Saturday, January 22, 2022

Everway in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

 For day 22 of the #CharacterCreationChallenge I get visionary! 

It's a crying shame that this game didn't do better than it did, and also that I've only been able to play it once. It's an amazing piece of work for evoking story and myth. I'm just going to walk through making a character to show you how. The concept of the game is that the heroes can travel through spheres, and each sphere has its own rules, own style, and own set of problems. Travel is through gates, which all heroes have a way to open, but also emotionally aware enough people can pass through them or open them for others. 

First, the game needs a premise. Normally this would be the Storyteller's job to develop, but lacking one I'm going to use "Falling into Dreams". The PCs have all fallen through dream gates into the world of the spheres. Maybe they are physically there until they find a way home, or they wake up at home every morning like Little Nemo, or they're struggling to stay asleep like Randolph Carter, but each dream sphere presents new opportunities.

Second, you're supposed to use the Vison Cards or other inspiration to find an evocative image and base your hero on that. Since I no longer have the vision cards, I'm instead hitting the portfolio of the amazing Beth Spencer and here's the image, Profferings and Offerings

Chosen because I already own a print of this on my son's bedroom wall. And the kid looks just like my son, with doggie and all. So that's it. Zachary is exploring the dream spheres. He's an 11 year old oy with immense empathy, energy and curiosity, exploring and waking up in his bed every morning, unable to articulate exactly what he saw. His name means "God remembers" and I think that's going to inform a lot of his abilities. 

He needs to select one of the seven motives – mystery, wanderlust, knowledge, beauty, conquest, authority, or adversity – and I think wanderlust is the best fit. Zachary always want to keep moving, to travel and see and do. 

Now he needs Virtue, a Fault and a Fate from the Fortune Deck, all of which help define his character and also modify play when those cards come up on Storyteller draws. The Fate can and will be changed when Zachary meets whatever his current fate is. 

 I did a quick random pull, that I reserve the right to change. 

Virtue: The Priestess (Understanding Mysteries): the priestess stands between the world of deities and the world of humans. She is in touch with the unspoken worlds of magic and miracles as well as the mundane world. Correspondences is the Moon. 

Fault: The Phoenix Reversed (Destruction): This card means annihilation, as when water quenches fire and both the water and fire are destroyed. Correspondences are water and fire. Water is the element of eternity; fire is the element of change. The Phoenix encompasses these opposites, as it also encompasses the opposites of youth and age, death and birth. 

Fate: The Unicorn: balanced between Purity and Temptation, Zachary will face a choice, or perhaps be baited into danger by purity used as a trap. 

Next is the question of Powers. Heroes have 20 Elemental Points for Powers and Elements, and Powers cost from 0-3 points, based on whether they are Frequent, Major, or Versatile. Everyone has a single 0- point power, which is a knack that is none of those three, but can also have a power of 1-3 point cost. (Heroes can instead opt to have Magic, which is tied to an element, can run as high as 7 points, and let the players invent their own rules for how this much more versatile and potent resource works, but that's not what I intend to do here.)

Zachary's 0-point power is Doggie, his stuffed dog. Now, animal companions can cost between 1 and 3 points based on what they can do – scout? Attack? Talk? – but Doggie's gift to Zachary is just this: he is never alone. That's it. Doggie will always be with him, and while he's there, Zachary is never alone. Until you've been truly alone, you don't know what a comfort that can be. 

Now then. His other power is Frequent, Major, and Versatile, and I'm willing to kick in the 1 point extra for an extraordinary, weakness free power. That power? God Remembers. As with the example Mystic Eye power where the hero can concentrate to gain visions of the past, future or distance places, God Remembers means Zachary can just remember things he has no reason to know about places he's been or people he meets. There's no precognitive aspect, but the memories themselves are crystal clear and always reveal something of value, even if they cannot reveal everything. With concentration Zachary can try to remember specific things (like the answer to a puzzle or the combination to a lock), but his memory cannot always be directed. 

That's a 4-point power, leaving Zachary with 16 Element points. Elements (Air for thought, Fire for action, Earth for might, and Water for feeling) are rated from 1 to 10. You're also supposed to define a specialty for each element, where the element counts one point higher. 

Looking over the sample ratings and thinking of a small and slight 11-year-old boy, I end up with 

Fire: 4 this is low to average for a hero, and generally means the hero can defeat an average person in combat. Not so much an issue for Zach (who will almost always use this to effectively escape) but I wanted to showcase Zachary's boundless energy. For his specialization I defined _ Scamper_. 

