Knowing your Unnhh from your Arrghh

I do like it when creative comics talk and role-playing design talk can use the same words. Let’s narrow it down to one of my three current supers design projects, Champions Now, and talk about the fights. There are three interrelated points: what happens and knowing why; the damage, pain, hurtin’, including the two famous gutturals in the post title; and why the characters are even there and fighting at all.

I certainly have changed-up my views on comic book superhero fighting over the years, several times. During my big return to reading them in the mid-80s, and resulting return to role-playing as well, I’d probably have conformed to John Byrne’s criticism of Chris Claremont (as quoted in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story):

“Chris’ idea of a perfect issue of The X-Men,” Byrne once said, “would be 22 pages of them walking around in the Village or at Scott’s apartment or something like that, where they sit around, out of costume, in jeans and t-shirts, and just talk.” Claremont, for his part, said that all he cared about was the emotional relationships. “To me,” he told an interviewer, “the fights are bullshit.” [quotes are dated 1980 and 1979, respectively]

Now, I love them. One of the derisive Comics Journal expy characters in Box Office Poison proudly describes completing the “next volume” of his book(s) on superhero fights, and I experienced a fine example of misplaced fandom in kind of wanting to see such a thing.

A bit part of the enjoyment comes from the action being spatial and causal. Here’s Miller in 1982, in which he was inspired by careful study of Gil Kane:

Not all the panels have backgrounds, and not all the backgrounds are complete and complex. However, with 35 panels in four pages (!), you only need a threshold number for the immediate location to seem “mapped,” and for the panels that don’t, the body movements are easily tracked from the previous panel. So it’s absolutely clear where every action happens, and how the opponents get from one place to another. Also, crucially, each character’s actions include in-the-moment decisions.

Compare that with Miller also in 1982, in one of the worst technical works of his career:

Don’t get me wrong, I generally like chambara, but not this one. There’s no terrain at all, so it will only make sense if all the bodies’ placement and movements make sense among one another. However, the characters’ positions have almost no relation to where they were in the previous panel, as the opponents appear out of nowhere and disappear once they’re hit. It’s so non-causal  that many of the panels could be rearranged. Maybe they were – how else to figure why Wolverine inexplicably lies down again in the transition from page to page.

When I point out that the opponents charge at him chest-first, closing to his range despite their longer weapons, I’m not snarking, but instead, saying that this highlights that they have no relationship to him, no reason for fighting anyone can care about or understand. Such a thing in the Bullseye fight would instantly invalidate it as a reading experience.

It doesn’t matter that it’s a mook fight. Check out the sequence in The Authority where Apollo fights the Brit-Empire Dimension guys on horseback – that’s a mook fight too, but you know what the mooks want, and you can understand exactly where everyone is, what they do, and why. Plus the impact and effects of a one-man fight against charging horses are fully in play, no matter how strong he is; he doesn’t just knock’em down, he has to use his powers in order to win.

Back to the 80s, here’s a page I’ve referenced before (see the Dynamic mechanics link below), which you might call a cheat but wins on the virtue of actually working.

Where the characters are, and what they can and cannot do, isn’t set up visually but is instead established retroactively into the gutters by what they just did, e.g., Colossus grabbing a girder, Nightcrawler’s first teleport to the bystanders. It feels like the whole thing is backgrounded even when it’s not. (It’s a toss-up whether John Romita Jr. was working this angle carefully or Claremont saved the sequence via scripting onto it, but I’m not inclined to be critical; it was a pleasure to watch this artist develop through this period.)

Then there’s the outright violent trauma – it’s all for nothing without pain, stress, and defeat. A hero’s gotta get hit, gotta get hurt, gotta struggle through. See it there on Romita Sr.’s Kingpin page.

Even with… my Spidey-strength… I can’t… take much more… of this!! Have to do something… anything… fast!!

