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Author Topic: Secret Identies for Supers?  (Read 7469 times)
Kai_lord
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« on: October 06, 2005, 11:30:26 PM »

I've been pondering the question of how to handle supers with useful secret identities - Clark Kent's Journalist, Batman's CEO, Reed Richards, the scientist, and so on. One possiblity is to play them as two different characters. Unfortunately, this would lead to the possibility of Clark Kent and Superman being in the same scene together - which would be jarring to say the least.

The other solution is to somehow allow a character to have two different Identities, each with a different skill set/powers click and lock. To change would be an third option for an action - the panel where Clark Kent rips open his shirt to reveal the S, for instance. The number of abilities on each click and lock would have to be the same, of course.

Any thoughts?
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2005, 04:43:03 AM »

Hrm ... good question.  Do things loosen up any if you allow a character to be played in a scene without any physical representation?

Like, Jean Grey was clearly having an influence on conflicts for years after her death.  In Capes terms, people were still playing her, using her abilities by way of other character's memories of her, and how she influenced them.

I suspect that the same method would work well for letting you play both Clark and Superman.  When the tights are on, Clark affects the scene only through the way that he influences people's actions (notably Superman's, but also Lois and Jimmy, etc.)  When the tights are off, the reverse is true (though Clark occasionally "cheats").

This also has the fun possibility that Superman and Clark can be playing agaisnt each other without the knock-down, drag-out "split bodies by fuschia kryptonite" level of explicit conflict.  They can both, for instance, be vying for Lois's affections, in the same scene.
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Kai_lord
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2005, 04:51:51 AM »

Yes, that would work nicely without extending the rules - I keep getting caught up on the concept of characters from other games as living, breathing people. Something like Clark Kent - Superman's humanity would work nicely I think.
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Mark Woodhouse
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« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2005, 08:07:09 AM »

I've had some discussions about this idea with a friend of mine, and we rather liked the idea that Secret Identities were often Exemplars. Clark Kent makes sense as Superman's Hope Exemplar, for example. Haven't tried it out in play yet, though.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2005, 09:08:06 AM »

There's a subtlety to this "secret identity as separate character" approach worth mentioning: The superhero and the secret identity don't share Debt. This is not necessarily a bug, but if you want to use it as a feature, consider the implications of the two approaches:

1) Clark Kent and Superman are one character in-game. Clark can use super-abilities at any time (albeit his player may do best to narrate them as memories or metaphors); Superman can do Clark's Kansas thing at any time (e.g. Attitude: Modest, Style: Fade into Woodwork). They cannot oppose each other: Their interests (debt) are one and the same. Anything either Clark or Superman succeeds at -- i.e. stakes Debt on and wins -- makes both Clark and Superman feel better about their worldview-- i.e. have less debt.

2) Clark Kent and Superman are two characters in-game. They have entirely separate Abilities (although each one's sheet may have Abilities identical to, or referring to, the other's). They can support each other or oppose each other or ignore each other freely. IIf Clark succeeds at something, Superman doesn't feel any better about himself; if Clark fails, Superman doesn't feel any worse; and vice versa.

So say Superman exerts himself to the utmost fighting Lex Luthor, win or lose (i.e. he becomes Overdrawn):

1)  Under Option 1, Clark Kent is now exhausted and distracted (the Overdraw causing him to roll down his best dice) but can also invest the moral pressure of the superbattle into impressing Lois Lane (e.g. staking Debt) and, if Lois actually says something nice to him for a change, suddenly Superman is a more effective hero again (no longer Overdrawn).

2) Under Option 2, Clark Kent is unaffected by Superman's battle -- it doesn't put any moral pressure on him at all. His normal life goes on unaffected -- or maybe he feels secretly relieved that this super-thing isn't working out and he can get on with a normal life (e.g. Clark stated Debt against Superman and won).

(1) vs (2) makes a huge statement about the relationship between the two identities.

Exercises for the reader:
Which option would better replicate the way "Bruce Wayne" can never get it together or get over his parents' death no matter how triumphant Batman becomes?
Which option would better replicate Peter Parker's dilemma about whether or not to give up the mask in Spiderman 2?
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2005, 09:14:35 AM »

P.S. - One more wrinkle of Option 2: Even if the two characters are working on the same side, there's nothing to prevent one being a debt-dump and the other getting off easy.
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Eric Sedlacek
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TheCzech


« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2005, 01:03:32 PM »

Sydney,

Good observations.  I will add that Option 2 can produce equivalent results to Option 1 if you play both of them simultaneously, have them acting on the same side, and have them stake together.  Option 2 means that Clark Kent and Superman need not have similar agendas and parallel angst all the time, but they still *can* when you play them that way.

As for your exercises, I'll leave Spiderman/Peter Parker to the analysis of someone else, but Batman is only one character sheet because Bruce Wayne doesn't really exist.  He died along with his parents.

- Eric
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2005, 06:47:46 PM »

Grim but true. (At least in the animated series version, which was frankly my favorite, and in the Tim Burton & Michael Keaton movies, where the Bruce identity is a tragic, quiet shell). You could have Batman as the superhero, and then "being Bruce Wayne" as a non-person character with no Debt or Drives, just a bunch of check-offs -- and probably the "Free Goal: Slip Away."
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TonyLB
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« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2005, 04:46:48 AM »

Yeah.  Bruce Wayne still exists, he's still a character, he's just not alive in any recognizable way.  Like Ben Parker, the story can't be told without his constant influence, but he is not a protagonist.

See, now I want people to join up on Michael's "After the Incredibles" play-by-post, so that I can apply this dichotomy in the opposite direction:  a non-powered secret-ID protagonist facing off against his own super-powered identity as an antagonist.  He knows he shouldn't put the costume on again, but he can't resist.  The lure of action (and the fact that the super-identity can spend debt to beat him down) is too strong.
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2005, 06:51:58 PM »

Hi Tony, I still don't understand Capes very well and am reading these threads to grok it better.  Why can't the Secret ID be part of the Attitudes & Flashy Styles?  Like Spider-Man has a couple of super-powers listed in the powers column, and then a bunch of attitudes like, Poor, Teenager, Orphan, Guilty Conscience?  This seems like a simple way to handle it (though I can see how treating them as two separate characters could be fun).

Unfortunately I haven't read Capes itself, so I don't know if this is directly addressed.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2005, 11:31:29 AM »

James: Oh, yeah, totally.

In fact, one human being in the fiction = one character sheet in the game mechanics is the default way of handling it. All this splitting off aspects of one person into multiple "characters" (and remember a Capes character can be a person, a planet, a principle, or a state of mind) is optional advanced stuff.

(N.B. Despite my answering a question addressed to him, I'm not Tony, but I eat his free pizza twice a month).
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TonyLB
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« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2005, 02:30:17 PM »

I concur.  You can totally do it that way, if you want.  I like how it allows the character to stake debt (from their superpowered heroics) in their non-super-powered identity.  Definitely an effect that has as many fun applications as the "splitting out characters" way of addressing things.
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