Monday, January 31, 2022

Marvel Super Heroes in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

 We finish this year's #CharacterCreationChallenge with a tribute to the great George Perez. 

After the nightmare slog that was skills purchasing in TMNT&OS, I decided my last day should be a palate cleanser with the classic Marvel Super-Heroes. Since I'm a firm believer (and True Believer! Face Front!) that if you're playing MSH you should be using an established Marvel hero, and because I find the Marvel Ultimate Powers Book to be a weak comparator to Villains & Vigilantes, I'm going to model a character who post dates the MSH rules: Triathlon, aka Delroy Garrett Jr. the contemporary successor to the 1950's 3-D Man.

Triathlon has triple human peak physical abilities – that's his power. So, lets take Captain America's stats as a baseline, then add some powers to finish it off.

Captain America has Incredible Agility, Excellent Strength, and Remarkable Endurance, and it makes sense to boost each of those a rank. Cap also has Amazing fighting, but Delroy's not in that league – while he was an Olympic athlete who is now cross the board superhuman he's never been formally trained in fighting. Remarkable, tied with Spider Man, sounds about right to capture his advantages.

Reason wise, Delroy has no formal technical training, so Typical is fine. He does have triple human senses, so an Incredible Intuition makes sense – that matches Cap, who has waaaaaay more experience than Triathlon, so that feels right. Psyche is hard to judge, as he's someone who made a major mistake once that cost him his career, and is absolutely part of a cult that he can't acknowledge is a cult, but at the same time his certainty in that cult gives him a strong sense of self. I'm going to go with Good, which is as good as Captain America (again)and Daredevil.

Now, some powers: Lighting Speed is first, as one panel of Triathlon's run of avengers talks about him hitting nearly 100 MPH. Actual human max sprinting speed is about 20mph, so he should cap out at good, but let's say it’s Excellent (75 mph) and with a Red result on pushing his power he can get to Remarkable (90 mph). That means he's covering 5 areas a round. The full rules for this let him accelerate and decelerate in a single round, and Triathlon displays a few of stunts with this including extra attacks, faster than the eye can see, and disarming, that I'm going to put in the character.

Is second and final power is Enhanced Senses: he specifically calls out triple human hearing at one point so let's state his hearing is Amazing. This also makes his Initiative Amazing, as for some reason the rules specifically call out hearing as the initiative sense. He has triple human ability to hear soft sounds, hear things at a distance and triangulate on where sounds are coming from. Interestingly there's a power stunt from the original 3D man that he can get letting him see Skrulls regardless of their form, which I want to add because it's a nod to the original character.

For Talents, he's clearly displayed Tumbling, but I don't know that there's formal training on any of the others and adding Acrobatics on top of his Amazing agility feels like guilding the lily. He's been both a professional athlete and a professional spokesperson for Triune Understanding, but neither of those relate to talents in the game, so we just know they're there.

Contacts: he has two – Triune Understanding and the Avengers. If he were on his own his Resources would be Typical, but receiving either pay from the Triunes or an Avengers stipend I'm going to set it at good. His starting populating is 20.

And that's it. I've always loved this character, so it's nice to end the challenge with him.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

On the penultimate day of the challenge I tackle my biggest opponent yet: Palladium! 

I was a Fan of the TMNT way back – 3rd printing of the 1st issue, signed copies of some of the others from a Connecticut comic convention – and love that the TMNT roleplaying game embraces the aesthetic of the original comic, which was much more grounded than the TV show was. The game was designed with Palladium as its spine, but contains a lot of nifty features to capture the TMNT setting. One of those is that if you make up your PCs as part of a team with the other players you lose some flexibility (you don't all get to design your own animal) but you get a lot of benefits in terms of attributes and skills. To capture this, I corralled my teenage daughter into making a character with me. I also decided the characters would be set in the 1985 of when the game was published rather than try to update the technical skills, just as I did with James Bond 007. 

TMNT&OS has the standard 8 Palladium attributes: IQ, Mental Endurance, Mental Affinity, Physical Strength, Physical Prowess, Physical Endurance, Physical Beauty, and Speed. My dice rolls are mediocre at best, with the two Endurances at 13 and the rest at 11 or less, including a 7 Physical Strength and a 6 Physical Beauty. 

However, if any member of the team rolls a 1+, they get to roll and add another d6 to that attribute, and the share that with everyone on the team. The Kiddo rolls a 17 Physical Endurance and a 16 Physical Beauty, and the dice decree that we both get a +2 PE and +1 PB. Helps me out some. 

Being a second generation game design, once again character creation is meant to conform the characters to the world, so the dice come out to determine things. We end up being [62] mutated wild animals. What kind of wild animals? [87] Armadillos! I had had the image in my mind of replicating the classic 1980's B&W comics hero Eagle with an actual mutated psionic eagle but, um, no. Armadillos it is. We got this way because [87] of deliberate experimentation by a [44] private industry, and the people who did the experimentation [84] gave us extensive professional training along our natural aptitudes (5 Hig School skills, 15 Collegiate skills, 20 Secondary Skills) while treating us like slaves. Eventually we escaped with [10 for me, 14 for her] $240,000 worth of cash and equipment (that's over half a million in 2022 dollars). We're on the run from both our creators and law enforcement. 

OK then. We shelve all of that while we build our animals. TMNT&OS's best system is their animal mutation system which has dozens of animal types, all with a starting amount of Bio-E based on their size and starting physicality. You spend Bio-E to get bigger or gain it by becoming smaller. You also spend it to get bipedal nature, hands, speech, and human appearance, along with any special powers that your species of animal has. It's a slick, intuitive system that's fun to build characters in. We have 60 Bio-E for our size 5 armadillos. 

The kiddo and I opt for being just a little bit bigger, size 6, just large enough to not have any attribute penalties [5 pts]. We know we want full speech [10 pts] and full hands [10 pts] but want to look like armadillos because that's more fun – no human features [0 pts]. Bipedal nature is trickier, but we want the full suite of armadillo powers with Claws [5 pts], Digging [5 pts] and heavy natural armor [20 pts]. Since we only have 5 points left, we're only partially bipedal, sort of like bears. We could have had weaker armor, but we like the idea that the private industry was breeding us _for_ our super armor and were surprised when this sibling pair came out intelligent with hands. I look up what TV shows were popular in 1970 – since we're teenagers in 1985 - and I settle on Julie and Linc as our names: the researchers were watching the Mod Squad when we were born. We had another brother, Pete, but something happened to him. 

