Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Body Powers: Take Three

Yeah, yeah: I posted just yesterday.  And less than 20 minutes after saying I had a form I preferred, I found a bunch of problems.  So, what the hell, here we go again:

On third thought, I felt that Claws are much more common than Poison and Acid Bodies.  So I broke the first out as a separate power and combined the latter two.  That got rid of the Body Weapon Power and Sub-Table.  Fortunately, I also noticed that I had accidentally left in Size-Changing as a Power, even after I added Growth and Shrinking, so everything fits in the chart.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Body Powers: Take Two

I posted Table 2: Body Powers some while ago.  But I've never been satisfied with several aspects of that Table.  I don't know why the dam broke today, but for some reason I got it to a form I prefer.  The changes are actually pretty minor, but nothing is too minor for me to agonize over.

For those keeping score at home, what's changed?

  1. I took out the Density Powers sub-table and broke out Density Increase and Intangibility into separate powers on the main Table.  I think these powers are common enough that they rate individual entries.
  2. Ditto for Size-Changing Powers into Growth and Shrinking for the same reasons.
  3. And the same again for the Transform Self sub-table into Shape-shifting and Metamorph.
  4. In the same action, the power Alternate Form was eliminated.  It was so specific that I felt it didn't really deserve an entry.  It can be duplicated by taking a Limitation on either Shape-Shifting or Metamorph to restrict them to one form.

Should you care about any of this?  Probably not.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quite Distracted By: One-Roll Combat (Again)

Way back in April, I posted a thought for one-roll combat in Spellcraft & Swordplay; that is combining the attack roll and the damage roll.  This idea was based on the serendipity that my hack for combat in S&S made the combat roll succeed on an 11+, so that the 1's digit would tell you how much damage was inflicted.  I liked the idea and played with it a bit in a game, but didn't go much further.  I got stuck on how to handle Weapon Size.

I have no idea why, but last night the brilliant Mark Krawec's suggestion to look at Over the Edge suddenly penetrated my brain.  Seriously, why am I thinking about it all of the sudden?  I have super-hero stuff to write.  Hopefully, this is just a one-off "Quite Distracted By" and not a sign of my interest being redirected.

In any case, before I got out of bed, I came up with the following (which I have cast as part of Dying Sun rather than S&S proper)

Combat in Under the Dying Sun is slightly different than in the Spellcraft & Swordplay Revised Edition.  As with the changes to Ability generation, these changes make greater use of the central 2D mechanic. The key difference is that degree of success matters in combat, with a successful roll being one that results in 11+ as always. A roll of “11” is 1 degree of success, “12” is 2 degrees of success, and so on.
To resolve combat:

1. The attacker makes his Combat Roll by throwing 2D
2. The Combat Roll is modified by:
     a. Class-based modifier (see Advancement Tables for each Class)
     b. Modifier from Weapon Class vs. defender’s Armour Class (see Melee Attack 
          Table or Missile Attack Table)
     c. Defender’s Defense
3. Success results on 11+
    a. On a roll of boxcars, roll 2D again, adding this result to the degree of success.
4. Damage equals 1 Hit Point per degree of success.
5. Damage is modified by:
    a. First, multiply by Weapon Size multiplier (see Weapon Size)
    b. Second, modifiers from Strength (in melee combat or hurled missiles)
    c. Any other modifiers, such as from psychic weapons.

Each Weapon Size has a Damage Multiplier that is applied to the damage resulting from degree of success on the Combat Roll.

Tiny melee weapons would include stabbing someone with a paring knife or a stylus.  Damage Multiplier is x1/2.

Small melee weapons include daggers, cesti, and fists. A small weapon can be used in the off-hand to parry, while using a Medium (or smaller) weapon in the on-hand to attack. This grants a +1 Defense to incoming melee at-tacks, but no Defense to missile attacks. However, anytime such a character scores a critical hit (12+), the Damage Multiplier for his regular weapon is increased by 1 as the character has managed to hit with both weapons.  Damage Multiplier is x1.

Medium melee weapons include swords, hand axes, and maces.  Damage Multiplier is x2.

Large melee weapons include great-swords, battle axes, mauls, and lances. They are unwieldy and impose a -1 to the Combat Roll. A character using a Large weapon cannot also use a shield (even Scorpion Men, due to tangling of limbs and tools).  Damage Multiplier is x3.

