Monday, July 20, 2015

Villains & Vigilantes + What if 1963 Pt 2

Heightened Expertise, Armor B, Gravity Control: Aegis

Moving on to another character lets us take a deeper dive into two other powers that highlight problems which are really opportunities, and a third power that’s working just fine (Business Speak!)

Heightened Expertise:

On the surface this is pretty basic – you get a bonus to hit with one, a group of, or all attacks – but that highlights one problem with the combat system: defense oriented powers. In the current rules Hawkeye has a better chance of hitting Red Ghost than Mr. Fantastic does because of his Heightened Expertise and the bonus from his weapon. This makes zero sense in genre emulation. If Red Ghost is non-corporeal both men should have a minimal chance to catch him off guard and land a blow.

The immediate solution to this is to record the characters Accuracy for each attack –a combination of the attack type’s base to hit plus the characters Accuracy bonus from agility and any bonuses from powers and weapon. This is an easily calculable, pretty constant number. That is then applied to the defense type table. Then you add in variable factors such as Level v. Level and Evasions. Other than having done the Accuracy math in advance this is no more complex than normal play, but by prioritizing Defenses over Accuracy Bonuses we get better genre emulation.

It does, on the surface, nerf Heightened Expertise (and Natural Weaponry, but we’ll address that one later) but players and the GM should remember that many opponents have no defense types, especially in the thug/mook area. Still, the argument is a valid one. One big issue is the low basic HTH number. It’s not a problem because it reflects reality but because it takes layering high agility, heightened expertise and weapon bonuses to match the to-hit numbers of most powers. (Which, when those bonuses are applied after defenses, breaks genre emulation.)

The solution then is to increase the bonus heightened expertise. In simple terms it becomes +8 if applied to a single weapon, +6 if applied to a group of weapons, or +4 for all attacks, or if it applies to a power rather than a weapon. A second application of the power, if there is one, also provides a single +4.

Now someone like Hawkeye has an accuracy of 5 base, +8 for the single weapon, +3 for the weapon bonus: 16, or as good as a Power Blast attack. Add in his likely +3 Agility modifier to Accuracy and his base accuracy is 19. Of course if he tries to shoot Red Ghost his chance drops to 0 (give or take level v. level) because the Soviet saboteur is Non-Corporeal. If he tries to shoot Mr. Fantastic the Stretching Powers defense severely curtails his chance to land a telling shot, but doesn’t eliminate it. When fighting mooks or skrulls or krees Hawkeye can go nuts with multi-attacks but for foes with defenses he’s best off finding a trick arrow or two. Sounds about right.

A second use of Heightened Expertise to boost it up is allowing the bonus to apply to some non-combat rolls. This is highly dependent on the character but the ability could be extended to any roll falling in the powers scope and the characters idiom. Captain America, who has +4 with all attacks, probably also gets that bonus (or a +20% on percentile checks) for developing strategy, detecting ambushes, agility checks, inspiring soldiers, and other super-soldiery things. If you do allow this you might want to drop the overall bonus down a little bit, just to balance things out.

Gravity Control

Always one of the iffy powers due to how it’s written. On the plain page it’s clear that it’s meant to slam people into the Earth (or similar body), hurl them away from it or leave them bobbing about in zero-G (plus reduced weight to make super-jumping viable is an easy step).That’s good enough – and captures several of the gravity controllers in comics – but it is limiting. So let’s look at how else to do it.

Flame Powers is the default design emulation – it’s easy to see how Gravity Control could provide a defense, a ranged attack of moderate oomph and flight. Letting the player set a multiple to use for the Power Requirement and apply that to their Strength in MPH for flight speed, Str x25 in force for a damaging attack or to use as the weight multiple if the attack increases or negates gravity. I’d recommend that the attack only does one of the three, but if it does more than one then bump up the Power Requirement for the ability by 1 for each extra. (This is how the Wizard is built, with his thrown disks taking the place of ‘ray blasts’.)

Alternately Gravity Control can mimic Heightened Strength. Emulating this is multiplying carrying capacity by the gravity multiple applied, likely with a PR of the multiple per hour. A relatively normal hero with a 400 lb. Carry Cap can burn 10 power an hour to become a creditable strongman (albeit without the HP boost).

