Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rules Enhancements for Superhero 2044

(2013 © Donald Saxman)
One of the major shortcomings of Superhero 2044 was the lack of detailed character generation guidelines.  The original intent was to devote an entire volume to this topic, but here is a summary of the original approach, with only minor updating.  Each of the three character classes is divided into seven sub-classes as follows.  Note that in most cases, there is still a great deal of customization and give and take with the referee.

Superhuman Durability and Strength – Divide 50 extra points between Vigor, Stamina, and Endurance.
Superhuman Power Projection - This is the ability to project or expel energy or physical objects (laser beams, spouts of acid, frigid cold, etc.).  Divide 50 points between four factors:  (1) effect of the projected energy or object; (2) number of times per round; (3) number of projects before exhaustion and recharging is necessary; and (4) range.
Superhuman Mental Abilities – This may be a straight 50 point addition to the Mentality score, in which case it represents a general increase in memory, learning, research ability, and learning speed.   It may also be divided between general Mentality increase and excellence in one or two specific skillsets.  In this case, the knowledge in these areas should be far beyond normal.
Superhuman Transformation Abilities – Transformation abilities include the ability to transform the superhero (shape-shifting of some sort) or the ability to transform the environment or the ability to transform a nearby object.  One option is to grant the superhero the ability to affect a relatively weak transformation at will.  The other is to divide 50 points between the four factors described in “Superhuman Power Projection.”
Superhuman Movement – This includes the ability to move quickly, fly, move through walls, move over water, etc.  In general, these types of abilities are granted at will.
Superhuman Senses – This includes the very greatly enhanced five senses as well as superhuman senses such as the ability to see in the dark, x-ray vision, the ability to see radio waves or heat, etc.  In general, these types of abilities are granted at will.
Only One of Its Kind Abilities – This sub-class is reserved for unique abilities that do not fit into the other six categories.
Mixing Unique sub-classes is permitted and encouraged.  Expend five points for every sub-class mixed and divide the remaining points between weaker abilities in the combined classes.  For instance, if you wanted a superhero who could fly around using enhanced vision to look for trouble, you’d combine superhuman movement and senses (-10) and give -20 of the remaining points for telescopic vision and -20 points for the ability to fly (relatively slowly).  On the other hand, a similar result could be obtained by picking superhuman transformation and assigning all 50 points into the ability to turn into an intelligent hawk at will.

For all types of Toolmaster sub-classes, divide the 50 points between the following:  (1) power or effect of the device; (2) whether the device is Generation 1, 2, or 3; and (3) the superhero's mastery of each device.  In general, Generation 1 costs 10 points, Generation 2 costs 20 points, and Generation 3 costs 30 points.  Complete mastery costs 20 points, competency costs 10 points, and basic ability costs 5 points.
Mastery of Strange Science – Strange science is a catch-all category for tech that is a logical extension of existing devices.  Examples might be lasers or jet belts or sonic disruptors or elaborate weapons.  Strange science also includes technological replication of animal abilities (web projection, sonar ears, etc.)
Mastery of Magic Tools –- Depending on the referee’s preferences, magic tools could represent actual objects from some place of magic, or could be the technological replication of such tools using advanced science.
Mastery of Alien Tools – Alien tools should clearly be of extraterrestrial origin and will typically have abilities beyond (or at least different from) strange science or magic tools.
Mastery of Genetics – Genetics includes mastery of artificial organisms as technology related to animals and medicine.  This sub-class is perhaps best reserved for supervillains or the imaginative player who would like to fight crime with a genetically modified animal companion.
Mastery of Robotics – This is another category best reserved for supervillains.  Superhero options include cases where the hero is actually a robot or has a robot companion.  In either case, if the resulting robot has superhuman abilities this could best be treated as a Unique, not a Toolmaster.
Mastery of Nanotechnology – This category was originally a catch-all classification for chemistry, geology, and other physical sciences (there was no nanotechnology in 1974, or even 1977).  Generation 3 nanotechnology can duplicate many of the Unique’s superpowers and can be a force of both destruction and creation.
Mastery of Computers – Mastery of computers includes the ability to create, manipulate, and repair all sorts of computers, computing systems, and microprocessor-containing devices, or could represent exceptional ability to access or manipulate information systems (there was no Internet in 1977).
Mixing Toolmaster sub-classes is permitted but expensive.  Expend ten points for every sub-class mixed. This will typically leave few points left for access to and mastery of powerful tools.

