Sunday, September 24, 2017

My Superhero 2044 Campaign

This might be too much information!


All 5 volumes capturing a significant part of my childhood and formative years as a role-playing game designer in the genre of  superheroes.
My Superhero 2044 campaign lasted about 10 years, maybe a little bit longer; I'm not sure. There was a gap of 3 or so years between my high-school days and my time in the USMC. I may have played a bit during the time on base. I looked through my notes and it seems that I created a revised role-playing game system that I named FYBS (F** You Bob System). With that I perhaps played another 3 years?

Anyhow, I decided to start connecting the pieces together again with the origins of the MEST Tactics skirmish wargame in its roots with my Superhero 2044 campaign. My opinion of that original game can be found on an earlier post here.  Essentially the game evolved as I (the Referee) played across a decade I was able with the help of my friends who where the players.

Through that time the characters acquired more power and began to become involved with politics and world-building. The original Superhero 2044 rules really didn't allow for such things and so I started pulling in concepts from other places; GDW Traveller, Time-line Limited's The Morrow Project, Hero Games Champions, SJG GURPs, SPI Starsoldier, and then also a variety of science-fiction and fantasy novels including Michael Moorcock's The Eternal Champion and Philip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers Series. I think those last two were students of Joseph Campbells The Hero With a Thousand Faces, which certainly influenced me as well. There may actually be several dozen more sources of inspiration which came to me after high-school; one of the later ones is Stephen R. Donaldson's The White Gold Wielder and the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

What follows below are photos of my collection of writings associated with that campaign. I'm hoping that by providing this information it will help substantiate some of my decision making for world-building and rules-building.

The Five Volumes

There are five compendiums of information.
  • Volume I - Character Generation
  • Volume II - Gaming Rules
  • Volume III - Charts
  • Volume IV - Complexes Design
  • Volume V - Source

Volume I - Character Generation

This is where is starts; each player in the game lovingly crafts a superhero or supervillain character. The contents of this section were my early attempts to make sense out of the potentials provided by Donald Saxman. I did my best based upon input from other games which I played. What evidence I show here is likely a post-influence set of writings.

This is the first volume. Lots of stuff to help keep character design consistent. It is house-rule after house-rule before I even knew that people did such things.

I started in 1977 at 13 years-old. My first serious attempt to capture everything and make it consistent is in 1978. I revisited this after my time in the USMC around 1988.
The campaign moved on, but the technology for drawing character sheets (at least for me) did not.

I was very much influenced by Alfred Bester's "The Star's My Destination" and the idea of jaunting not only across points in space but also across time.

A list of characters, and their origins, gene-bases, and McWhelan strata.

More characters. I think there's six pages.

The list of organizations in my campaign.

All characters are rated in "McWhelan Stratification Points" [MwPts] using my terminology as described on my other blog which deals with the Ovodium Cosmogos directly. Anyhow, an average character is about 400 MwPts to divide into its Prime Requisites (VIG, STA, END, MNT, CHA, EGO, DEX) and into its Skills, Powers, and Wealth. 

Because I was eventually influenced by Champions (this is when I was 13 and in 7th Grade for school), I tried to establish a methodology for consistently crafting Powers. As a result the rules became a bit ornate with how it would allow a power to be improved or limited using that system's weighted advantage system. This should look familiar: 

Actual Cost = (1 + advantages)/(1 + disadvatanges)

You can imagine the trickery involved with that sort of equation, and so the rules expanded (just like in the Hero System) to manage the edge cases which could arise. However, one thing I didn't like about Champions was that everything was effects based and there wasn't (at the time of the first edition rules) any standard more modeling physical effects like fire, radiation, etc. I chose to pursue that path (see Volume II - Gaming Rules).

Volume II - Gaming Rules

MwPts measure the relative importance the character is within the universe, at the given frame-parallel that is the reality in which the characters play. Other parallel universes (hence frame-parallels) could have the same character but at different MwPts rating. The Prime Frame would be where that character has already achieved its ultimate form, and those individuals are often corrupt with power.

