Scaling Characters

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Talison
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Scaling Characters

Postby Talison » Tue Apr 22, 2014 12:29 pm

I apologize if this gets long winded or rambling. It's certainly probably over thinking things. Still...

For anyone who makes their own settings with their own cast of characters, how do you scale your characters? Do you worry more about game balance or story balance?

I like using the published characters for a guideline, but the DC characters seem to be on a much higher scale than the Green Ronin original characters.

Take Princess. Princess is a super strong and tough character in Emerald City, but is also built as a balanced starting character. Then take Wonder Girl from DCA. The characters serve similar roles in their settings. But Wonder Girl (who is relatively inexperienced) is PL 12 vs Princess' PL 10 and has a 14 strength vs Princess' 12. Plus she has lifting strength. Was this just a matter of DC saying their characters were X strong and the designers had to meet those expectations?

On the other hand, Green Ronin characters tend who are super tough tend to have a Stamina equal to their Strength. Princess has a 12 in both. WG has a 10 Stamina. They both have a Toughness 12, though WG needs 2 ranks of defensive role to match Princess.

And for the record WG has a 4 higher Will than Princess.

Now, I know only comparing 2 characters doesn't nessisarily prove anything. But I find this is a trend across the board. Certainly a villain like Dakuwanga is a force to be reckoned with against the Sentinals or even the Freedom League, but Superboy could handle him pretty evenly and Captain Marvel could totally overwhelm him. DC's mid-level Supers tend to be equal to Freedom Cities top heroes and Superman and his like totally dominate top Freedom Leaguers.

There are many great Marvel write ups out there that use the DC write ups as a base. They place the Marvel characters in a scale compared to their DC counterparts. Often times this goes against Marvel's own in house scale (which is often dubious) and totally shatters Marvel's famed 100 ton categorization. To make Thor go toe to toe with Superman we need Thor to be much stronger than Marvel SAYS he is, although maybe not stronger than Marvel SHOWS him to be.

Where is this all leading? My original settings and characters. Many are parody's homages, and ersats of existing characters. My main character is a Supergirl/Mary Marvel type. If I were to stat her based on Supergirl she would be PL12 with a 15 Strength but less Stamina than Princess. If I used Mary Marvel as a base she's even more powerful. But she is a very inexperienced hero, and would you let your players start their character at PL12 and be that powerful?

One of my heroes is a teenaged She-Hulk type. She is meant to be as strong if not stronger than my Superman type. If I base my Superman on Superman, that gives this young girl a Strength between 17-20, roughly.

None of this is to even mention the fact that many of the DC builds (and Marvel builds based on them) have levels of strength, toughness, and speed that are frankly ridiculous and make them awfully hard to challenge. But then Superman has the ridiculously low Intelligence score of 2.

So, how would YOU handle it? I'm not asking for rules judgements and I know almost everything I asked is subjective, I'm just wondering what other's design philosophy is when it comes to making characters to populate their own settings.

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Re: Scaling Characters

Postby Monolith » Tue Apr 22, 2014 12:48 pm

Power level really has nothing to do with how experienced someone is. Superman was probably a pl 12 at the age of 13 with no experience and not even fully matured while Batman is pl 12 in his prime. In the comics not all characters are equal. Their pl is based on how powerful they are compared to each other rather then maturity or experience.

The game assumes everyone is equal pl because that's the easiest type of game to run. One pl 10 is roughly equal to another pl 10. It's a lot harder on the gm to run a mixed pl game. You'll need to decide what type of game you want to run. Either everyone starts the same or you mix and match pls. Once you decide that then you'll know how to handle making your Mary Marvel clone pl 12 over someone else's pl 10.

If you do run a mixed pl game make certain your players are ok with it. Players tend to be competitive and having someone at pl 12 while others are in the 9-10 range can cause some problems; because a pl 12 can dominate pl 10 combats quite easily.

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Talison
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Re: Scaling Characters

Postby Talison » Tue Apr 22, 2014 1:06 pm

Good advise, although I'm more concerned with stating my supporting cast and populating the world than I am the PCs.

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Re: Scaling Characters

Postby Monolith » Tue Apr 22, 2014 3:42 pm

Well, there's almost nothing I hate more in the whole world then coming into a game and finding out I'm a mosquito among giants in the superhero scene. That's part of the reason why Emerald City was made sans major heroes. So from my standpoint where you stat the supporting npcs is going to depend on where you stat the pcs. If your pcs are in the 10-12 range then I think you should look at stating most of your npcs in the same range. That way you don't have issues with player envy or them feeling inferior.

So your Mary Marvel clone might only have a 13 strength and then a ton of power lifting if you want her to be abnormally strong. I prefer the npcs to be roughly equal, but being broader or having more unique power builds.

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Re: Scaling Characters

Postby JDRook » Tue Apr 22, 2014 8:18 pm

I believe one major difference between Freedom City setting and characters vs the DCU is the former is specifically designed with "room to grow" while the latter already has literally decades of stories defining it. Princess may be similar to Wonder Girl, but she's pretty much a blank slate for a player to pick up and run with, creating their own adventures and developing her history as they play. On the other hand, you actually can't say Wonder Girl without clarifying which one, and they are all based on Wonder Woman to some degree, who has over a half-century of stories about her, so Wonder Girl is based more on her legacy than on a particular "setting". Because of this, I wouldn't recommend using DC as a template for your homebrew setting because it leaves less room for growth and development. I'd say ratchet everything back a few power levels and let your vision bump it up when necessary.

As for how you want to set up your world, I think the handbooks actually give a decent breakdown: up to PL6 is good for highly skilled normals and "mystery men" types for more street-level stories, around PL8 is good for beginning supers and minor powers or phenomenally skilled PCs, PL10 is a good mid-range of new-yet-powerful or super-skilled, PL12 can be entering into world-threatening JLA-type adventures, and PL14+ would get up into galactic or cosmic threats.

If you want to have a wide range of NPC power levels, that's fine, but I would recommend that the more powerful the other "good guys" are, the further away they are, narratively if not geographically. If there's a JLA-analogue in your world and they are more powerful than your PCs, make sure they are constantly occupied elsewhere with various threats and problems. They can be a source of inspiration and occasional advice for your PCs, but they shouldn't be around to solve problems that the PCs can handle. Actually, this should be true for any of your NPCs as well; they should be able to perform well in their "niche" setting without too much overlap from others (unless that overlap is actually a story focus, like rival groups fighting over territory or other resources).
Sorry, I can't hear your argument for realism over the sound of my eye beams. :P

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