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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairly

    In a lot of create a custom character systems usually point buy ones its possible to gain a considerable discount on a characters abilities by having them based on removable "gadgets." For example a character who flies via a Jetpack or Magical Cape gets that ability more cheaply than one who can fly innately under their own power.

    Now if the fact that the character and his gadgets can be separated never comes up those are effectively free points and the players with characters using innate powers will feel cheated. At the other end if it happens all the time the player of the gadget character will feel singled out and unable to play what they envisioned.

    So I created this thread to ask the playgrounders about their own experiences with such characters and what they feel the sweet spot is for everyone to be satisfied.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    DruidGuy

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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    Quote Originally Posted by Spamotron View Post
    At the other end if it happens all the time the player of the gadget character will feel singled out and unable to play what they envisioned.
    I would emphasise to the player that they should not consider removable parts reliable. If they are planning on always having it, then they essentially are cheating the system, because they want the benefit with no downsides. Obviously you can't make it always useless (otherwise you've basically just taken away their points for nothing).

    I would say make it proportional to how much of a discount they get. Is it 50% of the full cost? Well, half the time it gets nerfed. Maybe the device gets jammed every now and then and they have to roll on a table to see if it works every so often.

    Alternatively, if you're worried they will be upset with the high frequency, take it away for important moments such as boss fights. After all, bosses are likely to be better prepared and gives the other player a feeling like they're special because they invested those extra points.

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    Ettin in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    My way is: most characters will loose most items most of the time during game play. Though you can't 'loose' innate things of a character.

    For example, a lot of intelligent foes will strike to disarm anyone with a weapon or really any hand held item of any use.

    And a lot of intelligent, and greedy, foes will try and take any obvious item of use or power a character displays.

    I like lots of action, and I don't go for the lame video game like ''all your characters super special stuff is always with your character no matter what." Like say a character falls a couple dozen feet into a pool of water..there is a good chance they will drop their weapon or other handheld item.

    The same is true with things like ''an unlocked treasure chest'', where a character has to risk setting down their weapon or item to have a free hand to open it. Again, I don't let players do the dumb video game stuff where their character holds a two handed weapon ''at the ready all the time'', but still also at the exact same time use both their hands to do things.

    And I do lots of environmental effects....like a pool of acid that can destroy items or my favorite classic of a magic item stealing portal.

    And the very simple ''the characters get caught by the bad guy and they take their stuff''.


    This does not ''target'' characters with more stuff...it happens to everyone. The same way nothing else really ''targets'' any character.

    A lot of ''item'' characters do get ''ruined forever'' as they are ''dumb one trick ponies'', but I don't worry about that.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    If you arent planning on removing items just give them less discount. Super boy can always fly whereas Albatross man has to suit up to fly and that warrants some discount.

    But this has often been a problem in point buy games where equipment is just as good as powers. If a gun does 5d6 in damage and an attack power does 5d6 in damage the only difference is that the power cant be taken away but costs a lot more than a gun skill.

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Zombie

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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    You can also consider creating some form of drawback for item based characters.

    For example, using point buy I get the aforementioned jet pack. It lets me fly, and I was able to get it at a fraction of the cost that my Birdman companion had to pay for his natural flying ability.

    If you are worried about taking items like this away entirely, it is perfectly reasonable to make them less reliable all the time rather than sometimes usable and sometimes not. So instead of jamming 50% of the time, the jet pack allows you to fly, but it being a piece of equipment that you are not as comfortable with as natural wings means you don't choose a single spot to land in, but rather a wider area that the GM rolls randomly for. Not a huge area, but imagine on a grid you are landing in a 3x3 square centered on where you INTEND to land. This makes it less reliable in situations where you are attempting to use flight to gain some precise benefit, like landing directly behind an enemy or flying through a narrow window in an enemy tower, but it still retains a lot of the benefits of flight reliably enough that the player likely won't feel cheated, especially if you explain this trade off in advance.

    Note this should only apply to characters attempting to gain abilities at discount. If a player pays full price for flight, but wants to be themed as a Boba Fett clone, they should get the full reliable ability of flight.

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    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    In the recent Arrowverse Mash-Up, Atom arrives to save Supergirl using his suit. With his suit he gets to do nifty things. However, Evil Arrow later shoots it with an arrow knocking it and Atom out of commission. That's the vulnerability. It can be targeted by effects. It's ok to do that. It might take practice but you learn as DM to pace when it gets targeted. As a general rule only BBEGs and their Second In Command would target on purpose. Can't be every BBEG but definitely the Archvillains.