Looking over the skill set, the Kiddo and I brainstorm over what our PCs will be doing. She wants to take the Scrupulous alignment, which is a sort of neutral/chaotic good, and that's fine. We realize that we can't interact with normal humans, but since we sound totally normal, we can do all our communication over the phone. We have a quarter of a million 1985 dollars, we don't live in a sewer. The idea that after we were born the Company (after getting the DNA needed for our armor) trained us to be industrial saboteurs (able to dig our way into rival facilities, almost impossible t hurt or kill) brings us to the idea of being the Leverage crew, getting hired to help people who have been hosed by the system, only we're Armadillos. We've hired a blind woman to be our receptionist and 'face' to the world, and all the rest of our work is done over the phone. Nine-Band is a professional investigation and problem-solving firm. 

Skills, however, are where we run into an issue: the process is so frustrating that the kiddo gives up after 20 minutes and we're not even halfway done at that point. It takes another hour for me to get MY pc to a level I'll consider finished. 

The book is an ill organized nightmare, with things in the wrong place, or in the order of the main categories and then the skills, but there text is crammed together and blown out to the margins. A bunch of the physical skills all add points to your physical attributes, and many of them have sub skills that supplant regular skills or each other – acrobatics and gymnastics both give you the same skills at different percentages, but it's worth taking both because each gives bonuses to your physical stats, and both of them give you the Prowl skill at a certain level so there's no point in taking that. 

In the end, Linc's training in competitive swimming, general athletics, climbing, body building, running, acrobatics, gymnastics and boxing even up giving him +12 to Physical Strength, +5 to Physical Prowess, +5 more to Physical Endurance, and staggering +11 to Speed. He also gets another 35 points of Structural Damage Capacity on top of his 75 points from his armor, for 110 SDC. It's easy to imagine the brutal physical regimen that the 7 PS runt of the litter went through at the hands of their owners, so it's no surprise that Linc was the driving force of their escape. 

If you take a skill as a collegiate skill, it's at a 10% increase, plus we each get +15% on high school and collegiate skills, so it matters where you put things from our Scrooge McDuck Money Bin of skill choices. You want your Secondary skills to go to things that can either only be secondaries or don't have percentages attached to them. Any skill multiple members of the team make get a +1 level bonus for each character with it, so the TMNT stat with Ninjitsu at 4th level, but Donatello's (objectively the best Turtle) tech skills don't get a bonus because no one else has them. This all makes sense, but this skill system is so complicated it puts the Twilight 2000 and Spaceship Zero ones to shame. 

In the end, Linc is the team technician, engineer, and computer guru, fighting with a short sword if needed. Julie is the team's lawyer and doctor, and fights with a collapsible staff. Both of us were trained in Expert Hand to Hand used by army special forces, and boxing for good measure. 

The character concepts for this are enjoyable and sound, but the skill selection system and its spillover effects are nuts. Simulated complexity for the sake of simulated complexity. The endgame of creating this PC was just not fun. 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Timewatch in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

On day 29 of the #CharactrerCreationChallenge I get all Jack Hawksmoor... IN SPAAAAAACE! and time.

This is likely the most recent game on my list for 2022, and it's one I just got for Christmas. And it's awesome. Timewatch is a game for running time travel in the sort of wild and wooly way that you see time travel in movies, and it makes use of strongly defined effects rather than causes for making the world work. In other words, your Unobtrusiveness and Burglary skills might be because you're a master thief from the streets of 500 AD Constantinople or because you're a hyper evolved brain in a jar from 3300 AD clouding men's minds, or because you're a liquid metal robot from the 22nd century. The cause doesn't matter, just the effect, and hence Timewatch sidesteps any need for complicated rules governing all this stuff. You can be anyone from anywhere, but the abilities on the sheet are the abilities on the sheet, they all play the same. 

This did present me a lot of paradox of choice because when you can have any origin you want (spoiler: you all end up as Timewatch agents, so that part's settled) it can be hard to come up with something. I knew I wanted to play with some form of Psionics and went through several ideas before realizing that back on day 8 of the challenge I had been a little bummed I'd missed the cutoff for having my Psi-World character have had space skills. If I wanted to play a Psionic PC, lets run with that. 

For some reason I decided the PC was going to be French Canadian in origin (M. Martin Rochard, last name taken from Cary Grant's character in I was a Male War Bride) but had ended up working as the police detective of an orbital habitat. His Psionic abilities are Psychometry and limited Precognition. That let me fill in most of his abilities: boost his Health and Chronal Stability to the recommended 8 minimum, give him 8 Athletics because he is in very good shape, and then 8 Preparedness and Shooting that are a combination of experience and limited precognition. His higher-than-normal Unobtrusiveness comes from a detective's skill of fading into the background, while his Vehicles comes from experience with jetpacks, space suits, shuttles, mini-rovers and so on. For everything else he has 2 points, so he's got a better than normal but not automatic chance of coming through in a clutch situation. 

This set gives him three Boosters – his Hit Threshold goes up to 4, he gets Double-tap from knowing where targets will be, and he can do a flashback scene that is based on his precognitive visions. One of the team members from the 20th century has nicknamed him "Fiver", which he doesn't understand but accepts with good grace. 

For his Investigative Abilities I pictured my game group and knew he'd be part of a group of 4, so 18 build points. My idea for his Psychometry is that it works best big to small. He can touch a street and get a feel for the whole city (Streetwise), or touch a building and know everything about it (Architecture), so 2 points in each of those, plus his other detective skills can be chromed that way on a case by case basis. He's from the late 21st century so History (Future) and Science! seemed to fit but the latter can be dropped if someone else is leaning into that niche. Everything else is in service of his detective work, including NOT having High Society so he can be a fish out of water with his former employers. It was reading the description of Forgery that clicked the last part of the PC into place – that it can be used to forge crime scenes. 

Martin Rochard was the official detective of Orléans Station, employed nomically by the station administration to help dispense justice, but more accurately but the oligarchs to do that… but also make sure their own crimes were covered up. The Gagné patriarch knew of Martin's psionic powers, knew the threat they meant to Martin's life if they were revealed on the conservative station, and used that to keep hold of him. Martin's ability to feel the whole of the station made it easy to find crime scenes, locate hot spots and ferret out conspiracies. His expertise being primary in terms of detective work his ability to forge crime scenes made cover ups simple. 

