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Author Topic: Superheroes: [what next?]  (Read 17246 times)
Eric Bennett
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« Reply #30 on: March 20, 2006, 03:30:55 PM »

Quote
Well, I don't want to muddle the concensus here, but it seems you're all willing to throw away an awful lot of solid design work ;)

Nothing of the sort! ^_~ I probably chose my phrasing slightly poorly. I was simply expressing how much I enjoyed the concept of superpowers derived from demons. That is the single best thing about this game, but that doesn't mean the rest isn't decent, too.
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Elishar
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« Reply #31 on: March 20, 2006, 03:54:48 PM »

I'm definitely not throwing away any of the work I've already done.  However, I like a lot of the ideas brought up here and I think I'll pursue them to see if I can implement them better in my game then what I already have.  I also have a lot of reading to do to see what my competition is offering.  The biggest thing that interests me is a free-form power creation system.  I'm not sure exactly how to do it yet but if I can it will make the game a whole lot simpler and probably a lot more fun and true to the superhero genre.  Here are some areas I want to explore/change in my game:

1) Rework character types so that the system is more streamlined.  This will be accomplished by having a base template upon which simple augmentations can be done to increase or decrease bonus points available for character creation.
2) Rely more heavily on opposed rolls.
3) Remove constraints on powers by making power creation free-form and generalized as opposed to having strict rules for everything.  Use opposed rolls to resolve power abilities.
4) Introduce a concept of scenes to better control pacing in the game.
5) Make combat more general, focusing more on imagination and description as opposed to gritty tactical details.  Resolve combat with actions and reactions as opposed to defined rounds.
6) Eliminate contacts, income, and lifestyle.  They add little to the game overall and will most likely just confuse new players.

I really think that running with the Armageddon idea will re-center the focus of my game back on character conflict and development.  Plus, I really love the idea and would agree its one of the best things I've come up with yet.
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Elishar
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« Reply #32 on: March 20, 2006, 04:29:49 PM »

Okay, I cranked out a very rough power creation system that is less constricted.  I also included a rough idea of how you would resolve the character using their power in creative ways.  Its far for being complete but I think I might be onto something better then page after page of power descriptions.  The downside I see to this is that the system relies on a lot of subjective decisions from the GM as he decides how difficult tasks are.

The player first comes up with a base idea with which to base his characterís power on.  A base idea should be something very general that a normal human is unable to do.  A good example of a base idea would be that the characterís limbs are flexible and stretchable like rubber.  The next step to flesh out the power a bit more with possible ways the power could be used.  Several of these could be extending limbs to perform attacks, save falling people or climb tall buildings with ease, using your elasticity to absorb blows from enemies and flattening out you body to pass under door cracks or access otherwise inaccessible places.  The final step is to include any restrictions or limits to the power that you have.  These would include having to retain a constant mass and volume or limits on how far exactly you could stretch.

After you have a power that you are content with you must submit the power to the GM for review as well as how many creation points you are willing to sacrifice to be able to take this power.  The GM then evaluates the power and determines if the sacrifice the player is willing to make is appropriate.  The general rule for evaluating a power is to consider how the player could otherwise spend the creation points he is willing to sacrifice to gain the power.  For example, if it is more beneficial for the character to raise one of his Attributes then to take the power then the sacrifice necessary to take the power shouldn't cost more then the points necessary to raise one of his Attributes.

During the game the character can use his power in any way that his imagination allows as long as it doesnít contradict his power limits.  Any time the character uses his power to accomplish something significant, the GM should require the character to pass a rank check at a difficulty that corresponds to the difficulty of the action.  By how much or how little the character fails or succeeds on this rank check determines how successfully he is able to use his power to accomplish the specified task.

If the character fails the task he can spend some of his Energy Points to increase his number of successes.

For instance, letís say our character has the power to make his body stretch and bend like rubber and he wants to use his rubbery body to provide a shield for his friends against enemy gunfire.  The GM requires the character to make a rank check against a relatively high difficulty because stopping bullets is no easy task.  If the character fails the check the GM could rule that the character was not able to absorb the bullets fully and must make a Constitution check to soak the remaining damage not absorbed by his power.  If the character is unable to soak the remaining damage then the bullets cause him lethal damage and his health points are reduced accordingly.

