Monday, December 21, 2015

Does System matter, part IX: Godlike

This is likely the last example in the series of posts translating a single character into a variety of systems, though I expect to do at least one more discussing what I've learned. The character in question – Dr. Zachary Zevon, the Indestructible Man - started in Villains and Vigilantes, and now exists in Silver Age Sentinels, HERO, Marvel Super Heroes, DC Heroes, FUDGE and Truth & Justice. There was an aborted attempt in GURPS and finally, I’m trying to tackle This lat entry covers GODLIKE, Greg Stolze's and Dennis Detwiller's game of supers in WWII. 

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A quick recap: Dr. Z is the Reed Richards analogue in a Fantastic Four style game. His natural abilities include a massive intellect and scientific skill, a powerful presence & sense-of-self, and an ability to analyze his opponents’ fighting style and the scientific basis for their powers. His superhuman ability is an invisible, highly versatile force field. He is renowned as the smartest man on Mars and is a millionaire with access to advanced technology and the Liberty Lair, his team’s base.

Body 3 Coordination 3 Sense 2
Brawl 2 Health 1 Dodge 1
Now, I indicated yesterday that I expected to run into problems in the system, and I did. Two of them to be precise, though one was an error in my favor.
First, the favorable error: the mechanics for character creation in Godlike are totally FUBAR due to one simple, highly exploitable loophole. Your character starts with will points - somewhere from 15 for a really weak talent to 150 for a really strong one (I set Dr. Z's at 85, the same point total as Cien in the rulebook), and you spend those points to buy your hyperstats, hyperskills and miracles. Any points you don't spend are added to your Base Will. Now, once play begins you can opt to spend Base Will to raise any of your Hyperstats, Hyperskills or Miracles AT THE SAME COST AS BUYING THEM ORIGINALLY. Of course, your Base Will regenerates in play. Therefore, there is no practical reason to not buy a minimum functional level in your Talent Abilities in character creation, bank the rest of the points into Base Will and then immediately spend that Base Will to raise your Talent Abilities. You'll start play with the same number of Will Points to spend as you would have the other way, but you'll have a pile more Base Will. The stats above indicate how Dr. Z looks at the start of his first adventure. 15 minutes later he looks like this:
Base Will 32 [currently at 18]
And he'll just get better every session as his Base Will keeps regenerating. It's all rather silly, and I wonder why the rules are written like this.
That out of the way, its on to the reasons why the character doesn't work: he's in an entirely alien environment. In its efforts to keep history more or less on track GODLIKE put in some harsh restrictions in Hyperbrains: Hyperbrains also have hyper-compassion and hyper-empathy, and therefore almost never engage in inventing things that could be used as weapons; they also have huge problems interacting with non-Hyperbrainy people. None of these are true of the standard comics super-genius, nor are they at all indicative of how I see Zach. So while I can toss them aside and make him hyper-brainy, I'm bucking the system to do it.
In addition, the system also blocks hyper-invention. GODLIKE uses the psi-powers crutch excuse for how high tech invention - called Goldberg Science in this setting - operates. The devices are nonsensical and don't represent real science at all, which is totally at odds with how Zach operates. He really is peeling back the frontiers of Science, not just mucking about with ill-defined psychokinesis. It's so out of character that I didn't bother to give him any.
Finally, his force field workable. The game doesn't have a default miracle for this sort of thing, but this looks more or less like the V&V version - it greatly reduces the chance of an attack hitting him rather than trying to count defense against damage. This lets him, in theory, bounce a tank shell or any sort of bullet, but some might get through if they roll really well. The damage mechanic in the game is seriously unforgiving, however, so if his force field slips up he's a red smear. His TK is unreliable at this stage, but will get better; I suspect he'll never have more than 4D in it because I want to keep the weight low, but eventually it will be 4 Wiggle Dice. 

Brains 5 Command 4 Cool 3
Base Will 32

Drive 2 Pilot 2 Sight 3
Hearing 2 Education 3 Electronics 2
Mechanics 2 Leadership 2 Inspire 3
Mental Stab. 4

Body +3d No leverage (+2) [4/8/16]
Brains +1WD [2/5/10]

Force Field 1d+2HD Defends, Robust, UOC, Reflexive, Expensive [6/12/24]
This power acts as Goble Dice on any attacks fired through it.
Telekinesis 2d Attacks, Defends, Robust, Useful, Clumsy [4/8/16]

Body +4d No leverage (+2) [4/8/16]
Brains +1WD [2/5/10]

Force Field 1d+ 3HD Defends, Robust, UOC, Reflexive, Expensive [6/12/24]
Telekinesis 3d Attacks, Defends, Robust, Useful, Clumsy [4/8/16]

So how's the fidelity here: Bad, as several key elements just run against the setting rules. This bugs me much less than the problems I have in GURPS or HERO, because GODLIKE is designed for a very specific environment: you're playing Supers in WWII, and not just any WWII, but this specific version with these specific power rules. It's not designed to be customizable to other settings, and I suspect that if you took it out of this one it would fail. Wild Talents, the generic version of this rules set, took years of playtesting (it just came out last year, when GODLIKE appeared in 2001). whswhs tried using these rules for his Ghazi game (the PCs were bearers of one of the 100 names of Allah, fighting off the Crusaders) and he had serious problems not just with the dice curve but with the lack of heavy firepower needed to counteract some of the abilities. The problem here is not that GODLIKE can't handle Dr. Z, but that Dr. Z has no place in GODLIKE. A can't be a standard bearer for systems designed for specific settings and then complain that the specific settings can't handle my ported in character: unlike the others, GODLIKE never claimed it could. 

Expect a wrap up essay in the next day or so. I might still noodle around with getting GURPS to work, but that will be inside the GURPS post and not on the main page. So far it's been an interesting experiment.