What We Can Learn from My Hero Academia as a DM
Welcome to my first in the series of DM tips that are generated from different sources that are around us all the time. Sometimes they will be popular TV shows, Movies, Books, or even things that happen in everyday life, and we will be looking at the lessons we can learn from them to make us better storytellers, role players, actors, and all around game masters.
When we are looking at pacing and storytelling one of the hardest things to sort out is how do we make the lower levels meaningful. We can’t have our heroes chasing down rats in the basement when there are worlds to save, or can we?
My Hero Academia follows the exploits of a superhero, Izuku, who is on his way to becoming the #1 ranked hero. The story goes, young Izuku is born without superpowers, but he wants nothing more in the world to become a hero like his hero All Might. One day he meets his hero and his life changes forever.
If we were to look at this one aspect of the show and put it into tabletop RPG terms, this would be the background or session 0 of our game. We set up what our hero wants and what stands in their way, alternatively, this could be what thrust them into the world of adventure. In this case, Izuku puts his life on the line and gains powers from his meeting with All Might, this allows Izuku to start to become the hero he always wanted to be.
The next portion of the show begins to focus on how Izuku becomes a hero. He enrolls in hero school. In this world, there are many hero schools for the super-powered to take part in. But, he wanted to go to a very specific one, U.A. High, just like his hero All Might. In order to do this, he has to do well in tryouts, against other heroes of his own skill level. As the story progresses Izuku gets into school, has his first run-in with bad guys, goes to an intense summer training camp, has a run-in with the bad guys again who are more powerful and organized now, goes on an apprenticeship, meets the villains again and has a run in with their current boss, defeats him, and that then gives the new boss and can step in, meanwhile Izuku needs to get his provisional hero license and well that is where I am in the show now, but what we can see from this pattern is he is going to battle in with other heroes with power equal to his own, and then the villains are going to show up again and be more powerful, and Izuku and his friends will need to step it up.
This is the flow of many Anime if you take a look at Dragonball Z, Naruto, and countless others. As our hero’s power grows, so does the threat. But, the Threat is always big and life-changing at the time and the heroes need to rise to the occasion, to level up. We can do that for our players as well, they are the heroes. We should push their limits and force them the level up their game.
If we are playing Dungeons and Dragons we could structure our campaign to push the players forward. Each test of their skill getting greater and bigger, but the one in front of them is always the biggest problem they have faced. In the first few levels, the characters will be starting on their life of adventure, this will not be killing rats in the basement, but it should be something engaging that sets them on the path of what kind of heroes they are going to be. They are in a tavern and suddenly arrows come bursting through the windows and a gang of thugs come in and start threatening the patrons and the players. This sets up the party to work together to solve a problem that is likely the biggest they have faced so far. Where do the players go from here? Perhaps, these kinds of raids have been happening more often, that leads the players down the trail of adventure. Along, the way they will face a boss, only to find out there is a leader above pulling the strings, what is that leader after?
The first few levels will focus on local events keeping the action focused on a hamlet, a town, or even a neighborhood in a city. Then as time goes on and the heroes uncover more the challenges will get harder, but every challenge feels important, from the first fight in the tavern where they are saving the patron’s lives, all the way till the point where they find the true leader, the evil lich who is working on trying to enslave the world.
The takeaway I feel is this. Every encounter means something, sometimes everything, at the time, the threat scales, the villain’s scale, but the importance does not.
Some other great resources on building your campaign.
- This great article is from Alphastream and focuses on catering a campaign to your players Creating a Player Focused Tomb of Annihilation Campaign”
- A post from Sly Flourish on running from level 1-20 What I learned running DnD 5e from 1 to 20
Do you find any influence in Anime or other pop culture sources to help you write your campaign?