Huge melee weapons cannot be used by player characters, but might be used by gigantic beings swinging tree trunks and the like. If used by a gigantic being, they are no more unwieldy than a normal man using a normal club.  Damage Multiplier is x4.

Thoughts?  Two things I am not at all decided upon
  1. Should bonuses from STR and whatnot be added before the multiplier instead of after?
  2. Should a boxcars result in adding just 1 more die of damage instead of 2?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Help Me With a Name (Again)

Last time I did this, you were all very helpful.  So let's try it again.

As discussed previously, two of the ways of looking at a Power are its Effect and its Category.  At least right now, there are seven Effects:
  • Attack
  • Alteration
  • Control
  • Defense
  • Meta-Power
  • Motion
  • Quality

And there are nine Categories (which are mostly used for the Random Roll Tables):
  • Body Powers
  • Energy Powers
  • Matter Powers
  • Mental Powers
  • Movement Powers
  • Object Powers
  • Sensory Powers
  • Super-Qualities
  • Training
Can you guess what my question is?
Yes, I have a Motion Effect and a Movement Category.  Isn't that confusing?  I think so.  So I turn again to my hypothetical readers for suggestions for changing one of them, hopefully to something that doesn't begin with an "M" (thus, "Motility" isn't that helpful).

Creating Powers in Heroes of Industry

If you can describe a Power and decide upon its Effect, you should be able to create just about any power you need in Heroes of Industry. One of the most important things to keep in mind is how often or how easily the Power can be used in unusual ways. A Power that generally functions in one way is best represented as a Power with a single Effect, which can be occasionally expanded through Stunts (this is called a “Focused Power” in the Powers List below). A Power that has no single, usual function is better represented as a Meta-Power with several Effects through its Sub-Powers.

Notice that the above does not say “if it is flexible”. All super-powers are flexible in the comics; ingenious uses of one‘s power is one of the backbone of the genre. Thus it makes more sense to presume that all Powers will be used in unusual or less obvious ways. This is perhaps a bit counter-intuitive: the game-determined uses of a Power are just the baseline from which the players are expected work.

Does that mean that a player is “bad” if he can’t come up with lots of great stunts for his Powers? No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that this player is going to be doing a lot of the same over and over (“I blast him!”, “I blast him!”, “I blast him!”). Still, he can always make it up with snappy patter.

Sometimes, a Power would seem to have maybe two Effects; not enough to justify a Meta-Power, but enough to feel constrained by a single Effect. For example, consider a Power that allows the hero to turn his body into pure light so that he can fly and is also intangible. This is two different Effects (Motion and Alter for those keeping score at home). This seems tricky, but isn’t really. There are two simple ways to represent this kind of Power.

The first is using Signature Stunts.  A Signature Stunt effectively adds an Effect to a Power at the cost of 1 Hero Point per use. Buy one of the Powers (Flight) and take a Signature Stunt to allow the other use (Intangibility). In this case, the player will have to decide if he has the ability to use the base Power without the other; if not, then he should take the Limitation “Cannot Use Without Activating Signature Stunt”. What does that accomplish? Well, it means that if the hero is out of Hero Points and therefore unable to use the Signature Stunt, he cannot use his Flight Power either. That sucks except that he will probably earn a Hero Point for having his Limitation come into effect.  Getting screwed in order to come back and kick evil's ass is how the genre works.

The second option is even simpler. List the Power on the character sheet as one Power (“Body of Light”), but list both Flight and Intangibility beneath it. Mechanically, you have two Powers (which can even have differing Ranks if you like), but the Description is the same for both of them; that is, they are understood as being part of the same Power in the game world.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How To Handle Cosmic-Scale Powers

One of the many elements of PDQ that I like is that I don't have to do much math.  Add up two d6 plus a modifier of no more than 6; that's pretty much it (if you use my rule for upshifts beyond +6).  The Ranks then cover a pretty wide range of whatever it is they are describing and that's generally a good thing for my kind of gaming.  But sometimes you find yourself needing to bring out the Ultra-Mega Big Guns - the Imperial Star Destroyers and Cosmic Space-Gods that blow up or eat whole planets for breakfast respectively.  Actually, you don't even need to go quite that far.  In Storn Cook's write-up of his very entertaining Grey Legion campaign, he notes that having competent characters face up against a Target Number that maxes out at 13 can be kind of anti-climactic.

