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Missing Arm as a DF not Physical Complication


mallet
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Looking for thoughts on how Herodom at large would handle this (no pun intended).

 

So there is a Player who wants to have his character only have one arm (Fantasy Hero, Lost his arm in a heroic way before the campaign begins). He doesn't want this missing arm to have any real drawbacks, only more of a story thing. So he wants to take it as a Distinctive Feature not as a Physical Complication. His rational is that it has been long enough that the character can now function just as well with one arm/hand as a normal person with two. 

 

The "realist" in me says, no, if you are missing an arm you get all the drawbacks that go with it. But the Hero GM in me realises that just like the "You get what you pay for" aspect of the rules, the same applies in reverse to Complications. So if he doesn't take the points of having a Physical Complication then he also doesn't suffer the drawbacks. 

 

The Hero Gm in me is winning in this situation, because A) it is kind of cool to imagine a one armed hero carrying on and doing everything a normal hero does, and B ) that is what the rules state and I'm against forcing a player to take specific Complications on their character if they don't want to. 

 

But, here is the thing, how does something like this situation apply when dealing with things like 1 1/2 or 2-handed weapons, Grabs, etc... things in the rules that specifically mention needing or using two hands or suffering penalties? In those situations it is basically either assuming the character is choosing to use one hand or has the Physical Complication preventing him from doing so, neither is the case in this situation. Again, if he doesn't get the points from the Complication, then he shouldn't suffer the penalties, but...

 

Another though I had was to "meet him halfway", and say yes for most instances you can carry on as if you had two hands, even though you only have one, but you will need to either spend some points at the start (or during play to represent the character getting more skilled one handed) by buying abilities like: "+5 STR only to wield 1 1/2 and 2-handed weapons with one hand", or even an "extra limb" that is invisible, intangible, etc... but that simulates having a second hand/arm. But again, this is making the character pay points to overcome a Physical Complication he doesn't technically have. 

 

Anyway, any thoughts on this?

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The conundrum you present is one that you, the GM, must resolve to your own satisfaction.

 

If I were in your shoes I would resolve it by requiring a Physical Complication to go with a one-armed Distinctive Feature, specifically because no matter how adept one becomes at using one arm, there are just some things you can't do without having both of them.  Examples include: bear-hugging a large person without use of any tools/assistance; properly wielding a polearm without use of any tools/assistance; playing with a Chinese finger trap using only your own hands; jumping rope without use of tools/assistance or fixed end-points for the rope; properly signaling people at distance using semaphore; playing most stringed instruments that are built for people with two arms/hands without using assistance, tools, specially-built instruments, or one's feet; etc.

 

In order the meet the player half-way, I would then work with the player to properly set the level of the Physical Complication that represents how often the player wants the above situations to come up, and I would be unwilling to concede to the idea that such situations would never come up (which is what the player appears to want … based on the Distinctive Feature being the only angle the player is taking to the character being one-armed) … because I would want to keep my options open and I would also want the player to be a bit more realistic about what it means to be one-armed.

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Well, my thoughts are that missing an arm in almost any campaign setting is going to create issues for the character. You've already mentioned a few. As GM I would not make this character immune to those issues and their drawbacks/penalties just because they didn't take it as a Complication. The player is basically saying, "I want to have a missing arm, but I am willing to not take points for the problems that will create for my character." As a GM you are under no obligation to protect the player from his own creative choices, and should let the campaign world present all the normal challenges it would present to any character. The fact that he chose not to take points for being challenged in this way was his choice, and that shouldn't mean you have to go out of your way to figure out how to sidestep those challenges even at the expense of plausibility within the campaign.

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I'm the dissenting vote. 

 

I say let him go for it.  Your objection is based on the fact that you are seeing a missing limb as a handicap.  If he truly has a method of coping that let's him do whatever anyone else can do-- even string a bow-  then go for it. 

 

Witness the number of people without arms, period--perhaps born that way- who get up, take showers, get dressed, and go to work unassisted. 

 

Sure: the real world is not a fantasy adventure (that hurts more than it should :(.) but if you want an example from the genre, look at Guts (Gutsu). 

Not only is he missing an arm and an eye, but he is - well, he's not just a feared opponent, he's the most feared opponent on earth and in Hell, having been the only mortal to not only survive melee combat with the devil God of combat (Nosferatu Zod), but he has done it _twice_. 

 

His skill and power level are so staggering that the immortal gods consider him to be _the_ key player in the war of destiny between good and evil, between mankind's existence and the rise of darkness. 

