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Is it wrong to power game?


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So this thread has brought up a lot of feelings for me, and more than a few thoughts that could be projections.   I have been around this system for a very long time.  I have made hundreds o

All wrong answers stem from disagreeing with my wisdom.. 😛

Thanks for that, Scott.   The rep cannon has run out, but I'll get back to tag you for that.   As I have been periodically accused of Steve-bashing (fortunately, not by anyone who

13 hours ago, assault said:

My point about it being a "bogus argument" needs to be read in light of what I subsequently wrote.

 

In the past "character concept" has been used to argue what I call the "Batman fallacy" - the notion that since Batman is "only human", he should be inferior, in terms of characteristics, to "real superheroes".

 

 

It's funny how gamers who are very much down on D&D and other d20 games for the constraints of arbitrary character classes are fine with imposing specific restrictions and allowing specific "right" builds for certain concepts.  Character classes are just concept-based design/build constraints.

 

13 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

Well, I mean its not immoral to powergame and its fine if the GM and players are okay with that.  What isn't fun or good is trying to get an unfair or unwanted advantage over everyone else, and "win" by overwhelming the GM's scenario.  Building to efficiency and using the system well is good -- I personally welcome that kind of thing as an interesting challenge, and a way to build scenarios.  But if you're just in it to pwn everyone and everything, well maybe you should go play some other game.

 

It depends on how one defines "powergame" and I like your differentiation above.  "Powergaming" is building a character with the goal of "winning" the RPG by overwhelming all challenges and making the other characters, and by extension their players, superfluous because their System Fu is "inferior".  I win because I am better than you are at gaming the system.  Building an effective and efficient character who contributes, with the other characters (and their players) to overcoming challenges, and to making the game more fun for everyone, is not "powergaming" by that definition.

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I like Normal Characteristic Maxima only for games where everyone has the same restriction.  It doesn't really work in superheroic settings for the reasons JimOz points out.  Even with the 20 point complication, its a huge restriction.  But if everyone has the same restriction, then it is a way of making extraordinary characters stand out more and makes them have to work harder to achieve that level of legendary status.  You want a 5 speed?  OK but you're going to pay for it.

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1 hour ago, Ninja-Bear said:

Sorry Jmoz but I’m going to have to disagree. 4th ed probably muddled NCM more than anything. What’s normal human for Heroic is a different assumption than for Superheroic.

 

 

I agree, I think NCM as a disadvantage for Supers was a bad idea.  However, what I was referring to was in the various genre books when it talked about attributes there was always (I think every genre book had it) a paragraph talking about 20+ attributes comparing it to the COM of Helen of Troy or the STR of Hercules etc...

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I agree players (and GMs) should make the most out of their points and I think that all the discussion has also shown that the Game is much different then the source material, or at least the game stat "Descriptions" are different then the way most people play, compared to the comics and movies. 

 

For example, I've read a fair amount of Batman comics over the years, but I've never seen him lift something as heavy as a piano, or a sailboat, or a sports car (STR 15, 23 & 25 respectively), so from what I've seen in the comics (and movies) a "true" Batman build wouldn't have more then a STR of 15. That goes the same for Hawkeye, Black Widow, Daredevil, Punisher, Human Torch, Cyclops and dozen of other characters. Yet I doubt any (or very many) Champions builds have those character's STR's at less then 20.

 

Same could be said (although harder to judge) for most other STATS.  The non Gods, Aliens, Things, Hulks, etc... almost always are shown to have pretty normal STATS, but are able to deliver lots of damage, recover quicker then normal, and have amazing DCV because they almost never get hit. The ones the do get hit a lot in hand to hand combat either have armored costumes (Batman), "super" regeneration (wolverine, deadpool) or tons of STUN and BODY (Daredevil in the TV series). And all of them would have some amount of regeneration (not as super as Wolvie or Deadpool) but enough that they are always back in action and almost fully recovered within a couple of hours (unless it is a story point with a disabling injury which then takes a day or two to recover from.)