Martin hated it, but every day he saw that his breaking ranks would lead to his death. And he knew the rest of the police structure was as compromised as he was. 

Then one day he just didn't care. 

Publicly revealing a final crime of the Gagné failson led to a rebellion against the administration, but Martin never learned how it ended: he was too busy running from Gagné goons on the habitat outskirts. He turned a corner, got a moment's breathing room, and was met by a Timewatch agent who gave him an offer it would be stupid to refuse. Apparently, she had already arranged for a fake pod launch to cover his disappearance and they were gone to the Citadel. Perhaps hunted. Perhaps presumed dead. He hasn't been on the job long enough to go back and find out. 

Martin 's drive is to start cleaning up his clean ups: to stop other people from disrupting the lives of others, from getting away with crimes. Yes, he's still sometimes called on to make it look like he'd never been there, but he's not covering up someone's depravities any longer. He just as a lot of cleaning up to do. 

Damn. Now I want to play Timewatch. 

Friday, January 28, 2022

Rune in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

For day 28 I down some mead and put on a horned helmet for the #CharacterCreationChallenge!

This obscure gem of a game came out in 2001; just as the rest of the world was leaning hard into D&D, Atlas games was commissioned by Humanhead Studios to build a TTRPG based on their video game RUNE. The result was a glorious love letter to pure kick-in-the-door-and-kill-orcs role playing that also acknowledged that the GM tends to get bored with that style of play before the players do, so the game is designed to pass the GMing duties around the table. Everyone is tasked with coming up with snippets of the dungeon and adventure – for which they have point budgets commensurate to the PCs power level – and once the GM is done with what they have prepped play hands over to the next player to become GM. 

Yes, it shifts the burden of world and adventure building evenly around the table. And yes, I'm OK with that because the lazy shiftless players should pick up the slack sometimes! 

Character creation is pretty simple in concept, a little more complicated when you're pre-calculating your various combat attacks in advance, and it's nicely crunchy in the base combat focus with real effects from choosing weapon, armor, and shield types. It's a nice balance of complexity and avoiding getting stuck in the optimization weeds.

Characters have 8 attributes – Strength, Stamina, Dexterity, Quickness, Intelligence, Perception, Presence, and Communication – and knowing a game about dungeon crawling Vikings are going to prioritize some things the last four attributes cost half as much as the first four. 

There's 30 some odd skills in the game, divided into Combat, Exploration, and Social (with an outlier in Divine Awareness), and the writer (Robin Laws… did I mention Robin Laws wrote this?) handily calls out the 8 non-combat skills that see the most use in play, and remind you in the rulebook that there are considerable penalties for not knowing a skill, so it's better to spread points out. Secondary Skills cost half as much as Primary skills, with the distinction being made on how useful the skill is for kicking in doors and killing orcs. 

Both skills and attributes are bought with the same pool of 60 points, so it helps to have looked over both lists a bit. I decided to design Vifgus the Fat, a large fellow with surprising dexterity, above average for a Viking social stats, with a skill for spatial awareness and mapmaking. (the Mapmaking skill is a great dungeon crawl addition; you roll against it to find your way back out of the dungeon, and possibly to sell your finished maps for money to other Vikings; no need for the player to make actual maps!) 

STR +1, Sta +2, Dex +2, Qik +1, Int +1, Per +1, Pre +2, Com +1

He's a big, voluable fellow who fills up space and leaves an impression. It's possible to purchase negative attributes, but the rulebook advises against taking any negatives for the first fours and no lower than -1 on the others. I decided to keep everything positive, even if that means not maxing anything out at +3. Tis is the equivalent of a lot of 12-15 scores in D&D 3E, which feels right. This costs 34 points so I have 26 left for skills

I put at least 1 into all the recommended skills (except Divine Awareness), as well as 2 into Demeanor (he knows how to best present himself, 1 into Carouse, and 3 into Mapmaking. That leaves 8 for weapon skills and being a sword and shield guy, I take Single-handed Weapons (which includes shield proficiency) at maximum +3 and Throwing Weapons at +1. 

Hit Points and Wound Threshold come from comparing attributes to a couple of tables and I come in middle of the road for a Viking adventurer. Last up is selecting equipment. I get some free gear for my Mapmaking and Traps skills, 3 common weapons, 1 common armor, and one common shield if I want it. As a Single Weapon fighter I don't have a ton of options for common weapons, but snag Viking Broadsword and Short spear, as well as a Throwing Axe if I need it. I add Studded Leather armor and a Round Shield and that brings my load to 5.5, out of a 6 maximum to be unencumbered at +1 STR. Perfect. 

Figuring out the combat stats for my attacks – which factor in attribute, skill, weapon, and armor for initiative, attack, defense and damage – takes a few minutes but it's the sort of logical implementation of the weapon speed and reach tables from AD&D that it makes you weep that it wasn't included there back in the day. And we're done! 

Does this seem a little minimalist? Yes, but RUNE is deliberate that all your special ability crunchy bits be purchased with victory points earned in play. These are gifts from the gods and they're not going to bestow them on just any horn helmed warrior. YOU MUST PROVE YOURSELF TO THE GODS! So things will get more complicated in play. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Traveller in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

 On day 27 of the #CharacterCreationChallenge I take to the spaceways of 1977! 

I've been noodling with Traveller a lot lately as it's what my play group has voted upon for 2023 when we finish our Mutant City Blues game, but I've seldom made a character myself. So lets rectify that. Like some of the older games I've been looking at this month, Traveller uses the character creation not just as a mini-game (and a harsher mini-game than most, since you can die in character creation as a counterweight risk against pushing the system as far as you can) but as a simulationist tool. 

Once you roll your PCs stats you have to select service to join, but joining requires a die roll, with the chance of access being specific to each branch, with bonuses based on whether you meet the branches preferred criteria. (if you miss your first choice you're randomly assigned to one as a 'draft', which may put you back in your first choice. Once you're in, you serve a series of 4 year terms, with each term having a chance of your dying in action, getting a commission, getting a promotion once you're commissioned, and being able to reenlist. Getting a commission in the Navy is notoriously difficult but much easier if you're from a high social class, and promotions are slow. Getting a commission in the Army is much easier, improved with Endurance, and promotions are quick. The rules of the universe are played out in PC creation; this is all very old school, and reinforces the rules of the setting over designing your exact hero.  

