Friday, May 11, 2012

Fun With Normals Part 2: Champions and ICONS

40K Fridays will return next week with an all-new episode!

After seeing how the Normal Man works in M&M let's take a look at some other Super RPG's

Say Joe Genero punches Average Bob in the face - what happens?


Attacker OCV and Defender DCV are both 3 so we end up with an 11 or less to hit on 3d6, or a 62.5% chance of a hit. With a Speed of 2 Joe will get 2 swings per turn, so he should land around 2 hits per 3 turns.

A Strength 10 punch = 2d6 normal damage which averages out to 7 Stun and 2 Body

Average Bob has a Physical Defense of 2, so 5 Stun gets through. He has 20, so he's not in danger yet. With a 10 Constitution he isn't stunned either. He then gets his Recovery 4 and is back up to 19.

This is going to take a while.

With 2 hits in Turn 2, Joe will inflict 10 Stun, then Bob get his free recovery and regains 4 Stun. He begins Turn 2 at 13 Stun.

Turn 3: Sock! - Joe tags Bob for 5 more Stun, Bob recovers 4 and begins Turn 4 at 12 Stun.

Turn 4: Bam! Bam!  Joe connects twice for 10 more Stun, knocking Bob down to 2. He recovers 4 and begins Turn 5 at 6 Stun.

Turn 5 Joe hits once for 5 more and takes Bob to 1 Stun. Things could well be over here given the number of die rolls so far, but we will play it out.

Turn Six: Biff! Pow! Joe hits for the 8th time and takes Bob to zero Stun - Knockout!

So that's 72 seconds of fighting between normals to reach a KO. That's less than M&M but not by much.

A sword makes it faster: A sword gives a +1 OCV meaning Joe hits on a 12 or less or 74% of the time We  have 3 out of 4 attacks hitting now but we also have 1d6 killing damage (Joe is using a shortsword because of his 10 Strength) and he can push that to 1 1/2 d6 K because of his Strength.

Turn 1 Joe hits Bob and does an average of 5 Body and 15 Stun from this slash, with no defenses! He's down to 5 Body and 5 Stun in one hit, plus he is Stunned from taking more Stun damage than he has Constitution. He can recover 4 Stun after Turn 1 but he's only back to 9 and a second hit puts him down and dying. I think this illustrates the power of Killing Attacks vs. normal defenses in Champions pretty well.

A 9mm Pistol also does 1d6 killing. It will do 3-4 Body and 9-12 Stun on average so 1 should Stun him, 2 may knock him out, and then it might take a 3rd shot to put him down and dying.

A Rocket Launcher is much nastier - 4d6 killing damage. If it hits (62.5% chance) then Bob is blasted by 14 Body and 42 Stun, putting him down and dying and in really bad shape in one hit.

Punched by Superman? Let's give the big guy a 95 Strength since he's a 19 on M&M's 1-20 scale. That's 19d6 of normal damage, averaging 19 Body and 76 Stun. Average Bob resists with 2 PD, so he nets 17 Body and 74 Stun - worse shape than the rocket launcher hit by far.He's also knocked back 24 meters on average, which would inflict another 6d6 normal damage, assuming he doesn't hit a wall or a mailbox or something which would make it worse. Even without an obstacle behind him, the phrase "red smear" seems applicable here. Now that is a super-punch!


If ICONS Joe Genero takes a swing at ICONS Average Bob then we have Prowess 3 vs. Prowess 3 which means he hits 58% of the time, right in between M&M and Champions. He has a 16% chance of getting a Major Success and about a 3% chance of getting a Massive Success.

Strength 3 punches will inflict 3 Stamina, leaving Bob with 3. With one attack per Panel, Joe can KO Bob on the second hit, which will take 2-4 panels. That's pretty fast With a Major or Massive result there's about a 40% chance of rendering Bob helpless for a round or two or sending him flying but he probably won't take any extra damage.