Earth: 2 this generally means unhealthy and easily tired, but in Zachary's case it's just that he's so small. He can't lift or carry much, when he sleeps, he sleeps hard. But I did want to add the specialization of _Tiny Frame_. His weakness here is also a strength when it comes to slipping into small places or hiding. 

Air 3: the real-life Zachary suffers significant cognitive difficulties, but his dream state is average in intellect, can speak well but misunderstands some things. His specialization is _Delightful Voice_, for he is always so happy and singing. 

Water: 7 is a superhuman level of awareness. Zachary is able to pass through gates unaided and even lead small groups, he understands the desires, intents, and feelings of even animals and can sense moderate energies. His ears are exceptionally sharp, so his specialization is _Keen Hearing_.

I'm quite happy with this. Time for some adventures with a boy and his Doggie. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Champions 2E (1981) in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

 I'm taking Ron Edwards advice and doing an OSR take on Champions 

Champions holds a weird place in my heart where V&V and MSH are right in my style, DC Heroes has its quirky charm, but HERO/Champions is the one I come back to when I need something jigsaw-puzzle like to occupy my attention. The game of character creation on Champions has taken up infinitely more of my time than the playing of Champions. I had 2nd edition Champions as a kid, abandoned it for the Big Blue Blook of 4th edition, and at the time I didn't process how large the change was from the 1E/2E skills to 4E integrating the skill system from the other, more granular HERO games, along with the much tighter engineering focused ethos that makes up later HERO character design.

I found out about Ron Edwards "Champions Now" after it kickstarted, and I love the concept behind taking Champions back to its Old School roots where the disadvantage system could be rightfully seen not (as I and my teen friends saw it) as things to take to offset powers and then hope they never come up, but as what we'd now call Flags to the GM of directions you as player want this character's story to go. I doubly loved the stance that early Champions didn't have a "pay to play" ethos as much as "this is the stuff you know you can do, but we can extrapolate off that, everyone really has a Variable Power Pool around a concept" style. It's a shame that the finished product for Champions Now is so ill organized – I've yet to see even positive reviews that don't list that as a huge stumbling block. 

But I'm carrying that ethos into this character, and the idea of taking Champions 2E RAW to build an open, fun character. Champions always works best when you have an idea, and this one goes way back to High School when one of the guys in our group had a Marvel Super Heroes character whose only power was Invisibility. Inviso had good stats and skills in the Marvel sense, was a former spy, and could now turn him (and other things, including his car!) invisible. I wanted to recreate him in Champions 2E 

First up, do the Spy Stuff. I used Crusader in the rulebook as a baseline for stats, but trimmed things back a bit. I know the character isn't a powerhouse when it comes to damage, but 2E doesn't have nearly the optimized math and huge point numbers as later Champions. Besides, with a 23 DEX he's got a great DCV, and when he's invisible his foes are at half OCV, so he's much more into the dodge damae than soak it. 

For skills I snag Disguise, Stealth, Martial Arts, and Detective. I pencil in Security Systems if I have the points, but I more like the idea of Inviso not just turning invisible, but also being a disguise expert. He was a spy before the invisibility and could pull off the Mission Impossible mask trick. That's the first real thing that jells about his background: something happened to give him invisibility, but he was already in espionage. 

Next, the powers. All the rules for Element Control and Mutlipower are NOT what I remember from 3E, and the math is… weirder. Less formal, anyway. I fiddle with an Element Control for my invisibility powers – what I would have done in 3E – but drop it in favor of the single Invisibility with the add ons of being no fringe, 0 endurance cost, usable on others, and usable at range. Inviso can not just turn himself invisible, he can turn other things invisible! If this is his only power, I'm going full on Invisible Girl style here. The usable on others is so much easier because it's no where near as technical – no pages of rules on line of sight, mass, usable as attack, etc. This is easily his biggest cost sink at 60 points, but it really does cover the basics of the character. 

