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I posted this on the BRP subreddit (http://www.reddit.com/r/BRP) a while back, but I wanted to ask here and see what everyone thought.

 

Anyone had any experience running or GMing very high powered/cosmic level superheroes in BRP, either with Superworld (which I think is terrific and underrated) or with the super powers in the Big Gold Book? I know that common wisdom asserts that superheroic BRP games work best from street-level characters up to about Spider-Man power levels, but then breaks down from there (indeed, the example characters in Superworld fall into this power range, and the DC and Marvel characters that were statted out to promote Superworld using during its initial publication were the New Teen Titans and the X-men, all of whom--at least at the time--fit right in that mid-range power level as well).

 

From reading the superhero material created for BRP, I feel like there is nothing intrinsic in the game (especially in Superworld and its companion books) to prevent the creation and effective play of really powerful characters, and that the system could handle cosmically high power levels as well as any superhero system. It's just a matter of handing out the points so PCs can make a Superman or a Silver Surfer or another ultra powerful character, and then making sure that other characters, especially NPCs, aren't overwhelmed by the potential lethality of the power levels (which would be a problem that seems both logical and easily avoidable with basic houserules or general GM fiat).

 

I realize that high-end characters present their own problems in any system; I just don't see anything unique or inherent in BRP/Superworld that would prevent these characters from being workable and fun. However, I haven't been able to test this out for myself yet and I could easily be missing something. Any thoughts or opinions on this?

 

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I played an old marvel game that was cosmic powered and it worked out well. The biggest problem is balance. Especially if you have a GROUP of cosmic powered heroes. There's a reason why Superman doesn't team up often. He doesn't have to. There's a reason Superman doesn't go up againt the Riddler... squish.

Having 4 Supermen teaming up would mean having 3+cosmic powered baddies. That much boom could be devastating to little old planet Earth. Lol.

Of course there's exceptions that you, the GM can take advantage of. Like Lex Luther, who is a mere mortal, causes Superman a lot of grief and rarely destroys the world over it. Super Smart foes is probably a good way to go. Being the GM means the bad guys can ALWAYS be a step ahead of the supers.

Just realized this doesn't help much... sorry. Perhaps one of the more genius BRP gods here will chime in.

Have fun!

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Actually that helps a great deal. This is the first time anyone has been able to give me any real firsthand insight on a cosmic-level BRP supers game. I assumed it would work well, so it's reassuring to hear that BRP can support a game played at that level. Now I just have to make sure that the big bads don't obliterate the planet. :P

Thanks again for the reply. I appreciate it.

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In the comics, cosmic-level heroes often go up against cosmic-level villains -- Thanos (in Marvel) or Darkseid (in DC) or Lord High Papal (Dreadstar, Epic).  Not only does the Big Bad have the brawn to tackle several heroes at once, but he's usually well-heeled, with fleets of vehicles, warehouses of equipment, hordes of fanatical followers, etc.  The good guys,  powerful as they are, have to wade through armies of henchmen to lay a glove on their arch-foe, who can sometimes be out-maneuvered or tricked even if he can't be beaten up.  So, in addition to the usual super-powered fisticuffs you've got warring space armadas, weird high-tech weaponry, creepy and competent lieutenants, and other elements of space opera thrown into the mix.

 

Alternatively, you've got a smaller group of heroes (2-4) who are besieged by hordes of lesser villains; in this case, it is the bad guys who sometimes gang together to tackle their superior foes -- Space Ghost (Hanna-Barbera) or Nexus (Capital, First)

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We had a Supergirl knock-off in old Superworld. It wasn't quite cosmic-level, it was built on the point limits - pushed them a bit, but it worked. But the campaign was more low powered and the emphasis for the character was more psychological than super-powered. Also, I was deliberately trying to push the envelope for both the character creation rules of Superworld and the setting (Wild Cards). 

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This is all great information and advice. I very much appreciate all the responses. After hearing for so long that BRP couldn't do high-end superheroics (which, admittedly, would be a challenge with just the material presented in the BGB) I was pleasantly surprised to see in Superworld what seemed to me to be all the mechanics necessary to play superheroics at any level. Just another game to plan out using this fantastic system. Thanks.

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Brainstorming the cosmic thing.  For starters, I'd use the BGB's optional personal skill point rule, giving cosmic supers INTx25 personal skill points instead of the usual x10.  They'll need them for the extra technical skills required by a space opera environment, so they can fly a spaceship and disarm the villain's Cosminecroultraransducer in the nick of time.  (Just what is a cosminecroultratransducer, you ask?  Dunno, but if the Big Bad invented it, it can't be good.)

