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Legalities in a superhero battle


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One thing that might be worth looking at is something like police use of force guidelines, or military ROE when engaged in operations other than war. If it would have been legal for a cop to shoot that person, then it would almost certainly have been legal for a metahuman to punch that persons brain out of their skull.

 

You avoid the PCs killing people 'by accident' by not motivating them to use that kind of force. In the genres where the heros aren't allowed to have bodycounts, the villains aren't allowed to have bodycounts either.

 

Also remember that the lower levels of CvK simply match the mentality of the ordinary person. So, they won't kill prisoners, or whatever, but might be perfectly fine about shooting that guy threatening a civilian with deadly force.

 

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If you want to have some sort of legal follow up:

 

If the PCs have some sort of legal authority, then something like the police internal affairs will bring them in. A representative (lawyer) will be sent by the Police Union/ etc to defend/advise the character. The IA cops will take the heroes/officers uniform, weapon, etc for forensic evidence collection and take witness statements. They'll ask the officer/hero in question for both a verbal and written report on when happened. Then the officer will probably get several days of paid administrative leave while the IA guys do things like actually collect any forensic evidence and do witness interviews. If the IA guys decide that the officers use of force was illegal, they'd turn it over to the DA for actual criminal prosecution (hint: this almost never happens). It's also possible that the IA guys would recommend censuring the officer in some way that isn't criminal prosecution, such as forcing them to take training courses, official letters of reprimand, or whatever.

 

In the case as described, the officer would talk to IA for around an hour, spend several hours doing paperwork, probably have an appointment made for them with a psychologist, and then have several days of paid admin leave.

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(The following thoughts assume she stays dead)

 

Legalities aside, that agent was a member of VIPER who was killed by a cape. They're not going to be too happy about that. Good opportunity to add them as a Hunted or up their frequency for a while. Lots of folks owe VIPER favours, and their pockets are deep.

 

It's potentially going to colour his relationships with NPC heroes as well as the villain community, though some may applaud him. Have Harbinger of Justice turn up on his windowsill some night and congratulate him ("Good start kid. You need to move quicker next time so you kill more than one. Maybe add some spikes to that costume."). Then have Black Harlequin do the same the following night ("Such an amusing episode. I can't wait to see who you dispose of in the next chapter! It's almost enough to make me miss HBO.").

 

Chances of her being a friendless orphan with no significant other or family are slim. If you'd rather leave her dead but like the idea of this leading to a revenge subplot, look for other avengers. Could even be on the Hero side - maybe she was Muscle Girl's kid sister (or lover). "Suzy had gone off the tracks, sure. We alI knew that. I had no idea she'd started running with VIPER or Id'a done somethin'... but there was no call for that bastard to do what he done. Oh, Suzy kiddo, when I gets my hands on him, he's DEAD!!!"

 

Have fun!

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In the first Champions campaign I played in, in one of our first adventures (way back in 1983), the blind brick-martial artist (Midnight) was sneaking into a VIPER Nest and saw someone in the stairwell.  So he snuck up and karate chopped the guy, assuming it was a VIPER agent.  Turns out, it was an NPC hero (Crusader) the GM included in case we needed help.  Important fact here - Crusader had absolutely no resistant defenses.  Midnight killed Crusader, a fellow hero, due to mistaken identity and a really high damage roll.**

 

Our GM didn't have Midnight arrested, though he did say that Midnight was going to have major problems due to his Code Against Killing.  He wouldn't go with full force until he knew the target could take it.    Overall, it was great roleplaying fun.

 

**I don't remember exactly how much damage Midnight did, and I doubt it was actually 2x Crusader's BODY, but this was very early in our Champions experience, so mistakes were made.  Some were hilarious.  My favorite was my very first character, GI Jones, who carried an M16.  The stats in the book said "2d6K / 6d6" and the GM didn't know the second number was normal damage, so he decided that must be the knockback from the shots.  I autofire shot a supervillain and he flew across the campus quadrangle and through two buildings.  Good times...

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You avoid the PCs killing people 'by accident' by not motivating them to use that kind of force. In the genres where the heros aren't allowed to have bodycounts, the villains aren't allowed to have bodycounts either.

 

That's an important factor as well in my own games - the smarter villains will actively avoid killing precisely so that when and if they're confronted the heroes will hopefully do the same: The agency in charge of superhuman affairs in my game has exactly zero sympathy for a super powered serial killer who was killed while being apprehended.

 

I just make it clear when they get in a fight that the villains are Pulling their Punches (at least until they get an idea of what the hero can take ... just like the heroes). Lots of 'But you can take it can't you, big guy?' moments before the full body damage hits, Pushes, and Haymakers begin.