This is the biggest volume in terms of written material. It is in places too technical and impractical to use in casual gaming.
Luck is a property of physics (in the game) which ensures that a character will always eventually settle at the strata in which it should rest unless it should have earned a new strata through the accumulation of Experience Points [XP]. In terms of the world-building mythology I set up, as soon as a character acquired Experience Points to increase its MwPts value it would shift its frame-of-reference and become the individual at the next immediate parallel dimension. Hence "frame-parallel". Here, I was influenced by the writings of physicist Roger Penrose who suggested that reality is a fractal crystal with all events being permutations along each length of the crystal. The human mind is similar to an electric charge and where it is in that set of permutations is the reality it is currently experiencing. Of course, I had to fold this into Hugh Everett's Many Worlds Interpretation in order to make sense of how a game could play out.

Therefore there is no time. There are just reference points in which the individual soul (my terminology) at any given position remembers things in "the past", and may remember things "in the future". So, the MwPts is like an index to the soul; as the index value changed the soul would pivot into another reality, another dimension, very subtly.

I created other sections in the Gaming Rules as well.

The political organizations within the Galadac Empire. The Galadacs present themselves as a mercantile society. In Barbarian Suns, mercantilism becomes one of the four meme-cultures which drive the forces at work to alter the destiny of the galaxy.

The New Orthodox Republic was what the Catholic Church eventually became as soon as they discovered the ease with which they could enter into interstellar society. They soon created three worlds; Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. On our Earth, the remaining chapters of the NOR established the Guardian Angels Corps enforced by fanatic soldiers and gigantic Guardian space-fighter robots.

Types of NRG; "Neuro-Reimann Generators".

Luck as a balancing force in the universe.

Old School. I need to "correctly" identify how Vigor, Stamina, and Endurance were differentiated.

Since magic (symbolic energy) and emotion-control (via ECW or emotion-control waves) played a huge role in our gaming, I had to make sure that the Ego Prime Requisite was clearly defined.

The essential McWhelan Points definition.

An expansion of the implied privileges offered to vigilantes in the future. Each of these were licensed and as a result could be revoked.

The start of a very large, detailed, over-wrought section on magic. Magic is driven by manipulation of symbolic energy which is tied into emotion. It allows the creation of pocket-universes where the forces of the meta-universe can't cause a re-balancing of McWhelan strata. Often, misuse of magic will lead its practitioners to be stuck in those pocket-universes until the machinations of luck balance out.

More about magic.

Magic can be placed into devices using a complicated ritual involving chanting wherein the spellbinder imbues a configuration of symbolic energy into it and locks it into place. It involves emotion as well. I think maybe even some orgone.

I tried to list out my principal organizations and their goals.

More organizations.

More organizations. I probably had 30 or so, plus the original settings count; maybe 45 total?

My first illustration identify the MEST. Matter. Energy. Space. Time.

The arrangement of frame-parallels within the MEST.

A list of visited frame-parallels which are key harmonics. A key harmonic is a set of smaller parallel dimensions which are unique enough to be interesting to visit during game-play.  I think I used just 2 or 3 within my Superhero 2044 campaign. However, I built out each as a campaign setting for my FYBS design; one for each genre. I'll cover that at some later time!

With the destruction of Starbase One during the Martian Campaign, one of the last sets of matter-converters in the known galaxy was destroyed. These Clarke-scale matter-from-energy fabrication and defabrication devices where destroyed through-out galaxy through sabotage; both from religious fanatics (another meme-culture) and through espionage (another meme-culture). IIRC the Talimoran Guards were created to protect the the remaining matter-converters. Talimora is the origin star-system for the original designs.

Many of the alien species encountered (such as the orange-skinned Hjoyans) were very tall and so I established a new building standard for hallways, ceilings, and doors. This allowed, thematically, to ensure all Dungeons-and-Dragons style hallways and doors (5-foot wide corriders, 1.5-foot wide doors) couldn't possibly exists anymore in the setting. 

There also was a large section I created for identifying star systems. I created a graphical syntax for capturing my star system designs. With this syntax came my variation of GDW's Traveller star-system generation rules. 
I desperately wanted this to be different from what Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and other bodies of work proposed. In those writings their authors would acknowledge literary tropes which include fictional characters as being real in some portion of their corpus. Therefore Sherlock Holmes existed. And so did the god Ra or Hercules. And at the top tier of reality are abstract beings such as "Eternity" or "Chaos". And above them are the panel artists and script writers who are the paid staff of those comic-book franchises. Or, somehow; the universe is tremendously huge but it contains just 10 or so planets of strategic importance across 3 galaxies (Earth, Rann, Oa, etc). I thought those were ridiculous ideas (though interesting) limited in scope in terms of hard sci-fi. I didn't want either an Apokolips World nor an Valhalla. I wanted mind-bending scope, the same as I read in my favorite books. (The codex for that I eventually summarized in my Ovodium Cosmogos)

I wanted to try out the idea that the actual underlying reality is mathematically driven in some insane but predictable way. The Grand Unified Theory of Everything (GUTE) is realized within my campaign. Matter, Energy, Space, and Time (MEST) are inter-related at all lives. This requires new math. Make believe math, fake math, but new.

