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Author Topic: [TSoY] High Power Levels  (Read 11793 times)
Belinda K.
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« on: April 27, 2006, 03:52:13 PM »

I was wondering how well TSoY scales to high-level games, with the power level going through the roof and characters having massive pools and high levels of abilities and secrets to match. Can you scale up adversaries as a consequence? Does TSoY 'break' at any stage?
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Twobirds
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« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2006, 04:20:20 PM »

Not really, I guess.  One of the holdovers from Fudge is the name descriptors for the skill levels and outcome levels.  In a 'newbie' game, an Amazing success is good enough for everyone to ooh and ahh.  At high levels, everyone's a Master in multiple fields and consistently cause Amazing results.  So, hopefully they're doing Amazing things.

I took me a while, but I do accept the necessity (and coolness) of character transcendence.

- George
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Ricky Donato
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« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2006, 06:28:41 PM »

Remember that because of Transcendence, characters cannot scale infinitely high. There comes a point where the character must Transcend and retire.
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Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli
Belinda K.
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« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2006, 06:48:15 PM »

I like transcendence, but I'm just mucking around with things for my game and trying to see if I can get  TSoY to scale between normal humans, heroic mortal types and high-powered wuxia god-like heroes. Maybe I should scale back character generation for 'heroic mortals' and have the starting TSoY character be a high-powered god-like wuxia-esque hero. Or just give them more attribute points in their pools. Hmm. Any suggestions?
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2006, 04:01:51 AM »

I like transcendence, but I'm just mucking around with things for my game and trying to see if I can get  TSoY to scale between normal humans, heroic mortal types and high-powered wuxia god-like heroes. Maybe I should scale back character generation for 'heroic mortals' and have the starting TSoY character be a high-powered god-like wuxia-esque hero. Or just give them more attribute points in their pools. Hmm. Any suggestions?

Belinda,

Your enthusiasm is awesome, and I'm glad you want to play TSOY, so it pains me to say "nope" to you.

TSOY is specifically and totally about human (or, well, human-like) people interacting and dealing with the world. It's got that "no gods, no monsters, just people" credo. If you want to play with god-like beings, it might work if all PCs are god-like beings, but I'm not completely certain that'd be fun.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2006, 04:08:17 AM »

<I'm again crossposting with Clinton. We must be on the same frequency. Interestingly, my analysis disagrees with Clinton, so I must be missing something.>

Part of the game's assumptions is a certain leveling between the demi-gods and others. You never can be so much above somebody else that they're completely inconsequential. You see this in the fiction developed in the longer-running campaigns. For example the leader of the Revenant cult, say: he's one of the most powerful characters in Near, and it's not like a starting character couldn't take him on, given a beneficial situation.

Note that Transcendence is psychologically very difficult to avoid past a certain stage - you'd have to intentionally not take abilities at Grandmaster. All the characters with Grandmaster abilities you'd be meeting (note that the GM may well use such characters, and all the more so when the campaign progresses) would kick your ass. Takes some convinction to create the hypothetical character with all pools 15+ and a ton of secrets, especially when you consider the difficulty of learning secrets.

I illustrate the dynamics of the game usually with the example of a barbarian warrior vs. the necromantic wizard, like Conan encounters. The common wisdom has it that those two going hand-to-hand would have to have the same number of advances for it to be a fair fight. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Give the barbarian starting advances +5, and he's an extremely dangerous opponent for anybody with his Grandmaster Scrapping. Meanwhile, give the wizard, say, 30 advances, and watch him use it for a wide variety of Threecorner secrets, foci, pools and spells. Sure, the wizard is a much more powerful character, but not in all areas. The barbarian could well take him in all manner of situations. And that's how it should be.

My point is that TSOY isn't intented to make objective system-level interpretations of who's powerful and who's not in the setting. There is some correlation, but not enough for D&D-like level systematics. Like, I could well craft a small god and a small girl the same way, as starting characters, if their role in the story wasn't that significant.

