Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Supers: The Defense Dilemma

As pleased as I am with the progress that's being made on this (on a daily basis, no less!), I'm not so taken with it that I don't recognize its flaws. And even if I were, I have commenter Robert Stehwien, aka The Guy Who Keeps Me Honest, to point them out, which is awesome. No, really -- it is. I mean, I know it's hard to read tone of voice over the Internet, so you may want to take that "awesome" as sarcastic, but seriously, it's sincere.

Specifically, the issue that keeps coming up is the Defense Dilemma: If you haven't bought up your mental and physical defenses to Extraordinary or above, you're boned the first time you run into Jean Grey or Superman. This potential pitfall exists in other games, too -- most notably Hero and M&M -- but that doesn't change the fact that it's a pitfall. On one hand, I'm heartless and inflexible. Of course someone without appropriate defenses is going to be screwed, and rightly so. But my frosted side knows it isn't fun to get one-shotted by a psychic from a mile away.

So, in the spirit of that, here are a couple clarifications currently present in the rules as they stand.

First, a mental attack is defined as the Attack trapping plus the Unusual topping, to account for its telepathic aspect. Those two plus Range makes your standard Ego Whip at least one trapping more expensive than a run-of-the-mill attack power like force beams or fireballs.

Second, as free hatani has pointed out:
Correct me if I am wrong, but couldn't Superman, under you hack, just pay a Fate point to gain "Mental Defense" trapping on his Super-skill for the scene?
 This is absolutely correct, as I acknowledged in the comments yesterday, with two caveats:
  1. Superman's Concept aspect must be something that could reasonably be invoked for effect to improve his Mental Resistance. It doesn't have to be dead-on perfect or anything -- "Last Son of Krypton" would be fine, if the player could make a case for it. It references the fact that he's an alien, so maybe his alien mind is harder for a psionicist to navigate. "It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's Superman!" would be less fine, because it doesn't reference anything except the fact that he's neither a bird nor a plane.
  2. Superman must have a super-skill onto which Mental Resistance could reasonably be tacked. As with the Concept aspect, as long as it's close enough, it's fine. Not to repeat myself from yesterday, but a super-skill called Alien Physiology would work, Man of Steel might, with a lenient GM, and Kryptonian Vision just would not do, ever.
So those are the checks in place right now against the Defense Dilemma. Clearly, there are some conditions that need to be met for the invoke-for-effect to actually work -- if your Concept aspect is "Sci-Fi Cowboy" and your super-skills are things like Six-Guns and Space-Bronco-Buster, odds are you're still screwed. And charging an additional trapping makes a mental attack power more expensive, true, but that's hardly a roadblock to abuse.

Keeping that in mind, here are some other things I'm considering:
  • Make Psychic a topping of its own worth two trappings. You'd apply it to any trapping that doesn't already fall into that category, like Attack or Perceive.
  • Invoke an aspect for effect to increase the tier of a defensive skill for one exchange. That's not exactly elegant, but nor is it unthinkable.
  • Reduce starting points to 80 instead of 100. Combined with the Psychic topping, this would make mental attacks a more serious investment. Hell, I might do this anyway, psychic attacks or no. It isn't a nice round number like 100, but there's more to this than nice round numbers.
  • Something involving consequences that I'm not ready to discuss yet. 
Thanks again, guys, for keeping the discussion going! It's helping!
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