Friday, March 15, 2013

Worm Characters: Jack Slash

As I continue to look at the Worm-verse characters (a super-hero/villain web-serial which you should be reading if you care at all about superheroes) I wanted to do psychotic bad guy Jack Slash.

Jack Slash is the leader of the "Slaughterhouse Nine" who are supreme sadistic psychotic villains. They travel around doing terrible things to people and more or less semi-unstoppably wreaking havoc. They're pretty much all heavy-hitters across some dimension and pose one of the larger threats in the story that isn't from an 'Endbringer' which could single-handedly destroy a city.

In the case of Jack Slash he is a guy who can expand the "cutting edge" of his knife across a vast distance using it, kinda, like a gun(!). He can kill multiple people with one swipe--and he has been biologically augmented to be quite hard to kill (exactly how hard, we don't know).

The Knife
Jack presents an interesting challenge for the system: exactly how hard does he hit? Clearly against a character who is literally made of metal (Weld) he can't do a lot--but if you are mortal and bleed he can instantly slice you up.

An even harder question is: what does he do against someone in, like, SWAT armor (or, if we don't want to get into Kevlar-vs-knives at least a "knife-proof-suit")? In other words, how does he fare against armor? I might have missed something but my recollection is that (a) he hits around it if it's worn and (b) I would imagine he could puncture a fair amount of armor but could not, for example, cut through a metal pipe with a single swipe (I could be wrong).

Here's where I came down:
  1. Extra Damage on Penetration and a hit by 4+ ("a vital hit"). The way guns and knives work in JAGS when you are hit, if you have armor, you get an "armor save" to prevent "being penetrated." If you make the save you take "impact damage" (like a punch or hit with a baseball bat). If you fail it, STAB. So if Jack hits you and you fail your armor save you take a LOT of damage.
  2. Armor Piercing. The way Armor Piercing attacks work in JAGS, if your armor fails a save the Damage Reduction it gives drops to zero. This makes any such hit far worse statistically.
I gave Jack 40 AP ("Level 5") Ranged Armor Piercing PEN attack (bought as 'Gun' damage). He does 18 PEN if he doesn't penetrate (about a hit from an assault rifle--okay, that could cut a thin metal pipe) and 40 PEN if he does (which will double to 80 damage on a decent hit and you won't get any armor against it). This is enough to critically injure any of the characters I've made so far and he would likely penetrate all of them.

NOTE: The printed rules don't quite do this power the way I'd wanted to (the PEN and Hit-By 4 or more). The "Vital Strike" Power comes close--but I did some Simulator testing and will add the Extra-Damage-On-PEN version as well as a result of this.

Hard To Block
I gave Jack -3 To be blocked by all attacks. This is largely unnecessary as most people can't block a ranged attack anyway (and it was expensive--but he's a master villain so cost is no object). I decided that even if you were the sort of person who could "block" a ranged attack (such as, maybe, someone with a beam weapon using it to 'suppress' incoming fire or someone like Worm's Trickster who can 'block' you by teleporting you somewhere as you attack) it would still be hard to do that to Jack.

Maybe attacks that generally can't be blocked should be cheaper to make unblockable? I'm not sure: a lot of characters rely on their blocks to some degree.

Hard To Hurt
Jack has been bio-augmented. I looked around in Cybernetics and so on and finally decided on:
  1. +48 Ablative Damage Points. These he can take and feel "no pain" which we see in the web serial (the Nine don't feel pain after being augmented by one of their bio-manipulators).
  2. Fast Company Level 2. This makes him hard to hit and hard to hurt if he is hit. It gives him high reflexes and Acrobatics. It gives him extra HTH damage bare-handed and extra actions per Round. It also gives him +12 Damage Points
  3. Internal Armor from cybernetics (the web serial calls out "protective sheaths" over the organs). This gives him 4 Armor with an extra 4 plating. Considering that a police side-arm does 6 damage a good hit (which hits around the plate) may scratch him but pretty much cops with hand guns could shoot at him all day to almost no effect.
Combined, this package makes him incredibly hard to take out for a 128 AP character (he's 400pts though) if they are built the way the Worm characters tend to be. On the other hand, if the 128 AP character puts half his points in Power Blast, that's another matter.

Use A Magnifying Glass ...
Life at 400 APs
There is a version of JAGS done a long time ago that had diminishing returns built into the super power scale system. You could take 1 "G Class" Power and "sell it down" to two "E Class" Powers, and so on. The numbers worked out so that dumping all your points in one thing didn't pay off all that well. This was, in its way, a thing of beauty--but we did not stick with it once we formalized the Archetype Point system.

