Friday, June 4, 2010

Random Powers in Truth & Justice: Bigger, Better,!

Not too long ago, I posted a little stab at doing random hero creation in Truth & Justice, based off of the tables from Villains & Vigilantes.  Now, the method is back and better than ever!

One might ask why I'm doing this?  A few reasons (including the pure mental exercise of the thing), but I'm posting it here primarily because of my belief that Old-School gaming (which generally regards random character creation in a totemistic fashion) and Indie Gaming (which often revels in free-form character creation) are a helluva lot closer in spirit than is sometimes thought.  I've posted on this topic before.

And now I'm back to it.  I like this new set of tables a lot more than the first stab.  I think they are perhaps 75% self-explanatory, but I'm not going to fill in the rest on this post.  I may do so another day.  They will probably wind up in my house-rules document which is growing exponentially every time I turn to it.  The method remains the same as before, but now I have added Qualities to the mix:
  1. Every hero starts with 10 ranks of Qualities and 6 ranks in powers to distribute (as RAW).
  2. Roll 2d6 and consult the Power Categories chart to get a Power Type.
  3. Roll the indicated number of d6 on the appropriate Power Chart to determine the actual power (this is usually 2d6, but a few categories only use 1d6).  If the result is "Choose", the player is free to pick any power form the list or make up a new one.
  4. Assign as many or as few ranks as you wish to that power.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you run out of ranks (6 total). 
  6. Now Roll 2d6 and consult the Qualities Chart to get a Quality Type.
  7. Assign as many or as few ranks as you wish to that Quality.
  8. Repeat Steps 6-7 until you run out of ranks (10 total)
  9. Now figure out what the hell the hero can actually do and come up with a name and uniform!
(Optional: allow the player to discard one power at any time and reassign those ranks. This allows a little bit of customization as a power that was rolled early and given few ranks might seem better by the end.)

Here are the charts.  By and large, I have given even odds on all rolls.  In a very few places, I weighted the rolls.  That was done if I had an awkward number of results and/or felt that some powers ought to be more or less frequently represented.  Thus, there are better odds of getting Super-Strength than Super-Presence and of getting Invulnerability than Immortality.

As we all know, the proof is in the super-pudding, so let's try a few super-heroes.  I'm going to skip the Quality portion (Steps 2-4) because that takes a while and I really just want to see how the powers-thing works out.  I'm going to make a bunch of rolls on Invisible Castle and use those in order, just to prove that I'm not rigging the system.  Here are thirty rolls of 2d6 and ten of 1d6.

Example 1: My first Category roll is a 4:1 which is a Mental Power.  Rolling on that chart I get 3:4 which means Possession.  Nasty power that.  Possession is an All-or-Nothing thing, which means it needs to be pretty highly-ranked to work.  Also, it soudns like a foundational power, so I give it Incredible Rank [+4].

My next category roll is 2:5, which is an Energy Power.  The power roll is 3:4, which is Exotic Energy, a catch-all group of made-up energy-types such as Galactus' Power Cosmic! (which must be written with an exclamation point).  Hmn.  I'm already getting an idea here: maybe this character can manipulate Spirit Energy.  He's really good at using it to control other people (that's his Possession power), but he can also do other stuff with this Energy Control Power.  What other stuff?  Um...I don't quite know yet.  But that's okay.  I should probably give him all the rest of my power ranks in here, but I'm curious to see what happens next, so I give him Good Rank [+1] in Spirit Energy Control and have enough ranks (well, one anyway) to roll a last time.

My final category roll is 4:1 (again!) which means another Mental Power.  The power roll is 1:5, which is Empathy.  Although this soul-controlling guy probably isn't that empathetic in the mundane sense of the word, it makes some sense that he can read emotions, which, after all, come from the soul (or they do in this world-view anyway).  I have only one rank left so he get's Good Rank [+1] Empathy.  If we use the Optional rule, I could chuck the Empathy and give that rank to Spirit Energy Control to bring it up to Excellent [+2] which is probably a good idea.

The GM and I work out what exactly he can do with his Spirit Energy Control and decide that among, other things, he can use it to inflict spiritual pain or pleasure on people by repairing or distorting the spiritual energy field (and yes, I'm just making this up as I type).  If the GM lets me begin play with Signature Stunts, I would have him detect the presence of spirits and create spirit barriers.

This character could either be a frightening agent of the Beyond or a ministering angel whose powers can, unhappily, be used to hurt as well as help.  If I were rolling some Qualities, I would pick some now that would support the concept.  Since I'm not doing that, let's call this guy Soul-Scourge and make him some kind of avatar of the Wrath of Heaven.  Bad-ass.

Let's do one more.

