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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Blood of Heroes Rules for Character Interaction

My close read and implementation of The Blood of Heroes: Second Edition continues on its first early steps and I'm jumping to Chapter 6: Character Interaction.

Interrogation, Intimidation and Persuasion are character interactions you can resolve with a “Dice Action”. The AV/EV* and OV/RV* for a PC are already known. The Infl/Aura and Infl/Spirit of the NPC is determined by the Gamemaster. When the GM does this, either on the fly or prepped ahead of time, they are essentially setting a difficulty target number which needs to be hit. When the Players and the GM wish to roll for results to decide the outcome of these three types of character interactions they are resolved the same way everything else is in the game; with the Action Table and the Results Table. 

What about the other way around? What happens if a villain or any other NPC tries to use Character Interaction against one of the Players? Myself I try not to force the PC to do anything. Other gamers are more comfortable making the PC briefly restricted by puppet strings, and do it well. I philosophically try and tie my hands so it is the PC's themselves deciding whether the villain is bluffing or should they cut and run from a dangerous and uncertain situation. These rules for BoH kinda go half way. The PC can be bound to failed opposed and resistance rolls, but they can also spend Hero Points to ignore the effects.

Otherwise character interaction should be handled like any well done rpg does, with the Players doing stuff and the GM adjudicating results until the need for dice feels warranted.

This is a short chapter. Quick to digest. There are suitable descriptions of the three character interactions including additional chrome; Interaction Maneuvers. These can be taken or left as the GM sees fit without breaking the mechanic. Next I'll take a read through Chapter 7 Gadgets and after I will tell you my thoughts.

*AV=Acting Value, OV=Opposed Value, EV=Effect Value and RV=Resistance Value from the BoH rulebook. 

The Blood of Heroes & MEGS

Which is kinda one and the same. Pulsar games purchased the rights to create a Supers RPG using Mayfair’s DC Heroes MEGS (Mayfair Exponential Game System) mechanics, minus the DC licensed properties. Which is perfect for those like myself who like to create their own game world with original characters as opposed to premade setting with established characters. The final form this system took is The Blood of Heroes: Special Edition and is well known for the dreadful quality of the art, dated layout and awful NPC write ups for the limited setting Pulsar inserted into the book.

I’ve been taking looks at BoH for several years when my interest returns to Supers roleplaying. Reading reviews of DC Heroes, and MEGS in general, the system gets solid props and very little criticism. The only reason I hadn’t taken a deep dive into the game is because I didn’t push myself past the two-chart method of resolving action in the game, the core mechanic if you would. Swallowing another character creation system for a Supers game prevented me from giving it a solid go as well. Maybe I can make Champions finally work for me? I had most of the best books of the system. But in my heart of hearts I knew I would never return to this game for my dream Supers campaign, so running out of alternatives a serious read of BoH was now at hand. First I reread the intro with Anarchy Man getting into a fist fight with Clint and learned how to use the resolution charts. Not bad, pretty straight forward. Okay, so basic resolution doesn’t bother me and I’m not going to worry right now how this game handles superspeed. Making a verdict on how the game scales everything on the same exponential numbering will take some exposure to before I know whether it works for me. I am intrigued, this is the part of the system which gets most of the praise. A normal person has attributes of “2”. An attribute of 3 is twice as good, and a 4 is twice as good as a 3!. Time, distance, weight, even wealth, is all tied to this scale. For example a time of “0” is 4 seconds. Time 1 is 8 seconds, Time 2 is 16 seconds and time 3 is 32 seconds. Weight starts at a base 0=50lbs. Weight of 1 is 100lbs., 2 200lbs., 3 is 400lbs. See exponential progression. This allows the game to scale seamlessly ever upwards without breaking the game. Champions handles wildly different power scales well, but Chaosium’s Superworld not so much. Here the MEGS system goes as high on the power scale as you want with no distortion. The final test will be how I think of superspeed and initiative work out. Some have criticized the MEGS mechanics of BoH not handling low-powered characters very well, but I’m not seeing this. So everyman has a Strength and Dex of 2, but any experienced game master knows the color of your NPC’s is not so much in the stats but in their personality and skills. My first character I built with the system uses their recommended base of 450 points and as a low-powered superhero I was able to create the super I want and build in all the personality, color, powers and motivation I envision. Once I crunched through character generation I felt I was looking at a fast moving game which also eliminates all the tactical crunch I find hanging onto Champions. I can see running this game online without battle maps and minis.