Its vague but it might work.  Ideas?  Comments?
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #33 on: March 20, 2006, 04:58:47 PM »

Good to see you're at it. I'd probably stop to chew myself for a couple of weeks, myself. It's easy for us, we're here just chatting. You have to actually design the game.

A little comment on your latest: trust in player sensibilities some more, and leave less for the GM to gauge. GMs are human like we all, and they get tired and make mistakes when they have to make a lot of judgements. Furthermore, the worst sort learns to like fiddling with inane "judgement calls" instead of creating drama.

But still, I imagine that this system would work pretty much as well as having those long lists, as far as it goes. And you save many, many pages of text, so it's all good.

How I'd do this kind of power-creation system, just as an example: player comes up with the base idea, like "stretch powers", as well as things he can "specifically do" and "specifically not do" with it, the same amount of both. This doesn't cost anything special, all these characters are super heroes! Then, during the game, the player can do all kinds of stuff with his powers, except some things he can't, and some things he can very well. Those he can do well, there he gets a suitable bonus to succeed with it. Those he can't - whenever the character fails because of the limitations of his powers, give him a cookie. By which I mean, give him something cool, like experience (old-fashioned already, that), energy points or good karma or whatever. The thing is - this system of mine is just as balanced as yours, isn't it? Except in my system the GM doesn't need to make a difficult adjucation about how much the power costs. How could he do that anyway? Should he, like, punish some player for picking the wrong power, or what? As if one superpower was really better than another.

The next step: remove the need to list things powers can do and can't do, and just have players choose powers: "My guy can fly, but nothing else!" "My guy can stretch!" "My guy can shoot lightning bolts and rip cars apart with his bare hands!" "My guy is exactly three times as good as a normal human genius at !everything!" Also, whenever the players face adversity, give them three options: roll for it, succeed automatically, fail automatically. If they fail, that's because their power was not enough, and they get the aforementioned cookie. If they succeed, the situation was exactly what their power is for, and they pay for it in energy points or bad karma or whatever. If they roll for it, they get whichever result, but no reward. This system? Sure it's crude, but it also has nil GM arbitration and power limitations - characters can literally have whatever powers the players want, as long as they fail roughly as often as other players. So I can play this fumbling demigod (like the Outsider from Marvel), while you can play a keen street hero, and we both are balanced! That's pretty good for something I'm designing while I type along.

There's more under the sun than the red dragon knows. Like, there's superhero rpg systems that are a thousand times as honed and intricate as what I just wrote here. And that's just superheroes, which is a very underdeveloped rpg genre.
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Elishar
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« Reply #34 on: March 20, 2006, 07:01:25 PM »

Good to see you're at it. I'd probably stop to chew myself for a couple of weeks, myself. It's easy for us, we're here just chatting. You have to actually design the game.

A little comment on your latest: trust in player sensibilities some more, and leave less for the GM to gauge. GMs are human like we all, and they get tired and make mistakes when they have to make a lot of judgements. Furthermore, the worst sort learns to like fiddling with inane "judgement calls" instead of creating drama.

But still, I imagine that this system would work pretty much as well as having those long lists, as far as it goes. And you save many, many pages of text, so it's all good.

How I'd do this kind of power-creation system, just as an example: player comes up with the base idea, like "stretch powers", as well as things he can "specifically do" and "specifically not do" with it, the same amount of both. This doesn't cost anything special, all these characters are super heroes! Then, during the game, the player can do all kinds of stuff with his powers, except some things he can't, and some things he can very well. Those he can do well, there he gets a suitable bonus to succeed with it. Those he can't - whenever the character fails because of the limitations of his powers, give him a cookie. By which I mean, give him something cool, like experience (old-fashioned already, that), energy points or good karma or whatever. The thing is - this system of mine is just as balanced as yours, isn't it? Except in my system the GM doesn't need to make a difficult adjucation about how much the power costs. How could he do that anyway? Should he, like, punish some player for picking the wrong power, or what? As if one superpower was really better than another.

The next step: remove the need to list things powers can do and can't do, and just have players choose powers: "My guy can fly, but nothing else!" "My guy can stretch!" "My guy can shoot lightning bolts and rip cars apart with his bare hands!" "My guy is exactly three times as good as a normal human genius at !everything!" Also, whenever the players face adversity, give them three options: roll for it, succeed automatically, fail automatically. If they fail, that's because their power was not enough, and they get the aforementioned cookie. If they succeed, the situation was exactly what their power is for, and they pay for it in energy points or bad karma or whatever. If they roll for it, they get whichever result, but no reward. This system? Sure it's crude, but it also has nil GM arbitration and power limitations - characters can literally have whatever powers the players want, as long as they fail roughly as often as other players. So I can play this fumbling demigod (like the Outsider from Marvel), while you can play a keen street hero, and we both are balanced! That's pretty good for something I'm designing while I type along.