A Sword does about the same but opens up a chance of a killing result on a Massive success. It's not going to happen a lot but there's a chance.

A Pistol is Shooting Damage 4 which still means it's going to take 2-3 hits to take down Bob. This is pretty comparable to Champions and notably faster than M&M.

A Rocket Launcher is stronger, and really any weapon that gets to Damage 6 or better takes Bob down in one shot.

The Super-punch is pretty nasty here. Call it Strength 10 which puts Average Bob in the hospital in one punch.


The to-hit chances for a normal vs. a normal are very close across all three games, 55-62.5% on average.

Punches: It took 8 hits to KO Bob in M&M, about 8 hits to do the same in Champions, and 2 hits in ICONS

Swords and Pistols: 6 hits in M&M, 2 hits in Champions, and 2 in ICONS

Rocket Launcher: 2 hits in M&M, 1 in Champions and ICONS

Superman goes berserk!: Bob is messed up in all three games, though it's only a 90% chance in M&M vs. guaranteed in Champs and ICONS.


So what do we know? Well, compared to M&M, Champions normals are far less resilient and if we factor in killing damage it's an even more pronounced difference.  ICONS is actually the deadliest of the 3 three in terms of normal human resilience.

I think the difference with M&M is the damage system and the wide variation in results you can get with the resistance roll. Between evenly matched opponents over one quarter of landed hits do nothing. That's quite a bit different than the other games where a hit is guaranteed damage of some kind. It lowers the effective hit rate from 55% to 41% which is going to slow things down. An attack has to inflict 6 levels more than the target's toughness to bypass all of this miss effect, which is a big skew, especially at PL10 or lower. About the only time it's going to come up is if you have the Really Strong Guy (boosted Strength over Fighting) landing a hit on Really Fast Guy (who boosted Parry over Toughness).

Now this is not necessarily a problem, it's just a different design decision. I think it may make it harder for players of other games like Champions to calibrate their expectations. If I know a 10d6 Energy Blast is a typical attack then I know that 30 points of ED will easily stop the Body damage and most of the Stun. If in M&M I know Ranged Damage 10 is a common attack then I need to be able to beat a Toughness DC 25 easily to shrug it off. If I assume and average d20 roll of 10 then I need 15 levels of Toughness to do that, and it weakens my Dodge and Parry defenses to push it that high because of the Power Level caps. I can see an expectations problem here It's not necessarily worse, just different.

Also, there is no Normal/Killing distinction in M&M, so that's one less way to shortcut to a takedown.

A lot of these issues, if we want to call them that, disappear with the use of M&M's minion rules - any minion failing a Toughness check suffers the worst possible result of that check - petrified, turned into a frog, knocked unconscious, whatever it may be. Some may see that as a bug, others as a feature, but it does make life more dangerous for the non-heroic in an M&M universe. Area effect attacks in crowded areas are quite a bit nastier too - it just makes that much more work for the hero!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fun With Normals Part 1: M&M Third Edition

I was a fan of Joe Genero in Shadis magazine back in the 90's. In the spirit of Joe, and since I'm trying out a new game system, here are some observations on the mechanics of M&M 3 ...

In M&M 3, what happens when an average man punches an average man?

(Fighting 0 + d20) vs. (Parry 0 + 10) = 55% chance of a hit

If he does connect we have (Strength 0 + 15) for a Resistance check DC of 15 vs. (Toughness 0 + d20)  =

  • 30% chance of no effect (That's a roll of 15 or better on the d20)
  • 25% chance of chance of a -1 penalty to further checks (14-10)
  • 25% chance of a -1 and Dazed for a turn (9-5)
  • 20% chance of a -1 + a persistent Staggered. (4-1)
Additionally there's a 5% chance of a crit on the to-hit roll which boosts things up one result. A crit and a 1-4 resistance check = instant KO. So there's a 1% chance of that.

