DESCENT INTO THE HALL OF JUSTICE
I have another hack. Last time I talked about an X-Com/Monster of the Week/Pandemic mash up. This one’s less ambitious and more doable. I love the premise of Base Raiders. It’s one of my favorite superhero rpg premises. You can see my review and comments on our play-through here. Here’s the short version:
Base Raiders is “Super-Powered Dungeon Crawling.” The world has a rich, multi-decade history of superheroics. But that’s over now. All of the potent and powerful supers vanished in a mysterious incident they call Ragnarok. When those heroes, villains, and other weird beings vanished, they left behind bases- in some cases dozens of them. These marvels contain secrets, materials to scavenge, hi-tech toys, and the possibility of new powers. The PCs are supers- or at least have heightened abilities. They’ve joined together to raid these bases for various reasons- finding a lost loved one, shutting down a danger, discovering a cure, locating a source for new magics, finding vast quantities of filthy loot. They have to fight past traps, failed experiments, and sentient guardians of all shapes and sizes. But they must do this quietly for fear of alerting the authorities or competitors.
That’s awesome. I’ve run it twice. Once I used straight “Strange Fate” mechanics of the book (the same one used by Kerberos Club Fate). The second time I adapted it to my Action Cards homebrew. Neither completely clicked. Strange Fate has spread and scale wonkiness I’m not sold on. Power creation, despite the existence of an app, still feels overly complex. On the other hand, my more classic Fate attempt suffered from a lack of granularity.
Here’s the rub: I think dungeon crawls, especially when they’re a centerpiece, require a level of detail and specificity. But I like games that abstract and condense conflicts (Fate Core, FAE, PbtA). The kind of mapping and challenge that fits with my vision of delving washes out with a system like that. That’s my personal opinion, not having done a full-on mega-crawl with Dungeon World. But generally too abstract doesn’t fit with how I picture this game.
On the other hand, I can’t see doing it in Mutants & Masterminds. The scaling, particularly in terms of area and range, gets weird. You could try to keep it lower level and shift the values, but I’m imaging that as a bad fit. My objection to Champions would be that it offers too much granularity for what I want. Savage Worlds might be OK if I liked that system more.
So in short I have terrible reasons for not using those other systems. That’s convenient for me since I have another idea I want to try.
They’re my goalposts and I’ll move them where I want to…
As you may have guessed, I’m thinking about reskinning 13th Age for Base Raiders. I’ve enjoyed running this system; it hits my sweet spot. 13th Age has the classic elements- levels, AC, distinct classes. But it combines that with a loose sensibility. It’s fantastic and has plenty of room for player narration. It might not be as lethal as other games, but I dig that. It means the GM can turn the dial on the fight and make players fear for their resources. Here’s what I’ve sketched.
Each class becomes a kind/origin/theme of superbeing. Players can tune that by defining their look, background, and special effect. Here’s what I’m thinking:
- Barbarian = Scrapper
- Bard = Psychic
- Cleric = Mystic
- Fighter = Brawler
- Paladin = Tank
- Ranger = Sniper
- Rogue = Sneak
- Sorcerer = Blaster
- Wizard = Gadgeteer
- Commander = Super-Soldier
- Monk = Martial Artist
- Druid = Shape-Shifter (done with a particular build)
- Occultist = Warper (as in reality warper like Scarlet Witch or Proteus)
I’ve borrowed from City of Heroes for some of those names. In general classes remain relatively the same, with a few exceptions. Mostly I change the names of powers, feats, and talents.
- Need to change possible backgrounds to fit the setting. One True Things easily work.
- Weapon Categories are Concealable, Standard, and Heavy. I’ve shifted some of the numbers for this and armor. Characters can have a shield; it might be a blocking weapon or an actual shield. It takes up one hand.
- I’ve called Powers "X-Powers" in my rewrite but that’s a placeholder for a better name. Because that's terrible and confusing.
- Some classes, especially the Sorcerer required some greater revising, especially higher level abilities. The Cleric required additional reframing.
