Sunday, April 28, 2013

Creating a Daredevils Character (Part I)

The first step in creating a Daredevils character is to distribute “75 points among the Attributes.”  In my opinion, the first step should be to roll on the Character Background Table since the results of this roll have a bearing on career choices.  I roll '13' on 1d100; not a good omen (or a lucky roll).  This result represents (among other things) a 'poor' education.  My nascent character gets an initial score in the American History and American Culture skill; he – I assume the masculine gender – also has “Double initial score in English Language.”  (By comparison, someone with 'excellent' education would have “Quadruple initial score.”)  Before determining Attributes, I shall establish the length of his pre-adventure career.  The result of 4d10 gives me 18; somewhat less than the average roll of 22 years.  Anyway, rolling 1d6 generates the number two.  I add this to fourteen to find out that the character began his pre-adventure career at age 16.  My guy will begin play when he is 34 years old (16 + 18).  Assuming a campaign start date of 1933, he was born in 1899.

So far, the character lacks a good education and has fewer years than average with which to acquire skills.  I roll 1d100 on the Physical Aspect Chart and get '79.'  This means 'above average' height and weight (5'11" – 6'2"; 77 – 86 kg).  (Why did they use imperial height but metric weight?)  I imagine the character attempting to lift himself out from his 'poor' background by physical means.  I say he tries to be a boxer and distribute points among Attributes appropriately.

I assign 15 points each to Strength, Deftness, and Health for purposes of optimization.  (With a value of 15, the character has a 1d10 'Effect Die' with regard to that Attribute.  With a value of 14, the 'Effect Die' would be 1d6.)  The remaining Attributes – Wit, Will, and Speed – get 10 points each; this is considered the low end of average.  By now, the character deserves a name; I'll call him Danny Sweet.

Now I turn my attention to the psychological profile and obtain the following base values for Danny's Talents:  Charismatic 0; Combative 0; Communicative 0; Esthetic 0; Mechanical 0; Natural +1; Scientific 0.  A roll of 2d6 results in 5; this added to twenty gives Danny 25 points to distribute among the Talents.  Because he is a boxer, I assign ten points to Combative.  It's possible to leave a Talent's value at zero, but that's not how I roll.  I give one point each to the remaining five Talents at zero.  There are ten points left.  I assign four to Charismatic, three to Communicative, and the last three to Natural.  Danny's final Talent values are:  Charismatic 5; Combative 10; Communicative 4; Esthetic 1; Mechanical 1; Natural 4; Scientific 1.

Danny's first career period begins in 1915.  I want him to be a boxer so the appropriate career is 'Athlete/Sportsman.'  At Danny's age there are no requirements for entering this career.  A roll of 8 on 2d6 means this first career period will last eight years.  In the first year of a new career, a character learns whatever 'Automatic Skills' associated with the career.  Athlete is one of the two careers which doesn't have an Automatic Skill, which is bogus.  This means Danny will spend a year gaining no benefits other than financial.  The following year, I select Brawling from the list of Available Skills because this is the Daredevils Skill most akin to boxing.  For the third year, Danny takes 1d3 more Attribute points, but these won't be added until later in the character creation process.

Because of the Great War, Danny can interrupt his Athlete career and join the military.  Even if he didn't choose to enlist, he could be drafted.  Danny opts to enlist.  The requirements for the Military career are (1) a “Health Attribute Saving Throw” and (2) no criminal record.  Well, Danny doesn't have a criminal record.  His Health is 15.  This means I must roll 7 or less on 1d20 to succeed with the Saving Throw.  I manage to roll a 5.  “The Infantry is assumed to be the branch of service unless he makes the Requirements of one of the other branches.”  Danny might as well try to get into one of the other branches.  The Air Corps requires a Deftness Saving Throw.  With a Deftness of 15, he needs a 7 or less.  I roll a 4, which I wasn't expecting.  Danny's in the Air Corps!  The Automatic Skills for the Air Corps are Pilot and Navigation.

According to page 19:
All player characters are assumed to be officer material. They start as Non-commissioned officers and may make one roll per year for promotion... Under wartime conditions, the character may make an additional roll during the first year in service.
The required percentile roll is Wit + Will + Combative + years in the 'College' career, so Danny has a 30% chance.  For the first year, I roll '01' and '89.'  For the second year, a roll '09.'  (The War lasts two years.)  In total, two promotions!  Instead of Danny Sweet, boxer, we have Lt. Daniel F. Sweet, war hero.  It's not the pre-adventure career I had planned on, but it will do.  Anyway, each promotion entitles a character to an additional initial score in a Skill; so Danny takes Pistol and Mechanic from the list of Available Skills for the Air Corps.  For the second and final year of the War, Danny takes Pilot again.  If Danny succeeds in a Wit Saving Throw, he gets French Language as a Skill.  Danny's Wit is 10, so the Saving Throw is 5 or less on 1d20.  I roll a 14 and Danny doesn't pick up a language.