Each -1 stuck to Average Bob drops the no effect chance by 5%. The first one bumps Staggered up to 25% and then #2 adds a 5% chance of an instant KO, increasing by 5% with each additional -1.

That's not going to be a long fight. If it goes 10 rounds, he would hit on 5-6 of them, averaging at least 1 staggered result in there and enough -1's to shift the results up one more level. I can't see the fight lasting more than another 10 rounds (at most) before a KO is landed. That's at most a 2-minute fight between two normal men before one of them drops. That's pretty movie-esque and sounds about right to me for this game.

Average math: Assuming an average roll of 11 the first hit is a -1, then next 5 stick another -5  and daze Bob each time, then hit #7 Staggers him and hit #8 is a KO. 

Say Mr. Normal picks up a sword (Dam 3, Crit 19-20). he has the same chance to hit but if he lands a strike it's now (3 + 15) vs. (Toughness 0 + d20) = 

  • 15% = no effect,  (18 or better on the d20)
  • 25% = -1 (17-13)
  • 25% = -1 & Dazed (12-8)
  • 25% = -1 & persistent Staggered (7-3)
  • 10% = Incapacitated (2-1)
Plus with the to-hit roll there's an additional 10% chance of a crit, meaning an extra 3.5% chance of an instant kill.

This is an even shorter fight. It shouldn't go more than right around 10 rounds before one of the Joes is down.

Average math: Assuming an average roll of 11 the first four hits are -1 & Dazed, #5 is a -1 & Staggered, then #6 is a KO.

Shooting him with a pistol (Damage 3) works out the same, which is a little less great - only a 13.5% chance for a one-shot takedown? Average of 6 hits to knock someone out?  A cop has to empty his .38 to take down a punk? Well, we want don't want handguns to be a huge threat in a Supers game anyway, and with these numbers they are not.

Hit by a rocket launcher, Joe is in trouble: it's Damage 10 so we're at a Toughness DC of 25. If he rolls a 20 then he's only at a -1 and thanking his incredible luck. He has a 45% chance of an Incap right off, 25% to Stagger, and 25% to Daze. That's fairly easy on Joe considering the weapon being used, but I can live with it. Add in the crit chance on the to-hit roll and it's close to a 50-50 chance of an instant out - let's give those hostages a chance OK?

Average math: Assuming an average roll of 11 the first hit is a -1/Staggered, then the second hit is a KO. 

Finally, what if Superman punches Joe?  That's Strength 19 + 15 = Toughness DC of 34. On a d20+0 the best a normal can hope for is a 19-20 which means he is Staggered and at a -1 for the next punch. On an 18 or less he is incapacitated in one shot. That seems a little low to me even at 90%, but I can live with it. Better hope he doesn't power attack.

Anyway that's enough for now. I'm going to take a look at Champions and ICONS in the same way soon and see how they compare.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Overreaction Wednesday

From Mike Mearls on the "Rogue":

  • The rogue doesn't fight fair - OK, I can work with this. Apparently they are not stand-up melee fighters which does tie all the way back to the Thief of the early versions of the game.
  •  Rogues are skilled - Yes apparently they are back to being the skill-masters of 3E - In many ways, a thief is simply a rogue who specializes in handling traps, opening locks, and getting past the opposition to reach a goal, such as the loot at the end of the adventure. Just as fighters might distinguish themselves by their choice of weapons, armor, and tactics, rogues are separated by the tricks and skills they have developed. I think I may actually be OK with this because if we're going to have a skill system, there are going to be players who want to be the most skilled. This seems like the obvious choice for them and it does pull back from the Rogue as king-of-damage-output we've seen in 3rd and 4th editions. If someone wants to play Batman in D&D the Thief/Rogue has always been the most likely choice so why not embrace it again?
  • The rogue exists in a world of myth, fantasy, and legend - he said this on the fighter too but I think it's important enough to mention. Although these abilities are not magical in nature, a high-level rogue can transcend the limits of a mundane skill to achieve legendary heights of myth and legend. That's it exactly - at higher levels a good Thief is mythic - again, Batman! 

