Jump to content


Photo

Narrative Super Powers


  • Please log in to reply
7 replies to this topic

#1 fmitchell

fmitchell

    Senior Member

  • Members
  • 293 posts

Posted 22 March 2014 - 05:31 PM

While posting on a Superworld thread I started brainstorming an alternate super powers system that captures the four-color feel of comics without getting bogged down in "realism". I've almost certainly floated this idea before.

Essentially Narrative Super Powers are plot-dependent magic, inspired by the indie game Truth & Justice. Narrative Super Powers are expressed as simple percentages, gained much like spells under the Magic system. They have no set limits for weight, speed, damage, and so forth. Instead, the player tells the GM what he wants to do and which Super Power he wants to do it with. The GM may decree the test is Trivial (automatic success), Easy (x2), Average, Hard (x1/2), or Impossible (automatic failure). The player rolls for the Super Power like any other skill, except in the case of Trivial or Impossible feats. Based on the degree of success, the GM narrates the results.

Super Powers can partially or wholly negate other Super Powers or mundane effects. In broad strokes it works like a parry or dodge; the defender tests an applicable Super Power, and based on the relative levels of success of each party the attack has no, full, or double effect. For purposes of Super Powers mundane attacks usually count as Normal successes, even if the attacker rolled a Critical. The GM may rule a mundane attack counts as a Special or even Critical success if a) it represents massive damage or B) it targeted a weakness of the defending Super Power.

Most of the time, Super Powers will enable "impossible" actions or constrain targets in some way. Attacks against a designated target will do additional damage that scales with the power, e.g. 1/20 the skill in D6s. E.g. Super Strength 60% grants extra Damage Bonus of +3D6 for melee attacks, or half that for ranged attacks; energy bolts would do 3D6. Likewise Invulnerability, Super Armor, and similar powers grant "free" Armor Points proportional to the power, e.g. half the skill, so 30% is equivalent to 15 AP. The armor will have a mandatory flaw, e.g. fire, ferrous metals, or vulnerable spots at the eyes, ears, and mouth.

Super Powers can do any amount of property damage the GM finds reasonable, expressed as a change of condition rather than specific D6s of damage. As an optional rule, villains may inflict collateral damage on NPCs or non-powered individuals. For example, an NPC dropped by a hero will miraculously find a soft landing in a convenient pool or dumpster; if a villain drops the hero's girlfriend from a great height, she will hit the pavement and take standard falling damage.

For example, Super Woman wants to throw a truck at Doctor Mayhem; she rolls against her Super Strength skill to see if she succeeds. If Doctor Mayhem is another super he can roll an applicable super power like Super Speed or Invulnerability to dodge the result. If Doctor Mayhem fails or he has no (applicable) Super Power the truck miraculously lands so that he is only stunned, pinned, knocked over, non-fatally hurt, or whatever Super Woman intended. The sidewalk, nearby buildings, and other objects in the way would suffer the effects one would expect from a truck hurtling through the air and crashing to earth, but passers-by would all leap out of the way.

Like T&J, this approach allows Superman to punch Lex Luthor without invoking the chunky salsa rule, and lets Batman's crazy preparedness defeat Superman's planet-pushing strength. There may need to be extra rules to determine what happens at the interface between the conventional rules system and Narrative Super Powers. Mostly these would be limits and lists of mechanical "conditions" any power could inflict. A list of powers might help players generate their hero, although the advantage of this system is that players can essentially invent their own power as long as they can explain it coherently to the GM. Optional rules might cover improvised powers (i.e. stretching the scope of a power), stunts (i.e. specialized a/o well-practiced uses of a power), and extra-flexible powers (e.g. an improvised penalty, plus dividing the skill by the number of concurrent activations).

A world that works like this would resemble the recent Web series Caper, switching between real actors and comic-book animation. In the latest installment, for example, human actors portray a character lighting a fuse (with simple digital effects), and Superguy's actor rushes out of scene. Cut to low-frame-rate animation of Superguy leaping on the explosive just before it goes off. Switch back to Superguy's actor walking back into scene with shredded clothes.

Granted, it may seem jarring to use standard BRP combat and hit points to represent a fist fight but dueling super-powers and "conditions" to represent super-power attacks. It's as if super-power effects aren't "real" in the same way mundane damage is. If Super Woman really wants to hurt or kill somebody she'll use a sword, not her powers.

Note that if you leave out the Super To Mundane damage/armor conversion, you'd have a psionic or urban magic system that only affects "sensitives" or magicians. That in and of itself might make a weird but interesting campaign: mundanes would see only two people making hand gestures at each over until one keels over, while those with Second Sight would see a mighty occult battle.

