Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Power Grab

Only two more sleeps until Indiecon! Yay! So, in the spirit of over-exuberance and hyper-activity, here's a super-quick superhero game; now I'm off to eat a bag of sugar and run around the garden pretending to be an air-plane!

This is a game in the superhero genre for 3-5 players plus a GM: start by dealing 5 index cards to each player, who then write down a superpower on each card. You can go for the standards like flight, super-strength, X-ray vision, etc, but feel free to be as creative as you like, as long as you include a tone discussion within this process. In other words, don't come up with gonzo, silly powers without clearing that with everyone else first: you don't have to say what powers you're writing down, but it's best for everyone to be on the same page tone-wise.

When all the cards are filled out, they are shuffled together face down by the GM, who then deals out one per player face-up in the central play space: take a quick look at them and start thinking about the type of hero you'd like to be. The GM then begins the game by framing a scene that focuses on a crime or threat: establish a location, show who's there and what they're doing and describe how this could have a bad outcome for innocent bystanders or the world at large. In every scene, there is at least one obstacle per player, plus one for each preceding scene, e.g. in the third scene of a 4 player game, there must be at least 6 obstacles. Obstacles can be stacked, i.e. a large threat can represent two or more obstacles.

To enter the first scene, a player must take one of the face-up power cards and describe how they use that power to investigate the scene, protect bystanders or face-off against villains, tackling one of the obstacles in the process. As each power card is take, deal another one face up from the deck, but nobody can take more than one power in any scene.

Tasks & Actions: Whenever a PC takes any significant action, they roll 1d6, using a standard Yes-No scale to assess the result.

  1. No and... they fail; the GM narrates the outcome and also adds a drawback or penalty.
  2. No... they fail; the GM narrates the outcome.
  3. No but... they fail; the GM narrates the outcome but also adds a bonus or benefit.
  4. Yes but... they succeed; they narrate the outcome but the GM adds a drawback or penalty.
  5. Yes... they succeed; they narrate the outcome.
  6. Yes and... they succeed; they narrate the outcome and the GM adds a bonus or benefit.
A drawback adds another obstacle to the scene or complicates an existing one so that everyone who attempts to tackle it takes -1 against it; a penalty applies -1 to the character's next roll. A bonus removes an additional obstacle from the scene, on top of whatever the character was trying to achieve, or else weakens an existing obstacle so that everyone takes +1 against it; a benefit applies +1 to the character's next roll.

You can only grab one power per scene and may only do so if you are about to use that power right away: you can't grab a power now that you don't want to use until later. When you grab a power, you decide whether it is broad or focused.

Broad powers are useful in a wide-range of situations: examples might be superspeed, invisibility, telepathy and so on. When you use a broad power, you roll an extra d6 and pick the highest result from among those you have rolled; once you have multiple broad powers, you can use more than one of them on one action, as long as they all have equal significance in that action.

Focused powers have one very specific use, such as a force field, laser blasts, quick freezing, etc. When you use a focused power, the usual results of the dice are replaced by the following:
1 to 3: Yes but...
4 & 5: Yes
6: Yes and...
You cannot stack focused powers with any others: when you use a focused power, it is the only one you can use on that roll.

In the first scene, when you first grab a power, introduce your hero by name and describe them; in subsequent scenes, each  time you grab a power, introduce that power with a little bit more detail about your character. Drop in snippets about their background, origins, relationships, civilian identity and anything else of interest.

Final Showdown
The game moves to its final scene when every player has 4 powers at the end of any scene; no player can have more than 4 powers, so you cannot grab any more once you have 4. The GM takes all the remaining powers and creates the supervillain using them: the supervillain should have one power per player. The supervillain's powers are used to block the PCs from taking actions: each supervillain power can be assigned to block one specific type of action, so the PCs will have to search for another way to achieve that goal. The GM should wait until an action is attempted before blocking it; the players can either wok around the block or overcome it by spending a focused power to undo the block. Once a focused power is spent, it is removed from play for the rest of this game.