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PamelaIsley

Should Villains Be More Powerful Than Heroes?

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You know, the source books for the Champions Universe don't write up that many NPC heroes, and only a few of the most powerful ones; but they mention plenty of others. Champions Universe and Champions Worldwide name and briefly describe over twelve dozen superheroes besides those with published character sheets, including some stated to be among the strongest in the world. CU supervillains do outnumber superheroes, as they do in comics; but when all is taken into account, not to an extreme degree.

 

In the past Hero Games did try publishing collections of NPC heroes, such as the 4E book Allies, but Steve and Darren have posted that those books always sold significantly less than villain compendia. Most GMs have a need for a steady stream of villains to oppose their PC heroes, who are the focus of their games. As is so often the case, sales is the deciding factor in what sees print.

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Yeah, I guess you can use the CU in more than one way.  We've always mixed and matched.  One guy wants to play Wolverine's long lost half brother.  Not a Wolverine stand in, he wants his brother to be actual Wolverine.  Another guy wants to be something he saw in an anime.  A third guy is a big DC fanboy and wants to be from Gotham City.

 

In my experience the players always change the makeup of the world based on what they want to play.  I suppose you could be more strict about it though.  If that's the case, a problem with how the published villains are presented will have no solution -- you aren't happy with how they are written and you want them to be different.  But you also want to use it as-is.  Those two desires are in conflict and there's no good resolution.

 

My suggestion would be to assume that things are somehow in balance.  It doesn't matter how, for some reason they just are.  When your heroes are new, they aren't aware of enough of the secrets of the universe to ask those questions.  Why doesn't XYZ villain team up with ABC and 123 to take over the world?  Who knows, your characters sure don't. Thus it's not necessary to explain to them.  What's important is that the characters ensure the balance in their own little corner of the world.

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5 minutes ago, massey said:

In my experience the players always change the makeup of the world based on what they want to play.  I suppose you could be more strict about it though.  If that's the case, a problem with how the published villains are presented will have no solution -- you aren't happy with how they are written and you want them to be different.  But you also want to use it as-is.  Those two desires are in conflict and there's no good resolution.

 

 

Well, there is a pretty good resolution.  You just slash the villain power levels.  I started the thread to kind of think through whether there was any justification beyond having fun tactical combats that the average villain should be more powerful than what we are told is an average hero in Champions Universe. 

 

For many reasons (demographic and just my own idea of how superhero stories generally develop), I think villains should be much less powerful than how they are presented in the CU published material.

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There is another factor to consider. How long do average PC heroes stay average? As with most RPGs, the underlying premise in Hero is that as PCs gain experience they also increase in power. It won't be long before they outgrow published villains at the level they were when they started, in which case new villains will need to be stronger to compete with them. From that perspective a book of predominantly "average" villains will have less long-term use than a book leaning toward stronger ones.

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6 minutes ago, Lord Liaden said:

There is another factor to consider. How long do average PC heroes stay average? As with most RPGs, the underlying premise in Hero is that as PCs gain experience they also increase in power. It won't be long before they outgrow published villains at the level they were when they started, in which case new villains will need to be stronger to compete with them. From that perspective a book of predominantly "average" villains will have less long-term use than a book leaning toward stronger ones.

 

That's only if you think that a villain's primary purpose is to present a tactical combat challenge to an entire superhero team.

 

I'm not as focused on tactical combat.  What's more important to me is that the over all world make sense.

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But the CU isn't really intended to function that way.  I agree that it doesn't make sense -- the master villains are way too powerful for any of the published heroes.  As some guys in our group say, Dr Destroyer doesn't need an evil plan to take over the world.  His plan is that today is Tuesday, and he's going to walk outside and start shooting people.  When the heroes show up, he'll shoot them too.  And eventually there won't be any more heroes.

 

That's not really a problem with the game if Dr Destroyer is the end boss who never shows up until the last few sessions of the campaign.  It's okay if he's just waiting in his castle until a group of plucky heroes dare to challenge him.  It's a major problem if you think about him sitting there bored, wondering what he's going to do that day.  "Should I build a death laser?  A devolvo ray to turn everyone into monkeys?  Nah, I'll just go down the street to the deli and start blasting."

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> Should villains be more powerful than heroes?

 

In most of my games, the answers tends to be "yes".  This is because, whenever a big "superpowered" fight occurs, I usually deliberately scale the fight so that the heroes outnumber the villains, but I still want to fight to be relatively tough.  My reasons for this numerical disparity is to create easy opportunities for interesting teamwork maneuvers  - which become less prevalent if the fight ends up being half a dozen, simultaneous, one-on-one fights.  It's a stylistic choice, but one I enjoy.

