On Tuesday I started a Thought Experiment in supers games, looking at what changes a character goes through when converted from one system to another. This is meant to test the validity of most supers games claims that you can use the system to build “any” character or run “any” kind of game. The character in question – Dr. Zachary Zevon, the Indestructible Man - started in Villains and Vigilantes, and now exists in Silver Age Sentinels, HERO and Marvel Super Heroes.
That done, how well would this work in play? This is really hard to say. I’ve owned the DC Heroes rules since they came out in the 80’s but have played it only a handful of times. I suspect the combination of powers would let me do a lot of the things I liked with the character, even if it would be a stretch on more than one occasion. He’s combat worthy enough, at least to my untrained eye, and I think I have a handle on the Gadgetry rules. If I’m wrong on that score I’ll know soon enough.
Zach ended up costing more in DC heroes than I thought he would, but that’s the cost of the Intelligence, Gadgetry and Science skills – not to mention having to sink points into 3 stats to capture his powerful mind and 3 more for his high charisma. Still, given the freaky point structure of the game his relative point cost to other characters is hard to measure, as 25% of his points are tied up in Advantages.
This experiment left me seeing that DC Heroes is a high versatile, powerful game that’s buried under some godawful power mechanics, and perhaps an overly fiddly dice engine. It is designed for a much higher power scale than the other games I’ve reviewed so far and looks like it does a good job of balancing out Batman with Superman in a mechanical and narrative sense. If I were to run something in it I’d use it as an excuse to chuck the entire power listing and start from scratch, adopting the ideas of Scarcity cost and Versatility that I’ve been discussing of late in Alarums & Excursions.
Scarcity would replace the base cost of the power or skill and would be determined by the player who first built someone with that ability, given them control of how often the power would appear in play. Give something a high scarcity cost and you’ve set a bar on entry for other characters; a low one means that you aren’t staking a claim on this niche (unless you set a low one and then buy 20 ranks of the power, daring people to try and catch you). An entirely new structure of Scarcity costs in the campaign would make the world look like a very different place than the standard comics universes.
Versatility would take the place of the Factor Cost, a 1-10 ranking by the GM and player about how flexible the power or skill is intended to be in play, setting the groundwork for the gentleman’s agreement that determines how much leeway the character is cut when he tries to use the ability in new ways in play.
I’m very interested to hear ’s take on these thoughts, since he’s the only person I know who ran a long term DC Heroes game and can tell me how the dice mechanic worked out and whether my fears that profligate hero point spending would seriously skew play are true to life. Tomorrow we tackle the FUDGE write up that Mr. Stoddard wrote for me today, and then Mondat we get to 's Truth & Justice version.