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Then there's the genre savvy players who happen to like Punisher, Wolverine, Ultimate Marvel and such and *want* to play a lethal character. Some can handle it in a 4 colour campaign (Wolverine manages to pull it off in the comics), many cannot. Not a lot you can do with the latter if common ground can't be found. I have to admit to being lucky with my players in that resect.

Very true. It also is dependant on whether you are running a SuperHero game or a People with Powers game. 95% of the comics I've seen in the last 15 years or so, do not portray SuperHeroes. Instead it is some tortured dude or dudette killing and maiming other killers and such. Nothing wrong there. But the distinction should be pointed out as I have met people these days that actually think Deadpool is a hero.

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Things are coming back around. DC at least appear to be back on track... I'm really enjoying the Justice League of China in New Super-Man.

 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has done a lot to reorient the moral compass IMHO. And Wonder Woman appears to have gotten the DC movies back on track.

 

(Caveat - movie versions tend to kill off the bad guy, though not usually by the hero directly doing them in. It's typically going to be at least three movies and a decade before they'd want to bring that one back - simpler to snip off the plot thread and do a resurrection. Comics might need that villain back in two months!) 

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You're not wrong but when it comes to hitting objects you also apply the 1 per 2 hex rule for the distance travelled before hitting the object.

 

edit: I actually think I'm wrong but I'm leaving this here anyways so someone else can chime in on it (see post below)

 

Examples using 8 hexes of KB (wheeeeee!) and a 4 pd/ 4 body wall.

 

Hit the ground farther down the road: 8 hex / 2 = 4d6.

 

Hit a wall 4 hexes away: 4 hex / 2 (2d6 ) to get to the wall + 4 hex remaining / 1 for hitting it (4d6) = 6d6

 

Hit the same wall 6 hexes away: 8 - 6/2  = 5d6

 

Hit the same wall 8 hexes away: 8 - 8/2 = 4d6 ... the same damage as if you'd just bounced down the street (which makes sense as you've travelled the same distance / expended the same energy before hitting something: you don't take double damage just because you hit a person or parked car instead of the road. Edit: actually, it looks like you might.  Which makes little sense to me.)

 

Hit the same wall when your back was to it (0 or 1 hex away) = Full 8d6 (with a maximum body of 8: the wall's body + pd).

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... upon typing that I went re-read knockback and I have no idea where I got it from.  It's literally how I've always calculated knockback since the 80s.

 

I like it, and it makes sense to me (probably why I've never questioned it in my head), but wow... I think I've been wrong for literally decades. Was knockback ever calculated like that (First, second, third edition?) or did my group literally pull it out of thin air?

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ooh, a game! My memory of knockback, and how I have used it, is that you travel that many inches taking inches/2 D6 damage when you skid to a halt.  If there is a barrier you subtract inches you travel, then take 1D6 damage for each BODY and DEF in the wall (to a maximum of DEF+BODY or remaining inches, whichever is higher) and, if there are any inches left after removing DEF+BODY, move the remaining distance with the remaining inches/2 D6 damage when you come skidding to a halt.

 

:-)


Doc

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... upon typing that I went re-read knockback and I have no idea where I got it from.  It's literally how I've always calculated knockback since the 80s.

 

I like it, and it makes sense to me (probably why I've never questioned it in my head), but wow... I think I've been wrong for literally decades. Was knockback ever calculated like that (First, second, third edition?) or did my group literally pull it out of thin air?

It probably was an old rule that they updated/changed in the 5th edition.  Thank you for the clarification!  Hey, it happens- you're not the first veteran player who has been mistaken about rules- I remember that a GM didn't realize that END drops to 0 when you are knocked out even though he had been playing for 30 years.

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... upon typing that I went re-read knockback and I have no idea where I got it from.  It's literally how I've always calculated knockback since the 80s.

 

I like it, and it makes sense to me (probably why I've never questioned it in my head), but wow... I think I've been wrong for literally decades. Was knockback ever calculated like that (First, second, third edition?) or did my group literally pull it out of thin air?

 

Scanning and OCR'ing for the win, scanning apps that put pages out of order for the epic fail!  

 

3rd edition (I checked 4e and the rules are the same there; I haven't checked 5e and 6e lately, but I think they're the same there): roll 2d6, subtract that from the BODY.  If negative, no Knockback.  If 0, Knockdown.  If positive, Knockback.  If you hit a wall, take 1d6 per hex of Knockback, regardless of how far the object was, to a max number of dice equal to its DEF + BODY.  Its DEF + BODY also subtracts from the Knockback; if there is Knockback left after, the wall automatically shatters and you keep going.  If you do not hit a wall, take Knockback/2 d6 from skidding to a stop.  You can also take the combo; 10" of Knockback, hit a wall with DEF+BODY=8, take 8d6.  That reduces the Knockback by 8, with 2" left.  You continue through the wall, assuming that the wall is less than 9" away, hitting the ground afterward for another 1d6. 

