Sunday, February 4, 2024

New Salem: Renaissance Mechanics - Charisma as Comics Code Authority Tracker

The last bit of game mechanics around Charisma are it's use as how well the PCs adheres to the basic contours of the superhero code. The GM is advised to make this decision after each session, awarding up to 3 Charisma points for heroic behavior (even if not witnessed, though the rules suggest public heroism might earn higher rewards than private) with 3 points being for world-saving activity, and as much as 6 points of loss due to cowardice, illegal, or immoral activities (or long periods of inactivity). 

In theory any amount of charisma can be deducted for inappropriate activity - the rulebooks explicitly states that these penalties are meant to keep players in line to the superhero code - but the rules ask, as with people wanting to play evil characters, why is someone getting more than 6 point Charisma penalty being invited back?

Finally, characters can gain Charisma points by making donations of money earned through super heroics to appropriate parities (stressing it can't be other PCs). I'm going to be spending a lot more time on money in this game later, but suffice it to say that players can choose translate the financial rewards to either Charisma or Experience rewards. 

Some things to remember to make sense of this 
  1. These rules were written when comics were still under the Comics Code Authority, and it is attempting to emulate those stories. The first edition was 1979, this one was 1982; while comics were getting infusions of darker, crime comics vibes (Frank Miller was writing Daredevil starting in 1980) the Comics Code was very much in force. The Dark Knight and Watchmen were years in the future; the Punisher doesn't get a mini-series as a 'hero' until 1986. V&V is not a game about "people with superpower can do as they will" but instead "Superhero Role Playing". You're supposed to be playing a hero. It's Silver (1956-1970) and Bronze (1970-1985) age in its design because the 'Modern Age' hasn't happened.
  2. Charisma became the "stick" for the GMs to try to keep the players in line - players are supposed to care about their Charisma scores. I'm not sure the rules as writ make Charisma important enough to drive that, but there you go. That teenage players on power fantasies are NOT likely to respond to this stick might be why I never really used it. My 1985-1989 campaign in high school was much more vigilante-comfortable.  I expect the Charisma modification rules were used as often as DMs giving experience penalties for alignment violations: some tables did it, some didn't.
  3. This predates Marvel Super Heroes and its invention of the Popularity stat. It would have made sense to add it here, but I can't ding them for not coming up with the idea when MSH was soooooo outside the box of other game designs. 

V&V's choice to have Charisma serve three purposes - personal magnetism, popularity, and indicator of how strongly aligned you are with Good or Evil - looks stranger now in outside the Bronze age of comics and with 40 years of game mechanics innovations. 

There's one last weird thing here: the GM's award or penalty is not the final say. For every point awarded or detracted the player is supposed to roll 1d20 against the PCs Charisma. To achieve a Charisma award they need to roll OVER their current charisma (or a 20, which always succeeds), while a penalty requires the player rolling UNDER their current score (and a 20 means they avoid the penalty regardless). 

This puts, if not an absolute cap on Charisma, a strong slowing down for scores over 15 or so. it also means that if your 6 Charisma hero gets a 3 point penalty for being a jerk, she has a pretty good chance to avoid any negative effects (42% if you're wondering). I legit don't know why this is here. To prevent overly high Charisma scores? To put a break on the punative power of the GM? Beats me. But it's strange. 

Tomorrow we look at how to modify all this for New Salem: Renaissance. 

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