Tuesday, July 13, 2010

No Hulk

Okay, so Superworld can’t really duplicate the Emerald Goliath…well, not anyway I can find that models the comic book character.

See, SW is a pretty darn good, but it still has a modicum of balance…and a bit of realism…that, while I like it, manages to stick itself in the eye. Regarding the Hulk we have two issues that torpedo the Jolly Green Giant…one technical and one practical.

The technical one is the real heartbreaker: boosting a character’s Super Strength or Super Size (remember, this is a Chaosium/BRP game so we have that nice little 7th attribute: Size) is limited by a character’s initial ROLLED attributes. Yes, Superworld combines random attributes with picked/chosen powers…a little combination I was using in my own super design.

So if one WANTS a character with a Size of 34 and a Strength of 80-something (this would model the Hulk of the Ultimates comic universe) your character’s combined STARTING strength and size would need to be in the 16 and 16 range. Since a Size of 16 is equivalent to someone that’s 220lbs (and Banner is about 120) that doesn’t work. Of course, you could put the Size down to 10 and still get the same limit on Super Strength/Super Size…if you were able to roll a 26 for your strength.

Now it is possible to purchase handicaps that reduce one’s ability scores…but by rule you are unable to apply a Super ability to an ability that has been reduced. Likewise, the handicap “non-super i.d.” seems custom-made for the Banner/Hulk…except that taking away the super-abs still leaves you with a 200+ pound weight-lifter as opposed to the skinny scientist (again, assuming you stick with the rule book's power level limits).

[as I said I LIKE the limitations in the game as they DO prevent the “breaking” of chargen found in certain other point-buy supers games (*ahem*). They just don't work for my Hulk-man]

Next we have the PRACTICAL limitations, specifically regarding energy expenditure. Similar to Villains & Vigilantes, Superworld gives every character an “Energy” stat that is a reflection of the characters’ spirit and fatigue level and acting as the battery juicing their powers. UNlike V&V, this applies to most every type of action a character takes, including lifting heavy objects and using one’s natural damage bonus.

Okay, I can get that actually…it should tire out behemoths to throw cars around and put their full force into those super-haymakers. Unfortunately the amount of energy required is determined by the amount of Strength being used…and the amount of energy available is NOT related to the amount of strength one has.

So, for example, if my Hulk character wants to throw a “full strength” punch (assuming size 34 and a strength of 85…strong enough that he has a 50% chance of lifting a medium tank without straining) his total damage bonus is +10D6 at a cost of 30 energy. Base energy is determined by one’s POW + CON. Now both these abilities have a “rolled” maximum of 18 and increasing them with levels of Super Power or Super Constitution has limits determined by their initial rolled amount (though slightly different from the STR and SIZ limits). The absolute maximum raise would be 24 and 36 respectively, making for a total energy supply of 60…giving the Hulk a two punch limit before he needs to sit down and take a breather. Most characters can make at least two punches in a single melee round.

Pretty lame.

Same holds true for any Mighty Thor-equivalent or Superman type character. Yes, you can give characters the power “Energy Source” which increases the amount of “juice” in their batteries…but all of these things (Super POW, Super CON, Energy Source) eat into the total number of points available for building a character’s super powers (we haven’t even considered how to do the damage resistance, bonus hit points, armor, leaping, regeneration, speed, etc.) all of which come from the finite limits set by the character’s initial, rolled characteristics.

Which in Banner’s case should be fairly limited (assuming you want to have the puny scientist alter-ego).

Superworld cautions against using the rules to create an “all powerful” character, but the limitations engrained in the system seem to preclude the building of any such character…at least, if one is trying to accurately model certain iconic comic creations.

Ah, well…I said EARLIER that I didn’t think Superworld was a “perfect” game. And by perfect I mean, “meeting the ideals I personally hold dear for any RPG involving the superhero genre.” But it’s definitely “up there.”

In fact, after semi-careful consideration, I think I need a new Top Ten list.