As a result, it's pretty cost-effective to take your 400 Archetype Points and put 133 of then in an attack, 133 in Damage Points, and 133 of them in Armor. This character will win a lot (but not all the time--and they'll lose the guy with 200 in Armor and 200 in an attack). 

Jack Slash, at 400 APs is not going to hurt someone with 133 Armor who deals around 148 pts of damage with a Power Blast twice per Round. To put this in perspective, the guy shoots Jack and manages to hit for around 70% damage (114 points). This blows through the internal armor, all the ADP, and does 58 points of "real" damage to Jack who suffers a Major Wound which likely ends the fight.

On the other hand (a) Jack can dodge pretty well, especially with Fast Company: the character's odds to hit, assuming he is an average attacker could be below 50% and (b) This is a bit like Jack going up against Purity in the Worm-verse: he would not want to stand there and take building leveling blasts all day: under heavy fire the character runs for cover.

Still, if you are buying armor in bulk you will pretty easily outstrip Jack's ability to hurt you if you have 400 AP to play with.

On the other hand: while Jack is not the most efficient 400 AP character we could build, against 128 AP heroes he is a death machine. For one thing, without armor--and a lot of armor (for that level) he is going to eviscerate heroes pretty quickly. His multiple attacks mean that he can open a combat by hitting around five different heroes hard enough to seriously hurt them.

His damage is enough to cut through "mundane" armor pretty easily and, assuming he has very high native combat skills (likely) he can probably hit around any plate armor people are wearing. He could slaughter a squad of Coil's combat troops in a matter of a Round or two probably taking next to no damage even if some of them rallied to fire on him.

Slash Vs. Skitter, Oni Lee, and Flechette
Sure it's a bad match-up but these are the three characters I've got. In the show-down, it's kind of a toss up as to whether Flechette can go first or Slash. Slash is probably 75-100 Character Points, Flechette is probably closer to a "normal" 50 (especially as a Ward). She is slightly faster than Slash as her powers give her more Initiative but Slash is natively faster. I think there is likely a 5-10% chance he goes first.

If he does, he has between 5 and 6 attacks on the first Round. Three of those must be against separate people. The other 2 or 3 can go against the same person or double up. He 'slashes' (Mass Attack--meaning he hits masses of people) and hits each character once. Jack probably hits on a 15 to 17 or less.

He hits Oni easily--but Oni Teleport-Dodges effectively (about 50-60% against Jack's very-high to-hit). If he fails, the team-leader, Skitter, pitches in some Success Points so he makes it. He leaves a clone behind which Jack's attack easily kills.

Against Skitter she is hit. The hit will want to hit "around" her armor as she will have some plate and some "full coverage." Here her SP pool is vital: if Jack doesn't get lucky enough to score a penetrating hit either because he doesn't hit by enough to get around the plate (a bad to-hit roll) or because she can "buy down" his level of success with her SPs, she'll be injured--but live. If he does hit by 4+ and penetrate, she will suffer around 80pts of damage or more and be taken out of the fight if not dying outright. She has around 40 DP and 12 ADP. This will score a Major Wound.

The odds are her SP Pool will save her from this first hit.

Against Flechette Jack, again, wants to hit by 4+ and Penetrate. Flechette has no armor but has Fast Defenses. This means that Jack must hit by Flechette's Agility-10 + 8 (Fast Defenses) + 4 (for a "good hit"). If Jack has a (high) 17- attack skill ("Ranged Knife?") and she has a 12 Agility (which is high but not unrealistic for a 50-pt hero character) he must roll a 3 or less. That's like 5% chance. Her Fast Defenses mean he doesn't get his maximal damage. He does, however, hit for 18 PEN. She likely takes half: she's cut but her reflexes get her out of the way.

Jack then has 2-3 attacks to re-distribute. He goes after Oni again. Probably twice. Oni can keep dodging but (a) the clones will pretty much die instantly and (b) Oni's dodge may not protect him which would result in him dying. This likely drains Skitter's REA (she spends action points to lend him SPs) and SP pools. It also drains his action points (he has to pay to doge). This looks like Slash killing a couple more Oni's as he teleports frantically around.

