Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Villains & Vigilantes and Charismatic Involvement

I commented on this in the discussion of mutations/power generation, and felt it needed its own post as it's something that MIGHT end up fitting into New Salem. Probably not, but I wanted to kick the idea around. 

Villains & Vigilantes 1.0 includes the origin type of Charismatic Involvement, which is... well it's hard to explain. Here, just read it 

So essentially there is a 10% chance that your PC in a super hero game is going to be... Snapper Carr. Or Rick Jones. Or Jimmy Olsen or Lois Lane. This is, well, kinda nuts and kinda awesome. 

I mean, mostly it's nuts. 

So your advantages for being a Charismatically Involved character are 

  • Your Charisma is permanently set at 17. This nets you a +10% on your reaction roll with vigilantes and... well that's it really. OK not entirely, but charisma doesn't net you much.
  • You have A 5% chance of a single super power from a table that has some awfully weird outcomes as it is the same table used for Mutants and Extraterrestrials and includes pretty much ever power 
  • And you can train without taking time away from adventuring up to a 16 (knowing that 20 is the maximum score for training). This is a legit advantage but needs unpacking. 

This gets weird. In the section on gamemastering the rules advise that the GM at least vaguely stick to the real time = game time rule, with one weekly session covering about one week of time, because they also recommend that you not use the Marvel or DC universe as your backdrop but instead stick to the real world, as newspapers and headlines make great sources of inspiration. So if V&V 1.0 is dealing with the AD&D Gygaxian mandate of "You can not have a meaningful campaign if strict time records are not kept" then trying to train "rapidly" removes your PC from play, and doing it alongside patrolling means it takes 6 months to a year in game, which should also be of PLAY, per point of increase in a single characteristic. 

This get weird because if you do drop out of patrolling/adventuring to train, you don't have another PC to bring in. What makes the Gygaxian comment work is that the player has several PCs and can have the fighter train to go up a level and the wizard do spell research while they play their Monk in whatever is happening now. Time can be tracked across multiple PCs while the players stay engaged. But in V&V, where the PCs is based on the player and the rules for additional characters are under NPC construction, this makes no sense. Shrug Emjoi

In any event, a Charismatically Involved hero doesn't have to do that: they are constantly improving in 2 of the four characteristics they can change, since their Charisma is fixed at 17. Over the year of play sessions that it takes any other hero to increase, say, Dexterity by a point, they can increase their Dex by 3 and their Constitution by up to 6, assuming capping out at 16. This actually turns into a significant advantage if you're playing regularly and start with modestly above average characteristics - After a year of play you'll probably be powerful, very healthy, brilliant, and dexterous if the terminology to score part of the charts is to be believed, with 64 Power and +4 HP per level. 

  • The final advantage is that the Vigilantes have to come to your aid if you get into trouble: they are literally obligated to and they suffer charisma loss if you die. Yes, it's another case of Charisma loss being a stick that is supposed to drive PC behavior. But I want to dive more into this, because it never says that the vigilante or group of vigilantes HAVE TO BE THE OTHER PCS. In fact in a solo game they can't be. 
The charismatically involved hero can jump from vigilante to vigilante, so Rick Jones is clearly the template for this, moving from Hulk, to the Avengers, to Captain America, to Captain Marvel, to Rom, and back and forth. But does this mean that the player can force the GM to come up with NPC Vigilantes who the HAVE TO back the charismatically involved character? Where the original Avengers are Thor, Iron Man, Ant Man, Wasp, and Rick Jones, who is Charismatically Involved with the NPC Hulk? And then pick some NPC Hero like ROM and make the GM come up with adventures for Rick Jones to have with a spaceknight? 

Of course, Rick Jones never had his own solo book, unlike Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, who could have perfectly wonderful and bizarre adventures with the hook that he can summon the best hero in the world at a moment's notice with his watch as the ultimate get out of jail free card? 

I fully understand why this didn't survive into 2E, because it's a very specific character design. It's not like playing a proper "sidekick" who is just a younger version of the hero with a substantially similar power set. It's playing the normal person insert character. It's possible to play this in 2E, if you roll Pet or Animated Servant or in a pinch Vehicle, take any other rolls on the Skills table, and then define the Pet/Servant/Vehicle as a badass monster/hero/transformer who you tag along with, act as the front person for, do all the talking, whatever. It can be a hella fun design, but its not 10% of all PCs. 

How would this work in New Salem? Well either in the design I just set up where the PCs is the heroic investigator of some sort and their created by a power roll hero is a dark knight vigilante who shows up when needed to even the odds in a fight or escape - we already have one of those in Ernie Souchak, who could just become a PC - or you could build an all skills PC and state that they are the Serpico/Jim Gordon style one clean cop working in secret with the other PC heroes. Its an interesting angle. 

1 comment:

  1. It's a neat design but yeah, very specific.

    It also takes on an interesting cast if you assume the default setup in V&V2 (and I assume V&V1) of PCs as self-insert characters of the players -- a player who rolls up a "charisimatic involvement" origin gets a character who starts out much closer to how they perceive themselves than the other PCs, but with some superheroic friends and the ability to improve their basic characteristics rapidly, turning them eventually from "how I perceive myself" to a sort of wish fulfilment fantasy.