Then add a 15-point multipower to do Invisibility Tricks. This sort of design – one reliable big power and then a smaller multipower of VPP for tricks – is my go-to for Champions. In 2E it's weird because taking limitations doesn't reduce the cost of the multipower slot after the framework rules are applied, but it instead INCREASES the value of the points in the slot. Weird, and very much to my advantage. Inviso can use his powers to make things invisible to make whole areas invisible to everyone in them (Darkness), to target opponent's heads or eyes with invisibility without the bandwidth shifting that lets invisible people see (Flash with a -1 limitation) and an acknowledgement that dealing with an invisible person has to make people super jumpy and see things that aren't there as their pattern recognition runs amok (Mental Illusions with a -1 limitation). The design of the 2E multipower rules means that each of these gets MORE dice rather than lower cost. So we have 3 full dice of Flash and 6 of Mental Illusions inside the Multipower. 

Finally, I add Ultravision because there's no "personal immunity" power and I want to make it clear that Inviso can see invisible things. But I don't want him to have full Ultravision, just the power to see invisible things. So a limitation. Which since I'm at 207 points out of 200, I have to expand to only being able to see through his own invisibility (with a need for 2XP to get the full power back) and drop that Security Systems skill. Ah well. 

Inviso's birth identity is gone, and for years he worked as Agent 1138 for the Trans Human Executive, a cold war era relic sub directive of the CIA to track metahuman creation projects. 1138 was deep inside the likewise remnants of the once Soviet, now Russian Rainfall Project that had some success with human invisibility (although the EM warping produced a background noise like static). 1138 disrupted a key experiment, ruining the Rainfall remnants and giving himself a perfected level of invisibility – as well as albinism. He got back to the states, disguised himself to hide the albinism and went back to work. There someone high above the THX team took an interest in him as the ideal assassin. 

1138 wasn't interested, and vanished, leaving only a series of drop boxes with his trusted THX handler, named Handler. Using his skills he created a fake identity, John Anatoly, and started making a life for himself as an in house investigator for a large law firm. His mucking with their systems gave him decades of longevity with the company and tons of PTO and freedom to operate, and he's been using that to sideline in super-heroics as Inviso!

I like this. Yes, lots of the background are cribbed from spy fiction and cliches, but that's the point. He's a clean and straightforward hero who is a good team player. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Owl Hoot Trail in the 2022 Character Creation Challenger

On day 20 of the #CharacterCreationChallenge we hit my current favorite western

I'd heard of tis game when it came out and it’s a shame it took me 9 years to actually get it. But now that I have it, it's delightful. Another game from Clinton R Nixon (responsible for The Shadows of Yesterday from earlier in the challenge), he's joined by Kevin Kulp, who wrote Timewatch, which I’ll get to later in the month. To ride the Owl Hoot Trail is western slang for being a bandit, probably due to travelling at night. 

OHT is a retroclone of Basic/Expert D&D, it has just enough of the usual 21st century modifications and borrows from 3E just enough (ascending armor classes that match the target number, some of the class mechanics) to fill in obvious gaps. It also uses the flat +1 to all actions per level that 13th age uses to cut through a lot of faffing about. 

You start by picking a race (Human, half'in, hillfolk (dwarves), orc, shee (elves)) and an origin (Greenhorns grew up in cities so +1 Learning); Natives grew up in the wilds or small outposts so +1 wilderness) before picking a class. Classes are western chromed D&D classes: Gunslingers are fighters, Marshals are paladins, Ruffians are barbarians, Scouts are rangers, Scoundrels are rogues, Preachers are clerics, Shamans are druids, with Gadgeteers and Mentalists splitting the wizard spells lists. Those spell lists are also reskinned Basic D&D spells, to the point of Horseless Freightwagon being the gadgeteers version of Floating Disk. It makes the spell lists immediately recognizable to an old school player, and I admit I laughed quite a bit at the translations. The minimalist class design also evoked Basic/Expert D&D is a very good way, while still carrying in some 3E and later designs. 

Characteristics are stripped down to three – Grit, Draw, Wits – which are more or less Str & Con, Dex & Int, and Wis & Int, with possible applications of Charisma for all three. There are only 5 skills – Amity, Learning, Toughness, Wile, and Wilderness – with a good list to show how each skill works with each characteristic to give 15-20 off the top of the head applications. Grist + Learning, for example, is medicine, while Draw + Learning is being able to quote the law or recognize clues, and Wits + Learning is knowing obscure stuff, translation, or history. It's an elegant way to keep the character minimalist while still more distinct skill wise than a basic D&D character. 

OHT doesn't bother with the 3-18 scale, instead just having the die modifiers. Each attribute runs from -1 to +4. You start with 3 points, can drop one characteristic to -1 to redistribute to another one, and most races give a +1 bonus to one characteristic and 1 skill (except humans, who have +1 on all skills, but no characteristic bonus). Your starting skills are all at your level plus a any from class or race. No points to distribute. 