Since your characters starting skills and resources (aka mustering out benefits) are dependent on how long you serve, there's a pressure to keep going, but there's always the risk of death, and older PCs start to see reduced stats. Traveller is the game of middle-aged heroes starting their second career. In my case we're looking at Zann McClintock, Solomani citizen of the empire. 

The Stat rolls were Str 4, Dex 6, End 7, Int 7, Edu 7, Soc Status 2. Weaker than average, not terribly coordinated, average otherwise and born into the lowest possible social strata. I'm picturing him having been born in the tent cities of a refugee camp of some ecologically devastated world suffering a civil war inside the Empire. 

Looking at his stats an the tables, I decided on Army as my first choice, not least because with a 7 End he makes I in with a roll of 3+. When the imperial army stepped in to end the conflict and rescue the survivors Zann saw his future, and joined as soon as he was old enough. 

The first set of rolls saw him survive his first 4 year term, get a commission and a promotion – he ends is first term at age 22 as a Lieutenant – and makes it through on reenlistment. This term gives him 4 stall checks, as well as an Rifle +1 and SMG +1 for being in the army and being a lieutenant, but with an EDU of 7 he can't access the 4th Advance training table. I put 2 of those on table 1 to get a boost to EDU, but instead get +1 Strength and Gambling. The other two rolls go on the service skills and advance training, and get Gun Combat+1 and Electronics+1. The Gun Combat needs a specialization, and even Zann's low Dexterity hits their minimum level, but I settle on SMG, so I have Rifle +1, SMG +2, Gambling +1 and Electronics +1 at the end of his first term. Is low Social Status didn't matter in the field, clearly, with the quick promotion to Lieutenant and training in electronics, but he did learn some of the more poncy members of the army never really learned to play cards or dice. 

The second set of rolls shows Zann nearly not making it through: target for Army Survival is 5+, and I roll a 3… but his 7 Edu gives a +2 on the roll. Whew! He does not manage a promotion this year with a second roll of 3, but he easily reenlists. His one skill this year gives him my desired +1 EDU. I imagine this as Lt. McClintock barely surviving a horrible conflict and spending much of this term in recovery, taking classes to improve his education during this time and set him up for future success. He's now 26 years old.

His third term he survives, receives a promotion easily (roll of 11, +1 for his EDU), and reenlists (roll of 11). Quickly becoming Captain McClintock, his two skill rolls on the now accessible second Advanced Skills tables produced Tactics twice. Returning to the field Zann serves under a commanding officer who takes him under her wing, pouring tactical knowledge and expertise into his head and giving him plenty of chances to practice it in the field. He's now 30

His 4th term shows him easily surviving and making another promotion to Major. I was going back and forth as to whether to have the 30-34 period to be his last, but I decided to roll for it, and missed it. His two skills in this term were spent on the Personal Development table to try to bring up that DEX, but it instead netted another +1 STR. A roll on the Advanced education gave another +1 Electronics. (I nearly went with the second advanced table again which would have given him +3 Tactics total, but I'm happy to be a little more diversified). At age 34 he's out of the army, due to the retirement of his mentor and the intervention of another senior officer who still saw McClintock as his social inferior (and who had lost a lot of money to him gambling). 

Now to the mustering out benefits. He gets one for each term, and another +2 for his rank. These can be on the benefits or cash table, and with his Gambling skill the cash table rolls are at +1. He ends up with another +2 EDU (which I see as his last 2 years in his last term being spent in officer training programs, which means his failure to reenlist came as a great shock), and a pair of passage vouchers to get him around the galaxy – these he's pocketing, with the Low Passage one being his way out if he ever finds himself again at rock bottom. The 3 remaining rolls on the cash table are very much in his favor, and he leaves the service with 70,000 credits in his accounts. Enough to make a start. 

Major McClintock is a skilled army officer, exceptionally good at large scale combats and electronics, who can hold his own briefly in a firefight. He's clawed himself up from the humblest beginnings and is always prepared for finding himself back in that circumstance. I've given the GM a potential benefactor in his last commanding officer and a potential rival in the officer who blocked his reenlistment. Despite his lower-than-average stats he's a worthy addition to any Traveller team. 

The character sheet for this one comes from the website Polyhedral Nonsense, who listed it as a work in progress, but I loved it so much I used its unfinished state for Zann's sheet. You can check out the site here

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Spaceship Zero in the 2022 character creation challenge

On day 26 of  the #characterCreationChalenge my essential salts are reconstituted in Universe 2

Spaceship Zero is a 2002 game modeling a very Buck Rogers meets Call of Cthulhu setting where the people who accidentally destroyed the last universe are now the only hope for a human rebellion against the Hydronaut invaders in this universe. It leans hard into this concept, with special powers that really drive the play style (the Escapes Slave Girl template gives other PCs action bonuses when she swoons for them or hangs on their leg), and it’s really a setting that needs player buy in. With that buy in the biggest risk being every player deciding to be a super intelligent cat, dog, or monkey with a Robot PC to open cans for them. 

As such I’m playing a Robot PC who explicitly looks like Robbie the Robot (a standard Robot power is immunity to chokes and nerve strikes; it’s called “has no neck”; They aren’t fooling around on the genre emulation). There’s more than a dozen templates filling all the archetypes that fit in this game to steer players in the right direction. Each template has minimum and maximum scores for the 4 skills (Brains, Brawn, Balance, Bravado, all rated 1-20), and you have 50 points to distribute. Robots are supposed to be strong (minimum Brawn 12) but I lean way in with a 20 Brawn, a 12 Brains and 9 in the other two, high enough to avoid penalties. 

PCs get 1-4 “zero skills” where you get a bonus (roll 3d10 rather than d100, and place two in the order you prefer) and Robot comes with Technical Know How. Looking over the charts you can pick one of the combat skills, one frequent and one less frequent non-combat, or three less frequent non-combat.  I take the middle option and add Lore: Earth Invasion History (he was awake and monitoring events while the crew were in essential salts suspension) and Medicine. My idea is that as a JOAT robot he need to be able to step in as a doctor, pilot or engineer as needed, as well as being an information repository. 