How characters take their lumps, how bad it is, and what they must or can’t do because of it, all arrive and flow with dizzying speed from panel to panel, aided by the famous stretchy-time of the medium (the third panel on that page is an eyeblink, dialogue notwithstanding, whereas the fourth represents a considerable amount, with the Kingpin standing up and Spider-Man wearing out). With a nod back to recently curb-stomping Man Mountain Marko, Spidey underestimates the Kingpin’s capacity for punishment, speed, and strength, and pays for it with a serious risk, possibly with losing the whole fight.

This is a core feature of Spider-Man during the Lee years, regardless of artist, that at any single panel, you know exactly how much Peter is ahead or behind in the conflict, and how momentarily rocked, genuinely shaken, or close to defeat he might be. Each combatant is trying to set up and deliver a closing hit, every single time. In the Bullseye and Kingpin fights, you can tell that the outcome might very well have gone differently – there is no “who can beat whom” among primary opponents; everyone can potentially beat everyone else, given the better position and some luck.

It’s right in there with boxing as drama, pro wrestling as opera, and the duel as moment-of-truth: the mix of staged fighting for which genuine tissue trauma is not really going to happen, but it is invoked as experience and for this encounter’s immediate consequence. The pain isn’t just selling it, it has to be real, as an event in the fiction.

Now I can explain the standard vocal code, such that unnhh! means you’ve been clipped, you felt it, it matters, but arrghh! means it really hurt, you’ve lost some options, and you’re at a disadvantage. Somebody else will have to do the donkey-work of parsing whether and when the former gets a “g” and whether and when the latter loses its “g,” and until they show it merely reflected whether the letterer had his coffee yet, I cling to my naive young reader’s perception that those actually mattered for content too.

[Quick detour: contrast this precise feature with how action movies lost their protagonists’ trauma right about 1984, usually via sequels (e.g. the plot/characterization role of injuries to the protagonists in Die Hard and First Blood vs. their purely cosmetic role each one’s chain of sequels). Not long afterwards, American film borrowed immensely from Hong Kong 80s cinema except for this exact feature, the genuine injury to the protagonist, retaining instead the no-sell as an indicator of toughness, and making early hits irrelevant to outcomes. Another detour: contrast what I’m describing in Spider-Man, very human wincing injury, with the mortification of the flesh as exalted drama, e.g. Miller’s Daredevil and Windsor-Smith’s Wolverine, and the slippery slope from there into gorn.]

The danger also ties into what the fight is about, i.e., the characters’ priorities. Let’s set aside those filler fights, a side-effect of serial fiction scheduling, which we don’t have to worry about for role-playing. Instead, consider the genuine motivation to stop or to hurt someone, as well as things you want to do that the fight is interrupting or preventing. The best arrives when all these concepts interact: the locations & movement, super-physics, and the danger & goals inherent in a fight.

OK, switching focus to role-playing, specifically the raft of 80s games I wrote about extensively last year: Villains & Vigilantes, Champions, Marvel Super Heroes, DC Heroes, and GURPS: Supers. All of them break ground in the hobby’s design space regarding stunning, getting rattled, being halfway to, or more likely to lose. They also stumble around on that newly-broken ground, due to juggling three layers of immediate outcomes: getting momentarily stunned, getting knocked out by the numbers, getting tired, and getting life-threatening-type injured. It’s very difficult to derive a linear, causal system for generating both injury/impact that’s consequential in the moment and the kind of toughing it out or making it count that wins fights in a dramatically satisfying way.

You see, standard fiction-creation cheats. Fights are built backwards from their outcomes, not forwards through their events. An early hit is shoehorned into the chronology of the fight to set up the hero’s eventual loss, or to provide a context for him or her to struggle out from under. It’s always “sold” as an indicator of the opponent’s surprising degree of threat, villainous cunning, or bad luck, never as the hero simply getting beaten – in other words, this isn’t any kind of “can the Kingpin beat Spider-Man in a fair fight” question, any more than “can Roddy Piper beat Moon Dog Mayne” ever was. Instead, it’s “oh no, bad deeds or bad lucks have brought our hero low, will he come to grief or manage to soldier on,” with either outcome situated for maximum nail-biting in the larger arc this fight is part of.