 

So not only would I let your player do it, I'd suggest he lose an eye, too, just to make sure he's tough enough.  ;)

 

 

Most importantly, remember that if the player doesn't make it a problem on the character sheet, then it's not a problem, period. 

 

I don't know if anything I said helps, but it's certainly something to keep in mind. 

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1 hour ago, mallet said:

The "realist" in me says, no, if you are missing an arm you get all the drawbacks that go with it. But the Hero GM in me realises that just like the "You get what you pay for" aspect of the rules, the same applies in reverse to Complications. So if he doesn't take the points of having a Physical Complication then he also doesn't suffer the drawbacks.  


The Hero Gm in me is winning in this situation, because A) it is kind of cool to imagine a one armed hero carrying on and doing everything a normal hero does, and B ) that is what the rules state and I'm against forcing a player to take specific Complications on their character if they don't want to.  

This is first and foremost a question about the realism level of the campaign. If it is realistic, there is no way a 1-armed character can operate freely. Prohibiting this is the same as saying "no Fanatasy Races" or "No Magic".

But once we get into phantasy/higher powered Heroic, it can be as possible as in Superheroics.

 

1 hour ago, mallet said:

But, here is the thing, how does something like this situation apply when dealing with things like 1 1/2 or 2-handed weapons, Grabs, etc... things in the rules that specifically mention needing or using two hands or suffering penalties? In those situations it is basically either assuming the character is choosing to use one hand or has the Physical Complication preventing him from doing so, neither is the case in this situation. Again, if he doesn't get the points from the Complication, then he shouldn't suffer the penalties, but... 

Most of those are +/- 5 modifiers to effecive strenght. If you agree for non-realism, then jsut asume he "traind his arm muscles" to ahve +5 STR just for those operations, wich negates any penalty.

It will only become really wierd with Shields or 2 weapon fighting.

 

1 hour ago, mallet said:

Another though I had was to "meet him halfway", and say yes for most instances you can carry on as if you had two hands, even though you only have one, but you will need to either spend some points at the start (or during play to represent the character getting more skilled one handed) by buying abilities like: "+5 STR only to wield 1 1/2 and 2-handed weapons with one hand", or even an "extra limb" that is invisible, intangible, etc... but that simulates having a second hand/arm. But again, this is making the character pay points to overcome a Physical Complication he doesn't technically have.  

When in doubt, just lower the worth of the Compliation to be closer to DF.

 

I once wrote up Telekiesis power that could only affect water, -1/2 by raw.

However, I wanted it to work on the water in the human body too. So the limitation dropped to a -1/4.

 

When in doubt the rule about Complications is: "A complication taht is not hindering is not worth any points."

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Ah, I am with Duke here.  If he wants the colour of a one-armed man without the drawbacks, then he has learned to compensate.  HERO is indeed a game where you get what you pay for and do not lose what you are not paid for.

 

If there is no physical complication taken, and it is a cool idea, then I am for running with it and leaving it to the player to narrate how he gets around this kind of thing.  It is Fantasy Hero, a two handed weapon he may have a tailored pulley system that works instead of his missing arm, or the sword has been modified or something, or he simply doesn't use them.  Leave that to the player, tell him that you are willing to accept any rationalisation that does not feel ridiculous. It is the player's schtick, I like to allow that kind of thing as it shows the player has already begun to identify with the character and pushing back could lead to them having less investment in the character and the game.

 

 

Doc

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4 minutes ago, Doc Democracy said:

 is the player's schtick, I like to allow that kind of thing as it shows the player has already begun to identify with the character and pushing back could lead to them having less investment in the character and the game.

 

 

Doc

 

I gave you a thanks, Doc, for putting it more eloquently than I could have, but if it had been an option, I'd have given you an "amen." 

 

I get way too many builds that all have a certain sameness: theres a couple of nearly-standard Disads, one or two less-common, but not often interesting-- Disads, a skill or to make a living, and a so-professional-its-nearly-standard combat suite of powers and skills playing to archetype. 

 

I don't get _enough_ interesting anymore, and I would go a long way to avoid shooting it down.  That, honestly, has been the greatest joy of my youth group players: the characters are all built inspiration-first; something my veterans have lost sight of. 

 

Funny you mentioned a two-handed sword: when I was reading the post, I pictured a powerfully-muscled one-armed man, welding one-handed a massive claymore with a bowling ball of iron as a counterweight on the pommel... 

 

:lol:

 

 

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1 hour ago, Doc Democracy said:

Leave that to the player, tell him that you are willing to accept any rationalisation that does not feel ridiculous.