Pity the poor Ubermensch who must compete in a world of superpowers and super science.  Ubers can be the most challenging and enjoyable to play.  They can be made more competitive through the lavish award of “Exploit Points” which will be described soon.
Superb Combat Skills – 30 points to stamina, plus 20 points to be divided between one or more specific unarmed combat skills (for weapon based skills, see "Superb Toolset" below).
Superb Strength and Agility – 25 points to Vigor and 25 points to Dexterity.
Superb Intelligence – This may be a straight 50 point addition to the Mentality score, in which case it represents a general increase in memory, learning, research ability, and learning speed.  It may also be divided between general Mentality increase and excellence in up to five different skillsets.  In this case, the knowledge in these areas is exceptional, but not superhuman.
Superb Skillset – This represents a 50 point award to one or – at most – two particular knowledge or training-based skills or abilities, with the result being an individual who is exceptional, better than world class, but not “Uniquely powered.”   Examples of skillsets might be detective, or archeologist, or psychologist, or forensic investigator.
Superb Toolset – This represents a 50 point award to one or – at most – two particular weapon or device skills or abilities, with the result being an individual who is exceptional, better than world class, but not “Uniquely powered.”  Examples include superb archer, superb pistol marksman, superb jet belt pilot, etc.
Superb Charisma – This could be a 50 point award to the ability to get people to do what the Superhero wants, or it could define Charisma in a particular situation such as “small unit command” or “criminal negotiations” or even “appeal to the opposite sex.”
Superb Animal Companion – Conceptually, this would be a 50 point award to Charisma that was applicable only to animals in general, a particular type of animal, or a particular species.  While not a Unique ability, a very close bond and the ability to communicate commands, requests, or emotions is possible.  The more specific to a particular specifies, the more powerful the 50 points of Charisma should be.  Note that although this sub-class does not directly affect humans, there can be an indirect effect.  (“That hero’s horse really seems to love him.  He must be a good guy.” or alternatively, “It’s so kewl she has a dire wolf with her.  I wonder if she’s hiring henchmen?”)
Mixing Uber sub-classes is encouraged and suffers no penalty.

During playtesting, one of the “problems” was the potentially tremendous difference in overall capabilities between Ubers and Uniques.  A good Toolmaster might approach the sheer effectiveness of a Unique, but it would take an especially weak or poorly played Unique to lose to an Uber in a fair contest.  At the time, I made a judgment call to maintain this inequity.  Note that for decades, Batman has held his own alongside Superman – the same for Green Lantern and Green Arrow.  Thirty years of reflection has changed my mind.  We had considered – and rejected – the idea of an “Exploit Bonus” and I’m presenting the concept here as an optional rule.  An “exploit” is a signature action or short sequence of actions that is memorable, reproducible, and comes to be associated with the hero or villain.  Shooting the gun out of your opponent’s hand without injuring them is an exploit.  Using your super breath to suck in oxygen, compress it into your lungs, and exhale a cloud of icy cold breath that freezes the pavement is an exploit.  Jumping your motorcycle into a second floor window is an exploit.  You see exploits in comic books all the time and most heroes and villains come to be associated with several.  An exploit is not the routine use of powers, equipment, skills, or prime attributes.  Driving a motorcycle isn’t.  Bursting through a brick wall isn’t.  Being generally accurate with a gun isn’t.  An exploit is something that has been practiced so often that it nearly always succeeds.  Batman never misses that ledge with his Batarang.  Lex Luthor never slips when he dives for his hidden escape hatch.  In game terms, an exploit hardly ever fails.  When a player announces that they are going to perform an exploit, they should succeed.  Of course, the referee must agree to the specifics of each exploit and must decide if they are being used appropriately.  For instance, a simple exploit could be “any shot within close range will automatically shoot the gun out of an opponent’s hand without injuring them.”  Therefore, if this exploit is used at extreme range, it will probably fail.  If the opponent has a gun built into a power gauntlet, the exploit will definitely fail.  Exploits are tracked two ways.  Each hero or villain has a pool of exploits, and each exploit in this pool can be used one per battle or similar event.  For instance, each exploit can only be used once per handicapping scenario.  During role playing, exploits can usually be used once per 24 hour period.  Exploits can’t be saved or stockpiled to increase the size of the hero or villain’s pool.  They can’t be loaned or traded (although a unique villain might have the power to duplicate an ally or opponent’s exploit.  If the hero or villain’s pool has several exploits, a particular exploit can be repeated until the pool is deleted.  The size of each individual’s exploit pool is established during initial character creation and is only (very) rarely increased or decreased.  Each type of hero or villain starts with a different number of exploits (and this is where the balance between Ubers and Uniques comes in).  Each Uber starts with four exploits.  Each Toolmaster starts with one exploit that involves an individual action or ability and one exploit for one of their machines or tools.  Each Unique starts with a single exploit.  Additional exploits can be purchased using the initial 50 points, but they are expensive:  20 points per exploit.  One new exploit can be awarded by the referee at the end of an exceptionally successful battle or campaign.  This should be a reward and not an entitlement.   An exploit shouldn’t normally be lost unless the hero or villain is severely injured or irreplaceable equipment or powers are lost.  For instance, if the hero’s hand is severed, the “shoot gun out of opponent’s hands” exploit is lost until the hero’s hand is re-grown.

