit in the Values is geared to a slightly different trajectory than Xavier's School. So I want to see if I can tweak it ever so slightly in the direction I want.

So, Smallville's Values are:

DUTY

GLORY

JUSTICE

LOVE

POWER

TRUTH

Most of these I can see in the New Mutants just fine. I was uncertain about the TRUTH drive, until I realized that it doesn't have to be about honesty and deception; it can also be about insecurity, denial, delusion, belief and faith. Bam! The Truth value statements just flowed after that.

The sticky wicket, though, is JUSTICE. the thing is, while Justice might SEEM to be a solid Value for any superhero story or game...the New Mutants are, like, barely superheroes. Yeah, the're a team, and they have powers, and they go on missions, and sometimes even fight villains, but really they're just a collection of students with issues to work out. Most of the missions, they're not supposed to go on, because the Professor doesn't want to send them out like the X-Men to die; he wants them to stay home and be safe and train with their powers. And while they do fight a few plain ol' bad guys 9and gals), they mostly fight the hellions, who are another teen mutant team and basically just a rival school. Their teacher, Emma Frost, is eeeeviiiilll, but the students are mostly decent with a "we might have been friends" vibe going.

So, Justice seems an awkward fit. I mean, I can jam it in there, I suppose, but when I was trying to think of Justice statements I kept coming up with things that fit better under Power, or Duty, or, well, all of them, to a degree. And so I figured out that my challenge was to make a Value drive that wasn't redundant to the existing Values.

Mike Sugarbaker (who's playing in the game) suggested SECURITY, which seemed to make sense because teenagers, right? And the Prof wants to keep them safe and they want to take risks, and so on. But again, it seemed redundant. Most Security statements fit just fine under Love, or Power, or maybe Truth.

So. I want a new value. It can be anything that is non-redundant and relevant to 80s New Mutants, though I'd like to come up with something that's at least similar to Justice, esp. since it would help keep it mapped to the Lifepath choices without getting weird. For some reason I'm drawing a complete blank attempting to craft another value. Surely those six don't represent every ideal and yearning in the world?

It occurs to me that if I soften and personalize "Justice" into something like "Conscience" or "Ethics" or "Scruples" that could work. New Mutants has plenty of "lemme at 'em! they deserve no worse for what they did!" "No, we're better'n that!" type stuff going on. Sam's a straight shooter, bobby's pragmatic, Dani's devious, Rahne has tons of Protestant guilt, Illyana grew up in Hell and feeds opponents to demons. I still worry that it's got some redundancy: Most "Ethical" or "Scrupulous" stances would involve how ones wields Power, or their approach to Truth, or their personal definition of Love, and so on. So maybe I'm back to square one?

What do y;all think? Does Conscience/Ethics/Scruples look good and cogent and grabby? And which name do you like best? Any other alternate values you can think of? Has anyone experimented themselves with customizing the Values list? I'd love to hear your experience.

Peace,
-Joel

Comments

  • Hahaha! I love that you use the real-people names instead of going Cannonball, Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Magick (oh god, with the last two you can totally see why...). I confess I've forgotten Dani, though. Who was she? And wasn't Xian Coy Mahn (Karma) in the picture too? I always loved her power, and it seems perfect for an ethical hero game.

    Anyway, DUTY, GLORY, LOVE, POWER, TRUTH -- all good. What's missing? Hmm.

    Maybe IDENTITY? I mean, DUTY kinda covers the whole "why are we with Xavier and not the Hellions" thing, and TRUTH could cover "who am I really?" if you want. But if you're milking those two for other concerns, IDENTITY might deserve some emphasis.

    What about LIFE? Meaning life and death? Seems big for Illyana... maybe Rahne and Karma too... Could interpret it as morality of killing, sense of mortality, grand purpose, suicide urges, celebration and joy.

