Need help with an idea for a roleplaying campaign

So, I'm juggling around an idea for an Aberrant campaign with some friends of mine, but I'm running into something of a problem about how to pace it out.

Basically, if you've ever seen Escape from New York, or read the comic book series Rising Stars, I'm planning on doing an "enclosed city left to rot by the crazy people inside it" type of campaign. The premise being that when the super powered people of the Aberrant setting (basically your typical super hero stuff) surfaced, a group of them took over a city, and rule it with an iron thumb.

The idea is to section off a city map, and have my players go in and literally take it back, block by block, hopefully inspiring the citizens caught in the machinations of beings more powerful than them, to fight back. My problem, is I can't think of a reason why the Big Bad Super wouldn't just show up after they made their first assault, and squash them.

The idea was as they took back the city, they would gain XP and thus improve their super powers, eventually getting them strong enough to take out the big guy. But I just can't see a way in which he would just ignore this affront to his authority, aside from the insane ego angle of "It is beneath me. They are like the buzzing of flies to me!" kind of megalomaniac type of thinking. Which I mean, I could go that route, and it's even possible given the rules about how the powers can drive the Aberrant's crazy over time. But I wanted something a little more plausible if possible.

While typing this, I did consider perhaps having them fight him right away, and then have the issue being taking the place back bit by bit, and trying to control it themselves until something like order emerges. However, that doesn't really fit if they are starting level Supers.

Another angle would be to take a page from the Steelheart series of books by Brandon Sanderson, and have them do it all sneaky wise. Taking out the underlings in a way that doesn't broadcast who they are. However: 1. That wasn't the mood I wanted to shoot for in the game. I wanted the "Big Damn Heroes" kind of feeling, with them swooping in and saving the day. And 2. My players really suck at subterfuge and lateral thinking when it comes to shit like this. They just, REALLY aren't good at it.

So, any ideas on how I could have them able to operate in a relatively public, and dramatic way, without having the head honcho show up right away and just squash them?

How defined is the boss? I dont know this rule set or whatever. Maybe he physically cant just swoop in and destroy them, but it is a secret. That could even play into the plot as the people who first feared him are confused when he doesnt infact just stomp them out then and there? Thus becoming more and more inspired to take back the city. Ofcourse then by the time the guy CAN just swoop in, the heroes are up to snuff.

Hunter: the Vigil has a sourcebook called Block by Bloody Block.

It brings together ideas of treating the environment as a character with individual facets and resources. The other book I'd recommend is for Shadowrun 3E, titled Renraku Arcology: Shutdown.

Especially if you want to treat the city as if a gigantic prison whereby characters must find new, ighly discriptive means of movement through what is essentially a gigantic building the size of a suburb. If you need ideas of how the characters might get around.

In a city, think vertical as much as anything else. Give them equipment for scaling buildings and travelling across rooftops. Whereby it might be easier getting into another suburb than out of. You could also stress the importance to players of 'hunt' and 'hide', setting up little hidey holes in parts of the city as if a back up plan and aid general mobility, or find hidden places to rest and rearm.

He's not defined at all. In my head he's some kind of powerful super, which is why he's been able to control the city, despite the efforts of the military and other factors trying to stop him.

As far as the system goes, it's based off of the older White Wolf Storyteller system from like 20 years ago, if you're familiar with that at all, but cranked up to 11 in what can be done.

I might be able to swing using a plot hook from Unbreakable, regarding how Mr. Glass operated, and what he was trying to accomplish. Or, if you're more familiar with DUNE, what God Emperor Leto was trying to do, by setting himself up as the Tyrant, so that someone could knock him down and liberate the world.

Perhaps if you added in the extra level of the big villain having henchmen. If that were the case, the players could be pitting the various lower-level power blocks against each other, thus keeping under the main boss' radar until they are ready to brawl. Alternatively, the group's early successes gives one or more of the henchmen the excuse to proclaim that the boss is too weak and stage a rebellion against him which would also give the players temporary cover while the big bad is dealing with the attempted usurpation.

Just a couple of thoughts. Not certain they would go for the first idea, given what you've said about their . . . ahem. . .lack of subtlety. But the second scenario might work.

EDIT: The second scenario also has the benefit of allowing you to break the gameplay into chapters with various lower-level henchmen geared towards the players power-level as the bosses for each chapter.

A couple of ways come to mind, with the disclaimer that I have no idea what the Aberrant setting is normally like:

1. The head honcho has his people keeping as a carefully guarded secret the fact that he is too busy fighting a civil war against a traitorous Starscream-style lieutenant in the heart of their territory to bother with the PCs showing up on the outskirts of the city. He will eventually kill the traitor's army (unless the heroes intervene with that) and get back to the business of killing them, but until then he will send his loyal lieutenants in the hope that they can take care of it quickly. Alternatively, the traitor could win and become the new boss just in time to face the PCs.

2. The head honcho DOES show up at the end of the first assault and creams the party to show them how much they need to develop before they can handle him, but the last living NPC hero in the city teleports them to safety (most out of the way place would be the sewers, maybe too cliche?). Said NPC can't retake the city all alone because they run the risk of going mad if they use their matter teleportation powers too much, but they know the city well enough to show the PCs the best places to get stronger. If the PCs are as unsubtle as you say they may require several such mercy moments, but he needs to make it clear that if he does end up going mad due to their recklessness they will have to put him down. Eat guilt, suckers.

EDIT: I swear I didn't copy my first idea from davidmc1158.

Personally I've always been a fan of the Mr.BigBad being bored and wanting someone/thing he thinks can give him a challenge or might have some measure of respect, or has adopted a "you lose to them, you don't belong in my organization" style of thinking.

