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Dr.Device

Making Adjustments

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The thread on draining longevity has reminded me of an issue I have always had with adjustment powers in Hero. By default, they are based on mechanic rather than special effect, which to me sems to go against the spirit of the Hero System, and is simply illogical to boot.

 

Take "Drain Blast" as an example. What special effect justifies a power that will be equally effective against a Gout of Flame spell (6d6 blast, AOE cone, no range), a baseball cannon (6d6 blast, OAF, 16 charges), and a bio-stun power (4d6 blast, IPE, NND), but has no effect on a Searing Flame spell (2d6 RKA, AOE cone, no range), a spike cannon (2d6 RKA, OAF, 16 charges), or a bio-kill power (1 1/2 d6 RKA  NND, does body)[1]?

 

It was a little worse in older editions when armor and forcefield were their own powers. If I bought my forcefield as armor because it was supposed to be persistent anyway, I'd be immune to Forcefiend's forcefield drain because it was bought as Drain Forcefield. But there are still similar problems. If I buy Super Running (40m Flight,  Only In Contact With A Surface), I'm immune to Caltrop's Caltrop power, because she bought it as Drain Running[2].


Given that virtually any power in Hero could be purchased with at least two different mechanics, there are virtually unlimited similar examples. A system where special effect comes first would both be more logical, and more consistent with Hero philosophy.

 

[1] This is rhetorical. I know you could come up with a justification, but the level of contrivance would be very high and not suitable as a base.

[2] Perhaps better purchased a Change Environment, but that's not the point.

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All role playing games require some suspension of disbelief. The problem you face here is that the prioritizing of Mechanic over SFX is one of the core principles Hero is based on. Given this, Adjustment Powers have to work against Mechanics rather than SFX for pure consistency issues.

 

Secondly, SFX should be attached to all of a character's powers. But this makes drain vs SFX at the default level far too powerful.  Shutting down all Fire Powers is just better than Fire Blast or RKA or Force Field. The current system reflects this in the increased cost for broad categories.This also leads to the following

 

How would you cost one SFX versus another? SFX based Adjustment Powers don't even work for Characteristics because the SFX of the Hulk's STR(gamma powered muscle) is different from Iron Man's(armor servos) and Superman's(limited range TK). 

 

I do understand how your proposal makes better logic. But logic often must be sacrificed on the altar of play balance.

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Try this:

 

Drain: certain power

 

or 

 

Drain: certain SFX

 

Then consider the _actual_ power being built, as opposed to the mechanic behind it.  In DD's examples: the Flight only on a surface would count as running for Drain: running.   Flight: usable as swimming would be reduced in efficiency as swimming for "Drain: Swimming."

 

 

Further, --- and there's no way to write a mechanic for this, so I'm pretty sure it'll be jeered-- consider the SFX _first_.  The player with the Drain should assign an SFX or a related set of SFX against which his Drain is effective.  Against those powers, his Drain works normally.  However, it can also be applied to other powers with similar SFX, though much less effectively.  

 

Stop:

 

I want to take a minute to post the reminder that I play 2e, and that Drains worked entirely differently then, and to be honest, I'm not sure I remember how the work in the newer editions, so what I'm saying may not help anything.

 

That being said, a character with Drain: Flight-- wind SFX can use his drain against wind SFX-powered Flight as normal.  Other Flight that ties in to that SFX: say actual wings, for example: not a lot of good against a character who can somehow affect the wind, even if it's only to steal Flight, so in this case, the judgement is that the SFX is related closely enough that the Drain works in this case as well.  He can also use it against other wind-SFX powers, but much less effectively.  He could use it to drain a wind-based RKA, for example, but would ---hold it. 

 

One more note; bear with me:

 

2e doesn't specific "Active points" for Drain (though to be fair, I don't know if later editions do, either), so we don't play it as having to drain Active Points: if you've got enough power modifiers that the whole 60 AP power costs you 10 points, well when 10 points are drained, you don't have that power (at least until it "heals back.")