    I don't like ETHICS because navigating amongst DUTY, GLORY, LOVE, POWER, TRUTH is ETHICS. It's too broad and not suggestive enough.
  • edited February 2011
    Posted By: JoelDoes Conscience/Ethics/Scruples look good and cogent and grabby?
    I kind of thought that was Justice, to be honest: that to me was the value that encompassed the characters' attitudes towards Right versus Wrong, bad and good karma, holy and profane, good and evil, all that stuff. A New Mutant who really seriously values Justice is one who wants to do the right thing because it's the right thing, not because Duty commands it or because it helps someone they Love or anything like that. Or they want to punish the wicked because the wicked must be punished, or they want to make sure that the victim of an assault is fairly compensated, or whatever their particular ethos says is the right thing for the situation. Their own internal moral conscience nags at them to do it.

    Maybe all you need to do here is what you did for Truth, and take another step back to put Justice into a larger, more general context?
  • Dani. as in Native American Dannielle Moonstar aka. Mirage and her flying horse/pegasus "Brightwing" (or was it Brightwind?). Team leader, before Sam. Also probably the older of the New Mutants - not sure how old Karma is compared.

    And yes. Xian (pronounced Shawn) aka. Karma is there, though her problems (with the Shadow King - I believe it was) took her out of the core NM comics when I read them most... So I know less about her.

    And am I crazy and did I miss you mentioning... or are you guys for forgetting: Doug Ramsey (aka Cypher) and self-soul-friend-of-Cypher-Doug... Warlock!

    I'd also consider thinking about Kitty ("buu buuu, I don' wanna be an X-baby!") and all the Hellions... Maybe even Firestar (who made her debut in the comics, from her creation for the Spiderman Amazing Friends cartoon IN New Mutants)... And maybe even venture into Angelica's later team, the New Warriors - which were the closest/best thing to New Mutants since Cable, Shatterstar and Domino (Liefeld I blame you) came and messed it all up - transforming the title into another "X" team. Ugh.

    You also have all the X-men (especially the originals) to use as teachers. Heck, Bobby is actually pretty near the New Mutants age, being by far the youngest X-man (not counting Kitty and maybe Piotr). Not to mention Banshee and Moira that were often on campus teaching. And then there were a few other side characters that hung with the X-men and X-babies... like Stevie.


    Sadly I know nothing about the game Smallville to help though. I would love to know more but I can't translate all the game-speak going on with Smallville. It hurts my brain. This is an awesome idea though. I'd so much rather play New Mutants than Clark/Cloe/Lana, etc... in a Smallville game!
    Anyone wanna brave telling me, explaining and/or selling me on Smallville?
    The game book is awefully shiny!!


    Hope I helped.
    thanks
    -kev-
  • As for another value. I have no clue what that actually "means" to the in-game use...
    But would something like:

    POTENTIAL
    or
    ASPIRATIONS (or ASPIRING)

    Would something like that that work?

    One of the things the NMs were always trying to do was live up to be or rather become the heroes like the other X-men, or dear heavens maybe the Avengers (I seem to remember "hero worship" looking up to Captain America as the hero even X-men aspired to be). If you recall the X-men even "demoted" Kitty to be a New Mutant for a time and she always called them "X-babies" (that was before Mojo made the X-men into real X-babies). And then the kids were always aspiring to be promoted to X-men status (though very very few ever actually did! for some odd reason). And the memorable issue when they broke into the attic and found their "graduation costumes" (some cool, some not) and used them on a mission.


    Does that fit? Again, I don't know Smallville.
    -kev-
  • edited February 2011
    Posted By: kevperrineAnyone wanna brave telling me, explaining and/or selling me on Smallville?
    It's a neat little game. Rules-wise, it's straightforward: every character has a die rating in each of the Values, and every character also has die ratings for Relationships (established during character creation when you're all drawing a big-ass relationship map and determining how your characters are connected). Each Value and Relationship gets a one-sentence description to encapsulate the character's feelings about it, like "People only want to hear good news" for Truth, or "She's out to get me" for a particular Relationship with another character.

