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Author Topic: [Ten Cent Heroes] Power 19  (Read 3995 times)
Ken
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« on: May 09, 2006, 05:55:50 PM »

Hey All,

Here are the 19 questions for my golden age super hero game called Tales of Ten Cent Heroes (or Ten Cent Heroes). Feel free to ask any questions.

Power 19

1) What is your game about?

Super-heroic adventure, set in the Golden Age of comic books (late 30s to mid 50s).

2) What do the characters do?

The characters are super heroes and adventurers who use their powers and abilities to right wrongs, protect the weak, and fight the forces of evil.

3) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?

The GM (or Editor) controls the setting and the actions of the various non-player characters who inhabit it, while the players (or Creators) control the actions of their individual characters.

4) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

While there is certainly a retro feel to TCH, I don’t push too many specific setting elements in the main rules. Obviously, there are historic and aesthetic qualities to a game set in the 30s, 40s, and 50s; but just like the comic books, players are welcome to include just enough setting to tell the story (without getting hung up on details).

The most important setting aspect of the game is the unique raw energy of the first comic book heroes. Their were few predecessors to the heroes in the golden age, so their exploits were fresh and full of dynamic (and highly narrated) action. The stories were quick and decisive, but also had a charming simplicity that kept tales flowing without getting too bogged down by that ever-present and pervasive thing called reality.

Though the rules would certainly work in any time or setting players saw fit to play in, the terminology of the game is definitely anachronistic and designed to invoke the feel of golden age comics.

5) How does the character creation of your game reinforce what it's about?

5a) First of all, concept is key. TCH is less about aping or modeling characters after existing heroes than sharing the inspiration that led the various golden age writers and artist to creating the first super heroes. Mythology, technological breath throughs of the time, science fiction, detective stories; these were all sources of influence that helped form the foundation of the golden age. Once a creator has a complete concept, they buy their character’s traits, powers, and other key elements.(Once you have your core idea, the points practically spend themselves…but don’t they always).

5b) Two defining traits in TCH are Origin and Schtick. Origin details where a character and there abilities come from, while Schtick determines how they use their abilities to fight crime (or whatever). The higher the score, the more a role the trait plays with the character. These two traits also determine how many points the character is built on and how many Quirks they have (which are essentially weaknesses or story elements that often trouble the character). Only major character have to worry about this. Minor character (thugs, bystanders, etc.) don’t have these traits.

5c) In the comics the distinction  between a character’s traits is pretty sharp (Bad, Below Average, Normal, Above Average, Excellent). Traits in TCH are just that simple: three triats (for mind, body, and soul), ranked from 0 to 4. Finding a character’s place in the pecking order is pretty simple. The point of the process is to model the traits around the concept as quickly as possible, and move on.

5d) The skill system is also pretty basic; character has a job, or training in a certain field, move on. There are two separate elements here: Professions and Skills. Professions cover a single career, or job, and offer a bonus with any action deemed relevant. Skills cover one specific action and are bought as an extension of an existing profession (which means the skill must fit the profession). Skills offer an additional bonus that can stack with the profession bonus. There is no set list of professions or skills in the rules, and not a lot of time is spent micromanaging what a character can or can’t do; if they take “soldier” as a profession then firing a rifle or throwing a hand grenade seems pretty sensible (looking for clues does not…take another profession). Again this system is designed to speed up creation and give characters the benefit of the doubt in game play.

5e) Golden Age characters usually had a set of powers that were related to each other (though there are plenty of exceptions).The powers in TCH are separated into categories called Gimmicks. Each gimmick contains a number of powers that share common characteristics. Buying powers outside of your gimmick is more expensive, unless you take multiple gimmicks.

6) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary?)

While characters will normally be playing heroes, there are many ways to approach heroism. Each character has a schtick, which basically suggests their motives and approach to fighting evil. The higher a character’s schtick rating, the more closely they follow their chosen archetype.

7) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in this game?

