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Lollypopalopicus

Dealing with equipement and cost

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I just figured I would mention this idea that one of my groups used with regards to characters finding items and using equipment, without permanently investing points into it. I remembered it after starting a thread dealing with a tech based VPP

 

To us, it never really made sense that certain things had to be paid for. For example, sure, a peasant would have no idea how to use a sword well, represented by a low OCV and no abilities related to using one, but any moron with an arm and average arm strength can at least pick up a sharp piece of mental and attack someone, no matter unskilled at it they may be. In a heroic campaign, Those small amounts can add up fast.

 

I should preface this by mentioning that said group didn't really have any “gadgeteers”, so there was no issue with anyone feeling as though there character was being made weaker in comparison, so that was one of the reasons I think the whole thing worked.

 

Basically, every character and npc has what was called "The equipment pool". Everyone had a VPP that basically represented your equipment, There were obvious restrictions.

 

-You had to find said item in game, or make it

-Originally, it was not something you could invest points into improve, (more on that later).

-You got a significant penalty if it was something you would have no feasible idea on how to use, like a peasant with a sword, or a wizard from the medieval ages with a gun.

-Obviously, you had to have said item on you, and you could not change said item out of the blue. Meaning you could just suddenly devote more of your pool to increase a magic items damage. (Though if you wanted to do so, when you character had the time, they could improve the item, though that meant it would take up more of your equipment pool when actually using it).

-I think there were some others, but I can't remember, as I haven't played with the group in a while.

 

This made everyone pretty happy. The Magic user got to have some magic items at their disposal that didn't detract from their actual spell casting. The warrior characters were able to invest said points into doing more cool tricks with their weapons rather than having to spend character points to use a weapon that had all the same design and skill requirements of the weapon they already had, but was just more powerful, and thus, would have to not use it until they got more CP.

 

If there was concern for characters being over powered, well, the solution was simple. After all, everyone had this pool. There was one fight were the fighter lost one of their more powerful weapons, and before they had a chance to get it, the boss started attacking him. They kept fighting, when suddenly, a random mook stabs him in the back with the sword he dropped. As for things that didn't use equipment, we either made them stronger to balance things out, or we decided that it would make sense for it to be easier to beat. After all, tool usage is how humans beat things like wolves and bears, and took over the planet.

 

Depending on the type of game, there were some adjustments to the way it worked, and how large it was. For example, in one fantasy game, we decided that the VPP would scale relative to how much CP a character actually had, as it showed that as they grew stronger, they could wield more magical items at once, and control more powerful ones. You could try and use something that was beyond your power, but it would have a side effect based on what the item did, and just how out of your league it was. The magic user almost died trying to use an amulet he found before checking to see how strong it was because it actually belonged to the king of Demons. Later on, he was able to try again. It still hurt, but he managed to pull off what he was trying to do. In another game, you just couldn't activate it because you were too weak.

 

If you really wanted, you could probably figure out a way to incorporate this into games even with “gadgeteers”. They way we decided it was that they could either invest in a separate, less restricted VPP, or to increase their equipment VPP, which would alleviate some of the restrictions on it, but not all of them. No one really did it all that much, so I can't say for certain how well it would go.

 

This is just something my group came up with that seemed to work well for us, so I thought I would share it with everyone here to see what others think, and to give people the opportunity to use the idea if they were struggling to solve the issue like we were.

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Bluesguy is correct that it makes a big difference if the game is a heroic game or not.  In a superhero game any significant equipment must be paid for.  Most GM’s will allow some basic equipment like watches and probably cell phones, but almost anything else needs to be paid for.

 

In a heroic game a character uses money to purchase equipment.  Most mundane equipment is fairly cheap but some of it does cost a significant amount.  Typically heavy armor like plate costs a decent amount of money.  Unless there is some sort of campaign rule magic using characters can also use normal equipment.  One of my best wizards actually uses light armor and knows how to fight with his staff.  Due to a couple of lucky rolls while using his staff he ended up doing better in melee combat than the “fighters” of the group.  I managed to get a critical hit to the head of one of the heavily armored foes we were fighting. 

 

In a heroic campaign all a warrior needs to do is to pay character points for the weapon familiarity and he knows how to use any weapons in that group.  Considering common melee and common ranged weapons only cost 2 pts each that is nothing.  For 4 pts you can use most weapons. 

 

Magic items usually cost a lot more, but are also usually a lot more powerful.  In a heroic campaign even these don’t cost character points. 

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10 hours ago, bluesguy said:

Are you playing a superhero or heroic campaign?  That makes a difference.

 

8 hours ago, LoneWolf said:

Bluesguy is correct that it makes a big difference if the game is a heroic game or not.  In a superhero game any significant equipment must be paid for.  Most GM’s will allow some basic equipment like watches and probably cell phones, but almost anything else needs to be paid for.

