Oct 1, 2008

Superpowers? Who needs superpowers!?

So yesterday I took my own advice, and bought the Houses of the Blooded PDF. While an enjoyable read, I found it to be a LARP game hiding behind the veneer of tabletop RPG.

Let me be clear that this is NOT a bad thing per se. It simply isn't my bag. That said, I saw a mechanic or two that I cannot believe are not used in more games. The best of these, is their action resolution. See when you are "doing your thang" during a combat or somesuch, the game has two beautifully intermeshed "modes".

During normal event resolution, the DM adjucates and describes a success or failure. When you either spend style points (from a daily pool), or wager from your dice pool, the PLAYER describes the success, and may insert "facts" into the game.
Here, I have to generalize a bit, because it started getting awful complicated to this old fool. See, my understanding is that when you take a risk or engage in combat you generate your dice pool using virtues, aspects, and wagers, and such. Then you bust out with a seriously superhuman feat of brilliance (usually).

Now, what does this have to do with superpowers!!!? Let's do a quick and ugly graft onto how this would apply in D&D, either 3.5 or 4E. When you roll an attack or skill check, for every 5 points you exceed the target DC, the player may add a minor story element. These elements follow a small set of very basic rules:
  1. They cannot effect past events, but can affect future outcomes.
  2. At player's option, one condition may be bestowed upon an opponent involved with roll.
  3. DM's story, DM's final approval.

I am going to gut and scab an example together.

To quote from the book:
"One free Effect for beating the risk, plus one bonus effect for each 5 the roll exceeded the DC. He can now use his additional effect for… well, additional effects. Here’s how he uses them.

1 Effect (free for rolling target DC or higher):"I fall short of reaching the other side."
2 Effect: "I land on a balcony." bonus effect for first 5 over DC.
3 Effect: "The balcony opens to a ladies room." 2nd bonus effect for 10 over DC.
4 Effect: "And, she offers me ‘safe passage." 3rd bonus effect for 15 over DC.

Remember, success gives you 1 Effect. That’s free...You get that for free because you beat the target DC. With that one effect, Sam lands successfully on the other rooftop."

NOTE: bold added by me

A lot cooler than simply beating an easy jump DC eh?

What would this mean? Hmmmmm......I've thought about a few different scenarios, all of them involve some pretty cool stuff. How's about this, Fighter is toe-to-toe with a mercenary trying to kill him...He swings - 19! His total attack roll exceeds the target AC by 13. A mighty blow that should be dramatic - don't you think?

  1. 1 effect - hit target, roll damage.
  2. 2 effect - "I smash him through the wall" bonus effect for 5 over target AC.
  3. 3 effect - "He lands, winded, on his back."

he chooses to use the force of his blow to smash the idiot through the thin wall of the tavern. The mercenary starts his turn slid three squares back - through the wall - and is now prone in the street - in a pile of horse manure (I'd give that last bit for free).

What's cool here, is that it makes the DM's job easier (just say yes!), the players are more interactive and paying closer attention to the scenery, and most importantly - the players get to do AWESOME SUPER-POWERED stuff! Add to that, it's edition free!

  1. Let's see, throwing bad guys through the air like toys....check.
  2. An uppercut sending a guardsman through a plate glass window...check.
  3. Picking a lock by tapping it twice and belching at it.......check.
  4. Jumping 60' due to a tailwind.....check.
  5. Stunning a dragon by kicking it in the...lizard? ....check!

While admittedly rough, it seems pretty nifty. Apply it (or a variant thereof) to skill challenges, and you'll never be able to wash all the role-playing off.

I opine that this would make already exceptional characters occasionally superheroic. Game balance? Meh, you've already succeeded by at least 5 on whatever the roll is - you deserve to be great! Now to find some guinea pigs...

Whatcha think guys? Does this have potential in a space opera?


jamused said...

I might try this for Savage Worlds, as the effect of getting two or more "raises" (a single raise is already covered by the rules in most situations) on a trait roll. I already do something like that in most of my games as part of adding flavor to combat; the new bit would be giving control over to the players.

Donny_the_Dm said...

Let me know how it works out. Savage worlds has been on my "to play" list for awhile now.

Thanks for coming back!