- I’m working on Racial and General feats. Some of these can be ported straight over, while others work less well. Some of them will be micro-movement powers. I’ll lump all of these into Origin and Training feats. Since races won’t be a factor in the setting, players may assign the+2 stat bonus they’d usually get from that. If someone wants to be something like an alien, energy-being, or robot we’ll do that as feat picks.
- Magic Items are simply equipment and devices. Base Raiders has the PCs specifically searching the old bases for super-weaponry and such. I’ll rename some of the categories. While I won’t have item quirks- I might have to think of a mechanic to replace that. I’ll likely limit equipment use based on level (i.e. they can’t use greater than their capacity. Period.)
- Potions will be stimulants and super-serums. There might be some costs for that. Salvage will be other treasure. BR has a good system for that and I think we can port it over easily.
- Players may still shift and rearrange picks as they wish. In the setting, everyone’s got uncertain and piecemeal powers so I think that fits.
- I changed Thunder as an energy type into Sonic. I’ll have to work out something for Negative Energy. Darkness? That’s a comic-book energy type. Anti-Matter? Unholy?
ICONS = FACTIONS
Base Raiders doesn’t overcomplicate the setting. It offers history and some interesting ideas about the state of the world. But players can jump quickly into the setting without knowing those. In this version Icons will represent Factions. Those can be organizations, movements, or special interest groups. I doubt we’ll need the full thirteen. We can shorthand the descriptions (no more than a paragraph) so players can grok it easily. Here’s a quick list of example factions from the core book. I probably wouldn’t use all of these.
- Local Law Enforcement
- The Feds
- Government Officals
- Anti-Alien/Mutant/Magic Groups
- Super-Soldier program
- Legacy and Sidekick Support Groups
- Power Type Networks (Magic, Cyber, Serum, etc)
- Black Market & Agora Auction Site*
- The Underground: Isolationists, Machivellians, Technocrats, Pro-Human, Mystics
*named specifically in the BR book
MONSTERS = ADVERSARIES
Much of the GM’s fun will come from reskinning the bestiary to represent robot defenders, products of mad science, minions, and super-villains. They can easily tune descriptors and energy types. A sword or crossbow strike becomes a punch or pistol. GM’s shouldn’t stick with humanoid monsters for conversion. A red dragon might just as easily become a pyrotechnic supervillain. A water elemental could be aqua-bending shapeshifter. The size categories- large and huge- represent power levels and not mass in 13th Age. GMs may be tempted to tweak AC and PD to represent not having to hit the broad side of a barn. I’d consider that carefully.
GADGETEER EXAMPLE CLASS
I’m 95% done with all of the base classes. I worked from the SRD to do the modification. Here’s the Gadgeteer (aka Wizard) with the 1st level picks. As you can see below, most of the changes involve renaming or reframing. As I mentioned above, where I’ve written X-Power, read that as power from the original game.
Gadgeteers gain a +2 class bonus to Intelligence or Wisdom.
Possible backgrounds include:
1d8 (-2 atk)
1d8 (-2 atk)
*A gadgeteer needs one free hand on an x-power device to activate x-powers. As such, they suffer a penalty for using a two-handed weapon. (The penalty applies to x-powers also.)
Gadgeteers have four class features: Micro-machines, Cyclic X-Powers, Workshop, and Inventor.
Every gadgeteer can use a handful of micro-machines each day. You don’t have to choose them beforehand, you just pull them out on the fly.
Gadgeteers can activate a number of micro-machines equal to their Intelligence modifier each fight. Each micro-machine takes a standard action to use as a ranged x-power. Outside of fight, a gadgeteer can operate about three to six micro-machines every five minutes. The Micro-Machine Mastery talent speeds this up.
At the hero tier (levels 1–4), micro-machines with a standard duration last 10–60 minutes, plus 10 minutes per gadgeteer level. The GM rolls and the gadgeteer becomes aware that their micro-machine is about to end a couple minutes before it’s done.
At the champion tier, levels 5–7, most micro-machines last 1–6 hours.
At the epic tier, levels 8–10, micro-machines last between 2–12 hours.
For a list of available micro-machines, see Micro-machines.