 

Like everyone else, this mechanics v SFX issue has plagued us since the early days with regard to "adjustment" powers, so we resolved it by allowing Drain to affect powers with similar SFX, but that the Draining character would have to drain Active Points for powers that were not the power specified when the Drain was purchased.

 

 

It's not perfect, per se, but if you make it clear going in, then players don't see to unhappy with the results, and they like the trade-off utility for not being able to Drain, say Flight as powered by rocket boots.

 

At any rate, that's how we've been dealing with it for a few decades.  Works "okay enough" for our purposes.

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In the first-gen days, even though Power Drain was called that and specified that it could be used on Powers, it was most often used on Characteristics.  For Characteristics you'd pay the cost per die times the cost multiple of the Characteristic and would drain that many pips of the Characteristic (so that 1d6 DEX Drain would cost 3 x 10 = 30 points and drain 1d6 DEX).  

 

However, it was the first-gen supplement Champions III that introduced Adjustment vs. a special effect, either one power at a time or all powers simultaneously, and I think that probably moved the use of the Adjustment Powers more toward being used against Powers.  (It also specified that powers in Frameworks are automatically considered linked by SFX though they didn't automatically suffer from combined Adjustment the way EC in 5th and Unified Power in 6th do).

 

All of that having been said, it never did specify Active Points in any of the core books or primary supplements until 4e.  Maybe an Adventurers Club clarified it somewhere?

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Aha!  Neutralization (Champions III, equivalent to Suppress in 4th and 5th) did specify Active Points, though it seemed to imply that it was meant more for Powers than Characteristics, contrary to Power Drain.  

 

Edit:  FH 1e also specified Active Points for Suppress and Dispel, but not for Drain, which was specified to work against Characteristics only.  The former two were specified to work against spell effects.

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Adjustment powers against characteristics are pretty common in the source material (spells, superpowers, drugs).  Affecting powers is more hit and miss, although abilities that prevent, say, Teleportation or Scrying come up.  One could assert these are against a specific SFX (e.g. superscience; magic) given the genres they tend to appear in.

 

If we want adjustment powers that are more focused on SFX, the rules certainly provide for it.  Campaign ground rules that adjustment powers must have Variable Effect, allowing any one power of a given SFX to be affected.  We could even go so far as to require they also take, say "four powers at once (+1 1/2) for a total of +2 (triple the normal cost) and campaign-define 4 at once as being "all powers of that special effect".  Yeah four is a pretty tiny number for all magic powers in a fantasy game, but +2 is a pretty huge advantage cost.  In a typical Supers game, restricting to one SFX is much more restrictive, so it feels like the advantage of affecting multiple powers is very much offset by the drawback of only one SFX.

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On the other side of the coin, though, is the --- I don't know the traditional name for them; I'm going to go with Power Thief: the character who steals powers---  _any_ powers-- from another character.  SFX don't matter.  One touch, and he slurps up the powers and suddenly they are his.

 

 

There is also the guy who "steals" a copy of the power, while leaving the target's power reduced or sometimes completely unaffected: he just makes a copy.  (for what it's worth, I find these two -- particularly the second one-- to be the most irritating to build and the most game-slowing to run or play.  Yes: you _can_ make it with HERO, but not well, and you shouldn't.  :lol:   )

 

At any rate, Drain (and Transfer) have always felt like _these_ were the characters they were trying to model because there is already a unifying theme of sorts:  I steal the power.  Since I can steal / copy it, it doesn't matter what the SFX is (apparently).  I don't think anyone has ever had a big complaint about adjustment powers used in this way (could be wrong: there's always some way to quibble over the math  :rolleyes: ),   but they start to feel kind of goofy when they are being used simply to deprive another character of the power, period (or to fuel a totally-unrelated ability).

 

Why is that?

