Follow-up to a previous post:

Follow-up to a previous post:

Follow-up to a previous post:

Okay, I think I found the next thing I’m going to try in my attempt to make a superhero game that can start play in 10-15 minutes. I still like the Dungeon World playbook approach, so I’m going to keep trying that (here’s five options, pick one, quickly customize and let’s play). One of the weaknesses of the previous version was the powers system. It was very mechanical, it didn’t have a way to be creative or do neat things with your powers, and sometimes you were spamming the same power over and over again and never got a chance to use your other powers.

New paradigm: Powers as moves. For a controller:

When you use Ice Control, roll+int. On a 10+ pick two, on a 7-9 pick one. On a 6-, the gm makes a “move” (language and concept of the GM move to be polished later.)

• Deal your damage

• Create icy formations

• Make an area much colder

• Stop movement by freezing something in place

• Make things slippery with ice

• Affect 1d4+level targets

• Freeze the moisture out of the air

• Use your powers at near or closer range

When you use Gravity Control, roll+INT. On a 10+, pick two, on a 7-9 pick 1. On a 6-, the gm makes a “move” (language and concept of the GM move to be polished later.)

• Deal your damage

• Make something lighter or heavier

• Bring down something that is flying

• Affect 1d4+level targets

• Crush something under its own weight

• Throw something at a far target

• Levitate yourself or others

• Use your powers at near or closer range

One advance move at level 2-5 could be to pick one additional effect when you use your power, and a replacement move at levels 6-10 allows the choice of two additional effects when you use a power.

This idea puts the fiction of what you can do with a power first. The consequences are going to be determined by the situation in which you use it. During the playtests, I can gather ideas for fictional effects (power stunts) to augment or replace the current power options. The player gets a variety of choices on how to use their powers. I can limit the number of options a power has to a reasonable number of choices, so as not to overwhelm players with too many options.

I’m thinking about starting with five options for each of the five archetypes. That means I’d be writing 25 powers with options on the front end, which is a reasonable goal that doesn’t sound overwhelming. I wrote six powers last night. I’m not sure I’m going to follow the CoH paradigm of a primary and secondary power. That may overwhelm the player that is just sitting down with too many choices. We’ll have to see how that playtests. I’m somewhat worried that a team would need to have every archetype present to be balanced. The primary/secondary power combinations would help mitigate this, but I don’t know if it is worth the trade off in additional complexity.

So, next things to work on:

• Edit the basic moves for clarity and the special moves for the same. Also, evaluate if there has to be a special move included or if it is going to come up infrequently enough that, I can drop it from a main list.

• Write 3-5 power moves like those above for each archetype for the next playtest.

• Edit the playbooks to reflect the new powers paradigm, drop some confusing wording from moves, and modify or rewrite some of the starting and advanced moves.

• Possibly come up with a briefing sheet that instructs new GMs how to teach the game. I think it’s too early for this, but right now, a cheat sheet for me to cover the things players were confused about on in the last test is a good idea.

I’ll update again once I have the sufficiently worked on the next phase. I’ll upload the stuff to DropBox so people can take a comprehensive look at it.

36 thoughts on “Follow-up to a previous post:”

  1. Like Timothy Bennett​ said – are you aware that Dungeon World is based off Apocalypse World and there are a bunch of supers hacks out there already?

  2. My suggestion:

    You make the playbooks the basic game paradigms: Brawler, Controller, Empath, Blaster, Tank etc etc.

    You have a selection of ORIGINS that people can pick from instead of a race.

    Then, say, for Blaster, you give people an option like the fighter’s signature weapon for how their blasts manifest. 2 bonuses and 1 downside?

    * The Blast causes damage over time

    * The Blast blows villains off of their feet

    * The Blast is especially long range

    * The Blast is extra powerful (+1 Damage)

    * The Blast ignores armour (+1 Piercing)


    * The blast takes time to recharge between shots

    * The blast often does collateral damage

    * The blast is loud, bright or otherwise hard to miss

    stuff like that?

    as for things like super speed…

    Well, you have them as prestige classes. call them ‘Power Profiles’ or something. Let people buy things off of them from level 2 onwards.

  3. Would a single move or “Power” be possible? This way your abilities can be treated like spells. No need to keep rephrasing roll+Stat 10+ 7-9…. Yada yada.. .

    Ranged Power

    You have abilities that allow you to stay out of the fray. When you use an ability from afar name your ability and roll+INT. 10+ hold 2, 7-9 hold 1. Use the holds on choices listed under your ability.

