A few years ago I decided that I wanted to run a superhero game with a “Silver Age” feel. I wanted low-powered heroes in a world where superheroes and supervillains were just emerging. I spent a great deal of energy describing exactly the type of campaign I was looking for and printed handouts for the players. I spent a good part of the first session explaining what I was looking for and everybody agreed to it. We devoted the rest of the session to designing characters.
The players completely ignored me and came up with bizarre concepts that would raise eyebrows in a typical “four color” campaign, much less a silver age one. I tried to steer them back on track to no avail; by the end of the session, I held new heroes in my hand that bore little resemblance to the guidelines. I told the players that I’d be making some adjustments between sessions.
Frustrated, I ended up tossing the PCs, as I didn’t want to waste another session on PC design and I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about redesigning the campaign to accommodate the generated PCs. I took the kernel of an idea from each one and designed a new PC that fit the guidelines. I then carefully wove their back stories together in order to make them interesting to play. I was very satisfied with the result.
Predictably, my players were less than pleased with their new characters. They soldiered on, but they plotted behind my back to end the campaign as quickly as possible (one of the players was eager to run a different campaign). When the time came to decide whether to continue or suspend the campaign, they voted to start the new one.
Ironically, they had a blast with the campaign and, to this day, consider it the most fun any of them have had with a superhero game (it was my favorite superhero campaign as well). It’s been great fodder for “picnic talk” over the last few years and we all lament that we never could get back to it. It’s obvious that the enjoyment of playing simply couldn’t outweigh the hard feelings over the rewriting of characters.
So, fair or foul? Should I have redesigned the PCs?