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Daisuke

Reasonable Character Creation

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I need some advice on not overdoing my character creation. I gotten better at building characters but now I'm building them more powerful than they need to be. I was wondering how can I have a concept for a character that doesn't have to be overpowered, deciding the wants and needs, taking out things that seem unnecessary. Any tips?

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With the caveat that I typically run Champions games, so this may be different for heroic-level games...

 

While numbers aren't the be-all and end-all for balancing, the first thing I do is look at the max Active Points (APs) for an NPC character's attacks in comparison to the max APs of the player character heroes.  Unless you're dealing with a "big boss" character who should be able to take on multiple foes at once, the NPC's attacks should be roughly the same level as the PC heroes.

 

Related to that, I also look at attacks that are NND or go against unusual defenses (Mental Defense, Power Defense, Flash Defense, Impenetrable PD or ED, etc.) and see how many of the PC heroes have those defenses and if so, at what level.  If few or none of the PC heroes have that defense, or only at a low level, I'll often dial back the amount of dice for that attack.  Also, as a general rule, characters (whether NPC or PC) shouldn't have more than one attack that is NND or goes against unusual defenses (at least IMO).

 

You can look at the total points for the NPC in comparison to those of the PCs, but that's an even less precise way to try balancing NPCs against the PC heroes.

 

I also look at the defenses of the NPC, to see if they look comparable to the PC heroes.  If it's a "big boss" you can go with higher defenses - as well as if the concept calls for higher-than-normal defenses.  In that latter case, though, I tend to make them deficient in some other area (e.g. a high-defense character with powerful attacks might have sucky movement and/or few to no enhanced senses).

 

Also, if it doesn't run counter to the concept, you can always throw in a Vulnerability or Susceptibility that fits with the powers of one of the PCs.  When fighting a more powerful foe, my players love it when they discover that said foe takes extra damage from one of their powers.  (That's also a good way to spotlight a more shy / introverted player's character, by the way - make him/her a star by having his power be key to stopping the bad guy.)

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2 hours ago, Daisuke said:

I need some advice on not overdoing my character creation. I gotten better at building characters but now I'm building them more powerful than they need to be. I was wondering how can I have a concept for a character that doesn't have to be overpowered, deciding the wants and needs, taking out things that seem unnecessary. Any tips?

 

Are you referring to creating your player characters, or creating characters as a GM?

 

If you mean player characters, I'm guessing the GM will handle that.

Bolo has good suggestions if you mean as a GM. Don't be afraid to make them potentially weaker than you anticipated in battle. There are multiple times I've done that and the heroes stomp the bad guy; in those cases I've said, "I expected him to last longer." The players like it because it shows their characters have power, not 'just enough to get the job done'. If you create an enemy that you find it too powerful, nothing prevents you from quietly lowering the PD, ED, Con, whatever of the enemy. The same can be said if you make someone too weak. I think the following is key: finding the balance requires you to know the effectiveness of the heroes, not just the villains. If you know a particular team is powerful, then you have an idea of the enemy strength to create. If a group of heroes isn't powerful, you can go easy on the creation of the villain.

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If you build your character exactly to the maximum parameters allowed by the campaign, then you may become dissatisfied with your inability to grow until the rest of the campaign catches up. Scale back a bit and leave your character some room to grow.

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In theory, character generation guidelines for champions should for trade offs between various stats, not just set campaign maxima for everything.

 

If you are good at character creation, it's usually possible to have the campaign maxima at everything right at the start.  The people who aren't good at character creation usually can't do that, so the whole point of the campaign maxima (to help create sorta balanced characters) has not fulfilled it's purpose.

 

More detailed write up of the 'forced tradeoff' idea can be found here

 

That set of rules also has several other good guidelines for preventing your character from not needing any party members.

 

Examples:

A character should not have all 3 of: mental defense, power defense, sight flash defense

Note: a non-sight based targeting sense should generally be considered as flash defense.

 

These special defenses should also reduce the maxima of your regular defense (PD/ED) so that you aren't making a character that's highly resistant to everything.  Otherwise the attack that does 'normal damage' to you will probably wipe out the other party members.