I created the concept of "Neurological Riemann Generators" [NRG, pronounced "energy"] which forms the basic of interaction within reality. Each character, a "pivoton", is an NRG emitter; able to pass magical energies through itself or because of itself.  Pivotons are codified by the types of energies which they project; N+ positive energy, N- negative energy.  At some point it becomes Pokemon with its use of discrete energy sources, but that was the reality of the new math.

Along the electro-magnetic spectrum (EMS, which now includes gravity and emotion), there is a correlation between energy effects and radiation frequency.  On the low-end, about 7-21 hertz is lightning and other electrical phenomena such as psionics with its field energies allowing telepathy and mental attacks. On the high-end for microwaves is the ability to generate radiation and cellular damage. On the very high-end is the realm of symbolic energy; cosmic radiation damages cellular structures but also alters reality. All of this is tied to emotional state. Information is a state the universe recognizes; it has mass and it can be altered by symbolic energy. So, that's where I put magic; it is the manipulation of symbols - the information keeping state organized.  Then of course, the middle spectrum of frequency dealt with heat generation, plasma, etc.

Volume III - Charts

Here's where I kept all of my notes. I had an IBM Selectric and also a Smith-Corona typewriter. I also had lots of white correction fluid to cover for my mistakes. I actually found it much easier to write stuff down instead of typing. As a result I accumulated lots of hand-written charts and tables.

A compendium of tables, charts, lists, and matrices.
What you'll see in the photos below are charts for everything! My armors, weapons, equipment, and vehicles charts were a little crazy. I think we used just 1/10 of the items, but I tried to be complete. For example, a player may want to get a plasma-gun. I would provide that and three other variations. I was wise enough, though, to make the entries generic. So; plasma-gun light, plasma-gun medium, plasma-gun heavy.

My first personality ("demeanor") selector!

One of many star maps. This one is for the Solani Sphere; that 100 light-year diameter sphere of control under stewardship by Earth through fiat established by the Galadac Empire.

A list of vehicles. This is one of the shorter lists.

Skeleton rules for exploiting natural resources on land or planets acquired.

List of metals, alloys, and super-alloys used within the game. There's some comic-book stuff, and there's entries invented by characters during the course of the game. Everything is based upon the idea that every +20 points in value is double armor strength.

There were many standard force-fields, force-shields, magic-shields, etc. Most of them have no visible-light spectrum representation and requires augmented-reality to see them. This is before the term "augmented reality" became a term; essentially it could't be seen without the help of computer-augmented vision.  The Negation Web is my favorite; looks like a dynamically shifting ball of electrical webbing.

I don't know why I have "Paint Gun" listed. I vaguely remembering that one of player's characters had to assign his war robots to repaint the exterior of his stealth ship to comply with some sort of regulation. I just think it was a joke; it was for that comical situation.

Really just fluff; a list of mercantile transport and travel lines for me to use during space-borne adventures.

My take on the grade of technology levels. I tried to be compliant with the Kardeshev Scale as well because TL 7 is Kardeshev 0.7. My scale ends here at 30-something to match with Type III civilizations.

List of tool-kits. The most popular one used is the CFAK or "Combat First Aid Kit" which is worn as an armband. Characters would normally have one, but one particular character wore it upon every limb and was a risk-taker.
A Galtec neuro-gun. One of the first emotion-control wave weapons introduced into the game.

Volume IV - Complexes Design

Eventually some of the players began to take over the campaign because they were more available with my gaming schedule. As their characters grew in power I began to build out rules for the acquisition of land, bases, battleships, and bases. This was a slow and painful growth in the game-rules and I looked into GDW's Striker and High Guard for influence. I crafted my own variation of that which I think was a little too much for me because I didn't realize at the time that the fun of these sub-systems for building vehicles is not in playing the game with the design but in building vehicles. It allowed too much tinkering, and too much specificity with hard-to-translate properties into a role-playing game.

Volume 4 spine.

