Powers

Ponderings and notes about how to run a superhero setting using FATE.

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Wyvern
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Powers

Post by Wyvern »

There's a set of core physical powers from DFRPG: Strength/Speed/Toughness/Recovery, each rated at Inhuman/Supernatural/Mythic. For the most part, I think these work fairly well as written. (Though the levels definitely need some re-themed names.)

The Catch, however - a refresh rebate offered for having vulnerabilities in your toughness/recovery powers - needs some adjustments, though. First off, for a superhero setting, it can apply to much more than just toughness - a kryptonite type effect can weaken a superhero, shutting off some or all of their offensive or utility powers as well. And, second, the cost guidelines for how much of a rebate is offered could use some adjustment as well.
So, instead of the DFRPG catch costs, I present this alternative:
  • Scope of effect.
    • +0: Your catch applies only to direct attacks - for example, someone whose catch is "Sunlight" with a +0 scope could be harmed via giant magnifying glasses, or by a superhero whose ability was specifically concentrated or solidified sunlight, but would have no problems walking around during the daytime or dealing with other forms of attacks while the sun is shining.
    • +1: Merely being exposed to your catch strips your defenses; someone with a catch of "Sunlight" would, at this level, be well advised to avoid combat during the day.
    • +2: Being exposed to your catch shuts down most or all of your powers; for example, superman with kryptonite, or a power armor suit exposed to an EMP blast.
  • Ease of weaponization. (Note that the setting can adjust where something falls on this list; 'fear' might be worth +1 in games where mentalists are common, and +0 in games where mental attacks are rare.)
    • +0: Things that will rarely have weapon ratings or require significant effort to weaponize, like marshmallows, nerf-brand weapons, the color green (not just 'things that are green' but the color itself), damage to your costume or equipment, EMP devices / magnetic fields, water, or sunlight.
    • +1: Things that can be (relatively) easily weaponized, but aren't (generally) inherently dangerous, like aluminum, "things that aren't weapons", things that are green, or the current phase of the moon. (Why that last one? Well, if you're vulnerable during the new moon - the time itself isn't inherently dangerous, but it's easy enough for someone to come at you with a gun while you're vulnerable.)
    • +2: Things that are inherently dangerous or almost always have a weapon rating, like fire, electricity, extreme cold, blades, etc. Note that this level also includes things that are inherently dangerous to the specific individual; a vampire that burns in sunlight could claim this level for their catch, even if a normal human would find sunlight harmless.
  • Commonality of catch. In DFRPG this was split out into a number of sub-categories, and was the main determinator of catch rebate value.
    • +0: Your catch almost never comes up. It's not naturally common, hardly anyone knows about it, or if they do they generally can't actually capitalize on it. Again, this varies by setting; a science-based super vulnerable to focused tachyon emissions might have this level of catch - or they might have Dr. Tachyon as their nemesis and earn a much higher rebate. Similarly, a demon vulnerable to the power of friendship might be all but unstoppable in a gritty dystopian setting - but the same character in a setting populated with brightly colored ponies would hardly be able to go a single game session without that catch coming up.
    • +1: Your catch will rarely come up, typically requiring unusual circumstances or someone who knows what it is and expends a significant amount of effort to bring it about. Depleted uranium, for example; an average person isn't going to be able to get a hold of that, and it certainly won't come up by accident (given that uranium is poisonous and domestic use of such ammunition is highly illegal), but a government response team tailored to taking you out, or a very persistent or resourceful villain could make it happen. This level will also typically include catches that you have some control over; a character who loses her toughness during the nighttime is probably only going to be able to justify a +1 catch - as she will just not go out heroing during the night and the game is likely to naturally focus on the times when she has her powers.
    • +2: Your catch is uncommon, but expected to come up with some regularity - either it's something that can reasonably come up by accident, or it's something that a canny opponent could research and acquire without going to extreme efforts, or perhaps both. Aluminum would fit at this level, at least as long as it's not well known that that's your catch. A bio-boosted super whose government records indicate they're vulnerable to extreme cold would fit here, too; people generally won't just randomly attack with liquid nitrogen, and accessing those records is non-trivial - but also not prohibitively difficult.
    • +3: Your catch will come up frequently, either because it's already a common attack type (lead, for example), or because it's well known and not exceptionally difficult to acquire (diamond, for example - note that this is 'not exceptionally difficult to acquire' solely due to industrial diamond; attacking with gem-quality diamonds seems silly). This is also the level for attack types that, while overall rare in the setting, will come up frequently against you, personally. For example, a vulnerability to sonic attacks might normally be commonality +1 or maybe +2... but if your nemesis is Mr. Scream, or if the local Goldbrickers gang arms their members with sonic rifles, then you can probably justify a +3.
    • +4: Your catch will be at least tangentially relevant to almost every fight. For example, if you're vulnerable to "things that aren't weapons", well, there's nearly always going to be a risk of getting hit by some super-strong mook wielding a stop sign, or getting thrown through a wall, or... etc. A fire-shifter that's vulnerable to water would fall in this level as well; that's a vulnerability that is sufficiently obvious and easy to acquire that even people who weren't planning on fighting you can probably still break a hydrant or activate a building's sprinklers or something.
    • +6: You're not 'only vulnerable to X' - rather, your toughness only protects you against X, or your powers only function in the presence of X. This level is not recommended for use by PCs, but is presented for completeness.
      (Footnote: some common sense required. A super whose powers only function in the presence of air does not warrant a +6 commonality; the highest they could rate is a +4, and that's only if the game is set on a space station or an underwater base where sudden exposure to a non-air environment is a common risk of collateral damage; in most games, that would rightly deserve a +0 commonality.)

