Dec 17, 2013

More than you bargained for

Babbling at the Counter #20 – Pen and Paper

More than you bargained for

What are you willing to give for power? Or at least, what's your character willing to give? For, you see, power comes at a price. And characters usually work to get very powerful devices or spells. It's such a staple on most fantasy or supernatural stories that you have to find a way to use it in your games. Here are mine:

Less Human: The more power you have, the less human you feel. I use this in games where there is a “charisma” stat, and unless it was pretty good to begin with, it's going to become negative really fast. The idea here is that, as you get further away from humanity, humanity wants less and less to do with you. NPCs get hostile and uncooperative, and only threats or supernatural abilities can make them help the PCs. This makes even the players start to see NPCs more as obstacles than characters, and will play accordingly.

Out of Control: Can you keep it cool? The most common way to deal with this is making every failure on the dice a catastrophic failure. It's not just that the spell didn't work, it misfired and hit something else. But why don't we go the other way? If the target number was 5 and you rolled a 25 (extreme, I know, bear with me for a second) what does it mean? Was it really good, or too good? Rolls that exceed the target for too much could also result in bad consequences. Maybe, instead of charming that cute barista, the whole coffee shop is now in love with you. Do something before the strongest amongst them takes out the rest and comes knocking at your door.

Unintended Consequences: I may be taking this one from a TV series (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) but that's because it's a good one. Each and every spell or superscience device has secondary effects. Using them not only means looking for components and whatever, it's also about cleaning up afterwards. Just don't make them affect the characters directly. If the secondary effect of the phasing spell is disintegrating until death, player should find a way to prevent it so they don't lose the character. Now, if that spell brings and interdimensional menace that attacks friends and family, then you may kill someone. That's a more permanent price to play, but it doesn't stop the game.

Do you have some interesting way to handle great power in your games? Tell us all about it!.

- The Storeman


  1. I'm currently struggling with a way to limit some potential overpowering issues I see with TD10. While I haven't actually encountered any yet, I anticipate, due to the nature of trying to balance small numbers while still maximizing their range and usability, there will be some.

    Now the question for me is - how do I do that without over-complicating the game?

    1. I don't think so. As far as I've seen, there won't be much distance between the character's best and worst traits, so you shouldn't have some characters walking through dangers while the rest dies.

      Something that's been on my mind was how did you plan to handle magic. This was written with magic or super science in mind. How to handle them in simple systems can be quite tricky. Have you though about it?

    2. Yeah, it's definitely been a challenge. In an attempt to keep it simple, I've created something called 'mystic points'. Basically, they work as a sort of point-buy magic system.

      Characters can, at various points, learn and obtain new spells. Each spell costs a certain amount of mystic points. They can then cast these spells at will, until they no longer have mystic points.

      To regenerate MP, characters should rest, restoring 1d5 MP. Otherwise, MP is restored fully next game session.