The new iteration of PDQ, called PDQ#, acknowledges this by adding some higher Ranks (Impressive, Intimidating, Impossible, and Inconceivable).  What is interesting about these Ranks is that they have no Modifier associated with them; only Target Numbers.  This essentially means that these upper-tier Ranks are unavailable to characters and can only be used when setting what I call Challenges in Heroes of Industry.  In a game like Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies, for which the PDQ# system was created, that makes good sense.  

But in a super-hero game, that may not be true.  Maybe the really Big Guns ought to have a larger modifier, even if you restrict it to NPC's.  This is a bit of a fine line to me though, because once you go beyond a modifier of +6, the roll of the dice makes less and less of an impact.  As is my wont, I have more than one idea on how to handle this:

1. Unearthly Ranks - this is my name for those "off-the-scale" Ranks above +6.  I'm not going to use the same names as PDQ# because they don't fit the supers-genre (as much as I think "Inconceivable" is awesome for a swashbuckling game).  A major consideration in play is that my version of PDQ is normally hard-capped at a dice roll of 18 (boxcars + 6), unlike regular PDQ and PDQ#.  That means that a Rank with a Target Number of 18 is the extreme limit of mortal possibility; something with a Target Number of 19 is literally impossible for someone operating on the usual scale of Ranks.  A Rank with a Target Number of 18 would have a Modifier of +11, which would effectively set the upper limit of these Unearthly Ranks.

I think that judicious use of these Ranks could be pretty fun.  Fighting a being who brings +11 to the table means that the deck is heavily-stacked against the heroes, but they still have a slight chance.  That's important because, sometimes, the heroes aren't supposed to have any chance at all.    Trying to the punch out Eternity may simply be impossible and, in those cases, setting a number - no matter how high - is the wrong answer.  The right answer is Option No. 2:

2. Revoltin' Development - This is already a part of the rules, but I would have to emphasize how it is useful in these sorts of situations.  If the heroes are not supposes to have any chance, don't try and a make it practically impossible by setting a Target Number they can't beat; that is a form of illusionism and amazingly frustrating to players.  Instead, just hand out a Revoltin' Development give the players the Hero Point to make the thing palatable.  They can then use that Hero Point later to come up with some clever idea that doesn't involve punching the incarnation of all Time and Space.

I'm pretty comfortable with those two options.  But here's where I get less sure of myself.  Because I thought of a third alternative using the Scale mechanic: add a "Cosmic-scale" on top of the existing "Normal-" and "Super-scale".  It might work something like this:

Cosmic Scale in Conflict
Opponents who both operate on the Cosmic-scale interact in the usual manner: roll 2d6+Modifier and see who rolls higher.

Cosmic-scale versus Super-scale works just like Super-scale versus Normal-scale: the higher scale actor adds or absorbs TN extra Grief.

Cosmic-scale versus Normal-scale effectively turns the Normal-scale actor into a Goon: any success on the Cosmic-guys part zeroes-out the normal-guy, while the any success on the normal-guys part does 1 Grief only.  A Normal-scale actor is no more than an annoyance to a Cosmic-scale actor, but sometimes that can be quite an heroic thing to be.  For example, the normal-scale Dark Avenger might do his best against Galaxus, with the hope of just delaying the Muncher of Worlds until his Super-scale buddies show up.  He keeps hopping around doing little bits of Grief and trying his damnedest not to squashed like a bug.

I think Cosmic-scale is kind of neat and I like that it basically works using the rules already there.  But I'm not sure if it really adds anything.  Right now I plan on including it in a box as an option, but, as usual, I'd be eager to here anyone's thoughts on the matter.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Smack on the Head: Power Breadth is Pointless!

The drawback to being as anal as I am and re-reading and re-re-reading my stuff is that I keep finding things that I have written that are, to put it politely, stupid.  Case in point Power Breadth.

About two months ago, I posted on how I was going to describe Powers in Heroes of Industry using three "view-points": Breadth, Effect, and Category.  I have no idea why that seemed so clever.  Maybe it was at that stage of the writing process.  But today I had one of those "smack on the head" moments where I realized that Breadth is totally pointless.  Well, it is once I realized that Meta-Power can be used as an Effect.  That is, a Power's Effect is either set (Attack, Defense, Alter) or it is a Meta-Power, which let's you use the same Power for various Effects.