 

A character should not attack multiple 'special defenses'

Example:

a multipower with:

blast vs PD

blast vs power defense

mental attack (vs mental defense)

 

is 'legal' but generally means that the character can use one of their attack powers to attack any bad guy in a weak defense, unless the bad guy has every defense.  But that means that the other members of your party that can only attack one 'special' defense never get any spotlight time.

 

 

here is a thread I wrote some time ago about character creation.

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Hmm, nothing new from Daisuke yet, so I'll put some stuff up about character creation:

 

One of the things to consider when making a character is that a character made to be the (lone) protagonist of an adventure series is considerably different from a character that's made to be part of a group.

 

A lone protagonist has to (sorta) be able to answer ever single problem that crops up in the story.  While a co-protagonist can rely on a team member to do something.  In fact, a co-protagonist almost has to be worse that their team member at whatever their team member shines at, so the focus can easily shift to one of the other co-protagonists when it's their turn in the spotlight.

 

Compare, say, Harry Dresden and Harry Potter.

When a Potter needs a plan, or to find out something, or to brew illegal polyjuice in an unused toilet bowl, Hermione is there to do that.  But when Dresden needs that sort of stuff done, he's really the only one he can rely on, so he has to be able to do all that sort of stuff too.

 

This concept in game design is usually called 'niche protection'.  Where, for example, only the thief can disarm traps, only the cleric can heal people, only the wizard can make all the baddies fall down, and only the fighter is strong enough to carry all the phat lewt the other party members procure.  Well, at least until the wizard gets good enough to cast 'summon donkey' and then the fighter is mostly out of luck...

 

So, if you are making a wizard character to take part in wizard adventures, you should probably be thinking more about Harry Potter, rather than Harry Dresden.  And try not to go full Hermione.  She's an example of a character that doesn't really need to other characters to solve the adventure.  It's only great restraint on her player's part that keeps her from just doing everything while Harry and Ron stand around like the idiots they are.

 

But in a Champions game, where particularly cleverly designed characters can do almost all the 'pillar activities' needed for an adventure, you generally have to talk to the other players during character generation to both make sure that the characters taken as a group can cover everything needed by the average adventure, and that the characters don't step on each others toes so much that some will never be able to be good for anything when the spotlight shines on them.

 

For most superhero games, the pillar activities seem to be:

Beat up baddies

Investigate baddies

Provide soap opera

 

If your superhero game is going to do some additional 'stuff' you need to make sure everyone knows what this stuff is going to be, so that they can take this into account when creating their character.

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There is a _lot_ of solid advice up above, and I agree with _all_ of it.

 

I would like to offer a couple things I've discovered across my experience as a player and then later as a GM  (and I admit: I _still_ enjoy doing it; I just do it with the bad guys now. ;)  ) .

 

First, if at all possible, have your character generation session with as much of your group as possible, or at least your GM.  This will help you determine appropriate starting levels right out of the gate to ensure that you do not outstrip your companions and that they do not outclass you.  It also helps to establish your character as a useful part of the team: you can see power overlap or shortcomings in the overall group, and you can each tweak here and there until you have a well-rounded group capable of supporting and accenting each other.  Yes; that second part is harder than it sounds, but the more you (as a group) practice this, the easier it becomes.  It can also be taken as an extremely enjoyable additional challenge to the character generation process. (Come on:  if you play HERO, you already _know_ that character generation is a mini game all by itself. ;)  )

 

 

Second thing I would like to suggest-- once you have a feel for the right "level" you should start at-- is to envision this as your starting point.    Even if you have to, for whatever reason, start out "less" than you planned to be, keep an eye on what you visualized originally.  Build _toward_ that goal: grow your character toward that original concept.

 

If you do not have to start out lower than you wanted, then envision the character two years (game time) five years, and ten years from now.  Where do you see him going?  What do you see him developing into?   This helps guide your roleplaying, too, as it will give you some sort of idea of the person you need to be in order to become that person that you envision.  Same with your power growth:  you have an idea of how you _want_ to spend those hard-won EPs.  Instead of willy-nilly deciding "Oh!  I need another die of Energy Blast to keep up!" and ending up with a randomly-advanced character, you are pushing to fulfill a specific desire, to meet a specific goal, and there is just nothing as satisfying.  

 

 

Have fun with it!  :D

 

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17 hours ago, massey said:

I cannot help you.  All my characters are overflowing with awesome.  Even when I try to make a weak character, they end up powerful.  Sorry man.