Cover of Volume 4. Here you get a treat of one of my illustrations. There's more to follow.
Over time, I began to expand the campaign into a war in order to make use of the rules which I had established. This would be a variation of High Guard and allow me to send hundreds and thousands of warships into battle. Leading up to this culminating event, I crafted a background which allowed for the Earth to be a member the galaxy, which I named "The Avausim" or "Spirit of the Galaxy". The thinking was that there are huge intra-galactic cultures which have been at war for thousands upon thousands of years, going back to the time when our galaxy was cut-off from the remainder of the time-line in order to protect the universe from the inevitable; the ascension of human-kind and human-thought into god-hood. This eventually became expressed as my board-game "Barbarian Suns".

Influenced by High Guard.

The DcU scale is used for small-fleet actions. I designed two board-games at this scale which I'll cover at some later time. 

The standard hit-locations for space craft. These are tailored towards my vehicle design system.  For example, "MCavern" is a huge missile cavern which is a deep missile bay with tiers of missiles.

Some of the terminology used for the DcU game. The idea was to allow use of the carefully crafted space-faring battleships in a combat situation.

Anyhow, I created another board-game which would play using graph-paper called "In Defense of Our Mother"; the defense of Earth from conquest by the Huaggik Empire. Though in my original writings they are strongly influenced by the Gamilons from Star-blazer anime. The game scale was in 3 hours for each Turn, and the board was measured in 1-cm equal to 1 AU or astronomical unit; 150 million kilometers.

The invading hordes with their bio-organic ships and bio-organic stargates would bring in millions of horsecrab fighter ships and be repelled by the players's stellar alliance fleet. I had been prepping the war since the inception of the campaign ten-years earlier; some of the characters where already veterans of the Martian Campaign which involved expeditionary forces that repelled a Huaggik scout fleet with the help of the Galadac Empire, a mercantile society that seemed to know more than what it reveals. With that Martian Campaign, their outpost "Starbase One" was knocked out of position near our asteroid belt by the scout forces into Mars itself, killing millions as it crashed into Mons Olympus City.

The standard configuration for a planetary-defense system with distances between bases, orbital satellites, and other weapon systems near a planet.

The earliest map of the Milky Way Galaxy, or "Avausim" because what is shown are meme-cultures.

Naming conventions for ancient cultures within the Avausim.

Terms used to identify battlecraft.

More terms. I like SUDN for "Super Ultra-dreadnought" or "suddens!"

Definition of each class of battlecraft.

Some craziness. I used these power curves to build out my weapon profiles used in the game.

Some notes on how to calculate volume.

Tunnel Drive! A game-breaking technology used to get past enemy battle-planes. This was how the Talimoran system was attacked, leading to the destruction of Talimora and the strictly regulated matter-converters.

Black-hole Drive. A very dangerous technology which took tunnel drives in a complete different direction. Influenced by both Gatchaman and also Hawking Drives.

Holofield Generators covered the entire EMS including gravity and symbolic energy since in-universe the Grand Unified Theory of Everything has been codified.

I was a teenage computer programmer (two books co-authored by 17). Therefore I had to have something in place for computers in my rules.

Volume V - Source

In this binder I kept all of our illustrations and record-keeping papers which included all of the characters and vehicles. Some robots, and tons of notes. 

The final volume. 

Preface. This is a collection of characters and vehicles we designed for our game.
One of the first variations against the canonical Superhero 2044 Weekly Planning sheet. This one is for the Regulator; an armored scientist. I can't find his cartoon image in my archives ... too bad. I liked it. I must have given it away.

Black Nova. A thorn in many bad-guy's behinds. Well connected through his father David Horatio Hornblower.

Void. Power vampirism. Too much overkill.

Frenzy. ECW for berserker mentality. For himself and others.

Ogar. Renegade deranged Galadac Star Ranger recruited from Earth as a young child into Starbase One. He invented memetic regeneration which was imperfect and failed to correctly store-and-retrieve his mind between regenerations after catastrophic destruction of his armored form. Slowly went insane.

Siren. Surge projector for sonic attacks.

The Hornet. Joc Handoval. Deciphered the AI for a stolen matter-converter and began crafting genetically tailored space-hornets with a hive mind, all of which are under his control.
Part of the Hornet's character design log.

Naaru Ratonga. A Hyjoyan crime boss.
Naaru Ratonga's design log.
One interesting bit for people interested in Superhero 2044 specifically; the first edition (and second edition) rules made Inguria be a South Pacific island nation in a post-apocalyptic world where billions died after the Six Day War.  I initially had this as well, but I began to become influenced by the stories of Judge Dredd and how those Judges were more akin to the Science Police in the Ingurian setting.