Like Twilight 2000, SS0 does skill selection in rounds:
A) There are a bunch of skills that start at double their base attribute and I fill those in. 

B) I have 225 template points to spend on Robot skills. I boost lots of things to 33% because the mechanics have your skill as difficult baseline, with easy tasks being at *3, so that gives me 99% with simple functions. [Edit: it turns out I red this wrong and that multiplication is only for attributes; skills get flat bonuses, oh well....]

I then have 25 points to spend on any skills. Being a stickler i raise a lot of things to 20 or 30 because rolling a 0 on a successful skill check gives you a Zero Point that acts as a hero/drama point. Make sure you can get them!

Then I get ANOTHER 120 skill points from my 12 Brains. Those go to round out the rest of the skills I need to be my Jack of all Trades idea, plus a ton of points on Heave so my super strong robot can be really super strong. 

Like T2K this feels like a game what an open ended sandbox but a set end point: sooner or later you have to defeat the Hydronauts or get enough humans away to escape and form a new colony. The oppression of things being as bad as they are at the start has to lift for the game to feel long term fun to me, and even with that I don’t know id play this game for longer than a year. But it’d be a fun year! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Zorcerer of Zo in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

Deciding not to mess with the Ogre Queen on day 25 of the #CharacterCreationChallenge

Back in the oughts Chad Underkoffler was producing some fun and innovate games and settings using his Prose Descriptive Qualities system. PDQ has something like a FUDGE structure in your character is defined by qualities that are Poor [-2], Average [+0], Good [+2], Expert [+4] or Mastery [+6], but rather than FUDGE dice you roll 2d6 and apply any qualities that make sense for the action, trying to beat a target number (usually 7). 

When the character takes damage, they reduce the ranks of their qualities, but can select the order (so if you lose ranks in a swordfight they don't have to come off of your Good [+2] Swordplay but might reduce your Expert [+4] witty repartee. You have to zero out everything (all qualities reduced to poor, then something goes below poor) to definitively lose a conflict, and qualities are pretty flexible – you might be better off taking the hit to Swordplay and then state you're fighting defensively while you mock and berate your opponent with your Witty Repartee, which will do damage ranks just as fast as sword hits will. 

Whatever quality you take your first hit to in a session becomes your story hook for next session. If you keep taking your Good [+2] Love for Princess Gwendolyn as your first hit, Princess Gwendolyn is going to come up somehow each session. 

It's a great, loose system for story that doesn't drive the story to specific outcomes. 

Zorcerer of Zo is one of those settings. It's a mash up of Oz and fairy tales and dozens of other things, but the primary concept is a tweaked Oz, with the green capital city and the four colored realms, but also fairy tale elements from around the world. 

For my character this time I went back to a classic and found the Charles Perrault version of Sleeping Beauty ( and found some lovely things: that the prince's mom was literally an Ogre who the king married for her money; that the Mother in law tried to eat her grandchildren; that there was no birthday deadline on the 8th fairy's curse. I've been going back and forth on what aspects of this to take for my character, but since the ZoZ setting already has a canonical sleeping princess (Morphea) I'm going with the idea of a princess blessed by the faeries where the last fairy doesn’t change the curse to sleeping, but pushes off the time. Yes, she's going to prick her finger on a spindle and die, but "Not until she has lived a full life". 

What does "a full life mean?" I don't know. The king and queen don't know, but they also know they can't coddle her away.  Crepuscula herself, upon learning the curse, agreed, because with the temper of an angel includes a righteous anger that cannot be contained. So she's roaming Zo, with the help and protection of her bodyguard, the former ostler of her father's castle and knighted when Crepuscula chose him for this job Sir Chauncy. 

Once upon a time in the Zantabulous land of Zo there was a PRINCESS from GIALLO named CREPUSCULA whose many fine qualities included 

Good [+2] perform all music with utmost skill

Expert [+4] do everything with wonderful grace 

Expert [+4] features and temper of an angel

Good [+2] Bodyguard, Sir Chauncy (who has Good [+2] Bodyguard, Average [+0] Ostler, Poor [-2] Knightly Graces)

Poor [-2] Will prick her finger on a spindle and die after living a full life. 

Maybe next time I do something with Prince Charming possibly being half-ogre….

Monday, January 24, 2022

HERO 5E in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

For say 24 I revisit the queen of the cryptids in the #charactercreationchallenge. 

Having done Champions 2nd edition I decided to move on as a test to HERO 5th, the other hero system game I have on my shelf. The much higher degree of detail on the powers and (especially) skills and talents, along with the much higher number of points to accommodate those changes, leads to not just the usual hero system paradox of choice where there are no guardrails to spark character ideas from the setting, so you're really helped by having an idea walking in, but the point economy being somewhat inflated. 

There are so many more points being sloshed around and so few set guidelines on where they should go with so many possible overlaps. For example, your PCs actual defensive ability is a mix of their Speed (which gives them more actions to default to), Dexterity for base Combat Value, Combat Maneuver and skill level choices, Armor, Resistant Defenses, Damage Reduction, etc. etc. that unless you're familiar with play it's really hard to know what's "good". This is less pressing in 2E where there were fewer points and options, but 5e PCs have nearly twice the points, but are supposed to be the same relative power level. That makes it really hard to balance. 

As a test, I took one of the heroes I made in my personal "campaign in a month" challenge from last year.

and built her in 5E to see what I got. The V&V PC, Ragk-Na, Queen of the Cryptids, was from a lost civilization with the knowledge areas of Government/Bureaucracy and Crime with super high charisma, reduced intelligence, and a disintegration power That got me to a sort of Conan-as-70's Hulk/Swamp Thing, someone not terribly bright who travels around and always sides against the local oppressor. From that we have the disintegration ray as barbarian combat. 

The Southern U.S. holds a hidden subterranean culture of cryptid humans, the last offshoot of the Neanderthals who had made it to North America via unknown means some 40,000 years ago. The Neanderthals settled in a deep cave complex running from north Alabama to the Florida panhandle. Ragk-Na ruled her tribe, and through her ferocity and cunning conquered all of their neighbors, forging an empire. Unfortunately, while she was smart, she was careless and misled by her genius (Int 6!) shaman-advisors into acts that impoverished some to the advantage of others. The rebellion left her shaman advisors in charge and Ragk-Na fleeing to places where none would follow: The Surface! 