    Power list

    Ice Control

    >Deal damage

    >Create ice formations

    >Create one affect associated with ice. (This can be taken more than once)

  4. Timothy Bennett

    I haven’t seen Masks yet.  It could be what I’m looking for.  I’m going off of reviews and excerpts I’ve read of Worlds in Peril, so, keep that in mind while I comment on it.  It doesn’t have a solid powers system.  Everything is narrative-based.  IMO, if you’re going to have a successful supers game, you’ve got to have a powers system that is very, very solid.  Marvel Heroic Role-Playing is good, but the how they handled powers was meh.

  5. Robert Doe

     I tried that approach on my last iteration.  I tried treating powers as spells with a ‘use a power’ move that was ‘cast a spell’ re-skinned.  It had some upsides and downsides, but the downsides weighed heavier.  The short analysis:  too complex for my needs.  

  6. Rebel Wulf

     I tried something very similar to that in version 1.0.  I had a power customization move where everyone selected an effect that was based of off a CoH damage type.  12+ equals +1d4 (fire), forceful (bashing),  2 piercing (lethal).  It was clumsy and that’s my fault.  It went too much into the mechanics and not enough into the narrative.  It also ended up as the same move on the five archetypes playbooks and you only used it during character creation.

  7. Hm, yeah.

    I guess it lacks that punchy oomf.

    I suppose if you want quick, you’re going to have to sacrifice customisation outside of cosmetic, though.

  8. Aaron Griffin

     I looked as Silver Age, Just Heroes, and Worlds in Peril for a paradigm.  What I found was that they, imo, seemed to use AW as the base system rather than DW.  I wanted something with DW’s ‘sit down and play in minutes’ feel.  By stealing the DW moves and rearranging them into different playbooks, I had to do minimal rewriting.  I also don’t want to reinvent the wheel.  I know there are lots of hacks out there.  I’m looking for something with a very specific use.

  9. Robert Doe

     Also to your point, your approach with one move for all powers might be a way to go.  I don’t like that the same options are presented over and over again in my version.  Con:  if I understand you correctly, it makes all the archetypes powers feel the same.  I want controllers to have lots of options to remake the battlefield and lock down foes.  I want Tankers to be able to take lots of damage to themselves and hold up under tremendous onslaughts of attacks.  Defenders can buff/debuff people and make them better able to fulfill their roles while providing a little more firepower and damage into the mix.

  10. Jason Brannen, some folks just like to homebrew and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if I were going to take the time to build a PbtA-based supers game, I would actually spend the money and time looking at what has already been done before investing in homebrewing or hacking a fantasy-based game. Just MO.

  11. Jason Brannen My interpretation of Robert Doe’s suggestion was that there would be a single move that generated X hold for a success, Y hold for a partial success, etc. which avoids needing to have that text repeated over and over again.  Then each archetypes would have a unique list of what they can spend the hold on:  controllers can alter the battlefield, tankers can absorb damage, and defenders can give buffs/debuffs by spending their hold.  Defenders can’t use the Controllers’ options nor vice versa by default, which should avoid them all feeling the same even though they use the same “move”.  Advanced moves for each archetype could add new options to their list of options as they learn new ways to use their ability, including the ability to pick options from another archetype, providing some level of “multiclassing”.  

    I wouldn’t include “do damage” as a typical option for this move, because I don’t like the idea of spending hold to do damage – each attack should be an action, not just spending hold from some prior action, IMO.  So I’d have an attack move as its own basic move available to everyone, plus a utility “use my powers” move that generates hold, with the list of what you can spend the hold on varying by archetype.  

    Anyway, that’s just my take, and it might not be what Robert Doe originally intended.

  12. This might be more work than you’re looking to do, but here’s how I’d do a “sit down and play” supers game that was PbtA:

    1) Make a set of rather broadly applicable Basic Moves, stuff that got at the type of action I wanted to see in the game. E.g. 

      – Get Answers

      – Manipulate 

      – Attack

      – Defend

      – Maneuver 

      – Overcome

      – Race Against Time

      – Take Risks

      – Recover

    (I dunno… something like that.)

    2) Treat super powers as stats. So instead of Speedster or Ice Control, you’d have Speedster -1 or Ice Control +2.  When you use your super power to make a move, you roll + the super power.  Let them get creative with their powers in play and figure out their own power stunts.

    But the super power also changes the scope of what is possible or even what triggers a move.  

    Like, if I’ve got Speedster -1 I’m still a speedster.  I don’t have to Race Against Time to block the exit before the robber escapes… I have to Race Against Time to cross the city before Count Horrible unleashes the swarm of mecha-insects.  And even if my got “Brick-1” I still don’t need to Defend against some jamoke punching me… I’m a brick.

