Friday, July 24, 2015

Villains & Vigilantes +What If 1963 part 4

Heightened Agility, Lightning Control, inventiveness and little powers: Union

Now we get to my PC from this game, and we see how much modification is needed to shift characters from one system to another. I warn you that a lot of Union was built to take advantage of the Marvel Super Heroes rules point buy and how that accommodated a lot of ‘weak’ powers.

Heightened Agility

Agility is one place where the system is, er, potentially bustificated. Not in a ‘if we make this tweak it can model a different power level’ but in a ‘Holy sweet Cthulhu is this potentially overpowered!’ sort of way. The simple truth is that the combination of high Hit Point modifier, accuracy bonus and damage bonus makes a high Agility more useful than any other stat. There are a few ways to ‘fix’ this but any of them will radically change the underlying system and support existing support materials. I’ll run through them, but at the end of the day high Agility is, I think, something the GM is just going to have to monitor on their own. If everyone in the campaign has a high Agility, it’s no problem if the GM is ready for it. If one or two people have it as a core power, again no real issue. If everyone except one or two people have it, it’s a big issue. That’s when you end up with really bored players.

The first, easiest solution is to eliminate the Damage Bonus for Agility. This makes high Intelligence more useful comparatively as there’s no other route to Damage Bonus. Remember that every +1 of Damage Bonus is statistically the same as a die code (+1=1d2, +2=1d3, +3=1d4 and so on) so a high Agility character with a +5 Damage Modifier is the mechanically the same as adding 1d8 to every attack. That’s a ton of bonus, and stripping it out does a lot to bring Ht. Agility in line.

Another possibility is reducing the Hit Point Modifier for Agility, often by swapping it with the Strength modifier. This makes Strength more powerful and Agility less, tilting HP more towards overall toughness than the combination of stats. This works to solve what, back in the day, Daniel Harvey referred to as the Mary Lou Retton Chained To The Wall Problem: why would a high agility give you HP when you can’t move. The answer, of course, is that all Hit points are abstractions, that high agility carries with it some connotation of physical fitness and stop worrying about it.

You can tone down the Accuracy Modifier, setting it equal to the Damage Modifier for Intelligence, or even lower. I do not advocate unless you’re also making the changes I recommend for Heightened Expertise because the Agility modifier is baked in to so many weapon expert and martial artist characters. Besides, with the change as to when the defense table is checked after the bonuses are added the Accuracy Modifier loses some of its punch.

Finally you can change the Initiative Interval - which is currently 15 phases between actions - making it less useful at higher levels of speed. It could be 15 for the first action, then 18, then 20, meaning you need ever higher agility scores to get those 3rd or 4th actions. I’m a fan of changing initiative Intervals for some things like weight gains from Growth or Chemical Power but not for this. It’s too much fussiness for too little reward.

Lightning Control

This one is a pretty classic power that V&V nails. It might be a bit fiddly, with rolls against Intelligence and Agility for controlling things and Endurance for shorting them out, but that just makes the power require a broadly skilled character to really make use of. Now, as a GM I am more than willing to swap out certain things – take away the range on the attacks to add on Flame Powers style flight, eliminate the control to raise the short out percentages – to get the power closer to the player’s ideal state, but those are all minor changes.

In the comics a lot of characters with Lightning Control have some weak Magnetic Powers (or vice versa) so I will also let players swap between those two powers, or justify invention rolls to expand into their counterpart ability a little bit.

Heightened Intelligence A

Getting a boost to Intelligence makes the character slightly more combat capable via Damage Bonus and a little more aware of their surroundings, but the biggest boost comes in Inventing Points and Inventing Percentage. Inventing is where the difference between a 15 and a 25 is worth noting because you now get 2+ inventing points per level and a high enough percent chance to make invention attempts worthwhile. Heightened Intelligence A is what makes Peter Parker, with his mini-camera and spider tracers and spidey-light and spider-mobile and the various other one shot gizmos he whips up.

