Saturday, 22 February 2014

Marvel Alterniverses (Part One)

Every GM has a pile of game ideas that aren't fully developed, but each of them has a certain charm that keeps us from tossing them aside completely. I call this my "compost pile", after Natalie Goldberg's description of the creative process. Sometimes an idea just needs to lie fallow in your brain for a while, breaking down, becoming fertile, before you can make some use of it.

This week I've been talking about MARVEL HEROIC ROLEPLAYING from a nuts-and-bolts perspective, but of course I've also given some thought to what kinds of Marvel games I might run in some happy alternate universe. I'm going to share a couple of my campaign concepts with you. Note that these concepts aren't necessarily wedded to the MHR system, just something that I developed while I was thinking about that game. 

Both of these ideas could be thought of as "What If...?" stories of a kind, as they're both re-framing of Marvel concepts from a certain newfangled perspective.

Today's campaign idea is essentially a re-working of the Marvel universe with more female characters at the centre of it. As I was tinkering with the MHR rules early on, and statting up some characters for a trial game, one of my first thoughts was that there were less female characters than I'd like in the main book. In working up stat blocks for some of the Marvel female characters outside the "heavy hitters" (including the likes of She Hulk, Sif,  and Tigra) I started to imagine a slightly different take on the setting as a whole. 

The beginnings of my idea are in Howard Stalk having a daughter, rather than a son, named Antonia (Toni) Stark. Other than her gender, she would very much look like her male counterpart (notwithstanding the moustache) -- a spoiled, rich brat with a taste for pretty men and fast cars, and a brilliant, inventive mind like her father. A shrapnel wound in Afghanistan or Iraq administered during a kidnapping by terrorists leads her to develop an armored suit -- the Iron Maiden.

In this version of the Marvelverse, Steve Rogers becomes Captain America in the 1940s and battles the forces of Nazi evil (including the Red Skull and the proto-Hydra faction we see in the first Cap movie) but does not survive his plunge into the freezing Atlantic. His body is eventually recovered by Howard Stark and an early incarnation of SHIELD, and eventually the secrets of the Erskine Super Soldier Serum are harvested from his cells. The second dose of Serum is given to the finest candidate SHIELD has -- Maria Hill. Captain America is born again! (I initially thought Carol Danvers was the perfect choice, but on reflection it would be criminal to lose one of the great female Marvel heroes by simply making her the new Cap, and besides I like her as Captain Marvel.) 

Thirdly, let us suppose that instead of Odin's thunder-wielding son Thor coming to earth, the Asgardian who journeys to Midgard is instead his friend and would-be lover Sif. Loki is hiding somewhere on Earth after doing something suitably dastardly -- let's say it is poisoning Odin -- and it falls to Sif to capture him. Thor is off somewhere else in the Nine Worlds searching for a cure, and besides -- Sif knows that Thor is still his brother. If it comes to killing Loki to stop him, she is more than capable of doing the job. Sif falling in love with a mortal also has a little more dramatic potential, as Thor always seems too busy for her -- but might take notice of a romantic rival. And nobody wants the God of Thunder as The Other Guy.

I'm not sure what changing the "big three" of the Marvel universe to women would do to the overall tone and content of the game. Perhaps nothing, but perhaps it would provide a different lens on the world. 

Something worth trying?

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