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Which Kid Touches the Giant Robot?

Three kids are playing in the woods when they stumble upon a towering metal figure, sprawled in a crater. Who will touch it first? There are dares and double-dares, scuffles, poking sticks, and finally double-dog dares, until one kid reaches out a trembling hand to touch the shining metal figure… and disappears. Long before I […]

Ben Robbins | September 13th, 2021 | , , , | 1 comment

Crisscrossing Players and Plots and Not Losing Your Mind

After West Marches I ran a long-term superhero game, New Century City. Unlike West Marches it followed the more traditional “the GM creates a situation and the players have fun with it” model, which was fitting because superhero games are one of the most reactive genres you can play: villains hatch schemes, heroes react to […]

Ben Robbins | March 22nd, 2010 | , , | 19 comments

Grand Experiments: Eclipse is a Robot!

“You are members of a shadowy government conspiracy to assassinate the President and derail the proceedings to have the US join the League of Allied Nations. To do this you have tracked down and taken control of an experimental weapon created by a secret government project.” “Due to a glitch this device believes it is […]

Ben Robbins | May 5th, 2009 | , , , | 4 comments

Happy Birthday Dr Null

“This is Chip Chopper, high in the sky in the Channel Four Action News Copter!” “There’s a swarm of… what look like bugs, big metal bugs, crawling up out of the bay. Each one is as big as a car. They climbed right up the bridge tower, and now they’re spread out across the road, […]

Ben Robbins | February 27th, 2008 | , | 9 comments

Dr Null Adventure Paths

Hmm, so many Dr Null adventures. But, you ask, how can I use them all to maximize the pain and suffering I inflict on my players? Here are some notes for connecting the different Lame Mage releases to form a complete Dr Null adventure path. I originally posted this over on Atomic Think Tank but […]

Ben Robbins | February 11th, 2008 | ,

Anatomy of an Action Scene

As we’ve already confessed, you are not going to remember GM tips at the table, in the heat of the moment. Things happen fast during a game, and it will come down to your personality and instincts (your GM reflexes) not pages of advice you read somewhere. Designing the game is another matter entirely. There […]

Ben Robbins | December 22nd, 2006 | , | 1 comment

Revelations

Normal weapons can’t kill the zombies. MicroMan doesn’t trust Captain Fury. The lake monster is really Old Man Wiggins in a rubber mask. These are Revelations. They are things you want the players to find out so that they can make good choices or just understand what is going on in the game. Revelations advance […]

Ben Robbins | October 25th, 2006 | , , | 3 comments

Dungeons & Doomsday Devices: Superhero Base Raids

A dungeon crawl does not fit the superhero genre. Superheroes zip though villain bases, smashing walls or wafting through them with arcane powers. They do not decide on a marching order and do a room-by-room search (or if they do a search, it is glossed over off-screen). Dr Null's base is a complex maze of […]

Ben Robbins | August 29th, 2006 | ,

Four Types of Supervillains

Forget the ice claws, the glowing brains, and the hooks-for-feet for a minute. Despite their surface differences, all your supervillains fall into four categories: soldiers, menaces, masterminds and thieves. The distinction is not about powers or how much of a threat they pose, it’s about how the supervillain behaves. As a GM if you know […]

Ben Robbins | August 24th, 2006 | , | 8 comments

Done with Death

I've been busy finishing up Death of Dr Null, but now that it's done I'm going to post some entries to discuss the techniques developed for those adventures (things like Action Shticks and Revelations) so you can take advantage of them in your own game.

Ben Robbins | August 23rd, 2006 | ,

What is an Action Shtick? (part 2)

Leaping from rooftop to rooftop on a racing train. Streaking to catch a falling civilian before he goes splat. Racing past the sign that says the bridge ahead is out. These are Action Shticks, classic challenges that go with a particular situation or environment. By definition they are not original. They are the things you […]

Ben Robbins | August 2nd, 2006 | , | 3 comments

Give Them Details

A good action scene paints with a broad brush, but then zooms in and focuses on select specifics. Details make the scene feel real to the players. Landmarks, place names, and even military unit designations lend reality to the situation, not to mention keeping one fight from being just the same as the next. Saying […]

Ben Robbins | July 29th, 2006 | ,

Naming Games (part 2), Episode Titles

In my superhero campaign, I name each episode. I tell the players the name at the start of the game session, sometimes even days in advance. I write it on the white board in big letters so everyone can see it throughout the game. There are pros and cons to doing this. The primary advantage […]

Ben Robbins | April 26th, 2006 | , | 3 comments

What is an Action Shtick?

Zodiac Ring includes Action Shticks in each scene. Much like the hero strapped beneath the death ray by his evil nemesis, you ask me: what the hell are Action Shticks, exactly, in detail? We're primarily talking about gaming in the superhero genre, but the concepts can be applied much more broadly. Without the death ray, […]

Ben Robbins | December 17th, 2005 | , | 1 comment