Monday, October 12, 2015

Relative yardsticks for Toughness and Armor

There is a lingering concern I have with running a supers game regarding damage output verses toughness and armor. At first glance you think a high parry hero can work. Then you realize that once an attack hits, that hero with a toughness of 5 is going to be pasted immediately. Even more so as that landed hit likely aced so the villain is going to get an extra D6 damage added to their regular 5D6 attack.

On the flip side, I can see some players having such a high Toughness/Armor that it'll take a tank round to even make them flinch. Again there it'll be this never ending arms race to overcome high defenses. With exploding dice things can get especially chaotic. So I am considering curbing the high toughness (and armor) some for a street hero game.

I'm considering having a general yardstick for my players to adhere to. If they are a hero that can be hurt by bullets, total Armor and Toughness should be between 8 and 10 points. If they are tougher and relatively bullet proof, their combined Armor/Toughness should be 10-16. Anything over that I'm going to push that they buy other powers like Resistance instead. It's not perfect but I feel with these guidelines I can throw villains at them that will be a challenge while not risking completely one-shotting them constantly.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Untrained skills and Heavy Armor

There are two lingering hiccups I have with a Savage Worlds Supers game. The first is the Heavy Armor power modifier. The second is the untrained skill penalty.

Heavy Armor seems to create a form of an arms race with super powers. I like the idea of the Heavy Armor tag. It's good that certain vehicles are pretty much impervious to small arms fire. But with the PCs it becomes a necessity to buy the Heavy Weapon modifier with every hard hitting attack power. It's super cheap to buy the Armor power and throw in a few points to get complete invulnerability to normal attacks. Unless their assailant turns around and buys the Heavy Weapon modifier, so you have this never ending circle of power advantages to counter each other.

So I opted to only allow the Heavy Armor modifier if at least 5 power points were put into the Armor power. The exception to this was if the Partial Armor weakness was taken. This allowed armor to be negated with a lucky shot. So I felt it balanced out some to counter the Heavy Armor modifier.

The other lingering problem was with untrained skills. I like how Savage Worlds splits skills from attributes but for a supers game I can see players not able to get enough skill points to throw around. You could have a super strong hero completely unable to climb and failing just as much as a regular Joe. Or a hero with ungodly agility unable to throw a rock and hit the side of a barn if their life depended on it. That didn't quite make sense.

To get around this for trained tests, I am allowing the linked attributes to skills be used instead. This might break the game some so I'll have to see how well it works (the Gifted power is one thing that needs to be further tweaked). I might potentially allow it to be used just to tests of physical ability. But for now I'll take an attitude of waiting and seeing how things pan out.

I'm still worried that without a minimum toughness, some players are going to get rolled over. But for now I'm on the fence if that is absolutely needed. Until then, here's a condensed version of my house rules.

Untrained skills - Players can opt to use their ability scores for unskilled rolls instead of using the default d4 die. Players still get a -2 penalty and the ability used must match with the linked skill attribute (ex. shooting can be tested using agility). The Gifted power can only be linked to one attribute. If a player wants to apply it to multiple attributes, the power must be bought again for each attribute they want it to apply to.

Heavy Armor Modifier - This modifier can only be bought if the player has a minimum armor of 10 (5 power points). An exception is if a player takes the Partial Armor power modifier, then there is no minimum armor value required to purchase the Heavy Armor modifier.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Evil Organizations

Of course no superhero campaign would be complete without some evil organizations hell-bent on world domination. Here is a few of the major villainous organizations in the campaign world...

Villainous Infamy Legion Embodied (VILE): A global organization bent on world domination. They utilize superhumans and human henchmen for their plans. They primarily seek global domination through subterfuge and secret manipulation but have been known to conduct larger acts of terrorism. It is rumored that a council of seven superbeings run the organization.

Medusa: Another global criminal organization, Medusa is more bent on consolidating power and gaining financial wealth than that of VILE. They primarily use human henchmen and automatons for their operations, but are also known to have superhumans in their ranks.

New Aryan Dawn Society (NADS): A combination of technological and occult powered villains out of South America seeking to further the Fourth Reich. Some claim that the organization is run by former Nazis that managed to escape Germany at the end of WW2, and were somehow able to prolong their life. NADS is also rampant on pushing an anti-mutant agenda through secretly supporting political candidates and parties that embrace this platform. They see mutants not only impure, but also possibly a hindrance to their efforts to establish a new world Nazi order.