Whereas role-playing – here considered as its own medium for creating fiction, not as a peculiarly-quantitative and labor-intensive fanfic processor – uses location, causality, damage, et cetera, as material, and uses in-fiction time in a slightly more constrained linear fashion, if not absolutely so. Without reviewing the extremely wide range of how it’s been done, and deliberately setting aside the “oh just resolve the basics and talk out the rest” option, which has always been an alternative, let’s stay with the Champions context of moment to moment actions, decisions, and immediate outcomes. I’ll focus mostly on the damage issue here, specifically the common kind, called Stun, and on the character scores that involve withstanding it or being reduced by it.

The functional design concept I’m aiming at is the immediate consequences of being hit, in terms of exactly what can happen next. So that even early in the fight, it can “go against you” pretty badly, and the next general concern is who that’s happened to across everyone involved. Then, there arrives the question of whether this downturn was fatal (in terms of defeat) or if you can get out from under and still prevail.

How does that fit into the larger character picture? There are three significant sets of mechanics for Champions characters, forming the chassis upon which all the powers and their details reside.

  • One of them is based on Dexterity and its derived value Speed, governing the number of actions relative to everyone else, the ordering of actions when characters’ “places” in the order coincide, and the probable chance of success of physical attacks and the physical skills like Acrobatics. It’s the simplest of the three sets, and is the least dynamic (changeable) during play.
  • Another is based on Ego, Intelligence, and Presence – the first two govern the attacks and extent of all the mental powers, as well as a variety of perception-and-realization events; the third governs emotional communication and impact. This set is a little more complex because these different aspects of a situation layer onto each other in play, but mechanically, it’s not hard, because all three are base characteristics, i.e., bought directly, with few derived values.
  • The third set is based on Constitution, Strength, and Body, which is the topic of concern right now, and I advise mixing a drink and then returning, because it’s a beast.

Here’s the math: you buy up Strength, Constitution, and Body as base characteristics (usually leaving the third at 10 for zero points), and from there, you derive a multitude of sins:

  • Strength sets the damage of raw physical attacks (1d6 per 5 points of Strength) and obviously, the approximate amounts for lifting, throwing, and similar mayhem
  • Physical Defense (Strength/5) and Energy Defense (Constitution/5), used as “soak” defense vs. their respective attack types
  • Endurance (Constitution x 2), used up by actions; at 0, you have to start dipping into Stun to get things done
  • Stun (Strength/2 + Constitution/2 + Body), knocked down by damage, resulting in unconsciouness at 0 (this is the unnghh!! note the “g” and multiple exclamation marks)
  • Recovery (Strength/5 + Constitution/5), the amount of Stun and Endurance regained at the end of each twelve-segment round, as well as during a voluntary recovery action.
  • Finally, Body and Constitution are also used directly, the first as the classic hit points concerning genuinely lethal injuries (this is the arrghh!), and the second as the threshold for momentary stunning, when you take damage (this is the minimal unnhh!).

I put Constitution in bold because it’s obviously the most applied value throughout. This is even more the case in the current Champions Now design in progress, as I’ve junked the distinction between Physical and Energy Defense and based that value, now just “Defense,” on Constitution alone.

My trouble is threefold: I want to preserve most of these functions separately in play, I want to recast their derivation into a more elegant and usable form, and I want to preserve their role in a relatively fine-grained point-spending structure for a character as a whole. The original rules have the virtue of genuine function built from extensive play, but all the downsides of jury-rigged and humpbacked design including a couple of hidden flaws. Rather than junking it all and designing a completely different game, I am more or less in the position of looking at a British M1 rifle sometime around 1940, wanting to invent a Kalashnikov, and future-knowing that other attempts ended with an M-16 instead.