At the same time, I realized that I had left out something vitally important in a game like this: description.  In a game like this, the way in which a power is describe in words is really as important as how it is described in terms of mechanics.  It's one of the things that avoids the logical-insanity of purely effects-based games ("Can I use my Fire Blast to light up the room?"  "No, illumination is a Visual Illusion effect and you only have Energy Blast.").  So here's the new text:

Power Scope
Scope is the same for Powers as for any other Quality: it defines the Power, describing what it does and when it is applicable. Some powers have fairly simple Scopes: Fire Blast means you can shoot out a blast of fire. But other powers are more complex: what do Air Powers do really?

Now some of the answers can be discovered through play, when a player suggests that his power ought to let him do such-and-such. But it is useful to have some starting understanding of the power shared by the player and GM. This game uses three different “viewpoints” to discuss the Scope of Powers: Effect, Category, and Description. When you Describe an Effect within a certain Category, you have created a Power (congratulations). That’s the DIY motto of the game. There are a list of powers located in this section for your convenience, but you don’t actually need them unless you are using the Random Roll Method of character creation (in which case you definitely do need them).

Effects describe how Powers work in play. The various Effects appear in almost all of the Categories: there are energy attack powers, matter attack powers, and mental attack powers.

Some powers have a single Effect; others have a variety of Effects (a Meta-Power), and some come in both versions. In that last case, the player is free to choose the power’s Effect at creation if using the Modeling Method; if using the Random Rolling Method, the player must roll on Table 9: Power Effect to determine this.

The most common Effects are discussed below. Keep in mind that there are characters who appear in comics and in the heads of players with odd-ball powers that don’t comfortably fit into any of these Effects. It’s up to the GM to either disallow the power or come up with a way to make it work, using these effects as guidelines. When making up an effect, try to keep in mind MOD, TN, and Scope: most powers will involve the hero rolling the dice and adding the power’s MOD. His opponent will usually either make a defense roll of his own and either comparing the difference to determine Grief or to try and beat the hero’s TN.

Categories are thematic: energy powers, matter powers, mental powers, super-devices, and so on. They have little mechanical impact on play, but they provide some of the colour of the power. They exist mostly as a way to organize the Random Roll Tables. However, see the discussion of Description below for more thoughts on this.

A Power’s Description is how you would explain the power in words, without reference to mechanics. It is the way it would be described in comics: “the proportionate strength of a spider!”, “nigh-invulnerable skin!”, and “heat vision!”. Powers with exactly the same Effect and Category can still be distinguished by the Description.

It might seem as if Description is only useful for narrative purposes, but Description can have a real, mechanical impact. It helps the player and the GM determine what are and what aren’t reasonable uses, stunts, and limitations of the power. Fire Blast and Magnetic Bolt, for example, both have the Attack Effect and Energy Category, but only one of those Powers can reasonably be used to light something on fire. In a high-trust game such as this, a Power’s description can have a real effect.

Should Average-Rank Remain 0?

One of the first changes to I made to standard Truth & Justice (and PDQ as a whole) was to alter the point at which someone "zeroes-out" i.e. loses a conflict.  This change predates the idea of Heroes of Industry and was something I put into my T&J House Rules those many months ago when I thought that I was just doing a simple house-rule document.  Ha!

Anyway, I love the term "zero out" for taking an opponent out of fight.  But what always confused me both practically and philosophically is that actors actually aren't out when all their Qualities go to zero (which is Average Rank), but rather when they all go to -2 (Poor Rank) and then lose one more Rank.  I would screw that up in play over and over again.  Thus my simple little change.

But that simple change brought with it something more significant.  It meant that one couldn't just give every unexceptional person, place, or thing  the Quality "Average [Person, Place, or Thing]".  It meant that the Average Rank could only be an effective, rather than base Rank (which is to say, some Quality could be ranked Average only as a result of damage or downshifts).  You couldn't say, "Oh, he's just an Average Goon" or "I dunno - it's an Average car".  Any Quality that is worth representing will have a rank of at least Good +1.  Average-ranked Qualities represent all those infinite things that a character can do (Walk), think (Knows Addition), and be (Internet Surfer) that are utterly unimportant and, perhaps more meaningfully, cannot be used in a conflict.  To stat something up this way, you pick the one thing (or two or three  things) that make you unique and call that Good.  So, the cheap hoods are Good +1 Goons and the plain old car is a Good +1 Car with all other Qualities as invisible Average Rank.