Ragk-Na was lost among the magic of the people of the surface world, but the "Inherent Savage Nobility of the Cryptid Race" makes her compelling, and her advantages over humans make her a fierce combatant. She has ruminated on her mistakes, and her rough hewn honor makes her an impressive judge of human character. If Ragk-Na does not join in a conflict, you're probably on the wrong side. Compared to humans she's not terribly smart, nor capable of long-term plans, but she's honest and has learned to be just. She can speak, and has learned some English, but Neanderthal vocal structures are limited so she doesn't talk much, relaying on her face that conceals no craft or malice, her gestures and her clear empathy to get her point across as she moves from town to town across the American South and Gulf Coast, helping people deal with physical and moral threats. Shell-Crown of Rulership or no, she is every inch a queen. 

Ragk-Na is as strong and tough as humans can get without extensive training; she's stockily built, comparatively agile and radiates a quiet dignity or a terrifying presence based on circumstances. She's also capable of incredible combat ferocity:, armed with her beloved crystal-bladed spear and hatchet she is more accurate than all but superhumanly trained fighters, and can go into bursts of the Battle Rage of the Noble Savage and raining down blows that will destroy pretty much anything not made of super-alloy and lay even the strongest foes low. 

Moving her to hero made a lot of shifts, major and minor. I had to nail down a skill set rather than the broad AOKs, but while that was somewhat irritating it didn't take too long. The development of Neanderthal Martial Arts took longer, and there are some things, like her Defensive Move, that were added not because they were in the original conception but because they were in the rulebook and looked cool and I had a couple more points to what I budgeted for combat skills. I'm pretty sure her combat skills are solid – with the skill levels she has a OCV 10/DCV 8 with Offensive Strike and does a base of 7d6 damage to which she can add weapons, along with a decently high set of defenses – but depending on the campaign this could be too high or too low. 

Then we get to powers. Enhanced Senses is easy enough for her incredible judge of character (though this is probably more powerful than the original version), the Mental Defense and increase PRE and EGO when dealing the Cryptids both capture her fairly well. And a couple of dice in Luck because I've got the points. 

Weapons are where it gets interesting. In V&V she would just have whatever weapons I said she had, and they'd be normal gear and give an increase to hit and damage. In super-heroic HERO I have to work out the point cost for them. But I just don't want to spend the time on that, and I have points sloshing around, so I give her a Variable Power Pool for her weapons. My original pool had been 26 active, 13 control, with a the control needing a Focus, limited to weapons, and possibly with charges for any ranged attacks. 

But I have a million points sloshing around. And I don't want her to have to make skill checks in the middle of the fight to swap weapons, so I make it "cosmic", i.e. no time to change, no roll. (At this point Ragk-Na only had a Speed of 4; since I ended up with 10 points left I moved it to 5, and kept a half phase action on her changing her pool, but points sloshing around). I also boost the number of points to 30 AP.

Because of how I bought this, with the focus not on the control cost, I can put a focus on any individual power, lose the focus and not lose the points. For practical purposes she wouldn't be able to just use the same point array, but disarming her doesn't make her weaker. Plus, the limitation goes from 'weapon powers' to 'crystal weapons', so while she does most of this with killing attacks, HTH attacks, etc. it also opens up a vast range of other 'powers' that could be done by 'crystals' in a comic book sense. That means dispels of magic effects, missile deflections, force walls of using the crystal blade of the axe as a shield, etc. etc. While she never _has_ do so this, she _can_ and her versatility is now huge. 

Her potency is now much higher. She can take a HTH Killing Attack at 20 points with 0 END cost (30 AP), which with her STR turns into 40 AP. And if she makes an offensive strike with the weapon element and damage class boost its 65 AP, or 3d6+1 killing attack. (Or she can hit them with the haft of the spear or flat of the axe for 13d6! Is this too much? I don't know. 

Her disadvantages (though I really like the Champions Now formulation of Situation) I had the advantage of the other character I made last February as people to be hunting her, but I added some friendly cryptozoologists as her support cast. Not as weird as a Gerber 1970's character, but it grounds her some. 

I like the character concept a lot, but it's hard to say whether she's well designed. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Ghostbusters in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

 Day 23 of the #charactercreationchallenge asks a very simple question? Who're you gonna call? 

One of the classic breakthroughs in game design, Ghostbusters is exactly calibrated to what it needs to be to play Ghostbusters. It's the first of the dice pool systems, and the proto-d6 system that eventually powers Star Wars. The core concept of Ghostbusters is articulated in the movie: "The franchise rights alone will make us rich beyond our wildest dreams." The PCs are all people who have purchased the franchise rights to set up a Ghostbusters in their town. Now, some of these people have the technical and occult skills to match the original team. Many do not. I still want to run a Ghostbusters game hanging on the core theme of "Small Business Is Hell."

In any event, Ghostbusters are built with 4 attributes - Brains, Cool, Moves, Muscle – each of which has a specialization of the players design. (Player developed skills! Another game design first!) My image for the campaign I'd hypothetically be playing in is a group of people who quit their horrible jobs during the pandemic's Great Resignation who have clubbed together to purchase a Ghostbuster's franchise. My PC is specifically informed from trips to the grocery store where the butcher and seafood department were manned solely by their supervisors as all the regular staff had either resigned in their 70's or quit becau
se too many of the customers were screaming, entitled idiots. That fits my idea. 

Graham Giles

Concept: grocery store butcher who decided fighting the undead was better than not fighting the living

Brains: 3 (Portioning and Ordering 6 – his add to the business side of thing)

Cool: 2 (stay calm when facing a screaming monster/customer 5)

Moves: 3 (working out aggression with a proton pack 6)

Muscle: 4 (cleaver and knife, baby. Cleaver and knife 7)

Hey, what a surprise, it's another strong guy, and one who is really well positioned to deal with corporeal undead as well as incorporeal ones. I'd be happy to shift the Moves specialization to something else if it meant avoiding stepping on someone else's niche. 

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). 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Castle Falkenstein in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

 On day 17 I do the work of 20 Bloggers in a single night!

Given the choice between Space 1889 and CFalk I'm gonna take CFalk every time. I'll probably steal the Etherflyers and Mars components as new developments, but I just unabashedly love the CFalk world and its amalgamation of history and fiction and sorcery and faerie and mad science. Since it's pretty easy to play the mad science and Victorian sorcerer angles elsewhere, for the 2022 #CharacterCreationChallenge I'm taking advantage of the Faerie Angle with my Brownie. My operating assumption is he lives in the house of one of the other PCs, who is of sufficient means to keep a small household and not mind a brownie helping out. 

