Okay, I’m hoping that if I get this down and post it somewhere that it will shut up in my head so that I can focus on the Rustbelt like I’m supposed to be doing.
VIGILANTE DETECTIVES IN COSTUMES (not a real title)
A roleplaying game about pre-superhero costumed heroes; the ones that were basically vigilanted detectives in costumes. References to include the Bat-Man (the early, early stuff), the Sandman (the original one with the gasmask and pinstripe suit), the Question, Dr. Occult & Rose Psychic (no costume, so sue me), characters of that type. These guys sorta spun out of detective comics, which were popular at the time; but it’s not just an extension of detective comics, it’s something else. They’re not superhero comics yet, because there’s no supervillains. All the bad guys are ordinary people.
Another reference is the Shadow, who isn’t comics per se, but fits right in with these characters.
I wanna crank up the detectiveness some. Not in the whodunnit sense of “detective,” but the hardboiled sense of “detective.” Give it an intravenous injection of Chandler. Especially when it comes to the antagonists.
Okay, so heroes have 6 stats. The first 3 have to do with who they are as a person, and the last 3 have to do with their power and such. They are Hurt, Hope, & Heart, and Gift, Gadget, & Gimmick (because snappy, alliterative stats are cool). They are all accompanied by open-ended lists of stuff related to the stat that determine when the stat can be rolled. The length of a starting list has no correlation to the starting numerical value of the stat; it’s as long as it needs to be.
Hurt – the numerical value of the Hurt stat indicates how much the hero is driven by pain and rage, especially by hurtful experiences in his history. The Bat-Man has a high Hurt score, because he's driven by the deaths of his parents. In your Hurt list, write down the things that have hurt your hero, the individual instances of grief that give him strength.
Hope – the numerical value of the Hope stat indicates how much the hero is driven by hopes and dreams. The Shadow has a high Hope score, because he's driven by the hope that he can redeem himself for his former criminal ways. In your Hope list, write down the things that your hero hopes for.
Heart – the numerical value of the Heart stat indicates how much the hero is driven by love and personal relationships. Dr. Occult and Rose Psychic have high Heart scores, because of the strength of their relationship to each other. In your Heart list, write down the people that your hero cares deeply about. That’s living people; if they died, they would probably belong in Hurt.
Starting heroes get 10 points between Hurt, Hope, and Heart, with a minimum of 1 to each. Your starting lists need to have at least 1 thing on them, each.
Gift – this is for abilities that are innate. They could be the result of an incredible talent, or training and determination, or maybe they’re just some weird stuff you’re born with or gained from a strange accident. Maybe it’s something weird like magic, or maybe it’s something relatively normal, like boxing; whatever. The numerical value of your Gift stat indicates how well you are able to deal with problems using such abilities. Dr. Occult and Rose Psychic have high Gift scores, because they rely on magical and psychic abilities. In the Gift list, write down the specific abilities your hero has.
Gadget – this is for the cool gadgets, gizmos, and weapons. Grappling hooks, trick arrows, special lockpicks, a custom motorcycle; that sort of thing. Even stuff like guns and other weapons; whatever. The numerical value of your Gadget stat indicates how well you are able to deal with problems using gadgets. The Sandman has a high Gadget score, because he relies on his sleeping gas. In the Gadget list, write down the gadgets your hero has.
Gimmick – this is for the hero’s style, costume, modus operandi, and calling cards, to the degree that they have an impact on enemies and/or investigations. Remember, that’s the reason they have costumes, for their effect (only superheroes have them for the heraldry). The numerical value of your Gimmick stat indicates how well you are able to deal with problems using your gimmicks. The Bat-Man has a high Gimmick score, because he relies on the fearsome aspect of his costume. In the Gimmick list, write down the gimmicks your hero uses.
It’s important to remember that these guys use the costumes and theatricality for effect. The Bat-Man decided to dress like a bat in order to scare the bejeezus out of the crooks; the effect is greatest when he leaps out of the shadows, seeming to come out of nowhere. The Shadow makes with that cool, haunting laugh to scare the more weak-hearted crooks, and whispers the dark secrets he knows (because he can see into the hearts of evil men) to freak out the crooks who are made of sterner stuff. That’s what Gimmick is all about.
And it’s not always something extreme like those; Dr. Occult’s only gimmick is his whole private-eye shtick.
Starting heroes get 10 points between Gift, Gadget, and Gimmick, with a minimum of 1 to each. Each list needs to start with at least 1 thing in it.