There's more under the sun than the red dragon knows. Like, there's superhero rpg systems that are a thousand times as honed and intricate as what I just wrote here. And that's just superheroes, which is a very underdeveloped rpg genre.


I need a bit of clarification on your ideas.  Are the things you can do and can't do with a power are equal or can each person have their power do a specific number of things and not be able to do a specific number of other things?  How would you balance someone who wants more than one power? 

So what you're saying is make failing actually a good thing in some cases?  That's an interesting idea.  As I understand it basically in the system you've described you can automatically succeed in an area that you have specialized in with your power, though you have to pay an associated cost to it.  Now do you also automatically fail in an area that your power doesn't cover or can the character try to overcome that challenge with another Attribute?  Additionally, how do you make it so that each character fails as much as the others?  Does this just even out as players who fail more often get more cookies and thus can spend cookies later on to succeed more often?
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dindenver
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« Reply #35 on: March 20, 2006, 10:09:05 PM »

Hi!
  OK, first suggestions:
DC Heroes/Blood of Heroes - These are two games with the same mechanics. It is on the crunchy end of the spectrum with Champions and M&M, but it is not so modular as Champions, making it simpler to make a good character and get started. Also, it might give you some ideas as far as scaling and creating "complete" powers as opposed to buying effects. I've played this in a supers game and as a platform for a KOTOR campagn. It does do a decent job (not great) of connecting the drama to the mechanics. You get XPs for doing good and spend XPs on improvement, one-time roll bonuses and emergency damage recovery rolls.
Heroes Unlimited - This is made by Paladium and all there stuff is d20 based, but not on the OGL or anything. Again, a power is a complete package and it shows another level/class based approach to superpowers. I've played it for lower power campaigns and had tons of fun.
Capes - I haven't played it, but if drama is THAT important to you, maybe there are mechanics in it that can be effectively transplanted in your game.

  I think Eero's cookie idea is brilliant. Smart players will want to throw some challenges in the beginning in order to succeed in the denouement.

  Finally, can you swing a cpoy to dindenver@yahoo.com? I tried that link and it just times out for me.

  Well, it sounds like you have the foundation of a great game, keep it up!
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
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Vibilo
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« Reply #36 on: March 21, 2006, 01:01:00 AM »

It seems to me that by switching to a more freeform power design (like the ones mentioned earlier) you lose the effect of having the powers randomely thrust upon you. I admit that a good role-player would have few problems with roleplaying a new power that he actually created, but I feel that random generation really aids in the roleplay process.

A way to have freeform power creation while still retaining the "thrust upon" feeling would be ideal IMO. One way to do this that I can think of is to have players roll randomely on a list of Keywords (such as: shrinking, fire, x-rays, etc.) and then have to use those keywords in the powers that they create. This could lead to some very unexpected powers. One problem I could see with this though; is the potential for comedy where you wan't to encourage drama.

Just putting it out there,
-Dan
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #37 on: March 21, 2006, 04:26:53 AM »

I need a bit of clarification on your ideas.  Are the things you can do and can't do with a power are equal or can each person have their power do a specific number of things and not be able to do a specific number of other things?  How would you balance someone who wants more than one power? 

Well, I'd make it so each player can have however many "can do" and "can't do" things he wants. The trick is to ensure that he can't use the "can do" to overpower the other players, and his "can't do" won't unintentionally cripple him. That's where you need reward mechanics that compensate for the "can't do" and somehow limit the "can do".

As for separate powers - stop to think about it, will you? "Separate power" and "application of existing power" are things that are inside the fiction, not on our tables as game designers and players. We don't have to care about such meaningless divisions if we don't want to! Like the elongation example - is it two powers if it allows you to reach the upper shelf AND stop bullets? Or the power cosmic, if it comes to that - what power, exactly, is "power cosmic", pray tell?