The interesting thing? Constitution itself as a value isn’t all that important. I could use Body instead as the basis for the majority of those functions, with Defense pulled away from the characteristics entirely. It’s my first major step toward more elegant design and more explicit, available form for the desired functions. I need to keep playtesting the current version first, which is only one light design step away from the original, but when that proceeds further, this is the route I’ll be taking. The goal being to bring the hurt into the moments of play, so that being momentarily stunned matters right then, and so that a genuine no-sell like the Kingpin shows us in panel 3 is a rare and frightening event.

Links: Discuss: Phenomenology, Dynamic mechanics

Next: Vigil, no joke

About Ron Edwards

Game author, publisher, consultant, teacher

Posted on July 3, 2018, in Supers role-playing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. I know from one of the earlier YouTube posts, you want End to be meaningful again in Champs Now. BUT, looking at the current rules doc…it’s DOMINANT.

    You’re using the expensive End costs of 1 per 5. Then you’re forcing an all or nothing Reduced Endurance. Come on, even a modest 9d6 is burning *9*? And you have to blow 45 points to drop that to 0? It’s excessive and it’s completely lacking in granularity.

    Last but not least, you say No Buying Up End, Stun, or Rec.

    If you want to keep 1 End per 5, then something like
    1/2 End: + 1/2
    1/4 End: +3/4
    0 End: +1

    That’s leaving the notion of a high baseline amount needed.

    If you go to 1 End per 10 points, then
    1/2 End: +1
    0 End: +1 1/2

    It’s not likely that the 1/4 End is that useful when you’re at 1 End per 10, and I am not super crazy about compelling Persistent to be insanely expensive.


    • When you say it’s excesssive, and use phrases like “come on,” I have one very polite response: how did it go in play for you? That’s what I need to know.

      Without that, anyone can say anything. You’ll say X is excessive, and that guy over there will say it’s not enough, and “come on” as well, and then multiply that contrast by 718 more backers.

      This is game design, not thought-experiment debate – it needs play that knows that the rule is probably going to grind gears.

      The trick is knowing that you can’t predict how. Something that seems awful and terrible and no-good may be surprisingly successful. Something else that was perfectly understandable on paper, or was in the original, may be evidently borked when you see it in action. You cannot tell which is which without trying it in good faith, and that good faith includes coping with whatever grinding happens at the table, without frustration.

      I’ll let you know what I’m thinking. Endurance is dominant,and it will stay dominant, especially relative to Stun. What you’re looking at takes that idea all the way to 11, like, crazy 11, no granularity – on purpose. Because when we try that in play, then it can be dialed back in small increments to find the exact right spot for making it dominant but not onerous. That’s what I need you for. There is no other way.

      One other point as we go: there isn’t going to be any half or quarter based accounting for anything but the Advantage/Limitation calculation, so whatever finer grains get identified, they’ll use some other method.

      Last point: I trust you on this. You’ve backed, you’ve downloaded the thing (which I confess will be replaced again, but only one more time!!), you’re thinking about it, and you commented here. That is, by rough estimate, 500x more committed and deserving of my positive attention than, well, anyone else in the world, about this project. What you, exactly you, find in play matters very greatly.


      • Actually……

        I realized we’re saying the same thing. Your approach says people have to buy No END on a portion of their powers/characteristics. Maybe it’s just me but that’s less intuitive…and a LOT messier in a spreadsheet for trying to help out with the math. I pretty much have to build it in a tiered manner. Say I want a 5d6 AP at “1/2 END”. I pretty much have to buy it as, let’s say, 3d6 AP 0 END for 45, 2d6 AP for 20. Net, 65.

        So maybe it’s just usability, and I’ll grant I didn’t spend a *lot* of time playing with this…but that matters, IMO.