Unique Creation Example – Rex the intelligent tyrannosaurus is a unique with 40 of his 50 points devoted to Durability and Strength.  The remaining 10 gives him the power to speak.  In general, he looks like a scary but miniature rapacious predator.  He can select an exploit and he picks the ability to fluff out the vestigial feathers on his neck.  This creates a shocking contrast to his normal appearance and (dare we say it) he actually looks cute.  This exploit increases his Charisma prime requisite to 18 for several minutes and the effect lingers based on the target’s Ego.  Rex has a pool of one exploit and this exploit can be used once per battle or day.
Toolmaster Creation Example – Heartwood is a Toolmaster.  He’s a passable archer but possesses a magical hunting bow (‘Mastery of Magic Tools’)  The highly enchanted bow is considered Generation 2 (20 points) and has a moderate amount of power (20 more points) and he is competent with the bow (10 points).  The bow’s powers are typical for a medium-powered Gen-2 device.  It has unlimited ammo and can shoot three kinds of arrows:  steel-tipped, flaming, and mercy.  It does not have exceptional rate of fire or range and Heartwood’s accuracy is just so-so.  He picks his exploits with this in mind.  His “personal” exploit is to fire a steel tipped arrow directly down the barrel (or reticule or launch tube or equivalent) of anyone aiming the weapon at him.  This will disable most single barreled weapons (but not, for instance, an archaic double barreled shotgun) until the arrow is cleared and any damage repaired.  His remaining “equipment” exploit is to make the flaming arrow a magical armor piercing arrow that will drill through walls, vehicles, armor, etc.  Heartwood has a pool of two exploits and can use either one once per battle or day or use the same exploit twice per battle or day.
Uber Creation Example – Vic Wilson is a human Uber who is fighting crime to establish street cred and generate income while she searches for her kidnapped daughter.  Since she can mix sub-classes freely, she splits her 50 points with 25 for detective skills (‘Superb Skillset’), 15 points for Dexterity (‘Superb Agility’), and 10 points for exceptional intelligence with a specialty in computer security (‘Superb Intelligence’ with a 20 Mentality in this specific area).  She will have a pool of four exploits and picks:  (1) the ability to bug and/or hack into a portable communication device using her personal computer; (2) the ability to tell her story to a mother or father and get an immediate and permanent 5 point Charisma increase for that individual); (3) the ability to tell if an English-speaking person is telling her a lie; and (4) the ability to use acrobatic skills to withdraw from any hand to hand combat without penalty and move away from her opponent for one round before they can react.  Vic has a pool of four exploits.

Although not explicitly described, all equipment, tools, and portions of the environment all can have prime requisites.  These attributes define how heroes and villains interact with their environment.  In addition to the seven prime requisites used for creating heroes and villains, there are two additional attributes:  “Generation” and “Price.”  Here’s a short description of how these prime requisites could apply.  Keep in mind that in this context, an “object” could be a wall, or a vehicle, or a firearm, or a tree.
Object Vigor – Whether the object is in good repair, decayed, diseased, depleted, etc.
Object Stamina – Generally not relevant but could potentially be applied to how dangerous traps are, how fast an object moved, or to what extent an object can be used as an emergency or “found” weapon.
Object Endurance – Ability to withstand physical attack, degradation, fire, acid, etc.
Object Mentality – This is reserved mainly for computers or objects with artificial intelligence.
Object Charisma – How attractive or valuable the object appears to be.
Object Ego – Like Mentality, this attribute is reserved mainly for computers or objects with artificial intelligence and refers to their ability to resist hacking or security workarounds.
Object Dexterity – This attribute mainly applies to vehicles or moving machinery.
Object Generation – Machinery is classified as Generation 1 (generally late 20th century), Generation 2 (contemporaneous, or as described in Superhero 2044 rules), and Generation 3 (at least twenty years more advanced from state of the art).
Object Price – Price lists for basic equipment are already provided in the rules and these prices are for Gen-2 versions.  As a general rule of thumb, Gen-1 costs half as much as Gen-2 and Gen-3 costs ten times as much as Gen-2.

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