Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Villains & Vigilantes + What If 1963 pt 3

Transformation A, Ht. Endurance, Ht. Senses, and not special weapons: Ravdna

Today we look at another classic power that just needs a little bit of tweaking and discuss if how items and devices look changes what their power is.

Transformation A: Power Activation

This is one of the true classics, right up there with the Flight/Strength/Invulnerability trinity. Ever since Billy Batson whispered the old wizard’s name comic book heroes have had alternate forms from their humdrum lives. By stating that this ability turns on all of the characters other powers, plus an extra powers and weakness, V&V pretty well nails it. It only stumbles in two places – body and mind. OK, that’s a bit broad, but bear with me

The Transformed form, in addition to gaining powers, is almost always idealized – stronger, taller, more fit, and prettier – though not necessarily to superhuman levels. The easiest way to handle this is to give the players a small pool of points to distribute as either stat changes (up to 3 pts per stat, similar to Wings or Animal/Plant Powers bonuses) or as weight changes as 20 lb up or down per point. I’d set this at a 2d6 worth of points. This makes Transformation A one of those sought after abilities like Armor A, Size Change or Body Power that let you alter your weight to game the Carrying Capacity rules. I’m comfortable with that. (It also lets you drop your weight if you’re on of us who is on the wrong end of the 240 lb. Agility penality….)

The Transformed form might literally be someone else. There are subtle differences between Mike Moran and Marvelman or Billy Batson and Captain Marvel (at least at first) but huge ones between Don Blake and Thor. When you’re interested in playing that sort of character it’s just important to define that you have the option to roll/pick one or two new Backgrounds for that alternate personality.

Heightened Endurance

Heightened Endurance straddles a mythological middle ground between strength and invulnerability being a little bit of both. Get a high enough Endurance and you become much stronger than you look. Get a high enough Endurance and you can shrug vastly more damage, even if the blows aren’t bounding off. Get a high enough Endurance and you’ll heal quickly from damn near anything.

By and large it’s a passive attribute, however, which makes it hard if it’s your characters best power. Some possible wiggle room includes making it more visible  – bullets and blades, while they hurt, seldom penetrate your skin, a plot arc involving plentiful uses of ‘save vs E on d20 poisons’ – to show off the power. Those don’t involve any changes to your characters powers, just threats faced and color descriptions. 

Marvel Super heroes had a nice touch where once your Endurance stat got beyond a certain point you could just survive in space: not a defense type or anything, but you could just do it. High Endurance might also be a subset of an extended lifespan. Use it as an excuse to add a new background or two, add some contacts or generally act mysterious and discuss centuries past. Both make good bonus powers for the high Endurance character.

Heightened Senses

If I had to build a character with just one power Ht. Senses might well be the one I pick. It’s so gleefully open ended in its design that it can be used for almost anything. Make it a Combat Sense and it’s a bonus to attack, or defense, or both. It can facilitate information gathering. I suppose it can’t double for a movement power…I would argue that clairsentience is a sense but astral projection is a bridge too far (just as reading minds is a sense and included but projecting thoughts overshoots) but if it’s your character’s only power then go for it.

In addition to potentially doubling for telepathy, astral projection, heightened expertise, defense or attack it could also fill in for heightened agility (enhanced kinesthetic senses) heightened intelligence (inventive sense in addition to other perception increases, precognition to see the right answer) and Heightened Charisma (super-empathy). The sky is pretty much the limit.

On the other hand, if the character already has a bunch of powers it can be as simple as ‘nightvision’. By being so open ended in its design it is a great tool for tailoring the character

Ravdna the Valkyrie

In the what if 1963 Universe the role of the Asgardian bound to a Mortal is played by Ravdna, chief of the Valkyries who due to Loki’s vengeance is now bound to the mortal Patsy Walker. The two share their time on Earth, shifting from one form to the other as needed. Patsy is trying to restart her career as a fashion model after her disastrous marriage and Ravdna is a member of the Avengers until Odin returns from wherever he is and sets things right. While Ravdna does not (yet) have her winged steed she is still the official bearer of Odin’s Spear, Gugnir.

While she has Asgardian attributes – she is superhumanly strong, incredibly tough, ageless with centuries of battle experience – her main power is her heightened senses. She’s a great example of the Ht. Senses being defined conceptually (Valkyrie senses) and then expanded to fit that concept since as more things turn up that fit the concept the player and GM can slot it into the powers penumbra. It starts with being able to see death approaching, but then expands to seeing and hearing ghosts, reading minds, knowing the histories of objects or people with a touch, has a combat sense that gives her a minor bonus to hit and can, as a minor ability that’s more Valkyrie than sense, can make oaths binding.

Gugnir is actually a Heightened Senses Item. Carrying it triples all of her normal and Valkyrie senses, making them much more potent. She can read and link up to 3 minds to hers, scan back 30 years in people’s lives, sense death coming 36 hours away and so on. The item itself is, in her hands, just a spear as far as accuracy and damage bonuses go, but as a magic item it’s made of all but indestructible material and, if destroyed, will reform itself.

To a lot of GMs I’ve talked to the fact that the item takes the shape of a Spear makes it a Special Weapon, but I think that undersells Special Weapon and undersells other items and devices. The shape of an item or device makes a perfect visual or conceptual hook for the character. It should only be a special weapon if it has some extreme combat bonuses or combines several other powers.


To me, Captain America’s shield is an Invulnerability Device that happens to be shield shapes:  which gives it some utility and removes some other things it might do. Thor’s Hammer is a special weapon – it does way more damage than a normal hammer, lets him control weather, fly, open dimensional portals, transmute objects, and for a while travel through time. That’s more than just a Weather Powers item shaped like a hammer.

Identity: Patsy Walker Side: Good
Name: Ravdna the Valkyrie Gender: Female
Experience: 9,500 Level: 4 Age: 24/2000+
Powers: Training: 1)S; 2)A, 3)E, Currently C
Transformation A: Gains 200 lb of weight in Ravdna's broader, denser body. When Transformed has:
1) Heightened Endurance B: +22     2) Heightened Strength B: +8
3) Heightened Expertise: +6 with all medieval weapons
4) Heightened Senses - Valkyrie Senses: Can Sense impending death at 24"/12 hours range, see ghosts,
   tead surface thoughts as Telepathy at 24" range 1 mind at a time, read impressions of object/persons
   last 10 years with a touch, has a combat sense for +1 to hit and can make oaths binding (d20vC, PR8)
5) Heightened Senses Item - Gugnir: Odin's Spear does normal Spear damage but is SR 25. While she 
   Ravdna's senses triple in range and duration, she can expand the ability to see ghosts to those around
   her, the combat sense becomes +3 and the bnding oaths are at d% vs Cx3 to resist.
Weight: 330 Basic Hits: 7 Agility Mod: -2
Strength: 21 Endurance: 34
Agility: 15 17 Patsy Intelligence: 12
Charisma: 17 React. Mod.: 2
Hit Mod. 13.31 Hit Points: 94
Dmg. Mod.: 1 Healing Rate: 7.0
Accuracy: 2 Power: 82
Carrying Capacity:           2,089 Base HTH Damage: 1d12
Movement Rates: 70 " Running (Base)
Det. Hidden: 10 % Det. Danger: 14 %
Inventing Points: 4.8 Cash:   $            -  
Inventing: 36 %
Origin and Background: (American) Entertainment & Sports
(Extradimensional) Medicine & Military as Ravdna
Legal Status: Member of the Avengers
(Sec. Clearance = 18 )