  2. Secondary costing point. AP is given as +1, whereas the counter, Hardened, is +1/4. Yeah, I know the idea on AP, to replace Killing dice…we discussed that at some length…but Hardened is too cheap for the AP cost, especially given that Def is *cheap* compared to an attack.


    • I agree! I don’t like that either, especially since I’ve been trying it in play and my poor lethal-scary martial arts villain has been a distinct whiff of useless. I’ve reworked everything about killing and resistant defense and attack-dice since then and you’ll see it soon.


      • OK. I’ll wait til those to say much. Just a quick observation…AP is also increasing the END cost, thus likely compelling some level of reduced/no END to be applied. Hardened becomes even cheaper.


      • Ron, ask Steve Long sometime how the SETAC discussion around killing attacks went. There’s still a couple of us who twitch uncontrollably when the subject comes up.

        We went through a lot of suggestions, some reasonable, some outlandish (including getting rid of the power entirely), almost none of which even passed the sniff test. What we ended up with for sixth edition was effectively two minor tweaks. That power was a bear to try to fix.


      • Yeah…the new interpretation with expensive Resistant, and Piercing…structurally I think it works well. Piercing is a bit more expensive than resistant defenses, in that you’ll generally have to buy some endurance reduction, but that’s fine with me. The objective is threaten/hurt, not obliterate.

        May waste a few days actually working on a Java app to automate this. These rules are actually simple enough to make that feasible, at least in a bare-bones format. (For personal use, I’m gonna code in my Reduced End stuff, as it costs the same.)

        Liked by 2 people

        • I’d love to see that app, although the Hero Games guys and I are skeptical that such a thing can apply to this work. I wouldn’t mind being surprised to find otherwise.

          I’ve worked up a video about the various costs and concepts with the killing stuff; look for it here soon.


  3. From running through the rules on AdeptPlay…

    Reactive apparently adds to END cost. Should it? Doesn’t seem so, based on the other advantages.

    Same for Strike, altho I can see this adding to the END cost.

    Lethal and Ego-Based don’t increase END. So

    4d6 Blast, Ego Based, Lethal…50 Active cost, doing an average of 8 Body and 14 Stun, targeting what’s very likely the weaker defenses of ECV and EGO DEF. And for 4 END.

    Compare this to 5d6 Blast, Piercing. Average 10 Body, 18 Stun, but against DCV and resistant Def. And this costs 10 END.

    Another that’s almost as bad is NND at +1. With Lethal, I can get 6 Body against anyone who doesn’t have the defense, for 45 Active, while only burning 3 END.


    • Hi Craig, check the way you’re reading the dice. The old Killing Attack method isn’t used. You count Body the way you always do. So getting 1d6 effect using Piercing is just 0, 1, or 2 Body. 4d6 would do 0 to 8 body with a very steep bell topped at 4.

      Therefore the Endurance cost for the kinds of Body-obliterating Killing Attacks of the earlier rules is comparable.

      Yes, Reactive shouldn’t add to Endurance cost, and Strike does.

      Again, I really need you to try this in play rather than “just know it” from reading. It is very hard to convince role-players of this, but please, get together with friends, make some characters the way I’ve explained to do it, and play. Thought-experiments focused on abstract/engineering fighting won’t help.


      • I’m just trying to understand the rules right now. Not talking about play, purely mechanical points.

        Lethal ½
        Include Body damage as indicated by the effect roll
        • For attacks that do no Body damage (Entangle,
        Ego-Based Blast, Telepathy, Mind Control,
        Flash, Siphon)
        • Body is multiplied relative to the power’s dice
        per 5 points
        • Reduced by defense vs. the attack
        • Does not affect Endurance Cost

        Body is multipled…so, I read this as

        a) roll dice…call it 3,4,4,5 for my 4d6. That would be 4 Body, 16 stun.
        b) This is Ego-Based Blast, so it’s 10 points per die. Ergo, double the Body to 8.

