Thursday, January 14, 2010

Marvel SAGA: Villainous Callings for Heroes

Using Villainous Callings for your Marvel SAGA Heroes

In lieu of an “alignment” system, the Marvel Superheroes Adventure Game has a system called Callings. Callings are the reason why your hero or villain does what they do. Spider-Man is motivated by Responsibility of Power – after all, his Uncle Ben taught him that With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility. Dr. Doom's primary calling is World Domination. The Calling system explicitly points out four Callings as being “Villainous”, or not suitable for heroes. However, with a little work, you can make heroes using any calling.

Let's take a look at the four villainous callings and how to apply them to heroes in your Marvel SAGA campaign. Note: I am NOT advocating using the villainous callings for heroes, I'm just providing some perspective on how they COULD work if players and GM agree.

Vengeance: The first, and most obvious, calling we're going to look at is Vengeance. More than a few heroes have answered the call of vengeance, such as The Punisher and Ghost Rider. This is a calling much more suited for a darker game. Death will surely be more common in a Vengeance-driven game, so don't go too hard on your players if you allow Vengeance as a calling and they have a tendency to go for the throat. The specifics of the Calling will also set the tone for the campaign. Ghost Rider's role as Spirit of Vengeance opened him up to a wide range of adventures, seeking revenge for the bad things that happen to innocents. Punisher swore vengeance on organized crime. You'll get more mileage out of a broader vengeance campaign than one focused on a singular individual such as Magneto or The Green Goblin. Swearing vengeance on mutant terrorists could work, but you and your players must keep a constant eye on things before it turns into war on all mutants, moving your PCs into a more villainous realm.

Greed: Simply put, a hero with the Greed calling is a hero for as long as the paychecks keep coming. This is not without precedent. “Checkbook heroism” is far from unheard of. Your hero may be an operative of the US Government, but not motivated by duty, but by cash. Maybe you're a Hero for Hire. This doesn't mean you'll do ANYTHING for a paycheck, just that you won't stick your neck out unless there's compensation in the wings for you. Greed-driven heroes can expect conflict, at least verbal, with other heroes who look down on their less than altruistic motives. You probably won't be Captain America's favorite person, though Iron Man might grasp your reasoning a bit better. Some heroes are motivated by fame, you don't care about that, as long as you get fortune. Just apply some manner of morals (not turning on your allies at the drop of the hat) and this should work fine.

World Domination: Sometimes the line between a hero and villain is a very fine line indeed. The Squadron Supreme lost faith in human governments to run their own affairs and took over the planet, brainwashing villains into reforming. Dr. Strange, The Hulk, Namor and Silver Surfer were bound to each other whenever trouble was afoot, so they decided to take over the world to ensure that threats ended and they wouldn't have to deal with one another any longer. Cable once set out to dominate the planet in hopes of ensuring that his future would never come to pass. A World Domination game relies on its heroes to not cross those lines that will send them screaming into villaindom. Also, even if you do make sure of that, you're STILL going to get a visit from Captain America, The Avengers, The X-Men or all of the above. You'll also have plenty of fun with supervillains: Even if you're a mutant, Magneto's not a follower...Doom knows no one can rule better than he, and so forth.

: Okay, I admit...I've got nuthin'. You could be a well-intentioned anarchist, who is willing to destroy property in order to overthrow or disrupt what you believe to be a corrupt regime, but stopping short of murder. Even then, those actions will have consequences that make it much harder to classify anyone with a “Demolisher” calling as a hero, and most would argue that any anarchist with a real cause would fall under Idealist. The best use of Demolisher for a hero would be after a traumatic event and a fall from grace: The hero suffers a catastrophic loss and temporarily snaps, going on a rampage, followed by an arc in which the hero deals with the loss, makes redemption for their actions and so forth.

There you have it: a small discussion on how to apply Marvel SAGA's four villainous callings to heroes in a game. I hope this article is at least moderately useful to you and I welcome any and all constructive input.