All that being said, I recommend reading the game literally when you want your play to contrast the power-levels thematically. A starting character is "Adept" in one or more abilities, which I read to mean that they're experienced craftsmen, equal to skill 80% Runequest characters. To compare, in a game a couple of weeks ago we decided that there's exactly three Uptenbo Grandmasters in Near, the three who created the art. These are the wuxia wise old men. Looking at it like this, the starting character is well within genre for wuxia, even pretty high-flying such. A "Master" would be like those end-bosses in kungfu movies, an unstoppable force in his own right, until the hero upgrades his ability to the same level. The great majority are "Unskilled" in any given ability, but there's the level below that, too: those who can't use the ability at all. I should know, our campaign is very strongly wuxia-themed.

--

HOWEVER, if you're going really high-level, like, superhero high, then some changes are necessary. (I don't know what you're thinking of when thinking of wuxia; it ranges from skilled-human to superhuman.) But those changes won't be in giving the characters higher pools or more secrets! What you need to change are the abilities the characters use. Consider the following abilities:

The Siren Song (Instinct)
A natural ability of the denizens of planet Venus, this song enthralls any listening earthlings, forcing them to bend to the singer's will. The singer can even kill with the song, stopping the hearts and minds of any who hear it.

Super-strength (Vigor)
The character is superhumanly powerful, managing to use his body in ways not possible for humans. This includes giant leaps, lifting cars, ripping houses apart with their bare hands and so on.

Now, these abilities are clearly superhuman, and they're that mechanically, too: they allow the player using them overpowering, blatant opportunities against normal-human characters like you'd have in a superhero story. For example, the siren song all but guarantees that nobody can get to attack distance without preparation or great strength of will, giving the siren a "free" ability check with the stakes of something like "if I win, you die, if you win, you get to try to do something to me" or something equally one-sided. Similarly a character with Super Endurance, when using that ability, gets an unresisted ability check for blocking bullets or whatnot, because the opponent doesn't have an ability that can be used to counter. This way a superhuman ability, while not breaking the mechanical constraints of the game in any way, gives you characters that feel god-like. What's more, with the right secrets structure, you can well play the superhero game with superheroes and baseline humans side by side. For example:

Secret of the Radiation Accident
The character was in a strange scientific accident that bestowed upon him superhuman powers. You can choose one ability from the super-ability category, the character has it at unskilled.

So you're effectively paying an advance for the right to use the super-ability! Batman isn't nerfed at all.

--

To sum it up: TSOY won't break before you Transcend, I'm rather sure. Mucking with power levels is not necessary to give the game a certain kind of style, the right method is to define the abilities and secrets appropriately for the genre. This appropriate definition may easily include abilities at several power levels, if that's necessary for your concept.
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Belinda K.
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« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2006, 11:33:15 PM »

TSOY is specifically and totally about human (or, well, human-like) people interacting and dealing with the world. It's got that "no gods, no monsters, just people" credo. If you want to play with god-like beings, it might work if all PCs are god-like beings, but I'm not completely certain that'd be fun.

Hi Clinton, thanks for your caveat. I'm afraid I'm still terribly enamoured of your system and I'm going to try anyway. I'm planning to put up an AP post to see how the entire (mis) experiment goes. The plan is to do a trial run of the campaign under TSoY rules for a session or so, and then see how the group clicks with it - and seeing if they have fun. I don't think I'm entirely violating the spirit of your game (it's still about humans, just about particularly blessed humans and the consequences of that power), but rather try to explain myself here, I'll see how it goes in play and then let you know what I find out.

To sum it up: TSOY won't break before you Transcend, I'm rather sure. Mucking with power levels is not necessary to give the game a certain kind of style, the right method is to define the abilities and secrets appropriately for the genre. This appropriate definition may easily include abilities at several power levels, if that's necessary for your concept.

Thanks Eero for your excellent advice - I think you've made it quite clear how to work TSoY towards 'higher level' play - I'll try carefully tailor the powers and secrets for the style/theme of the game that I want rather than give the players zillions of attribute pools or massive amounts of skill points.
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DevP
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« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2006, 06:29:27 AM »

TSOY is specifically and totally about human (or, well, human-like) people interacting and dealing with the world. It's got that "no gods, no monsters, just people" credo. If you want to play with god-like beings, it might work if all PCs are god-like beings, but I'm not completely certain that'd be fun.

