Idea: The Pulse
Before we get into today’s article I want to talk about a couple upcoming things. Sunday I am going to try to get a better update together, especially regarding being behind on some Patron things. Aside form that Monday will see a preview of the Lovecraftian Spells that are coming in that product’s update. From there we are looking at a draft of the witch, but I do need to keep priorities so more spells first! For now, let’s talk about the idea that has been pulling at me over the past few days.
The Seeds of a Game
The seeds of my idea start with my recent binging of Galaxy Falls thanks to one of my friends pushing me into it. If you haven’t watched it, the show is a wonderful and trippy two seasons with more surprises than you can shake a stick at. The other driver for this was a dream I had a couple weeks ago, probably thanks to watching Calisto 6. The dream was a supers origin story of sorts, kind of taking place in sort of amalgam version of where I have lived. The story as it played out involved a very specific event playing out that one by one granted a handful of young folks super powers. I have been itching to run a Masks game ever since. As it has been stuck in my head, other influences have made themselves known (like Stranger Things) and I have an idea building for a campaign of sorts running in the 5th Edition rule set.
This game is, at its core, a young supers game in the vein of Young Justice and Masks by Magpie Games leaning towards the lighter side of things. The idea is that there is a “dark world” which has made its presence known a few times in the form of the Pulse. This place is known as the Slant a name given to it for the strangeness inherent in its existence. The Pulse is an energy of some type that emanates from places where there is access to the Slant. The cause of the Pulse is unknown but there are theories as to its connection to human history. The Salem Witch Trials, The Roswell Incident, stories of ancient aliens, Atlantis, and more might all be connected to the Pulse. As such, various agencies have formed around the idea and existence of both the Slant and the Pulse and certain organizations that “don’t exist” are also linked to these.
Where the Pulse comes into are game is that there is a modern occurrence of the Pulse, one that gives the characters their powers. The Pulse itself comes in sets of 8, with one individual pulse of the 8 coming with ever increasing speed and power. The first goes virtually unnoticed. The second might cause and be overshadowed by an earthquake or hurricane. As each one passes through a region, more trouble and odd things occur and the less concerned most people are with something that is essentially invisible and undetectable. Those who might put the pieces together don’t even know what they are looking at and fewer still would believe any real correlation. That is, until the most recent pulse cause individuals to undergo strange transformations. Animals mutate, monsters become real, and people gain super powers.
So here’s what I would like to play out at a table. The campaign opens as a group of teens or college students depending on what the group would like to play. This is going to be your classic team-up of folks who don’t usually hang out or are generally diverse, like you find in the likes of any team-based group. In fantasy settings you get thieves, fighters, clerics, and mages. In sci-fi you get the engineer, the pilot, the researcher, and the like. Generally these have tropes that go with them, but in the story of the Pulse those tropes focus on those high school archetypes and how the group finds themselves odd friend, frenemies, rivals, and generally forced together at the moment of on of the last 2-3 pulses. Over the course of the beginning the group learns of the Pulse as something real and weird. Then they get their powers, which might not match their alter-ego archetypes but that will be up to them. From there we are talking similar ideas as Power Rangers, Stranger Things, Gravity Falls, and Young Justice. These are kids that mostly live normal lives except when they are using super powers, exploring the Slant, having running in with secret societies and government organizations, and defeating world-threatening-monsters. All in all, I think the setting itself is fairly adaptable but I have some thoughts on how to use the 5th Edition to make things interesting.
Okay, so let’s start with why I want to use 5th Edition. First it is something I am ever-more familiar with. Second there is room to focus stories on all kinds of things while still having a wonderful mechanical backbone of combat. Aspects of the setting lend themselves to Savage Worlds, Cypher System, Masks. But it is 5E that gives me the tools to do what I want. My initial thoughts, thanks to Limitless Encounters recent modules Kickstarter including supers, is that supers archetypes could make some great classes with different power sets making for subclasses. More than that, it would also leave room for actually using certain classes as they are to add magic or divinity to the setting.
That being said, I also have the threads of a campaign build up going mechanically. Like monsters with CR 1/4 or 1/2 we could begin with characters at 1/4th level, transition to 1/2, and then gain their 1st level in a class. These would replace the background characters get. The creation of your character would include what type you are with an “athlete” having training in athletics or acrobatics as an example. They would also grant hit dice and HP, though these would probably only range from 1d4 to 1d8. The next stage would come as the students a forced into a dangerous situation, learning about the Pulse on accident, and/or getting sucked into the Slant. At this point the student archetype is compounded by the group archetype. Are they the mom, the bruiser, the curious, the denier, the techie? This is who they are in the group, how they react to the impossible situation. It can build off character points, like the jock who is a secret computer nerd, as well as how they literally react, such as grabbing a baseball bat and defending the others.
These two “levels” will get them some base skills proficiencies, some bonus hit dice, gear, and character development. Culminating in one of the final pulses, the characters would get their powers. Hopefully during an intense scenario, of course. Now, with 1 true level in a class, super powers, and being a little beefier due to some bonus hit dice we have the opportunity for players to break out of the dangerous situation and begin to deal with their new situation. Most of level 1 could involve the dust settling and the characters figuring out their place in this new world. From there they can fight government henchmen, dive into the Slant for information, and defeat super villains which could range from actual monster manual entries to re-skinned entries as villains and modern versions of monsters.
Long story short there is virtually nothing I would need to do to run this game. Outline some 1/4 and 1/2 level archetypes and their abilities would be the first hurdle. The second would be making some specific classes based on supers archetypes but that isn’t necessary because base classes can easily be reskinned to get into things. BUT I do want to work this all out. SO, over the next few months this is going to be plugged away on and I will absolutely keep folks updated if you all are interested.