Wild Cards:Aces & 8's- The Setting

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Re: Wild Cards:Aces & 8's/52 Pick-up- The Setting

Postby Horsenhero » Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:41 pm

Aces Assemble! Teams in WildCards-

Not until the book Inside Straight does the concept of teams receive any real attention in the WildCards novels. Sure, there's the Creighton-Ackroyd Detective Agency, but, there the majority of the characters exist as supporting cast for Popinjay and Mr. Nobody. Only Topper has any real significance beyond that of an employee. Primarily any teams in the novels have been accidental or temporary. That being the case, the entire team concept is left in limbo where the setting is concerned and since RPG's are group focused, there's a glaring problem converting WildCards from literary concept to viable game. So, I'm going to give my thoughts on the topic here.

As with anything else WildCards related, the first thing to do is go the core concept of the setting and build from there. As a "realistic" style setting, there are indeed certain team concepts that work very well in traditional super-hero genre media, that fail here. I'm going to list a couple mainstays and why they don't work without major overhauling, then I'll get to possibilities of what CAN work, staying true to the setting.

Note: If your campaign modifies the way WildCards are treated or the way the laws are presented or even the level of technology available, then the way teams are treated also changes.

Concept 1:Earth's Guardians- This team style, exemplified by DC's Justice League fails in WildCards on several fronts. Technologically it fails, because the level of technology necessary for the Justice League's equipment is not readily available in WC. Even the most advanced cultures don't have teleporters of any dependability, much less us poor Earthlings. Compound that with the fact that every heavy hitter in the Justice League and many of their more "moderately" powered members outstrip all but the most formidable WildCarders and the level of actionfor this team becomes further out of reach. Staying true to books, they would also incur the military opposition of most, if not all countries they interfered in. The team might be able to work with impunity in the third world, but, first world countries would bring their might to bear to stop them. Nothing brings people together like a common enemy and since this style of play gives no thought to issues like national sovereignty, borders and international law, eventually they would line up most of earth's governments against them. Since maintaining a secret identity is nearly impossible in the real world, and an orbital satellite would require a lot in the way of upkeep, I would foresee frozen assets and arrest warrants in the characters' futures. On the plus side, they would push the more industrialized nations to perfect their post-atmospheric weapons programs.

Concept 2: The Secret, Private School- This concept fails so quickly, on so many levels it isn't even funny. The construction of Danger Rooms would require heavy equipment, engineering expertise and weapon systems technology importing that could not be hidden from the government of a first world country. Again, the subject of secret identities and the difficulty maintaining them comes into play (especially with teens). Add to that, any exploits by these individuals caught on television or (in more modern campaigns on YouTube or the like) would bring recognition from family members, former friends and neighbors, who would have some idea where the child went. In no time, even if the school had tacit support from some departments of government, the existence would end up revealed to the general public.

Concept 3: Teen Crimefighters- Similar in many ways to concept 2, this popular comic trope suffers many of the same difficulties. Exemplified by DC's Teen Titans and Marvel's Young Avengers, this concept loses steam at first contact with law-enforcement. Any such team would be deemed a vigilante gang, and warrants would be issued for their arrest. Any adults found to be supporting these activities would be subject to arrest and criminal charges.

Now...let's look at how the previous concepts might be tweaked to work and other concepts that could work in the setting.

Earth's Guardians- this concept could work, if one of the characters' was a Takisian with a ship like Dr. Tachyon's "Baby" or a member of the Network, working some angle his teammates may or may not be aware of. the scope would be smaller than Justice League and getting around the fugitive angle would be impossible, unless the team sought out official sanction from the UN, a major world power or positioned themselves as an NGO with a specific, non-combat mission. They could also set themselves up as "security contractors", but work in first world countries would be highly constrained and major world powers would be seeking to steal their technology.

Secret, Private School- Located in a third world country or under the patronage of a major world power, this could work. Still, the students would find themselves kept away from conflicts or danger, since in most first world countries there are age factors involved when dealing with child labor and several treaties exist condemning the use of child soldiers.

Teen Heroes- With effort, and the awareness that their activities would be viewed as illegal in every first world country, a secret club of like minded youths might operate for awhile, but, a nomadic existence would be required to stay ahead of law enforcement.

Most likely, successful team stories in the WC settings would involve governmental or quasi-governmental organizations such as The Committee for Extraordinary Interventions. Allowing the government (or governments) a measure of control, yet complete deniability if the actions of the organization (if it's secret) were to become public. Also the organization might be subject to contravention of statute regulations, similar to the CIA. Alternatively, the could be a military unit. A truly special, type of special forces.