    Whenever the characters are called upon to go into a conflict, they always roll a Value die and a Relationship die, which basically means that everything they do tells you up front why they are doing it and who they are doing it for. It's groovy.

    There are other little fiddly bits, like how superpowers are handled and so on, but that's the heart of the system. Everyone collaborates on building a relationship map that describes who their characters know, the places they frequent, etc., everyone describes their characters in terms of what they believe and who they know, and every conflict is basically asking and answering "Why does your character give a crap about this?"


    The book does spend an awful lot of pages talking about the Smallville show (the characters, etc.), and it is (unfortunately?) helpful to read through a lot of it in order to really get a clear picture of how to build a character and how to play the game, but thankfully the system itself is easily separated from the setting, as you can see in this thread.
  • Justice works because it's an aspiration for the New Mutants, not a reality. They want to Do The Right Thing. Often times this gets them into big trouble.
  • Note: I wasn't intending my original post to be a comprehensive list of all the characters! We totally have a guy playing Doug, for instance! Just spitballing some characters that immediately came to mind for that specific example.

    To AfT and JD: I agree that Doing the Right Thing is a big deal for the NM. I don't like CALLING it JUSTICE, however, because that brings in a bunch of superhero baggage that doesn't quite fit. I agree with David that ETHICS is kinda off for the reasons he stated. I think CONSCIENCE or SCRUPLES could work well, though.

    Thanks, everyone! I'll get to some other comments later today!

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • Posted By: JoelI agree that Doing the Right Thing is a big deal for the NM. I don't like CALLING it JUSTICE

    Well, as long as you're hacking, there's no law saying the value has to be one word. You can call it DOING THE RIGHT THING. Or - a google search on "Doing the Right Thing" turns up INTEGRITY. (Sounds a bit like DUTY I guess but I could easily see INTEGRITY and DUTY butting heads.)
  • OK, I'm back for more thoughtful replies!
    Posted By: David BergHahaha! I love that you use the real-people names instead of going Cannonball, Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Magick
    Yeah, it's always felt natural to me to think of them that way...the New Mutants kids FEEL more like real people to me than most superhero characters, and I prefer to keep that emphasis. :)

    Incidentally, it looks like the Leads are going to be Dani, Rahne, Bobby, Doug, and one other.
    Posted By: kevperrineI'd also consider thinking about Kitty ("buu buuu, I don' wanna be an X-baby!") and all the Hellions
    Hell yeah! I'm all about Kitty and the Hellions. Kitty's best ffriends with one of them, but looks down on the group. Gold. Amd the Hellions are mostly alright kids who would like to get alopng with the Mutants, but tyheir Headmistress is a scheming bitch who pits them against Xavier. And the one Hellion who's realy REALLY a dick, even his friends can't stand. Awesome.

    I'm going to use Xavier, of course, and I'm not averse to limited X-Men appearances. But the X-Men largely stasy out of the NM's lives, and I think that's for the best. I think the few strong relationships that the Mutants have with X-men (Illyana with Storm, Peter and Kitty--huh, funny, Illyana is the main link between the teams!) will mostly suffice.
    Posted By: kevperrineThis is an awesome idea though. I'd so much rather play New Mutants than Clark/Cloe/Lana, etc
    I hear you, man! I'm thinking of photocopying the cover of my New Mutants Graphic Novel and taping it over the Smallville cover for the duration of the game.

    About the system: what AfT said, more or less. I like how A) You bhild characters by making statements about how they feel about stuff, and B) You always roll "why I'm doing this" plus "who I'm doing it to/with/for." the rest is just window dressing for me.



    So, about people's specific Value suggestions:

    A lot of these are something like what I've considered. I haven't found a lot of ideas that don't hit the redundancy problem--ASPIRATIONS or POTENTIAL go best under GLORY, for instance. I think it looks like it will be some variation on JUSTICE, all things considered. Any votes between CONSCIENCE and SCRUPLES? With explanations of why?