Wyvern
Prismatic Pangolin
Posts: 2278
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2007 8:50 pm

Re: Powers

Post by Wyvern »

Okay, finished the revised catch listings. Now for some notes:

Yes, this means you could have a super-rare catch that still gives a decent rebate by being utterly debilitating when it happens. Please do note, however, that that's when, not if. I do not recommend combining the +2 versions of both Scope and Weaponization unless you really want to see your character caught in a deathtrap and reliant on the other PCs to rescue him.

Commonality of catch is intended less as a question ("How common is this?") and more as a declaration ("I want this sort of attack to be this common.") Something like "fire" could range in commonality value anywhere from +1 to +4, for example; at the +1 level, none of the local supers wield fire attacks, nobody knows your vulnerability, and super-science advances have made burning buildings a rare event. At the +4 level - well, that's what you get when you work closely with someone who turns into a phoenix.

Players are encouraged to set up multiple catches; for example, a super with a genetically-augmented healing factor might be vulnerable to attacks that outright remove mass (+0 scope +2 weaponization +2 commonality - there are monsters out there with bite attacks), and certain sorts of rare gene-tailored poisons (+1 scope +2 weaponization +0 commonality). Or a guy with a super-suit might be vulnerable to electrical attacks (+0 scope +2 weaponization +2 commonality), and to being caught without the suit on (+2 scope +1 weaponization +1 commonality). However, as per DF standard rules, you only get the rebate for the highest value one. And you only get the rebate up to one refresh less than the total cost of affected powers.

Wyvern
Prismatic Pangolin
Posts: 2278
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2007 8:50 pm

Re: Powers

Post by Wyvern »

Some thoughts on rebates in general:

DFRPG had a number of different rebates you could get. The catch, discussed above, was generally the biggest one, but you could also get one or two points back for having some portion of your powers connected to an item, or only accessible via a clearly non-human form that you had to take an action to assume. Individually, any of these rebates were reasonable. As a group, a character who used all of them would tend to end up with three to five refresh more than someone who didn't.

I'm considering that this may not be ideal for a superhero game.

On the other hand, a defensive power that protects against everything that's not mistletoe, say, is clearly more valuable than a defensive power that (ala classic berserkers) only protects against metal and fire.

Maybe the right direction to go is to declare that all PCs get a few (four, perhaps?) refresh that is exclusively for defensive powers/stunts (or can be kept as fate points; having fate points available is a decent defensive option in and of itself), and there are no rebates at all, and (once per scene) if your catch comes up, you just straight up get a fate point?

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