Sunday, April 3, 2016

Thoughts on a conversion: Baron Blade


My CPAP machine is broken, and while I wait for the repairs I am in kind of a daze. My default activity is inactivity, and I play a lot of Sentinels of the Multiverse on my iPad.

I'm not good at it, you understand, and I don't own any expansions or anything. I just play it a lot.

I know that Cam Banks is working on an RPG version of the game, and I'm sure it will be wonderful. But I started wondering again how you'd do conversions of the characters. I'll use ICONS for this example.

The mechanics are very different between the two games. In the card game, you never know which of your powers is going to show up. You have the holding area of your hand, but you can't always guarantee that a particular power is going to show up. I have lost games because a power or the card that lets me get the power didn't show up.

So a straight translation isn't going to work. Whatever power is written on the character card, something equivalent should be the character's "power" but the rest, well, it's a suite of options. Stunts in ICONS seem to be a way of addressing that.

That means that we really have to think about what makes each character thematically different. Again, I'm not sure that I'm the best person for it, so I'm glad I'm not doing this for money. Instead, I'm trying to shoehorn that character concept into an existing game framework (which is not what Cam and his crew are doing).

That out of the way, let's think about villains. There are four villains, and you play against one of them. For those who don't play the game, they are:

  • Baron Blade A mad scientist who has minions but not a huge number of them. Mostly he's about the gadgets and the time limit. You have to put down Blade before a certain amount of time passes. 
  • Citizen Dawn Mutant leader with lots of "citizens" whose powers often build on each other. In certain forms, Dawn is nigh indestructible, and you have to recognize that as part of your strategy to defeat her.
  • Grand Marshall Voss The space alien overlord with an armada. Lots of supporting cast who will whittle you down, and certain cards make it seem like an inexhaustible supply.
  • Omnitron The robot factory gone mad. The trick there is that any other villain can leave mooks standing, but any minion or gadget is a potential Omnitron replacement.
Today I was thinking about Baron Blade. His other trick is that you think you've defeated him when he shows up at 3/4 hit points and then you have to do it all over again. That was what I was thinking about at first.

There are a few ways to simulate that kind of behaviour relatively directly.

  1. Maybe it's a quality: "Comeback Kid" or "Never say die." You give the players a Determination point when it happens (having explained to them at the beginning of the session that it will happen). 
  2. He has some kind of uncontrolled Alter Ego power. When his stamina goes to zero, it automatically triggers and the new armored Baron Blade shows up. That's not great, because I don't see that other than the hit points, the new Baron Blade doesn't seem much different. 
  3. Maybe he has a huge Healing power, self only, with a Burnout limitation. (That can also simulate the self-repair nanites that he has.) We have to trigger this behaviour when he should be knocked out.
  4. You model it as Probability Control level 1. It happens once, the villain gets a refresh, and off you go.
Because he also has those nanites, let's claim it's a big healing power with a burnout. If he foregoes his other actions in a turn, he has a big healing ability. We'll try Healing 8, Limit: Self Only, Limit: Burnout. If we need to, we can make it Healing 10; we'll see what his abilities look like.

His other cards/powers reduce damage on him, attack other people (reflection or maybe a ranged aura), or get rid of resources by removing equipment cards. The devices that do hurt players are things like, oh, remote turrets or toxic chemicals. The thing is that they affect everyone, which is easy to do in a card game but tougher in a roleplaying setting.

The other thing is that nobody misses in the card game, but they could well miss in an RPG. (In the card game, missing is modeled as doing reduced damage, such as Wraith's stealth.)

So let's make up some abilities:

  • Prowess: 3 (He's not a big hand-to-hand combatant)
  • Coordination: 6 (But really, we'll be using Burst a lot)
  • Strength: 4 (Unless we want a powered exoskeleton, but that feels like something he gets later)
  • Intellect: 7 (We're claiming he's insanely smart)
  • Awareness: 4 
  • Willpower: 6 (He needs the stamina points from somewhere)
That would give him a Stamina of 10. That's...not a lot. He'll need something else if he really is meant to be a significant threat. The kind of threat that lasts four heroes wailing (waling? Whaling?) on him.

 We can add energy drain as the aura and have him suck vril out of anyone who attacks him. (Nice idea; save it for my own use.)

Specialties are of course Technology and Science; make him +3 with both.

We want him as a character to last for a while. That means either some form of resistance or force field, regeneration or healing, or buttloads of Stamina. "Buttloads of Stamina" is hard to do in this system; there's no separate way to buy up Stamina, though I suppose you could do it as a Quality. The energy drain aura is not a bad idea, but it has to be ranged. (Okay, the first time your players meet him, it doesn't have to be. But it's an upgrade that he should invent.)

Let's give him a light force field rather than messing around with things like ranged energy drain auras. This is force field 4: enough to stop most small arms fire.

(Added in editing:)

Most of the powers will be stunts.

Gadgets sounds appropriate. We're going to leave the Intellect test in, as an incentive to the GM to make the level of the powers appropriate to the player characters. Known devices get a mastery, so that he can do them easily. (Devices such as a device to draw the moon near are plot devices.)

Force Field 4
Gadgets 8 Extra: Burst Masteries: Life Support 4; Blast (Remote Turret: autofire represented by the Burst extra) 5; Aura 3 (that darned backlash field)

I feel like for RPG play there should be some kind of movement power. Let's say that he's got a small amount of movement... We'll say that he's got a rocket pack hidden somewhere: Flight 4, Limit: Temporary

Oh, and when he switches into his incredible armor because he's really ticked (the Healing?), he's also got Masteries in Force Field Ability Increase 8 (Limit: Source); Strength Ability Increase 8 (Limit: Source). The extra strength gives him some reasonable leaping, too.

And for qualities... Maybe these:

Charming inventor or mad scientist (the charming part gets him minions galore: if he wants another Blade Battalion, he invokes the quality)
Always have gadgets in reserve
Archfoe of (player character, rather than Legacy)