[guest author] Capes: My Story Games Eureka Moment

The first story game we ever played was Capes. We were playing a very extensive Mutants & Masterminds superhero campaign so this GM-less superhero game peaked Ben’s interest. Jem, Ben and I cracked it open, and as it turns out, it started us on the path to story games.

Character Creation: Click and Lock

Oh what a revelation the click and lock characters were for me! You create characters in Capes by matching a set of Persona descriptors with a set of Skill/Powers descriptors – the Hot Shot Gadgeteer, the Neurotic Brick or maybe the Neurotic Gadgeteer or the Hot Shot Brick etc. Clicking a couple together showed me that in 10 words you could have a completely useful and defined character to build from. I realized it was better to start from a straightforward concept than start with a open-ended concept and narrow it down as you go along which usually just left me with a murky character.

Actual Play: You can do that?

Strangely enough, we chose a fantasy setting probably because we had been playing supers and wanted something else. We started off each with our own hero, and our first scene pretty much proceded like a D&D encounter fighting some bandits on the road. Yawn. Now in the second scene, Jem chose to play his young archer hero again and set a conflict to rescue the girl from the bandits. I stole Ben’s Hercules-type character from him because he was cooler than my guy (that I don’t even remember any more). In my head I thought that left Ben with my lame guy, but instead, he comes out of left field as Zeus looking to have some father-son time. Doh! I think my jaw hit the floor – like you can do that? Bring in any character, bring in a character who’s not in “the party,” bring in a god?? That’s when I understood that this was a story game and not a D&D game. The fiction was the important thing.

Of course the father-son “bonding” only lasted until Zeus caught a glimpse of the beautiful girl and went to steal her from young archer. And then on my turn who should show up by Zeus’ worst nightmare… Hera.

I look at these moments and wonder how is it that these simple things were such revelations to me. Then, I remember what my friend Signa said after encountering a band of harpies in her first D&D game, “Eh, harpies. They’re all bark and no bite.” In other words, we all have to start somewhere.

    Guest Author: Ping | July 13th, 2009 | , | hide comments
  1. #1 ben robbins says:

    If I recall correctly there wasn’t any girl to start with, just bandits. Which made it even better: after you escalated by stealing my hero and I re-escalated by going over your head with the Zeus-analog, we’d diverted the whole scene away from the bandits and were doing all the “how come you never call your old man, hmm?” stuff.

    Jem’s character was furiously fighting the bandits, but it was dull stuff compared to our father-son drama, so he grumpily said “fine!” and re-re-escalated by creating the “rescue the maiden from the [suddenly appearing] giant” goal, thinking this way he’d get to do something cool and heroic too while we were busy.

    Of course that totally backfired because I had the Zeus-analog blow off his son at the sight of the hot maiden, enraging both you and Jem at the same time (a twofer escalation). At which point you escalated (for the fifth time) by dropping the harridan Hera bomb to foil me.

    Beautiful stuff.

    I think it’s telling that I don’t even remember who actually won those conflicts — being clever/sneaky/creative on the fly was the cool part, not winning the die rolls.

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