Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Frostbite


Thomas Ebersol was a young graduate student studying cryogenics at the University of Superville when he was assigned to an internship at the Burnbright Nuclear Power Plant. Dr. Herbert Hammond (aka Ubermind) did not like this as he did not want outsiders in his lair. Ebersol's criticism of the plant's cooling system only exacerbated the situation. Although he made great strides in modernizing the cooling system, Dr. Hammond arranged for an "accident". Dr. Hammond secretly disabled the safety mechanism on the vat of supercooled liquid that Ebersol was working on. Late one night a nozzle burst knocking Ebersol into the liquid. His body was never found. Hammond assumed his body froze solid instantly and shattered at the molecular level. He created a cover story about Ebersol quiting to avert suspicion. In actuality Thomas survived through sheer luck though he was changed. His skin, hair and eyes were transformed to a sickly shade of pale blue-white. He became able to create and manipulate ice. He could throw ice balls and shoot powerful streams of ice as well as create thick shields of ice to protect himself. He could also paralyse others by simply touching them. But he could no longer stand heat. Any temperature above freezing became uncomfortable for him. He became...

Frostbite

Resistances
Composure 4D
Fortitude 2D
Reaction 2D
Will 2D

Aptitudes
Academia 2D
Technology 3D
All the Rest 1D

Powers
Elemental Control - Ice 5D
Armor 3D
Paralysis (Touch Attack) 4D

Ad
Dumb Luck

Disad
Vulnerability - Heat

Thomas is ashamed of his condition and wants to find a way to change himself back. He is poor, however, and funds his researches through theft. He lives and works in a large, abandoned ice-cream factory freezer. He is not inherently evil but his obsession with becoming "normal" and his superhuman composure caused his transformation makes him dangerous.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gaming with Kids - A Cautionary Tale

I enjoy playing RPGs with my children. They are my gaming group.

But...

My oldest is a sensitive child. When we first started with RPGs we talked about winning and losing and the fun of just playing. He gets that. But the other day we played a practice scenario of Supers! in order to familiarize him and his younger brother with the combat system. He played his shape-shifting character, Phoenix, and his younger brother played Phoenix's companion, a dog that can shape-shift into a teenager. The scenario was a simple case of a group of six mooks robbing a bank. The boys went in (my youngest used his character's super stength to literally burst through the wall) and cleaned the mooks up in a round and a half of combat. I then sent in the Centurion character that I posted in my mini-review. Centurion was being mind controlled by an unknown villain and attacked the pair. So we all rolled our reaction and the sequence became my oldest son, me as GM, then my youngest. Centurion has 6D in armor. This is strong armor. So my oldest would attack, Centurion would defend with his armor and fend off the attack. Then Centurion would do his thing and then my youngest would attack. Centurion would defend with his armor again but at a reduced 5D. My youngest scored a hit or two as a result.

Before we could finish the combat it was time for bed. Well, my oldest became upset because he wanted to finish and was very frustrated that he could not hit Centurion. I tried to explain to him that he and his brother were working as a team and that his attacks distracted and weakened Centurion allowing his brother to hit. This did not mollify him. He became more worked up and began talking about not winning the game. Once again I reiterated that the fun was in the playing, not winning or losing. No dice. He swore off RPGs forever.

Sigh...

Of course a half hour later he apologized and asked if we could play the following night with the caveat that I use a different character to fight with.

Well, what lessons can I draw from this? Emphasize the fun of playing not the winning or losing more often. Perhaps adjust the power level of the opponents (though this was the first combat we ran so I wasn't completely aware of how it would play out.) Children, like adults, can invest to much emotion into games and thus lose some of the enjoyment.

I know I'll think of more but that is all for now.


Oh, and Centurion is a Badass.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Old Man's War

I do not get to read as much as I would like. I don't get to read at work (ironically) and when I get home I have parental and spousal duties which leave me with little free time. And then I'm usually to tired for serious reading. So the reading I do get around to is often articles, blogs or forum threads. All reading that I enjoy but I don't read the novels or non-fiction books I want to read.

So I am very happy that I ran across Old Man's War by John Scalzi. The tag line is:

"John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army."

I haven't finished the novel (to top everything off, I am a slow reader) but I am very much enjoying it. If you like military science-fiction along the lines of the novels Starship Troopers or The Forever War I think you would enjoy this book. It borrows a bit from each but is definitely its own book.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Magnet Boy

Carlos Thomas was a typical nine year old boy. He enjoyed playing video games, messing with his computer and riding his dirt bike. One day his 4th grade class took a field trip to the Superville hydroelectric plant located in the nearby Superville dam (the nuclear power plant being notoriously unreliable, the city needs an alternative source of power.) It was that day that the notorious villain Shocker invaded the dam in order to high-jack the power plant and absorb all of the electrical energy. Mega Man arrived to foil the plan but Shocker escaped by overloading the electromagnets. Though Mega Man managed to avert a major disaster, there was a massive electromagnetic flux which changed Carlos' life forever. Carlos had lingered behind and when the flux hit Carlos absorbed the majority of the energy.