X-Powers that have a cyclic usage can always be used at least once per fight, and are only expended in that fight if activated when the escalation die is 0 or odd. In other words, if you use a cyclic x-power like dazzle when the escalation die is even, the x-power is not expended and can still be called on later in the fight.
Gadgeteers have a workshop. While a gadgeteer is in their own workshop, their daily x-powers become recharge 16+ after fight.
Gadgeteers can use their x-powers for larger effects. This also them to use the ritual rules.
Champion Feat: You can “invent” by using all your actions each round to focus on the creation (ritual) for 1d3 + 1 rounds. As with standard rituals rules, your fast inventions are not meant to replace combat x-powers; they’re a means of acquiring and improvising wondrous effects rather than a means of inflicting damage and conditions.
Choose three of the following class talents.
Whenever you use a daily gadgeteer x-power, you gain a +4 AC bonus until the end of your next turn.
- Hero Feat: The bonus also applies to your Physical Defense.
- Champion Feat: You gain 2d12 temporary hit points each time you use a daily x-power.
- Epic Feat: The bonus also applies to Mental Defense.
Micro-machines are at-will x-powers for you.
Unlike normal gadgeteers, who use a standard action to activate a micro-machine, you can toss out a micro-machine as a quick action.
To do something particularly cunning or surprising with one of your micro-machines where the GM isn’t sure whether you could pull off that use of the x-power, roll a normal save (11+) to use the x-power the way you envision it.
Additionally, you can expend a 3rdl evel x-power slot or higher to choose one micro-machine per x-power slot you have given up and create a once-per-day related effect with it that is much greater, if you and your GM can agree on a cool effect that suits the micro-machine.
Hero Feat: You can use micro-machine-style versions of any gadgeteer x-power you have memorized. When you expend an x-power, however, you can’t make micro-machine-style use of it any more. The key is that none of these uses should be combat relevant or deal damage.
The Micro-machine Mastery talent is more about enhancing the roleplaying and less about combat usefulness.
Once per fight, when you activate an x-power that targets Physical Defense, before rolling for the number of targets or making the x-power’s attack roll, you can expend your quick action to boost the x-power. Hit or miss, you'll max out the x-power’s damage dice (except on a natural one, which deals no damage to the target and likely damages the gadgeteer in some manner).
- Champion Feat: Whenever you boost an x-power, you can reroll one of the attack rolls if that natural roll was less than or equal to the escalation die. You must take the new result.
Your study of the most obscure technical fields gives you options that lesser gadgeteers cannot match: Memorization and a bonus x-power: neutralize
When you pick your x-powers, you can choose any daily gadgeteer x-power twice (instead of once). This doesn’t apply to x-powers that start as recharge x-powers. For example, at 7th level when you have five 7th level x-powers and four 5th level x-powers, you could choose immolator twice as a 7th level x-power, or once as a 7th level x-power and once as a 5th level x-power. (Your 3rd level x-power slot can’t be used for immolator because immolator starts as a 5th level x-power.)
Close-quarters x-power, Once per fight
Free action to activate
Trigger: A nearby target you can see activating an x-power using a device, implant, or other artificial means.
Target: The nearby creature using an x-power.
Attack: Intelligence + Level vs. MD
Hit: The target’s x-power is canceled, and they loses the action they were using for the x-power. If the x-power had a limited use, that use is expended if your natural attack roll is even.
- Champion Feat: You can now use neutralize twice per fight.
- Epic Feat: You can now activate neutralize in reaction to a creature using any obvious power, not just using a device-based x-power.
Rename each of your daily and recharge x-powers. Think up the most over-the-top and extravagant names you can muster. Since these alternate x-powers are so involved, they take an additional quick action to activate. While the regular effects of the x-powers are the same as the more common versions, they have a small bonus effect appropriate to the situation.
The bonus effect is determined by the GM, or by a collaboration between the GM and the player. It should add to the storytelling power of the situation.
The bonus effect should suit the name of the x-power or the way it’s delivered, and shouldn’t precisely match up with what the x-power normally accomplishes.
Your servant is a small animatronic, computerized or robot assistant who aids your inventing and provides companionship. It also provides opportunities for improvisation between you and the GM.
