Monday, February 12, 2024

New Salem: Renaissance Mechanics - Are Inventing Points the First Power Stunts?

No. That was easy. But they were SOOOOOOO close. 

Power stunts were one of the, roughly, half dozen paradigm changing ideas that Jeff Grubb implemented in Marvel Super Heroes, presumably because he was bored one day before lunch and thought it might re-align the entire concept of RPG design. It's the genre-mirroring idea that that the players can develop new uses for their powers on the fly, with mechanics supporting it integrated into the rest of the character improvement rules. And it blew our minds. 

Now, arguments can, and have, been made that 
  1. Champions was always supposed to work like this. Ron Edwards argues this in his 202 Champions Now saying that the point costs powers were originally designed as sorts of mechanical hard points in a highly flexible system, and that every PC should have been considered to have what is now considered a Variable Power Pool framework, and that everything after Champions III is a failed branch of evolution. Some parts of the argument are compelling - ditching the genre focused short skill list for the "universal" one used across Hero games, for example - but even if that's how it was played at Ron's table as a kid the game rules didn't clarify that in any way. Powers cost points; using powers in new ways cost new points; the Variable Power Pool rules were codified as a way to let people change where those points went, consistent with the Champions philosophy. 
  2. V&V was also always meant to work like this in the very broad OSR philosophy of "well, you can generate flame, what can someone who could generate flame do here" with a combination of Special Attacks, Training, and, yes, Inventing rules covering for anything that isn't on the character sheet. Again, the text doesn't read that way. It doesn't outlaw it, but nothing speaks to it, and the rules for modifying, expanding, reducing, or stacking powers all discuss these in terms of Design at Start, what ends up on the character sheet. The sort of free wheeling modification that Power Stunts represented aren't discussed, and you would think that if the training rules covered Animal Training (which in my 40 years of play has never happened) you would think "changing your powers" wouldn't be in the catch all of "whatever". 

Of course I've spoken to lots of people who, after Marvel Super Heroes came out, implemented Power Stunt rules into V&V using the Inventing rules. Because they were RIGHT THERE. As with Inventing Points being proto-Hero Points, the whole Inventing process was proto-Power Stunts that just needed a push. 

Using Inventing as Power Stunts varied from table to table of course, but it generally involved. 

  1. If this was a single use "Thor spins his hammer fast enough to act as a cyclotron, changing the elements that Absorbing Man is made of" then, as with One Use Inventions, you spend the Inventing Point, the GM sets the invention resources as "make a special attack with X power" or "Make roll against X characteristic" and maybe "spend a bunch of Power Points because this is exhausting" and Robert is your Mother's Brother. Maybe get the inventing point back if this doesn't work due to a missed roll (In which case try again) or definitely get it back because the GM thinks your idea is, um, less than Brilliant.
  2. If you want to instead have the stunt be a permanent add to one of your powers, the rules are the same as for inventing, except that the device being modified is the PC. The requirement becomes all the time in the Danger Room training, tweaking the formula that gave you your powers, needing to get a magical artifact or complete some other resource quest, etc. Make the inventing roll, see what happens. If you do this time and again, after 3-4 uses this ability becomes as powerful as a full power, but as with the rest of the inventing rules, Tiger-Man using training to get variations on tiger powers is more likely than Tiger Man being able to fire lasers. As a DM I would insist that the Powers Invention is an expansion of an existing power, and not just "and now I can fly!"
  3. The invention point spent on a one use power continues to fund turning that one use power into a permanent one, but the character needs to follow all the rest of the inventing rules. 
  4. Does making a power stunt permanent require a level of Training? I used to say "yes", and mimicked the Power Stunt rules by asking the PC to make 3 successful uses in the field and then a level of training to make it permanent. These days, I would say "No". Training is one character resource, Inventing Points are another. Maybe if you want a bigger divide between Device based heroes (who can would use use the Invention rules) and Powers based heroes, then yes. It's a flavor of play. 
Tomorrow we close out how New Salem: Renaissance will be using these rules. 

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