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • Posted By: JoelI agree that Doing the Right Thing is a big deal for the NM. I don't like CALLING it JUSTICE, however, because that brings in a bunch of superhero baggage that doesn't quite fit. I agree with David that ETHICS is kinda off for the reasons he stated. I think CONSCIENCE or SCRUPLES could work well, though.
    Ohh, I see. In my games, I'm already explaining that Justice also encompasses things like Revenge, to explain why I'm rolling it for a villain or the Punisher or something. So that's cool.
  • That's cool. This is my first time running or playing Smallville, so I'm still developing my kills and techniques for communicating stuff like that. Past experience tells me that renaming a thing is a great tone-setter. You have a preference for CONSCENCE or SCRUPLES? Right now my gut is saying SCRUPLES. That seems to fit well with what happens in the New Mutants a lot: the kids often all want the same thing, but differ dramatically in what they're willing to do to achieve it.
  • Well, so long as you are fine with it for your Features (VILLAINZ), too. :)
  • Oh, I think SCRUPLES statements for Villains should be positively delightful!

    Speaking of, has anyone made sheets for recording Features? I'd like a more compact sheet than for Leads, maybe two or three Features to a sheet, so I don't drown in papers. For Lead sheets I've printed the custom sheet from Somethingville, and cut-and-pasted a New Mutants logo over the Smallville one. :)
  • I don't think you need to change JUSTICE at all. If someone wants to do the right thing, that's Justice. If someone wants to do the wrong thing, that's Justice. If someone wants vengeance, that's Justice. If someone wants to talk someone down from their vengeance, that's Justice. If some high school kid is screaming "That's SO not FAIR!", that's Justice. And if none of your high school characters ever scream "That's SO not FAIR", you're simply not doing the high school drama part right.

    The fact that Justice and Vengeance are such a great pair is what makes it work so well as a value for Smallville. Scruples vs. Moral Flexibility is just straight up good and evil, lawful and chaotic. It's too black and white. But Vengeance is something that even boy scouts like Cyclops occasionally indulge in, right? And that's why it works so well.

    As you've said, it's all in the statements. It's just as valid for someone to have a D10 Justice with "Everyone needs to follow the rules." or "Xavier knows what is best for us" as it is to use "Vengeance shall be mine!"

    Oh. And just to point something out - you may want to have characters like Emma Frost or one of the Hellions as a PC. Smallville is built around that sort of conflict between the PCs. That's why Lex and Tess are designed as PCs.

    So you might have the best results if you mix it up. Have one person play Emma. Have another play one of the Hellions. Have one or two playing New Mutants. And have another playing one of the older teacher mutants - preferably one who has a crush or an ex relationship with Emma or something.

    You could skip the Emma thing, if she's really that evil (I'm not that familiar) and have a Hellion PC instead (again, preferably with a crush on a New Mutant). But having at least one PC who's from the "other side" is a really good idea in a Smallville game. It helps drive the deeply personal conflicts and the secret-keeping that the game is built for facilitating.
  • I had thought about having Hellion Leads in the mix, because yeah, juicy conflict, web of clashing priorities, etc. And we may be able to try that, still...we play tomorrow. However, I've been leaning toward all-New Mutants PCs, because A) that was the game we set out to play; it's only fortuitous coincidence that no sooner did we do that but Smallville was published, and B) I would like to see the potential conflicts within the team that the comic kind of softballs get real and earnest, and see where that takes us.

    I had been concerned about Smallville being a poor fit for all-teammate play, until JD wrote up his bolt-on for Team Missions. That looked like the missing piece for doing team-based play. I am unsure, though, whether it wold have a dampening effect on the interpersonal drama. I'm hopeful--the key bit, to me, is that you ONLY roll the Mission Statement when you DON'T have a relevant Relationship...no going "eh, screw the relationships, I just wanna accomplish the objective!" Still, though, it's a wild card in Smallville's play process. JD, have you tried out the Mission yourself? ANy pointers on using it,? And do you or anyone else have any advice on Team based play in general?