      Well, isn’t that special.               It sounds better coming from Dana Carvey’s Church Lady.

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On 10/17/2019 at 8:42 PM, BNakagawa said:

If you build your character exactly to the maximum parameters allowed by the campaign, then you may become dissatisfied with your inability to grow until the rest of the campaign catches up. Scale back a bit and leave your character some room to grow.

 

There is a downside to this though.

 

In the games I've played in, most of the players will build to the max cap limit,  forgoing whatever they have to in order to reach in.  So while pulling your character in a bit does leave you room to grow, you might wind up feeling a bit underpowered as your "max level" friends tear through the enemy.

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On 10/21/2019 at 6:29 PM, Duke Bushido said:

Second thing I would like to suggest-- once you have a feel for the right "level" you should start at-- is to envision this as your starting point.    Even if you have to, for whatever reason, start out "less" than you planned to be, keep an eye on what you visualized originally.  Build _toward_ that goal: grow your character toward that original concept.

 

The story of my life right here . . .

 

For some reason, all the characters I've created/played have required me to play catch up with things "they should have had" but I just couldn't afford at character creation.

 

No sure if it's I build too detailed of a character, set my sights too high or just plain don't know how to build a character.

 

Anyway, you give good advice Duke.

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Thank you; sincerely.  I like to be helpful when I can. 

 

I have to confess, though:  the stuff I voiced above comes natural: I started with the older, lower-starting-points editions, and I was hooked, mostly because of the way you had complete control over growing your character.  That was the big appeal to me: not super heroes, not some mythical mathematical balance,  but being able to develop a character the way you saw him growing. 

 

I have never made the jump to the higher-powered new editions because I've got all I want already.  :)

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6 hours ago, Vanguard said:

 

There is a downside to this though.

 

In the games I've played in, most of the players will build to the max cap limit,  forgoing whatever they have to in order to reach in.  So while pulling your character in a bit does leave you room to grow, you might wind up feeling a bit underpowered as your "max level" friends tear through the enemy.

 

Face the downside and overcome it. How many compelling stories are told about a character who starts out as the strongest and just remains stagnant? The best stories all feature a character who we first meet as an underdog, a novice, an aspirant who is not strong yet - but is driven to become so. Which character do you want to play?

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19 minutes ago, BNakagawa said:

Face the downside and overcome it. How many compelling stories are told about a character who starts out as the strongest and just remains stagnant? The best stories all feature a character who we first meet as an underdog, a novice, an aspirant who is not strong yet - but is driven to become so. Which character do you want to play?

That doesn't work in a scenario where the other PCs are built to campaign expectations. 

It's not "One underdog against the world" in a group setting, it's "Three heroes and this loser against the world".  And being that loser sucks.  It's not fun, it's not 'compelling' to experience.  It's an NPC role.  Don't have a PC fill it. 

 

The GM needs to make sure PCs are at the same approximate level of effectiveness for anything that will come up constantly (IE, combat) and that each also has a distinct niche they can take the spotlight in. 

Having one character be a bit better is fine, but having one character noticeably behind in the thing that happens every session is going to lose you that player unless they're already disengaged from the game, are a masochist, or like thinking they're better for playing a weaker character. 

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8 hours ago, Gnome BODY (important!) said:

That doesn't work in a scenario where the other PCs are built to campaign expectations. 

It's not "One underdog against the world" in a group setting, it's "Three heroes and this loser against the world".  And being that loser sucks.  It's not fun, it's not 'compelling' to experience.  It's an NPC role.  Don't have a PC fill it. 

 

The GM needs to make sure PCs are at the same approximate level of effectiveness for anything that will come up constantly (IE, combat) and that each also has a distinct niche they can take the spotlight in. 

Having one character be a bit better is fine, but having one character noticeably behind in the thing that happens every session is going to lose you that player unless they're already disengaged from the game, are a masochist, or like thinking they're better for playing a weaker character. 

Strongly Disagree. In order to be less powerful than the max only requires 1-2 DC downgrade at most. The net result is more than noticeable over the long haul. The game system is strongly calibrated to highlight small shifts of one or two dice, one or two combat levels, one point of SPD and so on. I would much rather play a PC that was a notch below the maximum than one that was defining the maximum. Not every Pc needs to be optimized for taking on the big bad. There is plenty of value in a PC that is better suited to mopping up the henchmen, saving the innocent bystanders, freeing the hostages, sabotaging the nefarious machinery or keeping the macguffin away from the bad guys.