 

Super Movement (Zero-Gravity) seems a no-brainer, 10 points plus 1 power point per round to use.

 

Next, many cosmic heroes can survive in space wearing only their birthday suits, or at least only their regular costumes.  The BGB recommends Adaptation combining cold, radiation and vacuum.  That's only 9 points to buy the power but 1 power point per SIZ per level to activate and 1 power point per turn to maintain.  So my SIZ 12 "Cosmic Carl" will spend 36 pps to turn on the ability and possibly 3 pp per turn to maintain.  Ouch.  That's a lot of Extra Energy, and we haven't even got to any combat, movement, or defensive powers yet -- only the ability to float around in the void without croaking.  Personally, I'd add Adaptation to corrosive, heat, high gravity and high pressure, and underwater for a more complete outer space protection (total 24 points), but then the energy cost to survive would be even more outrageous (96 pp to activate and 8 pp per turn to maintain).

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Also brainstorming, it seems that many of the cosmic Big Bads (Thanos, Darkseid, Lord High Papal, Mongul) are big, blocky types -- 9 feet tall and almost as wide.  Not many scrawny Ming the Merciless types.

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Slade is correct.  Cosmic types (especially the villains) are amazingly durable, able to take vast amounts of punishment as well as dishing it out.  They fly into the hearts of stars without breaking a sweat, engage in Silver Age Superman-level fisticuffs without permanent injury, and absorb energy beams capable of vaporizing entire continents while barely getting their costumes sooty.  The collateral damage would have to be horrible, but in the comics they manage to battle without smashing the planets the fight occurs upon.  When they do incur hospital-ready levels of injury they bounce back next issue, eager for more.

 

Now, as with Adaptation, you can do that in BRP, but it is going to be incredibly expensive in terms of power points and energy.  The defense per energy type system will make a cosmic hero purchase similar protection multiple times.  Meanwhile, in the comics you never hear a character say, "Ha!  I laugh off your laser and phaser fire -- but gee, that Thirties-era heat ray or mystic bolt really hurts!" 

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Can cosmic level heroes be done in Superworld/BRP?  Certainly, but the better question is: "Can they be done well?"

 

The BRP system shines when used to represent humans and near-human levels of ability/power.  As senechal pointed out, the numbers get rather crazy at cosmic levels. 

 

That said, if you are happy with it, and the players are having fun?  Then nothing else really matters.  Look at this thread as a caution about possible issues when playing at that level. 

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It's like Jurrassic Park. Yeah you can do it, but should you do it?

 

What we did, we did as a sort of test to push the system to it's limits. Yeah, it worked, kinda. But there are a lot of other RPGs that are better for running high powered Superheroes. 

 

And, as nearly everyone has mentioned, the big problem with high powered characters is BRP is the lethality of the game system. In Superworld there were some work arounds, but it's a bit tougher with just the BGB. Someone like the Hulk (STR 96 ish, SIZ 30 ish) with a db of about +8d6  is going to kill (not beat up, knock out, incapacitate) most people with a single punch. Note that this includes those heroic characters without the ability to soak lots of damage. Captain America or Spiderman are pretty much toast if they get hit. Now, yes, Cap has his shield to block with and Spidey is even more agile that Cap, but with the way BRP works. sooner or later they are going to blow a roll and get hit.

 

Then characters like Ion Man, who benefit from lots of armor, are still vulnerable to critical hits or even just the occasional high damage roll. If the Hulk rolls high for his damage and gets just 5 points through ol' Shellhead's armor, Stark is probably going to be down and dying.  What you probably need, and what BRP lacks, is some form of non-lethal damage point system- so that heroes and villains can beat the hell out of each other and still survive. 

 

But, really, why go to the trouble? There are a lot of Superhoero RPGs that can handle this sort of this as good or better than BRP, and which usually have worked through all the pitfalls already, since they were designed for this sort of gaming. Plus, if you grab one of the RPGs out there to handle Marvel or DC, you can get stats for all your favorite characters instead of having to do it yourself. 

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One possible way to give a cosmic-level character the build points he needs is to double the amount he gets, 2x the unmodified characteristic total.  The first half, the regular super power build points, would be used to create a superhero as usual.  The second half would be be used to beef him up to handle the outer space environment.  That plus the extra personal skill points as discussed above should at least get you headed in the right direction.

 

Or you could avoid all the game mechanics issues and just hand-wave the whole thing.  All characters who "have the power cosmic" by default possess full Adaptation and Zero-Gravity movement at no build point or energy cost.  After all, you never see Space Ghost or Silver Surfer worrying about whether he'll run out of juice during an EVA.  If all the player-characters in your campaign are "cosmic" it isn't a balance or fairness issue -- they all can step outside the space station for a few minutes without harm.

