Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse characters

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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Black Mamba » Thu Mar 21, 2013 1:20 pm

Foreshadow wrote:Making the characters does involve a set of choices. If you make Superman, and most of the PL 15 characters into something like a PL 17 (or perhaps 16 for some of them) then you end up with other choices. Superman at PL 17 can have a 23 Strength, no need for powerlifting and he has the same +11 attack. So if you want to raise his attack 4 points, and leave it at 19 strength, you can do that. Using PL 15 limits the build more than opening it up.

What is a PL 17 Superman supposed to fight? DCA is, IMHO, already somewhat broken as most villains are barely equal, and quite often lower, PL than the heroes they hunt. What are the challenges for a PL 17 Superman? And how are you going to balance a PL 17 Superman in the same group of players which include a PL 12 Batman, PL 10 Green Arrow, PL 10 Black Canary, PL 12 Aquaman, and so on?

It is easy to sit around and want to make your dream-come-true build - we have all been there and done that. It is another thing entirely to have to use said build in an actual mixed PL game. In the comics Superman can be a god, far above his other heroes. In a role-playing game, not so much. DCA is not about being a perfect comic book emulator. It is about being a game you can actually play - the builds need to be playable with each other. If they are not then DCA has failed as a game.

For example, Batman is hand waved into just having 4 ranks of Defensive Roll, no custom protection even though clearly even in Brave and the Bold series where is a clearly a more iconic type batman, he does in fact gain protection from the costume, especially the cape.

While that is the more common modern concept for 60, or so, years, Batman did not wear an armored costume. This all comes down to what you really are calling Iconic - and what source material you are referencing while doing so. :)

In the grand scheme of things I do not not really care if Batman buys extra Protection called Combat Durability or buys some Protection and calls it Costume, or simply buys Defensive Roll, because no matter what the build is I am going to end up changing it to fit my vision of the character, anyway. :)

And that is the thing with these characters: we all remember them differently and all remember them from different eras. When you say the word Batman or Superman we all conjure issues and episodes from entirely different points in the characters' 8 decade history. There is no way to reconcile that.

As I have said elsewhere, I personally wish that Green Ronin had gotten the Animated Universe license. Then we could have seen a JL/JLU sourcebook where all the characters are relatively consistent within that limited continuity. Then they could have done the same thing with a Young Justice sourcebook, and so on.
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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Earth-Two_Kenn » Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:33 pm

Black Mamba wrote:
Foreshadow wrote:Making the characters does involve a set of choices. If you make Superman, and most of the PL 15 characters into something like a PL 17 (or perhaps 16 for some of them) then you end up with other choices. Superman at PL 17 can have a 23 Strength, no need for powerlifting and he has the same +11 attack. So if you want to raise his attack 4 points, and leave it at 19 strength, you can do that. Using PL 15 limits the build more than opening it up.

What is a PL 17 Superman supposed to fight? DCA is, IMHO, already somewhat broken as most villains are barely equal, and quite often lower, PL than the heroes they hunt. What are the challenges for a PL 17 Superman? And how are you going to balance a PL 17 Superman in the same group of players which include a PL 12 Batman, PL 10 Green Arrow, PL 10 Black Canary, PL 12 Aquaman, and so on?


Superman can fight the Toughness-shifted PL 15 Shaggy Man.

Seriously, though, it is possible to role-play a team where there is a diverse range of Power Levels. For the past 20 months I've been running a DCA game where the Power Levels range between 11 and 15, with the bulk of them falling in the 12-13 range. That said, while it's possible, it certainly isn't easy and it's not something a lot of play groups can do. Especially because it requires tossing a lot of conventional role-playing wisdom out.

1) Let the players know precisely what you're trying to accomplish, i.e. emulating comic books where there's actually a disparity more often than not, and just tell them that there are going to be big things that lower powered characters won't be particularly effective against and there are going to be some threats that will be intended to be the challenge for the lower powered characters.

