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Heroes: The RPG and Converting Properties into Games

With our Stargate SG-4 campaign all wrapped up [1], my group’s been kicking around ideas for our next game. It looks like I’ll be GMing (w00t!), and one of the ideas that came up was Heroes: The RPG. I’ve never converted a property (book, movie, TV show, etc.) into game form before, so I’m curious how I’d go about it if that’s the concept we wind up going with.

I can’t be the only GM who has wondered about this, so I figured it’d make sense to gather tips on this general topic from GMs who have tackled it before. We’ve talked about GMing a licensed property RPG [2] and Lost: The RPG [3] previously here on TT, but this is a bit of a different spin on the topic.

In my group’s specific case, we’ve answered two big questions:

System: White Wolf’s new World of Darkness rules, which are fairly light, rather flexible and seem like they would capture the show pretty well. We’re also all familiar with them, which is a plus.

Powers: One of the guys in my group came up with a brilliant idea: each PC gets a single X-dot power from any nWoD book (Vampire, Werewolf, etc.) that feels appropriate. “X” would be determined after flipping through the books together — it might be • •, • • •, etc.

If we run with the Heroes idea, I’d feel pretty comfortable giving it a shot with just the baseline we’ve already established. More broadly, though, what should all GMs tackling this conversion process (for any property, to any system) take into consideration?

(I’m at GenCon from Wednesday, August 15th through Sunday, August 19th — two trips in a row makes for a busy month! As before, there will be a new post every day, but I won’t be able to respond to comments or reply to emails. I’ll be back with a full report next week — have a good time without me! — Martin

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#1 Comment By Lon On August 18, 2007 @ 10:55 am

Determine whether your players (and yourself) want to run a game that is in a world *like* that of Heroes, of if you want to play in the world of Heroes.

This is a conflict that came up in an Amber group I played in, once. Some players wanted to take Amber as a starting point and do weird and wholly original things via exploring the odd corners of the universe and implications of the powers. Others of us wanted to join the story of the books, living in Amber, fighting alongside (or against) Zelazny’s characters.

Personally, I lean towards being in the properties, with those characters. But, hey, your group may have different ideas.

#2 Comment By Wik On August 18, 2007 @ 12:18 pm

We ran a Halo campaign for, um, maybe a month and a half. But while we played, it was a lot of fun.

In this case, I set the campaign during the events of the first video game (PCs crash land on the ring world, and maintain radio contact with Cortana, who co-ordinates Marine activities that would help out the Master Chief).

As for the actual Rules, we ran it using d20 Future, with special rules for pretty much all the weapons (I used Halo 2 weapons, mostly), and made stats for most of the vehicles (Pelicans were plot devices, though).

I also played around with the feats a bit, adding some Halo-esque feats (There was an Orbital Drop Soldier feat, as well as a Covenant Cross-Training Feat… I also made Rocket Launchers and Sniper Rifles exotic weapons, and added a feat that was more or less “Force Field Specialization”).

And then I changed the advanced classes around a bit, so that there were about five classes PCs could choose from (Marine, Technical, Field Officer, Medic, and Scout/Sniper, I believe).

Really, the whole thing took me about ten hours of mechanical work, and then we had a BALL running through it.

I should add that for it to work, everyone needs to know the setting, or at least enjoy that sort of thing. In our game, the only player that hadn’t played Halo before was a huge Sci-Fi/Starship Troopers fan, and he became the biggest fan of the campaign! About the only thing he didn’t “grok” right away was the use of Plasma Grenades, but he caught on after the first big fight.

Compare this to when we ran Wheel of Time, where half the group had never read the books. Half the group were Male Channelers (and loving it!), while the other half were pretty much traditional D&D Builds, which didn’t mesh well with everyone else. There’s something weird about a greatsword wielding man in heavy armour using power attack non-stop that, um, just doesn’t fit.

#3 Comment By Spleen23 On August 18, 2007 @ 3:04 pm

What works in the original may not work in a game.

In the series heroes they had a whole season to develop the character, set up connections, then bring them all together for the first senario involving all the PCs.

For a RPG, you will probally have to do all this in the first night.

Different direction:
No one put on spandex and started calling themselves captain something in the series because everything was under the series creator personal controll, he din’t want to do a traditional superhero story so the charaters in his story had to stay true to his vision.

With PCs one may decide to go off on a wild tangent that is true to the character he made, but creates a different world from the series its based on.

With a adaptation, you got to try to keep the players in the mindset of the setting to keep the feel while at the same time not limiting their freedom to act just so you can tell your story

#4 Comment By ScottM On August 18, 2007 @ 9:14 pm

I guess the important thing to consider, to me, would be Lon’s question: are you the Heroes of the new universe (in a place similar to those of the show’s main characters), or do the show’s characters also exist?

If the later, when you start in the time line is kind of important– though, as long as they stay away and don’t interact too much, the world’s pretty similar to their own universe.

#5 Comment By Martin On August 21, 2007 @ 7:24 am

Lon and Scott: That’s an excellent thing to consider — if we run with this, it’d be in the Heroes world with different characters.

Spleen23: Good point! Having just come off a Stargate campaign (as a player) where all four of us knew the property well, and with all four of us loving Heroes — along the lines of Wik’s point — I think we could stay in the mindset pretty easily.

With a different group, I could see having to do some work to keep the game feeling like the show.

#6 Comment By Stephen On August 23, 2007 @ 2:37 pm

I ran a WoD rules superhero game for two years. We just wrapped up because I am moving. (Know any RPers in Toronto?) WoD was a wonderful system for a more “realistic” and playable supers game. I stole power rules from the old Aberrant and modified them as necessary but your system would likely work just as well. 🙂 Good luck!