I have a few usual questions with inventing in play:
First, how much do the knowledge areas play into this? Are they blockers, where you have a reduced chance to invent outside your areas of knowledge or are they adders were you have the normal rules everywhere else and a bonus within your knowledge areas? I prefer the latter – for non-Heightened Intelligence characters the chances are pretty poor to begin with, so a little boost doesn’t hurt. I allow an extra .5 Intelligence multiple to the inventing percent for each Knowledge Area that fits the invention, so if one fits its Ix3.5, if 2 fit it’s Ix4 and so on. That gives an advantage without it being overwhelming.

Second is whether someone can start play with inventions: I say yes. If the player comes you before the first session with one or two things they want to have built that help define their character, go for it. Assuming they have the inventing points to back it up, of course.

Third is what really qualified as 1/4th to 1/3rd as powerful as a regular power? For powers that have multiple aspects, like Lightning Control, I’d allow only one of those per invention. Damages should drop several die codes (from d12 to d8, 2d8 to 1d10) at a minimum. Things that ratchet up by level for Powers should we fixed at first level. These things are helpful add-ons but shouldn’t compete with someone who has this as a primary ability. Stat boosts, if allowed at all, should cap at +3, similar to the bonus to Agility that Wings provides. This is enough to give a legitimate boost in HP and bonuses but not enough to compete with actual Powers.

Finally, I let people Invent new ways to use their powers, stealing the power stunt rules from Marvel Super Heroes, because they’re fun and they work.

Adrian “Union” Toomes

In the What If? Universe Adrian Toomes. Rather than flying off the handle and attacking Gregory Bestman with his flight suit and moving on to a life of crime instead hired young lawyer Matthew Murdock, who re-secured some of his patents and income from the crooked Bestman. This gave Toomes time to perfect his inventions and go on to become a small electronics repair shop owner by day and the leader of the Avengers in this spare time.

He was a heck of a fun character to play. One thing about building him is that the GM turned Marvel Super Heroes into a point system, where we had a fixed number of points to be spent into 5 point intervals. So In addition to the Agility boost that defined the character I pumped up Union Strength, Endurance and Fighting to Excellent levels, gave him a little bit of flight, a little bit of magnetic powers, and generally spread the points around on the theory that being able to fly at slow speed is lands better than not being able to fly at all.

Translating this back into V&V was a problem because V&V focuses the characters on a smaller number of powers. That’s why I played so much with the inventing rules, and shoehorned the flight into the Electrical Powers. In the end it’s a good approximation. 

Identity: Adrian Toomes Side: Good
Name: Union Gender: Male
Experience: 9,500 Level: 4 Age: 63
Powers: Training: 1)A; 2)S; 3)E currently I
Heightened Agility B Device: +26
Lightning Control Device: 22 charges. 1 action to start defense at 1 charge/hour. Attack has 1" range
  from connected metal for 2d8 damage at 1 charge/use. Flight at 50 mph normally or 400 mph over 
  electrical field lines at 1 charge/hour. Control electronics or short out devices 1 charge/use (see book).
Heightened Intelligence A +5
Inventions: 1) Ht. Agility device also gives +3 STR and END  2) Magnetic Device with 400 lb lift at 15",
    Defense only v Basic HTH. 1chg/hr 4 charges 3) Weighted steel cable for use with magnetics SR 10
   4) Eletromagnetic energy scanner 5" range.  5) carry harness for passenger in flight/emergency armor
   6) chain mail suit acts as 31 ADR armor. 7) compressed iron ore to generate cloud with magnetics 
Weight: 165 Basic Hits: 4 Agility Mod: 0  
Strength: 13 Endurance: 13
Agility: 36 Intelligence: 22
Charisma: 13 React. Mod.: 1
Hit Mod. 8.702 Hit Points: 35
Dmg. Mod.: 7 Healing Rate: 1.2
Accuracy: 6 Power: 84
Carrying Capacity:               247 Base HTH Damage: 1d6
Movement Rates: 62 " Running (Base)
Flight at 220" per turn
Det. Hidden: 16 % Det. Danger: 20 %
Inventing Points: 8.8 -7 Cash:   $            -  
Inventing: 66 %  
Origin and Background: (American) Research/Technologyx2
Scientist (Electricity) 
Legal Status: Leader of the Avengers
(Sec. Clearance = 15 )