2) Let the individual players choose which power level(s) they want their character(s) to be. If someone wants to play a PL 15 "Superman" type, let them, but make it clear that you expect them to play a "Superman type" which means they can't rush in and deal with the easy stuff. Similarly, if someone wants to play a talented normal or low powered hero, let them. But make it clear that they will have a hard time of it, there are times they really won't be competitive, etc.; and while role-playing a character being frustrated because of the disparity is great and in-genre, tell them it is unwelcome in real life (since no one is forcing them to play the low-powered character.)

3) Allow and even encourage players to have more than one character in the game, especially if they are playing at the extreme ends of the power levels. In the classic Justice League, not everyone is there every time. And very often the team splits up for most of the story. In most role playing games, having the team split up is a bother. However, if each of 4 players has two characters, than the team can split up into two teams of four, and none of the players are left out because of a GM's divided attention. It also makes it easier to send Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and J'onn to deal with the invading alien armada while Batman, Hawkman, Black Canary, and Aquaman deal with Kanjar Ro.

4) The GM needs to make sure there are multiple challenges for the characters at different levels.

5) Be prepared for a certain amount of meta-gaming, especially at first. The GM may actually need to tell a player "no don't do that. Yes, your character could, but don't. That was meant for ______________ and there's something coming up that's geared more for your PL."


Now, like I said, this won't work with a lot of player groups. Groups where the players are very competitive, this won't work.
I can also say that what I've found is that a lot of players target their characters towards the middle range of PLs. That way they can face either extreme.

It's not easy, but if you're a fan of the JLA or JLA style groups, it does actually work.
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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Black Mamba » Fri Mar 22, 2013 5:35 am

Earth-Two_Kenn wrote:Superman can fight the Toughness-shifted PL 15 Shaggy Man.

We have to be realistic within the game, though. In most cases a PL 17 can fight and defeat two PL 15s - this is only not true when you have an odd build like Doomsday with his 18 Regeneration or you are using builds specifically targeted to defeat the hero. I am certainly not saying you cannot have a diverse PL in games. Like yourself, I have run many wide-ranging PL games, but running a 5 PL spread is difficult enough without extending it to 7.

My point, above, was that those PL ranges were chosen to try and lessen the impact of a huge PL spread within the team. In many cases you are looking at, maybe, a 3 PL spread between Superman/Wonder Woman and Batman/Flash types. Steve could have written Superman as PL 20 if his only goal was to show how cool and god-like Superman is. He chose PL 15 because he needed a Superman who was cool but also somewhat playable with other members of the JLA within the game system. Because, as you elude to below, many, and I would say most, players are not about role-playing. They are about roll-playing. :)

1) Let the players know precisely what you're trying to accomplish, i.e. emulating comic books where there's actually a disparity more often than not, and just tell them that there are going to be big things that lower powered characters won't be particularly effective against and there are going to be some threats that will be intended to be the challenge for the lower powered characters.

2) Let the individual players choose which power level(s) they want their character(s) to be. If someone wants to play a PL 15 "Superman" type, let them, but make it clear that you expect them to play a "Superman type" which means they can't rush in and deal with the easy stuff. Similarly, if someone wants to play a talented normal or low powered hero, let them. But make it clear that they will have a hard time of it, there are times they really won't be competitive, etc.; and while role-playing a character being frustrated because of the disparity is great and in-genre, tell them it is unwelcome in real life (since no one is forcing them to play the low-powered character.)

3) Allow and even encourage players to have more than one character in the game, especially if they are playing at the extreme ends of the power levels. In the classic Justice League, not everyone is there every time. And very often the team splits up for most of the story. In most role playing games, having the team split up is a bother. However, if each of 4 players has two characters, than the team can split up into two teams of four, and none of the players are left out because of a GM's divided attention. It also makes it easier to send Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and J'onn to deal with the invading alien armada while Batman, Hawkman, Black Canary, and Aquaman deal with Kanjar Ro.

4) The GM needs to make sure there are multiple challenges for the characters at different levels.

5) Be prepared for a certain amount of meta-gaming, especially at first. The GM may actually need to tell a player "no don't do that. Yes, your character could, but don't. That was meant for ______________ and there's something coming up that's geared more for your PL."

