[20:00] <+Jason> I’m Dr. Jason Tondro, and I teach literature, writing, American culture and comics/graphic novels at a small public college in southeast Georgia. But I am also the author of the SUPER VILLAIN HANDBOOK, published by Fainting Goat.
[20:01] <+Jason> I have written many other gaming products over the years for various companies; I have worked for Hero Games, I wrote a little for Middle Earth Role Play back in the day, for the Star Trek RPG back when it was at Last Unicorn, and I have written a lot of Icons and Mutants & Masterminds stuff, even some d20 material through the open license.
[20:02] <+Jason> The SUPER VILLAIN HANDBOOK is my current project, and it is currently in Kickstarter. We have not quite two weeks left to raise funds, as I type this. We have hit our initial goal of $3,000 and are now working on stretch goals.
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[20:03] <+Jason> The Handbook is a resource for super hero roleplaying games in general and the Icons game in specific. It is, broadly speaking, a book about super villain archetypes. There are forty (40!) of these archetypes in the book. Each entry talks not only about what kind of powers and skills and so on a particular Archetype might have, but also has a lot of ideas…
[20:04] <+Jason> … on the kinds of stories those villains are used to tell. Frankly, it doesn’t matter very much if a villain is a Fire Guy or a Speedster or a Strong Guy. What matters to me, and the kind of Archetypes I am writing about, are things like the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, the Kid Playing with Fire, or the Evil Twin.
[20:05] <+Jason> In other words, these Archetypes are less about powers and more about story role.
[20:05] <+Jason> The Basic Edition of the book is done. It is about 45,000 words, about 90 pages, fully illustrated in color by amazing talent. And anyone who donates to the Kickstart can get that PDF immediately.
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[20:06] <+Jason> But we are shooting for a Deluxe Edition which will double the size of the book by adding 40 fully developed super villains, complete with backgrounds, personality, art, and stats.
[20:06] <+Jason> We’re close to that. About $400 away last time I checked.
[20:07] <+Jason> Tommy Brownell, who blogs on gaming, did a review of our book and said it was “less a book of villains you can use, and more a book about how to use villains.” That describes the Basic Edition pretty well. But the Deluxe Edition will be BOTH these things.
[20:07] <+Jason> OK, that’s plenty of intro. I can write all night about it. I’ll pause ther.e
[20:07] <~Dan> Thanks, Jason!
[20:07] <~Dan> The floor is open to questions!
[20:08] <~Dan> So let’s see… To what degree is the book focused on ICONS?
[20:08] <+Jason> Great question.
[20:10] <+Jason> Much of the material in the book is system neutral. Each entry is about 1,000 words. And much of that is story stuff, which is entirely system neutral. However, it seemed appropriate to use game lingo to talk about things like powers and skills and so on, and I did that in Icons first. Each Archetype also has a simple stat block of a sample villain —
[20:11] <+Jason> — nothing detailed or anything, just stats — and those are also in Icons. But we have been doing system support for a lot of different systems as the Kickstart has gone on. So … we already have support for the SUPERS RPG, as well as Fate Core. And we have Savage Worlds, Bulletproof Blues and M&M as part of our plan.
[20:12] <~Dan> How will those other system versions be made available?
[20:12] <+Jason> For those who don’t know Icons, it is a very simple system, very similar to Fate or FASERIP, and that means its frankly very easily understood no matter what game system you prefer to use for your superhero RPGs. But if you just MUST have a conversion, we either already have you covered, or we will, with your support.
[20:12] <+Jason> Availability:
[20:13] <+Jason> Walt Robilliard, who created the SUPERS system, has already done a SUPERS edition of the Handbook. So if you want that, you can get that. We have contracted with Ross Payton (author of the Fate game Base Raiders) to make the Fate Edition of the book…
[20:15] <+Jason> … Brandon Blackmoor, author of Bulletproof Blues, will do an edition of the book for that game. The Savage Worlds and M&M versions are stretch goals, but what we are talking about doing is a “conversion book” with all the game stats in it, supplementary to the regular edition of the Handbook
[20:15] <~Dan> Ah, so these are all separate editions?
[20:15] <+Jason> Bulletproof Blues, SUPERS, and Fate are all separate editions.
[20:16] <+Jason> Savage Worlds and M&M are tentatively planned as supplemental conversion books.
[20:16] <+Jason> All of these are available in PDF or Print on Demand.
[20:17] <~Dan> Gotcha.