So far I like the way this sounds, better than the cleric talk anyway. I guess we can see in a few weeks how the details work out.

Rule of Three has a few interesting points this week:

  • No Next in 2012 - I know I assumed this was true as there's not enough time to do an open beta , examine the results, and get books printed. He says as much here. I would guess that the target date is GenCon 2013 at this point.
  • Laser Cleric in Next? - Class options, Spell choices, Domain choices - OK, sounds right to me, but the Laser Cleric is pretty much a 4E creature - how about the Bow Cleric of 3E or the Specialty Priests of 2E? I'm assuming there will be enough customization available to tune a cleric to make players happy. From the Specialty Pirests onward, it's been a pretty flexible class the last 2-3 editions.
  • Finally there's a question about niche protection and I think it's a valid one - if every class is so amazingly flexible and customizable then doesn't weaken some of the classes, particularly non-spellcasters? It has in the past, but I'm assuming that the design team is hearing this complaint enough to keep it top of mind. They fixed this problem in 4th Edition - and a lot of people didn't like 4E. So now they get to try it again - how to keep the classes in parity without removing the flavor of each class. Good Luck with that and rest assured that no matter what you do, a vocal minority, at least, is going to hate the whole thing and spend the next five years trashing it on the internet.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Atomic City Knights - Session Zero

I had an itch to play M&M again and this time I decided to do something about it. So under the guise of  "testing out the system" I rounded up the Apprentices and had them pick a generic sample character from the book and told them they were patrolling Atomic City at night when they picked up a report of an alarm at the Atomic City Robotics Institute. As they cruise towards the ACRI we focus in on:

  • Rocketman (Battlesuit) played by Apprentice Who, plays the Elton John song through his suit speakers whenever he feels the need
  • Angel (Psion) played by Apprentice Red, has actual wings for flight instead of TK flight
  • Commander USA (Warrior) played by Apprentice Blaster, a shield-chucking homage to Cap who can also fly
We worked out some basic relationships and ideas for each character and dove straight into the action. All three of them can fly so they swoop over the Robotics Institute and see a gate broken open and soon after find a group of five silver metallic figures breaking into a warehouse. Rocketman wastes no time or words and opens up with his blast bolts, getting their attention. Angel attempts to grab one with his telekinetic power and slam it into a neighbor, causing our first rules crisis as we searched through the powers and the combat rules and the grab maneuver. We decided that Round 1 would be a simple TK punch and we would figure the grab etc. out for next round. USA chucked his shield, bashing one of the bots. Two of the bots are still cutting into the warehouse while the other three turn to deal with the attackers.

Crisis #2 erupts as the DM realizes that with Rocketman's Protection 11 (Impervious) the robots' Damage 5 electroblasts have zero chance of hurting him. As a result the DM starts searching for the vaguely-remembered "Team Attack" maneuver which turns out to be surprisingly simple and perfect for this situation. The fight continues.

Crisis #3 erupts when USA wants to leap onto one of the robots and pound on him with momentum, almost like a move-through in Champions - not that they have played Champs yet. Half-remembering a move called a "Slam Attack" we look that up and figure things up and find a surprisingly effective move for the Commander. Later he gets double-teamed by two of the bots and takes a pretty good shot to the face, but he fights on. 

Having figured out how grabs work, Angel force-grabs a robot - I mean TK-grabs - and starts squeezing. He is pleased with the results.

The fight goes on a bit and then is called due to time, just as another band of robots and a cybernetic gorilla appear on the roof of the building. Who are they? What's going? All shall be revealed in time.

