This is the rule our group uses for balancing PC power; it's also pretty helpful for balancing NPCs quickly and not worrying about their point totals. I'm putting it up for two reasons:
If anyone else wants to use it, feel free.
I'd like, as much as possible, for it to be comprehensible to new players. So if you don't understand what a line is trying to say or think something is unclear and could use an example, it would be appreciated if you let me know.
Rule of F(X) Overview
This system is intended to limit vertical power. It is a more formalized version of the guideline "if you're at the high end of the guidelines in one area, be at the low end in another area," and is more complicated than various rules like SPD+DCs = X.
A campaign has Campaign Default Caps. These are referenced in some places, so for example “default attack cap” means “the attack cap in the campaign default caps you are using.” Here are some possible Campaign Default Caps; when giving examples, this document assumes you are using Standard Caps. Guidelines for making your own are included below.
Standard Caps (these are the ones we normally play with in 500-point Superheroes games)
4 Exotic Defense
31.5 Attack (default distribution is 12 DC, 6 OCV, 6 DCV, 6 MDCV, 6 type 2 CSLs)
Damage Reduction cap cost: 6/12/24 for 25/50/75% Defense Damage Reduction, 10/20/40 for 25/50/75% Mental Damage Reduction.
Champions Caps (these are designed to make characters about on par with the Champions, for a 400-point superhero game)
0 Exotic Defense
27.75 Attack (default distribution is 12 DC, 6 OCV, 6 DCV, 6 MDCV, 3 type 2 CSLs)
Damage Reduction cap cost: 7/14/28 for 25/50/75% Defense Damage Reduction, 14/28/56 for 25/50/75% Mental Damage Reduction.
Gritty Superheroes Game (these are designed for a fairly lethal low-powered superhero game, with 250-point characters, and are the one constructed in the example of a campign default cap creation below)
6 Defense AND Defense picks are 1 pick for 3 Defense
0 Exotic Defense AND Exotic Defense picks are 1 pick for 1.5 Exotic Defense
16 Attack (default distribution is 8 DC, 4 OCV, 4 DCV, 4 MDCV, 0 CSLs)
Damage Reduction cap cost:8/16/32 for 25/50/75% Defense Damage Reduction, 9/18/36 for 25/50/75% Mental Damage Reduction.
Cosmic Superheroes (these are designed for a very high-powered superhero game on 800 points)
5 Exotic Defense
45.5 Attack (default distribution is 18 DC, 10 OCV, 10 DCV, 10 MDCV, 6 type 2 CSLs)
Damage Reduction cap cost 9/18/36 for 25/50/75% Defense Damage Reduction, 19/38/76 for 25/50/75% Mental Damage Reduction
You also start with 2 picks to spend. 1 pick buys +.5 SPD cap, or +1 Attack cap, or +7 Defense cap, or +3.5 Exotic Defense Cap. Some Campaign Default Cap systems might also change the value of some picks (such as the Gritty Superheroes Game and defenses, above). You can also take "negative picks" at the same price. Thus, a balanced character might have 25 DEF and 4 Exotic Def (+0 picks), 6 SPD (+4 picks), 29.5 Attack (-2 picks). Having large amounts of negative picks is not frowned upon but is considered a Stop Sign and will get your character scrutinized more thoroughly. You may, if you choose, purchase half-picks or third-picks or what-have you. Caps never round - if you would have a maximum of 3.5 SPD, this means you cannot have 4 (since 4 > 3.5).
Having a different number of picks in Exotic Defense and Defense is a major warning sign. In particular, be aware that if you sell back Exotic Defense for more Defense, you can expect the GM to specifically target you with those attacks (just like if you bought defenses with Not Versus Fire or what-have-you).
What these caps mean: The SPD cap is obvious (don't have more SPD than the SPD cap). See Section 1 for Secondary Speed.
You can't have more DEF than the DEF cap, and you can't have more (Power Defense + Mental Defense)/2 than the Exotic DEF Cap. Damage Negation counts for 3 defense of its type. Damage Reduction counts some amount of DEF of its type, that varies based on the campaign default caps (and is listed with them above).