But I'm wondering if that terminological shift is  more confusing than it is worth?  By comparison, FATE uses the term "Average" to describe the +1 rank and calls the zero rank "Mediocre".  In that system, you can describe someone as Average.  That is more intuitive in some ways.  The trade-off is that I, at least, tend to associate the modifier of zero with the descriptor "Average" and think any bonus (positive number) should have a positive-sounding name.  By the same token, in FATE you assume that everything is Mediocre +0 except for those few areas where you are Average +1.

So, I think that I have made the right choice in not using the FATE-model, but I'd be curious to hear anyone else's thoughts on the matter.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jack Kirby is Awesome

[I justify this post as gaming related because it discusses an important under-pining of Heroes of Industry.]

Jack Kirby is awesome.  Yes, not exactly breaking news.  But we could paraphrase Chevy Chase's old joke and say that Jack Kirby is STILL awesome.  And I say "is" quite consciously.  Sure Jacob Kurtzberg the man is dead, but Jack Kirby the artist cannot be anything other than alive; gloriously, vibrantly alive.  If you don't think so, then you haven't read a Kirby-book in too long.

I've been wallowing in Kirby recently, having finally gotten a hold of the first volume of Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus.  I missed these comics the first time around due to the fact that I was just being born.  Later, I was a pretty staunch Marvel Comics fan and so managed to miss the occasional appearance by the characters. My first real exposure to the Fourth World Mythos (is that a term? if not, it should be) was that season of Super Friends with Darkseid as the recurring villain.  As bloodless a representation of the Mythos as that was (in all senses) there was something intriguing there.  

One of themes that Kirby so ably tapped into was what I call "Cosmic Mysticism"; the place where Science Fiction and Religion converge.  And the glimpses of Kirby's Astro-Theology (to coin a Kirbyesque term) hinted at something big going on with Darkseid and Apokalips.  Something infinitely more...well, just infinitely MORE than the standard super-villain or evil planet.

An example: Issue No. 2 of the Forever People gives us Glorious Godfrey and the Anti-Life Movement.  Glorious Godfrey is from Apokalips, but seems free of the weird appearances of most of the baddies we see from there.  He is a "Revelationist" and comes to earth to hold great revival-style meetings under a tent.  There he preaches the freedom of "Anti-Life".  When I first heard about the Anti-Life Equation years ago, I just assumed it was some some cosmic Macguffin that would kill everyone.  But in Kirby's theology, Life is literally equivalent to Free Will and thus the Anti-Life Equation is actually the ability to remove all free will from people everywhere.  Now, think for a second about the implications of all that.  

But no!  This is a Kirby comic and we don't have time to sit back and think because STUFF IS HAPPENING!  Glorious Godfrey tells people that life is full of trouble and anxiety and so true happiness can be found by grasping Anti-Life i.e. giving up all personal volition.  And once that is done, you can have perfect justification for doing absolutely anything.  To lack justification requires there to have been options and those without will have no options ergo they are always justified in what they do.

The Hitler analogies are pretty obvious (and Kirby doesn't try to hide them; among other things, he opens the issue with a quote from old Uncle Adolph), but Nazi-stories are a dime a dozen.  The thing is that the lure of Anti-Life is much bigger than Nazism or any of the other great tyrannical -isms.  This is about the way in which a culture can become suicidal in search of happiness and the value of pain.  And, at the same time, it's about some weird space-hippies with a computer that they love and a giant motorcycle that can travel at light-speed and the ability to switch atoms with someone called the Infinity Man who makes the sound TAARUN! when he appears and bends or breaks the normal laws of physics but can still get knocked out by a mere probe from the satan called Darkseid!

Reading these stories is almost literally that breath-taking.  You can actually see the fire of Kirby's imagination pouring out from his brain onto the page and from that page splashing into you.  This fire is too strong to be constrained by conventional narrative technique; the ideas come so fast and furious that he sometimes just skips over properly introducing them.  If you try and stop and say, "Wait, that wasn't where the previous issue ended", you will be run over by the Mac Truck of the imagination.  Kirby doesn't have time to set that scene up, because in the time it took him to draw the first panel, he already thought of nine other things that are even cooler and he only has 21 pages left in the book.