Optionally, the characters could step completely out of the shadows and be police officers or SCARE agents. Such a style of play would be a decent challenge for your typical super-hero gamer, as they struggled with procedure, miranda rights and other legal hurdles, as well as possibly being perceived as a publicity stunt by whatever police force they were on.

Taking things further into the private sector, they could be Private Investigators or Security Contractors or both. They could also be Bond Enforcement Agents (Bounty Hunters). Much like the police option, this means they have to keep their eyes on how they go about their business, since a wrong move could see them sued and/or their licenses revoked or suspended.

Unlike most comic teams, a far larger staff than a Butler would be required, giving the GM a chance to add Lawyers, Personal Assistants, Public Relations staff, etc. to the cast.

Then there's the flipside...the characters could opt to play up and coming members of a criminal organization, such as the Shadow Fists or Mafia. They could also play members of reputed terrorist organizations like the Twisted Fists or straight up mercenaries or revolutionaries, like the Hero Twins, Hunapu and Xablanque.

There's a lot of ways teams or characters can work in WildCards, but, their activities are going to impact and be impacted by the world around them. There's no beaming down to stop Despero, then vanishing until next time, with no societal impact.

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Re: Wild Cards:Aces & 8's/52 Pick-up- The Setting

Postby tylrlsaa » Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:01 am

Concept 1 exists as best as it can in the newer books as the UN team, the one formed by the American Hero contestants. (Don't have my books, and names fail me.)

Concept 2 would more likely exist as a trade school teaching aces and joker-aces how to control their powers so they don't injure or kill someone, and possibly could use their powers for occupational purposes. Adventuring would be tangental and not on the syllabus.

Concept 3 screams rebellious teens doing stuff just to piss off their parents and other adults, but they won't be doing this for the right reasons. More like Superboy when he started.
There are three kinds of lies.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

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Re: Wild Cards:Aces & 8's/52 Pick-up- The Setting

Postby Horsenhero » Wed Jun 08, 2011 7:54 pm

Holy crap! Someone's actually reading this? :shock:

The books in question are, in order: Inside Straight, Busted Flush and Suicide Kings. Three of the best books in the series. If you're at all familiar with WC (or even just want to be), they get high marks from me. Pick them up. Read them. they're good stuff.

Next up...with my constant planning of evil things to do to the Aces & 8's of Killenbrooke International's Division 11, and the craptastic world I've dropped them into, it might be hard to believe, but, I'm a fan of the good guys. So, I'll explain why, in Mature Audiences gameworld, I think heroism is more important than ever.

I'll also reveal why Lucille and Darlene are immune to harm...well, permanent harm anyway.

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Re: Wild Cards:Aces & 8's/52 Pick-up- The Setting

Postby Horsenhero » Fri Jun 10, 2011 8:56 pm

Heroes in dangerous times, and the girls at the Center of the Universe.

WildCards is a setting beset with grim realities. The Aces & 8's game is designed to reflect that. To start with, damage...all toughness related saves are against lethal damage. It requires stunting or an effect specifically designated as non-lethal to deal non-lethal damage. Some attacks can NEVER be non-lethal. Fire for instance. Fire is potentially lethal. Fire does not bruise you or knock the wind out of you, it cooks you. Exposure to flames can never be designated a non-lethal effect. Bullets likewise. In addition, civilians suffer when caught in an area where super-humans are doing battle, or even using certain powers.

Damage and super-powers aren't the only source of grim reality in WildCards though. The world is full of jealous, petty, greedy, spiteful people, perfectly willing to put their boots on the necks of others in the pursuit of money, power or some other goal. Politicians are often bad people. Corporate executives often do bad things to protect their turf or further the goals of their company. People in positions of authority often abuse that authority. Everyone has an agenda. Some agendas are morally abhorrent. Finding bad is far easier than finding good.

Why is this so? Because in general I believe that reflects the setting and it also reflects the real world at many levels. WildCards is a MATURE AUDIENCES setting. This does not mean that every individual encountered is a mass murderer, toting tons of guns and wearing bandoliers and pouches, and goes by the name Bloody Death-Killer or what have you. It means that graft and corruption are as common in game as they are in the real world. It means that "the greater good" is a fluid term, defined by each individual to mean something just a little different. It means even the worst criminals rationalize their crimes away. It means, in game, there are "good" criminals, and "bad" cops, and also the reverse. It means that only the rarest individual is 100% bad or good. People on the side of angels can have repugnant habits and people who are vipers at society's collective breast can be charming people, who support charities. The world is very gray and defined by degrees of morality or immorality. It's a world of hard choices for a player character.