There is plenty of diversity allowed on how the characters pursue their goals (according to their schtick). If characters stick to their schtick, they get experience awards (called Wow points), if they don’t they get no wow bonus, and may receive a penalty on actions deemed out of character

8) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?

The GM, or editor, is responsible for setting and narration.

9) What does your game do to command the players attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)

Since the characters are concept driven, their Schtick (and its level) helps to motivate the character. Part of what make TCH fun (IMO) is how each creator tries to wrap the story around how their character thinks, and in turn makes the story more relevant to their character.

10) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?

Resolution is determined by throwing pennies. Each task check starts with ten cents (hey, like in the title) and is modified positively by the characteristics, professions, and skills of the character attempting the task; and then penalized by how complicated the task is. Each coin gives two results: a check (yay), or a strike (boo); it doesn’t really matter, but I play heads=check/tails = strike. The price of success is five checks.

11) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?

In addition to the basics noted in question #10, there are a few other facets of the game that support the mish-mash heroic society of the Golden Age; these traits are called Talent and Luck. Both traits boosts a character’s effective (chance of success, amount of damage, resilience to attack, etc). These traits are the character’s edge when dealing with danger and allow characters to walk away from severely perilous situations…a common occurrence in the Golden Age.

While these traits are not mutually exclusive with Gimmick and Powers, they are expensive enough to make a creator focus more on one than the other; which usually means that characters with more actual powers tend to have less talent and luck (and characters with high levels of talent and luck usually have fewer powers). This allows for a balance between power-house characters and savy daredevils, allowing them to work in concert without one overshadowing the other too much.

12) Do characters in your game advance?  If so, how?

Yes, characters do advance. After completing a campaign, characters receive Wow points, which they can use to buy traits, powers, and other elements.

13) How does the character advancement or lack thereof reinforce what the game is about?

There was little precedent for the first golden age heroes and they were often refined between issues. Costumes would change; powers would come and go; names would change; sidekicks and supporting cast member would come and go; etc. There is a definite evolution in the look and abilities as these characters were tweaked to make them more sellable to the readers.

14) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?

I love when the players get with the times and get swept up in the action. I hope the lingo used in the book, along with the illustrations will inspire a golden age feel for the players and get them excited about playing adventures at the beginning of the super heroic age.

15) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?

While TCH doesn’t dwell on detail too much with characteristics and skills, it does have a pretty detailed power system. In a super hero game so many abilities and power sources (magic, technology, etc.) have to coexist without overshadowing each other, so a coherent power system is pretty important. Also, since all the powers in the game have the same cost, a lot of work has gone into keeping there effects balanced and easy to understand. Just about every super power from the comics is represented.

16) Which part of your game are you most excited about? Why?

Talent & Luck. These two traits have undergone a lot of transformations since I began writing this game, and I think really help maintain the flavor of the game. Talent and Luck both help a character succeed at a task, even if the odds are stacked against them. They are pretty expensive and are often more rare in characters with lots of powers, but come in handy when creating a non-powered mystery man.

17) Where does your game take the players that other games can't, don't, or won't?
With little exception, the golden age is usually addressed as supplemental material for games that focus on modern super heroes. This seems a bit off to me, since the golden age is the birth place of this genre, and the foundation for hero comics today.

These rules were designed specifically to help carry the same energy as those early super hero comics. All of the basic comic book staples and are included and have as much relevance in the game as they did in the first hero stories.

18) What are your publishing goals for your game?

I want to publish the rules in paper format and support it online. PDF download supplements are not out of the question, though most of the supplemental books will be on paper.

19) Who is your target audience?

Mostly super hero gamers, though with the increasing interest in golden age comics, I hope that there may be some crossover opportunities with comic book enthusiasts.
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Ken

10-Cent Heroes; check out my blog:
http://ten-centheroes.blogspot.com

Sync; my techno-horror 2-pager
http://members.cox.net/laberday/sync.pdf
Graham W
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Posts: 437


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« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2006, 06:25:43 AM »

Ken, this sounds very interesting and well thought out. What feedback do you need?