        OR, is the intent to say this applies to the basic power…so Flash, Drain, and Entangle would be double body, and Transfer triple body?


  4. Brian Stanfield

    I’ve got a practical question here about running a one-shot for people who are absolutely ignorant of Champions. If given a 4 hour session, it seems that the character generation has to be left out (I loved your video with Chris, but it took an hour to create a character with a knowledgeable person). With that as a given (or is it?), it also leaves out the shared-world aspect that seems to be so important for Champions Now.

    What do you recommend for doing a few one-shots for play testing before I can find a group who is committed to continued play?


    • H’m … context matters a little bit here. If you’re talking about a dedicated never-again situation, like a convention sign-up, then I would not recommend doing that at all until you were very practiced at the game in ordinary play. You would then be able to choose what to emphasize in pre-generated characters and concepts, and what to leave up to them for quick customizing, for a short experience like that.

      If it’s a matter of not being able to convince some acquaintances to throw in for the long haul, but they’d be willing to “try it” “just once,” then I suggest organizing that, then being very efficient about managing the get-together*, and then (sneaky me) simply being willing to keep going if they are. If even two are, you might be surprised that you have a long-term group after all.

      * we can talk more about this

      Liked by 1 person

      • Brian Stanfield

        Oh yeah . . . context. I’ve got experience playing 1-3 editions, but back in the ’80s. I’m pretty solid on the 6e rules now, but haven’t gone back to play the older rules. So I guess that makes me pretty rusty and, as you say, not a good candidate for a couple of local convention one-shots. I like the idea of quick customizing that you suggest, especially if it’s just a quick and dirty basic build so people can get a feel for the game as it is played. I guess my real question here is *how much* customization? It’s easy to revert to the archetypes (brick, speedster, etc.) as crutches in a situation like this.

        I’m curious about “managing the get-together” . . . . What do you have in mind here?


        • I totally want to follow up on (relatively) efficient start-up for play! I’ll respond again to your recent email to address this specifically; it seems like a good candidate for a recorded dialogue if that’s OK with you.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Brian Stanfield

          I’ll look forward to hearing what you have in mind.


      • Brian Stanfield

        A little more context: I’m trying to get some people to try Champions out so I can (selfishly?) get back into gaming in something other than D&D. I tried to get a buddy to try Fantasy Hero and he melted down when he tried to read the rules. It’s telling that once I shifted gears and used Justice, Inc. instead as an introduction (no powers or anything to make his head spin), he latched right on. I tried to get him to jump in and build a story with me (not knowing anything about your work yet), but I didn’t have the skills yet to pull it off and he wasn’t comfortable going into what felt like free-fall (to him).

        Having been out of gaming for a loooong time, and only recently playing D&D 5e, I wasn’t getting what I wanted: a good story and good interactions. I’m only now familiar with some of what you’ve done, but again I haven’t had the opportunity to play any of your games. Champions Now looks like what I’ve been craving, and it’s also something I have some past experience in, so it seems like a natural fit to both get me back in the swing of things, get some new players interested, and also game in a way that is different than what I’ve done before.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I believe what the rules mean is “Body is multiplied relative to the power’s dice
    per 5 points *before any modifiers are applied.*”

    Blast has a Base Cost per 1d6 of 5, so the multiple is 1x.
    Entangle has a Base Cost per 1d6 of 10, so the multiple is 2x.
    Siphon/Transfer has a BC per 1d6 of 15, so the multiple is 3x.


  6. On the app, I don’t yet see why not. So far I have all the advantages and limitations in as separate, ungrouped options…there isn’t the kind of switching where taking A has to turn B off if it was selected before (like NND resistant vs. NND special)…but that could be done. I have most of the powers in…Life Support and Enhanced Senses aren’t in because they’re somewhat tricky. And I need to work out how to do the very few add-ons that exist. Only Concealment, Flash, and Teleport have add-ons.

