Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What's the alternative to effects-based?

Okay, a lot of supers games are effects-based: you buy the effect, and then define the cause. So a blast can be a fire blast, a mystic blast, an energy blast, whatever. Usually these are point-based: you have X points to spend.

(Originally, games were menu-style, where you picked powers off a menu. You got the vulnerabilities that came with it. You had no choice. In the third edition of DC Heroes you can see the transition starting to happen there: they say that the names are essentially suggestions.)

But there never seem to be enough points to buy everything you should have.

I very much like games like ICONS where you sketch out the basic powers and the stunt mechanic lets you have the other powers you ought to have. But I have to admit that sometimes I chafe under the problem of "Well, I have a swingline; why don't I just tie him up?"

In ICONS you'd just get rid of the swingline, taking the Trouble of "no swingline" in order to stunt Entangle at the same level. But why should you have to?  Why do you have to buy/choose Blast, Swinging, and Entangle to represent that grappling gun that can be shot at someone or used to tie them up?

Is there a rules-medium to rules-light supers game that is effectively cause based? It lets you specify a cause and then you have a suite of powers that you can choose from that go with the cause. I haven't read Mutant City Blues but it sounds somewhat like the table there (apologies for forgetting the name).

The constraint might not be points but rather the number of powers you can choose that are associated with a specific power: the more powerful, the fewer powers. Between that and something like a Determination point mechanic, you might not have to worry about player balance. If you had a list of causes, you could make this relatively easy for the player. This is close to what Supers! does with its offense/defense/other trinity for each power, but that still has the problem that you have to buy Entangle separately, and that specifically is one of the problems I'm trying to avoid.

I'm just tossing out ideas, but let's model this off ICONS because that's what I'm thinking about today.

Power LevelNumber of Powers"Cost"

You can have between one to four causes, depending on what the GM wants to run. Something like this gives your utility belt guys lots of little powers (you wouldn't specify them, you'd just mark them off on a sheet of paper and charge extra after you hit the limit) because they get a bunch of powers at level 2 or so. Your big guns get Strength&Invulnerability (they go together so often in the comics that I'd just count them as one power, unless you want the disadvantage) and, oh, flight.

Then you tie them together with your cause. Again, you can choose the effects.

Or does that just hide the not-enough-points problem under a layer of complexity?