I've written before about kallos and how I hold to that in my writing.  I suspect that Jack Kirby would punch me in the nose if I tried to discuss kallos with him.  And that's fine (seriously, how cool would it be to to show your mangled schnoz  to your kids and say, "See that?  King Kirby gave me that broken nose.").  Maybe I appreciate Kirby in part because I know that I could never create the way that he creates.  As regular, hypothetical readers of the blog have figured out by now, I think things through.  A lot.  I put hours of thought into something before pen ever touches paper (not that I use a pen anymore).  I write a few sentences or put together a mechanic and then I stop, and look at it, and think about it some more.  And though I wish that I could write a little faster, all in all, my method works for me.

But Kirby is the anti-universe of that.  He's got stuff to put on paper and, if tomorrow it's clear that there was a better way of doing that, too damn bad, because yesterday is a million years ago in the Kirbyverse and he's already created and destroyed worlds by then.  That "just go with it, man" attitude must surely account for his attraction to the youth movement of the day and the often awkward writing of the imaginary hippy-slang dialog of the Forever People and the Outsiders  by a middle-aged man.  But even that is really okay, because no hippy was ever as far out as Kirby. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Aaron Alston's THE BLOOD (1985)

I've discussed my troubled relationship with Champions before so no need to rehearse it.  Nonetheless, there were some fine products put out by Hero Games back in the day and those of Aaron Allston tend to hover at the top of my list.  I had a heck of a lotta fun with his Super-Agents book and his Lands of Mystery supplement may still be the best gaming treatment of the Lost World Romance (he also wrote a lot of good stuff for other companies as well).  But, far and away, my favourite Hero work of his was his half of Organization Book No. 2: The Blood and Dr. McQuark (although, Allston's portion is more like the first two-thirds in terms of page count).

The Blood are a group of super-powered, extraterrestrial mutants who are not nearly as goofy as that may sound.  Actually, the Blood are very much informed by things like Zelazny's royal family of Amber and Lee-Kirby's the Inhumans.  They are the descendants of a paleolithic hunter who was born with psychic powers, a mutant named Azor.  This old fellow used his powers to assume control of his tribe and then used his tribe to take over a neighboring tribe.  And so on and so on.  But, pretty soon, this neaderthalic Genghis Khan had reached the limits of Stone Age empire; without the agricultural revolution you just can't keep very many people in one place without starving. 

Azor's lust for power knew no bounds, though, and he soon made psychic contact with fearful, pre-human, chthonic entities who had been trapped for uncounted ages under the earth and in sunken cities and if you can't figure out who these folk may be then you fail at Weird Fiction 101. These foul beings granted Azor much increased power in exchange for a vow to find some way to release them from their eons-long bondage.  With his new powers, Azor then opened up a portal to a new world and took his tribe with him. 

There, they quickly spread out and advanced at a much faster rate of material culture development than their cousins back on Earth.  It turned out that Azor's powers tended to be carried to his off-spring, who gave them to their off-spring and so on.  These powers usually included teleportation, telepathy, "see through vision" (that name cracks me up, I must admit), greatly enhanced life-spans, and often bat-shit insanity (although you really gotta expect little drawbacks like that when accepting presents from the Great Old Ones).  Those with the power were "of the blood of Azor" and these blooded folk became the natural aristocracy.  Earth was forgotten during this period.

Flash forward some 20,000 years and a family of Bloods find their way to Earth in the 1920's.  They look upon this world as one giant play-ground for their own, idiosyncratic pleasures.  They split up and wander the world, learning what the want and generally taking what they want too.  Some of them eventually have children with earth humans and some of these carry the Blood.  So we end up with at least three generations of the family on earth somewhere at present (if the present is still 1985).

Now some of these folks are pretty decent types (albeit with a slight tendency toward insanity) and some are absolute monsters, but they are a family.  So when the psychopathic, megalomaniac Affrighter turns up to steal his siblings' babies (it's just kinda what he does), a brawl doesn't immediately break out.  He and his relative will probably exchange greetings, tell each other what they've been up to for the past few decades, maybe exchange some gossip about other members of the family, and then the brawl breaks out.

There is a lot more packed into those 18 pages - I didn't even get to the part about Bloodletter, who is a sort of creepy riff on Dr. Fate -  but I think that all the above gets the idea across.  I love the potential for stories that the Blood provide.  You can play with ancient mysteries, using Azor's origin as a jumping off place; Lovecraftian horror; political bickering; alternate dimension fantasies; family drama; and on and on.  I've wanted to run an all-Blood game for years, where the players are all third- (or maybe fourth-) generation Blood, born on earth and unaware of their heritage, who get pulled into family squabbling and danger and have to figure out what the hell is going on and how they can use their new powers to protect themselves. 

