Monday, June 7, 2010

Random Powers in Truth & Justice: Smaller and Betterer-Still!

Oh come on, lads, you knew I wouldn't be content after having made a paltry two attempts at this eh?  The first attempt was Random Powers in Truth & Justice.  And it was pretty good.

The second attempt was Random Powers in Truth & Justice: Bigger, Better,!  And it lived up to it's name.

This third attempt?  Smaller and Betterer-still!  Now, what does that mean?  Well, the second try hewed a bit too closely to it's source (whose identity is still a mystery and the subject of a beautiful, shiny No-Prize).  It worked, but it didn't quite take full advantage of T&J's strengths: powers that are meant to be broadly defined.  T&J doesn't need several different versions of the same power.  The reorganization of the Senses category is a good example of this.  Similarly, I didn't like having a specific Attack Power because so many powers can be used that way.  Even if you can't generate a Magneto-Bolt with Magnetic Powers, the canny hero can still come up with ways to attack which, mechanically, are best represented as just an Attack (no, I'm not sure that made sense either).

Second, I decided that having a specific Meta-Power category just didn't work optimally.  Unless you rolled it first up, odds are you won't have enough ranks to invest to make it useful.  Which is fine, actually, but I felt that players needed more of a chance to roll them up.  So I placed the Meta-Power within several different categories, allowing you roll a Body Meta-Power (Kryptonian), an Energy Meta-Power (the Power Cosmic!), or a Mental Meta-Power (Sorcery, high-level Psi abilities).

Third, I juggled a bit more with the odds, making things less balanced and more representative of the comic-book source.  For example, there are damn few heroes with super-burrowing powers, whereas almost every other cape can fly.

Fourth, I decided to remove the Device category and let the player decide whether to give himself that Limitation or not.  This is, to me, the most difficult decision and I'm not fully convinced of it yet.  My decision was partly based on the fact that Device was it's own, weird category that involved re-rolling and putting the gadget limitation on the result.  Not terrible, but felt a bit off.  Still, as I say, it might go back in.

Fourth, and most obviously, I missed a few powers that I felt needed to be in there.  Radiation Powers, how could I forget you?

So here's what I call version 2.2, as it is an evolution of the second version:

So, let's take this for a test-drive, shall we?  As before, here are thirty random rolls of 2d6.  If I need a single die, I'll just take the first one in the pair.  Let's go!

Example 1:  My first category roll is 4:1, giving me a Mental Power.  The particular power roll is Clairvoyance.  OK, hard to get any ideas from that.  It's not at all a bad power, but it also doesn't to be highly-ranked to work, unless I want to be able to read the morning headlines in Kuala Lumpur.  I give it Good [+1].

Next up is 4:5 a Sensory Power and we already seem to have a theme developing.  The power roll is 4:3, which is New Sense.  Meaning I get to make something up like Smell Mutants or Detect Magic.  I'm not too sure about this, but I like the sound of the latter okay, so maybe I'm a demon-hunter who scans the area for supernatural beings?  Maybe I'll limit my Clairvoyance to demons so that I can detect them and see them.  I don't know.  Anyway, I'm giving this a Good [+1] as well since A)it might as well equal the Clairvoyance rank and B)I'm hoping to get something better next roll.

Four ranks left to assign and I roll 2:6, Matter Power.  The power roll is 4:4, a Meta-Power.  Now, this is an intriguing possibility.  If I gave all the remaining ranks to this Power, I would have Incredible [+4] rank, which means that all my sub-powers would be acting at an effective rank of Average [+0].  Not awesome.  But then, this is sounding like kind of a low-powered guy anyway.  Still, the smarter move, I think, is to drop one of the sense powers and boost this up to Amazing [+5].

That leaves two very different options: If I keep the Clairvoyance and drop New Sense, I could make a hero who embodies the Spirit of the Land.  With his Meta-Power, he can reshape the land, animate plants, control animals, and, if the GM agrees, maybe call on the power of the land to boost his stats (note that these would all be sub-powers at operate at Good [+1] rank).  Then I might limit Clairvoyance to stuff that happens on or near "the land".  Of course, I think GM ought to let me know what happens on the land as part of the Meta-Power.  But we'll work something out.

A different option might be to keep the demon-hunter idea and have my Meta-Power be Holy...something.  Can I convince the GM that Holy Fire is a Matter Power?  If not, maybe I'll control the weather, calling down lightning to smite evil.  That could work.

Let's do some Qualities now, pretending I stick with the demon-hunter.  My first roll is 3:5, a Profession; my second roll is 5:3, an Emotion; and my third roll is 5:5, a Gadget.  My profession is going to be Demon-Hunter and, as it's my main shtick, I give it Remarkable [+3].  My emotion is Empathy for the Mistreated, which kind of gives me a human-side and might help me help others who have been victimized by the Powers of Evil.  I give it Excellent [+2].  My third Quality is a Gadget.  Hmn, some kind of tricked-out demon-hunting weapon, I'm thinking.  Like a big gun in the shape of a cross that shoots out holy water.  I'll stat it later, but call it Incredible [+4].

