December 20th, 2011


Catalyst - Part 0.2

Following up a previous post, I came up with an idea for a 'superhero' world.

One of the tough questions I've found when thinking about superhero game design is the balance between always-on abilities and activated superpowers and all the variations inbetween. (Then there is the source of power and how gadgets work etc but that appears indirectly in this story.) There was a particular problem that characters who had always-on abilities wouldn't use the card system at all which seemed to defeat the point. While I was thinking about this, my mind wandered into technologies behind the superpowers and how they didn't really make sense when I wondered, "what if the powers were all powered by a small capsule under the skin?".  I'll take another quick detour here.

Once I started thinking about rules for mundane abilities I settled fairly quickly that I was going to go with my current favourite rules base from Houses of the Blooded: if you have two systems they both need to be fairly straightforward; and it also gives non-supers a chance. Unfortunately, Houses of the Blooded already uses beenies ("Style points") which would clash with the ones already laid down. The easy answer was that supers couldn't use beenies the normal way but why?

If you have a capsule that changed people, what if it really changed them? Once you have used it once, you lose the ability to shine without it. It's addictive. It causes trouble. But because it's big trouble, the forces of order and government have to use supers of their own despite the morality. And because it's a device, it can go wrong, be tampered with, be of different qualities. Because it's beyond human technology, it adds a question of who made it. And you can have lots of super-mooks without it feeling corny.

Going back to the discussion which kicked the superhero mechanic off, I felt it would be good for the capsule (now called Catalyst; if you're going to make a MacGuffin, why be subtle?)  to channel energy into its users, a rush that had to be controlled. That argued against innate powers, if not definitely then at least enough for me to rule against them. If you want to be superstrong, you have to let the energy course through you. Which also means the cards are very much about controlling too much power as much about making sure there is enough as was the original intent of the mechanic.