Meet the heroes: Storm Bird

This week I’ll be looking at the different pregenerated heroes who appear in the Amazing Heroes book. You’ll recognise them from the cover.

Storm Bird

Petra Lynch, aka Storm Bird, is a witch, but that’s not what makes her a hero. She was brought up in one of the United Covens, who believe in keeping to themselves and quietly protecting the world from bad magic.

Petra believed in going into the world, learning to program computers, getting a job as an analyst in a giant hedge fund, and living the good life. Until the hedge fund turned out to be a giant ponzi scheme and Petra had to combine her talents for building gadgets, hacking computers and performing witchcraft to save the fortunes of a lot of ordinary people.

That’s what makes her a hero.

Design notes

Petra’s a mix of modern day hacker and old fashioned witch, which should create plenty of opportunities for creative plans in play. Her ‘villains of choice’ are white collar criminals, a part of the criminal world that gets relatively little exposure in superhero stories, but which could add an interesting angle to lots of adventures. If your band of heroes needs someone to follow a lead back to the top of a conspiracy, Petra’s your woman.

Deciding to make a hero a witch meant I had to make some decisions about witchcraft and what that might look like in the game. The United Covens are somewhat inspired by the covens in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, existing (mostly) quietly and invisibly alongside ordinary society. So now, if you want to play a witch, you can; and if you want a bad witch, well, presumably they’re a rogue one; and if no-ones playing someone with supernatural knowledge and your heroes need help with a demon, then they can stop by that little village a few hours drive away and make some polite enquiries.

I didn’t set out to write a game with witchcraft in it, but there you go.

You can find out more by visiting the Kickstarter.

Meet the Heroes: Mesmeric

This week I’ll be looking at the different pregenerated heroes who appear in the Amazing Heroes book. You’ll recognise them from the cover.


Dominic Blaze is an old school magician. An escapologist, a counjourer and an illusionist. He sells out the Old Review in the heart of Storm City for two weeks a year, and spends the rest of his time living a life of luxury in his Mountainside mansion. Every year the agents from Las Vegas offer him millions to put on a show there, and every year he says no.

Dominic Blaze is also a practioner of very different, very real magic. He guards a portal to the abyss, a portal which lies beneath his mansion, sealed with powerful wards. The portal is at risk both from creatures in the Abyss that wish to break out into our world, and those in our world who would use its power if they knew of it. Dominic’s job is to keep it secret, and keep it safe.

Design notes

Mesmeric is pretty obviously, a magic using superhero, and as such provides a route into all kinds of supernatural adventures. But his elemental powers make him well equipped for other kinds of adventure as well.

Dominic’s profession provides him with wealth, celebrity and a range of skills that might come in useful on an adventure. If you’re the GM you’d want to take every opportunity to have him wrapped in chains and thrown into deep water, or locked in a box that’s about to be cut in half.

Want to know more about Amazing Heroes? Watch the video below, or check out the Kickstarter today!

Meet the heroes: Kendra Shade

This week I’ll be looking at the different pregenerated heroes who appear in the Amazing Heroes book. You’ll recognise them from the cover.

Kendra Shade

Kendra came to Storm City to study martial arts at the legendary Ichi’s Dojo, which is located near the docks. Ichiru Sugiyama has taught her to achieve amazing effects by harnessing her energy, but he’s insisted she put her skills to good use, attempting to clean up the docks, and assisting him in his own battles against more mysterious, and sinister foes.

Design Notes

Kendra is a very ‘street level’ superhero. She’s got no alias, no mask and no costume. Just a cool sword and some awesome skills. If you want to haunt the streets at night while taking down all flavours of bad-guys with well judged martial arts, she’s your woman.

Although ‘end of season one’ Kendra has some super-powers derived from her martial arts she could easily be kept as a non-super, but still awesome character instead.

Kendra’s character could easily lead into adventures themed around supernatural foes, like those in season 2 of Daredevil, but she could equally develop into a Black Widow style superspy.