 

I always tried to tweak that; it didn't seem right to me that if you were knocked back 10", and hit a wall after 9", you'd still take 10d6.  I think I independently came up with the notion of dropping 1d6 per hex traveled, so if you were hit for 10" of Knockback, flew 5" and hit a wall, you should only take 5d6.  But then that means that if you didn't hit anything, you'd come to a rest 10" away, and skid to a stop for 0 damage.  I think it's simpler and more comic-booky to do it the original way.  

 

ETA: 3e changes the number of dice based on circumstances (flying, Martial Arts, etc.); 4e adds a few more circumstances.  

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I admit that when inches went to hexes in knockback I kept the same formula, because hitting someone 8m is a tremendous blow, but hitting someone 16m is getting a bit into the cartoonish side of things.  I don't mind someone buying a power specifically to punch someone gigantic distances, if that's their power, but I don't really want it happening on a regular basis even in Champions.

 

I mean, having something like this happen for effect (wow that's a strong person) is one thing but just having it happen all the time and it loses its power to impress:

 

Knockback.png

 

Incidentally it is a standing Hero rule that people who are hit and don't strike a surface take half damage at the end of the knockback (bounce, bounce, skiiiid)

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I admit that when inches went to hexes in knockback I kept the same formula, because hitting someone 8m is a tremendous blow, but hitting someone 16m is getting a bit into the cartoonish side of things.  I don't mind someone buying a power specifically to punch someone gigantic distances, if that's their power, but I don't really want it happening on a regular basis even in Champions.

 

 

Well, it should only happen between Mighty Powerhouses who can both dish out that level of punishment and take it and those will often use STR or Flight to cancel KB anyway.

 

But Thor vs Hulk fights SHOULD see them smacking each other for entire city blocks with every other blow.

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ooh, a game! My memory of knockback, and how I have used it, is that you travel that many inches taking inches/2 D6 damage when you skid to a halt.  If there is a barrier you subtract inches you travel, then take 1D6 damage for each BODY and DEF in the wall (to a maximum of DEF+BODY or remaining inches, whichever is higher) and, if there are any inches left after removing DEF+BODY, move the remaining distance with the remaining inches/2 D6 damage when you come skidding to a halt.

 

:-)

Doc

 

This is how I've always done it, in particular subtracting the distance traveled from the dice of damage.  This makes sense to me - it's not like the character is maintaining full velocity until precisely the point that he stops being knocked back.  Air resistance slows him down some, so he doesn't hit quite as hard.

 

And I've never had the character take half the total knockback damage from skidding to a halt if he doesn't hit anything -- I must have completely missed that.

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So it looks like I'm wrong but some other GMs handle it similar to how I do because it 'feels' right to reflect a loss in velocity due to distance travelled before hitting a solid object.  

 

It's like baseball... a throw from the outfield hits your glove with a lot less force than one thrown from first base to try and stop someone stealing home - even if it's thrown with the same force.  Heck, it's like *bullets* - that's why guns have 'lethal' ranges: after that distance the bullet has slowed enough that it's *not as likely* to have enough force left to inflict a lethal wound. 

 

The original quandary makes more sense to me, though, realising the the rules do indeed state that distance travelled has no bearing - it definitely makes knockback more dangerous against a lightly armored opponent.

 

It's funny to see where each GM digs in his heels with regards to superhero physics - for me, it's momentum (knockback, move through).  For others it's mass (the crumbling building when you pick it up, even just lifting something with a weight greater than your own far enough away from your own center of mass - the front of a catapult has to be heavier than the effective weight of the arm at load or it will fall backwards, despite the arm being strong enough to take the weight of the boulder).

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It's funny to see where each GM digs in his heels with regards to superhero physics - for me, it's momentum (knockback, move through).  For others it's mass (the crumbling build when you pick it up, even just lifting something with a weight greater than your own far enough away from your own center of mass - the front of a catapult has to be heavier than the effective weight of the arm at load or it will fall backwards, despite the arm being strong enough to take the weight of the boulder).

 

Heh.  In the early days of my playing Champions (back in the 1st edition days), a former-player-turned-GM decided that a PC moving at very high speed tripped on a fence, face-planted, and therefore took damage as if he did a move-through on the ground.  The player and GM were arguing the physics when finally the frustrated player pointed out, "Ted, your first character threw wind blasts out of a wooden stick!  Explain the physics of that."