Of course it matters what the characters can do - but it matters primarily inside the fiction. Outside the fiction it's paramount to ensure that the players have equal possibilities of making their mark in the drama! The classical way of doing this is to give each player a character, and make sure they all have roughly "as good" powers. But as we've already discussed, there's all kinds of problems there. And those problems are emphasized by the fact that I can write five lines of rules to create a system that, while it does not comment on the fiction at all, is absolutely fool-proof in ensuring that the players are balanced against each other.

So yeah, I see no problem in whether the player lists several powers or just one. If a character has a wide-application power with lots of "can do" and little "can't do", then he won't be getting many cookies. If you make it so that the players get cookies whenever their power is not applicable, then you give the players incentive to police themselves - if they have too good powers, they don't get cookies to fuel their power, but if they have too useless powers, they won't have many opportunities to use their cookies.

Quote
So what you're saying is make failing actually a good thing in some cases?  That's an interesting idea.  As I understand it basically in the system you've described you can automatically succeed in an area that you have specialized in with your power, though you have to pay an associated cost to it.  Now do you also automatically fail in an area that your power doesn't cover or can the character try to overcome that challenge with another Attribute?  Additionally, how do you make it so that each character fails as much as the others?  Does this just even out as players who fail more often get more cookies and thus can spend cookies later on to succeed more often?

It's easy to ensure that everybody fails as much as everybody else - put in a cookie counter and some rules that require players to gain as many cookies as the next guy, with some repercussions (hubris is good) if they don't. But the next step is to realize that you don't actually need to ensure that all players fail as frequently - instead, you need to make sure that each has equal chances to win. This can be as simple as some bidding mechanic - in the really tight spots, bid cookies to win. The thing is, it isn't necessary for everybody to get as many cookies (losses) as the other guy, because some characters get into critical situations more frequently, and against harder bidders, than others. So one player might play low-burn, getting few cookies and thus bidding smaller in crisis situations, while another loses big and wins big. It's all good.

As for how to relate powers and other abilities - now we're getting into the actual design kernel of a superhero game. You could go the route of "everything is a power", meaning that you don't differentiate between powers and other things mechanically. This is how I play superhero Dust Devils, and it works great. The other option is to make "superpowers" work differently, to emphasize their thematic special role. This is how Capes does it. The thing is, what is a power? Is Batman's batmobile a power? In Capes it is, because we're interested in powers in thematic sense, not in the fiction sense of being supernatural.

You could well have a system where if your character can't do something with their power, they absolutely can't do it. That'll make the meaning of the limitation crystal clear. But even more interesting might be if the character had two layers, his human nature and powers, and they had different methods of resolution. So even if your powers fail you, as they often do in the genre especially on the social arena, you might still pull the situation off with your normal abilities.

--

But anyway, that's just me pondering a basic alternative to balancing powers by designer or gm fiat. I'll use my familiar refrain: I'm not saying anything new or original here, I'm just jamming based on game designs that have come before. For example, With  Great Power, my own favourite superhero game (if you didn't notice already) does this kind of stuff routinely, and builds all kinds of interesting stuff on top.

--

Dan: good point about random powers. I agree that it's one of the better concepts in Ian's design, so it'd be nice to keep it. Random keywords seem a bit clumsy, though. I'd be tempted to use the power tables he already has - nothing wrong with them. Another option would be to have the players brainstorm a number of superpowers - twenty, for example, as it's fun to do. Then shuffle them, draw some for themselves, and let the GM use the rest to build the game world. Meaning, make the rest of those powers into villains and NPC heroes and government agents and all that. The point being, the GM cannot introduce superpowered individuals from outside the player-approved list, making for an interesting design challenge.

Hey, that sounds like a very feasible method of superhero world building. Have to remember that one.
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dindenver
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« Reply #38 on: March 21, 2006, 10:46:49 AM »

Hi!
  It's not a superhero game, but you may want to look at character creation in Dogs in the Vineyard. You have to RP part of becoming a Dog in this game and I think that method would be apprpopriate to your game. RP'ing becoming super and what your char decides to do about it.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
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Elishar
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« Reply #39 on: March 21, 2006, 12:25:01 PM »

I have a new working title for my game: "Gods Among Insects".  Sound good?

Ok, now to expand on the ideas we've been talking about.  What if instead of getting cookies just because you automatically fail because your power is limited you instead get cookies for overcoming a situation that exploits your weaknesses using imagination, tactics, other abilities, whatever.  So instead of a character getting a cookie because their character fails to defeat Hydroman because one of his weaknesses is water the character get's a cookie by finding another way to defeat Hydroman despite his aversion to water.