Damage Incorporated: A loose organization of superbeings that act strictly as mercenaries. They are hired by groups like NADS, Medusa, and the Black Hand. Damage Inc. has also been hired by terrorist organizations, dictators, and even some industrialized nations for covert operations.

The Black Hand: A supernatural organization based primarily out of Asia. They not only use superbeings, but also have several henchmen extensively trained in the martial arts. Their main goal is power and influence, but some suspect they also seek to gain control of supernatural artifacts, which place them in competition with the Shadow Legion.

The Shadow Legion: Another supernatural organization that is typically at odds with the Talisman. They derive from an ancient society. Many believe a council of 13 runs the group, with some of the council members rumored to be nearly 200 years old. Others that are exceedingly knowledgeable about the Shadow Legion claim the group is really run by demons (or beings from other dimensions). They are set upon opening a rift in time and space to allow more of their kind through in order to dominate Earth.

The Toymakers: A group which utilizes primarily technological, but sometimes magical, means to create super powered weaponry and equipment. They sell their services to the highest bidder and actively attempt to thwart any competition (typically research from MISS and ASTRO). They have even been known to interfere with research and development of other criminal organizations. In some aspects they are after global technological domination of all research for Earth, but are willing to sell their services for the right price.

The Shop: A secret government agency created during World War II to counter the Nazi’s superhero research efforts. They have morphed from a secret branch of United States intelligence agencies to that of a super secret federal group that answers to no one. They actively pull strings in both the NSA and CIA, and even with other foreign intelligence agencies. Another aspect of their work is actively recruiting superbeings to work as covert agents, particularly mutants. The power of this organization is immense. The group has nearly an Illuminati status, with both intelligence and criminal organizations not knowing of its existence.

Mutant Liberation Army (MLA): A very small mutant terrorist group. They are active in using violence to promote the mutant cause, typically by acting against political groups seeking to implement policies that would control, or monitor, superhumans in the general public. [It is rumored that some of the leaders were assassins employed by the Shop. This may suggest why their efforts have been directed against the Shop and NADS in the past.]

Monday, September 21, 2015

Neutral/Friendly Organizations

Not all organizations have to be evil. Sometimes heroes will need some help. Even better, sometimes public organizations can also be a hindrance to them. Here's a few that that have a role in the campaign world....

UN Shield: This group consists of a rotating roster of 12-16 superhumans from different nations. Currently UN Shield has been used for humanitarian efforts throughout the world and its role in fighting super villains and criminal agencies has been limited. Because of this, some public consider UN Shield to be more of a joke, filled with inept heroes (as the best and brightest of any country are instead used for national emergencies).

The New Patriots: This hero group was formed in 1954 during the height of the Cold War in the United States to counter Russia’s Collation of Communist Crusaders for the Proletariat (C.C.C.P.). Due to the enactment of NASP, the group does not publicly work for the federal government (but is secretly funded and used occasionally for matters of national security). They are immensely popular with a mix of old guard heroes from the late 70’s and heroes from early 2000. Omni-man is a member of this group.

The Protectors: Situated out on the west coast, this hero group feels they provide a more balanced approach to being a superhero against the vehemently patriotic group, the New Patriots. They are currently a roster of six members and are another very popular group of heroes. Although they are employed by the United States in matters of national security, typically the New Patriots are favored for such operations.

The Liberty League: Europe’s answer to America’s groups, they are a major, and popular, supergroup. Their full roster consists of nine heroes, although active members at any particular time is usually seven. The Liberty League also has large support of the public and at times, given the varying opinion of United States’s policies from year to year, is more popular than the New Patriots and the Protectors. Starman is a member of this group.

The Talisman: A semi-secret organization dealing with supernatural studies. Their true duty in providing protection against evil sorcery is not known publicly, but among intelligence agencies they are well known. At times different countries and law enforcement agencies have used their assistance in certain ‘odd’ occurrences and as sources of information dealing with crimes of an occult nature.

Mansfield Institute of Superhuman Studies (MISS): A worldwide consortium of labs that primarily study superbeings and is a source of highly technological advanced research. These laboratories have strong ties to government institutions and research facilities.

