Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"By the Power of Asgard!!!" Fantasy + Superheroes = a Demigods Campaign

In the interests of full disclosure, this post isn't about the new Thor movie (which I still haven't seen), but the movie did remind me of a half-baked Champions campaign I worked on a long time ago. It took place in a magical universe, similar to the Norse concepts of a number of magical realms linked together (presumably, a World Tree, a cosmic river, or something else like that). The PCs would be demigods, sort of like fantasy superheroes (CF the aforementioned God of Thunder).  The landscape, the winds, the rivers, the celestial bodies, all could be alive and interacted with the PCs; too, there would be obviously-magical featues, such as the River of Flames, the River of Forgetfulness, the Undeworld, the Upper Sky, and other myth-laden places.

The PCs would be demigod-like beings. My working concept is that these beings, while possessed of amazing abilities, are not divine in the sense that the Olympians and Asgardians are, in that they don't receive worship (though they probably do receive tribute in the form of worldly goods). They do possess mighty abilities that set them apart from other mortals; they are the leaders of powerful tribes.  If you read my post on using divine epithets for Questing Dice in Risus, these might be used for the cliches for these characters (e.g., "Shooter from Afar", "Protector of Fugitives", "The Earthshaker", "Sacker of Cities", "The Cloud-Gatherer").  I thought it would also reinforce the mythological feel if the characters used divine weapons and vehicles such as Thor's hammer (instead of just casting lightning) or Athena's Aegis, or summoning up a wind to carry them or changing into an eagle to fly instead of flying like a superhero. Another convention is that they wouldn't refer to themselves as "God (or Goddess)of ___", since they don't regard themselves as gods. They could be "Lord of the Dead" or "Mother of the Harvest".

If this isn't a superhero campaign, it also isn't a traditional fantasy campaign.  There are a lot more potentially world-destroying monsters, such as Typhon, the Midgard Serpent, or the Fenris Wolf to cope with. And that's the kind of beasts the PCs should be encountering. This is an age when these threats have not all been locked away; they remain to threaten the ordinary mortals whom the demigods protect.  Perhaps even the previous generation of "titans" is still around, provoking a revolt by the PCs themselves!

As is evident by the illustrations I've chosen, I was greatly influenced bt the Walt Simonson run on Marvel Comics' THOR in the 1980s. He played up Thor's mythological elements while infusing it with an epic, heroic style that most previous witers and artists had neglected. Especially impressive were Thor's battle with the Midgard serpent (while suffering from a major curse from the death-goddess Hela), and Thor's invasion of Hela's realm of the dead against impossible odds. The heroic sacrifice of Skurge the Executioner, one of Thor's former foes, holding the Bridge of Death while the other heroes escaped from Helheim, is a crowning moment of glory in a superbly told epic that elevated Thor beyond a mere comic book character.


Risus Monkey said...

This would be a fantastic campaign (literally). It's also one that I never really considered before, aside from mixing demigods with traditional supers a la Thor/Promethea.

Guy Hoyle said...

I added a little bit to the post, just wanted to make sure you saw it.

thwaak said...

First Norse. You're on a pantheonic roll! Next up, Egyptians?

You got me thinking most fantasy games, magic and Gods are real and myth has no value. How would one introduce myth and make it important mechanically to a setting, without making those myths real?

I think between your Jovian Questing dice and Asgard Heroes, the answer is in there somewhere.

Guy Hoyle said...

Glorantha (the setting for RuneQuest and the newer HeroQuest rules) is a world where myth is real; characters can even go on HeroQuests and interact with myth directly. Mythology affects magic, religion, culture, the seasons, the landscape -- everything. In this game, myth would BE the history of the world. My players are all familiar with how myth and reality interact in Glorantha, so I don' expect to have much problem there.

Mechanically, I'd probably rescale the Target Numbers to represent the increased power level of the players, allowing them to attempt superheroic feats.

Though I don't have many details worked out yet, I plan on painting the setting with very broad strokes at first. One of the great things about Risus is that cliches can be used for all kinds of things -- people, monsters, places, forces of nature, dungeons, countries, etc. I think this can work to my advantage as I'm setting the world up.