WhiteFangofWar:

EDIT: I swear I didn't copy my first idea from davidmc1158.

My Starscream Lieutenant will meet yours in an abandoned industrial complex at dawn! We will have satisfaction!

(Probably the satisfaction that comes from sitting back and eating popcorn while minions that annoy us get the crap beaten out of them, but still. . . )

Happyninja42:
My problem, is I can't think of a reason why the Big Bad Super wouldn't just show up after they made their first assault, and squash them.

The superpowered, or rather, most powerful superpowered villain leader or leaders require surgery every now and then due to the nature of their powers, as they are artificial, and the method which he or she attained them through is flawed. In other words, the bad guy can't come and stop you, they have to wait while the procedure is done.

The easiest cop out I can think of is that the Big Bad wants them to succeed. The Big Bad started out with the best of intentions and it all went sideways. Maybe the Big Bad is getting old and wants a worthy set of successors to rise up, earning legitimacy by defeating the current "boss". The Star Wars "No, I AM YOUR FATHER" moment optional if you want a cheesy reason why the Big Bad regards this particular bunch as a natural successor. Think Bioshock 1 as a plot twist. The only person(s) the Big Bad would NOT hurt and the Starscream is using them to take the boss down. With the blood of a parent on their hands, its time to see if they are a chip off the old block when the Starscream character launches a campaign to take over.

If you want some moral ambiguity, the Big Bad is busy doing disaster relief. Yes the fellow is evil and a tyrant but even tyrants drawn the line somewhere. If the Big Bad is actually taking care of the people, what moral high ground does the party have to shank them and take their crown? At this point you can take the twist that doing so has depleted the Big Bad so much that the boss has to retire and fobs the job onto them. Naturally with the original Big Bad off the stage, other powers are now eying the heroes' home town hungrily.

davidmc1158:
Perhaps if you added in the extra level of the big villain having henchmen. If that were the case, the players could be pitting the various lower-level power blocks against each other, thus keeping under the main boss' radar until they are ready to brawl. Alternatively, the group's early successes gives one or more of the henchmen the excuse to proclaim that the boss is too weak and stage a rebellion against him which would also give the players temporary cover while the big bad is dealing with the attempted usurpation.

The plan was always to have henchmen for them to fight, I thought I posted that in the OP, but apparently I overlooked that detail. My bad. But yes, I've always intended for their to be lower powered supers in the employ of the Big Bad, and they would be in charge of the neighborhoods. And yes, they would work their way up the ladder of baddies to the boss eventually. My issue, as stated, is I just can't think of a reason why the boss, upon hearing about the fight in the neighborhood, wouldn't just show up and see who is daring to defy his rule. And thus, denying the players the time they need to power up to face him.

Though I did think that perhaps the various neighborhoods, are somewhat autonomously run by the underlings, and as long as some tribute is paid to him on time, he doesn't really care what is done there. So perhaps they could, after the defeat of the underling, the neighborhood could still continue to operate as normal, to pretend to still be working for the boss, to keep him from checking on the neighborhood....hmm, that might work. That as long as the shipment of tribute arrives (delivered by civilians), he doesn't even pay any attention to what's going on in the area.

Mechamorph:
The easiest cop out I can think of is that the Big Bad wants them to succeed. The Big Bad started out with the best of intentions and it all went sideways. Maybe the Big Bad is getting old and wants a worthy set of successors to rise up, earning legitimacy by defeating the current "boss".

Yeah, that's the kind of scenario I was referring to when I mentioned DUNE, and the God Emperor Leto II. That's pretty much exactly what he does. He sets himself up as a tyrant, to galvanize humanity to, literally, evolve in a way that would make them free from his oracular abilities. Thus insuring humanity would be forever free from the tyranny of people who could predict the future. Which is a route I am considering, though the route of "the city's too big for him to micro-manage all of it, and as long as tribute arrives he doesn't care" is probably how I'll go.

Mechamorph:
If you want some moral ambiguity, the Big Bad is busy doing disaster relief. Yes the fellow is evil and a tyrant but even tyrants drawn the line somewhere. If the Big Bad is actually taking care of the people, what moral high ground does the party have to shank them and take their crown? At this point you can take the twist that doing so has depleted the Big Bad so much that the boss has to retire and fobs the job onto them. Naturally with the original Big Bad off the stage, other powers are now eying the heroes' home town hungrily.

Sadly this route wouldn't work so well, due to my players inability to appreciate nuance and gray morality about things. They just...well if you are at all familiar with the stereotypical type of guy who roleplays in tabletop, they are more worried about the crunch of the mechanics, than the fluff of the story. I've tried....SO many times, over the last 20 years of gaming with these guys, to get them to try and actually ROLEplay, but they always default back to ROLLplay. So trying to set up this "who is really the bad guy?" kind of setting, while fun for ME, wouldn't work well with them.

Besides, I do kind of want to do a classic, mustache twirling badguy, who they can fight in a dramatic scene over the city, for the liberation of all the trapped people below. I'm a sucker for Heroic tales of epic battles and such, and this would make for some fun in that vein for me.

After reading the responses, I think I'm going to go with the "City too big to micro-manage" route, and have the Big Bad not care if his underlings trash their neighborhoods, as long as the tribute keeps coming in. So, since explosions and fires wouldn't be out of the ordinary, it wouldn't get his attention, unless the tribute stopped showing up. So they could still have their dramatic fight in the streets kind of thing, while still being under the radar for a while.

Thanks for the sounding board everyone, it helped. xD

 

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