Now the next thing on the list to resolve is what exactly these cookies do.  Its easy to say that they can be used for an automatic success in a task but what if a character applies them to a damage roll or something?  Should the cookie just act as if the character had rolled a max roll in whatever task he was performing?

I really like the idea of characters spending time to create 10 or 20 powers and then basically drawing those powers out of a hat and then the GM uses the remainder for the game.  It really cuts down on GM work and should make it easier to create villains on the fly.

I think I come down on Capes side with making everything from superpowers to cool vehicles and equipment powers, doing otherwise seems to make things more complicated then they need to be.

The whole human/superhuman abilities has been a big question in my mind lately.  I think there should be a distinction but it seems like the two are joined at the hip at some points.  For instance, all humans have strength.  It might not be much, but they do have it.  On the other hand, a common power is super-strength.  Now it seems that if a character has this superpower his super-strength just simply overrules his human strength.  So what happens when the character runs into a situation that prevents him from using his super-strength?  Does he simply just revert to his human strength?  And on a related note, should the character's human strength influence his superhuman strength?  For instance, is a human character who is really buff and gains super-strength going to have proportionally greater super-strength then a skinny pale kid who also gains super-strength?

Here's a new idea.  I'm thinking that my current opposed roll system isn't going to work very well in this revised game with our new cookies.  I was thinking making all attributes and powers out of 100 and then have the players just simply roll a d% or some other combination of dice and add their score in the corresponding ability to it and match it up with that difficulty.

One big problem I have is that the same score in attributes and powers mean different things.  If you set a 10 to be corresponding to an average human with an attribute, a 10 in a power does not correspond to an average human.  This problem becomes even more apparent when encounter situations with powers like super-strength.  Let's say a normal human with a 10 in strength goes up against a superhuman with the power super-strength, also at a 10.  They both have the same score but it is clear that the superhuman is a lot stronger than the normal human.  The question is, how much stronger?  Does a 10 in human strength equal a 1 in super-strength or does it equal something less or more?  And if there is a relationship why have both of them?
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #40 on: March 21, 2006, 01:26:10 PM »

I have a new working title for my game: "Gods Among Insects".  Sound good?

Heh, I had a similar name for an abortive superhero game I wrote once. Apparently the idea of superhumanity is a big deal here, as opposed to more human angles.

Quote
Ok, now to expand on the ideas we've been talking about.  What if instead of getting cookies just because you automatically fail because your power is limited you instead get cookies for overcoming a situation that exploits your weaknesses using imagination, tactics, other abilities, whatever.  So instead of a character getting a cookie because their character fails to defeat Hydroman because one of his weaknesses is water the character get's a cookie by finding another way to defeat Hydroman despite his aversion to water.

Indeed, quite possible! It all depends on what kind of activities you're going to reward and make feasible => where you're taking the game in general. If overcoming challenges through player guts and inventiveness is a big point of your game, sure you should make that a prerequisite of getting cookies, of whatever kind.

Quote
Now the next thing on the list to resolve is what exactly these cookies do.  Its easy to say that they can be used for an automatic success in a task but what if a character applies them to a damage roll or something?  Should the cookie just act as if the character had rolled a max roll in whatever task he was performing?

Well, perhaps that's something you should worry about when you have a good handle on your resolution system. There's many ways to do "cookies", and they all depend on the systems involved. In Capes, for instance, there're two kinds of cookies: one kind allows you to "split" your d6 into 2d6 to get better results, the other gives you extra actions, allows you to introduce more characters and so on.

In your case, you could just decide that cookies don't operate on the same level your task resolution does. Like, damage, what's that to cookies? Nothing, necessarily. You could just say that by using a cookie the player can end the fight there and then, but inconclusively; the villain will get away. This way it'd be a powerful and useful tool (reasons to end the battle inconclusively: you're losing, civilians are threatened, you need to be someplace else...), but it would have nothing to do with rolling successes or whatnot. (If you have trouble imagining how you "end a battle inconclusively" without actually playing it through, just imagine how they do it on comics: you just skip to the next scene and mention in passing how the battle was a bitch, shame the villain got away.)