The Attack Cap is a cap on your effectiveness with each attack. Each attack's Attack Cap Value can't exceed your attack cap. Attack Cap Value is calculated as follows:
Attack Cap Value = DCs of attack + (OCV[see below]) with attack + .75* DCV when using attack + .25* MDCV when using attack + Type 1 CSLs with attack + 1.25*Type 2 CSLs with attack.
Attack Cap Value and Non-Attack Powers: Despite not being attack powers, Aid, Barrier, Healing, Mind Scan, Summon, and Telepathy are considered “attacks,” with DCs calculated normally, for the purposes of attack cap value (and some have special rules listed below). Other non-attack powers are not restricted by this rule. Note that Aid costs 8 points per die (not 6), and thus Aid is 8 DCs per 5 dice.
CSL Types: A type 1 CSL with an attack is defined to be one that can apply to either OCV and/or MOCV and/or Damage; or to DCV and/or DMCV. A type 2 CSL with an attack can apply to at least one of OCV and MOCV and Damage, and also to at least one of DCV and DMCV.
Mental Attacks, Aids, and Summons: An attack that uses OMCV rather than OCV uses OMCV in the above formula. An "attack" that uses neither, such as Aid or Summon, uses the campaign default OCV (in the standard caps, 6) in place of OCV.
Variable Power Pools: Variable Power Pools that can be used to make attack powers and that have Half-Phase to Change or 0-Phase to Change count as attack powers of 2 DCs higher. For example, a VPP with a 60 AP Max and a 60 RP max is a 14 DC attack power. This is, of course, only for the purposes of caps. VPPs that can be used to make attack powers but that require at least a full phase to change count as attack powers of their normal DC. At the GM's option, if the character has a VPP that requires a half-phase or less to change but cannot control what powers go into it well enough to pick "optimal" powers for a given situation, it may count as only regular DC, not DC+2.
Picks and Limitations: If a character can break a cap under select circumstances, count the picks it costs as follows: figure out the characters picks without the cap-breaking, then take the difference, figure out the cost in picks, and then apply limitations to the cost. To figure out if this rule applies, remember that you are checking the circumstances when the character can break the caps and then assessing how much of a limitation that is. For example, if a character has a 29 Attack Cap Value power that is Only At Night (-1), and a different 29 Attack Cap Value power that is Only In Daytime (-1), then this rule does not apply because the circumstances during which they can use some power with an Attack Cap Value of 29 is daytime or nighttime, which is -0. The same applies to defenses with some sort of “Only Against [sFX]” limitation, CSLs that only apply against certain types of enemies, or other circumstantial powers.
Example: Power Ring has 25 DEF, 4 Mental Defense, 4 Power Defense, 4 SPD, 6 OCV, 6 DCV and DMCV, and 4 OSLs. He has a 10d6 Energy Blast, and a 7d6+1 Ranged Killing Attack with 1 Charge (-2). Normally, he has 0 DEF picks, 0 SPD picks, and his Energy Blast has an Attack Cap Value of 10+6+4.5+1.5+7.5= 29.5, which corresponds to an Attack pick of 29.5(-2). His Ranged Killing Attack has an Attack Cap Value of 22+6+4.5+1.5+7.5 = 41.5. To figure out his Attack pick value, 41.5-29.5 is 12, and 12/3 =4, so he has to pay +4 picks, balancing him at +2. If Power Ring had a third, different attack power that was 22 DCs and also had 1 charge, then his ability to make an attack with an Attack Cap Value 12 higher than normal would be evaluated with the limitation 2 Charges, not 1 Charge. If, instead, he had a third, different attack power that did 18 DCs and had 1 charge, then he would be doing 8 extra Attack Cap Value with 2 charges, and 4 additional extra Attack Cap Value with 1 charge, for a pick cost of 8/2.5 + 4/3.
Note that, as mentioned above, picks never round, and this is not an exception: +1 pick with a -2 limitation is 1/3 of a pick. The GM should be careful about allowing this, and should definitely not count limitations like No Knockback, Beam, No Hit Locations, or other limitations that affect the flexibility of a power rather than when it can be used.