I like the thing with the coin tossing, by the way.

Graham
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L Willy Wick
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Posts: 4

Just getting started around here...


« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2006, 12:08:19 PM »

Hello Ken,

I loved the title off the bat - great tie in between the genre and the cost of the Golden Age comics.

Then when I read the 10 Cent mechanic for resolution - that was a great touch.

One question I have (may have missed this in there) but is the player limited to 10 cents per "episode" or "chapter".  Meaning if they are locked down to expending only 10 cents that might add some drama to the resolution/stakes. When you have actual money on the line, other players know how much you've invested/how much it means.

You've got a great mechanic there that's sweetly wrapped up with your genre.

I look forward to more details.  Sounds fun.

ps - you future releases could bump the hero value to 15 cent, 20 cent and then 75 cent for those 1970 comic folks... it would also give "higher values" to the more experienced heros. i'm doing something similar with my game (which I'm long overdue posting a Power 19 on...).
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L .W. W
GameWick Games

Coming soon... WEGS COPPER
The Wickedly Errant Game System
Copper Edition
Ken
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Posts: 196


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« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2006, 06:54:10 PM »

Graham-

Actually, I'm not really sure what kind of feedback I was looking for. I've been working on TCH for three years now and the core rules are pretty much done (just doing playtesting now). I really liked the Power 19 questions; I thought they covered a lot of good topics and gave perspective on what an RPG has to offer. Once I answered the 19, I figured this was the place to share it. It occured to me when I posted that I probably wasn't leaving much room for feedback, but I was happy to get your words of encouragement.

Glad you like what you read.

Ken
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Ken

10-Cent Heroes; check out my blog:
http://ten-centheroes.blogspot.com

Sync; my techno-horror 2-pager
http://members.cox.net/laberday/sync.pdf
Ken
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Posts: 196


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« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2006, 07:14:08 PM »

Larry-

Thanks for the good words.


One question I have (may have missed this in there) but is the player limited to 10 cents per "episode" or "chapter". Meaning if they are locked down to expending only 10 cents that might add some drama to the resolution/stakes. When you have actual money on the line, other players know how much you've invested/how much it means.


Actually, characters start of with 10 cents each time they attempt a task. Then, they add coins based on their characteristics, professions, skills, and powers. Then they loose coins based on the difficulty of the task. Average task penaties are calibrated to be the same value as an average person with a profession that covers the action (4 cents), so they cancel each other out.

There is a game mechanic that works kind of like you suggested: Talent and Luck. Talent is more or less the character's experience (or expertise) level, which allows them to add coins each turn for certain types of actions. There are also some special maneuvers that a character can perform that temporarily reduces their Talent score. Luck works kind of like talent (better than Talent, really) though these points are expended for the rest of the chapter.

In playtests, players get nervous when their Luck gets low (or runs out).


ps - you future releases could bump the hero value to 15 cent, 20 cent and then 75 cent for those 1970 comic folks... it would also give "higher values" to the more experienced heros. i'm doing something similar with my game (which I'm long overdue posting a Power 19 on...).

Dispite the game's language, which is definitely Golden Age, the rules could be used for any super hero setting. I've always joked that the only thing you would need to change if you were playing Silver Age characters was to use nickles instead; or quarters for modern settings.

Ken
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Ken

10-Cent Heroes; check out my blog:
http://ten-centheroes.blogspot.com

Sync; my techno-horror 2-pager
http://members.cox.net/laberday/sync.pdf
Malcolm Craig
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Posts: 263


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« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2006, 09:17:38 AM »

Hi Ken,

I was slightly confused by the two following paragraphs, perhaps you could elaborate on them?

Quote
5b) Two defining traits in TCH are Origin and Schtick. Origin details where a character and there abilities come from, while Schtick determines how they use their abilities to fight crime (or whatever). The higher the score, the more a role the trait plays with the character. These two traits also determine how many points the character is built on and how many Quirks they have (which are essentially weaknesses or story elements that often trouble the character). Only major character have to worry about this. Minor character (thugs, bystanders, etc.) don’t have these traits.