Some rules notes: The game was already flowing faster near the end as we got more comfortable with the mechanics but there is a bit of a learning curve. Not with the basics - attacker rolls to hit, defender rolls to resist - but with all of the options available: There are actions, and then there are maneuvers, and then there are advantages that may let you do some unusual things, and then there are the powers, of course. That's a lot of choice when you're new to the game and I was going with a very loose interpretation of the rules to keep things moving. We'll tighten up next time.
  • Movement rates are very fast. I ran this with a hexgrid to try and keep some tactical flavor and even the slowest super could fly 60 mph which is 900' per round. Even with 10' hexes or 10 yard hexes, that's a lot of distance. I'm fine with this and I remember it from old Champions games in the past, it's just been awhile.
  • Combat takes a few rounds before anything happens. The robots were just the basic PL5 ones in the main book and after 5 rounds some of them were at a -3 and had been dazed once or twice with one finally collapsing after 3 rounds of serious blasting by Rocketman. I'm hoping that as we learn the rules and moves better that this improves. I will say that a +5 Power attack was a very popular move by the end of the fight and it did make a difference.
  • I was worried about the Impervious Defense as it's fairly common and it makes low-level mooks a non-factor, but the team-up attack mitigates this to a degree and it is genre-appropriate, and well, there are always hostages. 
  • One of the big changes with 3E M&M is adding a standard set of conditions, somewhat like D&D 4E. They work and work well. "Grab" inflicts conditions A-B-C. A web grenade inflicts X-Y-Z. As the players learn what each condition means they don't have to look up unique details for every individual power and maneuver - it's very smooth in play.
  • I really like the Extra Effort rules, available to anyone at any time with a cost assessed AFTER the action, not before - this feels much more superheroic than having to have points available in advance to try something stupid.Then of course we have Hero Points which covers the more standard bending-of-the-game effects. I really like this dual approach.

Two DM-related concerns:
  • I am very rusty at dressing up the environment which is crucial to a Supers game. More specifically I am rusty at doing it in a modern environment on the fly. Sure, I can describe things just fine, but then you have to have stats for them in case the brick decides to hit someone with a dumpster, or a light pole, or a bulldozer, etc. I ran this fight in an empty parking lot in the middle of the night, about as boring as it gets. I will claim "learning the rules" for now but it could have been much better. Drawing up a rough map automatically limits my thinking and I need to work around that next time.
  • Having gathered a fair amount of M&M 2E material (even though I never ran it for any length of time) I was spoiled at the huge pile of NPC characters, vehicles, gear, animals, monsters, robots, etc. available with just a few books. This is one area where 3E falls down in comparison and I'm feeling it because I get a lot of mileage out of reskinning stock characters. There's stuff available online but I'd like to see more as it's a lot easier for me to stay flexible when I have a lot of widely varied resources to fall back on. Maybe once they finish up the DC stuff they can focus in on the more universal type of material.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Super Updates

I've been running on about D&D & 40K lately so I thought it was time for an update on our other big gaming obsession here:

  • ICONS Team-up is supposed to be on the way anytime now. It looks promising with lots of good content to enhance our games.
  • Marvel Heroic Roleplaying should be releasing Civil War on 5/29. but disturbingly the Amazon pre-order is now showing a July date. I hope that's just a mistake. I've looked at running several different things but I haven't had the time to put them together and I was kind of wanting to run this with the new system. Holding pattern for now.
  • I'm finally taking a look at BASH! In my unplanned quest to examine all Super RPG's I felt like I really should give it a look as I think it's been reasonably popular over the last decade though I suspect ICONS may have stolen some of its thunder lately.
  • I was in the mood to do something other than ICONS this weekend and despite my recent Champions acquisition I ended up getting in my first extended session with Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition and it was a lot of fun. More on that later.
  • Green Ronin has continued to release Power Profiles - so far they've added Luck, Magic, Illusion, Air, and Kinetic powers to the list
  • I did see Avengers on opening night and I did like it, a lot. I'll put up a longer post next week probably but if you have any interest in the superhero genre it's worth the trip. Don't worry about 3D and the rest of it - just find a way to see it and I think you will be very happy that you did.

Motivational Monday

It made me pretty happy ...