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More points or more limitations?


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I've been mucking about with some character designs and have run into some interesting cases. I would like to hear what people think about them.


First, differentiating between Batman and Robin. (I should probably write "Batman" and "Robin" to clarify that I'm not just talking about those specific characters.)

Situations aside, the most obvious way of differentiating them seems to me to give Batman higher characteristics - particularly Str, Pre and, ideally, Int. Unfortunately, the only good way I can think of of compensating Robin for this is to give him some Luck. As long as the difference between the two is within 15 points, that's fine, but any more points need to be found elsewhere. So while it is possible to build the two on the same point total, it's tempting to give Batman extra points.

Anyway, that's not the most interesting case.

I have also been looking at building something like an early version of Marvel's Thor. It's a mistake to get too much into character modelling, but building reasonable facsimiles of published characters is a legitimate activity.

Anyway, I've hit a point where getting the character "right" requires more than 200 points. It can be done on 220. Alternatively, I could apply limitations to the character's powers, related to his former Donald Blake identity, and his tendency to revert to that form separated from Mjolnir for too long.


Now to me, just giving the character 220 points seems the cleaner solution. The Donald Blake stuff can be handled by the extra Situations that the character would take.


The problem is that if you give one player's character 220 points, why would you restrict other players' characters to 200? It's not as if taking extra Situations is a Bad Thing. A 220 point character is potentially both more powerful and gets more screen time. The result, then, is that 220 points becomes the campaign standard.

In theory, of course, that can lead to power creep such that it is no longer possible to build the character "right" on 220 points, but that particular nightmare can be dealt with.

As I said, the case can be dealt with by using Limitations, but that just rewards complex builds. I'd rather reserve Limitations for modelling powers that can't be handled otherwise.

Obviously one solution is simply to shave enough points off to cram the character into 200 points - but then Mighty Thor becomes Mediocre Thor.

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Okay, I get the impression these builds are for PCs?  If they're for NPCs the point totals are irrelevant -- just build them to your concept and purpose. But if they're for PCs, it implies one player wants to play the Batman analogue, and the other the Robin analogue. Robin is Batman's sidekick -- Batman is older and more experienced, so conceptually he should be built on more points. Robin isn't supposed to be balanced with Batman, so if the player doesn't want to play a sidekick they should consider changing the concept.


Thor is an example of a "heavyweight" super. Building him "right" is going to take more points than Captain America or Hawkeye. In the comics Thor isn't "balanced" with Captain America, nor Superman with Batman, aside from the writers arranging the circumstances of the plot to make them appear balanced.


As I've gotten older I've become much less concerned about point totals, and more about having the players create character concepts they want to play, and then just using them appropriately in a game. In that I was guided by our long-missing forum colleague, Theron Bretz, and his Digital Hero article, Pointless Champions.

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Champions Now and present day HERO are different.


CNow is stronger, in some ways, at representing 60s and 70s heroes as playable characters. In particular, it covers characters like the Doom Patrol, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and so on very well. My goal in designing a playable early Thor is to see whether or not that extends to the early Avengers. My provisional answer is "Yes".


As for Batman and Robin, I did mention that I should have written "Batman" and "Robin", because the road to madness starts when you start modelling specific characters in fine detail. But as I also pointed out, the main difference between the two, in CNow terms, is that Batman has higher characteristics, and that flows through to his skills, how hard he hits, and so on.


Up to a point, then, it's possible to build the two on the same points, or very similar points, by giving "Batman" higher characteristics and giving "Robin" something to compensate. Luck is the obvious choice, but of course that only covers an up to 15 points discrepancy. Past that point is where extra points come into play, but it isn't essential. And as I pointed out, why shouldn't characters all be built on the same points, given that taking more Situations isn't a Bad Thing.


One thing I have decided, over the decades, is that "character concept" is a poisonous term in the hands of a GM. It's what they use when they start to take control of a PC from its player. The key responses to it are either to change the concept, or to walk away from a jerk GM.


In any case, my issue is whether or not to bump up character points rather than pile limitations on a character in order to achieve the same result. Both have negatives, but I am not sure which is worse.

What I am seeking is opinions on this matter.

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If you set 200 points as a hard limit, then using Limitations is the way to go.


However, the book contains the following passage at the bottom of Page 57:
"How many for the total? The recommended value for a beginning hero is 200. If
the group wants to start higher, they can, but everyone should use the same value
and the game is not built to start over 220."


So 220 is perfectly legitimate.


The passage also deals with my concerns about characters starting on different point totals. It has the interesting effect that characters that join later should also be built on 220, which has an impact on Cap's Kooky Quartet, but I don't think it's an issue for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and even Hawkeye benefits from the extra points.


I think I can refine my conclusions in this light:

(a) the game can handle the early Avengers; and

(b) they should start on 220 points.


Now all I have to do is look at characters with 120 points of Situations...


Oh, and junior partner characters like "Robin" should stay within 15 points of their more powerful partners, with Luck used to correct the imbalance. I'm fine with that.

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  • 7 months later...

"Thor" might have some Strength with Increased Endurance. So he "can" do really strong stuff but he usually doesn't. That is how balance is enforced. In fact maybe he has Thor Strength as a Multiform, with some that is Increased Endurance for when he demonstrates his theoretical strength, and Costs No Endurance for thumping away at low threat opponents all day (which makes him "stronger" without needing big numbers). Maybe he also has a High Impact slot for knocking people around which looks impressive but again, does not require huge numbers. I think this is pretty close to what you see in TV shows. They might lift an oil tanker or something, but a lot of the time they are punching basically normal people or people in tactical armor, and those people aren't turning into paste. So for 5 points you could have +10 Strength that costs 4 endurance, and then you could use Pushing on top of that, and you are dealing +3d6 damage and multiplying your normal lift capacity by x8. I guess in this concept, Thor probably has a lot of Endurance, that might be one of his most important stats.

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