This is all really great advice! Too bad much of the above was not greatly expanded and incorporated into DCA - DCA should have had several paged discussing the PL issues. Of course DCA forgot to even put in a Combat example. :) I really have a feeling that a lot of new DCA GMs are going into this game blind without any real understanding of just how much more powerful the PL 15/14s are compared to the PL 10-12s. I do not believe they understand that Wonder Woman can defeat two Cheetahs at the same time - and possibly even three. And the broader you stretch the PLs the more problematic it becomes. Imagine a game where Superman and Robin (7 PL spread) are constantly teamed together. That would be a roll-play nightmare. :)
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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby saint_matthew » Fri Mar 22, 2013 8:58 am

@Black Mamba: But thats not really how the DCA H&V books were meant to be used: The H&V books are essentially our version of the monster manuals. These characters are in the book because gamers who are comic book fans constantly want to know if there character can take on Superman (& others). Its really not meant to be used as a pick n mix super hero team selector. Its kind of like complaining that a kobold & a great wyrm can't be in the same adventuring group: I mean, no you are not wrong, it cannot be done without major issues... However having said that it really isn't meant to be done... Thats not really its intended use.
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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Black Mamba » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:05 am

saint_matthew wrote:@Black Mamba: But thats not really how the DCA H&V books were meant to be used: The H&V books are essentially our version of the monster manuals. These characters are in the book because gamers who are comic book fans constantly want to know if there character can take on Superman (& others). Its really not meant to be used as a pick n mix super hero team selector. Its kind of like complaining that a kobold & a great wyrm can't be in the same adventuring group: I mean, no you are not wrong, it cannot be done without major issues... However having said that it really isn't meant to be done... Thats not really its intended use.

I have to disagree with you on this. I think most people coming into DCA assume it functions like the old Marvel Superheroes, Marvel Saga, DC Heroes, DC Universe, and the new Marvel Heroic Role-Playing game: you play your favorite comic book characters together through assorted adventures.

I think most of us established M&M players look at H&V 1 & 2 like you described: as source books full of characters we can compare our own characters to - and sometimes fight - but I think people drawn to the game through DCA are generally wanting to play the comic book characters rather than their own, unique, characters in the DC Universe.
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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Stigger » Fri Mar 22, 2013 10:12 am

I'm pretty sure those from the D&D or White Wolf crowds would look at those two books more like Monster Manuals than they would potential characters to play... well, almost anyone who's had prior experience in RPGs really, but that might be a bit of a stretch.

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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Earth-Two_Kenn » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:46 pm

Black Mamba wrote:
Earth-Two_Kenn wrote:Superman can fight the Toughness-shifted PL 15 Shaggy Man.

We have to be realistic within the game, though. In most cases a PL 17 can fight and defeat two PL 15s - this is only not true when you have an odd build like Doomsday with his 18 Regeneration or you are using builds specifically targeted to defeat the hero. I am certainly not saying you cannot have a diverse PL in games. Like yourself, I have run many wide-ranging PL games, but running a 5 PL spread is difficult enough without extending it to 7.

My point, above, was that those PL ranges were chosen to try and lessen the impact of a huge PL spread within the team. In many cases you are looking at, maybe, a 3 PL spread between Superman/Wonder Woman and Batman/Flash types. Steve could have written Superman as PL 20 if his only goal was to show how cool and god-like Superman is. He chose PL 15 because he needed a Superman who was cool but also somewhat playable with other members of the JLA within the game system. Because, as you elude to below, many, and I would say most, players are not about role-playing. They are about roll-playing. :)


And I was making light, mostly because I recently reread "Justice League of America #104" where the Shaggy Man beats most of the League, but when he fights Superman, he isn't powerful enough to really do anything to Clark, but Clark can't seem to put him down. (Shaggy was an easy target to hit, but REALLY tough and had an ungodly amount of Regeneration). :)

Anyway, you're right about the problems from making the PL spread too wide. I know in my own case, I worry about the 5 PL spread (11-15) in the Champions of Justice (http://www.rcuhero.net/g_heroes/coj.htm). And yeah, anyone who tries to play any of DC's really well known groups (the League, the Society, the Titans, the Legion, even the Bat family) will potentially run into similar problems with similar or even larger ranges of PL.