    If the system uses critical hits one option is for the Super Power Item to get hit and malfunction. Not automatically and only as a possibility as any other effect. For a Super Power Item to have a percentage chance of not working, that is something the game system would likely provide. It would be an optional limitation the player accepts to reduce the cost. It might say Unreliable (-5/-10 points) - The Super Power Item has a chance of not working depending how many negative points the player accepts. If the game provides for this but the player chose not to take the weakness it would be unfair to impose it on him anyway.
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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Arbane's Avatar

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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    HERO System handles this pretty well: It's a point-buy system, and if you want to have a power come from an item (or not be usable without the item), it's a "Focus". Focuses come in Obvious/Inobvious and Accessible/Inaccessible, which tells you have easy it is to notice the power comes form the item, and how hard it is to swipe in mid-fight. An Obvious Accessible focus gets a much bigger point discount than an Inobvious Inaccessible one. (There's also whether anyone can use the item, and whether it's breakable or not, but those don't change the point total, generally). They also have possible rolls for Activation (higher chances of failure = bigger discount) and Burnout (Higher chance of breakdown = you get the idea.)
    HERO can be math-heavy, but it's worth looking at for ideas on how to do power advantages/disadvantages.
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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    How about something like Shadowrun, where the rigger's drones and the Physical Adept both get shot up pretty badly. The Rigger now needs several hundred thousand nuyen to get back to previous combat effectiveness. One Treat spell later, and the PhysAd is back in business. The Decker can get thoroughly trashed on the Matrix, but he's unlikely to have to completely replace his deck, just refresh his programs from his back-up computer after the run.
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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    Determine how likely they are to be taken away, or to be separated from the user, to determine discount. A flight pack isn't something you can wear all the time. A power ring is.

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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    Another option, and only if the player agrees to it, is the player pays for the non-reduced normal cost of the power and the Super Power Item always works, never stolen, etc. The Super Power Item is flavor text for the character.
    Quote Originally Posted by Erit View Post
    "The DM is the world, the gods, the trees and the bees. But no matter what covenant is struck or words exchanged, the DM is not the PCs."

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Torath View Post
    How about something like Shadowrun, where the rigger's drones and the Physical Adept both get shot up pretty badly. The Rigger now needs several hundred thousand nuyen to get back to previous combat effectiveness. One Treat spell later, and the PhysAd is back in business. The Decker can get thoroughly trashed on the Matrix, but he's unlikely to have to completely replace his deck, just refresh his programs from his back-up computer after the run.
    Don't be silly, the rigger will back to combat effectiveness after some down time, else he has to expend some shoestring and a gum to get his drones back in shape.

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    HalflingRogueGuy

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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    I say take those gadgets away! Just don't do it every adventure, or it becomes lame.

    Media is full of examples of the gadgets being taken away so that the hero has to show they're still cool and resourceful without the tech / magic / whatever - and then how much they can lay down the awesome when they get their tools back!

    See: Tony Stark in the Ironman movies, having to get his suit assembled; Batman in the Animated Series having his utility belt stolen; Mace Windu in the Clone Wars cartoon, or Obi Wan in the prequels losing their lightsabre...

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    I'm rarely in situation where some people are gadget based and some other people have innate based power, but I say it's exactly the point of the discount. Because the gadget based powers are cheaper, they have more of them, and even if you knock some or all of the gadgets, they'll still have their wits or their other gadgets and whatnot, while if you remove the innate based characters, they're left with nothing.

    In MnM, there's difference between "Device" and "Equipment." Devices are stuffs that are inherent to the character's concept, and if they're ever broken or lost, it's a major arc and should be handled appropriately (so it should be hard to lost). Equipments are stuffs that might be cool but not inherent to the character's concept, and could be lost or get destroyed all the time, and the character should just find/build more. so Devices are more expensive than equipment (though both are still cheaper than innate power), but device are a lot harder to lose.

    Example of devices are Iron Man's suit or Captain America's shield, while, equipments are things like Punisher's guns or Batman's batarang or utility belt (Batsuit should be device though)
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    Superhero in the Playground Moderator
     
    Mark Hall's Avatar

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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    There should be a real chance that the gadget gets taken away... but it should be recoverable or replaceable. That's part of the bargain they made when they chose those powers.