 

But like we always say, the game is not the source material. In the game, to make it fun and because there is no "writer" but just rules, we have to often ignore what the descriptions are and go with what is point effective to simulate what we see in the source material. 

 

So I guess that is a long winded way of saying I agree with JmOz (and other above) that going by the descriptions in the rules books is a bad idea, and probably shouldn't have been part of the game (or specifically labeled as for Heroic games, and not Supers games).

 

Although now I think it would be an interesting experiment to build a Batman or Hawkeye or Deardevil while keeping their stats to human levels, and then building out all the other stuff as skill levels, powers, talents, etc... I wonder how much it would cost and if they would be fun to play that way?

 

 

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12 minutes ago, assault said:

I think we've put the Batman Fallacy to bed. Maybe we should address the rest of the issue?

 

Fair enough.  The problem is that I thing the premise is inherently flawed.  There is no such thing as "Power gaming", what exists is players playing under different norms, when that norm is at a more efficient level people call it power gaming.  The problem is that what is called power gaming in group A might be actually underpowered in group B. So who is right? Group A or Group B.  

 

Recently on these boards I posted a character for my generic heroes...One poster questioned to a global limitation on the character (unified power).  Now, I will not put words in that poster's mouth (being lazy, can't remember who it was BTW)....However a motivation for this attitude CAN be that they feel it is a power gamer move because of their POV, however in another game it would be perfectly normal, and in another game underpowered.   

 

So a couple takeaways from this.  First is the idea that we must look at how the character is actually being used.  One preference I have for instance is to give a "power" on the character to represent vehicles that are intended to primarily get a character from point A to Point B instead of using the vehicle rules (So a motorcycle is an OIF: Bulky on Running).  At the end of the day here is that how does having this power affect the game, especially if, as with "The Belt" it is placed in a MP when compared to the other characters. In my experience the build is not destructive to game balance, actually helping as it is used during cut scenes to justify getting to point B from point A and not used in combats, as it is helpful to me as a GM I don't mind that it cost the character 1 CP.  However if this was a game where the characters ability to get to Point B was a main focus (Race car Hero?) then I would have a major problem with the 1 CP build

 

Second is the issue of how are the other characters built.  If one character is using a different level of efficiency it would cause issues (For the record one character less powerful is IMO more destructive)

 

 

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I can take the same character from group A to B to C.

 

In group A, I'd be powergaming. In group B, the character would fit in perfectly. In group C, the character would be underpowered and not pulling his weight even though he has the same points as the other characters.

 

"Powergaming" is more of a comparison to campaign averages and whether the character exceeds them in a way that overshadows the other characters than some sort of an absolute.

 

2 cents

 

Powergaming, by that definition, is wrong in that the GM should not allow one character to overshadow the other characters. The GM should either trim back the excesses of that character and/or provide that character with a challenge while providing the other characters with a challenge (but not an overwhelming challenge): Martian Manhunter pairs off against Black Adam while Ted Cord's Blue Beetle pairs off against Bane (rather than vice versa).

 

In theory Martian Manhunter could squash Bane while Black Adam squashes Blue Beetle. But that would leave Blue Beetle's player with nothing to do while Martian Manhunter's player has an epic fight over the next three hours against Black Adam.

 

But Blue Beetle's player if matched against Bane could probably squeak out a win against Bane by using his Acrobatic skills to keep his distance and using his gadgets rather than his knuckles.

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The only reason to have points in the game is because they are supposed to help balance characters.  Two different 250 point characters should be roughly equivalent to one another.  My 60 points of Energy Blast should be about as powerful/useful as your 60 points of Transform.  That's what points are for.

 

Now, when it comes to building characters, obviously there are more efficient ways to spend points than others.  A guy who buys a 12D6 Energy Blast is going to be more efficient than a guy who buys 4 separate 15 point ranged attacks (1D6 RKA, 3D6 EB, 1D6 ranged Drain, 3D6 Suppress).  That's just how the game works.  The only way the game will be balanced is if players make an attempt to build efficiently.  You can always build less efficiently, but aiming for characteristic break points and things like that will tend to top you out.  Players need to aim for the most efficient paths for their characters, otherwise what's the point of points?