[20:17] <~Dan> Brandon’s a cool guy, just for the record. 🙂
[20:17] <+Jason> He is! I have worked with him more than once.
[20:17] <~Dan> Really? On what?
[20:17] <+Jason> I have told my Brandon story a lot, but I can tell it here too.
[20:17] <~Dan> Please do. 🙂
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[20:18] <+Jason> Brandon Blackmoor actually gave me my first RPG writing gig. This was many years ago. I was an undergrad in college. And he had a game called Legacy: War of Ages. Which could briefly be described as “Highlander meets Cyberpunk”. I wrote the one and only expansion for that game, which was a collection of antagonists and rivals based around the idea …
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[20:19] <~Dan> Ah, yes! I remember that game.
[20:19] <+Jason> … of 14 magic swords for all the immortal cyberpunks to fight over. Then, just last year, Brandon invited me to contribute to his Bulletproof Blues kickstart, so for a stretch goal I wrote up the Ruins of Atlanta. Which was a lot of fun.
[20:20] <+Jason> Because Brandon gave me my first RPG gig, I am contractually obligated to never say a bad word about him. A clause I am delighted to obey.
[20:20] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:20] <@Silverlion> So what are the major archetypes?
[20:21] <+Jason> Hi Silverlion. Thanks for asking. Well, there are forty. So there are a whole lotta. I can give some examples.
[20:22] <+Jason> It’s worth noting again that they aren’t really powers-based. And they do cross the spectrum of power level. So, for example, you have many Archetypes which are traditionally low-powered and the sort of thing you see in “dark and gritty” games, like the Crime Boss, Cult Leader…
[20:23] <+Jason> .. Though there’s nothing that says a Crime Boss can’t be very powerful indeed (like, say, Count Nefaria became) and Cult Leaders can also be people like Brother Blood that take on entire teams….
[20:24] <+Jason> … Then you have a lot of the very high-powered Archetypes, roles we had to actually invent some new rules for. Because the whole point of the Cosmic Menace (someone like Galactus) is that he’s not really punchable. Same goes for the Imp (Think Myxzptlk or even the Beyonder we saw in Secret Wars II.)…
[20:25] <+Jason> … And there are several Archetypes which are based on a hero. For example, the Dark Mirror (which has all the powers of the hero, but they are used for evil, like the original Venom or Carnage) is different than the Evil Twin (which actually IS the hero, from an alternate time or dimension) …
[20:26] <+Jason> … And for these Archetypes, which require a hero to make any sense, we will also be creating a team of heroes. And these heroes will be drawn from the public domain. This is something I did not mention in my intro, but the Handbook will also create a setting, which we call the YOUniverse, because everything in it will be public domain, and so belong to YOU.
[20:27] <~Dan> The Black Terror?
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[20:29] <+Jason> So, yes! The Black Terror is going to be in the Deluxe Edition. He will be our example of the Vigilante Archetype, which can be briefly summarized as “the extreme version of a dark avenger hero.” The Black Terror is so great. That costume is genius. I could not resist him.
[20:29] <~Dan> It is, isn’t it? 🙂
[20:29] <~Dan> re: the costume, I mean
[20:29] <~Dan> I heard him described as “Pirate Superman”.
[20:30] <+Jason> We also have plans for Hugo Danner, the Woman in Red, Amazing Woman (a spinoff of Amazing Man), the Black Fury (a spinoff from Miss Fury) and a few other public domain heroes.,
[20:30] <+Jason> Nightbird is in there, and his Evil Twin, Striga.
[20:31] <+Jason> I also have a desire to bring in the Green Turtle. Because he has been revived recently and he’s very important historically.
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[20:32] <~Dan> Do you have any concerns about confusion regarding the material in the book? Because when I hear “Super Villain Handbook”, I don’t think in terms of superheroes and a whole new setting.
[20:32] <~Dan> (Howdy, RandBrittain!)
[20:32] <+Jason> The Handbook is not a hero book. I am not making a bunch of heroes to overshadow the PCs. But I need seven heroes so that I know what powers to give my Villain With All Your Powers, which is one of the archetypes in the book
[20:33] <+Jason> Right, right. The Basic Edition doesn’t have any heroes in it or any setting material. But the deluxe edition needs 40 villains. And if I am going to invent 40 bad guys, I am going to want to put them in a setting. And I decided, rather than make a setting which was owned by one company or brand, to do one that is public domain.
[20:34] <~Dan> Ah, okay, I see your reasoning there.