    Peace,
    -Joel

    PS Emma really IS that evil, which is why she's so problematic in the newfangled X-men shit. Whedon did his best to rehabilitate her, and I have some fondness for that, but really there's no fucking way the X-men ever would or should trust her to hang out at the school and fucking teach.
    /xmenbitching

    PPS Lex ISN'T designed as a Lead in the Smallville book, because at this point the damn show is eating its own tail and Lex is apparently sidelined or presumed dead or something. Which is too bad because THAT would be awesome, and because I want Michael Rosenbaum to have my babies.

    /smallvillebitching
    /mmmrosenbaum
  • Posted By: JoelI had been concerned about Smallville being a poor fit for all-teammate play, until JD wrote up hisbolt-on for Team Missions. That looked like the missing piece for doing team-based play. I am unsure, though, whether it wold have a dampening effect on the interpersonal drama. I'm hopeful--the key bit, to me, is that you ONLY roll the Mission Statement when you DON'T have a relevant Relationship...no going "eh, screw the relationships, I just wanna accomplish the objective!" Still, though, it's a wild card in Smallville's play process. JD, have you tried out the Mission yourself? ANy pointers on using it,? And do you or anyone else have any advice on Team based play in general?
    I haven't had a chance yet, but my eyeball of a potential problem is that if and when the team has stepped up its game fully, the mission will be much more important than the relationships even if there is a relevant relationship. In other words, once the Mission Die is at d8, all the d6 and d4 relationships will fade a little. I haven't decided if this is a good thing or a bad thing yet. Yes, that's when people "put aside their differences and take down the cosmic threat", but it's also when crucial relationships are themselves heightened.

    Still thinking, working!
  • Also: you make a good point regarding JUSTICE. Now I'm conflicted. While I felt like Justice was irrelevant on first glance, I've come to realize that there are a lot of great ways to contextualize "Justice" for the New Mutants. On the other hand, I really wanted to rename the drive in order to very clearly signal to everyone thagt we're veering far away from standard superhero stuff. I think how you name things is important for aesthetics and setting expectations. But maybe I should just trust everyone's New Mutants geekery to orient us properly?

    Unfortunately, I photocopied a bunch of sheets with "Scruples" cut and pasted over "Justice, so if I want to change it back, I have to redo that. :P
  • edited February 2011
    So, the morning of game day--questions to settle:
    • Whether to keep JUSTICE or switch to SCRUPLES (UPDATE: Made a list of value statements for the kids, found they all fit comfortably in Justice OR Scruples. I'm settled on Scruples!)
    • Whether to do an all-New Mutants cast or include enemy Leads
    • How to handle Mutant Powers, vis a vis Pathways. Is everyone just going to have to take Ability-granting pathways? And is it a good idea for everyone to have a straight-up Mutant Heritage, furthur restricting pathway choice? Or is it cool to swap in Abilities and/or Heritage to other Pathways if it makes sense?
    I'd appreciate any last-minute advice on all of these. We play at 3PM Pacific...six hours from now!

    Peace,
    -Joel

    PS And thanks for all your help so far!
  • edited February 2011
    Aw, I missed your window. But just in case:

    - I'd say if you're already settled on Scruples, then so be it.

    - If you include enemy Leads, then you won't require a lot of the mission bolt-on stuff....but some groups/players dislike working against each other, so you might have that to contend with. Best to present it as an option and see what everyone playing thinks about it.

