Friday, February 9, 2024

New Salem: Renaissance - does Cash Rule Everything Around Me? or Super-CREAM

As promised there's things to unpack in the concept of cash rewards for handing over criminals. V&V has this directly in the rules, replicated here for convenience... 

...and it ties directly into V&V's core activity: capturing villains and handing them over to the authorities. These rewards can be donated to charitable organizations for additional experience points or chances to improve Charisma (under the assumption that donating to charity further cements your "goodness" both to the universe as a whole and/or the general public). 

This got me thinking about how likely this really is: the authorities handing over a bank check to super-heroes for captured criminals. In the terms of comic book simplification it's... actually not bad. Connecticut has rewards of up to $50k for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people who committed certain crimes. The FBI's famous Top Ten are commanding $250,000 a piece for specific fugitives. In a Silver/Bronze age comic book universe, legitimate authorities having an established protocol for giving super-heroes those rewards makes as much sense as the rest of the genre conventions. 

Speaking of genre conventions, V&V is weirdly against the "trophy room" as the section on Booty and Trophies indicates all the ways the PCs don't get to keep any of the villains stuff - though heroes with Security Clearances and the right skills might be invited to analyze/research confiscated gear, and PCs can request items that the government can't return to anyone and would otherwise be auctioned off - including the mechanical sticks of Charisma loss and having the PC taken to be an evil NPC for stealing. Gifts from a grateful public cap out at $250, otherwise more Charisma loss. All of this reads like specific rules to stop people from carrying D&D "Loot the Bodies" genre conventions to V&V, but so heavy handed as to leave the Batcave barren and the Fortress of Solitude full of echoes.

AND YET, there's a whole section on Merchandizing, which to my knowledge LITERALLY never comes up in the source material. 

Again there's the strange moral scold of it: you can make money from this, but the only proper use for it is donating for Charisma. 🤷

Absent from all of this is what the PCs are to use the money FOR. Aside from donations, the uses for money mentioned in the rules are 

  1. Androids and Robots both have restricted healing rates, and any recovery past those requires $1,000 in repairs per Hit Point regained. That's a secret experience point drain to Androids and Robots, losing 100 XP in donations for every point of damage they take. 
  2. Technological Armor has the same problem, with repairing 1 point of Armor Defense Rating costing $100 (or a spare suit of armor costing $150 per point of ADR). It's interesting that this nod to realism is only in systems with ablative mechanics built in - there are no rules of cost for repairing damaged Devices. 
  3. The inventing rules make mention of Resources needed for the invention, but in a way that is abstract for the GM and player to negotiate. 
And that's it. Now, since V&V strongly recommends that the game be Characters-Based-On-Players and therefore take place in the here and now the PCs would be able to spend their reward money on, well, anything that exists in the here and now. But with Characters-Based-On-Players anything really expensive, such as Headquarters, requires support from an outside organization (which V&V does go into in some detail). 

To be fair, all early supers games had problems with money, often sticking with concrete measures of in game wealth, until Advanced Marvel Super Heroes developed the Resources check of "You're Incredibly Wealthy, this this is Remarkably Expensive, make a green or better check to buy it". The DC Heroes RPG 2nd edition designers notes specifcially discuss why they made the same change 

The problem with the old DC Heroes RPG Wealth rules was that money was so easy to come by. If you were a Billionaire, each Hero Point you spent was equal to $5,000,000. Picture, if you will, a whole hero group made up of Billionaires. The Penguin is on a crime spree in Gotham City, and plans to steam the $20 million dollar Mizell diamond from Gotham Museum\. Instead of capturing the fiend, the player simply offering him $100 million (20 hero points) to go straight and leave it alone. It's hard for the GM to come up with a reason why the Penguin won't accept their offer. If you have a hard time swallowing that, imagine this: the heroes are interrogating a street thug who refuses to talk. The heroes respond with "OK, if you tell is where the Mutants' hideout is located with will give you ten million dollars in small unmarked bills" (2 Hero Points). Again, this seems to go against the grain. 

V&V is straddling this strange space where the preferred character design system precludes super-wealthy PCs (unless you're already playing with millionaires), there's specific rules for the most moral ways to make money and what you can do with it, but not a lot of places to spend it. Some sort of change to a resources system would have come in the next edition (and did! in V&V 3E/Mighty Protectors, Wealth is a miscellaneous ability you can roll or purchase with points).  Tomorrow I'm going to tackle the inventing rules, and then roll that back into resources

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