Friday, May 27, 2016

Super Classes

Yes, "supers week" appears to be continuing at Ye Old least for one or two more posts.

Just continuing my thought process from yesterday's blog post:

One of the (many) inconveniences of residing in Paraguay: most of my RPG library is inaccessible, being 7000 miles from my current location. 

[and my library, I should have you know, is extensive]

Which is incredibly frustrating when I'm either A) researching a particular game or subject matter that I know I have a book for, or B) just have the itch to read or review some game or other. It can lead me to doing things I don't really want to re-purchasing books in PDF form. Like the other day when I came out of Captain America: Civil War and found myself thinking heavily about Aberrant. I nearly broke down and picked up a PDF of the game off DriveThruRPG, something (in a more rational frame of mind) I really didn't want to do. I was fortunate my "cheap-O" instinct kicked in when I saw the $9 price tag. Even though that's small change, it's a lot for a PDF considering:
  • I have already determined Aberrant's not a game I really want to play as written.
  • Even if I did play it, I use hardcopy at my game table not PDFs.
  • I already own a hardcopy of the game.
  • My laptop has finite space anyway, AND
  • That's money I could better spend on some other indie-designer PDF that needs my support.
However, even after going through that rational argument in my mind, I STILL nearly purchased a copy of Heroes Unlimited Revised in PDF form off the same site (not even the 2nd Edition HU, mind you...the PRIOR iteration), despite it being $13! And despite having already purchased that particular edition in hardcopy not once, but twice

And I'm still considering buying it, even tonight. Hey, I'm sure Mr. Siembieda would appreciate the ducats.

But at the moment, I haven't. Instead I'm going to work from memory here.

HU: gives us ten "power categories" (classes), which I long ago memorized in a moment of extreme nerdy-ness: Aliens, Bionics, Experiments, Hardware, Magic, Mutants, Physical Training, Psionics, Robotics, and Special Training. The indispensable HU supplement Powers Unlimited 2 provides an additional ten power types: Empowered, Eugenics, Gestalt, Imbued, Immortal, Invention, Natural Genius, Super-Soldier, Symbiotic, and Weapons Master.

[man, I am a nerd]

Not as outrageous as Rifts sourcebooks.
What's neat about these - other than the sheer creativity on display of someone willing to create entirely different systems for each individual super type he wants to model...and then working to squeeze it into the three "universal holes" of HU (skills, combat, and SDC/HPs) - what's neat about these is that a number of these classes are broken down into subclasses. For example, a Robotics character might be a humanoid robot (like the Vision), or a powered exoskeleton (like the Iron Man armor), or a giant robot (like the old Shogun Warriors, etc.). The Magic character might be a sorcerer (Dr. Strange), or a magically imbued character (like Captain Marvel), or a dude with a magic weapon/artifact (like Captain Britain). The Special Training category includes secret agents, street magicians, hunters, and super sleuths. There's a lot of variation and variety present in EACH of these classes...enough so that you can model most anything in the same power range as the Marvel Universe (some heavy hitters aside).

It's both fun and functional if you can A) come to accept the peculiarities of the system, B) are at ease with the possibility of a WIDE range of possible power levels (with no cinematic bridging), and C) have a GM willing to do a lot of work to make.

[hmm...alternatively, you could skimp on "C" so long as you're willing to lower your expectations of what you want out of your game]

But "functional" (especially with those caveats) isn't really what I'm craving. A little elegance of design would be nice. I mean, isn't gestalt more a superpower than a power-type? I suppose it depends on who you ask. I'm sure Swamp Thing would have considered himself an "altered human" (in MSH terms) or "experiment" (in HU) back when it still believed it was Alec Holland. Wouldn't a "weapons master" simply be another subheading of the Special Training character? Etc., etc.

However, my interest here isn't so much about pinning down archetypes as it is about establishing different styles of play.

Gosh...I was trying to find a prior post I could link to (among my 70+ "class" labeled posts), and could not, so here's the brief skinny on B/X play styles:

  • Fighters: offer straightforward play-style. No surprises, no limitations, but no variety either. It does not behoove a fighter to wear leather armor instead of plate (for example), and if using the default D6 damage rules, weapon matters for little. Advancement is linear, stamina (staying power) is robust. Class requires effective risk management.
  • Magic-Users: offers a wide variety of options, but limited resources (spells). With progression (advancement) variety increases and resources both increase, though always finite (spells will eventually run out). Stamina is low, as is effectiveness outside resource-based ability. Slow advancement. Class requires effective strategy (choice of spells and when to use them).
  • Clerics: offer a hybrid of play-style. Variety added (limited spells) with some variety removed (no edged weapons or missiles). Staying power is good, but less than fighters. There is an expectation of support for other players, presumably with corresponding thanks/appreciation. Swift advancement. Class requires team attitude and balance of strategy and risk management.
  • Thieves: offers a number of options, without the resource limits of spell-casters (thief abilities don't run out), but variety is fairly static (skills don't change much over time), and use is unreliable (always a chance of failure, more so at low levels). Trade-off is low staying power (less HPs, poor AC), partially offset by very swift advancement. Class requires gambling on the part of the player and reliance on luck...not just with regards to skill use but the expected outcome (scouting ahead and hoping not to run into something bad, opening the chest or door and hoping for a positive save against any missed trap).
  • Non-humans add minor trade-offs for bonus abilities. Elf is an exception...adds extra abilities plus benefits of two classes with the trade-off of VERY slow advancement and reduced stamina.

This is a pretty good base to start working from, and I've actually got a few ideas about how I'd divvy up my class categories for a supers game (I was furiously jotting down notes at 3am this morning)...probably three basic classes plus an optional one for "non-humans." However, as with all my recent game designs, I'm really trying to keep the focus human-centric, so maybe the non-humans are out the window. Minimize the weirdness, you know?
; )

By the way, "mutant" is not going to be a class in this little starting-to-form project of mine. I just found out this morning (researching) that the reason the Marvel Cinematic Universe has no mutants is because Fox, upon acquiring the rights to the X-Men, also acquired the rights to the term "mutant" as far as the term applies to the Marvel comics universe. Which is, you know, crazy...but whatever. Mutants muddy the waters of what could otherwise be a post-modern pulp-SciFi supers game...which is kind of the direction this little train is heading. Besides, if I follow-through with my current idea of making it B/X-based, there's already a great, B/X-compatible game with a system for creating mutants (that would be Mutant Future).

[yes, I've been playing around with the idea with drafting a B/X-based supers game for years. What happens is I tinker and write and then think of non-B/X ways to accomplish design goals and end up scrapping and shelving the basic chassis...I just haven't committed to the concept. There IS, by the way, already a B/X-style supers game on the market...Sentinels of Echo City...and I will probably pick up the PDF with the $5 of those dollars I saved by not buying Aberrant. Probably. I kind of want to stake out my own design parameters first, so as not to be unduly influenced]

[ah, hell...what's five bucks anyway?]

: )

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