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This should be used to smack the hero five to six months down the line. Let her survive. Then a new villain appears. She hates the hero. Wears a full face mask. Very destructive. Creates awful traps for the hero and gets away a couple times. 

 

"Do you remember me? You don't even know who I am, do you? This...is...all...that's...left...of...my face!" And she removes the mask, and it's her. 

 

Always let them think they've gotten away with it. Wait to smack them. I've waited seventeen years a couple times to kick a hero in the groin. It works really, really well.

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This makes sense to me - it's not like the character is maintaining full velocity until precisely the point that he stops being knocked back.  Air resistance slows him down some, so he doesn't hit quite as hard.

 

 

It does at an intuitive level but in terms of raw physics, the amount of momentum lost due to air resistance is pretty small unless you're shaped like a parachute.  So I could see it go either way without a quibble.  I run it by the book, but with reduced knockback as I mentioned above.

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Knockback is inherently unrealistic, but a ballistic trajectory is really shaped by the gravity constant, not by the thing being hit grinding to a halt due to air resistance. In very simplified terms, the horizontal component of the vector is only opposed by drag, while the vertical component is opposed by acceleration due to gravity. So normally the vertical slows down, reaches zero and starts to accelerate downwards... but having no effect on the horizontal component at all aside from determining when the projectile actually hits the ground. Where you have a LOT of drag (i.e. under water), that can have a big effect, sure, and if they get knocked off a cliff you may want to keep them moving horizontally while they fall, but by default KB really just describes how far the guy goes before he hits the ground due to falling at 9.8ms-2.

 

(Baseballs and especially bullets travel fast enough compared to gravitational effects that drag effects do become important.)

 

TLDR: It won't really matter where in the KB path that you hit a vertical or the ground, it's the same damage. Because Physics.

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It won't really matter where in the KB path that you hit a vertical or the ground, it's the same damage. Because Physics.

 

 

Well, sorta.  If you hit the ground at 30 mph after flying 40 feet, you'll bounce, roll and drag, which is less damage than hitting a wall. Same horizontal velocity, but without that sudden stop at the end.

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Mathed!

 

I'm not even going to try to fully comprehend that but my high school dropout brain is nagging that if you receive 8 meters of knockback you are knocked back 8 meters.  Not 8.1 or 9.

 

Wouldn't that mean that the kinetic energy of the impact plus all factors that dissipate said impact (so you don't fly into orbit when exposed to any knockback result -  gravitational pull, air resistance, desperate prayers to an unloving universe - anything that stops you from moving 9 meters instead of 8) -  is nearly played out at that point? So if you hit a wall 8 meters away when you had just enough force applied to you to go flying 8 meters (not 9) would you not have bled off a lot of your momentum at that point?  Should that not reduce the force of impact against the object?

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I'm not even going to try to fully comprehend that but my high school dropout brain is nagging that if you receive 8 meters of knockback you are knocked back 8 meters.  Not 8.1 or 9.

 

Wouldn't that mean that the kinetic energy of the impact plus all factors that dissipate said impact (so you don't fly into orbit when exposed to any knockback result -  gravitational pull, air resistance, desperate prayers to an unloving universe - anything that stops you from moving 9 meters instead of 8) -  is nearly played out at that point? So if you hit a wall 8 meters away when you had just enough force applied to you to go flying 8 meters (not 9) would you not have bled off a lot of your momentum at that point?  Should that not reduce the force of impact against the object?

 

Nope.  It isn't "running out of momentum" that stops you.  It's hitting the ground that stops you. The air resistance is a pretty minor factor.  

 

When you have an object moving through the air (we're going to discount airplanes and other flying objects), it is actually moving in two directions.  It is going forward, and it is going down.  Whether you shoot an arrow (on a level path, in an arc things change), or drop an arrow, it will hit the ground at the same time.  Gravity is still pulling it down at the same speed.  The only difference will be how much horizontal distance it travels.

 

 

Edit:  The arrow example.  Let's say you're standing there holding a bow and arrow, drawn.  The arrow is 5 feet off the ground.  You don't notch it properly or something, and when you release the bowstring, the arrow falls harmlessly to the ground.  I'm not going to do real math here, but we'll say it takes half a second for the arrow to hit the floor.  

 

Okay, so you're embarrassed, you pick the arrow up and try it again.  You draw the arrow back, make sure it's notched on the string this time, you point it straight in front of you (parallel to the ground), and you fire.  How long does it take the arrow to hit the ground?  Remember, you're firing it parallel to the ground, so the force of the bow isn't firing it down into the ground faster, nor is it shooting the arrow up higher into the air.  So how long does it take to hit the ground?  The same half second.  How far it travels depends on how fast it was moving forward.

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