Saturday, January 29, 2011

Unfortunate Character Choices - Frizbe

This week: a supervillain from 1982's "Enemies" supplement for Champions




Is an albino super-villain a bad concept? Not necessarily. Is basing his or her powers on thrown discs a bad idea? Not necessarily. An albino frisbee champion who fights by throwing frisbees at people? Hmmmmm. We're playing a supers game and this is worthy of being  included in a book of enemies? This is pretty bad. The problems run deeper than mere concept though...

Some technical details:
  • 10d6 "Energy"? I get the one that does 10d6 physical (BONK!), but where does the energy option come in? Shock discs? Could we get some kind of special effects here - electricity? Radiation? Something to explain this?
  • 10 inches of Flight? She doesn't have any other innate powers. Oh wait, it's OAF Flying Discs, just like her attacks - WAIT! WHAT? HOW? Does she spin around the thing clinging to it and acting like a blind albino helicopter blade? How would this work?
  • Double Stun from Heat attacks? Why?
  • 1d6 from full sunlight - That's a pretty severe case of albinism if she's taking damage from it per phase. Under the Champions rules at the time a phase is one second. So she's taking 1d6 stun damage per second of sunlight exposure. With 25 Stun she's unconscious in at most 25 seconds of sunlight, probably more like 6-8 seconds and then she starts taking Body. With 10 Body she will be dead in at most 20 seconds.So what we have here is a character that is dead with less than a minute of exposure to sunlight. She's not just an albino - she's a vampire!
  • Secret Identity? She's an albino African-American female that's a west coast frisbee champion in her normal identity and fights with discs in her villain ID and she has a secret identity? 15 points for that? Suddenly Clark Kent and the glasses doesn't seem so far-fetched.
Now it's time for a little something I call "Can they beat themselves?" Say Frizbe tosses one of her discs at our hero Captain Reflective who uses his Theoronium shield to bounce the disc back at her. What happens? Well with a 10d6 attack she's going to do an average of 35 Stun and 10 Body. Taking off her 12 points of defense to PD and ED she's going to take 27 Stun and 0 Body, stunning her (and leaving her with 8 Stun) but putting her at no risk of dying. On a slightly above-average roll, or a second hit from herself (or anything else) she is out cold. That's a pretty strong case of a tilt to the offensive side and not very impressive.

I was wondering if maybe she was kind of a Tron-inspired thing but since the book was published in 1982 and Tron was released in July 1982 I'm guessing no. Also, having seen Tron, the first thing to add to this character would probably be some level of Missile Deflection which she conspicuously lacks.

So we have a fragile villainess who can only come out at night, has one ranged attack (two flavors) and no melee capability at all, really. Questionable concept, weak powers, boring powers - yeah, this is awesome. I know everyone can't be Firewing or Ankylosaur or Black Paladin, but sheesh - were they even trying here? there were only 36 villains in the book and this was one of them.



Anyway, that's the first of a probable series of occasional posts looking at less-than-awesome characters. I hope y'all enjoyed it.

6 comments:

Barking Alien said...

Actually I can explain pretty much all of this easily using simple gimmick villain comic logic.

Ahem...

"10d6 "Energy"?"

Frisbees that go boom when they hit. Most basic thing ever. DC's Capt. Boomerang, Marvel's Boomerang, Green Arrow or Hawkeye's arrows, etc. All good.

"10 inches of Flight? She doesn't have any other innate powers. Oh wait, it's OAF Flying Discs, just like her attacks - WAIT! WHAT? HOW?"

Chronos flies around on a floating clock. Green Goblin has that awesome Goblin Glider. Lots of villains have similar devices. I view hers as a Frisbee shaped flying disc the spins at the edges while the part she stands on remains still.

"Double Stun from Heat attacks? Why?"

Um...Albino. Comic book albinos are pretty sensitive to the Sun and prone to heat exhaustion.

"1d6 from full sunlight - That's a pretty severe case of albinism if she's taking damage from it per phase. Under the Champions rules at the time a phase is one second. So she's taking 1d6 stun damage per second of sunlight exposure. With 25 Stun she's unconscious in at most 25 seconds of sunlight, probably more like 6-8 seconds and then she starts taking Body. With 10 Body she will be dead in at most 20 seconds.So what we have here is a character that is dead with less than a minute of exposure to sunlight. She's not just an albino - she's a vampire!"