 

A better GM than you apparently encounter on the regular would create scenarios where every type of PC from Thor and Hulk to Black Widow and Hawkeye have a role to play and a share of the spotlight.

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15 minutes ago, BNakagawa said:

Strongly Disagree. In order to be less powerful than the max only requires 1-2 DC downgrade at most. The net result is more than noticeable over the long haul. The game system is strongly calibrated to highlight small shifts of one or two dice, one or two combat levels, one point of SPD and so on. I would much rather play a PC that was a notch below the maximum than one that was defining the maximum. Not every Pc needs to be optimized for taking on the big bad. There is plenty of value in a PC that is better suited to mopping up the henchmen, saving the innocent bystanders, freeing the hostages, sabotaging the nefarious machinery or keeping the macguffin away from the bad guys.

 

A better GM than you apparently encounter on the regular would create scenarios where every type of PC from Thor and Hulk to Black Widow and Hawkeye have a role to play and a share of the spotlight.

Why in the world does a player have the right to force the GM to design two-tier encounters just to accommodate his precious half-melted snowflake? 

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11 hours ago, BNakagawa said:

 

Face the downside and overcome it. How many compelling stories are told about a character who starts out as the strongest and just remains stagnant? The best stories all feature a character who we first meet as an underdog, a novice, an aspirant who is not strong yet - but is driven to become so. Which character do you want to play?

 

I want to play the character that is actually useful and doesn't feel, and has been made to feel, like neither the player nor the character would have been missed if they hadn't shown up to the game session.

 

And those stories you're referring to all seem to be a single player story.  Where the underdog, as Gnome Body pointed out, can "rise up".  Not a group of characters who are all knocking out villian left and right and you get to play Happy Hogan being all proud of himself after he, barely, took out 1 mook and Black Widow just polished off 6 of them.

 

9 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

Good points, 

 

but I am not certain that was the problem Vanguard was having-- meeting campaign expectations-- as much as he was having difficulty making the character to personal expectations.

 

It's both actually. 

 

I don't, really, have a problem meeting campaign expectations.  I just feel, like was mentioned,  in doing so it limits the growth of the character.   Once you've hit the cap, your done.  You can't increase anything till the GM raises, or altogether lifts, those caps.  And it should be noted here, those caps that are hit, are always, 100% the combat aspect of the campaign limits.  

 

The other "issue" I spoke about is that I, usually, find myself with more skills/background skills than I have points to pay for so i have to shave things off and remove things altogether and then find myself playing catch up while the others at the table are actually progressing their characters.  Like I said, may just be a me flaw and not something that's actually a problem.

 

2 hours ago, BNakagawa said:

Strongly Disagree. In order to be less powerful than the max only requires 1-2 DC downgrade at most. The net result is more than noticeable over the long haul. The game system is strongly calibrated to highlight small shifts of one or two dice, one or two combat levels, one point of SPD and so on. I would much rather play a PC that was a notch below the maximum than one that was defining the maximum. Not every Pc needs to be optimized for taking on the big bad. There is plenty of value in a PC that is better suited to mopping up the henchmen, saving the innocent bystanders, freeing the hostages, sabotaging the nefarious machinery or keeping the macguffin away from the bad guys.

 

A better GM than you apparently encounter on the regular would create scenarios where every type of PC from Thor and Hulk to Black Widow and Hawkeye have a role to play and a share of the spotlight.

 

So you're perfectly fine playing the Clean up specialist and letting all the other players at the table be the real heroes?

 

And those "better GM scenarios"?  I've seen them attempted and they never play out that way.  The enemy that was meant to be fought by the Widow instead faces off against Thor and is immediately knocked in the next galaxy.  While the enemy that was meant to go up against Thor is pitted against the Widow and while she *may* not get hit, she sure doesn't accomplish much against him until Thor arrives to be tagged in and finally take care of the bad guy.

 

So I guess I'm saying that while you may have fun playing a third string hero, I don't.