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10 minutes ago, massey said:

The only reason to have points in the game is because they are supposed to help balance characters.  Two different 250 point characters should be roughly equivalent to one another.  My 60 points of Energy Blast should be about as powerful/useful as your 60 points of Transform.  That's what points are for.

 

Now, when it comes to building characters, obviously there are more efficient ways to spend points than others.  A guy who buys a 12D6 Energy Blast is going to be more efficient than a guy who buys 4 separate 15 point ranged attacks (1D6 RKA, 3D6 EB, 1D6 ranged Drain, 3D6 Suppress).  That's just how the game works.  The only way the game will be balanced is if players make an attempt to build efficiently.  You can always build less efficiently, but aiming for characteristic break points and things like that will tend to top you out.  Players need to aim for the most efficient paths for their characters, otherwise what's the point of points?

 

I don't disagree at all.

 

My 60 points of Energy Blast should be about as powerful/useful as your 60 points of random skills, sciences, Knowledges, and modest amount of Martial Arts. 

 

But how many GM's successfully makes my 60 points about as powerful/useful as your 60 points?

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1 hour ago, mallet said:

I agree players (and GMs) should make the most out of their points and I think that all the discussion has also shown that the Game is much different then the source material, or at least the game stat "Descriptions" are different then the way most people play, compared to the comics and movies. 

 

For example, I've read a fair amount of Batman comics over the years, but I've never seen him lift something as heavy as a piano, or a sailboat, or a sports car (STR 15, 23 & 25 respectively), so from what I've seen in the comics (and movies) a "true" Batman build wouldn't have more then a STR of 15. That goes the same for Hawkeye, Black Widow, Daredevil, Punisher, Human Torch, Cyclops and dozen of other characters. Yet I doubt any (or very many) Champions builds have those character's STR's at less then 20.

 

But some of that is the slow increase of damage, compared to lifting STR.  If you don't give major lifting STR, your baseline damage is bad.  Say the target's 12 DCs.  What STR are you gonna give your martial artist?  20 would mean you need probably 6 HTH martial arts DCs.  But in its own way, doesn't that feel like a system abuse?

 

Batman has been shown at times as a lifter, IIRC, and NCM probably fits.  He's probably got 18 STR just from the table...300 kg, 660 pounds.  I'll buy that.  The examples?  Too nebulous.  What does a piano weight?  What type and size of piano...a cheap upright versus a well made concert grand.  1800 pound sports car?  A Miata is 2300.  There might be some in the supercar-hypercar class.  Sailboat...far too many variables.  And in the comics, the general reason you don't see them for a Batman-type is...why would you see it?  Those stunts usually relate to brick tricks like throwing them.  Batman's not a brick.

 

On the general subject, I think there's 3 related but separate concepts:

 

1.  Efficiency -- recognizing that all discrete systems will have transition points, and picking the better side of them.

2.  Gaming the system -- using (or trying to use) one aspect of the system to trump another

3.  Powergaming -- this is really a very specific notion.  It's related to efficiency, but conceptually it's about selling back 'useless' aspects to buy more 'useful' aspects...like damage.  In Hero, it might be going for the 8 INT, EGO, and PRE for a fighter-type.  There's also the suggestion that you won't *play* the character as the stats suggest;  he's still gonna be a tactical genius.  Powergaming covers some other aspects, such as this VPP:

 

VPP:  Real cost 5;  Control cost 6.  No Skill Roll, Zero Phase to switch.  Limited powers (HA, HKA only).  Call that -1.  9 points.

 

In principle, this VPP gives your martial artist, where the overall damage is coming elsewhere, the ability to target PD or ED, or to build any AVAD/NND.  Target any known vulnerability or weakness.  IOW, as others have pointed out, to break the scenario.

 

For gaming the system, here's an example:

 

Trigger, combined with Extra Time (1 turn, only to activate), Concentration (1/2 DCV), and take your pick of additional 1/4 limits like Nonpersistent, Costs END to activate, or possibly Time Limit.  Slap this onto a Desolid, 0 END.  The Trigger's adding 10...but the limitations that are commonly completely negated cut the cost back down to 35.