 

Exactly. A GM should obviously work with the player to insure that such a handicap doesn't start to feel like a full-blown Complication, but at the same time the player must accept that there are limits to the ability of a one-armed human to completely function like a two-armed human, and as the GM you don't want to severely break verisimilitude just to accommodate one PC.

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2 hours ago, zslane said:

 

Exactly. A GM should obviously work with the player to insure that such a handicap doesn't start to feel like a full-blown Complication, but at the same time the player must accept that there are limits to the ability of a one-armed human to completely function like a two-armed human, and as the GM you don't want to severely break verisimilitude just to accommodate one PC.

 

Emphasis added.  There is no "just" about it.  The game is about the PCs.

 

If the campaign is such that a one-armed character with no drawbacks for his missing limb breaks the setting, then by all means require some form of complication - that is no different from rejecting a Fantasy Dwarf in a modern police procedural game - but he gets the points for it.  Perhaps it is neither as severe nor as common as a typical "only has one arm" character might suffer - ensure that it is not more limiting than the complication points would justify.

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38 minutes ago, Hugh Neilson said:

The game is about the PCs.

 

Well, yeah, sorta. The PCs are the main players on a grand stage they share with NPCs. The fact is the PCs are just as capable of compromising the game experience as the GM with his NPCs. The Rule of Fun applies to everyone, and when someone's character concept creates friction with the tone or internal-reality of the campaign the GM has to step in and endeavor to keep things on track. That's what it means to take on the job of GM.

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8 hours ago, mallet said:

Looking for thoughts on how Herodom at large would handle this (no pun intended).

 

So there is a Player who wants to have his character only have one arm (Fantasy Hero, Lost his arm in a heroic way before the campaign begins). He doesn't want this missing arm to have any real drawbacks, only more of a story thing. So he wants to take it as a Distinctive Feature not as a Physical Complication. His rational is that it has been long enough that the character can now function just as well with one arm/hand as a normal person with two. 

 

The "realist" in me says, no, if you are missing an arm you get all the drawbacks that go with it. But the Hero GM in me realises that just like the "You get what you pay for" aspect of the rules, the same applies in reverse to Complications. So if he doesn't take the points of having a Physical Complication then he also doesn't suffer the drawbacks. 

 

The Hero Gm in me is winning in this situation, because A) it is kind of cool to imagine a one armed hero carrying on and doing everything a normal hero does, and B ) that is what the rules state and I'm against forcing a player to take specific Complications on their character if they don't want to. 

 

But, here is the thing, how does something like this situation apply when dealing with things like 1 1/2 or 2-handed weapons, Grabs, etc... things in the rules that specifically mention needing or using two hands or suffering penalties? In those situations it is basically either assuming the character is choosing to use one hand or has the Physical Complication preventing him from doing so, neither is the case in this situation. Again, if he doesn't get the points from the Complication, then he shouldn't suffer the penalties, but...

 

Another though I had was to "meet him halfway", and say yes for most instances you can carry on as if you had two hands, even though you only have one, but you will need to either spend some points at the start (or during play to represent the character getting more skilled one handed) by buying abilities like: "+5 STR only to wield 1 1/2 and 2-handed weapons with one hand", or even an "extra limb" that is invisible, intangible, etc... but that simulates having a second hand/arm. But again, this is making the character pay points to overcome a Physical Complication he doesn't technically have. 

 

Anyway, any thoughts on this?

 

Is the player fully committed to being completely without an arm or would he be content just being without a forearm? I've got a relative who is missing the function in his one hand and forearm and it barely slows him. But he's able to use what he does have on that side to hold items against his body and to give him leverage when needed.

 

If one of my players wanted to go completely without any arm and wants to claim that his character has learned to deal with it without suffering hindrance, I'd have him describe to me 1) how his character opens then closes a jar of pickles and 2) how his character picks up, opens, takes a drink from a waterskin, then closes it firmly enough that it doesn't leak and 3) how his character swings on a rope and grabs on to the ledge on the other side of the crevasse. Then after he fumbles around for a bit trying to think of answers, I'll tell him as GM that I'm going to treat the character's handicap fairly realistically whether he takes any points for the physical handicap or not.

 

I look at it like this: when I'm designing an adventure, I'm going to know a handicapped character is in the group. I don't feel bad at all about putting in all the normal physical challenges which every character would usually face on an adventure if the handicapped character has been compensated by getting points for his handicap. But I'm not willing to feel bad. Nor am I going to write my adventures to avoid his handicap from being a handicap, nor am I willing to handwave away the fact that a one armed person cannot rapidly accomplish some tasks in a world which is not shaped to be friendly to handicapped people.