Why in the world would I put my players' characters into such an ethical morass? Because being heroic is hard. Being heroic is also often a matter of perspective. I don't demand that the PC's act heroically, or exhibit any great degree of altruism...but I love it when they do. Heroism is difficult where the PC's have racists and bigots in positions of authority. Racists and bigots who have very good rationales for being the way they are. Racists and bigots who don't put on cloaks and plot the conquest of society. No. Like heroic people in the real world, the PC's have to navigate bad people in a good cause, just as they must navigate good people who break the law. I also don't demand that the PC's be without flaw in that respect, and I don't mean the "I'm the best there is at what I do, but what I do isn't very pretty" type of clean, only kills/hurts the badguys type flaws. No, the protagonists are allowed to be small and petty and spiteful and blind to their own faults...

Because this is a setting and a game about people with powers, not super-heroes.

And because, it's a setting where vigilantism is frowned upon, secret identities are near impossible to maintain (at least not forever) and law-enforcement, as well as criminals are often in opposition to the players, heroism is a far grander thing. Heroism demands sacrifice. It means making powerful enemies. It means putting friends, family and co-workers in potential peril. It means giving up the peace of an ordinary life and it means totally happy moments are now very, very rare.

I believe the greater the risk, the more admirable virtue is, so the setting is designed to make shortcuts tempting, corruption easy and the triumph of virtue difficult. And everytime the PC's find a way to rise above the muck, I cheer.

The Center-

Anyone familiar with the WildCard novels and with RPG's recognizes the need for a locus for character activities. Many readers of the novels complain that the books seem to kind of lose their way around book 7 and don't regain their proper "feel" again until about book 11, and I have a theory as to why. The WildCard novels are, for the most part, what the creators call "mosaic" stories. Simply put, a large plot in which multiple characters act, but may not be aware of one anothers' activities. In such a setting, where the motivations and personalities involved are so disparate, a cenral point of focus is needed. With that "physical" location, a relatable individual inhabiting that center to help bridge the gaps is key.

In the beginning, in the novels, it was the Crystal Palace, run by the Joker information broker, Chrysalis. Chrysalis was a great character and an important lynchpin to the novels, because she served a purpose none of the others could. She was a "normal", except for her deformity, person operating in the same theatre with individuals with superhuman powers. Hers was the perspective of the everyman. When she was killed off the books went adrift, until the stories moved beyond New York in a big way. For many readers and fans, the books didn't really get their mojo back until book 11, which takes place in Vietnam. To a degree that's true because the missing locus for character interaction was unnecessary there.

For me though, the books really didn't recover until the Card Sharks triad and the introduction of Hannah Davis. That character provided what Chrysalis had, a single connecting thread through all the various plotlines within the story arc, and the everyman perspective that was missing. A place special to the cast was still missing and wouldn't show up again until the Committee triad (the place being the UN of all things).

So what does this have to do with the game? In the game, while there are no readers who need the filter of the everyman perspective to make things relatable, the players still need a place to call their own. More than that, the place has to contain the locus of the campaigns' actions. The place is the offices of Division 11 at Killenbrooke International, but, more importantly, the solid center of all things is inhabited by two indviduals...Lucille Baul, a semi-spherical orange joker, with skin texted like a basketball and a face fairly reminiscent of a muppet, and Darlene Carpenter a middle aged housewife and mother. These two women, PA's of the player characters' are the dependable center. They are the rock against the tempest and the port in the storm.

Their position has granted them a sort of "immunity from permanent harm", because like the novels, the game needs a dependable center. Something that can be relied on, otherwise things can go adrift and lose focus. While the murder of Chrysalis made for an interesting plotline, almost any other character could have been killed off without the same chaos ensuing, including Dr. Tachyon. with Chrysalis' example in mind, I guard my round, orange joker and overwrought hausfrau carefully.

I recomend any GM do the same with the center of their campaign.

Next...long neglected updates to the supporting cast.