Example 2:  My first category roll is 1:6, which is Matter Control.  The power roll is 5:1, which is Machine Control.  Personal bias time: I'm not a fan of machine guys.  I gibe one rank to make it Good [+1] and hope for soemthing more interesting.  i can always go back and add ranks at the end if I need to.

The next category roll is 4:6, which means Training.  Training doesn't have a chart: however many ranks I put into it, convert into twice that many ranks of Qualities.  Training is what lets you make highly-skilled heroes such as Batman and Captain America.  Tricky.  I think I'll put in 3 ranks to get 6 ranks of Qualities to be determined later.

That leaves me two more ranks of powers.  The next category roll is 3:3, Defense Power.  The power roll is 5:3, which is Pheromones.  OOOkay.  That's always a bit weird really.  And doesn't mesh very well with Machine Control.  But I can see a guy with some kind pheromone power, who is highly-trained to utilize this strange power.  I give it Good [+1].

I'll probably drop Machine Control since I don't like it and reassign those ranks to either Pheromones or Training.  But who can resist one last turn of the wheel?  Not I.

My last category roll is 6:2 which is Meta-Power.  The power roll is 6 (only roll a single-die in this category) which means I get to choose a Meta-power.  Which is awesome except that meta-powers are useless at any rank below Amazing [+5] and I only have one last rank left.  I don't want to drop Training, since that would only get me an Incredible rank [+4].  Because of that, I'm allowed to reroll.  Ah well.

Next stab gets me 5:3 on the category chart, which is a Movement Power.  That sounds good.  The power roll is 1:5, Leaping.  Not super-cool, but I can see that working with the animalistic Pheromones and the Training.  I drop the Good Machine Control and add that rank to leaping, to give me Excellent Rank [+2] in the power.

I've now got a guy a highly trained guy, with super-leaping and pheromone powers.  I ought to go through the Qualities now and get some of those.  But I won't for this example.  In any case, I'm seeing a hero who is some kind of mutant.  Not super-powerful, but he has extensively trained himself to make good use of his powers.  He'll probably get some kind of fighting skills, which he will use in tandem with his leaping (like Toad or Batroc the Leaper).  In addition,he emits some kind of musk that makes people fear him (I just decided that's what the pheromones do).  I decide to call him The Savage.

And there we are two super-heroes I woudl never had created in a thousand years in a point-buy system, but both are kinds of interesting and may well become nifty through play.

Oh right: I have another shiny No-Prize for the bright lad who can tell me from whence I adapted this method.  It's not the same as the first one.


  1. Looks kind of like ICONS but I am not sure.

  2. Nice try, bit no dice. Although I will say that the buzz about ICONS was what prompted me. ICONS looks like a great game and I think Kenson is a rock-star, but I think T&J does everything ICONS does plus a lot more (and I wasn't blown away by the power-generation charts).

  3. Awesome stuff. More comments on :D

  4. @Matthew:
    Any specifics on the T&J/ICONS comparison? I hopped on the ICONS bandwagon as well but was a bit underwhelmed by my first few stabs at it.

    I'm wondering what T&J brings to the table.

  5. I should start with the caveat that I have not bought ICONS. My knowledge comes from the preview excerpts and conversations with folks who do have it. So here's what seems notable to me in my limited knowledge:

    - ICONS has fixed traits; T&J has free-form, make-up-your-own traits. People tend to have preferences one way or the other. I prefer the latter for a super-hero game. If intelligence isn't a part of my cocnept, then I don't have to worry about it all in T&J cause it ain't relevant. I could make a functional T&J character who is nothing but a bunch of mental traits and that woudl be okay.

    - Traits in ICONS are ranked in one continuous scale; T&J uses two different scales (normal and super). I spent a lot of time playing around with these ideas until I decided that the two scales worked better for me. The continuous scale seems cleaner, but I find that it makes your Batman types all look a bit samey, as their ranks are limited to the lower end of the spectrum, especially when coupled with predefined traits.

    By contrast, in T&J, Batman has an almost infinite variety of..."builds" (although I fear using that word for it's connotations). Sure, he is going to use all his Powers for Intense Training (basically sacrifice ranks of super-powers for more normal scale traits), but you could do a creditable Batman lots of different ways with those.

    - ICONS uses what are essentially Hit Points, while T&J has damage taken to traits directly, with the first hit triggering a Story Hook. Basically, ICONS uses traditional task-resolution combat while T&J is abstract. Again, most folks prefer one way or the other. But I do get tired of people saying T&J's damage doesn't make sense because you can get punched in the girl-friend. That's just totally misunderstanding.

    Those are the things that I recall standing out. Oh, maybe one more general one:

    - T&J is so loosely and idiosyncratically written that it fairly begs you to come up with yuor own ideas of how it should play. Flaw? I don't know, but I like that sort of thing. That's why I'm writing Heroes of Industry.