This will also aid in world building. I don’t think statting out villians and gadgets will be as time consuming as found in Champions. No, I think this system will allow me to put forth effort in the hard part of Supers gaming, having a campaign world worthy of interesting game play. This is the number one reason why I love playing old school. The OSR has taught me not to depend on the system to make my game work. It takes a game worthy of playing in to be good. The system is more of an afterthought. Use the system which helps you run, not tells you how to run. Classic Traveller is a great example of this OSR principle of game design. The source material is my best world building reference, not the rulebook. In the game of supers this means comic books! Find the stories I like and build that. Certainly the BoH MEGS mechanics will handle anything I can dream up!

Monday, September 3, 2018

My Five Favorite Role-playing Games

Gamma World: TSR's Basic Dungeons & Dragons was the game which introduced me into ttrpg's but it was Gamma World which really opened up the endless fun to be had with the role playing format. While D&D channeled my love for Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Gamma World allowed me to play out my passion for comic books. Kamandi and TheWarlord specifically. There was a certain freedom in world building and character creation which I could not embrace with D&D. Not that there was anything wrong with D&D, I just felt, as a kid, Gamma World asking more imagination from me than a game concerned with High Fantasy.

Champions: I love, love the role play potential built into comic books and Champions got my attention with the promise of custom character builds for your superhero, and by extension, your supers game world. Issues of Marvel with Dr. Doom and Iron Man battling it out in King Arthur's court and the ubiquitous future science fantasy woven in most comics of the day made it apparent in a supers role playing game I could fold in any genre trope into the campaign. The stacks, racks and boxes of used comics throughout comic book stores told me I would never be short of adventure material for my game. The breakdown with Champions came with the self same tools for custom builds prohibited breezy world building. As a Game Master I made the mistake of using the crunchy game mechanics as the method for game prep. I bogged down and just couldn't do it anymore. But Champions holds the number two spot because I did run it more than any other superhero game. And nailing down an important Game Master realization; the mechanics are for the PC's, not the GM!

Stormbringer/Elric!: Blood and souls for my lord Arioch. Not only did this game introduce me to pulp fantasy beyond Conan, it turned me on to another way to break from the level/class scriptures of Dungeons & Dragons. The ability to build a fantasy character as I see fit was liberating.
Why can't a PC wield a sword, wear power armor, fire a gun and use magic? My favorite stories and comics all have these polyglot type of characters. Why are my games restricting me? Obviously they are not. I was just too hidebound, narrow in my thinking and only as good at gaming as I was going to be. I find indie games and their popularity similar to the popularity of paint by numbers. Create a Van Gogh, in the comfort of your own comfort zone! Just follow these easy step by step instructions. Yeah this is fun to do, but this isn't art. This is not a challenge. But Chaosium's d100 system met my young person's ability half way and gave me a system which justified my belief the depth of role play was real. Any failings in the game where not a result of system, but within myself. Made me believe that if I didn't want a bad game just don't suck.

Renaissance: A smart polish on Chaosium's venerable d100 system Cakebread & Walton's black powder era game does all the right things for those who want to tap into this historical time period for fantastic gaming. Rules for Alchemy and Witchcraft add the right amount of fantastical for adept players and game masters to hit any high note they want. Humorous and cinematic, realistic and gritty grimdark and grotty. Renaissance will do it. It is my current number two favorite role playing game of all time because it is what I am running right now. At two and a half years the system has not only satisfied myself, it has kept the same group of online players invested since the first opening adventure!

USR Sword & Sorcery: Yes my favorite role playing game of all time is the one I built from the ground up using Scott Malthouse's (U)nbelievably (S)imple (R)oleplaying game mechanics. USR is a simple set of resolution mechanics balance against a PC having few attributes while at the same time offering an extremely player facing, flexible way for character customization. I used this generic role playing system to try out a deliberate approach to a game I though Gary Gygax and D&D first challenged and thrilled me to apprehend. Pulp fantasy; Howard, Moorcock, Carter, etc. was source material which I always envision when I daydream about role playing games. Why not just rely on these stories and tropes when running a game? Shouldn't I just let the rules and mechanics lie in the background waiting to be used when required? This may be rote for better gamers than me, but I had always relied on game mechanics to deliver the package, and this is exactly contrary to what original role playing games promised. USR gave me an opportunity to approach the art fresh with young expectations and seasoned eyes. The result was USR Sword & Sorcery and it was sufficient to run, after being out of gaming for 25 years, a swingy, blood soaked pulp fantasy campaign with a dedicated group of strangers on line for three years. Mission accomplished.