5c) In the comics the distinction  between a character’s traits is pretty sharp (Bad, Below Average, Normal, Above Average, Excellent). Traits in TCH are just that simple: three triats (for mind, body, and soul), ranked from 0 to 4. Finding a character’s place in the pecking order is pretty simple. The point of the process is to model the traits around the concept as quickly as possible, and move on.

Does this mean that a character has 5 traits (Origin, Schtick, Mind, Body, Soul), all ranked in the same manner or are the first two (Origin and Schtick) ranked differently from the second three? There seems, at the moment, to be something of a distinction between the two groups of traits. Do Origin and Schtick have numrical 'scores' while the other have word describing them or are they all rated in the same way?

Cheers
Malcolm
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Malcolm Craig
Contested Ground Studios
www.contestedground.co.uk

Part of the Indie Press Revolution
Ken
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« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2006, 12:49:45 PM »

Malcolm-

Sorry for the confusion. Tried covering a lot of material but left out some details.  Also used a term wrong which may have added to the mix up. I'll try to clear things up.

a) First of all, there are two categories when building characters: Backgrounds & Traits.
b) There are two Backgrounds: Origin & Schtick. Backgrounds give extra IPs (Idea Points), which are used to build characters. Backgrounds also determine how many Quirks a character has. Backgrounds are ranked 0-4. Once Backgrounds are set, players can buy Traits.
c)Traits include: Characteristics, Professions, Skill, Gimmicks, Powers, and some other stuff.
d) Characteristics: Physique (Body), Thought (Mind), Spirit (Soul). Characteristics are ranked 0-4.
e) Other points of distinction: Professions & Skills are not ranked and provide bonus coins. Gimmicks & Powers are ranked 1-4.

I hope that answers more questions than it poses.

Thanks for the interest.

Ken
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Ken

10-Cent Heroes; check out my blog:
http://ten-centheroes.blogspot.com

Sync; my techno-horror 2-pager
http://members.cox.net/laberday/sync.pdf
Malcolm Craig
Member

Posts: 263


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« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2006, 02:47:08 PM »

Malcolm-

Sorry for the confusion. Tried covering a lot of material but left out some details.  Also used a term wrong which may have added to the mix up. I'll try to clear things up.

a) First of all, there are two categories when building characters: Backgrounds & Traits.
b) There are two Backgrounds: Origin & Schtick. Backgrounds give extra IPs (Idea Points), which are used to build characters. Backgrounds also determine how many Quirks a character has. Backgrounds are ranked 0-4. Once Backgrounds are set, players can buy Traits.
c)Traits include: Characteristics, Professions, Skill, Gimmicks, Powers, and some other stuff.
d) Characteristics: Physique (Body), Thought (Mind), Spirit (Soul). Characteristics are ranked 0-4.
e) Other points of distinction: Professions & Skills are not ranked and provide bonus coins. Gimmicks & Powers are ranked 1-4.

I hope that answers more questions than it poses.

Thanks for the interest.

Ken

Thanks Ken, that does clear things up.

There's a fair bit of stuff going into each character, so if Professions and Skills provide the same bonuses, why not amalgamate them into one category (let's call it 'Bonuses' for simplicitys sake)? So 'Bonuses' could contain both professional things (such as the skills one might pick up as part of a career) and more generalised 'skills' that could be picked up during the characters lifetime. This might simplify character creation somewhat.

So at the moment, you have:

Schtick (0-4)
Origin (0-4)
Physique (0-4)
Thought (0-4)
Spirit (0-4)
Gimmicks (0-4)
Powers (0-4)
Professions (single bonus)
Skills (single bonus)

How are Gimmicks differentiated from Powers and what special effects do they provide? As noted in your Power 19, Powers are a subset of Gimmicks, so would it be worthwhile just to have a single category entitled Powers? So rather than having 9 areas for character creation amalgamating Gimmicks & Powers and Professions & Skills would bring this down to 7 and consolidate categories that are very similiar in what they do in the context of the game.