In 1920, Danny resumes his pre-War career, Athlete/Sportsman.  He has five more years in this career term.  Danny could continue as a boxer, but there are other options.  In this career, almost all 'Practical' Skills are available, including – now that the War is over – Pilot.  I suppose Danny could be a 'Sportsman' in terms of a stunt pilot or barnstormer.  If he's going to be a barnstormer, he ought to take two more 'years' of Pilot.  I'd like for Danny to take Mechanic again, but that's a 'Task' Skill, not a 'Practical' Skill.  So for the final three years of this career term, he takes Brawling for the second time and 2d3 points for Attributes.

What exciting surprises does destiny have in store for Danny?  What should he do next?  What would YOU do if you were Danny and I wasn't making all of the decisions?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Special Powers in Daredevils

The third section of the Daredevils rule book is called 'Optional Systems.'  (The first section is 'The Characters' and the second is 'The Game.')  Optional rules appear throughout the book, but the 'Optional Systems' section is reserved for rules that don't appear elsewhere.

There are rules that cover 'Gimmicks' – I would call them gadgets.  “Gimmicks are technological devices, usually ahead of their time, that are used by Daredevils on their adventures.”  The rules cover how player characters can create Gimmicks, provided they possess appropriate skills.  A Task Value is determined for any (potential) Gimmick in part by multiplying Value Factor by Weight Factor.  Value Factor is generated by assigning numbers to one or more of seven classifiers (e.g., reduction in size, change appearance) coded 'A' through 'G.'  (Yawn.)  Surprisingly, there are no rules regarding the monetary cost of developing a Gimmick, just the time involved.  Ten Gimmick examples are listed, including genre appropriate devices like mercy bullets and a grappling cane.

Luck Points share some of the functions of Hero Points in RuneQuest; however, I don't think that Hero Points were extant in the then current edition of RuneQuest.  Before an adventure, a player rolls dice to determine how many Luck Points his or her character has.  For short adventures, 1D6 is rolled; for longer adventures, 2D6.  As an alternative, the Gamemaster can roll and record Luck Points so that players are unaware of how much luck their characters have.  Luck Points can be used to “[r]eroll any one die roll” (1 point), reduce the effect of non-fatal critical damage upon a character (2 points), or prevent an effect that would cause the death of a character (5 points).

Special Powers represent abilities beyond those of normal men.  Characters generated via the 'advanced' method can obtain ten 'purchase' points for each “Preadventure career” year spent.  Two options are provided for 'basic' characters.  In the first method, the player rolls 1D100; the result is the number of 'purchase' points available for Special Powers.  Also, the difference of the result from 100 is divided by five; this is the number of additional points that may be applied to the character's Attributes.  In the second method, the player rolls 1D100 and consults the 'Randomly Acquired Special Powers' table.

The most likely result on the 'Randomly Acquired Special Powers' table permits the player to roll once on the 'Nature of Powers' table.  Other results allow the player to roll twice or three times on the 'Nature of Powers' table.  Some results preclude a roll on the 'Nature of Powers' table, but grant five or ten additional points to allocate among the character's Attributes.

Three paragraphs discuss the possibilities of player characters gaining Special Powers “in the course of play.”  In brief, such possibilities should be uncertain, difficult, and require a long amount of time.

The most likely result on the 'Nature of Powers' table is “Talent Ability” and the second most likely result is “Talent Power.”  There is a 57% chance of obtaining one of these results.  For Ability or Power, the particular Talent is determined randomly.  In a 'basic' game where talents are not used, 2D10 are rolled to determine a value for the “Talent.”  If the purchase method is in use, a Talent Ability costs five points and a Talent Power costs ten.  (The Ability and the Power for a given Talent can be purchased together for twelve points.)  An Ability or Power reflects a given Talent's sphere...usually.  The Esthetic Talent Power is essentially the same as 'Danger Sense,' a non-Talent power.  (The Esthetic Talent Ability allows a character “to evaluate the worth of an artwork.”)  The Natural Talent Ability gives a character “an innate sense of direction” and the 'Power' provides “a natural empathy with beasts.”

Examples of other Powers include Escape Artist (10 points), Heightened Senses (10 points each), Hypnosis (10 points), and Invisibility (30 points).  'Cat' Ability (15 points) gives a character “a heightened kinesthetic sense,” which allows the character to take less damage from falls, climb more easily, walk tightropes with no chance of falling, etc.  Spirit Power (15 points) allows a character to achieve any of three effects:  increase the value of a Skill, increase the value of an Attribute, or “reduce the immediate effects of wounds or injury.”  Each effect is temporary (lasting one 'Detailed Action sequence') and requires a successful roll (based on the character's Will Attribute).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Careers in Daredevils

In creating a Daredevils character, the player determines the character's age (4d10 + 12 = years).  Each year equals a Development Point.  Each Development Point can be used in one of three ways:
(a) obtain an initial score in a Skill.
(b) increase a Skill's score by 2d6. (“The values for a score in a Skill range from 0 to 100.”)
(c) increase Attribute scores by 1d3.
This is a viable process, but bland when compared to the “advanced” character generation rules.