Is this a feature of TSOY in particular, or do you think its intrinsic to the Solar System?
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Twobirds
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Posts: 55


« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2006, 10:11:12 AM »

I would say I think it's the system more than the setting.  The system encourages taking risks, giving your effort a little more 'oomph' when you think it's important, and rewarding players who take their characters in new directions.  I don't think it's quite the same with God-like characters, who don't need to change and always have all the oomph they need.

It's tempting to think this way, I know I did, but the game is more about human heroes, who put their pants on one leg at a time and earn their XP just like we do, but are thrust into desperate situations where people have to choose, and not choosing is still a choice.  It's a much more fulfilling game if the characters are fluid, reacting to the world even as they change it, rather than being unstoppable bricks.

- George
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Norbert Matausch
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« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2006, 02:23:33 AM »

Hi Eero,
thanks for your enlightening post on the superhero topic. I have one question regarding superpowers, though.
You write:

HOWEVER, if you're going really high-level, like, superhero high, then some changes are necessary. (I don't know what you're thinking of when thinking of wuxia; it ranges from skilled-human to superhuman.) But those changes won't be in giving the characters higher pools or more secrets! What you need to change are the abilities the characters use. Consider the following abilities:

The Siren Song (Instinct)
A natural ability of the denizens of planet Venus, this song enthralls any listening earthlings, forcing them to bend to the singer's will. The singer can even kill with the song, stopping the hearts and minds of any who hear it.

Am I making silly noises, or do you know what I mean?

Super-strength (Vigor)
The character is superhumanly powerful, managing to use his body in ways not possible for humans. This includes giant leaps, lifting cars, ripping houses apart with their bare hands and so on.

Now, these abilities are clearly superhuman, and they're that mechanically, too: they allow the player using them overpowering, blatant opportunities against normal-human characters like you'd have in a superhero story. For example, the siren song all but guarantees that nobody can get to attack distance without preparation or great strength of will, giving the siren a "free" ability check with the stakes of something like "if I win, you die, if you win, you get to try to do something to me" or something equally one-sided. Similarly a character with Super Endurance, when using that ability, gets an unresisted ability check for blocking bullets or whatnot, because the opponent doesn't have an ability that can be used to counter. This way a superhuman ability, while not breaking the mechanical constraints of the game in any way, gives you characters that feel god-like. What's more, with the right secrets structure, you can well play the superhero game with superheroes and baseline humans side by side.

I agree with you that raising pools won't do any good. However, I disagree that superpowers should be abilities only. I think a superhero game would work with superpowers as abilities or as secrets. The only difference is that you have to pay for using your superpowers if they're secrets. The real power lies in phrasing the description of the ability or secret. For instance:

The Secret of the Siren Song
Your voice is a mighty tool. So mighty indeed, that you are able to enthrall any listening earthlings, forcing them to bend to your will. You can even kill with the song, stopping the hearts and minds of any who hear it. Cost: 1 In
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2006, 10:18:52 AM »

I think you forgot your question. For what it's worth, I think you should include an ability check in your secret anyway; as written it's obscenely powerful, as you don't allow the target to resist the siren song.

Making stronger secrets is not really a full and complete method in creating superheroes, at least if you want them to compete with mortals on some meaningful scale.
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Norbert Matausch
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« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2006, 12:03:01 PM »

I think you forgot your question.

Oops. Sorry, my fault. My question was: Why do you think that superpowers in TSOY are best represented by abilities and not secrets?

Quote
For what it's worth, I think you should include an ability check in your secret anyway; as written it's obscenely powerful, as you don't allow the target to resist the siren song.

Sorry again; though I didn't mention it explicitly, I think that superheroic secrets have to be paired with an ability. Success should not be automatic.

Sorry for the confusion!
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"Nothing is true, everything is permitted"
(Hassan Ibn Sabbah)
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