 

Another thing, most cosmic characters have the ability to fly through space at least a bit, whether under their own steam or via jet pack, although not necessarily at faster-than-light speeds.  However, they will cheerfully avail themselves of vehicular transportation when available.  Taking a starship is so much more convenient and comfortable, even if you could possibly make it to the next galaxy on your own.  Besides, who wants to arrive all tuckered out only to immediately be confronted by the Big Bad?

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While I like all of the ideas presented so far, the issue of collateral damage is still there. Superhero vs Supervillain fights can occur in BRP, but there will be hundreds, if not thousands of bystanders killed and wounded. The funny thing is that if you handwave away the lethality of superheroes, it either makes them very susceptible to regular mundane weapons, or makes regular people exceptionally hardy. I simply ignore convention and allow super powers to be very lethal.

-STS

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Thanks again for the great conversation, everyone. There are some great ideas and plans being exchanged here.

It seems like one of the recurring issues is damage, specific having cosmic damage without obliterating everything. This is essentially a case of making the damage in the game match the way damage is handled in four-color comics, ie. supers can smack each other around without causing a massive body count, either from killing one another or causing massive collateral damage. It occurs to me that this is an issue that might be best handled as a genre convention, a narrative, universal aspect of the setting that costs no points. Given that, the best solution might be to adopt a "killing attacks must be declared" convention, the kind found in M&M, Blood of Heroes, even as an optional rule in GURPS Supers. This means that no matter what damage the character inflicts on a target (whether the target is super or civilian), the worst that will happen to the target is unconsciousness, broken bones, or other nasty but non-lethal injuries. This could be explained any number of ways: the heroes pulled punches (or rolled with impact when attacked), the civilians got lucky or were saved by the heroes' timely intervention, whatever fits. If the character or NPC wants to attack with lethal force and kill someone, they have to declare their intention to kill the target, with all the attendant physical and roleplaying consequences. It's unrealistic, but is an established convention of the genre. It also allows for knock-down, drag out, high-destruction fights without leaving the setting an inadvertent bloodbath...unless that's exactly what the character (or Big Bad) wants, at which point the sheer horror of this level of power becomes apparent. And, if I ever run a game of gritty superhumans, reverting back to the standard damage rules (or something closer to vanilla rules) would make a great point of contrast for a different sort of game.

 

It won't please everyone, but it would satisfy me in a four-color/cosmic superhero game I would run. And it doesn't require nerfing the characters or powers. And as for why I wouldn't just use a different game, BRP/Superworld offers a slew of features I love that aren't found in other games, on top of the great utility of this great system. 

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I had an idea for Super Heroes once. Firstly I replaced Power Points with EGO Points. EGO equaled (POW + defining Stat)/2. Defining stat was a characteristic of choice, such as DEX or STR. Powers then used EGO Points instead of PP.

Also any damage taken less than current EGO was considered to be stun damage. A character recover a number of Stuns at the rate of 1/4 CON a round. If taken down to 0 the character could be uncon but nothing lethal. Any damage greater than EGO took off Hit Points as usual.

As you depleted EGO Points then it became more dangerous if you got damaged. Some damage from specific powers or effects could bypass the stun mechanics.

This, with the use of Mook rules for 'normals', would go a long way to bridge the gap between street level heroes and 4 colour heroes, although it still may not work at Cosmic level.

I never got to actually play test my idea, so I can't vouch for it other than just throwing it out there. Perhaps just narratively hand waving it would work just as well.

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Thanks again for the great conversation, everyone. There are some great ideas and plans being exchanged here.

It seems like one of the recurring issues is damage, specific having cosmic damage without obliterating everything. This is essentially a case of making the damage in the game match the way damage is handled in four-color comics, ie. supers can smack each other around without causing a massive body count, either from killing one another or causing massive collateral damage. It occurs to me that this is an issue that might be best handled as a genre convention, a narrative, universal aspect of the setting that costs no points. Given that, the best solution might be to adopt a "killing attacks must be declared" convention, the kind found in M&M, Blood of Heroes, even as an optional rule in GURPS Supers. This means that no matter what damage the character inflicts on a target (whether the target is super or civilian), the worst that will happen to the target is unconsciousness, broken bones, or other nasty but non-lethal injuries. This could be explained any number of ways....

Superworld, that is the boxed set, had rules for doing so. IIRC characters could shunt some of the damage over to their energy score. This kept the lethality, but explained why Heroes (and some significant  norms) could soak a bit hit or three that penetrated their defenses.

