Monday, February 16, 2015

Game Mechanics Monday: HERO System and the Indirect Advantage

This seemingly innocuous pistol may not be familiar to some of you. But those out there familiar with the Akira manga and anime might be able to identify it as a recreation of one of The Colonel's most powerful weapons.

What is it? Well, it emits a laser beam -- that does no direct damage. Instead, it lases the target, estimates distance and direction, calculates coordinates, and transmits these coordinates to an orbiting SOL satellite.

SOL stands for Satellite Orbital Laser. That's right, it's a targeting system for a geosynchronous laser satellite.

The beauty on the left comes from (Kevin Harris), and would be a lovely prop at appropriate RPG games.

My old gaming group encountered this piece of SF weaponry in manga/anime and immediately set around building it (along with many other cool weapons in the media -- being a HERO-head does that to you). So how'd we do it?

1. Estimating Damage

Well, the real questions are: what will the GM let you get away with? and how much damage can you afford?

I think that someone tried to build it as a Killing Attack, but then got pushed down to a regular Energy Blast in the range of 20 to 24d6 (holy crap!).

2. Advantages!

But the Armor Piercing advantage was argued, because it got through Tetsuo's defenses. And they slapped a 1-Hex Area Effect advantage, because -- based on special effect -- it wasn't one of those dinky hand-held laser beams, and seemed to take out things in a nice big hex-sized area.

And last but not least, they built it with the Indirect advantage.

In Champions / HERO, attacks are generally assumed to originate from the hero, travel the space between the hero and the target, and hit the target. This allows for things to get in the way, provides a rationale for the difficulty of aiming, and allows heroic (and not so heroic) attempts to interpose living beings between the origin of the attack and the target.

The Indirect advantage allows an attack to originate at a different point. This has led to some abuse (despite paying for the advantage), like energy projectors blasting an opponent from behind (surprise!) into a teammate's readied, pushed sucker punch (teamwork, baby!), but it's always been curtailed by a good GM.

In this case, the Indirect point of origin is high up above the battle in orbit. Any knockback would, of course, knock the target into the ground. Really nice given (a) knockback damage, and (b) forcing the opponent to waste an action getting back up, or incurring penalties for being prone.


But all this, of course, is secondary to having a character with mostly above average characteristics and highly-trained human skills, and pointing this dinky little weapon that opponents would underestimate or waste an action dodging (you can't dodge an attack to your hex, which is what a smart player would target), and unleashing the fire of heaven onto the poor victim.


"Eat high-energy particles, buddy!"

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