Thus, Magnet Boy was born!

Once Carlos recovered and adjusted to his new powers he decided to fight crime and make sure that no other child would ever be harmed by a super-villain again. But his main goal is to bring Shocker to justice.

Magnet Boy

Resistances
Composure 1D
Fortitude 2D
Reaction 3D
Will 1D

Aptitudes
Technology 2D
Vehicles 2D
All the Rest 1D

Powers
Energy Form - Magnetism 4D
Energy Control - Magnetism 5D
Flight 4D

Competency Pool
3D

The cool thing to me is that Magnet Boy came from the mind of my 5 year old. He was watching a video on magnetism and, after hearing my older son and me talking about Supers!, decided that he wanted a character with the power of magnets. So we worked together and created Magnet Boy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

J Eric Holmes

I just read on some other blogs that John Eric Holmes, writer of the Blue Book Basic edition of D&D, has passed away. For some reason this bothers me more than the passing of any of the other icons of D&D. Maybe it is because his book was my introduction to the game. I still have fond memories of it though the book itself disappeared years ago.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Supers!

Supers! is a new rules-lite superhero role-playing game from the pen (or keyboard) of Simon Washbourne the creator of the much esteemed Barbarians of Lemuria. The book comes in at about 70 pages and contains more or less everything you need to run a superhero campaign. This game is not based on the BoL engine though, it is a dice-pool type game.

The first half of the book consists of character creation rules. A character consists of three types of stats - Resistances, Aptitudes, and Powers. Each of these are rated in terms of six-sided dice. This is the only type of dice that are used in the game.

There are four Resistances - Composure, Fortitude, Reaction, and Will. These are traits that are used to resist attacks and where damage is applied if the character is injured. If one of a character's resistances is reduced to 0 then the character is knocked out of the battle. Each resistance starts a 1D and the player has five dice to distribute among them. The starting maximum for a resistance is 3D. This is also the normal human maximum. Resistances can be increased later in the character creation process if the character has superpowers. A normal character given as an example in the book has a resistance higher than 3 but it is not spelled out explicitly in the text that this is appropriate. A forum discussion in response to a question of mine on this point seems to indicate that the answer isn't clear. The responses included input from Mr. Washbourne himself.

Next a player distributes 3D amongst the character's aptitudes. Aptitudes are broadly defined skill sets. For example, two of the aptitudes are fighting and shooting. Each aptitude starts at 1D. The starting cap for an aptitude is 3D, although these can be raised later beyond 3D. But if you do this you must pick a specialization for the aptitude. So, if you added an extra die to your 3D fighting you would have to pick something like swords or martial arts. When using a sword you would roll four dice and choose the best three as your result. The highest you can roll is 18. There is one exception to this which I will mention later.

When finished with aptitudes, powers are selected. 12D are distributed amongst the powers with an upper limit of 5D. This can be raised higher if a complication is taken with the power. A complication is a limitation to the power. For example, if a character has the super strength power and decides that the power is fueled by sunlight and thus doesn't work at night or in darkness. There is a large but by no means exhaustive list of powers for a player to choose from. The list covers all of the expected powers and players are encouraged to create their own.

Any dice not allocated during character creation are placed in the character's competency pool. Any dice in this pool may be used once per adventure to boost a roll. Say the superhero is worried about that heat blast coming his way. He can add a die to his defensive roll to hopefully beat the attack roll. These can be added to aptitude rolls also. This is the one case when aptitude roll results can exceed 18.

The remainder of the book contains the rules of play, guidelines for NPCs, disasters, a brief guide to Supercity, the default setting, and several example characters.

The task and combat resolution system is simple. Unopposed tasks must equal or exceed a target number. For opposed tasks, including combat, the characters compare the roll of their dice pools and highest roll wins. In combat use choose a power, aptitude or a resistance for attack or defence. You can only use each once per round (with the exception of armor.)

Supers! does not pretend to be a the be-all end-all of superhero games. Mr. Washbourne stated in one forum or another (I'm sorry I can't remember which right now) that he created Supers! to entertain himself and his gaming group. Even with some ambiguity in the rules, Supers! seems like it will be a fun game to play. It is rules-lite, flexible and seems easy to play. Just like I like them. My son has created a character already and we hope to give the game a go soon.

Here is a standard build character I created using the rules:

Centurion

Resistances
Composure 2D Fortitude 2D
Reaction 2D
Will 2D

Aptitudes
Fighting 3D
Shooting 2D
Athleticism 2D
All the Rest 1D

Powers
Power Suit (All powers built into suit)
Armor 6D
Energy Control - Laser 4D
Super Strength 4D
Super Senses (2D)
Radar Sense 2D
Ultra Hearing 2D

Ads
Companion - Legionary

Disads
Enemy

I haven't created his sidekick Legionary yet but I will post him when I do.