Certain strong limitations may, at the GMs option, reduce the DC of an attack for the purposes of evaluating its Attack Cap Value. If an attack directly impacts the way opponents take damage and in the GM's opinion, significantly weakens the offensive value of the attack power, it may count as "DC-reducing" in this sense (and only in this sense). Examples include "Knockback Only" and "Reduced Stun Multiplier." Note that limitations like "Inaccurate" just reduce a character's OCV with the attack, and should be evaluated that way instead. This also applies to similarly significant limitations on defense powers, speed, CSLs, or the like.
Picks and Different Caps/Point Totals: There’s some example campaign default caps listed at the start of the section. Here’s how you create a set of campaign default caps.
1) Set base SPD to whatever you want.
2) Set base Attack Cap Value (ACV) to whatever you want, and figure out the campaign default assumption of DC, CV, and CSL. It is suggested it be distributed roughly DC = .4*ACV, OCV = DCV = MDCV = .2*ACV, Type 2 CSLs = .2*ACV.
3) Set the Defense cap to whatever you want. Set the Exotic Defense Cap to about (Defense Cap) - 1.75 Default DCs; this causes base-DC exotic attacks to do the same damage to base-defense characters as base-DC regular attacks. Thus, if you want the base Exotic Defense to be 0, that is, you want most people to have no exotic defenses, you should have your Defense Cap be about 1.75 times your default DCs.
4) If there is some attribute you want to specifically encourage or discourage, for example, if you want to make a very lethal game with low defenses and high DCs, you should proportionally reduce or increase both the base amount and the value per pick.
5) Adjust the cost of Damage Reduction in picks. 25% Defense Damage Reduction should count as about (7/6*Default DCs - 1/3*DEF Cap) points of DEF, with 50% and 75% Defense Damage Reduction costing 2 and 4 times that much. 25% Mental Damage Reduction should count as about (7/6*Default DCs - 1/3*Exotic DEF Cap) points of Mental Defense, with 50% and 75% Mental Damage Reduction costing 2 and 4 times that much. This keeps Damage Reduction approximately balanced with other forms of defense.
This assumes that a character with default total Defense who uses 50% or 75% Defense Damage Reduction risks taking BODY from average attacks (for example, this would mean 13 DEF/50% Damage Reduction), which balances out the slightly lower STUN damage such a character would take. If that is not the case at the Defense and DC totals you set, you should instead make 50% and 75% Damage Reduction cost enough that it is the case (ie, set 50% to about DEF-DC, and 75% to twice that), up to a maximum of 3 and 9 times as much as 25% Damage Reduction.
6) Where you set the point totals versus the caps determines how flexible characters will be and how much they have available to spend on noncombat abilities or on other things that don’t influence the caps. Generally, you’ll be fine if you set the base caps in the midrange of the suggested HERO 6e guidelines for a given point total. This is ultimately more a matter of taste than anything else, but be aware that if you set the point totals very low, it favors SPD and CV over everything else, since they have the best pick-to-CP ratio.
Example: Jane wants to run a lower-powered superhero game with 8 DC powers as the standard. She also wants combat to be quick and reasonably deadly, and for players to be mostly ordinary humans other than their superpowers.
Jane decides to set the default SPD to 2, reflecting “normal person who suddenly got superpowers” as the norm.
The DC, as above, is 8. This suggest OCV, DCV, and MDCV 4 as the standard. Jane decides to assume 0 CSLs as the default (reflecting most characters having no combat training), so this means an attack cap value of 8+4+4 = 16.
Jane wants attacks to be much stronger than defenses. Normally, 8 DCs would suggest around 16 Defense, but Jane sets it at 6 DEF, and also makes a pick worth 3 DEF or 1.5 Exotic DEF: roughly 6/16 of the normal values (but rounded to be easier to work with).
Jane’s exotic defense cap is suggested at 6-1.75*8 = -8 (because defenses are so low, bypassing them is not a major advantage). Jane makes the Exotic Defense Cap 0.
The formula suggests that 25% Defense Damage Reduction should count as about 8 Defense, and 50% and 75% should cost 16 and 32. Jane decides this is fine - with defenses so low, Damage Reduction should be a major investment requiring picks, or be conditional. Mental Damage Reduction counts as 9/18/36 for 25%/50%/75%.