But ultimately, what cookies are good for should be decided based on the prospective game's larger reward cycles and resource management flows. Like, if you get the cookie by taking the beating in battle, is there somewhere where that kind of cookie should be used? You could let a player use it for success in a later battle, yes, but you could also let him use it to solve his character's social problems, for example. It all depends on what kind of dramatic arcs you want to build. What should follow from losing battles? Personal crises seem to double up on comic-book heroes who lose battles, but they also manage to find the inner strength to prevail at some point. Perhaps the cookies are that inner strength, and when there's enough, the hero goes into hyper-mode and starts really kicking ass. Just another possibility.

Quote
I really like the idea of characters spending time to create 10 or 20 powers and then basically drawing those powers out of a hat and then the GM uses the remainder for the game.  It really cuts down on GM work and should make it easier to create villains on the fly.

Ah hah, not characters! Players.

Yeah, that's a powerful technique, indeed. But it's not just that it cuts down GM work; it's powerful because the definition of powers necessarily structures a "setting architecture" with wide implications for the campaign. Like, if the players decide to create distinct "types" of superpower sets, that has implications: if all the superpowers in the hat are "mutants", you'll probably get something like the X-Men, and so on.

You'll note that I consider the "superpower" to include things like where it comes from and what drawbacks and limitations it has and so on. All of these can be pretty much bolted onto an actual character frame. The interesting tension comes from the GM riffing off the powers; if the players include a power of death, say, drawn from the abyss dimension, will the GM use it for a villain? Or will Captain Death be a secret government superhero? Or even a highly public Superman type who hides the source of his powers? Or a superpowered monkey in Africa? The GM has lots of leeway, but ultimately the result will be a fruitful combination of creativity.

Quote
The whole human/superhuman abilities has been a big question in my mind lately.  I think there should be a distinction but it seems like the two are joined at the hip at some points.  For instance, all humans have strength.  It might not be much, but they do have it.  On the other hand, a common power is super-strength.  Now it seems that if a character has this superpower his super-strength just simply overrules his human strength.  So what happens when the character runs into a situation that prevents him from using his super-strength?  Does he simply just revert to his human strength?  And on a related note, should the character's human strength influence his superhuman strength?  For instance, is a human character who is really buff and gains super-strength going to have proportionally greater super-strength then a skinny pale kid who also gains super-strength?

Both ways of playing it have merits. For instance, Heroquest is a game where superpowers are indeed qualitatively identical with normal capabilities; you just have so much more of it that it's "super". Capes, on the other hand, has a qualitative difference, with superpowers running off a completely different resource mechanic. Capes way means that it is, indeed, sometimes better to have "normal" powers than "superpowers".

Generally the effect of having special rules for superpowers is to emphasize those powers as a separate phenomenon. That's fine for many kinds of superhero games. I myself like the other kind a lot, though; one of my favourite superhero campaigns was a gritty NY Frank Miller Daredevil -type thing played with Dust Devils. The system in question doesn't care whether you have superpowers or not, which is good, because then you don't have to fiddle with awkward abstractions where somebody's car is "kind of" a superpower, just so he can use the same mechanics the other superheroes use.

Quote
Here's a new idea.  I'm thinking that my current opposed roll system isn't going to work very well in this revised game with our new cookies.  I was thinking making all attributes and powers out of 100 and then have the players just simply roll a d% or some other combination of dice and add their score in the corresponding ability to it and match it up with that difficulty.

Works just as well as anything else. The concrete die mechanic often isn't so important as the probability curves you want to impose on play. Usually it's better to figure out what kind of probability developments you want, and then pick your die mechanic based on that. For example, if you want to keep large variations in power scale meaningfully competing, you probably shouldn't use a linear die mechanic, but instead something where larger bonuses have less impact on the probability.

Quote
One big problem I have is that the same score in attributes and powers mean different things.  If you set a 10 to be corresponding to an average human with an attribute, a 10 in a power does not correspond to an average human.  This problem becomes even more apparent when encounter situations with powers like super-strength.  Let's say a normal human with a 10 in strength goes up against a superhuman with the power super-strength, also at a 10.  They both have the same score but it is clear that the superhuman is a lot stronger than the normal human.  The question is, how much stronger?  Does a 10 in human strength equal a 1 in super-strength or does it equal something less or more?  And if there is a relationship why have both of them?

