Friday, July 17, 2015

Villains & Vigilantes + What if 1963 pt 1

Strength, Flight and Invulnerability: Captain America

Part of a new series on Villains &Vigilantes, I’m going to look at several of the powers and suggest ways to tweak them for individual campaigns. For example characters I’ll be translating the PCs from Mark L. Chance’s “What If 1963” PBEM from Marvel Super Heroes into V&V. Be warned that this whole sequence is V&V technical.

Super Strength, Flight and Invulnerability are the primal super-human powers, so we’ll tackle them first.

V&V is fascinating in that it measures carrying capacity against real world concepts – it’s a combination of your Strength attribute (primary) your weight (secondary) and your Endurance (tertiary), and work out so that the high ends of the normal attribute scale (18-20 S and E) let you lift 4-5 times your weight, which is just about the world record for Deadlift.

That's great on a 3-18 scale, but it means that most Ht. Strength A rolls will make people superhuman. For some games that’s fine, but street level heroes might do better with a broader stat range to better differentiate them – broadening the scale to go from, say, Sandman to Wildcat to Atom in athletic to strong normal to almost superhuman.

So change the carrying capacity formula. Current math uses 1/10th of your strength score to the 3rd power. If we reduce that to the 2nd power we shift the scale down with minimal impact on normal people – a 15 S goes from a 400 lb. carry cap to a 300 lb. for a normal man, hardly a deal breaker. Hit Points, Power Points and Movement calculations are as before – it’s just Carrying Capacity (and by extension Basic HTH damage) that is rescaled. Make this change and the ‘theoretical human maximum’ of lifting x5 your weight now occurs at a 30 S. That gives a nice broad band for humans, and the 5x weight for a 195 lb. PC just cuts into a new dice code for HTH damage. Is this higher than current records? Yes, but we are in a super-hero game.

If that’s all we did we would be making one of V&V’s emulation issues – the difficulty in having really strong PCs – worse, not better. But since we’re already open to changing the calculation, how about this: change the power of your strength for the calculation is 2+ the number of times you have Heightened Strength B? (For those not familiar with the system A-level heightened stats increase the score by +2d10 and are considered ‘skills’ while B-level ones are +3d10 and come from powers, devices or magic items.) This resolves both issues.

As an example, someone rolls well on a Ht. Strength A and has a 28 S. Someone else rolls a normal Ht. Strength B and also has a 28 S. A third soul rolls St. Strength B x2 and with a poor 6d10 roll also ends up with a 28 S. They all have the same bonus to Hit points, Power Score and Movement Rate, but the first has a Carrying Capacity of 800 lbs, the second has a Carrying Capacity of 1 Ton and the third has a Carrying Capacity of 3 tons.

But with a more reasonable 6d10 roll the third character likely has a 45 S. Currently they have a Carrying Capacity of 4 tons. Nothing to sneeze at but not to scale with the comics, especially for a double dose of Ht. Strength B. V&V players get around this modifying PC weights, but with my suggestion that hero with 45 S from x2 Ht. Strength B has a Carry Cap of 18.5 tons, in line with Marvel. With a really good roll and a 58 S he’d have a 50 ton Carry Cap. That’s classic Marvel.

This does open characters up to the higher Basic HTH scores faster – if this is a worry you can also insert multiple d12s to the table between the d10s. The 8 to 15 ton range becomes 2d12 damage; 15-30 is 3d10; 30-60 is 3d12, 61-122 is 4d10, 123-245 is 4d12 and so on. Since I always had trouble with the Basic HTH damage going up as high as it did this change sits well with me. YMMV.

Invulnerability is a tricky power: in the source material it means you can ignore attacks below a certain (sometimes quite high) threshold. In 1st Edition Villains & Vigilantes had it as a Defense Type, an Adaptation that included kinetic energy attacks. That could work but didn’t quite catch the feeling of the power, hence the move to an ablative pool.