[20:34] <+Jason> So the 40 villains will fit together in a vague setting, the YOUniverse, and we will put half a dozen heroes in it, where we need to, to make the archetypes make sense. Because Scarlet, a Dark Mirror, makes no sense at all if you don’t know who the Woman in Red is, her “good twin.”
[20:34] * ~Dan nods
[20:35] <+Jason> And I want to note that Mike Lafferty has just been incredibly generous by allowing me to do the YOUniverse in public domain.
[20:35] <~Dan> Cool. 🙂
[20:35] <+Jason> All our art has been very expensive, but it will all be public domain. And the villain backgrounds and concepts will all be also. And Mike did not have to do that, and I am just so grateful to him for believing in the project.
[20:36] * ~Dan nods
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[20:36] <~Dan> (Howdy, KJ!)
[20:36] <+Jason> The public domain aspect of the book has also allowed me to bring in public domain characters that aren’t superheroes. So, for example, our example of the Supernatural Horror archetype will be Dracula. Like, the Dracula. Because, dude, I have a chance to use Dracula and I am taking it
[20:37] <~Dan> Well, naturally. 🙂
[20:37] <+Jason> Denise Jones drew him for us and oh my god she is so good.
[20:37] <~Dan> What version of Dracula are you using?
[20:37] <+Jason> So this is a good opportunity to talk a little about the creative process that has gone into the villains. May I?
[20:38] <~Dan> Please do! (And I need to step away for just a sec, but please continue!)
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[20:39] <+Jason> The sister book to the Super Villain Handbook is the FIELD GUIDE TO SUPER HEROES, which is published by Vigilance Press. That is basically the hero version of this book: 40 heroic archetypes, discussed in great detail, for players and game masters. And when I was making that book, I made up 40 heroes for it…
[20:40] <+Jason> … But as we illustrated it, Dan Houser was doing the art. And he made up a bunch of concepts for heroes of his own. 30 of them I think. And many of them were just so cool looking. And I realized that while I have complete confidence in my ability to write an interesting character, artists are much better than me at designing characters who look cool…
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[20:42] <+Jason> … So for this book, the Handbook, I worked a lot with our artists: Jacob Blackmon, Joe Singleton, Joe Arnold, Dyonisia Jones. We would brainstorm a villain concept for each archetype, and I really tried to let the artist take the lead on the concept…
[20:42] <+Jason> … And my job will be to come up with interesting backgrounds and mechanics for all these really cool visual designs. To bring this back to Dracula…
[20:44] <+Jason> … Dyonisia and I threw some ideas back and forth about how to make Dracula feel “fresh” or relevant. And she had some really interesting (and maybe a bit crazy) ideas. But pretty soon she admitted that what she really wanted to do was just classic Dracula. Like, Eastern European in tuxedo and fangs. Instantly recognizable.
[20:44] <+Jason> … And I was certainly not going to argue with that. So I said, yes, please, do that! And she delivered.
[20:44] <~Dan> So, the Bela Lugosi version?
[20:44] <+Jason> Well, no, not exactly.
[20:45] <+BlasterKyubey210> Pfft
[20:45] <+Jason> I mean, Dyonisia is a pro and an artist, you know? She is not going to just copy another version, no matter how famous. I don’t mean to bust your chops here, but I think whenever we talk about Archetypes, people have a tendency to think that every character in it is going to be a clone of some famous comic book character. …
[20:46] <+BlasterKyubey210> Honestly, could see Dracula as not just one being but a concept taht is taken up
[20:46] * ~Dan nods
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[20:46] <~Dan> (Howdy, lucidfox!)
[20:46] <+BlasterKyubey210> Like how there’s always a Captain Britain in the Marvel setting
[20:47] <+BlasterKyubey210> He wears several masks, but Britain as the Concept will always exist
[20:47] <+Jason> … Like, we’re going to have a Joker-clone, and a Luthor-clone, and a Dr. Doom-clone. And so on. But I have made a very conscious decision not to do that. Giving the artists a lot of lead is part of that. So this is Dracula, and the novel is a huge inspiration, as is the Marvel comics version. Which is pretty awesome…
[20:47] <~Dan> Right…
[20:47] <+Jason> …. but he will fit into the YOUniverse in such a way that he’s not just a clone of some other version. Because that is just too easy and too lazy and I don’t find that very interesting.
[20:48] <~Dan> I just meant that as I understand it, the Bela Lugosi version was the introduction of the “suave” vampire.
[20:48] <+Jason> Yeah, that’s probably fair to say.
[20:48] <~Dan> But I do get your point.
