Monday, July 27, 2015

Villains & Vigilantes + What If 1963 part 5

Animal/Plant Powers, Natural Weaponry, Speed Bonus: Malachi

This is the last of the characters run by people who were my close friends, so this is the last one I feel comfortable adapting. Malachi is a classic character type, but also evidence of a way in which V&V’s system can work against itself.

Animal/Plant Powers

Animal Plant Powers is one of those places where the system can work really well, or break horribly. Like Armor B or Transformation A, Animal Powers carries with it additional abilities and potentially additional weaknesses. If this is one of the characters few powers, great; if it’s not the GM and Player need to work together to hash out what the power is and how it works. That there are tables for each animal or plant type helps with clarifying what the power can do, but it becomes too easy to read it as what it must do, and that can lead to really obscenely powerful characters – Animal Powers layered on top of 5 other abilities can be too much. While the GM and Players should always take the advice that straddles pages 4-5 to heart, they should definitely have it in mind as they manage the pitfalls on Animal/Plant Powers.

One reason for this is V&V’s multiplicative nature when it comes to attributes: a high HP mod in one stat is good, but having two heightened stats is much better. Animal/Plant powers can lead to 3 or even 4 heightened stats (as can placing all rolls on the Skills table) and that can lead to a massive amount of Hit Points. If Animal Powers balances this with some reduced stats or other weaknesses, fine, but there’s no guarantee of that.

I don’t advocate any changes to the rules other than the possibility of just chucking the rules out and coming up with 1-6 animal powers that are about equivalent to a Heightened Ability A, just as one would do with Bionics. That will yield the same effect, but likely with better results for your game.

Natural Weaponry

Much of what I said earlier in Heightened Expertise applies here too – in theory Natural Weaponry should provide as much of a bonus as, well, a weapon. However if you want to play a martial artist or claws-carrying badass you don’t want to have to add High Agility to Heightened Expertise to Natural Weaponry in order to get there. It’s easier just to bump up the bonus to get the accuracy where you want it to be (from 10-16 to match other powers) before you hit the defense table. Don’t overcomplicate your life.

The second issue with Natural Weaponry is the flat damage bonus. This is WAY more useful than a comparable weapon – the +6 to damage is the statistical equivalent to +1d10, which no weapon in the game matches. To better simulate having your hands be weapons, make those dice rolls, probably from 1d3 to 1d8, the basic weapons scale. That balances out the much higher accuracy numbers.

Speed Bonus

Poor, sad Speed Bonus. Nobody loves you. Because you suck. On a fundamental level this is the worst power in the game, especially since any heightened physical attribute will duplicate a chunk of its effects. There are a few ways to make this power more useful.

First, increase the bonus to +2d10x10. Let’s make this slightly more useful, shall we?

Second, like Body Power players should realize that the ability to add this to any movement rate means adding it to movement rates they don’t have yet. This is where you get increased swimming speed (should be your S in inches as a base), super climbing speed, air walking, tunneling, walking through walls without necessarily a defense type, and so on. Or it gives a bonus power to your existing movement – you never have to make agility checks when navigating an urban environment ala Daredevil running the rooftops and power cables, you never make noise when moving ala Wesley Dodds in Sandman Mystery Theater – something, anything to make the power more of a power.

Actual comparisons of speed the way we compare strengths are harder, in part because there are inherent endurance issues in real world speed and in part because game mechanics use 3 stats to measure speed. To best measure things I'm using not just sprints but also medium races (1-2 miles), marathons and steeplechases (which is probably the best measure of super-hero combat area speeds).
current human maximums are
Marathon: 13 mph, 57"
Steeplechase: 14 mph, 62"
2 mile: 15 mph, 66"
1 mile: 16 mph, 71"
400m: 20 mph, 88"
100m: 23 mph, 101"
I'm trying to back into Steeplechase record speeds for movement rates since that works best for super-hero combat movement. A ‘normal’ human being has a 30” move, while someone with 20’s S, E and A will approach the Steeplechase number.
I think a better method is that if someone has the Sports Knowledge Area you can give them +10” of combat movement (which, with the now increased Speed Bonus, can’t equal the power). This means scores of 16-18 will get you to the world record in Steeplechase. That works for me.

To expand on the rules, characters can also spend 8 points of power per turn for each extra time they add their Strength to their ground movement rate. Getting to the 101” of the 100m dash from the steeplechase number will take a normal runner 2 or 3 multiples so 16-24 Power spent for that single turn. That captures the fatigue of the shorter races nicely.

Now you add in Speed Bonus and a faster than a normal man but not Heightened Speed level hero can get to two to four times normal human speeds, and without burning a ton of power to do it. That’s a meaningful power. It’s still not great, but no longer as sucky.

Sam “Malachi” Wilson

The What If universe Sam Wilson is a mutant who fills the niche of either Captain America or Beast in the ‘better than any normal human but questionably not superhuman’ category, except he really is superhuman in his limited regeneration and Body Armor powers. That’s in Marvel – I’m skipping those in V&V for being irrelevant, as the combination of heightened stats from his Animal Powers (Human, hey, we’re animals!) gives him an insane number of hit points and really high healing rate. He doesn’t need body armor when he has 142 Hit Points!

Identity: Sam Wilson Side: Good
Name: Malachi Gender: Male
Experience: 5,500 Level: 3 Age: 27
Powers: Training: 1)E; 2)I, working on A
Animal Powers - Human: Ht. Strength +19, Ht. Endurance +11, Ht. Agility +12, Ht. Intelligence +8
 Ht. Senses (double normal detects)
Natural Weaponry Skill: +8 to hit, +1d4 damage unarmed (base unarmed accuracy is 17)
Speed Bonus: +70" ground movement rate, movement in unrban environment requires to Agility checks. 
Prejudice: Malachi is Black in 1963, Prejudice is pretty much a prerequiste. 
Weight: 220 Basic Hits: 5 Agility Mod: 0
Strength: 30 Endurance: 24
Agility: 27 Intelligence: 21
Charisma: 14 React. Mod.: 1
Hit Mod. 28.22 Hit Points: 142
Dmg. Mod.: 5 Healing Rate: 3.5
Accuracy: 5 Power: 102
Carrying Capacity:           1,254 Base HTH Damage: 1d10
Movement Rates: 151 " Running (Base) 34 mph run
Det. Hidden: 32 % Det. Danger: 40 %
Inventing Points: 6.3 Cash:   $            -  
Inventing: 63 %
Origin and Background: American, Legal & Law Enforcement
Legal Status: Member of the Avengers
(Sec. Clearance = 20 )