Sounds rather confused to me. First, why do you need attributes? There's a ton of different options that don't have the problem you mention:
- Assume that all non-powered people are identical system-wise, and only powers differentiate people. If the name of your game is "Gods Among Insects", I'd say this is a logical thematic step. You could decide, for instance, that all normal people are "Strength 0" on the super-scale, if you're going to have such a thing.
- Get rid of superstrength, and use strength instead. Switch to a die mechanic that allows for the differentiation you want. While you're at it, make it so that characters only have the attribute in question if they're somehow different from the baseline; most of the time characters are "zero" in strength.
- Assume that superpowers always win against normal resources. It's a superhero game, right? If somebody wants to go toe-to-toe with superheroes, he has to get supered somehow.

I suggest you check out The Pool. It's an enormously influential rpg, available on the net for free. It's also a good baseline for thinking about your own design; if you have stuff that's not in the Pool, and it doesn't seem to be doing anything, chances are that it's there for no good reason at all.

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Elishar
Member

Posts: 46


« Reply #41 on: March 21, 2006, 06:40:22 PM »

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Ah hah, not characters! Players.

Damn it.  You have no idea I many time I had to re-read my game and change 'character' to 'player' or vise versa.  That was probably one of the most time consuming things I did.

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Works just as well as anything else. The concrete die mechanic often isn't so important as the probability curves you want to impose on play. Usually it's better to figure out what kind of probability developments you want, and then pick your die mechanic based on that. For example, if you want to keep large variations in power scale meaningfully competing, you probably shouldn't use a linear die mechanic, but instead something where larger bonuses have less impact on the probability.

Yeah, its not just the probability curves that I need to consider but also how quickly and easily opposed rolls are resolved.  The big question in my mind is how big of an importance should I place on the level of a power.  Should someone with a 1 in a power be able to succeed against someone with a 100 in another with some incredible luck or should the power difference be so great that he automatically fails?  And if he can succeed how often should it happen?

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Sounds rather confused to me. First, why do you need attributes? There's a ton of different options that don't have the problem you mention:
- Assume that all non-powered people are identical system-wise, and only powers differentiate people. If the name of your game is "Gods Among Insects", I'd say this is a logical thematic step. You could decide, for instance, that all normal people are "Strength 0" on the super-scale, if you're going to have such a thing.
- Get rid of superstrength, and use strength instead. Switch to a die mechanic that allows for the differentiation you want. While you're at it, make it so that characters only have the attribute in question if they're somehow different from the baseline; most of the time characters are "zero" in strength.
- Assume that superpowers always win against normal resources. It's a superhero game, right? If somebody wants to go toe-to-toe with superheroes, he has to get supered somehow.

See, the problem I have with that idea is that in my mind I have the idea superstrength at a low level isn't much better than say a human, professional athlete.  Yeah, the superhero is stronger and never had to work as hard as the athlete to get to where he is but the athlete isn't exactly a cupcake either.  While I want simplicity I don't want characters to neccesarily be defined by just their powers.  I'll take Wolverine as an example to illustrate my point about only defining characters by their powers.  If you did this Wolverine would have claws, regeneration, and enhanced senses.  That's it.  The problem I see with this is that Wolverine also has abilities, while not superhuman, that define him just as much as his powers do.  In particular is how fast and fit he is.  Sure, his strength, speed, and agility are in the human range but he's certainly not an average joe in these either.  That's why I'm hesistant on completely axing attributes.

Rather, I was thinking of having any positive score being superhuman and any negative score being simply human.  Both would roll the same dice for attributes, the only difference is that humans could at best roll close to the max dice roll while superhumans could reach much higher levels.  Thus, any positive value for powers would also be considered superhuman and we have some consistance between powers and attributes.  The other reason I was thinking of doing this is that I do want some character customization involved.  With attributes still intact the player receives their randomly generated power and then gets to tailor their character's attributes to better complement the character's powers instead of simply having the sole defining aspect of their character being determined randomly.

The other thing I want to bring up is skills.  I was thinking of using skills as basically the closest thing humans have to powers.  The thing is that superhumans would have them too and I want to make it very clear in my game that skills nowhere near approach powers in their versitility or power.  I could make them work like human attributes where they only can have negative values but I'm not sure if this will wind up to be a solution or just a patch job.

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I suggest you check out The Pool. It's an enormously influential rpg, available on the net for free. It's also a good baseline for thinking about your own design; if you have stuff that's not in the Pool, and it doesn't seem to be doing anything, chances are that it's there for no good reason at all.