    3) Have some simple, limited (-1 to +1) traits for non-super stuff, like Mental, Social, and Physical.  Default to that, but make it clear that your fictional scope there is limited to what normal folks can do.

    4) I’d probably make the playbooks about story theme rather than based on powers.  Like, “Dark Avenger,” “Irreverent Antihero,” “God Among Mortals,” “Reluctant Hero,” etc.

    Have the playbook include a quick set of background choices for a move or two, plus an Alignment-like Drive, and some bonds.  

    Each playbook would also get a set of power slots, with stats (e.g. +2, +1, +1, +0, -1) and maybe a few suggested powers.  You’d only assign one or two  before play started.  

    The others would get filled in during play.

  13. Timothy Bennett This is just for home use.  I need something for a D&D game that keeps filling up.  The overflow players would create superheroes, I’d run a very episodic session, and that would be the night.  For a one-shot we don’t need in-depth character creation. 

    Also, I’m poor so I have to work with what I can find.  shrug.

  14. Ah, I wish that I could get an Aberant variant using Dungeon World, or perhaps I should go Apocalypse World.  I only have DW.  A good Supers-Hack would be great

  15. Jim Stoner Ah!  That makes more sense.  I knew he was suggesting something like that but I couldn’t quite grasp the exact way you’d do it.  I like that approach of one move a little better.  I just need to tweak how ice control would be different from gravity control from plant control from illusions.  Giving all of each archetype access to the same moves leaves the powers system too generic, imo.  I think though, you might be envisioning a small list for each of the five starter powers that makes each one feel unique.  In other words, gravity would have a list of different hold options than ice or fire control.  Something like that is do-able.  I’ll have to let that simmer.

  16. Jeremy Strandberg That’s a pretty cool way to do it.  Write that shit up and share it!  I’d be interested in seeing some sample characters and sample basic and class moves.  Vastly different paradigm than what I’m working on, but it might be the ticket.  I may want to solidify what powers can do slightly more, but the basic physical, social, mental divide is a great way to approach it.  I may have more to say about your post later.  I need to think about it for a while.

  17. Matrix Forby I looked at Aberrant as one possibility for this quick supers game.  Character creation took too long and involved too many choices, but other than that, the storyteller system hits my GMing sweet spot between chewy and crunchy mechanics.  There are 4-5 other AW versions of supers that you should check out and see if you can adapt it to your needs with an Aberrant setting.  I’m anxious to see how Masks approaches things like powers.

  18. Jason Brannen :shrug: the Worlds in Peril PDF is $9.07 at drivethrurpg. Getting a copy of the Masks Beta PDF is a bit more problematic since that was made available to the Kickstarter backers and they haven’t published yet. Masks, is a supers RPG that is inspired by something like Young Justice, so there’s teen angst elements to it — somewhat like Monsterhearts.

    I’ve yet to see a PbtA game that has in-depth character creation.

  19. Timothy Bennett Spanish version is $9.07.  English, though is not much more expensive at $14.99.  $15 to take a look at something I might never play.  :shrug:  I’d rather eat a little better.  

  20. Scott Selvidge I had trouble with controller moves.  I’ll try and see if I can find it.  Hopefully, it will enhance the moves I came up with.  I’m not very happy with them. 

  21. Jim Stoner​​​​​, bingo! That’s what I was hinting at. Thank you for reiterating it more clearly than I.

    Jason Brannen​​​​​, keep it simple, what ever you do. My approach is simply to tidy things up and organize. The “Hold Generating Move”, as I’ll refer to it from now on, can be alerted to fit each class, or can be a generic move that everyone has access to in order to save space on your class sheets.

    Think Volly, or Hack and Slash but with a more Defend feel

  22. Jason Brannen, I think you’d do yourself a service to somehow get your hands on the Masks Beta Moves document. I just saw it for the first time this morning, as I was able to play a session of Masks for the first time. The Basic moves are Unleash Your Powers, Directly Engage, Defend, Take a Powerful Blow, Assess the Situation, Provoke Someone, Comfort or Support, and Pierce the Mask. It has a Conditions mechanic similar to Monsterhearts in which the heroes can get conditions that affect the fiction (Angry, Afraid, etc), and there’s a neat pool of Team hold whenever the heroes do something as a team. Depending on various factors that hold can anywhere from 2 to 4, and can be spent to add a +1 to a roll, and other things. The characters stats (which are modifiers like most PbtA games) are fluid instead of static, which reflect that heroes can change focus by swapping two stats. Getting your hands on the beta docs might be challenging, but IMO worth your effort.

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