(ranked in order I’d be willing to play ‘em)

1. Superworld
2. Heroes Unlimited
3. Godlike/Wild Talents
4. Marvel (TSR edition)
5. Villains & Vigilantes
6. Mutants & Masterminds
7. Adventure!
8. Capes
9. Aberrant
10. With Great Power…

A couple caveats: Heroes Unlimited only gets played with a couple modifications, specifically my Karma rules converted from Marvel (not posted because, well, you know how Palladium is), and the junking of pretty much the entire skill system. Superworld might (repeat: MIGHT) need some modification if you want to model specific game universes.

Not considered: DC Heroes/Blood of Heroes, BASH, Silver Age Sentinels, and Truth & Justice…I’m just not familiar enough with these rules to make a judgment.

Waaaay out of the running: Guardians, Sketch!, GURPS Supers, and Champions (any edition).

***EDIT: Damn! Completely forgot about Mutant City Blues by Pelgrane Press. That game rocks and I haven't had a chance to play it yet. I'd slot it in at #3, #4, or #5 on the list above, depending on my mood (it definitely steps over V&V, but I'm not sure about Marvel or Godlike). Man...I forget that one too often!***


  1. Just curious... why no Champions?

  2. For shame ... No 'Golden Heroes?'


  3. @ Jim: the "kind" answer would be that it just fails to make it in the Top Ten. The "less kind" answer? I could probably write a Top Ten list on why I'm not a fan of Champs.

    However, I suppose I could chalk it up mainly to:

    - Length of effort required to learn rules
    - Length of effort required to teach rules
    - Length of time to create a character
    - Amount of effort to model characters
    - Amount of rules to model real world
    - Breakage of point-buy system in certain editions
    - Presence of unnecessary (for what I want) skill system
    - Overly complicated (for what I want) combat system

    Um...am I leaving anything out? Maybe. But off the top of my head, that's enough reasons.

    ***EDIT*** I've added GURPS Supers to the list of games "waaay out of the running."

  4. Have you taken a look at Icons yet? I have heard a lot of good things about it (including random character generation), but have yet to get my hands on it.

  5. I thought this was going to be about how Ed Norton is out of the Avengers movie. :)

  6. Silver Age Sentinels is pretty good for modeling heroes, like its predecessor BESM, but it REALLY falls apart in play. Every attack can be parried or dodged and combats can take forever.

  7. @ Alan and John: Dammit! Why doesn't someone tell me about these games! I'm probably re-inventing the wheel! Again!

    @ Delta: Doh! Sorry...I was referring back to an earlier post. Shoot. I liked Ed Norton. Of course I like Eric Bana and Bill Bixby, too...

    @ Jamie: Thank you! FINALLY...someone bothers to explain why I never see or hear of ANYONE playing Silver Age Sentinels. I was wondering what the big stink was...I always see it on the "used" shelf (never a good sign) and have heard precious little despite the thing's obvious production values.

  8. I would just ignore the rule and go with whatever you want for total STR; I don't recall the limit being in the new BRP edition, but I'm still going through the book, and the superpowers section is mostly a mystery to me as yet...

    But... being more in the Marvel Tradition and Hulk-like, I'd go with a work-around by creating a new power, Rage, in which the character can increase his STR above and beyond all limits by three or five points for every point of Rage. However, whenever the Enraged character is hit in combat or halted from acting, he must test his POW against Rage on the Resistance Table. Failure means that for 1d6 rounds per point of Rage Hulk Smashes whatever and whoever the GM wants him to (i.e., Hulk goes completely ballistic and becomes an NPC). Sounds rather Hulkish to me...

  9. Also not considered: Hideouts & Hoodlums. In this case, powers represent the *result* desired, not how it's accomplished. So if the Hulk wants to use his strength to clobber somebody, he can use the Get Tough power. If he wants to bust through a wall, he uses the Wreck Things power. If he wants to throw something really far, he uses the Extend Missile Range power, etc.

  10. Did you not bother to read the Superpowers section where your Hulk can buy extra energy and strength independent of his starting attributes? Everything you have a problem with is untrue if you read the powers listings.

    1. @ Matt:

      I did read these and listed why they're problematic in the post...but maybe I missed something. If you can show me how to model a Banner/Hulk character using the SW system, you'll go a long way towards making me a "True Believer."
      ; )