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How do you handle Cell Phones


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History Lesson

 

So Champions 1st edition  came out in 1981, with the system being fairly stable by the 4th edition in 1989 (after this point most changes were really small)

 

Cell phones first created in 1979, but did not gain popularity till the early 90's, with the rise of the smart phone in the early 2000's, the cell phone has gone from being a fancy walkie talkie to a minicomputer with internet access, built in camera and a host of entertainment and productivity software that practically everyone has in there pocket. 

 

Ok, so here is the question:  How do you handle cell phones? 

 

Obviously it can be handwaved away...

 

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Same way I handle everything reasonably common that everyone has access to in a culture.  Nobody has to buy one, because its part of being a person in modern civilization.  Its like Lighting Calculator vs buying a calculator.  The talent represents someone who doesn't need the device, but everyone can own and use one without paying points for it.

 

If you mean in terms of plotting, that's a bit different.  You can take the hack Hollywood technique of just having phones not work or be totally forgotten in places they are awkward for the plot, but I prefer to use people's advantages as a way of designing plots.  For example, a character in one of my Champions games bought Ego Defense usable by others.  Everyone had 15 Ego Defense all the time.  Instead of saying they could not have that power, I instead used it as an opportunity to design scenarios which required Ego Defense to succeed.  And then, when it was useful, I used his "personal immunity" (that let him use his powers on people who had the defense) as a loophole to allow a villain to hit them with mental powers.

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Heroes can carry a cell phone for free.

 

The location data of the phone and where it has been is available to the carrier, to the police with a warrant, and to anyone who bribes or hacks the phone company.

 

So if some organization wanted to link your cell phone location data to your superhero appearances and to your home, they could by putting in some effort and resources.

 

You can buy burner phones which have a battery which is disconnectable. That keeps location data from being gathered by anyone while the battery is disconnected. It also prevents people from being able to contact you while the battery is disconnected.

 

If I were a paranoid hero with few resources, I'd have a burner phone which I stored disconnected maybe in a locker somewhere. Pick it up, connect it when I've left the storage site and want to use it.  

 

Regular cell phones are intentionally really, really fragile. Even if you can avoid breaking the screen, I-Phones for example have their interior parts glued together (glued, intentionally not very well, rather than soldered) so that being dropped or heavily jarred can "break the phone". Someone with some minimal skills and willing to watch a YouTube video can find out how to open up the phone, look for the right thing, and glue it back together which sometimes is all that's needed to fix a phone. But try doing that during an emergency.

 

I wouldn't expect a regular cell phone to survive a superhero fight and still function unless the hero totally avoids all contact with the enemy and never does any violent, sudden, or jarring movements.

 

Of course you could always do the equivalent of Spider-Man webbing up his camera which neatly keeps it out of most fights.

 

 

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  I was flipping thru the Bureau 13 sourcebook last week. (The good one w/ the Phil Foligo artwork) circa 1980 and a lot of the super-tech available to the players you can now buy at Walmart. GPS, cellphones, cell phones with cameras. My I-Pad has more processing power than the computer in their mobile base.

  You don’t make players pay for wearing pants or having a normal amount of cash on hand, don’t sweat the small stuff.

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I allow the PCs to carry and use cell phones without cost, and never really played up any spottiness or easy breakability in the past.  Then again, in my latest Champions campaign the hero team mentalist had a Mind Link that allowed the team to carry on communication pretty much 24/7/365, so cell phone usage wasn't much of an issue.

 

 

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5 hours ago, JmOz said:

My issue, idea, etc...was more to do with the versatility of it, the access to the internet, etc... as a communication device it is pretty easy, but having the internet in your pocket can be disruptive imo...

 


   Agreed, but that’s the world we live in. A GM has to adjust to the times. What’s Hudson City like during the COVID shutdown?  Just because having people get around the country easily may interfere with the episode you want to run doesn’t mean a GM can or should ban the use of airplanes and cars in a modern day campaign. 