[20:49] <~Dan> Sorry — I didn’t mean to suggest that you were using a carbon copy of Lugosi’s Dracula.
[20:49] <+Jason> Oh its cool, it’s cool. Because, frankly, I think a lot of people come to a book like this thinking they’re going to get thinly-veiled clones of all of comics best villains.
[20:49] <+Jason> Which might be totally cool, I just decided not to work that way.
[20:52] <~Dan> Sure.
[20:52] <~Dan> So, if we can go back to something you mentioned earlier…
[20:52] <~Dan> …you said that you’d created some new rules with cosmic-scale villains in mind? Did I follow that correctly?
[20:53] <+Jason> Yes, that’s right. Let me see if I can explain that a little.
[20:53] <~Dan> Yes, please do. That’s of particular interest to me, because I really don’t like the fact that ICONS has a closed scale by default.
[20:54] <+Jason> Also: I have a list of all the archetypes. I can just hit the channel with it, if that would be helpful? If that would be too spammy I will forbear.
[20:54] <~Dan> Actually, if you have the list posted somewhere and could provide a URL, that might be better.
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[20:55] <+Jason> Check! It is all on our FB page. You can also see ALL the art there: (Link: https://www.facebook.com/supevillainhandbook?ref=hl)https://www.facebook.com/supevillainhandbook?ref=hl
[20:55] <+Jason> OK, back to the new rules for cosmic stuff.
[20:56] <+Jason> I don’t know if you ever played the old Marvel game, the FASERIP system.
[20:56] <~Dan> I did indeed. Played the heck out of it.
[20:56] <~Dan> (And yes, that IS an awesome-looking Dracula you have there!)
[20:56] <+Jason> But you may remember that it, too, had a scale for powers and the scale had number associated with it. But there were three ranks at the top of the scale: Shift X, Shift 1,000, I can’t remember the last one.
[20:57] <+Jason> For archetypes like the Cosmic Menace, the Imp, the Force of Nature, the Power Corrupted, a few others, I had to invent new ranks off the scale of Icons.
[20:57] <~Dan> Well, in the basic version, there was Shift X, Class 1,000…..
[20:58] <+Jason> I just called them Rank X, Rank Y, and Rank Z. Rank X is for human beings which have been gifted cosmic power. People like the Silver Surfer, or Phoenix, or Hal Jordan when he was wearing ten power rings. Stuff like that.
[20:58] * ~Dan nods
[20:59] <+Jason> Rank Y is for the cosmic entities that GAVE those people at Rank X their powers: Galactus scale.
[20:59] <+Jason> And finally, we invent Rank Z for truly ultimate, omnipotent forces like the Source or Infinity. Entities which have essentially unlimited power.
[21:01] <~Dan> What numeric values do you apply to those levels?
[21:01] <+Jason> Now, for the mechanics of these things, its important to remember that these characters are not intended to be punchable. That is, if you are facing Galactus, unless it’s that one time when everyone punched Galactus (John Byrne, we will never forget that story), the point of the story is to stop him some other way…
[21:02] <+Jason> … So these ranks do not really have numerical values. Oh, sure, I wrote, hey. If you absolutely MUST have a number, then sure. Assign a 25 or something to X, a 50 to Y and 100 to Z. But that’s not the point. These ranks describe powers which are off the chart. So X always wins in any contest with a rating of 1-10. Y always beats X, and Z beats everything.
[21:02] <+Jason> But if you need a number, sure. Use 25/50/100. Knock yourself out.
[21:03] <@Silverlion> You missed out on Class 1000, 5000, and Beyond.
[21:03] <+Jason> I knew there were others, yeah.
[21:04] <~Dan> Yeah, they added several others in the advanced rules.
[21:04] <+Jason> The point is that you should never be able to drop-kick Infinity.
[21:04] <@Silverlion> Yeah..
[21:05] <+GenoFoxx> the ONE ABOVE ALL
[21:05] <+Jason> I realize that some gamemasters are going to insist that everything needs to be quantifiable. And some games have that nailed. Hero is all over that. Even M&M can do that. But Icons is perfectly happy hand-waving stuff in the name of genre emulation.
[21:05] <+Jason> So that’s what I did.
[21:06] <~Dan> See, personally? I don’t like “nevers” in most games, but especially not in a superhero setting. There are always exceptions that make you go, “Whoa”.
[21:06] <~Dan> That said, you’re right that ICONS doesn’t take that approach.
[21:06] <+Jason> Yes, there are exceptions.