So ... thoughts?
Frank
"A hidden corridor! Fortunately it was labeled!" -- Sadie Doyle, "Beyond Belief: Sarcophagus Now", The Thrilling Adventure Hour

#2 MatteoN

MatteoN

    Senior Member

  • Members
  • 121 posts

Posted 22 March 2014 - 09:52 PM

Perhaps a superpower's rating might be modified (halved or doubled) not depending on the difficulty of what's being attempted, but also on the applicability of the superpower. The attempt to use the same superpower to bring about a modest and "thematically coherent" effect might be an automatic success, whereas any attempt to do anything for which the power is either insufficient or totally inadequate might be an automatic failure.

Edited by MatteoN, 22 March 2014 - 10:13 PM.


#3 Atgxtg

Atgxtg

    Senior Member

  • Members
  • 3,163 posts

Posted 23 March 2014 - 03:31 PM

It's an interesting approach, but I'm not too sure it would work in BRP. Also, I'd like to see skill and Intensity (points, stopped, damage dice, etc). separated.

First off, it would allow for characters who are powerful but not very skilled, and vice versa.

But secondly, I think things like Super STR probably shouldn't have a % score. I really don't like the idea of a character who can lift and throw a truck (or even a battleship if SuperSTR has no effect limits) half of the time, but not be able to the other half. I'd much rather see a power like that just add to the character's existing STR score. Perhaps Super STR @ 100% would double the STR score?
Smiley when you say that. :P

#4 RosenMcStern

RosenMcStern

    Senior Member

  • Members
  • 1,539 posts

Posted 24 March 2014 - 10:27 AM

Man, you should just pick up a copy of HeroQuest 2 and base your game upon that, instead. Seriously. It works exactly the way you wish.

#5 fmitchell

fmitchell

    Senior Member

  • Members
  • 293 posts

Posted 24 March 2014 - 11:49 AM

Man, you should just pick up a copy of HeroQuest 2 and base your game upon that, instead. Seriously. It works exactly the way you wish.


This was mainly a thought experiment, sparked by another thread but too long to post there.

I'm aware of HeroQuest; PDQ (the system behind Truth & Justice) works almost the same way with smaller numbers and 2d6. I'm just not sure if I could whip up enough local interest in games without a) familiar touchstones like characteristics and skills, and B) brand recognition like D&D (any edition), Pathfinder, or Numenera.

But I liked a number of suggestions, especially special rules for Super Strength and other enhancements of natural abilities, and a separation between skill and scale (at least in some cases). Super-heroes aren't really my thing, but seeing how far I can push "everything is a skill" in BRP gives me ideas for conspiracy, horror, science fiction, weird fantasy, and other genres that interest me more.
Frank
"A hidden corridor! Fortunately it was labeled!" -- Sadie Doyle, "Beyond Belief: Sarcophagus Now", The Thrilling Adventure Hour

#6 Atgxtg

Atgxtg

    Senior Member

  • Members
  • 3,163 posts

Posted 24 March 2014 - 02:10 PM

Rosen's got a good point. HQ works in a very similar way, and uses a d20.

But I think your variant would suffer from HQ's pitfalls as well. Mainly that since everything in HQ is treated the same way, any one ability is as good as any other. That is, in theory, a character could defeat an expert swordsman with his "Basket Weaving"l, "TV trivia", or his "Knowledge of Playboy Bunnies".

And while you have a point about name recognition and stuff like attributes affecting the ability draw in players, it's sorta moot with your variant. Your power system is going to make attributes sorta moot as written. I think to really make it work with attributes and other BRP type stuff, the powers need to be integrated with the existing stuff.


Pushing the envelope with a RPG is certainly a worthwhile idea. Not only does it help to expand just what you can do with a system, but it helps you to see just where things are going to break down, so you know where to be careful. Plus, a lot of it helps later on with other things. Once you got some idea of scale for things it sort of carries over into different projects, since there will usually be some overlap.
Smiley when you say that. :P

#7 Matt

Matt

    Superworld!

  • Members
  • 113 posts

Posted 06 April 2014 - 04:51 PM

Sonds interesting but not something I'd ever want to use. A lot of these "narrative" things make me wonder if I'm still playing a game or just engaging in roundtable storytelling. But I'm surely old and out of touch: I thought the MWP Marvel game was awful keep hearing folks sing its praises. I like knowing what a character can and can't do.

#8 seneschal

seneschal

    Senior Member

  • Members
  • 1,398 posts

Posted 07 April 2014 - 12:35 AM

But I think your variant would suffer from HQ's pitfalls as well. Mainly that since everything in HQ is treated the same way, any one ability is as good as any other. That is, in theory, a character could defeat an expert swordsman with his "Basket Weaving"l, "TV trivia", or his "Knowledge of Playboy Bunnies".

This is exactly how the RPG Risus works. Intentionally. ;D

http://www222.pair.com/sjohn/risus.htm




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users