    BUT that doesn't mean that their powers should always be taken away. The game shouldn't always open with them losing the toys, nor should every toy be lost every game... just like every Superman story shouldn't involve kryptonite, every Iron Man story shouldn't involve him losing the suit. But if Kryptonite (or the loss of the suit) aren't real threats, then the points they garner are free, which isn't fair to the guy who took a power hit to have no weaknesses.

    Rule of thumb? One out of every 4 stories should involve the weakness, to one extent or another. Now, if someone has 4 different powers and 4 different weaknesses (or, for a gadget hero, 4 different gadgets, each with their own power), they might be operating at diminished capacity almost all the time... flight pack is broken one week, blaster gets stolen the next, then the net gun, and the super-bike after that.... but you should also, in cases like that, make sure that they have a chance, every so often, to be at full strength and effectiveness.

    See also: You should steal your wizard's spellbooks. Especially if they assume you won't, so don't bother to protect them.
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    Orc in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    I believe Mutants & Masterminds distinguishes three kinds of "equipment powers":
    -Easily removable (type 2): Stuff which you can actually be disarmed of. This stuff can and will be grabbed away. But, there's a pretty good discount.
    -Easily removable (type 1): This stuff is, like, worn stuff, but not armor. Goggles. It's harder to take off, so there's less of a discount.
    -Not, technically, removable. Power armor is here. Not only is there no discount, if its lost, it's treated as a "power loss event", like Kryptonite on Superman, and you get hero points for it (like action points).
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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    Quote Originally Posted by aimlessPolymath View Post
    I believe Mutants & Masterminds distinguishes three kinds of "equipment powers":
    -Easily removable (type 2): Stuff which you can actually be disarmed of. This stuff can and will be grabbed away. But, there's a pretty good discount.
    -Easily removable (type 1): This stuff is, like, worn stuff, but not armor. Goggles. It's harder to take off, so there's less of a discount.
    -Not, technically, removable. Power armor is here. Not only is there no discount, if its lost, it's treated as a "power loss event", like Kryptonite on Superman, and you get hero points for it (like action points).
    This I very much like. It classifies them in a reasonable fashion.
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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    Enemies you are fighting aren't idiots. If I'm up against Pharah-man who rains justice from above, I'll do my level best to sabotage his jetpack, shoot it or otherwise take it out of commission. Make sure players understand this is NPCs using their braincells and don't do it in every single fight/scene, and you're good to go.

    A caveat to this is to make it interesting. Don't have someone cut thruster limiters on the jetpack every damn time (well, not unless it's a running gag) - sometimes, BBEG rigs the propellant to explode, sometimes it makes it spray napalm-like substance, at other times he attaches a dead man's switch and uses it during a mid-air hostage situation. Or maybe he just slaps a tracking beacon onto it in a non-removable way. Mix it up.
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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    Another thing to consider about gadget-based characters: depending on the nature of their gadgets, it can almost qualify as an alternate form.

    A mecha pilot who has to climb into his mecha is little different from a guy who grows into a giant monster. Especially if the latter requires going to a specific facility to undergo transformation (analogous to the mecha pilot having to go to the hangar to climb aboard). Tony Stark becomes Iron Man by putting on a suit, and it is essentially a transformation sequence in its own right most of the time. (Admittedly, with the autonomous and remotely-controlled suits, it is a much stronger super-power that is less transformation-like these days.)

    But if he only has his gadgets when "in costume," treating it like a transformation power wouldn't be inappropriate. The magical girl who has to transform to use more than a few rudimentary tricks and the Woman of Steel who summons her power armor from its hidden location in the trunk of her car before she has more than a gizmo or two in her purse both have similar limitations.

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    Default Re: Treating the Players of Gadget Based Characters (and the rest of the table) fairl

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    A mecha pilot who has to climb into his mecha is little different from a guy who grows into a giant monster. Especially if the latter requires going to a specific facility to undergo transformation (analogous to the mecha pilot having to go to the hangar to climb aboard). Tony Stark becomes Iron Man by putting on a suit, and it is essentially a transformation sequence in its own right most of the time. (Admittedly, with the autonomous and remotely-controlled suits, it is a much stronger super-power that is less transformation-like these days.)
    In my world, Tony has gotten dressed this way at least once.
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    *Picard management tip: Debate honestly. The goal is to arrive at the truth, not at your preconception.
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