Then the team gets to go. Jack decides (the battlefield is flat, empty, and there is just a moderate range), to focus his last attack on Skitter. Again, if she has SPs and action points, she'll survive but I don't think she gets lucky twice and goes down. NOTE: she might just be very badly hurt. If things go Jack's way she'll take a critical wound but they may not--her armor and plate combined has a reasonable chance of standing up to the knife's "basic" attack.

Assume she is hurt and down but not out or dead.

Oni probably doesn't have a lot of actions left. The real him takes a shot at Jack. He is in a similarly bad position as Jack is against Flechette: he has to hit Jack by 4 (Jack's AGI Bonus) +8 (Fast Bonus) + 4 (a good hit) = 16 to get a "vital hit" on Jack. This will almost never happen. Against grazing hits he does half damage and then the shot hits jack's internal armor. Jack takes a nearly meaningless 2pts of damage from the carbine round. He doesn't feel it.

Flechette is different: she has 1 or 2 shots left (assuming she tried to dodge Jack's Slash--which she probably would even though the odds are well against it) and fires both. In her case she has a similar problem with a "good hit" but her bolts hit for half damage and ignore Jacks' internal armor. He is hit for 8 damage twice.

I don't know if Jack insta-regenerates in the story: in this build he doesn't--but until he gets back to Bonesaw he's down those points (assuming Flechette has added "damage does not heal" as a SMALL advantage). This is still above his ADP so he doesn't feel it.

Round 2: Jack doesn't have his Mass Attack this Round so he concentrates his three attacks cutting up Oni. Without Skitter's SP, Oni blows a dodge roll and goes down.

Flechette answers with three bolts. These likely do, again, around 8-10 damage each. The problem is that now Jack's Ablative DP is all gone and he's taking Damage Points. This he feels. His internal armor doesn't help him. Jack may have around 32 Damage Points which gives him a "Minor Wound" value of 11. This means that Flechette needs to get "a little lucky" to score a hit he'll really feel.

Problematically, the next two rounds probably go Jack's way: both he and Flechette are largely immune to the catastrophic damage effects a vital hit with a penetrating weapon can have in JAGS but Jack's agility is higher (he's a higher point character) and his number of attacks is slightly higher (he can use one of the Mass-Attacks against Flechette every other Round).

Jack 'likely' wins--but he's bristling with bolts and actually injured by the time it's over.

Also Note: the others may not be dead. Oni likely suffers catastrophic damage due to low armor and no SPs but Skitter might be able to survive while injured and if the simulation allows for disengagement Flechette will have several chances to break off if she has to (so will Jack, which he would probably want to once he starts taking Damage Points instead of relatively meaningless ADP).


  1. Interesting.

    This feels reasonably close ton what I'd expect to see in the fiction, which is the goal of the exercise.

    I wonder if things would go differently if Jack concentrated on someone other than Oni. I assume Oni would spawn a bunch of dupes and perforate him...

    1. NOTE: after checking something, Jack's Armor Piercing attack will have a higher chance of penetrating than its "damage" implies. This means Skitter and Oni's vests won't hold up well to even the basic attack.

      Skitter has to spend her SP's to buy down the accuracy of the hit which is going to be a bit harder for her. It also greatly increases the chance of a 1-hit-1-kill on Oni (this has no effect on Flechette).

  2. I find it interesting that Skitter gets a tactical bonus & such to represent her intelligence, but Jack doesn't bring anything to the table on that front. Above all else, you could say that's his primary advantage. He's good at assessing people, to the point that (even with a less than stellar power) he can hold his own among the Nine.

    1. I actually did think about it. There's a "read person" power which he could have, easily (it's not a combat ability so it isn't multiplied by his combat-multipliers (Fast Company and Mass Attack) would bring him to 404 AP--400 is nice and round and prettier than 404 ... which on the web would have its own connotations, but hey).

      A more thoughtful revision could easily give him that.

      Giving him the same kind of Success Point buffs on top of his other combat multipliers as Skitter did would bring him to thousands of points which, while I could do that, seemed a bit excessive. I also didn't see too much reason to: he didn't seem to be the key point to the Nine's *combat* effectiveness--they're all really effective on their own (and, actually, don't seem to fight much as a team--but rather just wade in on their own with a little of Siberian running defense for Jack and Bonesaw).

      One thing that did cross my mind was the *explicit* comment that Jack does without powers what Tattletale does with powers (at least kinda). His "normal guy" would be a candidate for Level 4 Psychology (World-class Master Level) which does allow that kind of manipulation. This would come from a second set of points ("Character Points" instead of "Archetype Points").