The rulebook also gives some handy random name tables for NPCs, which I used to make my Orc Preacher. I love clerics, and we're familiar with my preference for strong PCs, and I wanted to see what the Orcs (the most rules complex race) and a spellcasting class looks like. 

David Elliott, nicknamed Astral for his tendency to stare at the heavens at night, is an itinerant exorcist. Some preachers wander speaking the word of god to save men's souls. David good with that, but his real calling is putting the dead back in their graves. He's not a quick fellow for people to warm to, but when a town needs help he's highly skilled at putting a posse together to find the skeletons, zombies, and maybe even vampires and showing them the light of heaven… or sending them back to hell. David will even stitch you back up afterwards, free of charge. 

He travels with his mule, Judges 15:15-17, which has been with him for a long time and is showing his years. He also carries a 10lb sledge that he'll use to earn his supper if there aren't any undead around, or to deal with them if they are. Judges carries the rest of his gear, saving the pocket holy book.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

DC Heroes in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

 On day 19 of the Character Creation Challenge I have a drink with the hobgoblins of foolish consistency!

At the end of the day I'm a V&V guy first, a Marvel Super Heroes guy second. While I've written professional articles for Silver Age Sentinels, the third place superhero game for me is going to be the original Greg Gordon designed DC Heroes rules, because they are so gleefully insane. Not all of them. Most of them work fine. But you have to wonder whether they were haunted by the consistency hobgoblin or if they just nailed their tongue to their cheek when writing the gadgetry rules (were all laser pistols have Heat Vision and all radios have Super Ventriloquism).

Everything in DC Heroes rated in Attribute Points, which are Geometric in nature – every point is twice as good as the one below it. Normal people have a STR of 3, Batman has a STR of 5, and is 4 times stronger. Superman has a STR of 25. There's a handy chart for this, and it's designed to scale across codes. So if you have a 20 STR and lift something weight 18 APs of weight you can throw it 2 AP of distance, which also equates to 2 AP of speed. 

DC Heroes has 9 characteristics, which are cleverly split into three groups – physical, mental, and spiritual – and three other groups – action, power, and resistance. So when you look at the grid its clear what everything means

Your Aura is your spiritual Strength, for example. It's a clean system if a little cumbersome at points. 

There's an extensive list of powers that are derived from across all the heroes of the DC universe, and then a smaller list of skills that have some special rules to differentiate them from powers, but not much. The game does make the weird decision (much like early GURPS) to eschew the design of the supers universe and state that powers are explicitly internal, and if you need a device you have to build it using either the Gadget advantage in character creation or with the Gadgetry rules in play, and they have different point costs. So Batman doesn't have a Utility Belt power, he has an array of Gadgets, (Including Omni-Gadget, which he can define the moment he needs it). This makes device heroes more cumbersome to play, which is an odd choice given the DC universe. 

Characters are built on multiples of 450 points. For that you're supposed to be able to build a member of the Teen Titans. For three times that you're a member of mid 80's Justice League, more or less. For 5 times that you're roughly Superman. Weirdly, advantages and drawbacks (but presumably not the Gadget advantage) are supposed to scale with your multiple – so while High Connections with an organization costs 15 points at the Teen Titans level, it costs 45 points at the JLI level. Basically it costs 3% of your point total. This keeps x5 heroes from wildly abusing the rules, but for some builds of Batman or Nightwing it makes it nigh impossible to build them at all as they are so advantage heavy. 

Anyway, I'm going to be building a member of the Legion of Superheroes, the 30th century teens where most have a single super power, plus a flight ring and a transsuit to survive in space if need be, and who are hands down my favorite DC heroes. I have the stats on a Legion Flight Ring from the basic book as Booster Gold uses one, and one of the Legion supplements so I have an idea of what their average stats are. 

Bela Bree was a rocket jockey kid, doing intersystem drag races in souped up shuttles, when she had an engine blowout and crashed on an unoccupied dwarf planet. At least she thought it was unoccupied: there were gravitic ghosts of a dead race there who granted her the power to attract and repel matter, which she was able to use to summon help. Knowing she needed to do something more with this power she reached out to the Legion and was able to prove herself in battle. Now as Miss Motion she's a member in good standing, and also the chief grease monkey in their transport bay. 