    - I'd let people swap in stuff to other pathways, personally. Just because everyone's a mutant doesn't mean everyone has to have arrived at their current situation via the same route.
  • Posted By: JoelHow to handle Mutant Powers,vis a visPathways. Is everyone just going to have to take Ability-granting pathways? And is it a good idea for everyone to have a straight-up Mutant Heritage, furthur restricting pathway choice? Or is it cool to swap in Abilities and/or Heritage to other Pathways if it makes sense?
    The Life-Changing event for all mutants in the Marvel Universe is the same: Oh My God I'm A Filthy Mutant. On the current map it's called Manifestation for short. Everyone should take it.

    Mutant Heritage, as we discussed on the Somethingville mailing list, ought be more tied to Being A Mutant than to any particular Ability. For example, suffering mutant prejudice, espousing mutant supremacy, all those sorts of things.
  • Welp, we made characters, and it went well! The Leads are Sam, Roberto, Dani, Amara and Rahne. The Features are Professor Xavier, Moira MacTaggert, Kurt Wagner, Selene, and James Proudstar (Hellions team leader). Extras are Sam's dead father, 'Berto's father Emanuel, and Kitty Pryde.
    Posted By: Accounting for Taste- If you include enemy Leads, then you won't require a lot of the mission bolt-on stuff....but some groups/players dislike working against each other, so you might have that to contend with. Best to present it as an option and see what everyone playing thinks about it.
    I opted not to bring up the "Enemy Leads" idea, because I didn't want to complicate our decision-making at this late date, and because of the logistical difficulties of moving the star cast off the X-mansion--making, say, James Proudstar a lead means every episode is about Xavier's School AND the Massachusetts Academy. I don't know that I quite want that; making the Hellions an often thing but not an all the time thing sounds about right.
    Posted By: JDCorleyThe Life-Changing event for all mutants in the Marvel Universe is the same: Oh My God I'm A Filthy Mutant. On the current map it's called Manifestation for short. Everyone should take it.
    That was the obvious choice, but Roberto and Dani both have strong Tragedy in their background--though the tragedy is related to Oh My God I'm A Filthy Mutant. So I wanted to try and accommodate that if possible. As it turns out, all but one player took Manifestation. Dani's player took Destiny, because he's going for an Indian Shaman thing with her that she tries to resist. Earlier he took Paranormal focus and picked up a Shamanic Heritage.
    Posted By: JDCorleyMutant Heritage, as we discussed on the Somethingville mailing list, ought be more tied to Being A Mutant than to any particular Ability. For example, suffering mutant prejudice, espousing mutant supremacy, all those sorts of things.
    Man, I gotta get on that group now! Yes, that accords with my conception of a Mutant Heritage. If I do include Linked Powers, I was thinking maybe each Mutant could have their own set of Linked powers, for purposes of D12 effects--like Rahne has Wolf Transformation, but her Linked Powers could be Enhanced Senses, Claws, etc and she could pull Effects from those?

    So, looking over the relationship map and character sheets now, I think we need to just add a couple of tweaks to be complete--I'm going to give everyone a Mutant heritage for free, and probably fill in some Extras: Illyana, Doug, maybe Emma Frost, maybe Empath and Catspaw of the Hellions. I think we can just do entirely without Warlock, because we all hate him.*

    Peace,
    -Joel

    *I'm sorry if anyone is a fan of Warlock.**

    **I mean I'm really, really sorry if you're a fan of Warlock. ;)
  • It's awesome to see this coming together for you!

    As a note, Lex is absolutely a Lead all the way up until around Season Seven. In Season Eight he's replaced by Tess, but Davis Bloome is also a Lead. Zod's a Lead in Season Nine. The game's built around the idea of the Leads and their Relationships driving all of the conflict, so if they're all getting along perfectly well and BFFs, nothing really happens. It'd all be external. So you have to make sure that rivalries, jealousy, unrequited love, phobias, and so forth are built into their Relationship and Value statements. Gives them all something to chew on.

    Cheers,
    Cam
  • Posted By: JoelDani's player took Destiny, because he's going for an Indian Shaman thing with her that she tries to resist.
    Ya know, that might make Dani a character worth reading. :)
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