 

 

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49 minutes ago, massey said:

But the CU isn't really intended to function that way.  I agree that it doesn't make sense -- the master villains are way too powerful for any of the published heroes.  As some guys in our group say, Dr Destroyer doesn't need an evil plan to take over the world.  His plan is that today is Tuesday, and he's going to walk outside and start shooting people.  When the heroes show up, he'll shoot them too.  And eventually there won't be any more heroes.

 

He and the other master villains are designed poorly.  To me, it's just that simple.  They aren't "realistic" enough for suspension of disbelief and they aren't usable in most contexts.  Others can disagree and it's probably another discussion.  I've been redoing the master villains I like (it isn't that many - Gravitar, Holocaust, and Invictus) and just ignoring the rest.  Point bloat is just a major understatement for these designs.

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Yeah, I think once upon a time, somebody posted their Avengers/JLA characters on here and that sort of influenced how villains were built since then.  We're talking characters that hit for 20+ dice and could take Viperia apart one on one.  I remember seeing that way way back.  And then suddenly the master villains get tougher.

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3 hours ago, PamelaIsley said:

 

That's only if you think that a villain's primary purpose is to present a tactical combat challenge to an entire superhero team.

 

I'm not as focused on tactical combat.  What's more important to me is that the over all world make sense.

 

Fair enough. :)

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6 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

There is another factor to consider. How long do average PC heroes stay average? As with most RPGs, the underlying premise in Hero is that as PCs gain experience they also increase in power. It won't be long before they outgrow published villains at the level they were when they started, in which case new villains will need to be stronger to compete with them. From that perspective a book of predominantly "average" villains will have less long-term use than a book leaning toward stronger ones.

 

 

First off:  I accept that this is probably normal.

 

Second off: I totally admit that I am pretty sure I'm one of the outliers that skews the average, so I'm going into this expecting to be disagreed with.   :lol:   I will also warn off any complaints that I'm going it "wrong" first by pointing out the two admissions preceding this, and by asking "if we're having fun, how can we be doing it wrong?"

 

Okay, that said:

 

We have a long-standing tradition in our supers games:  when the heroes become powerful enough that they are no longer fun or appropriate for the types of stories we like to tell, they retire.  As often as not, this "retirement" is through voluntary self-sacrifice-- a grand heroic gesture to save the city, etc, etc.

 

No; I didn't start the tradition.  It's something I picked up from my second RPG group, and while at first I thought it was a bit weird, I found that I actually liked it.  I liked all aspects of it:  we got to create and play lots of different characters.  We got to grow these characters from their humble beginnings to the "perfect" point we envisioned when we first made them.  We got to enjoy a few stories at that level, too.  The characters matured, became more powerful, and "moved on."  Sometimes noble self-sacrifice, sometimes retirement, sometimes it was a matter of "Captain Plasma received a distress call from the planet Eskra; he is headed across the universe to help them fight the invaders"-- whatever.  Most importantly, it was all completely voluntary.  And it still is, because we still do it.

 

To sum it up (because I should have been in bed an hour ago):

We get all the fun of building the character to our original vision

We get to keep the stories in sort of a "groove" that we find most appealing with regards to power level and adversity

We get to bring new characters into a living campaign world that has been changed by our previous characters, which is fun in a way that I can't explain if you don't do it yourselves.

We get to enjoy lots of new characters, and they preserve the memories of those who went before, and aspire to the ideals those older characters demonstrated.

 

 

The upshot is that easily the top half of the published villains are completely useless to us: they are on a level we have no interest in attaining.  I was quite serious when I said that 3e slug would make a seriously impressive challenge for our groups.

 

So LL, the best answer I can give you for our groups to "how long do average PCs stay average?" is....  generally, the rest of their lives.   :lol:

 

 

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21 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

 

We have a long-standing tradition in our supers games:  when the heroes become powerful enough that they are no longer fun or appropriate for the types of stories we like to tell, they retire.  As often as not, this "retirement" is through voluntary self-sacrifice-- a grand heroic gesture to save the city, etc, etc.

 

Sounds good to me. In my group, we also try to end campaigns with a big story when we decide we've played them enough, though it isn't necessarily a Big Sacrifice. Just... We enjoyed these characters, now it's time to do something else.

 

I don't think the original question has a "right" answer, or that there's a "right" range of power levels for heroes or villains. But I like seeing how other groups do things -- and their reasons -- as a way to improve my own games. What matters is to know what you're doing, to create the kind of story and campaign that your players will enjoy.

 

Dean Shomshak

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