I like Brownies because they are Faeries who can do a lot of the bonus Faerie stuff (the glamour and etherealness) that let them fill in and around for stealth and espionage characters, but their actual Faerie Power is so specific and non-combat that it just becomes a thing the party can do. I know some players balk at having their special power become something assumed, but with Dewdrop I would aim to find a way to make that useful at least once a plot in as many surprising ways as I can. 


In this, the 4th year of the Second Compact I, Dewdrop of the Rue de Beaux Arts, take quill to parchment to record both my own thoughts in the service of Lord Auberon of Faerie. I, and the other residents of the household, have taken arms against the adversary. I am stalwart and loyal and true, if a bit stubborn and occasionally vulgar of tongue from having a homeowner who lived and swore as a sailor for many years. In this conflict I am sure my _Good Courage_ will prove sufficient. 

I am normal in appearance for my honorable breed, wearing stout clothing appropriated from the martial dolls of the prior householder's children, at a robust 1 foot in height. In that frame I pack the strength of a mortal of _Average Physique_, though my diminutive size relegates me to _Poor Fisticuffs_ against such a mortal. Still, such brute force is beneath me, as I have spent years with my elfshot, becoming a _Good Marksman_. Regardless of my size I can fell mortal man with elfshot between the eyes – why would I resort to fists?  

As with all of the Faerie I can shape this reality, but having never put much time into confounding mortals it I twist but an _Average Glamour_, and perhaps my sense of self is too great for me to express any but an _Average Etherealness_ - though many guest of this house has assumed me a Chomp Elysee, Or Toothy Cat for you English Speakers. Of course even in my own form I have _Good Stealth_ and similar _Good Atheltics_: few are the times I am seen without wishing it, and fewer still are the times I cannot reach where I wish to go. 

Still, I am proudest of my _Great Great Working_, the true gift of the Brownies. I can put my hands and back to task and accomplish what it would take 20 men to do from sunrise to sunset. The work is its own reward, and will I trust serve the Second Compact well. About my waist is a belt that holds my elfshot, sling, and a coin or two. A hand stitched peddlers pack holds such copper and wood tools as needed to peg, whittle, and hammer as needed. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Space 1889 in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

Day 16 of #charactercreationchallenge. In which I dedicate myself to tearing down the corrupt edifice of the British Empire while exploiting the hell out of a game loophole 

I've built a couple of Space 1889 characters and played in one short campaign, and I admit to a fondness for the genre between this and Castle Falkenstein. Still, every time to try to build a character I get caught in how this is a as much a simulationist character creation system as Jorune or Twilight 2000, just with fewer points, and that leaves be flummoxed because the game doesn't present itself as that. Coming out in 1988, with 6 attributes and skills under them, my brain keeps wanting to make it Star Wars d6. That's on me, but it always throws me. 

Space 1889 has 6 characteristics: Strength, Intelligence, Agility, Charisma, Endurance, and Social Level. Each are rated 1-6. There are also skills under each attribute, but only the first skill on each actually gets a direct benefit, being rated at the Attribute -1. The rest of them are free standing… except that during character creation when you spend your free skill points (either 6 if you took one career or 2 if you took a second career) skills cost half if your characteristic is a 5 or 6. So if you're high in an area it's easy to build up skills in it… at the start of play. No benefits once play begins. 

Careers are packages of skills, theoretically of equal value, but some careers have more stringent entry requirements in terms of Characteristics, and those careers give more points. If the career requires a 5 or 6 Characteristic on entry it makes some sense to reward higher levels in skills that fall under that characteristic as per above, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The main thing is that in a world simulation fashion there are careers separated by social class, physical skills, intellect, and gender (though there's a sidebar on how women can pretend to be men to enter the career); it's a fictional 1889, but in order to have it feel like 1889 at all there have to be a lot of restrictions. 

Classic character creation is setting each of the six characteristics at numbers 1 to 6. That is to say your stat spread is always 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Or you can split up 21 points, or you can roll 3d6. The curve is VERY tight in that a 3.5 is still average, but a 6 Strength makes the sample character one of the strongest men in Europe. So 6 Int is a Sherlock Holmes level genius, 3 is slightly below average. Anyway, I decided to go with the third method, which is randomly rolling 1d6 for each characteristic and play them where they lay. I fired up Anydice and asked for a 6 1d6 distribution. 

6 STR, 6 INT , 5 AGI, 4 Charisma, 3 Endurance, 6 Social Level. GREAT GOOGLY-MOOGLY! He's a veritable Superman! Looking over the options I realized I hadn't built a shady character in a while and one of the secondary careers for players is Master Criminal, but you need a 6 INT to enter it. Sold! I decided on Foreign Officer as his first career and ongoing cover, stationing him in various places around the British Empire where he can form nodes of his burgeoning criminal empire.

A quick roll of 3d6*100 indicates starting wealth (1400) but being a Master Criminal increases that by x50 (!), so 70,000 pounds. Since he's social level 5+, he has that as an annual income. I'm not sure the game designer really anticipated this combination!

With a 6 Social Level he's of the aristocracy, so I did some quick research and discovered the strange affairs of the 5th Viscount of Bolingbroke – which included having some illegitimate children under an assumed identity who he tried to get into the peerage to before he died. I decided that my PC, Roland St. John, was one of those kids. He joined the Foreign Office as it was a posting his father could get him while waiting for his peerage to come through. When it never did (and he was passed over for his half-brother whose servant mother had married his father in Bath just a couple years before father's death) he saw the whole hideous edifice of the British Empire – the colonialism, the Opium Wars, the inbred idiots being in charge – and started his master plan to bring the whole thing down. Thus, was born Doctor White, the scaped palimpsest of the future world. 

In a campaign maybe the other PCs are his agents, working with him on his master plan. Or they are people he knows in his cover identity as a foreign office agent wherever the campaign is set who he is "helping" for reasons of his own. 

High as his starting characteristics are, his starting skills are a little diffuse, so he's balanced against other more focused player characters, despite his herculean physique, Holmesian intellect, peerage, and limitless money. OK, Maybe not. 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Top Secret/SI in the 2022 character creation challenge

 Your Mission, if you choose to accept it, is to figure out this game's core activity. And why its fonts are so big. 

