Friday, July 31, 2015

Villains & Vigilantes +What If 1963 Part 7

Magnetic Powers, and Telekinesis: Duststorm

OK, now we have the last one. There are two other characters in the campaign but one of them – Specter, with his combination of non-corporeality, death touch and heightened intelligence – is pretty simple to model and the other – Dark Angel with massive Darkforce manipulation – means tackling the Illusions B rules which I’m really not up for. So lets take a look at the two ‘move things without touching them’ powers.

Magnetic Powers:

Magnetism has always been odd in comics in that effects all metal. If this were true more people in sleek modern kitchens could hang kids artwork on their refrigerators but it’s the comics so there you go. In any event Magnetic Powers is the ‘stronger’ of the two distance manipulation powers given the higher weight multiple, but nicely balanced with the high power cost. It’s one of my favorite powers to play with (as evidenced by Union earlier, who invented his way into it) in the balance of versatility, attack and defense. In its framework we also see how to work other distance manipulation powers – if the character can move or manipulate any limited class of item Magnetic Powers is the way to go.

In my games I’ve used it for earth control, ice animation and water control and in all of these cases the mechanic of 50*S*level worked pretty well. OK the defense type is a little too tailored to electromagnetism, clearly being a force field of some sort, but that’s a trivial issue that you really only need to worry about if you’re a fanatic. And I was a fanatic in my youth but who has time for that any more? One thing that did become common was the defense could be traded out for something like ice armor, where movement could be spent to encase the character in their controlled element to give them ADR. With ice animation this was sort of redundant but that’s why it’s a smooth fix.

One can argue that the curve starts out too slow, but 500 lbs at 1st level is an okish damage and by 4th you’re moving a ton. The bigger problem is the velocity calculation – that goes up too fast. It was way more effective for my classic magnetic powers hero to hurl quarters for 1pt wt + 3d0 velocity damage than try to use larger items for 2d8. Yes the larger items might give an accuracy boost but that wasn’t enough to tilt the balance. I think a cleaner system is giving a flat damage based on capacity that is made up with either weight or velicity and a higher base attack for any magnetically controlled object for again a combination of size and speed and the attackers ability to move it in flight. That makes the power much more predictable and scalable with the other abilities.

If you really don’t like the growing power aspect just set capacity at S*200 lbs. That makes ‘normal’ people with S of 10-20 able to control 1d12 to 2d10 basic HTH worth of matter. Can someone layer this with Ht. Strength and get a really high capacity? Yes, but they could do that before. Not worth being a fanatic about it.


This power is very similar to magnetic powers but it starts smaller and has a lot of fiddly bits. Like Weather Control it’s a power that demands the practitioner have good across-the-board stats. This makes the power slower to grow than magnetic powers but the fact that capacity and velocity are separate stops velocity from being so much more useful than using big weapons. By about 3rd level the character is probably doing 1d6 to 1d8 with a telekinetic blast and another 1d4 for velocity. While that’s not a ton it balances out to a 1d12 damage attack when you take both together.

More important for the power is its versatility. Just as Heightened Speed is about what you can do to the environment, Telekinesis is about what you can do with it. Any piece of environmental debris 0 and when you get high enough level stuff that’s not even debris – becomes something you can use to mess with the opposition. The GM should probably let the TK person use a different attack type or just make saves vs. Int to make ‘attacks’ on opponents gear that are not directly damaging. Jamming guns or unloading them, yanking small vehicles out of reach and otherwise screwing with people is the nature of TK. What it should not be used for is breaking or taking away actual Devices or Items without the usual attack roll method. Sure it’s an entirely narrative contrivance but it’s one that works in genre.

The biggest trick that TK characters have is rationalizing that since their opponent weighs 180 lbs and they can lift 55o lbs they just have to lift their opponent in the air and they can’t do anything. And since they can move anything else they pick up they should be able to treat the tk’d opponent like a marionette. This is seriously unfun for game balance and needs to be strongly avoided. Any attempt to pick up an opponent may work, but they can break free by comparing their carry cap to your TK. I don’t care if they’re airborne. I don’t care if they have no traction or leverage. Carry cap vs. TK capacity. Done. And if they have twice your TC capacity in carry cap it doesn’t even take them time to break the hold. Likewise if they can fly compare their flight speed to your velocity – if you don’t beat that, you can’t hold them. If you do manage to hold them they can still act freely from their airborne position – target, aim, fire – unless you actively struggle against them – you have to have at least three times their carry cap to hold them still or have a saved action to mess with them. It’s really had to do because otherwise every fight is Shocker becomes Mr. PiƱata. I have experienced this. Learn from my failures.

Janet “Duststorm” Van Dyne

This worlds Janet van Dyne was a mutant, likely due to the radiation from her father’s scientific researches. Mutant Janet has the ability to manipulate air and earth, but she keeps this hidden from her paramour Hank Pym, which is just as well because What If 1960’s Hank Pym is a violent white supremacist who still builds his shrinking and insect control devices to fight for segregation as the WASP. (I always that was really clever….)

She has both the earth and air modifications for Magnetic Powers and TK, as well as a little cheat in her psionics that boost her raw power and give her the heightened senses that she justified under her air control in Marvel Super Heroes. Duststorm was an interesting character design there because all her versatility was in one power and all her potency was in the other. Plus she’s got no greater superhuman stats, making her a the sort of character that V&V and MSH handle much better than other supers games.

And this closes out the experiment, at least until I can come up with a brilliant way to make Illusions B easier.

Identity: Janet Van Dyne Side: Good
Name: Duststorm Gender: Female
Experience: 5,500 Level: 3 Age: 24
Powers: Training: 1) A; 2) E; 3) I currently I
Magnetic Powers (Modified) - Earth Control: manipulate 4,950 lbs of earth at 33" range for 33 turns PR 5
  1" of movement to coat herself in earth for 1 ADR up to 100 ADR. Each pt of ADR adds 1% of current
   earth capacity to carrying capacity and basic HTH. Fully armored HTH is 2d8. Earth blasts PR 5 2d8
Psionics: S is considered +20 for Earth Control; I is considered +20 for detection due to air control senses
   she hs a functioning 'radar sense' out to 20" due to air contol senses. 
Telekinesis (Modified) - Air Control: can move air with 390 lbs of force (or control 5070 cubic feet of air). 
   Treat the force as telekinetic capacity as long as there is air around. Velocity is 45", range is 42"
   PR 1 per use per turn. Anything she's moving has a free TK based defense due to the wind force. 
   Duststorm uses this to fly herself at appx 10 mph
Weight: 120 Basic Hits: 3 Agility Mod: 2  
Strength: 13 Endurance: 12
Agility: 15 Intelligence: 14
Charisma: 16 React. Mod.: 2
Hit Mod. 2.957 Hit Points: 9
Dmg. Mod.: 1 Healing Rate: 0.9
Accuracy: 2 Power: 54
Carrying Capacity:               173 Base HTH Damage: 1d4
Movement Rates: 40 " Running (Base) 45" flight speed
Det. Hidden: 24 % Det. Danger: 28 %
Inventing Points: 4.2 Cash:   $            -  
Inventing: 42 %  
Origin and Background: (American) Inheritor and Business skills
Legal Status: Member of the Avengers
(Sec. Clearance = 18 )