Picks and Barrier: By default, Barrier needs to obey the Attack Cap Value rule. In some cases (such as a barrier that cannot Englobe), it might be more appropriate to treat it as part of a character’s defenses.
Picks and Duplication: A Duplicator (and duplicates) are built on less picks than other characters. First, a duplicator needs GM permission to have duplicates built on more points than the base character.
Step 1: Calculate, separately, the character point cost of the Duplication other than points spend on the adder “x2 number of duplicates”, and the character point cost of any “x2 number of duplicates” adders.
Step 2: The character and all duplicates are built on one pick less per 50 points or part theoreof spent on the CP cost of duplication without the doubling adder, and another one pick less per 5 character points or part thereof spent on the CP cost of the doubling adder.
Step 3: If the duplicates are built on less points than the base character, the duplicates get 1 less pick per 50 points less or part thereof.
Example: Captain Polyhedron is a 500-point Superhero with 32 250-point duplicates, but with the limitation OAF: d32 (-1) on his Duplication power. He paid 25 character points for the base cost of his duplication, and 12 character points for the "x2 number of duplicates" adders. Thus, he and all his duplicates are built on 1 pick less (for the base cost), then 3 picks less (for the doubling cost), and his duplicates are built on another 5 less picks (because they are 250 points less than him). Thus, Captain Polyhedron is built on 2-4 = -2 picks, and his duplicates are built on 2-9 = -7 picks.
Picks and Healing: Heals Limbs and Resurrection are not DC-increasing. Increased Reuse Rate is DC-increasing.
Picks and Summon: Summons are built with less picks than a normal character. A summon built on 25*Default DC Cap (300, in a standard cap game) points has -4 picks, and they lose an additional pick for every 50 points less than this that they are built on (or part thereof). Summons built on more than this many points gain a pick for every full 50 points more than that they are built on. For the standard cap values, this is:
Furthermore, a summon calculates caps slightly differently. They start with the same SPD, Defense, and Exotic Defense caps as anyone else, and with an Attack Cap equal to the default attack cap reduced by .25*(default number of CSLs). For a game using the standard caps, this means 25 DEF, 4 Exotic DEF, 4 SPD, 30 Attack Cap Value.
When calculating Attack Cap Value, they use the campaign default (in the standard caps, 6) if their own DCV and/or DMCV are lower. Summons count all CSLs as Type 1. In addition, Summons don't receive negative picks for lowered Defense Cap.
The DCs of the summon power itself are calculated as follows:
Step 1: Find the base AP of summon, with the x2 number of summons adder, but without Loyalty advantages or any other advantages unless the GM rules they are DC-increasing (few advantages should be DC-increasing).
Step 2: Multiply by 3/10 - this is the AP for determining the base DCs of the power.
Step 3: If the summon has at least +1/4 Loyalty, you are done. If not, and the summon must be beaten in an EGO-vs-EGO contest, then reduce the DCs as if the summon had the DC-limiting disadvantage “Activation Roll (10+Summoner’s EGO Roll - Summon’s EGO Roll - Active Point Penalty on Summoner’s EGO Roll).”
Picks and Follower: A Follower is built on less picks, just as if they were a Summon with the same point cost. However, Followers use the normal pick rules otherwise (ie, they can take negative DEF picks, and calculate the value of CSLs and DCV normally).
A character who purchases a Follower takes a penalty to picks equal to -1 per 5 picks or part theoreof the follower has over -10. For example, a character with a -10 pick follower incurs no pick penalty, a character with a -9 to -5 pick follower incurs a -1 pick penalty, and a character with a -4 to 0 pick follower incurs a -2 pick penalty. Note that a follower need not actually use all the picks available to them.
For multiple followers: in the simplest case (all the followers are the same number of picks), every +5 point “double number of followers” adder effectively makes the follower worth one more pick. For example, having 8 followers built on -3 picks is the same as having 1 follower built on -0 picks.
If the followers are built on different numbers of picks, use the rule that a follower built on x picks is the same as “half a follower” built on x+1 picks, combine all the effective values, and then round up.
Example: Catman is a 500-point superhero. He wants a follower, Manfred, his loyal butler. Manfred is built on 100 points, and so could have up to -8 picks. However, Catman doesn't want Manfred to help him in combat, so Manfred has few combat abilities and doesn't have any weapons or armor, making him a -13 pick character. Hence, Catman takes no pick penalty. If Manfred were built on -8 picks instead, Catman would take a -1 pick penalty.