“Advanced character set-up” in Daredevils incorporates careers.  Of course, Traveller did it first, but at the time (1982) career options in Traveller were (in my opinion) limited and disappointing.  A character could serve in the military, the scouts, or the merchants.  Everything else – the 'Other' career – was considered “unproductive” and consisted of “some trades, ne'er-do-wells, and the shady realm of the underworld.”  Also tiresome was that fact that Traveller characters – in the course of being generated – could die or suffer a career ending injury.

The possible careers in Daredevils are:  Academia, Athlete/Sportsman, Big Game Hunter, Bon Vivant/Dilitante (sic), Business, College, Crime, Explorer, Law Enforcement, Military, Politician, Soldier of Fortune, Working Life, and Writer/Journalist.  (If the optional 'gimmick' rules are in play, Inventor is a possible career.)  In Daredevils, a player character can have multiple careers.  A player rolls 4d10 to determine the number of 'career years' for his or her character.  Once a career is chosen (and assuming the character meets the career requirements), 2d6 are rolled to determine the number of years spent in said career.  Once the 'term' ends, the character can enter a different career or take another term in the same career.  In the first year of a new career, the character acquires any Automatic Skills that the career provides.  For each subsequent year:  the character may learn one of the career's Available Skills, improve a previously learned Skill (provided it is listed among the career's Automatic or Available Skills), or increase Attribute scores by 1d3.

Daredevils characters created with the “advanced” rules are deprived of the twelve Development Points that “basic” characters receive.  Also, the Skill choices of “advanced” characters are constrained by what a given career allows.  However, some careers provide more than one Automatic Skill.  Also, much like 'mustering out' benefits in Traveller, careers offer the potential of cash, income, and material benefits.  For instance, the material benefits for the 'Crime' career are:  “Pistol (15%); Lockpicks (15%); Thompson sub-machine gun (5%); Car (5%).”  So, if a character engages in two 'terms' of the Crime career, that character has two 15% chances to obtain a pistol.  (I would have had it so that chance increases based upon the number of years spent in the career, but I would have limited eligibility for particular items to those characters with an appropriate Skill.)  By the way, a character who participates in the Crime career is not necessarily a criminal.  According to page 15, such a character...
...moves in circles outside the law but, assuming he is a hero, does not actually break it (without cause).  He operates on the fringes of the criminal world, in espionage, etc.
However, characters in the Crime career run the risk of “acquiring a criminal record whether it is deserved or not.”

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the “advanced” method is that actual history can have an effect upon characters' pre-adventure careers.  When the Great War begins, characters can interrupt their current careers and enlist (or possibly be drafted).  Crime career characters get more cash during Prohibition.  The crash of '29 can cause Politicians to be kicked out of office and characters in the Business career can incur a huge debt.  This requires careful tracking of a character's history.  The 4d10 result is subtracted from the year of the campaign to determine when a character begins his or her first career.  (The character is 14 + 1d6 years old at this point.)

It would require a great deal of work to implement, but imagine a fantasy role-playing game with a Daredevils style career system integrated into a campaign history.  “What side was your warrior on during the War of the Night Kings?”  “Since you were a spellcaster during the Conclave of the Blue Warlocks, there might be ramifications for your spell book...” “You were caught during your time as a thief; if you fumble a Luck roll, you lose a hand as part of your punishment.”  “Wyvern Riding is a Skill only available to the Amazon and Ranger careers.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Suspended Animation

Blue Ribbon Comics, Vol. 2, No. 9, June 1984
(Pencils -- Malcolm Davis; Inks -- Ricardo Villagran; Colors -- Barry Grossman)

Here is some artwork that I find interesting.  The scan doesn't do justice to the two-page spread, but I thought I would share it anyway.  I have transcribed the text...

Featuring:  Neptune – Vortex – Hurricane – Nebula and Dolphin

LocationEtherion, on the outer rim of Magna Graecia. Violet light from two moons illuminates a barren landscape…barren but for the remains of a temple amidst crumbled monuments of an ancient alien city.

The etchings on the temple are not prayers…but warnings!

This is a prison, housing a criminal of an advanced race which used suspended animation to keep criminals out of society.

The prisoner is about to escape!

Destination:  EARTH!
This is too sparse for a full-fledged 'Inspiration' post, so I will just indulge in a mid-week rant.  So, without further ado...

