Monday, July 19, 2010

Trouble and Problems

[This is an updated mechanic for Heroes of Industry.  The why's of this post are contained here.]

Troublesome Qualities
Sometimes, a Quality causes problems for character too. In fact, a good, flavourful Quality offers up as many potential troubling aspects as helpful ones.  This troubling can happen in any of three ways:

-Forcing an Action: If the GM thinks that a Quality would make the character take some course of action different from what the player has chosen, he may offer 1 Hero Point to convince you to change your behaviour. The player may decline if he wishes, but then player has to pay 1 HP to exercise control.

-Strength is Weakness: If the Quality could have an impact upon a character’s efficacy, the GM may offer Hero Points equal to the Quality’s MOD in exchange for which the Quality exerts a negative MOD equal to it’s usual positive MOD. So, a hero with “Excellent +2 Bad-Ass Dude” could be forced to take a -2 MOD when trying to calm down the leader of an alien armada about to destroy the earth.

-This Only Happens to Me: If the Quality could result in other people doing bad things to your character, the GM may pay out 3 HP to have that happen. This is essentially a Revoltin’ Development specifically tailored to a character’s Quality, which results in the player earning an extra HP.

Troublesome Qualities are an important source of Hero Points in play, which is why a player may wish to have Qualities that are so broadly defined that it comes up with great frequency. Qualities with negative sides are also an excellent source of drama for those so inclined.

Indeed a player may wish to take a Quality that seems nothing but troublesome. For instance, Spider-man generally seems to have the Quality “Perceived by the public as a menace”. That really only works in a bad way. If a player takes such a Quality he is effectively asking the GM to give him trouble of this sort and lots of it. And players may wish to consider this: the GM can give you a Revoltin’ Development anytime he likes, so why not be the one to choose what kinds of bad things happen by selecting a potentially troublesome Quality and earn the extra Hero Point when it bites you in the ass?

On the other hand, some players don’t care for heroes with problems. In that case, they may define their Qualities so narrowly that it is difficult for them to cause trouble (and so seldomly supplies any Hero Points). That’s cool too.

Finally, note that players are free to suggest times when their Qualities trouble them. That’s a good thing: listen to them and screw them over upon request.

There is a notable exception to the general abstractness of combat in HoI. Whatever Quality takes the first downshift in a conflict generates a Problem. A Problem is a temporary Quality that is always and only troubling. Unlike the usual troublesome Quality, though, players do not get Hero Points for their pains. A Problem can never be used to help the character (i.e. add it’s Rank to die rolls) and cannot take Grief.

The exact nature of the Problem is determined by the Quality that took the first hit. If The Presence takes the first downshift in a conflict to his “Inhuman Aura” Quality, then the Problem has to be concerned with that. The player is allowed to specify the Problem, subject to GM approval. In this case, the player of Presence decides that his character is feeling depressed at his inhuman state, which reduces his effectiveness in conflict. He gives himself the Problem “Depressed at Inhuman State”.

Like any other Quality, Problem has a rank. When first generated, a Problem is Good +1 rank. If the same Quality takes the first hit in a subsequent conflict, then instead of generating a new Problem, the existing Problem goes up one rank. So, in a later battle, the Presence loses a roll and elects to take the first hit to “Inhuman Aura” again. Now his Good +1 Problem “Depressed at Inhuman State” becomes “Excellent +2 Depressed at Inhuman State”.

Which is a bummer, so most heroes will be anxious to rid themselves of Problems. They can do so by playing out a reasonable way of assuaging the situation and paying out Hero Points equal to the Problem’s rank. This can only be done in a later adventure than the one in which the Problem was generated or increased. Doing this gets rid of the Problem, but it also means that hero is down that number of Hero Points when he has his next conflict. There is a trade-off, which is why some players might elect to let Problems rise for awhile.

Example: The player of the Presence doesn’t want to let his Problem get worse than Excellent +2, so he decides to deal with it at the next opportunity. At the beginning of the next adventure, he decides that the Presence disappears from a meeting with his super-pals and reappears atop a mountain in the Himalayas. There he sits, oblivious to the howling winds and ponders the meaning of “humanity”. The GM likes this and continues it, having a mysterious monk appear and lead the hero to a hidden monastery. Seeing the existence of men in such circumstances and feeling their goodwill, the Presence feels restored. He pays out 2 Hero Points, removes the Problem, and waves goodbye to his new friends as he returns to the city. The game has now had a nice little soap-opera moment plus a mysterious new element has been added to the game. Just who are these hidden monks? Any GM worth his salt will have them show up again, in perhaps a surprising manner. Also, of course, the Presence returns to his duties to find himself in confrontation with the Raptor and lacking two vital Hero Points. He’s really going to need those to defeat his foe.

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