[21:06] <+Jason> And I totally agree that, somewhere out there, is a story waiting to be told in which a guy drop-kicks infinity/
[21:07] <+Jason> But, as soon as you assign a number to a stat, your min maxers start trying to figure out what they have to do to drop-kick infinity. And now that story is not the one special story. It’s a game mechanic/.
[21:08] * ~Dan nods
[21:08] <+Jason> I entirely agree with your point about exceptions. Yes, absolutely. No one ever surpassed the Speed Force… until someone did. That’s what heroic comics are all about.
[21:08] <~Dan> Yeah. And I think Cap’s “unbreakable” shield has been broken at least 3 times now…
[21:08] <+Jason> Yeah, absolutely.
[21:09] <@Silverlion> indeed.
[21:10] <~Dan> I know this isn’t that fashionable of a view these days in game design, but to me, if a thing doesn’t have stats, it doesn’t actually exist in the setting, per se… You’ve stepped beyond roleplaying game and into storygame, if that makes sense.
[21:10] <+Jason> I created Rank X/Y/Z so I could give some very broad characterizations to these cosmic entities. So I could create at least a very basic gradation among them, as a GM tool. As a general rule, players aren’t going to have that kind of power. IF they do get it, it is (or should be) temporary.
[21:10] <~Dan> And, again, I understand your reasoning for taking the approach you did with ICONS.
[21:11] <+Jason> I do understand what you mean, and I know a lot of great GMs who agree with you. But I don’t much see the point of making a distinction between “roleplaying game” and “storygame.” To say that a game isn’t a roleplaying game because Galactus doesn’t have stats seems a bit unnecessary to me.
[21:11] <+Jason> But this is a very minor thing in the Handbook.,
[21:11] <~Dan> Oh, sure. And I don’t mean to sidetrack the discussion.
[21:12] <+Jason> It’s cool! We have been talking over an hour!
[21:12] <~Dan> I would just mention that Steve Kenson said during his own Q&A that he has cosmic rules of his own planned.
[21:12] <+Jason> Yeah, that’s great, I look forward to seeing them. Heck, they may already be out.
[21:12] <+Jason> I thought he did C is for Cosmic a couple months ago.
[21:13] <~Dan> Ah, yes… You’re probably right about that.
[21:13] <+Jason> Speaking of Steve…
[21:14] <+Jason> Steve has already read the Handbook and he likes it a lot. He wrote some very nice things about it, and he’s been really supportive.
[21:15] <~Dan> That must be gratifying. 🙂
[21:16] <+Jason> It is. Steve also had very nice things to say about our cosmic book for Icons, The Great Game. Which was my last book for Fainting Goat. Mike is such a great boss. He asks me, “What do you want to write?” And I give him the pitch and he says, “Yeah, okay, let’s do that.”
[21:16] <+Jason> As long as I keep delivering, it’s gonna be great. If I give him a stinker, he’s gonna hate me.
[21:17] * ~Dan chuckles
[21:17] <+Jason> So I should probably recap a little before I go. If that’s all right?
[21:18] <~Dan> Oh, sure, if you need to run!
[21:18] <+Jason> SUPER VILLAIN HANDBOOK! Our kickstarter page is here: (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/412792115/the-super-villain-handbook)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/412792115/the-super-villain-handbook
[21:19] <+Jason> The book is already funded and it is already written. Anyone who donates even a single dollar can get all the words. (If you want the gorgeous PDF, it’s a few dollars more.) We are close to our Deluxe Edition, which adds 40 new public domain super villains to the 90 pages already in the book, doubling its size.
[21:20] <+Jason> Most of the book is system neutral, for any superhero RPG. There’s Icons stats in the book. We have SUPERS edition already done. Fate Core edition is on the way. Bulletproof Blues edition is also on the horizon. A Savage Worlds and M&M conversion book is planned.
[21:21] <+Jason> But we need to hit the Deluxe Edition for those 40 villains to happen. We’re only a few hundred dollars away. We have until the end of April.
[21:21] <+Jason> And I am super grateful for the chance to come here and talk about the project, and superhero gaming in general, with you, Dan!
[21:21] <~Dan> Absolutely, Jason!
[21:22] <~Dan> I hope you’ll feel free to come by any time you like. 🙂
[21:22] <+Jason> Thanks! When the kickstarter launched, Mike immediately asked me to come here, because you guys have a great audience, and I was delighted to do it.
[21:22] <~Dan> Can you hang out a moment while I get the log posted and get you the link?
[21:22] <+Jason> Sure!