Thursday, May 15, 2008

Supers vs. "normals": Does it matter?

So I've talked a bit about this before, but it came up again with my players last night as we talked about our first Supers20 characters:

I am not doing anything to balance supers against normals in Supers20.

Ok, maybe nothing is a strong word. Supers will be spending all the same resources as normals, for different things.

There are no power points added into the mix in Supers20.

Your powers are, well, powered, by the Power Level feat.

The powers themselves? Feats.

You also will find ranks in the Power Control skill (posted earlier) handy, and power stunts are now perks.

To illustrate this with a comics example, Superman is spending all his feats, a good chunk of his skill points, and all his perks on his powers.

Batman is a very high level Modern20 character, already a pretty frightening and cinematic type, who might have a few "invisible" powers, such as Superhuman Dexterity, as well as some tech-based abilities, but basically, he's a modern20 character.

And the game gives him no special merit badge-style bennie for eschewing the flashy shit like Time Control or Flight or Energy Blast.

When my players got that "he's gone over the deep end again" look they give each other, my first question made them think I was REALLY nuts:

Does it matter?

Batman couldn't take Superman in the comics (he couldn't, FUCK YOU Frank Miller, your little kryptonite-powered battlesuit was the dumbest fucking story ever).

And he couldn't take him in Modern20.

People LOVE Batman in the comics.

Why do they need "power parity" in Modern20? Will not being able to have a 50% chance to beat up a fellow player matter?

In my mind, it shouldn't.

The skills guy (like Batman), should be just as valuable to a group in different ways. We're playing the Justice League, not a solo book.

And again, I'm not sure it's a problem anyway.

If you were to make a 300 point skill-based character in Hero, he would not be able to take out a 300 point min-maxed power blaster.

Of course, I also removed some of the artificial limitations Blood and Vigilance imposed on normals. They had artificial caps on ability scores supers didn't.

In short, Supers20 handles the question of origin and balance the same way Hero does. Your origin is pure backstory, totally in the hands of the GM and player. Your powers are your business. Anything goes within the rules.

By contrast, Blood and Vigilance took a more Marvel Superheroes approach, with origin affecting your character like race in D&D.

So for right now, I'm tentatively ok with leaving things as they are.

Powers might be flashy, but they're a choice, a niche.

Skills are also a niche.


Walt said...

FINALLY! I was waiting for some one to get that Batman can't stand up to Superman with powers alone. It would take a whole lot of guile... and an army... to do it. I really like the way that this is looking and can't wait to see the final product.

IS Supers20 going to be a stand alone product or will it all be rolled into Dark Future.


mikelaff said...

This reminds me a bit of how M+M handles it (if I'm understanding you correctly.)

I've tried the Batman vs Superman and Superman vs Green Arrow fight with my group in M+M, they both turns out the way you think it would. A skills guy needs a lot of prior preparation and perhaps a small tac-nuke in his back pocket to have a chance there.

Which begs the question of how you're handling devices - - I'm guessing they're represented as a choice among the power feats - or maybe just a descriptor to those feats.

In any case - I'll be interested to give it a look when it comes out.

Chuck said...

To Walt: Yeah, I was laboring under the idea that parity was my job for the longest time, but as I thought about Hero and Marvel, which I consider the gold standard for supers games mechanically, I realized parity is not something either of those games achieve either.

If M&M has the same issues, as Mike seems to suggest, then maybe the problem isn't solvable at the system level, only at the human level.

To Mike: Right now I am leaning toward treating them as a special effect.

Meaning if you want a bomb, you build it as a normal power, with limitations and your special effect is "small tac-nuke".

I am mentally working out the details for a gadgetry power that will allow for pulling powers out of your a- utility belt.

Now back to Walt: Supers20 and Dark Future will be two separate products.

Supers20 is Modern20's superhero add-on, while Dark Future is the official supers setting for Supers20.

I also think some smaller settings are a strong possibility as future dispatch issues.

Walt said...

Sweet... I always had a taste for you Supers products as I felt they brought the flavor of supers to the game table without throwing the core mechanics too out of whack. Dark Future has me salivating because I always love the gritty "this could be possible" spin on supers. That is why a lot of DC comics never really hit a nerve... The stories were always "Here I come to save the DAY!" and never "the story of mutant rights is one of the great agenda's of our time"

Make mine Modern20...

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