Hope this helps in some way.

Cheers
Malcolm
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Malcolm Craig
Contested Ground Studios
www.contestedground.co.uk

Part of the Indie Press Revolution
Ken
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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2006, 05:39:48 PM »


There's a fair bit of stuff going into each character, so if Professions and Skills provide the same bonuses, why not amalgamate them into one category (let's call it 'Bonuses' for simplicitys sake)? So 'Bonuses' could contain both professional things (such as the skills one might pick up as part of a career) and more generalised 'skills' that could be picked up during the characters lifetime. This might simplify character creation somewhat.


Good thoughts Malcolm.

When writing TCH, the one thing I really wanted to do, was make it so a player could have their character proficient at a job or profession without requiring a huge list of skills (from the relevent to esoteric) and spending a bunch of points. One profession per job seems to fit the bill quite nicely. In playtests, it was super easy to make a character who could do their job well without too much hassle. (Your guys is a reporter during the day? Great! Buy Profession: Reporter). Skills were added later as a way to specialize in certain things covered by a given profession.

I chose  to go with a flat two coin bonus instead of ranks on the Skills and Professions for three reasons:
a) Simplicity. Not a lot of math here. You want a Profession or skill, buy it and get a two coin bonus.
b) I didn't want players to compromise their character's skills for the sake of saving a few points. All Professions cost the same and give the same bonus. If you want to be better, buy a skill.
c) With some exceptions, Professions and Skills are not the focus of the game, so I didn't want them to take too much time or effort to deal with.

There was a time when Professions were simply the absence of an unskilled penalty on task checks. I thought I would be kind to the GMs out there and switch to a bonus that players have to keep track of rather than a penalty that GMs have to police.


So at the moment, you have:

Gimmicks (0-4)
Powers (0-4)


Actually, Gimmicks and Powers are ranked 1-4. I stripped the zero level out because it goofed up some math. I don't really remember the details; it was a long time ago. Oh, I just remembered; it was because I didn't want to create effect rules for players who wanted a Gimmick or Power of 0 (effect is based on the ranks of Gimmick and Power, so zeroes would have screwed it up). It doesn't mess up Characteristics because they are simply a bonus on a ten cent stack of coins.


How are Gimmicks differentiated from Powers and what special effects do they provide? As noted in your Power 19, Powers are a subset of Gimmicks, so would it be worthwhile just to have a single category entitled Powers? So rather than having 9 areas for character creation amalgamating Gimmicks & Powers and Professions & Skills would bring this down to 7 and consolidate categories that are very similiar in what they do in the context of the game.


There are nine gimmicks which represent a core discipline or range of ability. Some examples are: Enhanced Physiology, Mentalism, Energy Control, & Metamorphosis. Each Gimmick is ranked 1-4 and has anywhere from eight to 12 Powers. Powers are also ranked 1-4 and cover one specialized aspect of the Gimmick (for instance, Ray is a power in the Energy Control gimmick). When figuring total effect, the ranks of Gimmick and Power work together. (Energy Control 2, Ray 3 = an effect of 5; which means a bit more if you read the rules, of course).

One of the basic principles for designing TCH was small numbers/big effect. I like the four to five number range and really wanted to keep the digits small. I had thought about just having powers, but was faced with some problems:
a) If I kept the value range low, each rank would cover a lot of space and would potentially wipe out subtle differences in potency.
b) Adopting a value range too far removed from that used for characteristics didn't sit well with me either.

In the end, I settled on two intertwined traits that helped each other towards providing potency for each power. It also serves nicely to minimize extraneous powers (more gaming pet peev than genre staple).

I appreaciate the questions and feedback.

Thanks

Ken

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Ken

10-Cent Heroes; check out my blog:
http://ten-centheroes.blogspot.com

Sync; my techno-horror 2-pager
http://members.cox.net/laberday/sync.pdf
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