A little chronology: the original Top Secret was written in 1980, when we were in full Cold War mode, and the PCs worked for an unnamed intelligence agency in Assassination, Confiscation or Research. I never really got a chance to play this, but did build a character for it back in the day. It sounded very gritty and grounded based on the modules I saw for it. While the agency you worked for didn't have an identifying tags, the game made it clear what you were supposed to be doing.  

Then comes Top Secret/SI, which by 1987 the cold war tenor had changed, glasnost was in force, and TSR tried to re-enter the espionage market with a complete revamp of the game. It's a super rules-light system – 7 characteristics of 20-79 can get modified up by skills, halved or quartered by difficulty, all rolls are d100 – but the Players Guide gives absolutely no framework for who the characters are or what they are meant to be doing. There are some samples with WEB and Orion, but no definition of them. The player is left with nothing to hang their hat on. 

This is because the Administrator's Guide is selling the game as being able to do anything. Yes, there are some pages in the back detailing the WEB vs. Orion secret espionage agencies subverting or defending "human freedom" but the GM is also told hey, you want to do Police Officers? Journalists? Private Investigators? Be contemporary? Or in the 20's? or Victorian? Or in space? And they can be hired already? Or all be normally people who get pulled into some sort of problem? Sure, this can do ANYTHING! And yes, the engine is so low frills and chrome free that you could. But the box isn't selling a generic game, and the GM books is full of advice on how to do research and set up campaigns of any sort. When when I say there's 40 pages of it, don't think that's a lot because the entire book has a 1.5" header, wide gutters between columns and 14 point type. There's not a lot of meat in this space. 

Back to character creation, which again, is done kind of blind without a GM with specific ideas. You have 5 rolled characteristics (with an innovative 1d60+10 for each, giving a range from 20-79) and two secondary characteristics that are averages of two of the five top line ones. Everything in the game is rolled as d% against these scores, or skills that add to these scores. Purchasing a skill gives you your full characteristic as a roll, while levels 1-5 each give 5% bumps, and specializing gives a 10% bump by narrowing the skill. The GM can apply difficulty by halving or quartering your skill base. 

You have 30 points to buy skills, but you need to pick from (or design your own) packages, such as Military, Professional, Mechanical, or Entertainer. Nothing in this really hooks for "here's how you were trained as a spy", but from a comment in the Entertainer description something clicked: Entertainer exists to have Robert Culp's agent in I-Spy having a cover as a Tennis Pro, or the Impossible Missions force being made up of otherwise civilians. So I started building the game in my head around that type of setting. 

This part of character creation is incredibly easy: roll the 1d60+10 5 times for Strength, Reflexes, Intelligence, Will and Constitution. If your total is under 255, you get the difference as bonus points you can distribute as you will. Average Strength and Reflexes for Movement, Reflexes and Intelligence for Dexterity. 

I rolled Str 45, Ref 32, Int 41, Wil 75, Con 72. He's physically below average – well below so in Reflexes – but indomitable and can soak damage. This comes to 245 points, so I have 10 more, which I haven't decided on yet. 

My first thought is the classic PI who solves cases now with genius but by being able to soak up beatings while not stopping the investigation until someone lets something slip. Looking over the skills list almost nothing ties to the characteristics I'm actually good at – WIL and CON – until I get to Hypnotism. Then everything clicked. 

Raymond Golubev aka Rasputin Grey, the Man with the Million Dollar Brain, aging stage mentalist. Drop the 10 points to get Int to a more respectable 51, and his age explains his low Reflexes and Strength. Looking over the Advantages and Disadvantages system there's a simple way (pick one of each) vs. the realistic one (each has a cost, take a matching cost up to 6 points). I went for Simple and then abused it, taking the 6 point Photographic Memory vs. the 2 point Deep Sleeper (I seriously considered taking Memorable Feature with "crazy eyes", and then a 2 point addition as his maintenance drugs, but decided against both for something more simple). 

The Entertainer career means 4 points in Mechanical skills, 2 points in Combat, 0 in Specialist, 4 in Education, 10 in General and 4 in Language. I have 8 floating points I can distribute as I like. 

Starting with Mechanical, I spend 1 point for Basic Tool Use 0, gives me a whopping 38% chance of using any tools, but it's a prerequisite) and 3 for Carpentry 1 – I buy this higher than baseline because you need to be at least level 1 to specialize, which I do in Magical Equipment. This gives him a 53% chance to build wooden magical gear. 

Combat, I spend 2 points for one level in Knife Throwing (he used to be a lot better at this, but these days it's 43%) and Basic Melee 0, just to have any chance at all. 23% chance. Wheee! 

Specialist gets 2 of my free points to buy Concealment 0, which works for both himself and objects, likely to be hidden in his magic boxes or other props. 51%

Education I need to spend 4, and that goes to Basic Liberal Arts, Anthropology/Sociology/Psychology and Literature all at 0, all at 51%

Language I pick Russian for my second language, and mark down the 5 levels in English. 

That leaves General. Slight of Hand and Stage Magician (the one the prereq for the other) would soak all my points, so I'm just declaring he used to know this but his hands aren't up for it now. Instead 8 points gets me Hypnosis 1 (80%), 2 more for Acting 0 (51%) and 1 for Social Chameleon (51%) 

Finally his Pysche Profile, which is a very quick and dirty sort of alignment system. A devoted skeptic and atheist, he has Low Cruelty and Piety, Total Sanity, a High passion for projects and Loyalty to the organization, and a Mild greed. 

Once a popular staple of the late night talk show and cabaret set, Raymond Golubev, AKA Rasputin Grey, aka the Man with the Million Dollar Brain, is a mentalist and entertainer. His heyday was in the 1980s, but even today in his 70's he still cuts a formidable figure with his wild hair and crazy eyes. He's had to retire a lot of the stage magic (hand tremors make close up magic impossible, and it's no longer quite safe to play at knife throwing) but his photographic memory, hypnosis skills, and long history still get him international bookings, which are great cover for his recent espionage work for ORION

I can easily see him being pulled into an MI team, or used as a cover for a more athletic spy, or any of the other general ideas of this sort. Assuming that's what the game is supposed to do, which is still up in the air….