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Decades of comics, movies, and radio and TV shows have persuaded us that if Lois Lane could ever catch Clark Kent without his glasses the jig would be up, his true identity as Superman would be revealed. The spectacles must be magic or something. However, I’ve been reading an omnibus of Forties Superman stories. In the August 1942 tale “Muscles for Sale” the unthinkable happens. As part of investigating a crime spree, Kent joins a gymnasium and has a boxing lesson with the brawny proprietor. He’s sans suit and glasses, boxing trunks only. Lois is surprised at how buff he is but still doesn’t recognize the hero she has the hots for even when he’s standing two yards away. As Kent easily dodges the instructor’s blows, she sniffs at what a chicken he is and walks away. Wait, it gets better. The crooks, believing they have their latest customer hypnotized, dress Kent in a Superman costume and send him to help rob a fancy dress ball Lois Lane is covering. Lane doesn’t gasp that Superman has turned to crime; she wonders why her co- worker is in costume and with the bad guys. It isn’t until Kent falls (apparently to his death) out a window then returns through the same window as his alter ego (still wearing the substitute costume) that she identifies him as Superman. And she buys the explanation that Clark was made-up to look like Superman and was rescued by the real thing seconds before Superman bounded in to save the day. It isn’t just Lois. None of the other characters in the story, having met Clark Kent, Kent in costume, and Superman scratch their heads and say, “Hey, wait a minute!” Yeah, yeah. Comic book logic. But still, really?
Now that Agony and Ecstasy is out, I wanted to talk a little bit about how the superpower mechanics came to be. When I was working on them, I had two primary goals in mind. Supers should always be super: You never see the panel of a comic where Superman can't use his heat vision because he fails an activation check or runs out of power points. Superheroes with powers should always have access to those powers, barring unusual circumstances or glowing green rocks from the remains of their home world. So at the core, the system had to have base abilities the characters always had access to. Superheroes also find new and inventive ways to use those powers beyond what their core abilities can do. That lead to the development of boosts, which augment or enhance the base power at the cost of power points, the system's version of magic points. For example, the Flash's base power lets him run at fantastic speeds, and he has boosts that sometimes let him vibrate through walls or create small, localized whirlwinds by running in circles. It had to fit Mythras: The game already has great magic systems, psionic powers, and mystic abilities for supernatural creatures. When designing the superpower mechanics the goal was not to reinvent the wheel, so the primary inspirations came from the traits as presented in Luther Arkwright and mysticism from the core book. With a few tweaks and adjustments, they served as a basis for what is presented in the scenario. Since the goal was low-powered, street level heroes, the powers were also designed with balance in mind so they could scale along with other aspects of the game and not be too lethal or overwhelming. That being said, certain concessions were made to maintain “comic book logic,” so that is why Tortoise can lift a car but doesn't burst criminals like ripe melons when he punches them. I hope you enjoy what we came up with and it leads to some fantastic superpowered adventures beyond what is in the book. While it was designed with Mythras in mind, the basic superpowers system in Agony and Ecstasy could be easily adapted for most d100 games. As a little bonus, here are two additional powers along with some example boosts and possible limits to use in your games. These are based on abilities the villains of the adventure possess, but I'm sure in the hands of your players they will be put to good use. CLOSE COMBAT ATTACK You possess an enhanced melee attack such as claws, a mystic blade, or weapons made of pure energy. No matter what form it takes, the Ready Weapon action must be used to draw or manifest the weapon before it can be used This attack has a Reach of Medium and you may choose one combat effect at creation, such as Bleed, Impale, or Stun Location. The base damage and size of this attack is determined by your POW, and you may add your damage bonus to the amount inflicted. With the Gamesmaster's permission, you can determine your damage bonus for this attack using POW+SIZ instead of STR+SIZ to represent a mystical or psychic melee attack. POW: 8 or less: 1d4/S, 9-12: 1d6/M, 13-15: 1d8/M, 16-18: 1d10/L, 19+: 1d12/L Spend 1 power point to change the weapon to a different type for the encounter, gaining a different combat effect, or add a weapon trait, such as Entrapping or Ranged Parry. For an additional power point you can do both. Spend 1 power point as a free action to instantly ready the weapon. Spend 2 power points to increase the weapon's base damage by one die type and the size by one step for a single attack. Limited Power: The close combat attack is always out and is obvious to onlookers. While you never need to take a Ready action to prepare it, it often hampers certain physical or social actions by its presence and inflicts a one step difficulty penalty on those actions. EMOTION CONTROL As an action you have the ability to inflict a specific emotional state on a nearby target that fails an opposed Willpower check against you. This ability has a range equal to your POW in meters and the type of emotion you are able to inflict is chosen when you take this power. The exact effects depend on what emotion you create, but the feeling is so overpowering that it severely impairs the target. At the start of the next round as an action the target can attempt an unopposed Willpower check to break free. Some example effects follow: Euphoria: The only action the target can take is Dither, but if it takes any damage it can make an immediate unopposed Willpower check to break free. Fear: The target gains a temporary passion of “Fear (person or object of your choice)” equal to your Willpower. A passion check must be made on the target's turn to avoid fleeing from the source of fear. Hate: The target gains a temporary passion of “Hate (person or object of your choice)” equal to your Willpower. A passion check must be made on the target's turn to avoid attacking whatever it now hates. Love: The target gains a temporary passion of “Love (person or object of your choice)” equal to your Willpower. A passion check must be made to take any offensive action against the beloved thing or to prevent the target from protecting it. Spend 1 power point to change the emotion you inflict to a different one when using the power. Spend 2 power points to make the target's Willpower check to resist one difficulty grade harder. Spend 2 power points per additional target you want to affect within range. Limited Power: You must make physical contact with the target to affect them with the power.