Rules Test (2)

by David Meadows 9. September 2017 12:47

We left our intrepid games master in a panic because the rules let a useless thug hit and badly hurt Lionheart, who's supposed to eat thugs for breakfast. Is all hope lost? Are these rules actually not as good as I thought?

In situations like this, there's just one question a beleaguered super-hero GM has to ask: 

What Would Peter Parker Do?

Pete would curse his bad luck, then he'd think about how much Aunt May was relying on him, and he'd make some supreme effort even though it seemed hopeless, and he'd win through in the end.

I firmly believe that this is the very heart of super-hero fiction. It's not about how hard you punch, it's about how you bounce back in the face of adversity. Any super-hero RPG rules that don't model this in some way are severely lacking.

And, what do you know? These rules do allow for this!

The game allocates a number of points called "bennies" (short for "benefits") to each character. (First of all, that's a horrible name for them, and I'm not going to use it. I'm going to call them "Hero Points", which is a term my players are familiar with from our original Strikeforce game.)

The player can use these "hero points" to overturn a run of bad luck and let his character win through by making some supreme effort. It's a rules mechanism I really like, because it doesn't completely take away the chance of failure (if the player screws up, he's still going to fail) but it offsets the small (but, as we've seen, real) chance that the GM is going to roll "6" multiple times in a row and really ruin your day through no fault of your own. 

The rule could be open to abuse, but as long as the number of points granted is small, the effect is one of re-balancing rather than un-balancing the game. The player can't blithely ignore every bad result they get, they have to choose their moment and make their character's heroic effort count. From experience in other games, I think the number of points granted to a player in these rules is about right.

So as Lionheart's player, I use up one of his "hero points", and he instantly recovers from the unlucky "shaken" combat result, pulling himself back together and ready for round 3.

On to combat round 3, then, and as expected, now he's on top of things again, Lionheart's superior skills cause the two thugs to miss him, while he punches thug #1 hard enough to knock him out.

I now look at the thugs with guns, and decide one of them ought to stop hovering about and just shoot Lionheart. The problem is, Lionheart is toe-to-toe with thug #2, and the rules give a chance (probably realistically) that the gunmen will hit their friend instead in the confused tussle. Should they try it?

I decide that thug #3 doesn’t really like thug #2 anyway, and doesn’t really care if shoots him by accident. So he takes the shot, misses Lionheart, and to thug #2’s great relief misses him too (I'm sure harsh words will be exchanged later, if they both survive this).

At this point, I decide that the boss villain will save his own skin, and he runs towards the back door. If he can get through it, he will jump into his waiting motorboat and make a clean getaway down the Thames. It now all comes down to whether Lionheart can catch him in time.

Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion!

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The Heroes Universe is an ongoing work of fiction, conceived and chiefly plotted by David Meadows, with help from a group of friends, over a 30-year period.

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