Bela's basically normal-for-a-hero attributes – she's in exceptional shape with great reflexes and intelligence -  cost 248 points. Her skills with Vehicles and Gadgetry cost another 78, a reduced price because they are Linked to her DEX and INT, and if something drains those her skills drop. This is a cost saving tool for the high stat high skill no power PCs, but I'm using it here. (You can Link powers to characteristics as well, but that won't work for me). 

The average Legionnaire has one or two powers at 15-20 AP, which is insanely high, but generally they are unmatched in their area of expertise. I settled on a power – Attraction/Repulsion, which lets you push things away or pull them to you, but it distinct from Telekinesis, Gravity Decrease, or Magnetism – because no Legionnaire has it and because I've always had a fondness for the character it was added to the game rules to model, Yankee Poodle from Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew. No, really. 

So she has Attraction/Repulsion at 18 AP (enough to move 3,276 tons) and I added Force Shield at 15 with the limitation that it only works on objects, as it models her ability to parry incoming attacks on herself or others with a repulsion or attraction beam, at up to 64 miles. These two together cost 445 points, so she looks like she'll be a x2 character as she's at 761 points

She needs the advantage of Connections – High with the Legion, which at x2 costs her 30 points, but I'm also going to mark it at 3% of her total points in case that changes.

Now her devices, The Transsuit has Sealed Systems 10 to be able to survive in hostile environments for an hour, with the limitation that it doesn't provide a combat defense against gas or radiation. That ends up costing 23 points under the gadgetry rules, but has a 10% chance to just not work as I didn't mess with the Reliability number. 

I suspect reliability numbers for these things are honored more in the breech, as Booster Gold's flight ring doesn't have one. The flight ring does have Flight at 8 and Telepathy (only to control the flight ring at a distance) at 8, which takes her to 871 points spent. If I left it here she'd have 29 unspent hero points as a x2 character, which isn't bad.


The flight ring also has 64 AP of Super-Ventriloquism that only works to send an SOS to the Legion. Yes, that's right – it can throw its voice across the galaxy, but just for an SOS. This costs another <checks math> 448 points. The cost of an entire Teen Titan. 

So… she's really a x3 character with 17 unspent hero points. 

Am I being a little silly? Yes, but so is DC Heroes. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Prince Valiant the Storytelling Game 2022 Character Creation Challenge

 On day 18 of the #CharacterCreationChallenge I go through my pockets for loose change 

Originally purchased because of the gorgeous, gorgeous artwork (this was before all the Hal Foster Prince Valiants had been complied in hardcover), it turns to out be a lovely stripped down version of Pendragon from the inimitable Greg Stafford. In order to make the game easier for new players, and to better fit the less extreme passions of the Prince Valiant world than the original Arthur sagas, Stafford reduced the game to its barest components and then decided to replace dice with coins. 

Mechanic is super simple: you toss a number of coins equal to your attribute + skill, and any heads means some level of success. You may need more than one head to get the success level you need for more complex actions. That's pretty well it. On top of that there are two attributes (Brawn and Presence) and a very short list of skills (9? 12? Somewhere in there) of which your PC has to have at least 6 at 1 coin, and if your PC is a knight you have to have Arms and Riding as two of those skills. You have 7 coins to split between Brawn and Presence, and 9 coins for skills. 

Sir Giles deBouc, one of the French knights who came over with Lancelot, is a capable swordsman and an accomplished warrior – better able to see though the chaos of battle than most, and skilled at both making alliances with knights and rallying the spirits of units of men. While the rest of Camelot longs for the glory of individual battle, he secretly wishes for the larger scale conflicts where his tactical and strategic insight can help foster his personal legend. 

In court he favors the company of other knights – or those he might find inside his peer group in the stables caring for horses, or in the archives studying the history of battles – over the intricacies of court. He speaks with honesty and from the heart, but the only of the courtly pleasures he has real skill in is jousting. Still, when he makes the fool of himself in more subtle affairs, he takes being the butt of his friends jokes well – there's little anger or pride in him for these events. He knows what he's good at. 

Brawn: 3      Presence 4

Arms: 2        Battle: 2    Fellowship: 1    Jousting: 1    Oratory: 1   Riding: 2 

Sword, lance, dagger, medium armor, ordinary Horse, 5 gold coins, fine clothes. 

His coat of arms is field vert with three goats passant guardant argent. (Green shield with three walking goats on it, the goats are looking at the viewer).