Or you could abandon the up/down orientation of the power and let the character shift gravity to other objects – falling sidewise becomes Flight rather than just super-jumping. Precision gravity warps emulate TK. If you’re going to open it up to this I’d set a weight limit on any precision work equal to Power Spent x Strength, with a similar Speed limit in MPH, per turn. For TK or per hour per flight. Then make Intelligence saves to do the complex math to make this, er, fly, but it would still be part of the existing Gravity Control and not a variant.

Armor B:

Another power that V&V gets right. The only thing I might want to add is having an invulnerability equal to 1/10th or 1/20th the ADR as one of the more common internal devices would better emulate some armor wearing characters who just igore bullets. I’d only add this if they don’t have any other defense types. Iron Man in the comics doesn’t just have Armor B, but backs it up with magnetic powers and Life Support defenses. No need to layer up too many defenses or the character can’t be threatened.

One thing I like about Armor B is that the bonus devices make it possible to build a weapons platform character like Iron Man – the core abilities are likely their own devices but the only use occasionally ice generation, fire suppression, electricity absorption, rocket skates and lord knows what else are bonus devices or later inventions. It’s great genre.

Bethany “Aegis” Cabe

In the What If universe Cabe was Starks security consultant from early on and did act as his bodyguard, as well as first pilot of his armored suit. Stark has always surrounded himself with beautiful women and Cabe maintains her secret ID by blending in with that crowd and the Aegis armor having a long red blonde tail that distracts people from her.


Cabe’s personal skills make her a talented bodyguard, unarmed combatant and crack hot even without the armor. In the armor she’s very touch to hurt, fast and strong, with the various invention letting her become even stronger, even faster or using other weapons as needs demand. It requires a lot of balancing her power levels against her needs, but she can safely run 8 hours of 4 ton lift, flight and defense with a smattering of ranged attacks without worrying, and can go toe to toe with the Rick Jones Captain America for a few minutes if needs be.


Identity: Bethany Cabe Side: Good
Name: Aegis Gender: Female
Experience: 9,500 Level: 4 Age: 30
Powers: Training: 1)E; 2)A; 3)A; Working on A
Heightened Strength B Device: +26 (more precisely, the STR of anyone in the device is 40)
Gravity Powers Device (Modifed): Flight at 80 mph 1 charge/hr; Gravity Pulse Bolts 1d12, 8" 1 chg/shot;
   Weight of wearer treated as x2 for Carry Cap & Basic HTH 1 chg/hr.; Carry Cap x10 with increase 
   Basic HTH 1 Charge/Action. Flight to 800 MPH 1 chare/turn. Defense 1 charge/hr. Has 24 charges
Armor B Device:  105 ADR armor, has the following additional inventions built in. Has 15 charges.
   1) Electrical Immunity: Adaptation defense against Lightning; 1 action to Absorb damage to charges 2:1
   2) Internal Gyroscope: +4 on any Agility checks (not initiative); instant turns/stops in flight. 
   3) Stunning Attack: Lightning Control attack for 1d8 regular or 2d8 devitalization damage. 10" range
   4) Sonic Generation: Loudspeaker system or Sonic attack for 1d8 damage or Defense w/ saved action.
Heightened Expertise: Security Expert. +4 to it with Unarmed HTH & Firearms, +20% on Detect rolls 
   in areas related to security/bodyguard skills. +6 on Strength checks for wrestling/judo.
   Base unarmed accuracy is 10, base small pistol accuracy is 11. 
Weight: 125 Basic Hits: 3 Agility Mod: 0
Strength: 40 14 normal Endurance: 15
Agility: 14 Intelligence: 13
Charisma: 15 React. Mod.: 2
Hit Mod. 7.722 Hit Points: 24
Dmg. Mod.: 1 Healing Rate: 1.2
Accuracy: 1 Power: 82
Carrying Capacity:           4,094 Base HTH Damage: 2d8
Alt Carry Cap:        8,188 Alt HTH Damage: 2d10
Alt 2 Carry Cap:      81,875 Alt 2 HTH Damage: 3d12
Movement Rates: 69 " Running (Base)
Det. Hidden: 10 % Det. Danger: 14 %
Inventing Points: 5.2 Cash:   $            -  
Inventing: 39 %
Origin and Background: (American) Law Enforcement & Government
Legal Status: Member of the Avengers