Want to know more about Amazing Heroes? Watch the video below, or check out the Kickstarter today!

Meet a hero: Crimson Lightning

This week I’ll be looking at the different pregenerated heroes who appear in the Amazing Heroes book. You’ll recognise them from the cover.

Jack Talon / Crimson Lightning

Jack Talon is the starting quarterback for Storm City’s NFL team, the Storm City Thunder. When one of his friends went missing, and neither the police nor the detectives he hired could find her, he decided to do the job himself. That summer Jack had tried out for a role on a new TV show called Ultraball, a hi-tech sport played in armoured suits. The TV show never caught on, but Jack reacquired his suit and set about freeing his friend with his armoured fists.

Jack’s the kind of hero whose early adventures might put him up against ‘ordinary’ criminals in Storm City. The gangsters and organised criminals who terrorise the neighbourhood where he grew up, and ruin the lives of ordinary people.

Design Notes

Crimson Lightning is a classic vigilante hero, who solves problems with his fists. He doesn’t have innate super-powers, just a reliance on his suit to keep him alive. He’s also upgraded it to deliver electric shocks through the armoured gauntlets.

Like all the pregenerated characters in the book Crimson Lightning is presented here as an ‘end of season one’ character. He’s upgraded his suit a few times and defeated his first villains. If you played him as a starter character your super-suit would be good – but not great at protecting you from harm. If you played Jack as an origin story, you wouldn’t even have the suit to begin with, as you set out to rescue Jamie.

Being the quarterback of the football team lets Jack’s player make use of a whole variety of related benefits and story hooks. Jack is a celebrity, with fans throughout the city, and is famous through the country. He’s a multi-millionaire, who lives in a gated, secure mansion. Of course these things also make maintaining his secret identity essential, he’d be recognised in an instant without his helmet on. He also has a lot of commitments during football season, which a GM could use to build a public life / private life story around him.

Want to know more about Amazing Heroes? Watch the video below, or check out the Kickstarter today!

Meet a hero: Aquila

This week I’ll be looking at the different pregenerated heroes who appear in the Amazing Heroes book. You’ll recognise them from the cover.

Professor Scott Danton / Aquila

This is Professor Scott Danton, a former astronaut who teaches astrophysics at Green University, in the north of Storm City. His NASA career was brought to an end when his experimental space ship was briefly pulled through some kind of portal before returning to our dimension with its crew members unconscious.

Since then Scott has learned that he can control the density of his body, from light as a feather to solid as steel, and beam cosmic rays from his eyes. This makes it possible for him to fly, and he’s even able to pass through solid objects by rendering himself gaseous.

A side effect of using his powers is that it turn’s Scott’s skin silver, except for the eagle ‘aquila’ tattoo on his chest. He had that done when he learned he was going into space, and no matter what he does, it remains visible.

Since developing his superpowers Professor Danton has encountered a number of strange and dangerous things connected to the hi-tech hub that is based around Green University. He’s also had a couple of interviews with a mysterious government agency that calls itself E.S.R.A. who seem to suspect that there is more to him than meets the eye.

Design notes

Aquila is an example of a character who gained their powers as a result of super-science. He’s got a science background himself, which opens up new investigative opportunities for any party that includes him. If a player created a character like this you’d start thinking about plots revolving around mad science, interdimensional creatures or aliens.

Density control is a very flexible power, that lends itself to creative use in play.

Like all the pregenerated characters in the book Aquila is presented here as an ‘end of season one’ character. He’s mastered his powers, developed a few new ones and defeated his first villains. If you played him as a starter character you might only have access to the density control power. If you played him as an ‘origin story’ you’d start out as an NASA astronaut / scientist who’d just had his first tattoo and was about to undertake an experimental mission.

Want to know more about Amazing Heroes? Watch the video below, or check out the Kickstarter today!

Developer Diary: Amazing Heroes

A few weeks ago I made a start playtesting what you could think of as an advanced version of Amazing Tales. I’m calling it Amazing Heroes, and I’m planning to publish it along with a superhero setting. The intention is to provide a game that lets you play through an episode’s worth of superhero TV – think Arrow or The Flash – in no more than two hours.