That sounds like either a typo or poor design. Maybe every round (every 12 phases) but even that is pretty serious.

"Secret Identity? She's an albino African-American female that's a west coast frisbee champion in her normal identity and fights with discs in her villain ID and she has a secret identity? 15 points for that? Suddenly Clark Kent and the glasses doesn't seem so far-fetched."

Agreed.

The guys who worked on Champions over the years always struck me as a bit odd from a creative stand point. While they had created this incredible system that could do pretty much anything and everything, their NPC heroes and villains were often like this one. Either that or, "Here's a Strong guy." Really? You have access to rules like Multipowers, Multiform, Usable on Others, Damage Shield, Linked and you game me a guy with Super Strength whose kind of resistant to damage? *Remove glove, slap you across each cheek*. That sir, is an insult!

Blacksteel said...

I wondered if anyone would leap to her defense. En Garde!

1) A 2-power multipower is pretty lame. It's a traditional way to represent something like the bow-supers you describe and it would work for a frisbee-tosser except they went and made it OAF. That pretty much means it's one frisbee that can be set to have different effects as one grab maneuver takes it away from her. Maybe make it OIF -bag of villainous frisbees and it might work but the way it's written up is dumb. Archer types make the Bow the focus, not the arrows, so that someone has to close in and grab the bow. The problem with a frisbee-based attack power having variable effects is that it's both the bow and the arrow, if you get my meaning, so system-wise it's a single device and susceptible to a single grab. Making it OIF or just dropping the focus part altogether makes it work more in play like the concept probably should. Plus it should have more than 2 effects or what's the point?

Oh and the energy version needs a special effect - electric, fire, frisbeesplosions, whatever. A lot of defenses and vulnerabilities and absorption powers key off of those and it doesn't have one.

The sunlight thing is just how they worked at the time - you could set the rarity of the problem (sunlight is "very common - 15 pts") and the amount of damage, but you couldn't set the cycle that it hit on - they were all per-phase. Knowing that, though, choosing something that common is crippling as you effectively cannot play during daylight hours. Later versions of the game added that ability but that's why the Kryptonite type susceptibility is a lot more common than sunlight or oxygen or water, even for villains.

If you assume the flight power uses a different OAF than the attacks then at least that makes more sense.

I think the general Champions villain problem was that too many of them were created strictly for the book and not out of actual play. This character for example reeks of something thrown together to fill a slot that was never actually used in play. When there's a nearly 50-50 chance that she can be one-shotted by a 10d6 attack that's a clue, and the 2-power multipower and the overkill weakness pretty much seal the deal for me. I find that the villains someone actually used in a game, ideally over a campaign not just a one-shot, make a lot more sense and have a lot more background and personality than the space-fillers. A lot of those abilities you describe take time to work out and benefit greatly from some actual play. and that's probably why they don't show up as much.

Side note: I loved Damage Shield. It's such a judo-throw type of power. It's the best defense against the guy who has a better Speed than you - let him take more shots, fine - he's going to take damage every time he does it! It can hurt them on your turn, it can hur them on their turn...it just doesn' get any better than that.

Barking Alien said...

I'll almost always defend concepts and rarely defend bad execution. A Frisbee themed character is a cool idea. I seem to remember one in another RPG or (heaven help us) an actual comic book named Discus.

Good idea, bad character design in this case. Y'know, like Spawn. (Oooh! SNAP! He did not!)

Word Capture: (not making this up) Dogist

Taketoshi said...

For my part, I'm wondering how she managed to become a frisbee champion with that debilitating sun allergy.

I mean, how often do you see frisbee championships happening at night?

Blacksteel said...

Ooooh, that's an awesome point. Consistency is hard sometimes.

Justin S. Davis said...

Late to the party.

BA is right...there was a Discus, who was part of a villainous duo with Stiletto...who literally shot knives (plural...they fired like machinegun bullets) from launchers on his wrists. They fought Power Man and Iron Fist.

Comics, everybody!