Friday, April 20, 2012

Mind Over Matter (Part 1)

Our foray into Mind Over Matter proved ... complex. I currently have a 24 page document that is maybe 1/2 to 1/3rd finished. Here are some highlights:

  1. Using the simulator, Duplicate (Time Control) is worth about half your points (a little less at higher AP values) for 2x. And about 80% of your points (down to 72%) at higher AP levels.
  2. I broke down and created Ice Surfing for Ice Control. In fact, I broke down and created Ice Control period. I think on the same count I will eventually put extendable limbs in the cyber powers so that someone out there can play Inspector Gadget. These powers are listed all over the place on the web when you look this stuff up: PEOPLE WANT THEM.
  3. I am resisting Travel Through Phone Line for Electrical Powers. But my will is weak.
  4. Research (TV Tropes) suggested that linked to Darkness Control was ... The Moon. There is now a sub-group of powers under Darkness Control--which is distinct from Light Control (although both can create Darkness)--related to The Moon. 
What The Heck Is Going On?
Well, basically: there are some logical power groups around various--what Champions brilliantly called Elemental Controls--These are well and thoroughly documented places like this (Power Listing Wiki) and Wikipedia. There is no reason not to look through them and consider taking the most relevant ones for a write up.

In JAGS you can modify existing powers fairly extensively. You are also expected to be able to simply "create" powers given enough sign-posts (which the book will, apparently, be full of)--so this is not just an attempt to be "completeist."

The reason to do this is that it raises new questions--and forces us to look at this material closely and in new ways. Let's look at one new one:

How Much Is Time Travel Worth?
The general rule in JAGS is that a non-combat power that you can't buy an infinite amount of (like, say, ability to see in total darkness--you either have it or you don't) is like 1 AP to maybe 12 AP or something. Like X-Ray Vision? Maybe 8 AP. Really good flight? 8-12 AP. Something like that.

The theory is that you can get a bunch of powers for a handful of points and as long as they don't effect combat directly they shouldn't be super-expensive.

But then we get to a class of things where' that's questionable. These are things like:
  • Phase Out (ability to become insubstantial and walk through walls)
  • Really good teleport: be anywhere instantly.
  • Time Travel--even assuming Tourist Mode where you can't change things.
The problem with these is that not only do they represent a major part of a character's power in most characters (Teleport is like "all" Night Crawler does--not too many people 'casually' have Time Travel or Phase Out) but they have major ramifications for the game itself. The ability to go anywhere is certainly a major impact. Even if Phase Out won't let you win fights--it certainly will help you 'not-lose them.' So how do we charge?

The answer seems to be TAP: a function of your Total APs. If Phase Out is, say, .33% of Total APs it will not just casually appear on a high-point character's power's list. Same with Time Travel or other game-changers.

But is 33% right? How do you know? Also: that means even a 1 AP character can buy it--with some extra Damage Points left over. Is there a minimum cost? Should it have a maximum cost? Maybe Phase Out "tops out" at 24 AP because ... why pay more?

The answers to these questions are not really answered within the context of a given game--but rather in the group's specific approach to play style. Imagine a group that played a "Super Friends" style game where each player had a roster of super-hero characters and, while they only played one at a time, they could always call HQ and bring out another character to swap in or out.

Furthermore, imagine that the GM is running a game where the missions have fairly "objective" challenge sets (i.e. not geared to the specific characters). If you have the right mix of powers--or access to the right mix--you can do much better--but if you bring the T-Port guy, he's not as heavy a hitter as the Super Strength guy.

In this case special abilities like Phase Out and Teleport would be very useful to have for some "specialty team" characters. But no character would be stuck for a 2-year campaign using Phase Out only once in a while while it was 20% of their points ...

The cost models for these could be seen to be very different. I don't know anyone who plays that way--but I also know that we are in around year-2 of our Have-Not game and that's not "the way we play" either. Things change.

What's The Answer?
The answer revolves around "bullshit." That's the term we are using for powers with a certain ... 'profile.' Things like time travel, mind control where the person simply becomes purely loyal to you, swap bodies permanently, phase out, and so on have a certain "bullshit factor." It's the kind of thing that might make a GM or other Player go "Man--that power? That's some bullshit." It's hard to pin down, for sure--but Time Travel has a pretty high BS factor, even if you can't change things. If I can go back in time and meet the villain as a child and learn his early story, I might have some leverage in the future.

If I can swap bodies with Mr. Universe, getting "all the Strength you can buy for 'free'" that's kinda bullshit. I mean, there are costs for this--but being able to totally mind control someone so they use all their capabilities in your service is kinda "worth it" based on who you meet.

So there is a BS factor for some of these abilities that we want to try to isolate.