Friday, November 14, 2014

Versatile Single Powers

In general when I'm designing characters for supers games I like keeping them focused - a primary ability, a secondary ability, a career based skill and a hobby based skill is usually enough, if not too much. This design makes it really easy to slot the PC into a team with some niche protection (though don't get me started on the construction of bricks, energy projectors et al as being analogous to classes in D&D) and also leaves enough room for versatility in those abilities that the PC can 'fly solo' if needed.

Based on Wednesday's discussions on Big Hero 6 I wanted to toss out a couple of other 'single power' hero ideas have cropped up in my mind lately. There's something wonderful an potentially iconic about an ability that one can, with some creativity, turn into a truly versatile power. Here are some examples:

*Fish Skin*
In my Tri-Stat super heroes game The Aquarius Odyssey Asha wanted a fish based water breather. She ended up with two 'powers' - her secondary one was the classic super-strength and durability that so often comes with water breathing in the 'body designed to survive at ocean depths', but primary was that her skin could mimic the skin of aquatic animals as super-levels. This let her breathe water through her skin like a catfish, feel her surroundings like a shark, excrete a slippery oil to speed motion through the water and resist being grabbed (again like a catfish), generate light like any number of bio-luminescent fish, generate electricity like an eel and have invisibility-level camouflage like a octopus. The more we bothered to read books on marine biology the better this power could become. In V&V it might be Animal Powers- Fish but I prefer it as a single highly versatile Body Power.

*Customizable Mind*
I've been reading some Oliver Sacks essays and its always amazing seeing some of the breadth of what the human mind is capable of, and it would be interesting to have a PC who could take advantage of that, turning parts on and off, or just having a 'perfect' brain. The tales of the people who, after some brain trauma, can learn languages with great rapidity, or suddenly know how to play the piano and compose music and so on are well documented, but Sacks also comments on a man who lost his color vision but his black and white nightvision became incredibly acute, reading license plates from 4 blocks away and seeing with almost no light (mind you his physical eyes were unchanged; it's just how his brain interpreted the sensory data) and how the twitches of people with Tourettes have been clocked at 1/6th normal human reaction times. Again in V&V Speak someone with Willpower as a power could do a lot with this.

*Wings*
Call me nuts, but I've always wanted to play a PC who just had Wings (I'm currently using Angel as an NPC in my ongoing X-Men Play By E-Mail and having a blast with it.) Sure, on a base level all you can do is fly, but the musculature needed around the torso to make a pair of extra limbs, never mind wings, work would almost certainly give low end super-strength, Swans and geese routinely use wings as striking appendages that hit hard enough to break a mans leg at a range that puts them well outside usual punch and kick counter attacks. If the wings are classic comic book 'can do anything any bird can do' then they move fast enough to let the PC hover, but even without that such wings could generate huge amounts of wind with plenty of possibilities for it, and the character can glide silently. There's a lot to be said for a simple set of wings if you look closely enough.

*Light Powers Device*
One of my favorites, the Light Powers ability in V*V has a couple of standard uses, but I like the idea of having a device be a handful of devices, so the PC is carrying a versatile flashlight with IR and UV finctionality, a laser welding torch, a laser pistol, a handful of flash grenades, goggles with both light amplification and a flare device built into them, a suit that glows sptlight bright to prevent accurate targeting and so on. You can do the same thing with other devices but somehow Light Powers lends itself to this most readily in my mind.

I'm sure I could go on for a while, but the point is to build out your PC from a single logical starting point. V&V works best for this because most of its powers are cause rather than effect based. Effect based games leave me flat because players end up in standard configurations. I prefer figuring out what the power does, and then work out how you can use it. It's much more of a Marvel style than a DC style, but shortly I'll be discussing how I intend to use this for a DC Heroes game.