 

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My namesake character, Bolo, was always the lesser-powered character in our team.  (He once got taken down by one of Firewing's agents.)  Powers-wise, Bolo's saving grace was a Multipower of various odd, little used things like a Force Wall, a Running Drain, and so forth.  And despite being the low-powered guy, Bolo managed to save the butts of every other hero on the team at least once. There was a certain satisfaction in having the team's mega-brick rely on *you* for help in a crunch.  So yeah, playing the clean-up specialist can be fun. 

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22 minutes ago, Vanguard said:

@BoloOfEarth

 

Did you design him that way?

 

Edit: Because being designed to be the support character is different than trying your best to build a well rounded character and being regulated to support character because of it.

 

Not as such.  Bolo had a nuclear accident (accumulated 50+ XP and told the GM I wanted a rewrite) -- that's when the Multipower came in, to add some versatility.  Prior to that, his only attacks were a pair of tethered bolos (basically a short-range Entangle) plus an electric attack he could use on the people he entangled.

 

Bolo also had the lowest DEX of our team, giving me time to watch what was going on and figure out the best way to use that versatility.  Also, Bolo's Teleport allowed him to pop in behind foes and catch them unaware.  So I'd often hold my action and then pull something out of my Multipower.  Like flame bolos to use on someone vulnerable to fire attacks.  Or a Force Wall to englobe someone throwing an AOE attack at our martial artist.  Or the Running Drain on the speedster about to do a move-through on a stunned hero.  I wouldn't say Bolo was relegated to being a support character, but rather that I looked for ways to use his powers in a support role.

 

Plus, the change of his tethered bolos from a limited number of straight Entangles into Stretching + addition STR only to Grab and Hold, allowed Bolo to put the Grab on someone about to finish off one of his teammates.  Sure, the electrical attack wasn't the most powerful (though it was NND), and the enemy could typically break free in their next Phase, but it blew that guy's Phase and gave my friends time to recover.  Or held the guy still long enough for the other heroes to pound him into the dirt.

 

If Tactics skill had existed at that time, Bolo would have bought it. 

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the smartest PLAYERS will look at tactics in the context of the action economy. Sure, in a world of multipowers, any PC can have a set of set-up powers like flash, entangle and the like - but it's far better that your second rank characters use such abilities to free up the heavy hitters to use their actions delivering the big hurt.

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Since people have brought up character advancement:

 

1

The ability to blast moar is not necessary for actual character advancement.

 

Consider Han Solo:

Look, I ain't in this for your revolution, and I'm not in it for you Princess. I expect to be well paid. I'm in it for the money.

In the A New Hope, to one of the characters in RotJ addressing him as, "General Solo?" and none of the other characters think that the fact that Han is now a general in the rebellion as anything odd.

He's undergone a lot of character 'development', but he hasn't really gotten any better at flying things, or shooting poor fools in the face.  So it's more than possible to have important stuff happen to your character without them getting better at blasting people.  Exalted and Nobilis both made some nods at this sort of thing, but I don't think either one really did it well.

 

------------------------

 

As for the getting better at blasting type of development, one of the other advantages of the 'forced tradeoff' system I I described above is that you can allow characters to advance by allowing characters another 'positive' when making their trade offs.

 

For example:

We define our starting campaign averages as:

DC 10

CV 7

Def 25

SPD 5

 

And one step as:

DC 2

CV 2

Def 5

SPD 1

 

And allow a starting character to have a balance total of +1 from the average.

 

We make our character something like Spiderman, and their stats look like:

DC 10 (Average (0))

CV 9 (High (+1))

Def 20 (Low (-1))

SPD 6 (High (+1))

 

So our character has a balance total of +1.  Later, as the campaign advances, we can spend points to bring our character up to +2 in total.  We decide to up not-Spiderman's Def, so he's not so squishy:

DC 10 (Average (0))

CV 9 (High (+1))

Def 25 (Average (0))

SPD 6 (High (+1))

 

He now has a balance total of +2, and he's theoretically balanced vs a character in the same campaign that went to brick route and now looks like:

 

DC 12 (High (+1))

CV 7 (Average (0))

Def 30 (High (+1))

SPD 5 (Average (0))

 

Who also has a balance total of +2

 

------------------------------

 

There's some problems when you double down on things, like +2 CV, so you are +4 OCV/DCV over the campaign average, but it seems to work better than just upping all the campaign maxima at once and allow players to do whatever.

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