Sunday, August 14, 2011

Practical Character Creation for Supers (part 2)

In part 1 of this topic, I tackled the offensive and defensive concerns of building a superheroic character (sans discussions of a complicated topic known as character concept -- the source of much of the delays in building characters in point-based games).

The next two topics I'm tackling are movement capabilities, and something I'm labeling factor X.

Movement capabilities

As astutely pointed out in superheroic RPGs, it's embarrassing for superheroes to have to catch a bus to fight crime. Furthermore, vigilantes who operate in areas that the law frowns upon will find their careers severely curtailed when police catch them jogging from the scene of the crime in their brightly colored crime fighting outfits.

However, even once you've chosen an appropriate movement power, there are some things to consider further. And all these considerations rely on the GM's style of play and understanding of superhero physics, which may differ from yours (and the other players)!

Perceptible SFX

Does your power leave a trail perceptible by normal folks? Like a bright trail of energy, or the sound of roaring engines audible ten blocks away? Keep in mind that this will make it harder for you to sneak up on people, and may make it difficult to keep a civilian identity ("The Comet's flight trail leads directly into the window of the men's bathroom of the 10th floor Daily Planet Bugle!").


Depending on how your flight works, and how powerful it is, you may find certain questions cropping up in the course of your adventures like
  • how fast can you fly? fast enough to cause you temperature problems due to windchill? fast enough to make it difficult to breathe due to the inability of your lungs to create a strong enough vacuum to suck in air?
  • what's the maximum altitude your flight can take you, and can you handle the cold and thin air at that altitude?
  • how easily can you turn at cruising speed? at top speed?
  • how far can you see? far enough to avoid something in your way?
  • can you hear things like airplanes and helicopters that are flying at the same altitude as you?

Some of the issues here are similar to flying, for obvious reasons. Others though...

  • how fast can you run? fast enough to cause you temperature problems due to windchill?
  • what's your traction like on non-normal surfaces like slippery roads and ice?
  • how easily can you turn at cruising speed? at top speed?
  • how far can you see? far enough to avoid something in your way?
  • can you hear or see other things on the road, and can you react in time to avoid obstacles?
  • can you survive tripping at your running speed?

Some of the biggest headaches come from arguments over the physics of teleportation, as you may find out when you shift from GM to GM and find that they don't necessarily agree with the nuanced uses of your abilities. For example:
  • do you retain momentum when you teleport -- meaning teleporting to the ground when falling will still cause your to impact at the same velocity?
  • will your GM allow your to teleport into the same space you are now, but facing in a different direction -- meaning if you're falling, you can teleport 180 degrees and then fall upwards until you lose momentum and teleport safely to a surface at 0 velocity?
  • what happens when you try to teleport into something solid?
  • what happens when you teleport from one train to another -- with each train moving at slightly different speeds in different directions?
Other movement abilities

So this should give you an idea of what to expect to think about when choosing a movement power, and things that need clarification with the GM before play starts. Most of these things are already resolved (not always consistently) by writers in comics, but when your playing these questions haven't necessarily been hashed out between GM and Players.

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That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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