Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Things I Learned From Champions: It's okay to RetCon or Reboot or even Re-invent!

Like any other RPG campaign, there's a potential for an ongoing campaign. Unlike other genres, however, it's arguable that super-heroic campaigns have the greatest leniency for changes to established canon or campaign history -- and it's because of the source material.


Comics themselves have a long track record of forgetting / ignoring things like character histories, established universe rules, and even character deaths. And that was before things like the establishing the multiverse, and those oh-too-often universe-wide retcons known as "crises" in the DC parlance.

In-Session Fixes


Now, while my old gaming group was very much dedicated to the 'death by the rule of the dice', there were instances when certain things would be replayed or adjusted.

For example, the GM forgetting to inform a PC with a set of extra-normal senses (that are always on) about a crucial clue that would've changed the outcome of a situation. Or the incorrect calculation / interpretation of a rule in combat. These -- in my group -- would've triggered a re-roll or a re-play before the events were committed to campaign canon.

These changes could be likened to editorial fiat of comic books, before the book gets published and distributed to the masses.

Next Session Fixes


Now, if you imagine that a GM is equivalent to a given creative team or perhaps another comic book entirely, using the same characters, then you might find some disagreement over what happened to shared characters.

Similarly, if a cosmic-powered villain run by a bloodthirsty guest GM that ended up killing a PC or two, then one could expect that game to be entirely ignored canon-wise (but experience points retained, of course). Or perhaps certain villainous NPCs were portrayed / played incorrectly -- they would be revealed as fakes or copycats. Or if a PC had played out of character (a rare occurence due to personal reasons), then perhaps the copycat rationale or a mind-control subplot would be hatched -- that the player and PC would then have to endure for a series of sessions until resolved.

Of course, there are some game sessions where everyone -- including the GM -- agrees that a certain character, or series of events, or the entire storyline was an abomination, and never happened. I know I still do that with certain comic book storylines or details -- Cable, I'm talking about you.

A Character Revamp


These can range from a simple updating of a character (much like the shift from the "first citizen" version of Batman to the "dark avenger of the night" Batman during the run of Neal Adams in Detective Comics), to the creation of an alternate / upgraded version of that character in "another universe" -- like the Barry Allen Flash instead of the Jay Garrick Flash, or the Hal Jordan Green Lantern instead of the Alan Scott Green Lantern.

This could be due to many reasons:
  • a new GM who didn't like the old character's build;
  • a new ruleset that mandates (or gives an excuse) to refine the current character's build;
  • boredom with the current character concept, or an insight into what the player really wants the character to be;
  • a new movie / TV series / cartoon / comic book gives a new spin or take on a character archetype and a player wants in on that.
Often, a player will rebuild the character in a more optimized manner than before, due to perennial problems that are encountered during play and also to expanding rules knowledge and expertise. However, sometimes the rebuild breaks the effectiveness (or even appeal) of the character -- much like an upgrade of software that somehow ignores a certain sweet spot of a build that was heretofore unknown.

But, like comic books -- this may all be necessary to keep the characters, the game, and the campaign fresh and relevant to the players and the GM for years to come.

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