Unfortunately that doesn’t quite work either. First, an ablative defense already exists in Armor and generally works better there. Second, Invulnerability can get chewed up too fast: the weakest power attacks do 1d12 damage, while close combat types will combine lower Basic HTH dice with weapon or skill damages to get to about the same level of 8 pts per attack. An average Invulnerability roll is 16 points, so it is gone with 2 hits. That captures some types of heroes, but not those with Invulnerability as a core power – Power Man can shrug off any number of low caliber bullets or people hitting him with baseball bats.

An easy solution is to give an option with Invulnerability – Invulnerability A is the power as written. Invulnerability B is a 2d10 threshold where any the damage is taken off of every attack but the player also has to indicate a type of attack that completely bypasses the Invulnerability. (same as the limitation on Regeneration.) Superman has this with Magic.

A hero able to ignore 10 points of damage from every attack makes a good Power Man analog. Taken higher, the ability to ignore up to 20 points of damage from every attack is potentially game changing. This is where communicating with the player comes in – do they want to face other really strong, tough foes? Trying to reduce the need for combat in favor of rescues, emotional choices and moral dilemmas? Comfortable with foes looking to circumvent their invulnerability? All make for fun play as long as the GM knows what the player is looking for.

V&V gets this power more or less right – speed is Strength x Endurance in MPH, so in practice it starts at 80 mph and scales up quickly. There’s the question of what you can do with that movement, and while the rules say that movement rate can be used to open doors, program computers and whatnot it’s pretty clear the intent is for that to be your base movement (definitely augmented by Heightened Speed and perhaps by Speed Bonus) and not for alternate movement rates like fight. Depending on the character you might let them do some things with that movement if they have enough of it – someone with a Flight speed greater than 1700 MPH might match a bullet and be able to catch it, for example.

Flight also allows Hyper Flight, an out of combat speed boost. Per the rules it’s 1/10th your MPH, but that’s too fast for the source material. 1/100th is a better fit, so the ‘slowest’ hyper flyer moves faster than any manned plane but slower than really fast missiles, while someone who could catch a bullet is uncatchable. Hyper flight also lets you hit lightspeed in space, but I’d augment that to 1/100th your MPH in warps. This is fast enough for the characters to reach Pluto in 90 minutes (assuming Earth is in the right place) so the solar system becomes as accessible as a continent.

Rick “Captain America” Jones
To see how these rules work in practice, here’s the What If? Avengers Captain America, Rick Jones who gained Superman-style Flight, Invulnerability, Strength and Speed from the Gamma Bomb explosion. While he’s a character with a lot of raw power he is also a) an unskilled combatant who only lands blows 20-30% of the time and b) played as someone who wants to protect people, so his actions are often split into rescuing people and interposing himself to block attacks. Even without that his basic HTH is ‘only’ 4d12, rather than the classic 7d10 so he isn’t quite as damaging.

Villains and Vigilantes 2nd Edition
Identity: Rick Jones Side: Good
Name: Captain America Gender: Male
Experience: 9,500 Level: 4 Age: 17
Powers: Training: 1)S; 2)Wt;3)I Current S
Ht. Strength B x2: +55
Ht. Endurance B: +16
Invulnerability: 19 pts per attack, does not work vs. radiation
Flight: PR 1 per hour, 1,768 MPH or MACH 17.5 hyper flight
Vulnerability: Takes 1d20 damage per round (no invulnerability) from Gamma Radiation
Weight: 239 Basic Hits: 5 Agility Mod: 0
Strength: 68 Endurance: 26
Agility: 13 Intelligence: 12
Charisma: 15 React. Mod.: 2
Hit Mod. 20.59 Hit Points: 103
Dmg. Mod.: 1 Healing Rate: 3.5
Accuracy: 1 Power: 119
Carrying Capacity:      255,818 Base HTH Damage: 4d12
Movement Rates: 107 " Running (Base) run at 25 mph
Fly at 7779" per turn
Det. Hidden: 10 % Det. Danger: 14 %
Inventing Points: 4.8 Cash:   $            -  
Inventing: 36 %
Origin and Background: (Extradimensional) Performer
After sneaking onto the site of a gamma bomb explosion Jones gained 
the powers of a man of Tomorrow. He rescued the bomb's designer, 
Bruce Banner, from the clutches of the government and fled to our world
Legal Status: Member of the Avengers
(Sec. Clearance = 18 )