Applied Science and Technology Research Organization: Primarily a Western-based (United States and European) privately funded company, they are a source of technologically advanced research, especially with military applications. ASTRO also studies superbeings and has a very active extraterrestrial research division.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The City of Liberty

Nestled on the coastline of Texas between Corpus Christi and Houston, this city was originally a French colony created as settlers from Louisiana went further south down along the coast of the Americas. France’s hold of the colony was relatively short lived however as Spain gained greater influence throughout the region and eventually claimed the colony for itself. The port city had some prominence until the Mexican war where Texas gained their independence and founded a new city, Houston. Since then, Liberty has always been in the shadow of its neighbor to the north.

It is now a city of nearly 2 million. Liberty has a sizable hispanic and african american population, and is rounded out with many other ethnic groups, particularly Chinese. While Houston claimed its stake in the petroleum business, Liberty has its roots in chemical production and plastic manufacturing. The ports are very active and rival traffic with other Gulf cities. Additionally they host several universities and a branch of ASTRO, becoming a technological research hub too.

There are no superheroes or supergroups in the city of Liberty. This honor is claimed by many other cities in Texas (Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston). City police do have an enhanced SWAT unit, but there is some worry about the capabilities local law enforcement would have against a superbeing threat.

Violent crime is not rampant in Liberty, however criminal activity is not uncommon. While Liberty is not ranked exceedingly high in federal crime statistics, it is slightly higher than the national average. Organized crime has a foothold in the ports and with several floating casino boats. Being a port city near Mexico, narcotic traffic is another issue. Control of this activity is causing some to worry if the drug cartels from South and Central America will create conflict with local organized crime.

Currently the city has criminal activity from three main groups: the Lu’s (a coalition of Chinese triads), the Doyles (an Irish-american organized crime family with affiliation to mob gangs on the east coast), and the Kingston crew (a loose group of allied drug gangs from the Kingston neighborhood). Some smaller gangs are also gaining prominence in the city of Liberty.

There is one state prison with facilities to hold superhumans off the coast, Blackstone Island State Prison.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A campaign place to call home

I want the action in the game to focus on the city first. A place for players to get their hero feet wet. Having the game set at possibly a step in-between street heroes and 4 color was about right for the power level I wanted. So yeah, I needed a city.

I wanted some flexibility and something familiar. A coastal city for sure. Having the sea part of the environment opens up a lot of potential adventure and villain ideas. I didn't want something too big in population and also wanted to shy away from an actual city. Something fictional was what I was shooting for.

So I dug around a while and managed to dig up an old copy of a city location from Mutants and Masterminds. It had just about everything I was looking for, just the right size of an urban area on the coast. I dug the idea of a smaller port city, possibly a colony from a non-English country, that eventually became US territory. Liberty stuck in my head. Something a bit corny and patriotic, it was the perfect place to host a new superhero group.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How superheroes fit in the world

One thing I wanted to do with my supers setting for Savage Worlds was make it much like the world today. Advanced technology was not unheard of, just exceedingly rare and sadly most dedicated to weaponry and armaments. I also wanted a setting that could incorporate aliens and magic. However like the world today, such concepts would be not overbearing (aliens) or viewed simply as something outlandish that could be rationally explained through science (magic). Past history would not dramatically change and key events would pretty much be the same.

More importantly, I wanted to address how superheroes were viewed in society and with governments. Would they all be considered super soldiers? Would they be universally adored or would they be looked upon with fear? Or would they potentially be a little of each? So I wanted something that would be flexible enough to encompass just about everything.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A place for a Supers campaign...

I enjoy Savage Worlds. It's a system with enough flexibility that's also easy to run with just enough crunch. Unfortunately the flexibility also means I frequently get the itch to try out different genres. Keeping track of my various games gets to be a chore however and what compounds this are the long breaks in between games. It's a challenge for my players to keep track of past adventures.

That's where typically Obsidian Portal comes in. Yet I've found it difficult to justify keeping a subscription going for different campaigns that will be exceedingly sporadic. I wanted another (free) option. So I settled on keeping track of my Supers campaign using a blog. A few pages and posts on the history, movers and shakers, and places within the Texas city of Liberty along with a running narration of adventures the players get into.

I think it'll be fun and hope some find a little inspiration for their own superhero games here.