I did a google search for The Pool and I couldn't find it.  If you'd include a link to it in your next post it would be appreciated.
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Elishar
Member

Posts: 46


« Reply #42 on: March 21, 2006, 09:18:14 PM »

I thought up some more but since editing of posts has been turned off I'll make a new post instead.

After some more thinking about skill I came up with another idea of how to apply them.  Instead of working in the negatives like human level attributes and having them added together with rolls of the dice why not use skills more as "insurance" for the character when using abilities they often use.  What I mean by this is when the player rolls the dice and adds it to his rank in whatever attribute or power that applies at the given moment, he gets to choose his dice roll or his ranks in the associated skill (whichever is higher.)  This makes skills quite a bit more powerful and useful but still makes powers completely unique and far superior to skills.

This probably belong more in theory then design but I also thought about a new rolling system that could be exactly what I'm looking for.  The system still only uses d6s but in a completely different way.  For every opposed roll each player rolls xd6 (I haven't decided what x is yet and I'd like some input on this.)  As long as the number isn't a 6 the player simply adds up all his dice rolls together and that is the modifier he gets to apply to whatever attribute or power applies to the check.  However, if the player gets a 6 he treats it as a 5 and also gets to roll an additional d6.  If the player rolls a 6 with this d6 roll he treats it as a 5 and rolls yet another d6 (etc, etc, etc.)  I like it because the odds are heavily sided to the person with the higher ranks but it is never impossible for the weaker character to prevail.

I've also been thinking more about our cookies and how to apply them.  I think that cookies should be awarded anytime the character either loses because of limitations in his abilities or when his abilities barely help him at all and instead he overcomes the situation by good tactics, imagination, and smart thinking.  Because I dislike having characters remain static why not let each cookie you get raise the rank of a power or attribute or skill by some minimal amount.  This would reflect how the character learns from his experiences and changes himself, although minimally, to better combat his enemies.  I'm thinking that as a requirement to get this increase the player will need to describe how his character improves a specific aspect of himself ("The Eliminator spends weeks in training lifting cars in abandoned lots to better improve his super strength.")

The final thing I'm thinking about is our opposed roles and how best to run them.  I'm thinking that the best way to make if very free form.  A character can use any ability he has to oppose his enemy as long as he can on the spot think of how that ability will help counter his enemy's move.  I'm thinking of going even as far as providing guidelines to penalize or give bonuses to the character's role based on how well they explain how they are using the ability they've chosen.
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dindenver
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Posts: 928

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« Reply #43 on: March 21, 2006, 11:58:50 PM »

Hi!
  I THINK this is the pool everyone is talking about:
http://www.randomordercreations.com/thepool.htm
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
dindenver
Member

Posts: 928

Don't Panic!


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« Reply #44 on: March 25, 2006, 05:32:46 PM »

Hi!
  Two thoughts have been bouncing around inside my head:
1) The idea of balancing your secret identity with yor superhero identity might be flawed. I am not trying to shoot you down or question your abilities in any way. But I just started thinking about the scenarios. You have 4 potential audiences for your secret identity, Random individual, friend, enemy, public-at-large. In each of these cases, there are only a couple of stories to tell and all of them NEED to end a certain way or the secret identity is gone. I mean, if the public finds out about your secret identity, you can only use the stunt double (aka Alfred in a Batman costume) trick so many times before someone notices. If a random civilian finds out, you either have to befriend them, bribe them or distract them with something else entirely. With friends you can trust them, you just have to get past the drama and with enemies, you either have to kill em, find a secret about them or do what they tell you to do and hope they keep their word.

  Just seems like there is not a lot of places to go with this. I may be wrong and you might have all kinds of cool twists in mind, but if you do, put it in the rules so others can benefit from your wisdom.

2) There is a tendancy in supers games to put numbers on things and once you do that, it is easy to conceive of characters with higher and higher numbers. So, I was thinking, since it is supposed to be a game about SUPER powers and your characters are supposed to be one of maybe a few dozen super powered beings, why not have your power be a ranking. In other words, if you have a Strength of 1, that means you are the number one strongest person in the world (potentially the universe). Not only does it make die rolling more intuitive (rolling over your ranking on a die and higher is better), but it gives your character something to strive for, how do I stay in 1st?

  Both are just ideas. And they might be things you already thought of, but I figured I can put in my 2 cents and maybe help you out.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
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