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Re: Wild Cards:Aces & 8's/52 Pick-up- The Setting

Postby tylrlsaa » Wed Jun 15, 2011 1:48 pm

So, the golden rule of Wild Cards novels is the same as real estate... location, location, location.
There are three kinds of lies.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

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Re: Wild Cards:Aces & 8's/52 Pick-up- The Setting

Postby TheManagement » Fri Jun 17, 2011 8:17 pm

Do the Wild Cards novels need to be read in order, or are they, for the most part, stand alone stories taking place in the same setting. There is a novel at my local bookstore that I almost picked up, but it is the only one they have, and I don't want to start in the middle if I need to read any earlier titles.
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Re: Wild Cards:Aces & 8's/52 Pick-up- The Setting

Postby Horsenhero » Sat Jun 18, 2011 4:05 pm

Well, they're a little of both, depending on the book you're looking at. The books work in chronological order, starting from 1946 to the present day. However, some of the books are more or less stand alone efforts.

Book 1 (WildCards) Stand alone, though it does set up some future tales.

Books 2 & 3 (Aces High & Jokers Wild) Should be read together, since they cover a larger story arc.

Book 4 (Aces Abroad) Stand alone.

Book 5 (Down & Dirty) Stand alone.

Books 6 & 7 (Ace in the Hole & Dead Man's Hand) Can be read either as stand alone stories or as a pair, since the two stories reference one another, taking place simultaneously.

Books 8,9, 10* & 12 (One-Eyed Jacks, Jokertown Shuffle, Double Solitaire* & Dealer's Choice) Need to be read as a series to get the most out of the overarching plot. Note: Bk 10 is a stand alone story, BUT, the lead up starts in books 8 & 9, so understanding it requires reading those books. Conversely, understanding the overall "jumper/Rox" plotline, does not require reading book 10.

Book 11 (Turn of the Cards) Can be read as a stand alone novel.

Books 13, 14 & 15 (the Card Sharks triad: Card Sharks, Marked Cards & Black Trump) Are a plot arc and are best understood read together.

Books 16 & 17 (Deuces Down & Death Draws Five) Are both stand alone novels...I think. These are the only two novels I don't have, so I'm not 100% certain.

Books 18, 19 & 20 (the Committee triad: Inside Straight, Busted Flush & Suicide Kings) Are best read as a series, but, Inside Straight can be read as a stand alone story. I know Tor books has reprinted some of the older books as collections and the complete list of what's available should be on Amazon. You can also check out WildCards.com for other information.

I hope this helps.

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Re: Wild Cards:Aces & 8's/52 Pick-up- The Setting

Postby Spike Y Jones » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:40 am

Deuces Down is a standalone collection of short stories, but some (not all) of the characters and references will be a bit mystifying if you haven't read at least a few of the earliest books.

Death Draws Five is a standalone novel.

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Re: Wild Cards:Aces & 8's/52 Pick-up- The Setting

Postby Horsenhero » Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:39 am

Victims, Lovers and GM handpuppets...More NPC's-

Adelle "Gator-Ada" Sinclair- A J-District prostitute of the streetwalker variety, Gator-Ada is a friend of Nutjob, but caters to a lower class of clientele. Adelle is a tall woman, almost 6 ft, who resmebles a humanoid lizard. She has smooth, scaly, green skin, with a pair of smal dorsal ridges that start where a normal person would have eyebrows and run over her head, down her back to the end of her tail. Being cold blooded, intemperate weather can cause problems for Adelle.

Allison Fong, Lt. DPD- She is the lead detective in the partnership of Fong-Tafoya. Allison is younger, taller, and far less taciturn than her partner. She is a smiling, pleasant, but meticulous detective. She stands 5'10" tall, weighs 150lbs and sports chestnut hair with green eyes.

Harriet "Mad Hattie" Carter- A former socialite and newspaper "society" reporter who suffers from paranoid delusions, Hattie first came to the PC's attention when they were investigating a rash of mysterious illnesses and deaths in the projects. Harriet had been working with another reporter, a crusading columnist named Billy Broadway, when his murder drove her over the edge. She is the sister-in-law of the CEO of Marsh Petrochemical.

Meatbag- A joker who looks like his skin has been completely flayed, Meatbag, like many jokers does not speak of his past. He's a junkie and a masochist and a general coward physically. However, Meatbag does haves his ear to the ground in the J-District and knows quite a bit of information.

Ralph, Waldo & Emerson- Triplet Aces, these three provide security for the New Curtis Park Free Clinic. While their Ace powers remain unrevealed, they also have the dubious distinction of looking like the poet and author, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Richard Dunning- He has not been encountered in the flesh yet in the game, but he is the head of Killenbrooke International's business development office.

Lydia Tafoya, Det. 2nd Grade DPD.- A homicide detective with the Denver Police Dept., Lydia is a short, stocky woman with rather flat features. While she is blocky in build and big boned, she is not fat. She stands 5'5" and weighs 170lbs. She has short, black hair and is fond of chewing gum.


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