That leaves one rank to assign.  My last Quality roll is 5:1, something physical.  Feeling whimsical, I give him Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking.  I think I'll use my option to reassign one rank from Empathy for the Mistreated to bring it down to Good [+1] and make my Take a Licking Excellent [+2].  Now I just need to stat out that Holy Water Gun and get a name.  "The Gabriel Hound" pops into my head as a cool, semi-religious sounding name that evokes a hunter.   This guy sounds like he should be a guest-star in Tomb of Dracula and maybe get involved in some sort of bad-ass pissing contest with Blade.

Example 2: my first category roll is 2:2, Body Power.  The power roll is 3:6, Quality Absorption, which lets me take abilities from others.  Not my favourite power, but hey, that's what random roll is all about.  I'm going to gamble and give it Remarkable [+3].

Next roll is 6:3, Super-Quality.  The power roll is 3:3, Super-Endurance.  Hmn, I don't quite know what to do with it, but let's make it Excellent [+2], leaving me one rank to assign.

And that is 4:1, Mental Power.  This should be good.  The power roll is 5:5, Telekinesis.  Wow, that's hard to work together.  It might be fun to do so, but I'm feeling too lazy to make something off that.  My TK only has one rank, but I reassign all the ranks from Quality Absorption, so that it goes to Incredible [+4].  This gives me powerhouse guy with fantastic TK.  Maybe the TK isn't really mental power, but is a projection of his vital energies (whatever they are).  His vital energies are so powerful that he can actually emit them from his body to do stuff.  That's kinda cool.

OK, Qualities.  Let's do three at a go again: 5:3 is Emotion; 2:6 is Skill; and 5:4 is Vehicle.  I'm riffing off off his super-endurance, and give him an emotional Quality, Steady as a Rock at Excellent [+2].  For skill?  Cripes.  Well, he has a vehicle, so why not give him the skill Stunt Driver at Excellent [+2] and a Motorcycle at Good [+1].  Maybe I'm in too 70's a mood, but I see the guy riding his chopper in this zen fashion.

That leaves five more ranks.  I roll 3:5, Profession; 6:2, Mental, and 1:2, Contact.  I decide ahead of time to reassign any ranks that I might give to Profession, because Zen Harley TK Man don't work.  I give him a Mental attribute of Cleverer than He Looks at Remarkable [+3] for no other reason than I like it and a Contact of Friendly Rivalry with Police Chief at Excellent [+2].

Right, now I need a name.  Tricky that.  How about "the Stunt Master"?  And maybe he uses his telekinesis in ways that make spectacular stunts?  Yeah, maybe I ought to change his emotional Quality from Steady as a Rock to Daredevil?  Oh yeah, that's the ticket.  Now I see him as some sort of mash up between Johnny Blaze and Vance Astro.  Is that wrong?

Two more heroes that I would never have created using a modelling or point-buy method.  Quirky?  Definitely.  But perhaps a bit more endearing for that.  One result that may be obvious, but which I often forget, is that random-roll heroes have to be a lot clever in their heroing methods.  Even playing a bit with the odds, characters are much less likely to have the two most common attacks (Blast of Energy and Super-Strength) or the most obvious defenses (Invulnerability and Force Field).

Now, that may be a bug if you are really striving to emulate all aspects of comic-books, but it really opens up a great deal of--dare I say it--tactical game-play in a game that doesn't seem very tactically-oriented.  Consider the Gabriel Hound: he can't swoop in, blast the baddies, and bounce bullets off his chest.  He has to think a bit more when fighting.  Can he use his Meta_power (whichever I decide on) to level the playing field when fighting an energy-blasting, invulnerable baddy?  He better if he wants to win.  And Stunt-Master: the GM might let me use the TK for force-blasts and shields as spin-off stunts, but to use his power most effectively, he's going to need to interact with the scenery, which is a very common element in the comics that often gets forgotten in super-hero gaming.  Stunt -Master should be tossing stacks of packing crates onto baddies as he ;leaps his chopper from roof to roof.

But I still think maybe I should add the Device category back in.


  1. Okay, so what exactly is Truth & Justice.

    Hmm...after reading a couple-few reviews on, I've got a bit of an idea.

    I like your tables a lot...they're short and sweet and easy to use, much like Marvel. I'm considering something like this myself for my game, though I've yet to organize the powers into any coherent categories as of yet.

    Thanks for the link, man!

  2. Thanks.

    "What is Truth & Justice" is a hard question to answer/ I guess I'd say it's a bit like a much simplified FASERIP with far more abstract combat and free-form abilities.