 

 

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It's historically a problem because these characters can steal powers they don't possess (which Transfer or Aid do not allow for), and can steal or duplicate any powers (all at the same time and SFX don't matter) which is a tough fit.

 

For duplication of an opponent's powers, a VPP can work, especially a Cosmic one to permit shifting in no time (essential to get around "framework in a framework" issues).  Multiform is also an option (with the ultimate extreme of a VPP that can only Multiform).  Not perfect, largely because such characters often show no limits in the source material, which Hero cannot duplicate without unlimited points. 

 

To remove powers from the target, a Transform can work better than adjustment powers, as they tend to be all or nothing depowered, or alternatively weakened across the board.

 

As well, such a character as a PC tends to step on other characters' toes.  There are not a ton of heroes with these powers in the source material.  Rogue (who has some pretty serious limitations so she does not just duplicate her teammates' abilities), the Mimic (who rarely appears for long).  Others tend to have limitations to how much power they can duplicate, for how long, etc.  And, of course, they should not be as skilled in the use of the powers they copy.

 

As NPC villains, they work a lot better, since their powers can be plot devices (they have whatever they need for points) and the GM can impose limits (mechanical and otherwise) that players would not be as comfortable with, making balance issues go away.

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The existing default does tend to work better (if not perfectly) for stats than powers, I agree.

 

And it's never been that big a deal for me, because I mostly GM, and I just require the players to build the powers in a way that makes sense. I've had very few players who wanted to use adjustment powers (other than for healing or self boosting) anyway. And when I do play, I write up my own characters to make sense (to me, of course).

 

It is definitely one of the easiest to work around flaws in the Hero System. The work arounds are built right in, with the various advantages, The default just grates. That's all.

 

For my next kvetch, I'll go into why I really haven't liked any version of Shape Shift since 4th edition.

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Hugh; Doc:

 

I appreciate the effort.

 

I already know that Drain / Suppress combined with a VPP is the best possible work-around.  The problem there is two-fold.  Once is having the correct pool size at the time, and the other is that every use of this "steal your powers" power becomes a game-halting character-generation session.  I am not saying that you can't "do anything" with HERO.  I'm just saying that there is at least one thing that it does really, really poorly.

 

There's even a built-in meta solution:  No one who has ever built a character that does this ever wants to do it again.  :lol:

 

 

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23 hours ago, Dr.Device said:

It was a little worse in older editions when armor and forcefield were their own powers. If I bought my forcefield as armor because it was supposed to be persistent anyway, I'd be immune to Forcefiend's forcefield drain because it was bought as Drain Forcefield. But there are still similar problems.

 

That's one of the reasons my PC's tended to diversify their defenses in earlier editions.

 

Well, that and as additional protection against NND attacks which might randomly name one of Armor, Force Field, Hardened defenses, or Damage Reduction as a valid defense but not the others. Better to have a little bit of everything than a whole lot of one thing to give me an edge.

 

I was kidded enough about that tendency in my character designs that I made up a character named Edge. He might have gotten kidded for being a brick who wore sap gloves and a 22 active point multipower utility belt but, darn it, he was the best sap glove-wearing brick with 22 point multipower utility belt that he possibly could be.

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18 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

Stop:

 

I want to take a minute to post the reminder that I play 2e, and that Drains worked entirely differently then, and to be honest, I'm not sure I remember how the work in the newer editions, so what I'm saying may not help anything.

Drain did not really work differently, although it was not specific on the active points issue, as you point out. You still had to specify a power or characteristic. Champs 3 had the SFX thing, but so does 6e, see 142 for Expanded Effect and Limited SFX.