    Oh, and for right now, I’m doing reduced End on full powers…1/2 END for +1/2, 1/4 END for +3/4, and 0 END for +1. This works out as buying the power with No END on half the power, or 3/4 of the power, or all of it, but it doesn’t require multi-line bookkeeping.

    That’s “simple” powers. Next up will be “compound” powers, which includes both the Blast + Flash, classic blend of effects, and probably senses and life support. Plus, this does allow the +1 No Endurance but only taken on part of the power.

    But a lotta the stuff has been fairly straightforward. Powers have 1 of 3 Endurance options…No End, based on amount purchased (movement powers), or based on active points. Advantages have 4 flavors…increases End cost, doesn’t increase End cost, Per Shot (for autofire, allowing reporting the total End cost of a burst), and Limit…so the same logical structures apply to advantages and limitations. I track total active cost, active cost for endurance purposes, and real cost.

    Mind…at this point I’m shooting for functional. I use Java ENUMs for a lotta stuff and the names for powers/advantages may not be pretty. Like, NND_RESIST and NND_SPECIAL. There’s no pretty text. It can be added easily enough…I just realized a fairly minor structural change that’d make it fairly easy.

    Characteristics is easy, BUT…. 🙂 The End-costing ones will need some thought. And it’s a boatload of individual handlers when ya get to an input GUI.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I took the July character creation rules for a test drive and created a 240 pt hero inspired by Thunder from the original Enemies book. I think I did a pretty good job of hitting the three corners.

    I did push the grey edges with a couple of powers buying characteristics with limitations: one that provides extra Presence (thunderous aura) conditionally, and one that acts as a power-up when she can suck up some electricity. Is that kosher with the current rules? Ive posted the sheet to google drive


    • Wow. Yes, this! I think it makes even more sense if I paste the two opening statements ahead of the character, focusing on, let’s see …

      Powers are shocking, overwhelming, emotional, and intense
      Ties of love, marriage, fidelity, and separation, that will not untie

      Now, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the way those statements went. The second, for example, might also work well as “redemption and sacrifice,” or “legal soap opera,” with the relationship stuff being specific to this character. But I hope you see that it’s important for every character to fit, given those statements, which necessarily means they’ll fit with each other somehow, without forcing just how.

      The reason the statements matter so much is that they help “place” such relationship drama for people – is it a joke, ha ha, they’re bickering like they’re still married, so funny, or is it a grim tragic must-redeem-him thing, is he an asshole or does he actually have a point, is it relatively personal and even a bit empathetic rather than gaudy (except for the powers), et cetera. Yes, these distinctions develop primarily through play, but it’s really painful to see them get off on the wrong foot and ruin the entire experience for the player. The statements go a long way to keep that from happening.

      I’d like to see you revisit your character Blackout, especially since class and ethnic issues are point-free(i.e., not in Disadvantages). I think you’ll see those issues are stronger this way, rather than socked into a neat single Disadvantage by itself.

      I’m OK with the extra characteristics bought as you did! It seems crazy, right …? Well, maybe not. I’ve seen this design really blossom in play.

      As for the electrical charge-up, it’s not bad – especially since, as a Limitation, it’s guaranteed to matter in play rather than being a when-we-feel-like-it special effect. It’s fun to imagine her diving down to rip up a car and use the cables to “jump” herself, for instance. Even more important, It’s more thematic and relevant to her, specifically, than some arbitrary thing like those from-left-field “intense magnetic fields” they seemed obsessed with in 3rd edition.


  8. Aha! Your comments about how two statements might related to my Thunder design really brings the purpose of the two statements into focus for me. As you say, you’re putting out suggestions that players aacan project personally engaging images into. They set the boundaries of the conceptual sandbox in which the players can kick around character ideas. I’m excited to try this out.


  9. BTW, I think your referring to Blackout, from JohnPowell6’s post at


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