Colors Explained

Part Eight: Aftermath

Colors was a huge success ­ nearly every player loved it, and despite my best intentions, it turned into something of a semi-regular tabletop RPG campaign. A sequel (of sorts) was also played as a LARP, and a third live-action chapter is currently in development.So obviously it is possible to do superheroes live.

Having the powers run smoothly was less of a chore than you might think: when every player had ample time to get to know his character, and the rules only covered the parts relevant for each player, remembering them was no problem. The only power that caused any trouble was the aura sight and limited telepathy of Spectre: as she had a low-level telepathic access to all the minds around her, it would have been necessary for me as a GM to constantly tell her what she saw. I originally considered using a radio transceiver to be in constant contact with her so as to be able to answer her questions, but it proved to be too expensive (at the time anyway). Still, she seemed to manage.

Special effects for super powers were not much of a problem: all the players were good at describing what their characters were doing, and when the effect was uncertain, a gamemaster was always around the corner ready to answer any questions. Mostly the GMs kept out of sight, playing various NPCs over the phone, seldom in person.

The idea of characters as whole people, not as just plot elements, worked tremendously well. Since the characters had a lot to talk about, a whole history to tell others and an entire worldview to share, it wasn't necessary to make a cluttered plot. That helped to make the story very believable ­ even though the events were dramatic and had a major impact on the characters, it wasn't "the day absolutely everything happened", as is often the case in live-action games.

Games set in a single main location don't seem to be that difficult to run. However, the minute the characters (and the players) get spread apart, trouble starts. If Nighthawks had left the house, I'd probably have had to run a live-action car chase or something; fortunately, I could have used the tactical model for that. Since most superhero stories are by nature fast-moving and not set in a single location, I'm not sure how easy a city-wide superhero game would be to run. Even though the authorities here in Finland are usually very tolerant of live-action gamers, I think explaining a bunch of people in superhero costumes running around rooftops (and how on earth would I set that up?) would be a bit too much. (Maybe run the game in a single vast factory or something, set up all the game locations there, and use the tactical model for in-city travelling and such?)

Much of the superhero genre probably doesn't work that well in live-action games, but scenarios emphasizing social interaction or diplomacy involving a lot of characters seem to be possible. It's just the more action-oriented scenarios that seem unplayable. Even though it is great fun to play a character sneaking into a well guarded base, most superheroes have capabilities so far beyond those of their players that playing such scenarios live would be either pointless, or very unfair to the poor hero. (Having said that, I intend to keep trying... and if someone has truly great ideas on this, please tell me!)

(Oh, and by the way: the Nighthawks did manage to break out of custody, and the two whose souls were captured did find a way back. So never fear: the dark avengers are still out there, as are Arctic Light...)

The good, the bad, and everyone else

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