 

- E

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Aid originally appeared in FH 1e, and was generally intended to be used for Characteristics.  First-gen Champions assumed that if you wanted to increase someone else's stats that you could buy a Characteristic with Usable On Others.   Fantasy Hero didn't have any provision for buying raw Characteristics as a spell effect, but aiding others with a spell is extremely common throughout the source material, so -- and this is conjecture on my part -- they came up with Aid to use instead.  It was a spell, costed END every Phase to maintain, and as a result took up a spell slot as long as you kept it going, thus didn't have a fade rate.  It was later errata'ed in the first-gen FH Magic Items and Spell Book supplements to not be diced, with a cost of 2 points per +1 point worth of Aid provided (thus, Aid, +1 to SPD, would have cost 20 points).  4e ignored those supplements and made Aid work as the sort of anti-Drain.  

 

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1 hour ago, Hugh Neilson said:

Chris, I don't recall UBO in early editions.  

 

1e through 3e had "Usable On Others", which was worded in such a way as it was effectively "Usable By Others".  The Champions III supplement implied a "Usable Against Others", and I think there was probably an Adventurer's Club article that expanded it as well, probably including  "Usable As Attack".  

 

1 hour ago, Hugh Neilson said:

I always felt that, if Hero had started with Fantasy, we would have had Drain and Aid right out of the box, but quite possibly not had Transfer, probably cobbling it together with Linked Drain and Aid like the 6e model.

 

Quite possibly.  There were a number of powers that appeared in first-gen Champions that were obvious references to specific comic book supers; Clinging, Desolidification, Entangle, Force Field, Force Wall, Growth, Missile Deflection, Shrinking, Swinging, most of the Enhanced Senses (X-Ray Vision, Radar, Active and Passive Sonar, to name a few).  We might have had some of those; I'm not sure why a version of Entangle was never included in FH 1e, for instance.  FH 1e's equivalents to Force Field and Force Wall were called Shield and Ward.  It's possible that the monster-only abilities would have been somewhat expanded to include easier ways of doing claws and trollish regeneration.  I do really think we needed the superhero game first, though, as after I started playing in 1985 I'd heard from a lot of folks who had either played fantasy games using Champions, or brought their favorite D&D characters into their superhero worlds via dimensional portals.  

 

What we ended up with in FH 1e was a pretty particular subset of fantasy, that doesn't -- quite -- do straight up D&D riffs out of the box, but maybe does do other kinds of fantasy better than D&D does.  The Magic Items and Spell Book supplements did give some additional spell effects (including versions of Entangle, and Desolid, which were somewhat oddly left out given a number of fantasy sources for them), basic guidelines for using Champions powers to replicate some of other missing abilities, as well as some interesting ideas for handling the ones that still weren't included (i.e. Clinging).  

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Hero system gives us building blocks to create anything we want.  Part of the Hero philosophy is to start with the special effect and then work out the game mechanics.  Part of this is choosing appropriate advantages and limitations for the power.  In some cases the limitation or advantage may not be enough to alter the cost of the power but it should still be applied.

 

In your example of supper running you defined the flight as running so by special effect it is subject to the drain running.  By the same logic it would not be affected by a drain flight.  This would be considered a 0 advantage/limitation.

 

In some cases the player will come up with a special effect that does justify such a broad effect.  If you had a character that has the ability to alter reality something like this would actually make sense.  If the character had a code vs killing than a drain vs RKA would make sense. 

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On September 3, 2019 at 3:48 PM, Hugh Neilson said:

Chris, I don't recall UBO in early editions. 

 

First Edition, p22, second column.  In the first two editions, it's called "usable on others," which is a bit vague.  It remains unchanged in 2e,

 

It's poorly worded, as Chris points out in the 3e rules, but the examples given are defensive and movement powers, suggesting that the intent is more sharing powers than forcing them on someone, though the requirement to make an attack roll against he person to whom you wish to give the power....  doesn't really clarify things much.  :lol:

 

 

 

On September 3, 2019 at 3:48 PM, Hugh Neilson said:

I always felt that, if Hero had started with Fantasy, we would have had Drain and Aid right out of the box, but quite possibly not had Transfer, probably cobbling it together with Linked Drain and Aid like the 6e model.

 

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