And yet...

And yet just look at those stat blocks (if you don't have the book, which is somewhat rare, imagine you can look at those stat blocks).  It's amazing to me that I can still make sense out of them after all these years but I guess Champions is indelibly imprinted upon my brain.  But what a mess!  In that previous post, I discussed how much I hated the "mini-game" of character creation in Champions, especially the game of picking out Disadvantages.  The sort of thing I was complaining about there is on full display here.  

Allston apparently liked Vulnerabilities more than my group because every singly character has at least one, but - and here's the point - for no discernible reason.  For example, Blade is one of the tougher and nicer members of the family with maybe more than a passing resemblance to Corwin of Amber (among other things, he has an amnesia story and a heroic son).  Blade is much stronger than anyone else in the family and is a demon with weapons.  And he takes 2x STUN from gas.  Yep: gas.  I can't even figure out what that Vulnerability is supposed to represent other than a way to get another 10 points of Disads.  There is certainly nothing in Blade's write-up to indicate that he has weak lungs or something; knock-out gas just works real good on him.

This same thing appears across all the other Bloods: Pathfinder takes 2X STUN from illusions,  Sabre takes 2x STUN from energy killing attacks, Sala takes 2x STUN from bullets (?!), Affrighter takes 2x STUN from magic; Bloodletter takes 2x STUN from flame, and Gran'pappy Azor takes 1.5x STUN from light-based attacks.  See the theme here? There is no frickin' theme except the game of "how can get some more points?"  Man, I just can't stand these kinds of game systems any more.

I have been thinking a lot about the Blood in the last 24 hours.  That's because I finally found a copy of the book and got to look at it last night for the first time in two decades.  I immediately began to think of things that I would change in the back-story.  Azor's deal with not-Cthlhulu doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense as written nor does the ban on travel to earth.  I'm also not crazy about the mixing of the mutant powers of the Blood with sorcery and would rather have them be part of the same thing.  That would involve re-writing Azor's background so that he only gets his powers once he conjures the evil beings.  And finally (well, not finally, but finally for this little list), I don't quite like the "typical" array of Blood powers; I'd rather redo those too.

None of that should suggest that The Blood isn't a good book.  It really, really is.  My addiction to re-writing things doesn't mean that the original is bad.  Even before I got this book again, I had put in Heroes of Industry a group of beings that fill a similar niche ("the Ultra"), although with more of Kirby's Eternals thrown into the mix as well.  It's interesting seeing how much I remembered of the Blood and how much somebody's game work could influence me thirty-five years later.  My hat is off to you, Mr. Allston.

Bonus Goody:
Here's my write-up for the Blood Meta-Power in HoI terms.  I would use this as representative of a "typical" Blood.  Important characters would probably have the Meta-Power at higher rank and get  some unique, "sport" power (Like Sala's power to create earthquakes or Affrighter's fear-power).

Blood Powers (Incredible +4 Meta-Power, Vulnerability to Magic, Limitation: Powers won't affect those protected against the Old Ones, Required Quality: Violent Temper)
- Super-Strength
- Super-Endurance
- Telepathy
- Teleportation
[all sub-powers at Good +1 Rank]

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Help Me Name A Kind of Power

As promised, I haven't posted anything in a good while, not because I'm not doing anything, but because the work on Heroes of Industry is at a stage where I have nothing interesting to post.  And I never try to bore my imaginary readers.  But now I could use some help naming something.  

I've discussed in previous posts how I am organizing Powers in various ways: Category, Scope, and Effect.  The last includes such Effects as Attack, Defense, Movement, and Alteration (actually, I just did some stuff with Alteration that is kind of worth posting, but that's for another day).  There is another type of Effect for which I can't quite come up with a good name.  Right now I have been calling it "All-or-Nothing Attack".  It represents powers that entangle, blind, paralyze, and bind; that is, rather than go through a full conflict, you roll once and it either takes effect or not.  In the T&J book, we see an example when Snow Owl create ice manacles to shackle the bad guys.

"All or Nothing Attack" is an awfully unwieldy name.  Ideally, it wouldn't have the word "Attack" in it at all (since that is the name of another Effect) nor would be longer than a single word (since all the other Effects are single words).  I'm drawing an absolute blank and so I turn to my hypothetical readers.  What do I call this thing?