 

In a heroic game a character uses money to purchase equipment.  Most mundane equipment is fairly cheap but some of it does cost a significant amount.  Typically heavy armor like plate costs a decent amount of money.  Unless there is some sort of campaign rule magic using characters can also use normal equipment.  One of my best wizards actually uses light armor and knows how to fight with his staff.  Due to a couple of lucky rolls while using his staff he ended up doing better in melee combat than the “fighters” of the group.  I managed to get a critical hit to the head of one of the heavily armored foes we were fighting. 

 

In a heroic campaign all a warrior needs to do is to pay character points for the weapon familiarity and he knows how to use any weapons in that group.  Considering common melee and common ranged weapons only cost 2 pts each that is nothing.  For 4 pts you can use most weapons. 

 

Magic items usually cost a lot more, but are also usually a lot more powerful.  In a heroic campaign even these don’t cost character points. 

 

We've used it in both Heroic, and Superheroic in the past. Like I said, since none of us really play characters based around gadgets, it usually isn't much of an issue

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It would not have to be paid for any more than the everyman skills have to be paid for...

 

I can see the value of this in formalising the contract between GM and player about found stuff.

 

My group know that anything they find, they can keep but they have to understand that I will use that prop as much as they might.  They could pick up the walkie-talkies but they might not be able to guarantee that they are broadcasting privately etc.  They also know that stuff paid for by points may come and go but there will be process around this and, if something disappears, it will come back.  If it is not paid for, I may take it, or rule that it stops working arbitrarily.

 

Being explicit about this means that you do not have to faff around with pools and things.  Of course, you might indicate that anything picked up, that is covered by the pool is subject to the rules regarding paid for stuff...giving a third category of stuff.

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4 hours ago, Doc Democracy said:

It would not have to be paid for any more than the everyman skills have to be paid for...

 

I can see the value of this in formalising the contract between GM and player about found stuff.

 

My group know that anything they find, they can keep but they have to understand that I will use that prop as much as they might.  They could pick up the walkie-talkies but they might not be able to guarantee that they are broadcasting privately etc.  They also know that stuff paid for by points may come and go but there will be process around this and, if something disappears, it will come back.  If it is not paid for, I may take it, or rule that it stops working arbitrarily.

 

Being explicit about this means that you do not have to faff around with pools and things.  Of course, you might indicate that anything picked up, that is covered by the pool is subject to the rules regarding paid for stuff...giving a third category of stuff.

 Yes to all of this. For all intents and purposes, "reasonable" equipment was free for every campaign, Heroic or Superheroic. It never made sense to me why it was ok for heroic (much more normal) characters to have access to high powered assault rifles for free, in such games where they were WAY more effective than Supers, where the same gun in a Supers campaign might be 150 points and not really be all that effective since opponents are bullet proof or whatever. Why do we "trust" players to handle free equipment in a Heroic game, but can't "trust" them in a Supers game?

 

To Doc's comments above, it is all about GM, and more importantly, the social contract of the play group. The group understands that equipment is zero points, thus easy come, easy go... and they don't get to expect they always have what they want when they want it. If you pay points for something... and this is axiomatic of Hero... it is essentially the Player paying for director stance on that particular item/functionality. The more you pay (full price) the more you control when and where you get to use it. Pay nothing, GM ruling and the ebbs and tides of the game will limit what you have access to. Equipment breaks and is subject to "realism" rulings... paid for, even with Foci, get away with a lot more.

 

This all evolved over decades of play, where we mostly got sick of detailing point counts on "reasonable equipment" that often never came into play, etc. Ultimately it was about drama and good story. If it made sense for the scene/plot/story... ok, you have the equipment... if it doesn't, you don't. Essentially it allowed us to hand-wave extensive equipment lists, and ignore micro-over-engineered power pools, and focus "points spent" on "things that matter for theme and story for my character."

 

Hero has a wonderful combat resolution system effectively intertwined with stats and universal power effects, which is the reason I still run in it... but the tendency to over-engineering of every power, ability, device and piece of pocket lint is the darkside, and to be avoided, IMO. The "Have to pay points for that!" reflex is like the appendix of game design. An ancient remnant of old design, no longer necessary in a more evolved world of RPG design, narrative mechanics and thematic play.

 

tl;dr = "Handwave the equipment lists and just get back to playing!"

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If everybody is on board, there's no problem.  Normally our games are high-powered enough that normal equipment really isn't helpful.  Superman can carry around a shotgun if he wants, but honestly it really isn't going to do him much good.

 

However, "paying points" is not the only way to look at this.  While that is how it functions for the player, to the character within the game world, points are not something that he ever interacts with.  A peasant who finds a magic longsword doesn't think "oh crap, I don't have enough points to keep this thing".  To the peasant, he just found a cool sword.  A different way to think of this is that points are a measure of a character's power and effectiveness.  A peasant with a sword is obviously more powerful than a peasant without a sword.  Thus, he should be more points.

