Sunday, February 11, 2024

New Salem: Renaissance Mechanics - Inventing Points as the first Hero Points?

There's a real question over whether or not Villains and Vigilantes is an OSR game, even with it's early publication date.  

Now, OSR folks might dogmatically say that Villains & Vigilantes isn't an OSR style game because, as noted before, the GM is advised to build stories for the Players to experience. Supers as a genre are very reactive - the world is ordered, the villains disorder it, the heroes return it to order, the world is saved - and when the super-heroes start trying to re-order the world the genre's response is almost universally dystopian. (There are a lot of people who have a lot to say about that as well re Supers being fascistic. And it is why New Salem: Renaissance is designed as it is, a Supers setting where the world starts disordered, and the PC supers are deciding in part what the new order is, and how to accomplish it.) While the GM is advised to continuously poll the players on what they want to do, it is to design the next story to their interests and not to open things up to sandbox, player driven, emergent play. It's correctly not defined as OSR despite being a 2nd generation game. 

But it's also not a Story Game as the term is understood now, because the players only control over the narrative is the actions of his character in a very Trad Games sense. They can't manipulate the environment as a player, and there's no setting or dice roll altering currency to do so.

Or is there? 

This roundabout introduction brings us to the Inventing Point. Every character - player and NPC alike - has 1/10th their Intelligence per level in Inventing Points. Fractions don't round, so if you have a 15 Intelligence you have 1.5 Inventing Points at 1st level and 3 Inventing Points at 2nd, assuming you haven't used one. Inventing points are non-renewable, spend it and lose it, "Brilliant Ideas". Those are normally inventions but...

As a silver/bronze age Genre Emulator they are great. Young Peter Parker starts with a modified Ice Powers device (his web-shooters, because Ice Powers is the only thing in game that creates matter like that), but in his first couple years of adventures he invents his mini-camera, his Spider-Light belt buckle, and his Spider-Tracers. Peter Parker's a pretty smart kid! Batman, smarter still, invents all the things in his utility belt, plus (I would argue) the whole alternate vehicle options for his Vehicle ability. Reed Richards, smarter even still, invents universal translators and lord knows how much more stuff.  

This is the real ability that makes Intelligence the equal of every other attribute if not moreso. 

But it's also a potentially player controlled, outside of character consciousness, alter the setting game mechanic. It's a hero point for puzzles and inventions. 

Or is it?

This? This right here? This is just damn weird. The text clearly states that the NPC inventors KNOW HOW MANY BRILLIANT IDEAS THEY HAVE LEFT. Do they also know what level they are? How the mechanics work? It's just boggling. But if true, if the game's conceit is that people in the V&V worlds have an understanding of their number of remaining strokes of genius, then this in no way takes us into the Story Game space. 

It's just not recognizably the real world. 

It's so much more useful to accept that the Inventing Point is exactly what it looks like: potentially the earliest implementation of the Hero Point. It's a "I'm stuck, but I would like to expend an intangible PC resource to solve this problem." This is a side use of the ability, but it's right there in the text. The GM can overrule it, or can call for a die roll to confirm it, but it's still a player-controlled, story-driving resource. I LOVE THAT. 

The rest of the rules for Inventing Points have to do with the characters chance to invent something and requiring 

  1. "The Character must submit to the GM a description of what he wants his device to be able to do and how it works." What is going on here? The Character, a fictitious entity, submits to the GM, the universal controller, plans? This is just more strange twisting around the idea of what this is in the meta-game space, but with just a surface read, the player has to come up with some rational sounding (the next sentence says it doesn't have to be scientifically plausible) way for the device to work. "This transmits on a frequency my Spider-Sense can pick up."..."Right, sounds good!"
  2. The GM determines if the PC has the skills needed for this based on the player (in the classic game) and the characters Knowledge Areas, but mostly to determine how long any additional research time to get up to speed on the science needed to make the thing, and the resources needed to build it. 
  3. The PCs have to do that research and get those resources, involving convening with NPC scientists and finding/buying/accessing the "equipment, components, reference materials, energy sources, etc." to make the invention, which might involve side quests, and then make the roll. 
  4. If the GM determined that failure was predestined, well, there you go, no dice rolls. The rules recommend that the player gets "something" even if not everything and go ahead with the die roll. The GM is supposed to keep in mind 
    1. game balance in mind when allowing the invention, 
    2. but also Character Idiom. "Tiger-Man should invent things to augment his tiger powers, not a laser rifle." This is just fascinating. The 1E rules had a power called "Gimmick" that were a sort of Magic Spells for technology, but this rule here supplants it - Tiger Man by definition is better at making Tiger-Themed gear. 
  5. But the GM is also told not to tell the player up front when the invention won't work, and to make the player character jump through the hoops anyway because the character doesn't know it won't work. Wow does that feel unnecessarily adversarial and also the players have all the time in the world to game.
  6. Finally, if the invention is meant to be... 
    1. equipment - something that is permanently part of the Pcs ability set - the character rolls d% vs. Intelligence x3 (a mechanic I'll come back to a lot later!) and if it fails you can keep spending resources and time to try again on the same inventing point, or give up and get the inventing point back because the idea wasn't Brilliant enough. New Equipment should be 1/4 to 1/3rd as potent as an Ability, but further inventing points and going through this again can upgrade it, eventually making it as powerful as a rolled Ability. 
    2. ...a one shot invention to solve an immediate problem (and the rules give an example of a hero coming up with devices to stop a flame-using villain) that have at least one good use but are not carriable as part of their regular kit, the character only has to expend an Inventing Point, no roll is required, and it can be thrown together as soon the GM-set requirements are met. Of course the GM can decide the idea just won't work, let the player character think it will, and then give the inventing point back because it wasn't brilliant enough. 
There's just so much genre emulation going on there. Tons! Tons! But this has run very long already so tomorrow I'm going to look at other wats V&V players can use this in general, and then how it applies to NS:R in particular. 

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