It would behoove Green Ronin to put out something about running games when there is no one series Power Level. Whether it's the people who want to play the DC groups, or people like my player group where we use are own characters in our own universe, but where there's been a deliberate move to not have everyone in the same "weight class", or anywhere in between, there is a need for it. And if they want to use my hard learned lessons... call me. I'll be happy to write a 5 or 6 page thing for them that they can sell like a threat report. I could use the work.

I wouldn't worry about "how most people" use the H&V books though. Each person is an individual, and each group of individuals is unique. Anyone can say "this is how I use the book". But to say "this is how most _______ people use the book, because I'm part of ________ people and that's how I use it" is an unsupportable generality. One shouldn't assume to be "the norm". It's better to say, "it could be used this way (I know because I do), but it could also be used that way, or that way.
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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Black Mamba » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:58 pm

Earth-Two_Kenn wrote:I wouldn't worry about "how most people" use the H&V books though. Each person is an individual, and each group of individuals is unique. Anyone can say "this is how I use the book". But to say "this is how most _______ people use the book, because I'm part of ________ people and that's how I use it" is an unsupportable generality. One shouldn't assume to be "the norm". It's better to say, "it could be used this way (I know because I do), but it could also be used that way, or that way.

I certainly do not mean to generalize. I can only go by my own experiences. I have been gone from the forum for over a year but just in the two weeks I have been back I find I have answered a lot more questions from new DCA fans than new M&M fans. It could simply be timing, but I really do believe the point of DCA was to get people playing M&M through the DC characters, with the hope that they would eventually be absorbed into the general M&M community. I could be wrong. It has happened once or twice. :)
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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby danelsan » Fri Mar 22, 2013 6:00 pm

Personally, I've had considerable success by using a 3 PL range within the group and varying the amount of PP.

I determine a base PL and players can individually chose to be that PL, one lower or one higher. Starting lower gives you more initial PP to spend and an increased rate of PP gain. Going with a higher PL gives you less PP to spend and a decreased rate of PP gain.

So, If if decide to make the base PL 11 and the base PP being PL x15, I'd do something like this:

PL 11: starts with 165 PP, no alteration to PP gained in play
PL 10: Starts with 180 PP, gains one extra PP for each 5 gained in play
PL 12: Starts with 144 PP, gains one less PP for each 5 that would be gained in play
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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Black Mamba » Sat Mar 23, 2013 8:26 am

danelsan wrote:Personally, I've had considerable success by using a 3 PL range within the group and varying the amount of PP.

I determine a base PL and players can individually chose to be that PL, one lower or one higher. Starting lower gives you more initial PP to spend and an increased rate of PP gain. Going with a higher PL gives you less PP to spend and a decreased rate of PP gain.

So, If if decide to make the base PL 11 and the base PP being PL x15, I'd do something like this:

PL 11: starts with 165 PP, no alteration to PP gained in play
PL 10: Starts with 180 PP, gains one extra PP for each 5 gained in play
PL 12: Starts with 144 PP, gains one less PP for each 5 that would be gained in play

That is an interesting system. I might need to think about trying something similar in the future. Thanks for posting it!
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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Arthur Eld » Sat Mar 23, 2013 8:17 pm

I'm currently in two games right here on the Tank with somewhat similar systems.

One is a Doom Patrol esque game, where you could be PL 10, 150, PL 9, 165, or PL 11 135. It's working out fairly well (I opted for PL 11, 135).

Another is a cosmic level, Annihilation kind of thing. You could be PL 14-210, PL 13-230, or PL 12-250. Likewise, there hasn't really been any problems, but that's because the GM's been very good at offering a mix of challenges and opponents thrown our way.

