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Planet of the Paper People

Secret Identities

by P.D. Magnus
Feb 12,2004

 

Planet of the Paper People

I wanted to do some superheroes at some point, and I also wanted to do some ordinary modern citizens. Then it occurred to me that these go great together, like horses and carriages, chocolate and peanut butter, or monkeys and fezzes. Since I'm on the topic of superheroes, I've decided to throw in a little game that's been knocking around on my harddrive.

Secret Identities

Download a PDF file containing this month's figures.

Captain Smite (Heroic Brick)

Smite can endure tremendous punishment and deal it back ten-fold. His no-nonsense, knuckle-sandwich-for-crime attitude has made him the most popular costumed hero in the city. Cops are quite fond of him, although they wish his fans would stop spray-painting walls with the Smite-fist emblem.

Jed Smith (Secretive Drifter)

Jed works off and on as a bouncer at Club Logo, a shady techno club near the wharf. He misses work often enough that he'll be fired eventually, and then he'll need another job to support his crime-fighting habit. He doesn't talk much when he's working at the club, and when he's working as Captain Smite he talks even less.

His mother and grandmother were both superheroes, so when Jed was growing up everyone expected that he'd be a hero one day. His mother really wanted him to be a mentalist, though; she was really disappointed the first time he punched through a pile of bricks. His parents refuse to discuss his work as Captain Smite.

Lady Grey (Heroic Blaster)

Grey can fly and has mastery over light and darkness. She appears when there is trouble, fires lasers at trouble makers, and disappears just as quickly.

Tess Durber (Secretive Scholar)

Tess is a medievalist, specializing in theological debates between 11th-century monks. She spends most of her time in the library special collections, translating Latin manuscripts into her idiosynchratic shorthand.

A terrible hypochondriac, Tess is sure that she suffers from a whole range of conditions. She actually does suffer from blackouts, however, and she has begun to suspect the connection between her blackouts and appearances of the superhero Lady Grey. Tess becomes the costumed crimefighter at these times, even though she doesn't remember anything afterward.

Bonus Game: FOUR-COLOR SIX-SIDERS

a game for some players

Four-color Six-siders (4C6S for short) is a game of superheroic crime fighting. Heroes accrue points by fighting well-publicized battles and garnering heroic reputations. Each round begins with heroes cornering villainous foes. The media covers only the first super battle of the day, however, so only the hero who engages his foe first gains notoriety for his deeds.

1. SETUP

Each player needs a die, three Power Tokens, and a superhero monicker. The die should be a standard, cubical, six-sided die. The Power Tokens can be poker chips, toy llamas, or whatever you have handy. The name should be flamboyant and have a nice ring to it.

You'll need a few copies of the game tables. They appear below and in this month's PDF.

2. GAME PLAY

2.1 MAKE FOE ROLLS

At the beginning of each round, all players roll their dice. This is called the FOE ROLL and it represents the sort of foe each hero has managed to corner-- see the FOE TABLE. If you roll a 5, for instance, you have come face-to-face with a mad dictator.

Make note of the highest FOE ROLL rolled by any player. This will be the starting DANGER LEVEL.

Table 1: Foe Table
[1d6]FOE
1corrupt meter maid
2transdimensional midget
3drooling monster
4criminal mastermind
5mad dictator
6quasideity of chaos
Table 2: Feat Table
[1d6]FEAT
1befriended
2well-nigh thwarted
3foiled
4beaten soundly
5captured
6shot straight to hell

2.2 BID FOR ATTENTION

Players now make their grabs for media attention. The player who rolled lowest on her FOE ROLL bids some number of Power Tokens-- as few as none to as many as she has in hand. The player who rolled next-lowest may then either bid or pass. If he bids, he must bid more Power Tokens than the first player. Bidding continues in order of FOE ROLL until everyone has bid, then resumes with the player who rolled lowest. Bidding continues until all players have passed.

The high bidder attracts media attention and becomes the fighting player for the round.

If two players roll the same number on their FOE ROLLs, begin with the player reached first by going clockwise around the table from whoever most recently bid. If two players roll the same lowest number, begin with whoever is reached first by going clockwise from the player who fought in the last round.

Alternately: If bidding in order of FOE ROLL is too cumbersome, begin with the player who rolled lowest on her FOE ROLL and go clock-wise around the table.

2.3 POW!

The fighting player rolls a die and consults the FEAT TABLE. This represents the effectiveness of her attack.

It is fun at this point to formulate the newspaper headline or news bulletin reporting the encounter. If the formulation is especially clever in the eyes of the other players, the DANGER LEVEL decreases by one. If the fighting player refuses to provide any commentary, she is being a party pooper and the DANGER LEVEL increases by one. (Rolling the die against the DANGER LEVEL without first announcing the report counts as refusal for this purpose!)

2.4 BAM!

After resolving the FEAT ROLL, the fighting player rolls a die. If the roll is less than the DANGER LEVEL, then she loses the Power Tokens wagered on the battle. If the roll equals or exceeds the DANGER LEVEL, the fighting player scores points equal to her FOE ROLL times her FEAT ROLL and other players regain one lost Power Token (up to a maximum of three).

3. THE END

The game ends when someone has scored 50 points.

4. NOTES

4C6S was proximately inspired by Erik Lee's Cross-Country Crime Spree and distally by James Ernest's The Big Cheese. It was originally written for Chris Czerniak's 52 Pickup, but that seems to have reshuffled off its mortal coil. These rules could probably due with a good example of play. They could also do with play testing and some dastardly adverbs.

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