 

can't carry a torch and a weapon

can't carry a bag of loot and a weapon

can't get his backpack off, open it and dig through it as quickly other people

would have trouble tying his laces whether on his shoes or his pants (which I'd be completely unable to resist exploiting for comedic purposes)

 

 

 

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3) It should average out.  I expect he can drop a backpack faster than anyone you know. :lol:  And the swing grab is easy enough: he let's go of the rope, just like anyone else.

 

And I'm fifty-eight and can't remember the last time I tied a shoelace.  Seriously.  I've worn boots my whole life, except for PE in kiddie school.

 

The other side of the coin:

 

Are your dwarves required to move half as fast as the rest of the party because of their tiny legs?  Or do they run while other march, spending more endurance and building up more fatigue?  Are your elves required to make at least one toy for Santa?  Do your wizards hurl tennis balls and yell "Fireball!  Fireball!" because there is no realistic way for a person to actually summon fire and hurl it at someone else?  It's not about realism.  It's about fantasy (no pun intended).  Part of this player's fantasy is a character who has overcome something that would set lesser men back forever, and to continue to strive toward his goals.

 

Of course, we're overlooking something still, even though it's been mentioned a couple of times already:

If your player doesn't take it as a Limitation, then it's not something that limits him.  Demanding that it be one anyone violates both the rules that we come here every day to discuss, and the spirit of the game itself.  Why don't you just make a character for him, tell him his hopes, dreams, motivations, personality, and spending habits?  It would solve a lot of things, and you could require that he have two arms.  Or maybe four, because only having two limits you since you can't do what an octopus do.  If only having two isn't a limitation, why is only having one? T-rex had two arms, and we see how that worked out for him.  Okay, I confess: unfair comparison: he had no brain to put behind using them, and there was that meteor thing.

 

I don't see the difference between forcing a player to take personal (not campaign or at least party-wide) limitation is any different from simply handing him his character in this case.  It's not like he wants a personal exemption from the AP cap.  He doesn't want any forbidden Powers.  He just wants a guy who is not handicapped by a missing limb.  No biggie.  Honestly, in pure game terms, "two arms" is nothing more than SFX for using your STR.  That's it.  It's just SFX.  His preferred SFX is both a bit less spectacular and far more spectacular than everyone else's.

 

 

At any rate:

 

When I was a kid, when we first got a television, I'd watch TV shows now and again.  I really liked Gunsmoke.  I watched a bit of Star Trek, too.  I used to wonder about all the things that happened to this one particular US Marshall, and this one particular spaceship crew, and I used to think "Why does all this stuff happen to this one guy?  To this one crew?  It doesn't make sense!  It's not believable.  It's just an attempt to make the characters look like some kind of special heroes.

 

Then one day, it hit me.  This wasn't a story about all these events, and these events were forced into this little town or crammed into the path of this space ship.  No.  This was the story of the people-- the heroes-- and all the things they endured that _made_ them heroes.  At that point, it made a lot more sense: each of these characters was a new take on Odysseus, heroes who overcame insurmountable odds because, like Odysseus, they were a cut above everyone else.  They could overcome anything, and always had.  They were heroes.

 

Just like the one-armed warrior.  It didn't slow him down a bit.  He overcame it, and never looked back.  He has a destiny, he's the hero of the story, and it's his destiny to become greater and more powerful and overcome greater and greater challenges.  What sort of hero would he be if he hadn't already adapted to the loss of his arm?

 

 

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I would say leave it as a DF. Now as to 1 1/2 & 2 hand limitation, he would still  suffer that litation since it’s on the weapon and not him. Plus iirc, you can use a two handed one handed, but if you don’t have the extra strength, you just suffer a penalty. And he could buy extra strength to off set that too with the justification of “he’s well trained”

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6 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

Are your dwarves required to move half as fast as the rest of the party because of their tiny legs?  Or do they run while other march, spending more endurance and building up more fatigue?  Are your elves required to make at least one toy for Santa?  Do your wizards hurl tennis balls and yell "Fireball!  Fireball!" because there is no realistic way for a person to actually summon fire and hurl it at someone else?  It's not about realism.  It's about fantasy (no pun intended).  Part of this player's fantasy is a character who has overcome something that would set lesser men back forever, and to continue to strive toward his goals.

 

Excellent comparison.  This is the qualitative issue - one can view this as the SFX of the discussion.