Why would anyone think that putting criminals in suspended animation is a good idea?  The deterrent effect would be minimal.  “OK, you're going to sleep for a while.  When you wake up, your finances will have generated interest and your DVR will be chock full.”  No chain gangs, no dropping soap in the shower, just sleep.

Sure, it keeps the criminals out of society; however, since they're not dead, the assumption is that they will eventually re-enter society.  That means people with criminal tendencies will be on the street and they will feel more alienated than they felt prior to their incarceration.  Among other objectives, the intent of imprisionment is to have the prisoner reflect upon his or her misdeeds, then repent and ultimately reform.  The degree to which this intent is realized is dubious, but it does occur for some prisoners.  Suspended animation deprives the prisoner of this opportunity (as well as the opportunity to participate in an appeal).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Psychological Profile

Daredevils' rules have a reputation for being cumbersome, which I consider to be unfair – for the most part.  Daredevils represents a refinement of Charrette and Hume's Aftermath!, published by FGU the year prior to Daredevils.  I readily concede that “cumbersome” is an understatement for Aftermath! (it consists of 223 pages spread among three books) but Daredevils (contained within 64 pages) lists some rules as “Advanced” and others as “Optional.”  By disregarding Advanced and Optional rules, one finds the 'baseline' Daredevils game to be rather straight-forward (with a noteworthy exception being the 'damage' rules).

There are six Attributes in Daredevils:  Wit, Will, Strength, Deftness, Speed, and Health. Players determine Attribute scores by allocating from a pool of 75 points.  (Although not unique among role-playing games, non-random Attribute determination was unusual when Daredevils was first published.)  For humans, Attribute values range from 1 to 40, with a score of 10-15 being 'average.'  Attributes can be increased during character generation.  During play, Attributes can be directly improved via training; an Attribute can also be improved as a result of improving the value of a skill associated with the Attribute.  (e.g., The 'Pistol' skill is primarily associated with Deftness; a sufficient increase the skill's value can raise a character's Deftness score.)  Contrary to the declarations of others, Attribute scores in excess of 40 cannot be attained through “training and experience.”  As page 4 of the rule book clearly indicates, “A rating greater than 40 is not possible for a human without mechanical, chemical or supernatural aid.”

The concept of 'Talents' is covered in Daredevils' Advanced rules.  There are seven Talents:
Charismatic:  Leadership and the ability to influence people.

Combative:  “Aggressiveness, the 'will to win,' and raw fighting ability.”

Communicative:  Aptitude with languages and ability to express ideas.

Esthetic:  Ability to appreciate and create/perform works of art.

Mechanical:  Technological aptitude.

Natural:  “Affinity for the the natural environment.”

Scientific:  Logical thinking.
I like the notion of Talents to represent certain aspects of characters, but I think the implementation of Talents in Daredevils is a bit off.  For instance, the rules insist that the Wit Attribute is not a matter of intelligence.  “The native 'intelligence' of a character depends on that of the player.”  Wit is instead “Perception ability” and capacity for learning.  I appreciate the idea of character intelligence being player intelligence, but it seems that concept goes out the window if the 'Scientific' Talent is used.  Also, the Will Attribute “includes the character's drive and determination.”  This would seem to overlap substantially with the “will to win” ascribed to the Combative Talent.

Talents – if the rule is in use – help determine skill values.  For instance, the Mechanical Talent contributes to the 'Lockpicking' skill value and the Natural Talent is applied to the 'History' skill value (for reasons I have yet to appreciate).  Talents can also be used to represent a character's unskilled ability; if character without the Lockpicking skill tries to pick a lock, his or her Mechanical Talent could be used to gauge success.

Although Attributes in Daredevils are not determined randomly, Talents – to some extent – are.  The initial values of a character's Talents are considered as his or her “psychological profile.”  For each Talent, 1d10 is rolled and the “Psychological Profile Table” on page 5 is consulted.  The result is a number from –2 to +3.  Although a single die is used, the probability distribution is not flat, a result of 0 is three-times more likely than one of the extreme results.  Then the result of 2d6 added to 20 determines how many points the player may allocate among the Talents.  The maximum value for a Talent is 20 and the minimum is –2.  (Talent scores may not be reduced below their initial values.)  Once the points are allocated, the “psychological profile” is meaningless.  Why not just have every Talent start at zero and let players distribute thirty points?  For a “psychological profile” with greater impact, each character could have 'favored' and 'unfavored' Talents – perhaps randomly determined, perhaps not.  During character generation, 'favored' Talents could be easier to improve (e.g., a points-to-value ratio of 2:3) while 'unfavored' Talents could be more expensive (e.g., three points spent only increases value by two).

Here, I just threw together a table no one will ever use!  You're welcome!