 

Now, if swords are easy to find and easy to lose, and this peasant isn't expected to hold onto the sword for longer than this encounter (or maybe the next couple of game sessions), then it's not really "his".  If he's going to keep this thing and carry it wherever he goes, so much that it becomes part of his normal character description, then it may be something for him to pay points for.  After all, he's now a much more powerful character than that other peasant with no sword at all.  As a measure of character power, he's clearly more powerful.  He didn't "pay" anything to get more powerful, he just got more powerful.  The issue becomes if he gets too powerful for the campaign's limit.  "This character is too effective for this particular game."

 

Suppose you're playing some zombie apocalypse game.  And you have a low point total for characters, because you want a ragtag band of survivors who try to escape certain death.  Just normal people in an abnormal situation.  But one of your players raids the sporting goods section of a Wal-Mart, and the convenient deep-sea diving store where he gets a chainmail shark suit.  And the next thing you know he's welding metal plates to a bulldozer and driving around in his makeshift tank.  Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but if this sort of behavior pushes him well beyond your point limit, he's now too powerful a character for this particular game.  In other games, you don't get to bring a 10th level wizard into a 1st level campaign.

 

Now... all that said, in heroic games you're usually allowed to keep whatever crap you can find.  And if your group is comfortable with a house rule, you are perfectly free to do whatever you want.  But the logic behind the rule isn't that the character is somehow mystically prevented from picking up the sword until he pays points -- it's that the game is about characters within a certain power range.

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8 hours ago, Lollypopalopicus said:

 

 

We've used it in both Heroic, and Superheroic in the past. Like I said, since none of us really play characters based around gadgets, it usually isn't much of an issue

In my Heroic game the PCs can get equipment by spending money on the equipment if they can find it.

 

In my Superheroic game I will let the players pick up an agent or bad guys generic OAF and use it in a single adventure.  After that they need to spend points to keep using it.  None of the villain equipment has been worth spending XP on.

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2 hours ago, massey said:

Suppose you're playing some zombie apocalypse game.  And you have a low point total for characters, because you want a ragtag band of survivors who try to escape certain death.  Just normal people in an abnormal situation.  But one of your players raids the sporting goods section of a Wal-Mart, and the convenient deep-sea diving store where he gets a chainmail shark suit.  And the next thing you know he's welding metal plates to a bulldozer and driving around in his makeshift tank. 

 

Really not a problem.  Did the character know how to weld?  I am not sure how easy a skill that is to pick up in an apocalypse? In six months to a year he isn't going to be able to drive around in that bulldozer because he won't be able to find any diesel that is any good anymore.  A zombie apocalypse should include the reality of not being able to find food, water, fuel, bullets and guns.  Plus with most large animals being killed by wandering zombie herds you won't even have oxen or horses to pull things. Hmmm... Maybe you can train a pack of zombies to pull a wagon or plow for you.

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For the concerns about becoming more powerful than you have paid points for, I deal with those in two ways.  

 

The first is that the item will be lost, break, stop working etc in a short period of time.  I am willing to allow short term bonuses and gains, even if they resource is jealously husbanded against need.  This is implicit in my contract with the players, these things are not permanent and not in their control.

 

The second is that this kind of power increase draws attention.  That peasant with a magic sword?  There are plenty of people who would pay good money for it, and those that would take it from the peasant to use it or sell it on.  It also draws narrative attention.  A tank driving round zombie infested San Diego?  A mega-zombie appears that needs more than baseballs, it will tear down normal barriers and is threatening several of the local human hold-outs.  

 

Ramp down the abilities or, temporarily, ramp up the storyline.  :-)

 

Doc

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Doc said... "It also draws narrative attention."

 

Again... this. Ultimately, IMO, any rule/mechanic/etc. is judged by how it affects the story. In this case, how does the accumulation or loss of equipment affect the shared imaginary space/storyline/game that is being created by the group at the table? As bluesguy noted above, from a simulationist/world building point, the zombie-killing tank is feasible but will suffer all kinds of environmental challenges. Doc was looking at it from a plot based "zombie killing tank attracts dramatic attention" POV. You could even take it in a narrative/thematic direction... the player of Zombie Killing Tank Driver!! (the name of my next band, by the way) could enjoy wrestling with the dilemma that his tank driving has created a relative safe zone, and survivors are flocking to him, looking for leadership and safety, taxing supplies and creating a moral refugee problem...

 

Bits of all three, and now you are 'effing Role Playing, baby!

 

I feel, and I could be wrong, that a lot of this equipment issue is a carry over from video games. In those games, gaining equipment is how your character advances. You get better loot drops, you are more powerful, and being powerful enough to fight bigger monsters is the whole point. Those players can bring the mindset of writing down that cool gun from the list in the book, or statting out a zombie killing tank on my sheet... that is "winning" the game.

 

Heck, if you like that kind of thing, run that kind of game... but then you DO need hard fast rules, because the game has become a competition of "who has the best stuff."  Not my jam, but there you go.

 

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