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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Black Mamba » Sun Mar 24, 2013 11:59 am

Arthur Eld wrote:Another is a cosmic level, Annihilation kind of thing. You could be PL 14-210, PL 13-230, or PL 12-250. Likewise, there hasn't really been any problems, but that's because the GM's been very good at offering a mix of challenges and opponents thrown our way.

I have been itching to do a higher level game, so I might give this a try.
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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Dragonblade » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:57 am

danelsan wrote:Personally, I've had considerable success by using a 3 PL range within the group and varying the amount of PP.

I determine a base PL and players can individually chose to be that PL, one lower or one higher. Starting lower gives you more initial PP to spend and an increased rate of PP gain. Going with a higher PL gives you less PP to spend and a decreased rate of PP gain.

So, If if decide to make the base PL 11 and the base PP being PL x15, I'd do something like this:

PL 11: starts with 165 PP, no alteration to PP gained in play
PL 10: Starts with 180 PP, gains one extra PP for each 5 gained in play
PL 12: Starts with 144 PP, gains one less PP for each 5 that would be gained in play


Interesting system. I might borrow this for a future game. I might tweak the numbers though since I don't give out PP once play starts. I allow players to tweak and edit their PCs any time, but they stay static in terms of PL and PP totals. IMO, Supers gaming is about playing for the story, not about gaining levels and power.

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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Earth-Two_Kenn » Tue Apr 09, 2013 11:42 am

Dragonblade wrote:
danelsan wrote:Personally, I've had considerable success by using a 3 PL range within the group and varying the amount of PP.

I determine a base PL and players can individually chose to be that PL, one lower or one higher. Starting lower gives you more initial PP to spend and an increased rate of PP gain. Going with a higher PL gives you less PP to spend and a decreased rate of PP gain.

So, If if decide to make the base PL 11 and the base PP being PL x15, I'd do something like this:

PL 11: starts with 165 PP, no alteration to PP gained in play
PL 10: Starts with 180 PP, gains one extra PP for each 5 gained in play
PL 12: Starts with 144 PP, gains one less PP for each 5 that would be gained in play


Interesting system. I might borrow this for a future game. I might tweak the numbers though since I don't give out PP once play starts. I allow players to tweak and edit their PCs any time, but they stay static in terms of PL and PP totals. IMO, Supers gaming is about playing for the story, not about gaining levels and power.


So... Practice makes you weaker because if you work and practice to improve your accuracy with your powers, you have to lower the damage to stay in PL.
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Re: Power Levels of DC Characters vs. Freedomverse character

Postby Dragonblade » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:19 pm

Earth-Two_Kenn wrote:
Dragonblade wrote:
danelsan wrote:So... Practice makes you weaker because if you work and practice to improve your accuracy with your powers, you have to lower the damage to stay in PL.


No. Having a higher PL and lower PP total would simply be a choice you'd make at character creation. Its a tradeoff. So you want to start at PL 12 and be more powerful in terms of your caps? Ok, but you get fewer PP to spend when creating your PC. Otherwise, why wouldn't you always want to start at PL 12 given the option?

But, its not something I'm sold on. I just like the general idea. Comic book characters stay relatively static over time in terms of power, aside from fluctuations in a given author's interpretation. They don't level up like a D&D character does, graduating from rats, to kobolds, to orcs, to dragons, acquiring ever more magical bling along the way.

PL 10 and above, to me anyway, represents that you have already practiced and are proficient with your powers. An established hero. For a Teen Titans style rookie hero game, where the heroes do learn and get better and more powerful over time, I'd probably start at PL 8 and then I'd grant PP every session until you hit PL 10. At PL 10 and above, I'd toss out the occasional PP, but steadily gaining power beyond that point ceases to make sense to me in a superhero/comic book oriented RPG.

Spider-Man isn't noticeably more powerful now than he was a year ago. He didn't evolve from purse snatchers to one shotting Thanos with his +5 spidey suit and vorpal web shooters. Continually advancing established superheroes just doesn't fit with the genre, IMO.


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