 

6 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

Of course, we're overlooking something still, even though it's been mentioned a couple of times already:

If your player doesn't take it as a Limitation, then it's not something that limits him.  Demanding that it be one anyone violates both the rules that we come here every day to discuss, and the spirit of the game itself.  Why don't you just make a character for him, tell him his hopes, dreams, motivations, personality, and spending habits?  It would solve a lot of things, and you could require that he have two arms.  Or maybe four, because only having two limits you since you can't do what an octopus do.  If only having two isn't a limitation, why is only having one? T-rex had two arms, and we see how that worked out for him.  Okay, I confess: unfair comparison: he had no brain to put behind using them, and there was that meteor thing.

 

I don't see the difference between forcing a player to take personal (not campaign or at least party-wide) limitation is any different from simply handing him his character in this case.  It's not like he wants a personal exemption from the AP cap.  He doesn't want any forbidden Powers.  He just wants a guy who is not handicapped by a missing limb.  No biggie.  Honestly, in pure game terms, "two arms" is nothing more than SFX for using your STR.  That's it.  It's just SFX.  His preferred SFX is both a bit less spectacular and far more spectacular than everyone else's.

 

And here we have the quantitative issue - the mechanics portion of the discussion.  In Hero, you get what you pay for, you pay for what you get, you choose your character's strengths and weaknesses and, if I believe the hype, you can make any character you can imagine.  Guess what?  This player can imagine a character who has overcome a severe handicap and is not limited by it.  It would be too bad if his GM lacks a similar level of imagination.

 

It's funny how quick we are to trot out the old, familiar "a Limitation that does not limit/Disadvantage that does not disadvantage/Complication that does not complicate is worth no points mantra.  We also see regular comments about these being worth no points when their impact is minimal.  We're much less willing to say "an ability that has no benefit should have no cost". This player wants a character who is not limited, physically, by lacking an arm, and therefore pays and receives no points.  To suggest he should suffer the drawbacks anyway is the opposite of heroic.

 

This player essentially wants to have a  character with one arm, who somehow use the rest of his  body, has developed coping skills, etc. to offset that handicap.  That sounds a lot like a character who is missing an arm (Phys Complication) and buys an Extra Limb to compensate - net sum zero.  Or a character who is blind but has special enhanced senses that precisely compensate, such that he's the same (no better, no worse, not even different mechanically) than a character with normal vision.
 

 

10 hours ago, zslane said:

 

Well, yeah, sorta. The PCs are the main players on a grand stage they share with NPCs. The fact is the PCs are just as capable of compromising the game experience as the GM with his NPCs. The Rule of Fun applies to everyone, and when someone's character concept creates friction with the tone or internal-reality of the campaign the GM has to step in and endeavor to keep things on track. That's what it means to take on the job of GM.

 

First off, I think we agree the PCs are more important than the NPCs.  Sure, PCs can compromise the game experience.  As Duke points out above, this player is not really asking for anything that compromises the game experience.  As I noted earlier, if the game is supposed to be gritty and realistic, probably some complication should be mandated (but not "you get the drawbacks and not the points").  However, he should still be able to be heroic.  And, in a game of dwarves, elves, wizards and even swashbucklers swinging from chandeliers, this concept does not seem like one which breaks immersion in any way.

 

One thing I do suggest - perhaps he should not take Distinctive Features, or should add to it, Social Limitation - people see the disability and assume he is not capable.  That feels a lot like the direction taken by many on this thread - many of us can see no way this character could possibly be as competent as the other PCs because he is missing an arm.  But if he does not take the Social Complication then, beyond first impressions caused by his DF, the character should not be viewed as "handicapped" or "disabled" by the rest of the campaign world.

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Impromptu survey:

 

How does your position on this thread compare with 

 

First, let me clarify that I wS not pointing that Ata anyone: it was an invitation to all of us to ponder that and see how we feel about the same ideas from the other side of the coin. 

 

Onward:

 

Sabelkatten makes an excellent point, but I personally think that this is actually covered by the DF Disad:  people look at him and will automatically draw whatever conclusions they are inclined to make; lump the character in with other similar people they have seen.  Once in a while, it might be handy, but that's more on the narrative side than the mechanical.  

If he had DF: monstrously ugly, we'd all accept that it was a limitation, even though it does have a useful bit now and again. 

 

If the player wants to routinely use the "surprise!  I'm awesome!" schtick, he might consider buying a die or two of Presence Attack based on that very thing: startling his opponent by rattling his preconceptions. 

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I think DF is fine. Perhaps he can use a 2-handed sword with one hand. I think that would make his enemies seriously wonder if they want to fight this guy (even if he's not able to get the full sword damage of using 2-hands). However, he is still subject to only having one arm, however that works out.

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