Therefore I began to build out the rest of the world and established large mega-cities; none post-apocalyptic but all of them due to tremendously population growth multiplied by access to nano-technology and automated construction. There were 12 mega-cities, and Inguria was the 13th. Los Angles became a drowned region because of a tremendous earthquake which flooded San Joaquin Valley and parts of San Bernadino. The megacities were given project names such as Dojomaica for Sydney Australia, or Enoask for Hawaii. Enoask was the first megacity project and was given Enoask as a name from the Hjoyan peoples (orange-skinned giant alien people ... from outer-space) because it was the first one to use the combined science-and-engineering technologies for urban transformation.

Inguria. Megacity 13 (honorary). Apparently it is in the outskirts of Los Angeles, USA instead of the middle of the South Pacific. I probably moved it after the high-school.

Tokyo. Megacity 10.

Calcutta. Megacity 6.

Sydney. Megacity 4.

Sao Paolo. Megacity 2.

Hawaii. Megacity 1.

Now that I think of it, I also remember that there are several huge cybernetic tanks designed to look like MUTOs. One is named Alice and she is an artificial intelligence placed into the body of a Godzilla espy. Her current job is to go from mega-city to mega-city causing a wide swath of destruction in order to dramatically wreak havoc on old buildings and districts. She has a huge fan-base across the entire world and is remembered for those activities as well as her time in service as a warrior when piloting her Troll Unit during the Martian Campaign. The Troll units house these AIs and are meant to be troop transports. Mark II's are land-based carriers about 200 meters in length. Mark I are sea-based flyers which are also carriers but they are designed to lift the Mark II's into battle.

An example of a designed vehicle, the Necromancer. It is influenced by the move Alien. 

Interior of the Necromancer with hallways and state-rooms. Useful for role-playing.

Vehicle size chart. Each one of those has a design entry similar to the Necromancer.

One of the players was very influenced by Franz Joseph who illustrated the 1975 book "The Star Trek Technical Manual."

A Twerp Mobile. Designed by the Jester for use by his genetically engineered Twerps; explosive humanoids.

A Guardian space-fighter robot from the New Orthodox Republic, and a Troll Mark II. That little pimple at the bottom left is a human silhouette.

The standard Alakassi starbases, such as the one which had been quietly monitoring the Earth in 2036 outside of the orbit of Mars.

One of many Scientec designs used by the SciPol. These orbital fortresses hold geo-stationary orbits about Earth and Mars.

The base-line Scientec enforcement vehicle for LAWS; Land-Air-Water-Space.

Another Scientec design.

Hmm, there's still a lot in my head that is coming back to me. I will write these out in another post. I also have hundreds of pages of notes in probably a dozen MS-Word files that I'll need to digest again. Eventually it will make to the Internet, and hopefully in the form of its original intent; a background setting for a role-playing game. Hopefully one of my designs (revised) or for some other publisher.

The Photos

Here's the remainder of the illustrations. Lots of character illustrations as well.

The Big Bad Evil Guy. This BBEG was run by one of the players and was influential in driving the story to what it became. His origin is gaseous form, an intelligent crystalline cloud. The armor is just a means to interact with the environment.

Nubjan. Spell-binder.

Death Angel. Armored radio-active plasma-blaster.

Tai-tai. Tank and razor-girl.

Joker. Armored acrobat.

Dejavu. Minor ECW.

Controller. Teleporter and ECW.

Ninja. Teleporting acrobatic assassin.

Brythunia. Minor character.

Iron Woman? Armored blast projector.

The dissection of Damian Savage.

Cleric with cherub. New Orthodox Republic.

I'm not sure. I drew this in my biology class in high-school. 

Hell. A very angry supervillain.

Frenzy. ECW generator being hunted by the Guardian robots.

Riot Armor battle-suit.

Jester. A non-funny supervillain.

Crystal Knacht leader, Surge.

A New Orthodox Republic Guardian Angel. with holographic field projection for wings and mandala.

Cohort soldiers known as "angels" have their feet surgically removed so that they can fit into these "fabulous" battle-armors. They are the main-line warriors for the New Orthodox Republic.

A Twerp; a genetically engineered exploding humanoid.

Futility. ECW for giving up on life. Very effective.