Monday, July 1, 2013

The “Justice League” test begins

During the many (many, many) times I’ve worked on superhero games, I always hit a point where I have to test the system against the toughest possible standard – the Justice League. That’s it. If your supers game can support Batman, Superman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow (and we’ll throw in Aquaman and the Atom for good measure), then you have a flexible enough game to support a great deal of variety. If you can actually get Superman and Batman to coexist in the same encounter, then you are really on to something. If not, then you have some work to do.

I don’t have a Justice League, but I DO have a group of ants that, among them, have vastly different fundamental designs. One of the goals with this version of the MTDAA RPG (that was not a design goal previously) was that the game could actually fully emulate the comics. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but there was no way to play out all of the things that have happened in the comics using previous editions of the game without major house ruling on the fly. The game was inspired by the comic, but didn’t really try to emulate it. It was its own thing. For this edition, I want you to actually be able to play the characters (if you so desired).

The other issue that arises for me is that I have characters who have grown quite a bit since their first appearance in issue 1. It’s quite neat for me, because I loved the WEG Star Wars supplements that gave the stats for the heroes of the OT as they grew – you could see what Luke was like in Episode 4, 5 and 6 as he grew. For me, the ‘sweet spot’ is Empire Strikes Back – that will always be Luke to me, just barely getting a handle on his Jedi powers and thrown into the deep end. I’m going to build my characters in that same ‘sweet spot’ in my own story, right in the open space between the end of the first volume (Tour of Duty) and before The Year of the Ant begins. You could move each down a level for where they are at the start of Issue 1, and maybe add a level for where they end up at the end of Year of the Ant.

Let’s start with Slab, since he presents one big problem that will make me feel better know that it’s solved. He’s the closest thing my comic has to a super-hero; I see him as the Hulk Jr. In the comics, he’s been able to actually lift a tank (with leverage – but it’s still a tank) and rip it open. He’s been able to wrestle a Venus Flytrap and win. He’s been able to punch a minnow in the face and drive it away.

He’s flipping strong.

Right away, I know that Slab is going to be a Reconnaissance specialist, because they have a Body requirement, and Toughness as the favored trait. Those are the only things that fit Slab. He’s no better than Level 4 (he’s maybe Level 3 when we first meet him for Dinosaur Island, so we’ll spot him the level in the interim). This means he is built on 24 Character Points. The attributes are easy:

- Body D12 (10 CPs)
- Mind D4 (free)
- Prowess D6 (1 CP)
- Spirit D4 (free)

This leaves 13 CPs to purchase traits. He has:

- Melee +1 (1 CP)
- Savagery +4 (6 CPs); Abilities: Crushing Blow (1 CP); Grapple (1 CP)
- Toughness +4 (4 CP investment; +1 shift from Recon)

Okay, that was easy, too! He’s a one-dimensional character, and his build is exceptionally one-dimensional. Savagery, however, is a late addition to the draft of the game, a flexible trait that allows you to add your Body to an action, resist or result roll once per encounter per +. For Slab, this means he gets to add an extra D12 to four rolls per encounter. He also picked up the two abilities linked to Savagery that he has used in the comics – crushing blow and grapple. Crushing blow would allow him to do damage to a tank with his bare hands, and grapple would allow him to squeeze the life out of a Venus Fly trap – especially if he was using his Savagery to basically double his Body die, and assuming that maybe he got a lucky die explosion in there somewhere. Actually, as an ant he gets the free Moxy bump, so we could say (even with slightly above average rolling) he could roll a Body roll of 25+, which is pretty considerable. That would be enough to do damage to a tank (that had already sustained damage) or to choke the life out of a Venus Flytrap for a few seconds. If he gets lucky and has a die explosion in there, a result of 35+ is not beyond reason. He’s not going to do this every time, but in the right circumstances, he can emulate what he’s done in the comics.

Since he’s barely Level 4, we’ll put him at the basic XP for that level, 100 XP. He has never earned a promotion (he’s still a Private A-1). However, this still gives him 25 more Clout, for a total of 125.

As a Recon specialist, his starting gear is: AM-15 rifle; boot knife +1; basic aid kit (D4); satchel; basic provisions; bedroll; entrenching tool; standard fatigues (olive drab); basic flashlight (3 cm). Slab rarely uses a rifle, and most often gets into combat with his bare hands. He has used a grenade launcher and a machete at various points, so we’ll include those in his gear.

AM-203 Grenade Launcher (30 clout); 15 standard rounds (+30 clout); 4 phosphorous rounds (+20 clout)
Great Machete (Deals Body +4 damage) (20 clout)

Since he has 25 clout remaining, I will also have him pick up a flak jacket (25 clout).

I just need to determine Hits (I won’t roll these, but assign them). He gets a base of 4D12 (Body each Level) and he adds +5 per Level from his Toughness. Whew… even with average rolling, he’d have 34 Hits, but I think he’s rolled well. If we figure a result of 10 on each die, that gives him Hits 60. Sounds good to me!

Slab is done like dinner! I hope the other characters go this well… he’s fully aligned with the comics, and is a reasonable build within the system:

Level 4 Reconnaissance (A-1); Hits 60; Feat +2
Body D12; Mind D4; Prowess D6; Spirit D4
Melee +1; Moxy +1 (+1 ant shift) Savagery +4 (Crushing Blow; Grapple); Toughness +4 (4 CPs/+1 shift)
- AM-203 Grenade Launcher (D6 base; range 6; blast radius 1 cm); 15 standard rounds (+D6); 4 phosphorous rounds (+D12)
- Great Machete (D12+4 damage)
- AM-15 rifle (D6+1 damage; range 5)
- Boot Knife (D12+1 damage)
- Basic Aid Kit (D4); satchel; basic provisions; bedroll; entrenching tool; standard fatigues (olive drab); basic flashlight (3 cm).