The antagonists also have Hurt, Hope, and Heart. In addition to those, they have Game, Gun, and Guile. Minor antagonists have less than 10 points in the two groups, but tough ones should get 10. Exceptional, big-time crooks should have even more.
Game – this is their job, racket, position, social standing, etc., including people they have under their thumb or in their employ. The numerical value of the Game stat indicates how well they are able to use this stuff to solve problems. Mob bosses and billionaires have high Game scores. In the Game list, write the specifics.
Gun – this is all about violence and weapons. Anything that can be brought to bear in a violent action or conflict goes under Gun, whether it’s actual guns or something else like knives, poison, etc. The numerical value of the Gun stat represents how well they use violence to solve problems. Hitmen and enforcers have high Gun scores. In the Gun list, write the specifics.
Guile – this is all about deception, trickery, seduction, etc. The numerical value of the Guile stat represents how well they use such subterfuge to solve problems. A femme fatale would have a high Guile score, as would a lawyer. In the Guile list, write the specifics (y’know, “husky Lauren Bacall voice” and all that).
Ordinary folks just have Hurt, Hope, and Heart.
Okay, this is pretty rough around the edges, but here goes. Basically, it’s an Otherkind hack. The size of the dice used doesn’t matter really, so long as they’re all the same size.
So, you start with someone’s intent. If someone else (probably the GM, but not necessarily) announces an intent to block that intent and/or announces some other consequence that could happen and that the initiator doesn’t want to happen, you go to dice. What you do is, you separate the various conflict consequences into, erm, Clashes. Each person involved writes down the Clashes on a 3x5 card. There’s one Clash always built-in, and that’s which side controls the narration of the outcome. You can Give on any particular Clash, which means you accede it to your opponent; it happens that guy’s way without a roll. If this harms or otherwise seriously screws your character, you get some kind of Spiffy Point that you can spend to force a later Clash (unless someone else spends a Spiffy Point to prevent you from doing it).
Then people go ‘round the table describing how their character(s) are going to get the outcomes they want, and what method they’re using to do it. If their method is relevant to an item on one of the stat lists, it Triggers that stat (f’rinstance, if you use your grappling hook, that Triggers your Gadget stat). They can Trigger multiple stats, maybe all 6, but each stat can only be Triggered once per character, even if more than one item on its list matches.
Then you roll the dice granted by those stats (equal to the numerical value of the stats). Assign your rolled values to the Clashes on your card. You can put multiple rolls on the same Clash. You can confer with players whose characters are on the same side as yours when assigning your rolls, but you should conceal your assignations from players of opposed characters until everyone’s done. If neither you nor other players who are on-your-side in a given Clash want to spend a roll on it, announce that you are Giving on that Clash; don't make your opponents waste a roll on it. Once everyone is done assigning their rolls, everyone reveals their cards. The highest roll in each Clash wins that Clash (i.e., it goes the way that person wanted it to). In a tie, go to the next highest. If there’s not a next highest to go to, re-roll the tied dice until they come up non-tied, and the highest die wins.
Once you’ve got the winners worked out, the person who won control over narration should narrate the outcome in a manner that includes all the results indicated by who won the Clashes. Other players can talk too, but the buck stops with the guy who won the narration rights.
Some examples of Clashes:
“Do I shoot the crook, or does the crook get behind cover?”
“Does [insert character name here] die in the violence?”
“Are the crooks frightened by my entrance?”
“Am I wounded by the fall?”
HERO DEVELOPMENT & ADVANCEMENT
If you obtain redemption or healing for something on your Hurt list, cross that item out. If you wish, you may move a point from Hurt to Gift, Gadget, or Gimmick.
If you get Hurt in a new way, put it on your list and gain a Hurt point.
If you choose, you may become so hardened to something on your Hurt list that it no longer bothers you. Cross it out, and move a point from Hurt to either Hope or Heart.
If you accomplish or realize something from your Hope list, cross that item out. If you wish, you may move a point from Hope to Gift, Gadget, or Gimmick.
If you gain a new Hope, put it on your list and gain a Hope point.
If you choose, you may abandon a Hope. Cross it out, and move a point from Hope to either Hurt or Heart.
If one of your Hopes is dashed (made completely unattainable somehow), cross it out and count it as being Hurt in a new way.
If someone on your Heart list puts you on their Heart list, put a + by their name on the list. If you wish, you may move a point from Heart to Gift, Gadget, or Gimmick.
If you add someone to your Heart list, gain a Heart point.
If you choose, you may stop caring about someone on your Heart list. Cross their name out, and move a point from Heart to either Hurt or Hope.
If someone on your Heart list is killed, cross their name out and count it as being Hurt in a new way.