Your servant is as intelligent as a normal person. It can communicate with you and will stay close you unless you’ve chosen abilities that let it roam. Your servant is on your side but it’s not perfectly in your control.
If your mechanical servant is destroyed, it can come back to you the next time you get a full heal-up. (The method or story used is between you and the GM.) Alternatively, you can get a new servant.
Mechanical servants are useless in combat, except as indicated by their abilities. Ordinarily they aren’t damaged by enemy attacks and x-powers unless the story calls for it.
Servant Abilities: Choose two of the following abilities for your servant.
- Agile: You gain a +2 bonus to Dexterity skill checks.
- Scanner: You gain a +2 bonus to Wisdom skill checks.
- Zapper: Each fight, if your servant is close to you, it zaps the first enemy that hits you with a melee attack after that attack, dealing 1d4 damage per level (no attack roll) to that enemy.
- Flight: Your servant flies as well as a hawk. It doesn’t fly that often and usually sticks with you, but it can do so when its other abilities allow.
- Mimic: One fight per day, you gain the use of the variant power of one nearby ally.
- Caustic Launcher: Once per fight, when you hit an enemy engaged with you, you can add 5 ongoing poison damage per tier to the damage roll.
- Scout: Once per day, your servant can separate itself from you and make a reconnaissance run of an area or location. Roll an easy skill check for the environment to get your servant to scout unseen.
- Tough: You gain a +1 save bonus. Tough counts as two servant abilities.
- Talkative: Your servant can talk like a person (but the GM speaks for the servant more than you do).
Hero Feat: Your servant gains another ability.
Champion Feat: Once per level, if your servant is close to you, it can use one of your x-powers as a free action on your initiative count, even if you have already expended the x-power. The x-power functions as if you had activated it.
Epic Feat: Your servant gains another ability.
- Alarm (standard duration): The micro-machine creates a security field that can be instructed to go off if someone comes through an area or touches an object. At higher levels, the x-power creates buzzing field serving as both a visual and actual deterrent.
- UV Spray (standard duration): The micro-machine creates a mark on an object or person. These mark are usually plain to see, though a deliberately invisible mark can be made. It takes a difficult perception or tech check to notice.
- Sound Projection: This x-power creates false noises emanating from somewhere nearby. The effect is like an exceptionally good version of throwing your voice, if your voice could create a wide variety of sounds. Attempted distractions with the micro-machine are DC 15 challenges in hero environments, higher as you move into champion and epic environments. If someone is using sound projection against the PCs, a Wisdom-based skill check can identify the sound as a fake.
- Locksmasher: This micro-machine summons a servitor cloud three to four times as big as your closed fist that swarms around the door and attempts to punch or push it open (depending on whether you want to be quiet or announce your presence). Success is determined with an Intelligence check against the environment’s DC using an appropriate magical background. This micro-machine does nothing to avoid any traps that might exist.
- Light (standard duration): This micro-machine creates a fairly wide and consistent field of light, up to 30 feet in diameter, though it isn’t bright enough to dazzle.
- MagLev: This micro-machine creates a small telekinetic effect that lasts a round at most. At best it’s about half as strong as the gadgeteer’s own strongest hand. At worst it’s half as strong as the gadgeteer when they’re weak from a bad fever.
- Mending: This micro-machine summons a nano-cloud which swarms over a chosen broken object attempting to mend it (over the course of 1–6 rounds). Small-scale repairs like torn packs, muddy clothing, a broken gungrip, and similar repairs that anyone could fix with two to four hours of devoted work gets handled in seconds. More elaborate repairs to complicated objects might require an Intelligence check, or at the GM’s discretion could only be possible if the gadgeteer has taken the Micro-Machine Mastery talent.
- Prestidigitation: This micro-machine produces magic tricks and small illusions. One use usually gives you a minute of fun.
- Spark: This is a minor fire creation x-power, enough to light a pipe, or a campfire, or even a page or two of documents. It doesn’t work against living beings or against things that couldn’t easily be set on fire with a few seconds of steady application of a candle. The target of the spark has to be nearby and in sight.