   If you don’t want to deal that stuff than set your game in the ‘70’s.  There’s a very interesting new trailer for a Batman animated movie that’s basically a ‘70’s Kung Fu flick.   Bats, Richard Dragon, Lady Shiva, and Bronze Tiger go out to avenge the murder of their Sensei by the League of Assassins.  Hell somebody should run that as a mix of Ninja Hero & Danger International.
 

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11 hours ago, JmOz said:

My issue, idea, etc...was more to do with the versatility of it, the access to the internet, etc... as a communication device it is pretty easy, but having the internet in your pocket can be disruptive imo...

 

 

Yeah, the internet is pretty amazing. If someone has strong Google-Fu, he can simulate having high INT and numerous knowledge skills.

 

I have kind of a knack of "thinking like a search engine files information" so I can usually come up with the right combination of words which will lead me to even pretty obscure information. And if I look at the top ten results on a page, I usually pick the right one of those ten which gives me exactly the right information I was looking for rather than having to read through the whole list of links. 

 

I used to be constantly frustrated at other people's lack of ability to find information when they were sitting at a computer. But after spending a long time standing over the shoulders of two kids going through high school and college then training 30-40 people on information retrieval and analysis, I (very, very slowly) came to realize that finding information isn't a skill which everyone automatically has.

 

Add that to the flashlight, compass, GPS, map, level, measures distances to objects, facetime, camera, transmit stored pictures, text, clock, timer, calendar...geez, you can take a cardiogram now.

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7 hours ago, archer said:

 

Yeah, the internet is pretty amazing. If someone has strong Google-Fu, he can simulate having high INT and numerous knowledge skills.

 

(snip)

 

Add that to the flashlight, compass, GPS, map, level, measures distances to objects, facetime, camera, transmit stored pictures, text, clock, timer, calendar...geez, you can take a cardiogram now.

 

Although... an astute GM would make use of the fact that the PC's foes would also have all of those advantage, having their own cell phones (with the exceptions of the Amish Assassin and Perma-Water-Man). 

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All players can have them for free in my campaign, but like all free items...they are at the whim of the GM to make the game more interesting and fun. If they're a problem, it is GM's fiat on how to deal with it. I haven't had much of an issue to be honest. Yes, they can look up information, but it's not like they're going to get game breaking information. Reading on the internet that Photon is a woman with light powers isn't going to help you find her or capture her in and of itself.

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Anything that literally anyone can have for just a small amount of cash, characters can have.  With, as has been noted, all the real-world issues.  You don't need to give a phone 3d6 unluck;  if you get slammed into a brick wall for 6d6 from knockback, and your phone was in your back pocket..........

 

What becomes a little trickier is, how much should a player pay, for something with similar functionality but NOT the drawbacks?  A lot of the time, these are just game convenience, nothing more.  If Absolute Time, Range, or Direction are 3 points, then GPS shouldn't be a lot more...I put it at 5 but could be argued down.  A durable, secure high-end smartphone would tend to be fairly expensive...but it's also kinda silly, because so much of it facilitates smooth play.  5 points kinda feels like an "invisible power effects" advantage, if you will.

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I'm willing to give most modern-day characters "Internet Search" as an Everyman Skill if they have access to the Internet. But that's an 8- roll, and there can be penalties. IME common, trivial information is easy enough to find, but anything with enough depth to be useful takes time to locate, to ascertain its likely applicability and veracity, and to absorb and apply. People who want to do research faster, more reliably, and/or in greater depth need to buy up their Skill Roll (so they can be like archer). ;)

 

GPS is good for moment-by-moment navigation to a place you've already identified. If you need to plan your optimum route to get to or from some place without being seen, for ex, you need a map. Again IME, Internet maps show you what their designers think is important. It takes some time and effort to get them to show you what's important to you.

 

Bottom line, I'm willing to give PCs stuff like this for free, but it's never going to be as efficient as having the relevant Skill already in your brain.

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