Picks and Vehicles: A vehicle that drives itself by some means is treated like a follower for pick purposes.
For a vehicle that needs to be driven, the owner driving the vehicle is considered one character that needs to meet the caps. For most characters, this will mean they can attack at full power but get -3 OCV, so the vehicle can't give them more than 3 picks worth of benefits (usually 10.5 DEF). If the vehicle itself has a weapon, it might be better than the character's weapon (so check that). If a character can't use their best attacks in a vehicle, the vehicle might provide more. Keep in mind you can take "does not protect passengers" on part of a vehicle's DEF to avoid cap-breakage, or you can take a Physical Limitation on the vehicle that reduces the OCV of its driver and/or passengers further than normal. Also, keep in mind that vehicles don't reduce OMCV, so a character who has mental attacks (or attack requiring no roll) would have less benefit they could receive from the vehicle.
Furthermore, the vehicle needs to meet caps itself - for this, treat the vehicle as an Automaton, but with either its own attacks or the driver's, whichever is better.
Trying to get around this by having a character who can't effectively attack out of a vehicle buy it (so as to let it provide more benefit to passengers), but then having another character who can effectively attack out of it drive the vehicle most or all of the time, is not acceptable. Think of lending vehicles as being like lending Foci - it's OK every now and then, but if you do it frequently it's a problem.
For a vehicle that can carry passengers, the vehicle cannot provide more than 2 picks worth of benefits (usually 7 DEF) to them. This is regardless of who the actual passengers are likely to be, but if the GM thinks this is likely to be abused frequently he might require it be built differently. You can take "Protects Driver, But Not Other Passengers" as a -1/4 limit on DEF if you want.
GM permission is required to buy a vehicle costing more points than the total character points of the owner minus the character point cost of the vehicle.
Example: Menton, Conjurer, and Grond are going shopping for motorcycles. Menton, being a mentalist, has OMCV powers that aren't penalized by riding in a vehicle. Thus, he cannot get any bonus DEF from his motorcycle, or he would break the caps while using it. He would need to take a physical limitation on his vehicle that it reduced DCV, OMCV, or some other statistic that influences his mental powers in order to get extra defense from it. Conjurer uses Summon, which doesn't require attack rolls, so he has the same problem (but can't solve it by taking -OMCV). Grond has only physical attacks, so he can buy an armored motorcycle that protects him with up to 10.5 of its defenses.
Now suppose Grond wants a really large motorcycle that can hold some of his friends. It can only give 7 of its DEF to them, but Grond decides this is silly. Thus, he takes "Physical Limitation: Bumpy Ride (Passengers take -3 OCV rather than -2 to fire out of motorcycle)," and now his buddies can get the full benefit of the defense. However, if Grond had take "-10 OCV rather than -2 to fire out of motorcycle" so it could provide +35 DEF, and planned on riding around with Menton and Conjurer all the time providing them with a powerful defensive ability without impairing their powers, the GM might forbid this.
Picks and Berserk: While berserk or enraged, a character's Attack Cap Values change. First, reduce all of them by two. Second, all CSLs are considered Type 1. A character may buy abilities "Only While Enraged/Berserk" with a pick cost value equal to the loss in Attack picks while enraged or berserk.
Example: Ragemaster has an Enraged. He also has 25 DEF, 12d6 attacks, 8 OCV, 6 DCV, and 6 OSLs. This puts him at the caps with +2 picks, normally. However, while Enraged, his attack cap value drops from 33.5 to 30 (the value his OSLs contribute to each attack drops from 7.5 to 6, and there is another -2). Thus, he can buy 3.5 picks worth of abilities Only While Enraged; he decides to buy an extra 3.5 DCs to all his attacks while enraged.
Picks, Multiform, Lockout and Similar Powers: Characters with powers such as Multiform or Growth, linked power sets, and suchlike that have different "forms" need only meet the rule of F(X) in each form taken seperately. This also includes things like defenses that cannot be used while attacking, powers with side effects while in use that lower another value, and so on.