When you choose x-powers during a full heal-up, instead of taking a standard x-power, you can choose to give up an x-power slot to prepare the utility x-power at the same level. When you take the utility x-power, you gain access to a range of useful non-combat x-powers of the level you set it at or below. You use each utility x-power at the level of the x-power slot you gave up for it. You can give up multiple x-power slots to take utility x-power multiple times.
Choose from among the following utility x-powers:
- Hero Feat: Each utility x-power you take lets you activate two x-powers from the available options instead of one.
- Champion Feat: As above, but you can use three utility x-powers instead of one.
1ST Level Utility: Disguise
Close-quarters x-power, Daily
Effect: This x-power provides you with an effective disguise that lasts about ten minutes, making the skill check to avoid unmasking one step easier: easy if it would have been a normal task, normal if it would have been a hard task, and hard if it would have been a ridiculously hard task. The x-power only affects your general appearance, not your size. It can be used to hide your features behind the generic features of another person or race. Using it to impersonate a specific person makes it less effective as a disguise (-2 to -5 penalty).
3th level x-power: The x-power lasts for 1 hour.
5th level x-power: The x-power also provides smell; +2 bonus to any checks.
7th level x-power: The x-power also handles correct-sounding vocal patterns and rough mannerisms; +4 bonus to any checks.
9th level x-power: You can now target an ally with the x-power; you can also now use it on up to two targets at once.
1ST Level Utility: Anti-Grav
Close-quarters x-power, Daily
Free action to use
Effect: When you activate this x-power, it arrests your fall, letting you glide down the ground over a round or two.
3rd level x-power: You can now target a nearby ally with the x-power.
5th level x-power: You can now target up to two nearby targets with the x-power.
7th level x-power: You can now target up to five nearby targets with the x-power.
9th level x-power: You gain some control over where a target falls, like a quickly gliding feather.
1ST Level Utility: Power Lock
Ranged x-power, Daily
Effect: You use this x-power on a door. For ten minutes, hero-tier persons can’t get through the door. Champion-tier persons can batter it down; each attempt requires a DC 20 Intelligence skill check (including an applicable background) by the user to resist the battering and keep the x-power going. Epic-tier targets can walk right through.
3th level x-power: The x-power now lasts for an hour. Hero-tier persons are stymied. Champion-tier persons can batter the door down or destroy it after three failed DC 20 skill checks by the gadgeteer. Epic persons notice that the now-busted door had a gadget on it.
5th level x-power: Champion-tier persons take a few minutes to force the door open. Epic persons can force it open after one failed DC 25 skill check by the gadgeteer.
7th level x-power: Champion-tier persons are stymied for up to an hour by the door. Epic tier persons get through after three failed DC 25 skill checks by the gadgeteer.
9th level x-power: Champion-tier persons can’t enter. Epic-tier persons can’t get through for an hour.
1ST LEVEL X-POWERS
Ranged x-power, Daily
Target: One nearby or far away creature
Attack: Intelligence + Level vs. PD
Hit: 4d10 acid damage, and 5 ongoing acid damage.
Miss: 5 ongoing acid damage, and you regain the x-power during your next quick rest.
3rd level x-power: 5d10 damage, and 10 ongoing damage; 10 ongoing on a miss.
5th level x-power: 8d10 damage, and 15 ongoing damage; 15 ongoing on a miss.
7th level x-power: 3d4 x 10 damage, and 25 ongoing damage; 25 ongoing on a miss.
9th level x-power: 5d4 x 10 damage, and 40 ongoing damage; 40 ongoing on a miss.
Ranged x-power, Daily
Target: You or one nearby ally
Effect: For the rest of the fight (or for five minutes), attacks against the target miss 20% of the time.
3rd level x-power: The x-power is now a quick action to activate.
5th level x-power: Miss 25% of the time.
7th level x-power: Miss 30% of the time, and you can now target 1d2 targets with the x-power.
9th level x-power: Miss 30% of the time, and you can now target two targets with the x-power.
Ranged x-power, Daily
Target: One nearby creature with 40 hp or fewer
Special: This x-power cannot be activated during combat or on a target that has rolled initiative to fight.