 

It's incorrect to think of these as sharply delineated.  They're not.  Efficiency can easily drift into gaming the system when it's overused because of synergistic combinations, or by manipulating things.  Compound Power and Linked can be used in some abusive ways:

 

Compound Power, all slots will have Concentration (1/2 DCV)

--Shrinking, 1 level.  Costs END only to activate;  Costs END only to activate

--DI, 3 levels, 0 END (so also the STR doesn't cost END)

--6/6 resistant protection, costs END to activate

 

That's 43 active, 32 real, and treated as 1 power.  You can technically now Link up to 43 points to this...4/4 Damage Negation, 50% resistant DR physical AND energy (they're separate listings), 24" Flight with x8 non-combat movement and 1/2 END...and you're getting a -1/2 limit, not a -1/4 OIAID.  Or on the flip side, buy 4/4 Damage Negation, with Concentration and Costs END to Activate...then buy STR, DEX, SPD, OCV, and DCV all individually Linked.  Again, an HFO where you're getting -1/2.

 

Note that yes, I count most power armor builds along these lines.  But, using these a little bit can be fine, particularly if the points are used to buy things that are less useful/more flavor-oriented, or that just fit...I tend to like, say, 20 STR even for blaster types, in campaigns where significant physical training is a general assumption.  

 

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And in the comics, the general reason you don't see them for a Batman-type is...why would you see it?  Those stunts usually relate to brick tricks like throwing them.  Batman's not a brick.

 

 

Yeah, he's certainly got the build these days to shot put an anvil, even if they never show him doing it.  When he first came out, he was fit but lean, like a martial artist, not gigantic and shredded like a bodybuilder.

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Just now, Christopher R Taylor said:

 

Yeah, he's certainly got the build these days to shot put an anvil, even if they never show him doing it.  When he first came out, he was fit but lean, like a martial artist, not gigantic and shredded like a bodybuilder.

 

Yeah, but before the Silver Age, MOST characters were like that.  Silver Age escalated everything.  I remember a Superman-Spectre teamup...probably a World's Finest but this was ages ago.  Superman has a line at the end that is, IIRC "The mighty Superman.  I used to be able to juggle planets, now I have problems manipulating a few puny continents."  The Flash-Superman race was around this time frame, with both pushing if not exceeding lightspeed.  You've also got the escalation of opposition;  he's not going up against clever and/or tricky enemies like Riddler or Joker, where it's a skill vs. skill kind of matchup as much as anything.

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5 hours ago, JmOz said:

 

I agree, I think NCM as a disadvantage for Supers was a bad idea.  However, what I was referring to was in the various genre books when it talked about attributes there was always (I think every genre book had it) a paragraph talking about 20+ attributes comparing it to the COM of Helen of Troy or the STR of Hercules etc...

I figure as such but the way you phrased it though. A fwiw, I got sucked up into the “well NCM means this  for Heroic so for Supers it means...”. I do like the idea though of them being soft guidelines though. 

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   I am glad I sparked an interesting debate, though I never expected to touch on normal human maxima. The conclusion I am drawing is power gaming is bad only in comparison to your table. At my table my OCV and DVC are in the expected range, my character would peek out at 14d6 vs 17d6 for the most powerful, my defenses are the weakest at the table( not by much) with fewer stun and con then most...but with a potential better DCV. I would have zero ranged attacked, but a a unlimited number of different MA attacks ( VPP Taskmaster style).

 

Unclevlad made 2 examples of power gaming, and I thought it was funny because one example ( combining many smaller powers to get an unfair discount on a larger linked power) is in use at the table, and his other example is similar to my use of the VPP, though his example is more powerful. 

 

As to discounts on powers, when I DM...I ALWAYS make them come up, a 1/4 discount SHOULD appear in 1 out of 4 games. When my frequently used "unified" gets me drained down to crap...when I dam well used those extra points in all the other games, sometimes you gotta pay the price. 

