For a few years now I have had a custom of gathering my oldest friends for sauna and roleplaying games in January. This year it almost didn’t happen since we had a chance of location. We ended up not having a sauna but we did have great time with my newest game Cliques & Powers.
It all started out as a joke. I just randomly asked that wether we should have a fantasy or teenage type of game. My players immediately got excited about playing teenagers and I got stuck with creating such a game. As usual I went with Archipelago.
I wasn’t that outgoing on my own teenage years and so had struggled to begin with the game. Then I just decided to see how much “cool” stuff I could steal and get away with.
Since tv-dramas on my teens were usually situated (surprisingly!) to high schools and colleges I decided to go with that. It didn’t take me too much time to get from that into mutants with super powers (since I more or less lived from comic books back then). And because I have always thought that Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngster is a neat idea I naturally stole that too.
Stealing things being the main idea behind this game I also used Aki‘s award winning scenario My Life as Superhero as the basis for the characters. That evolved quite a bit while writing though since at one point I had to consider the possibility of there being seven players. The amount of players was actually one of the reasons I decided to use Archipelago. It doesn’t have GM and guarantees screen time for each player.
From there on it was simply the matter of coming up with the locations, NPC and refining of the PCs.
For the player characters I used archetypes. Elemental, Paragon, Techwiz, etc. As a hindsight the game might have benefitted from stronger character concepts but I really wanted to allow each player to form their own character as they pleased.
The locations I decided purely on my own perception of what is usually included in such schools in tv and movies. I did not want to make them as important as with the Rome game I wrote this summer. This game should be about confused teenagers and their relations. Not about the school. With that in mind I only listed three events that would take place when the locations were used and gave the locations “cravings” things that would be likely to happen in them.
At that point I considered most of the work done but was not that happy with the outcome. There wasn’t anything partially cool or new. I knew we would make a great game of it anyway so I was not that worried. It was just a nagging doubt in my mind that it needed something more.
Then one morning it hit me. I hadn’t been stealing enough!
When I found the time I browsed internet for superhero and teenage movie clichés. The cliques were the first one to pop up and I fell in love with the concept immediately. It is such a cliché in teenage drama that I just had to add it into the mix. And from that point it was just pure fun to think about thing I could add.
In fact most of the clichés were so delicious that after trying to incorporate them into the locations I decided to use them all. I dug up 20+ clichés and made a card of each one. This allowed me to hand them to my players at the beginning of the game. Now the responsibility of including them in the game was out of my hands!
During the game we used the Fate cards from Archipelago but to be honest I think they did not live up to their potential. We were all too eager to use the clichés instead. Even though I had originally though my players would not like them that much and printed them in way too small size to be used reasonably.
All in all this whole thing turned out to be an immensely great exercise in game writing. I stopped worrying about the original sources and went crazy. I used what I thought could be fun and it turned out to be exactly that. Even though we had some problems with the game play while playing it was nothing too serious or something a simple rewrite couldn’t fix.
Since the current version of Cliques & Powers uses copyrighted images I cannot share it with you yet. But I hope to get new original art from my players (not much is needed) during this week thus allowing me to share it more freely.