Attack: Intelligence + Level vs. MD
Hit: The target believes you are their friend until you or your allies take hostile action against them. (Attacking their normal allies is okay.) If you or your allies attack the target or order the target to attack its normal allies, the target can roll a normal save to break the charm effect during its turn each round.
Special: On a miss, the x-power is not detectible by most others unless you miss by 4+ or roll a natural 1, in which case the target and its allies knows what you tried to do and will usually be angry about it.
3rd level x-power: Target with 64 hp or fewer.
5th level x-power: Target with 96 hp or fewer.
7th level x-power: Target with 160 hp or fewer.
9th level x-power: Target with 266 hp or fewer.
Close-quarters x-power, Cyclic (activates once per fight OR at-will when the escalation die is even)
Target: 1d4 nearby enemies in a group
Attack: Intelligence + Level vs. MD
Hit: 2d8 psychic damage, and if the target has 10 hp or fewer after the damage, it is weakened until the end of your next turn.
3rd level x-power: 4d6 damage, 20 hp or fewer.
5th level x-power: 6d8 damage, 30 hp or fewer.
7th level x-power: 10d6 damage, 40 hp or fewer.
9th level x-power: 10d12 damage, 60 hp or fewer.
- Hero Feat: Increase the hit point threshold of the weakened effect by 5 hp.
- Champion Feat: On a miss, the x-power deals damage equal to your level.
- Epic Feat: The x-power now targets 1d4 + 1 nearby enemies in a group.
Ranged x-power, At-Will
Target: One nearby or far away enemy.
Attack: Automatic hit
Effect: 2d4 force damage.
3rd level x-power: 2d8 damage.
5th level x-power: 4d6 damage.
7th level x-power: 6d6 damage.
9th level x-power: 10d6 damage.
- Hero Feat: You can choose two targets; roll half the damage dice for one missile and half the damage dice for the other, then assign one set of damage dice to each of the two targets.
- Champion Feat: Roll a d20 when you use the x-power; if you roll a natural 20, the homing rocket crits and deals double damage. (Rolling a 1 is not a fumble; this roll checks only to see if you can crit.)
- Epic Feat: The 7th and 9th level versions of the x-power now use d8s as damage dice.
Ranged x-power, At-Will
Target: One nearby enemy
Attack: Intelligence + Level vs. PD
Hit: 3d6 cold damage
Miss: Damage equal to your level.
3rd level x-power: 4d8 damage.
5th level x-power: 6d8 damage.
7th level x-power: 7d10 damage.
9th level x-power: 10d12 damage.
- Hero Feat: When your freeze ray attack roll is a natural even hit, if the target is staggered after taking the damage, it is also dazed until the end of your next turn.
- Champion Feat: The target of the x-power can also be far away.
- Epic Feat: When you use the x-power you can change the damage type to lightning or sonic.
Close-quarters x-power, Recharge 11+ after fight
Free action to activate, when an attack hits your AC.
Effect: The attacker must reroll the attack. You must accept the new result.
3rd level x-power: You gain a +2 AC bonus against the rerolled attack.
5th level x-power: You can also use the x-power against attacks that target your Physical Defense; replace references to AC with PD.
7th level x-power: The bonus to AC/PD on the rerolled attack increases to +4.
9th level x-power: The bonus to AC/PD on the rerolled attack increases to +6.
- Hero Feat: You can now choose either of the attack rolls, in case the second one crits or is otherwise bad for you.
- Champion Feat: Recharge roll after fight is now 6+.
- Epic Feat: Hit or miss, you take only half damage from any attack you use shield against.
Close-quarters x-power, At-Will
Target: One creature engaged with you
Attack: Intelligence + Level vs. PD
Hit: 1d4 lightning damage, and the target pops free from you.
Miss: You take damage equal to the target’s level from botched feedback.
3rd level x-power: 1d6 damage.
5th level x-power: 2d6 damage.
7th level x-power: 3d6 damage.
9th level x-power: 4d6 damage.
- Hero Feat: The x-power now requires only a quick action to use (once per round).
- Champion Feat: Once per fight, when you hit the target of the x-power, you can also daze it until the end of your next turn.
- Epic Feat: The damage dice of the x-power increase to d8s.