The game will remain simple enough to play with kids, with a target age range of 7+, but I want it to have enough depth to it that it can run an enjoyable game for adults.

While my usual in-house playtest team (Lisa and Ruben) have been helping me get things right for the kids I’ve enlisted my regular adult gaming group to test it out with grown ups.

What am I adding?

As I’ve said a few times in interviews, the challenge with Amazing Tales was taking rules out. It’s a very simple game and it doesn’t include some elements that people have thought of as essential to the role-playing experience. I want to keep that minimalist philosophy going forward, but I do want to add some things. In particular…

  • Characters should be able to develop over time
  • Characters should be able to take damage, and even die
  • There should be limits to what characters can do, bringing a degree of consistency to a chosen setting

Design Philosophy

Trust the GM

Because it has so few rules Amazing Tales relies on the GM to do a lot of work. And that’s fine with me. The human brain is an amazing, creative thing, and when you get several of them working together – for instance playing a role-playing game – great things can happen.

So in a lot of the areas where other RPGs might have rules, Amazing Heroes will have GM advice.

Talk with the players

I’m currently part of a playtest for a new edition of Omnihedron Games ‘Duty and Honour’ (If you like the Sharpe books / TV series, check it out) and seeing Neil Gow’s collaborative GMing in person has been great. Effectively starting each session with a mini session zero where you can talk about what you want to get up to in the next couple of hours is a great technique.

I’m not sure I’ll be adopting it wholesale, but building more conversation with players about the game is going to be part of the advice.

Keep it simple

Amazing Tales works because it has very few rules, and what rules there are are very simple. While I want Amazing Heroes to have rules for more things, I want those things to be kept as simple as possible.

How’s it going?

Playtest notes: Character Generation

My first big note here is that I need to take more of my own advice. While everyone managed to create a character and people had no trouble getting a wide variety of concepts to work I wasn’t strict enough on the guidance that characters should all have at least one personality trait and one physical trait. This led to some odd rolls during the game as skills found themselves filling in for what were essentially defensive rolls.

For the second playtest session I added some structure in the form of character sheets that forces structure onto the players.

Something else we’ve tested is having some characters begin with fewer traits than normal (three rather than four) this was to accomodate their subsequent development of superpowers. This seemed to work OK, characters with three well chosen traits can function just fine for a session or so before their powers kick in.

Something for a future test will be starting heroes with additional powers. The default character in Amazing Heroes has a single set of related super-powers. Letting heroes start with a variety of powers such as super-strength, laser-vision and flying, will lead to a very different game I think.

Playtest notes: Difficulty levels

In Amazing Tales you normally need to roll a 3 or more to succeed at something. When I playtested with the kids I raised this to a 4, and for the sessions with the grown ups we started out using a ‘gritty’ setting of 5.

This turned out to lead to a lot of failure. Sufficient failure that it began to change the behaviour of the players. After a bit of thought I’ve changed to flexibile target numbers with ratings of 3, 4 and 5 for tests that are easy, normal and hard. Of course there’s no legislating against this kind of die rolling…

Playtest notes: Plot Matters

I went into the playtest with a relaxed ‘I’ve got a whole background drafted and I’m playing Amazing Tales, I can freewheel this’ kind of approach. And that might have worked for some styles of game, but since I wanted the players to be uncovering a conspiracy and learning secrets about the world as they went that didn’t really work out too well.

So – I guess I’ll be including some plot guidance in the game when it’s done!

Next steps

There’s one more session in what will have been a five session mini-campaign, and it is feeling like we’re reaching a natural break in the plot. The heroes have developed powers, done some dramatic stuff and learned a lot about the nature of the world. Now it’s time for them to wrap up their origin story and find a stable way of being heroes in their world.

It’s been fun, and I’m looking forward to doing some more thinking, some more writing, and then having some more superhero flavoured fun.