 

I should say that if you build and play the "prefect" character, then you are denied many of the best story's and tropes. If you NEVER get captured, your escape artist and lock picking skills are less fun. I ALWAYS build in some major flaws, it helps the DM feel in control, and the other players not feel overpowered. I also never fear using ANY disadvantage you get points for to screw you over ( not excessively). The Thing is ugly, Daredevl cannot see through glass, and Wanda is a mutant ( some people hate mutants).  In our current game, the least optimized player was clearly the MVP last week, his crappy OCV did not matter when he area entangled a villian, and the overpowered blaster killed a villian with his attack( just to powerful) and that arguably was a fail. 

 

 

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28 minutes ago, Ninja-Bear said:

I figure as such but the way you phrased it though. A fwiw, I got sucked up into the “well NCM means this  for Heroic so for Supers it means...”. I do like the idea though of them being soft guidelines though. 

Ironically in my games I do softly enforce something I call HCM (1.5*NCM) on trained humans.  I will however allow someone to buy more as super skills, might seem odd but want to see it that way on the sheet that way... 

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29 minutes ago, JmOz said:

Ironically in my games I do softly enforce something I call HCM (1.5*NCM) on trained humans.  I will however allow someone to buy more as super skills, might seem odd but want to see it that way on the sheet that way... 

sounds something similar I’d do. As I mentioned above a normal shouldn’t have CON 20 but game wise it’s a minimum with the the other game stats. So if I wanted to make a sheet slightly more complex, I could put down CON 12 then under Powers +8 CON - cinematic. In practice though I’d just make it CON 20 under characteristic and have a note somewhere that it’s high because it’s Cinematic. 

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A hopefully "final for tonight" point: in my game, if you build an Ezi-Drain character, and get the benefits, a Drainer will be one of your regular opponents, even if they don't appear in your character's Hunteds.

In fact, it's probably a good idea to have a character that hits your weaknesses as a Hunted - at least you get points for them.

PS (edit): While I am an advocate for the validity of "superheroic normals", my preferred character type is, using the terminology from the web- and print- series PS238, the FISS - Flight, Invulnerabilty, Speed and Strength. In other words, someone who exceeds normal levels in as many ways as they have points to do so.

But it's a tricky balance to build such a character, so they aren't the be-all and end-all.

And of course someone can do all of that, putting it all through OIAID (OIHID) or a focus. Meh. In those cases, it's time to look at taking advantages of their limitations, or, heaven forbid, use tactics to beat them. Obviously, "beat" means something different if they are fellow members of your PC group than if they are opponents.

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I built a few Supers inspired by the Public Domain of Super Heroes. The benchmark I used was Skilled Normal-gangster as I feel that was the abundant villain at the time. Well the Supers didn’t have spectacular values in all the characteristics just a few necessary ones.  It seems to me that building with that paradigm results in a different build than with the paradigm of having your hero be able to take in any other Super. Has any one else built like this? Wondering if my results were flukes.

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14 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

sounds something similar I’d do. As I mentioned above a normal shouldn’t have CON 20 but game wise it’s a minimum with the the other game stats. So if I wanted to make a sheet slightly more complex, I could put down CON 12 then under Powers +8 CON - cinematic. In practice though I’d just make it CON 20 under characteristic and have a note somewhere that it’s high because it’s Cinematic. 

 

CON is especially challenging for Supers.  In a 12 DC game, a 20 CON character will be Stunned on an average damage roll if his defenses are 22 or less.  Most of those characters for whom a 20 CON feels "wrong" should not have the 25+ defenses needed to at least have a shot at taking a hit without losing a phase.  Drop him to a 13 CON and now he needs defenses in the 30's. 

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 It seems to me that building with that paradigm results in a different build than with the paradigm of having your hero be able to take in any other Super. Has any one else built like this? Wondering if my results were flukes.

 

I agree, ideally a character built when you have combat in mind should be based not on one's fellow heroes, but on the standard, expected villains.  That's why 3rd and 4th edition champions characters all had 23 DEX and higher, because the opponents in the Enemies books all had that kind of DEX.

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