 

Oh, and another thing to watch out for is "blind spots" of protection. What I mean by that is accord to the BGB you have to buy armor to protect against the type of damage bing inflicted (there are about a half dozen different types in the BGB). The problem with that is if a bad guy shows up who uses one of the more obscure damage types, the hero won't have any armor to soak the damage and it could get ugly pretty quickly. A possible contingency to handle this would be to assume that all armor protects at a a fraction (one half or one third, for instance) against other types of attack. After all, a battleship's armor might have been designed to protect against kinetic attacks, but would still offer several inches of steel that would resist laser attacks. 

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A campaign that might provide both cosmic action and fit in with BRP's lethality is one based on E.E. "Doc" Smith's six Lensman novels, published between 1948 and 1954.  The Lensmen are an elite component of the Galactic Patrol, which defends galactic civilization against an organized criminal conspiracy seeking to overthrow it (ultimately revealed to be backed by a Cthuluoid race of aliens attempting to expand their tyranny into yet another galaxy).  Lensmen have an alien device implanted in their bodies that grants them vast psychic powers, which each agent must develop individually.  It's sort of like the Green Lantern Corps before the Green Lantern Corps existed.  Except, despite their powers, Lensmen are still mere mortals who can (and do) die in nasty ways.  Both the good guys and the bad are willing to sacrifice whole solar systems and vast fleets of advanced spaceships to win the day.  It's all presented in the purplest of prose which would do Conan proud and make even John Carter of Mars wince.  So you've got spaceships, ray guns, superpowers, dastardly villains, and heroes which remain fragile and human despite their arcane abilities.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lensman_series

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I start a Superworld Campaign this Sunday (if all goes well) with a LARGE group of people interested. We're making characters beforehand but I'm using the optional xp rules from the Superworld Companion as well (and bending quite a few rules for some of the powers that people want). I hope the campaign will go for a while, allowing the handout of hero points to eventually make the heroes more powerful (unsure if we'll get to cosmic power for a very long time or not).

I video recorded the play test game (which took place in 1984), audio recorded it, and there is a role playing journal up online of what happened. The campaign that starts Sunday will take place in 2014 and be located in Charlotte, N.C.

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I video recorded the play test game (which took place in 1984), audio recorded it, and there is a role playing journal up online of what happened. The campaign that starts Sunday will take place in 2014 and be located in Charlotte, N.C.

 

In Charlotte, you say? That's (relatively speaking) just up the road from me. It would be a bit far to drive, but what an odd coincidence. If you keep a journal or some kind of record of your current campaign online, let me know. I'd love to see it and follow along.

 

And I had completely forgotten that Superworld already has rules for four color comics-style shunting of damage. Makes the damage issue even easier to adjudicate. And the fractional armor protection across damage types is an especially clever option.

 

I love Lensman. I have the GURPS 3rd Lensman book, so if I wanted to run a Lensman campaign or something similar to it, I could convert material over from that.

I love the ideas being thrown around in this conversation. It is increasing my confidence in using Superworld for high level play and definitely making me excited to GM.

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That IS a good idea. I got some random superhero names and the last superhero in Charlotte (at least in this milieu) was called Mechanical Fusion who was there from 71 to 98 before he retired.

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Update! The Superworld campaign continues. We play the fifth game of our campaign this Sunday and things had gotten ... interesting. I allowed one character to have the ability to summon demons, essentially, and modified the sidekick rules to let her summon some really powerful foes (moving close to the cosmic level - which is why I'm posting here again). Unfortunately, the Vatican frowns upon demon summoning and a group of elite priests got involved. Now the party is split - one hero supporting the demon-summoning little girl, another helping the priests, and the others not yet informed about what's going on. We'll see where it takes us on Sunday.

I've kept journals of every session and there are still videos going up of each session (look for MaxWriter on YouTube - there is a playlist for each session). The four sessions so far include:

The Bank Job

Gentleman Robber (session one)

Wane's Revenge (session one)

Attack on Arclight

Links to the journals are here:

My blog at Pen and Paper games is here:

http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/blog.php/8662-Max_Writer

All the journal entries nowadays are fairly long as I also audio record my game sessions. Those recordings will eventually go up on the Role Playing Public Radio Community AP Podcast site: http://community.roleplayingpublicradio.com/

I'm very new at this supers gaming but would love to hear what people think of the game so far.

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Other child heroes are routinely summoning giant apes, massive weapon-packed robots, and flying turtles the size of office buildings -- and the adults worry about this kid?  Perhaps she needs a better publicist.  Or her critters could shape-shift themselves into more acceptable forms.   :)

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