Thursday, January 28, 2016

Xavier's Kingdom for Gifted Children

It's no secret I love Microscope. I've used it many times to craft histories and cities for campaigns, one-shots, and virtual conventions. But I also love Ben Robbins' other game, Kingdom. If pressed, I'd put that in my top five rpgs. I love what Kingdom does and, though you could say this about every game, it clicks with players who know the game's approach. This is the last of my hacks for January (alongside my X-Com/Pandemic/MotW and 13th Age/Base Raiders concepts). This is a new Kingdom seed and a love letter to the X-Men. 

The (name) School for Gifted Children is a (completely secret/ quietly concealed/ out in the open) school for young persons with amazing powers, commonly called Mutants. The school aims to (bring mutants and humanity together peacefully/ teach mutants to survive/ create a bond of mutant “brotherhood” for the future).

Humanity fears Mutants. They have existed (for a long time/ only a generation/ for a few short years). The strongest reactions have involved (paranoia/ hostility /violent assaults/ fearmongering). While the debate has raged on (many/ several/ only one/ no) (politician(s)/ organizations) has(ve) risen to take the lead on the issue.

The school itself is a (small facility/ lies on a modest estate/ sprawls across a large campus). Parents are (fully aware of/ have an inkling about /have been brainwashed concerning) the school’s purpose. Instruction focuses on (students’ talents/ making them well-rounded persons/ balancing powers and real world knowledge).

The staff itself (has a few Mutants/ strikes a balance between Mutants and Humans/ is almost entirely Mutant). Instructors on staff with powers (avoid any kind of/ get caught up in/ secretly engage in/ openly carry out) superheroics.

  • Government Registration: Many have called for a central database of all mutants. Others have gone further and suggested mutants be marked and labelled.
  • Kidnaping for Experimentation: Several organizations want mutant bodies, some for nefarious weapon programs and others to serve a Transhumanist agenda.
  • Mutant Militant Organization Rivalry: Another organization exists either in direct conflict or carrying out a more extreme version of the school’s agenda.
  • Student Dissatisfaction: Just because you're a mutant you don't have to attend the school. The staff have to balance drills and student body buy-in.
  • Instructors with Agendas: Some instructors live to teach, while others have political agendas and perspectives they work quietly to spread.
  • Alien Intervention: For some reason alien empires keep getting caught up in mutant affairs. That can seriously impact syllabi.
  • Parental Annoyance: Students have parents and parents have desires and ambitions for their children. While some have disowned their offspring, others argue about grades, teacher recommendations, and future placement opportunities.
  • Vigilante Activities: Some mutants fight for justice, and they may be sneaking out to do it. That can bring unwanted attention.
  • Mutants Social Unrest: In some areas mutants have been shut into closed communities. Tensions there can spill over.
  • Budgeting for Repairs: Repairing the Danger Room after a particularly nasty fracas isn’t cheap.
  • Hormones and Energy Blasts: These are teenagers with powers like telekinesis, fire control, and invisibility. What happens when you jam them together in a single place?
  • Mutant Plague: A virus, perhaps artificial, perhaps not, has begun to spread in the general mutant community.
  • Mutant Conversion Therapy: Rumors have come of a “cure” for mutantkind. It may be a trap or it may be a means to eliminate the mutant threat permanently.
  • Temporal Changes: Mutants have a habit of getting into temporal mishaps. This can create changes to reality only some people recall.
  • Educational Certification: It’s still a school. If anyone wants their degree recognized or credits transferred, it needs accreditation.
  • Secret Agency Infiltrators and Recruiters: Those in the know eagerly place moles, double-agents, and the brainwashed on site for future plans.
  • Staff & Students with Evil Relatives: An unusual number of mutants have siblings, parents, or cousins who turn out to be super-villains.

  • Counselors Office
  • Instructors Wing
  • Danger Room
  • Headmistress’ Chambers
  • Subterranean Aircraft Hanger
  • Front Hallway Crossroads
  • Baseball Diamond
  • Off-Limits Woods
  • Down by the Lake
  • Teachers’ Garage
  • Research Laboratories
  • Medical Room Closet
  • Secret Mutant Detector Facilities
  • Student Rec Room
  • Dining Hall
  • Isolation & Containment Chambers
  • Garden Maze

  • Former Villainess Turned Teacher
  • Student with Monstrous Appearance
  • Warrior with a Haunted Secret Weapon Past
  • Uptight First Graduate of the School
  • Shared Mind Collective
  • Alien Transfer
  • Devoutly Religious Instructor
  • Disgruntled Star Pupil Returning to Teach
  • Resurrected Clone FiancĂ© of the Vice Principal
  • Imaginary Concept Turned Human
  • Reprogrammed Anti-Mutant Killer Robot
  • Alternate Timeline Survivor
  • Excitable Superheroic Groupie
  • Reluctant Student with Deadly Powers
  • Pupil with Anti-Mutant Family Ties
  • Non-Mutant Butler
  • Depowered Superhero

  • Expel students caught using their powers to cheat?
  • A new student has powers that shut down his classmates abilities. Leave them in normal classes or isolate them from the others?
  • Let the students participate in a shared prom with local schools?
  • A new mutant-only drug is making the rounds. Conduct an undercover investigation locate the culprits?
  • A student has started a movement praising the ideals of a radical mutant supervillain. Ban such talk from the school?
  • A popular Southern instructor has been fraternizing with students. Expel him from the grounds?
  • Put a stop to students secretly training with the more lethal aspects of their powers?
  • Some object to the presence of non-Mutants. Only allow mutants on campus?
  • Have students battle one another to increase their skills?
  • Encourage more parental participation at the school?
  • Openly endorse mutant superheroics?
  • Move the school to a recently seized mutant-only region?
  • Lock away a student discovered to be a younger (clone/dimensional alternate/de-aged/amnesiac) version of an arch-villain?
  • Openly campaign against new Mutant Registration legislation?

Suggestions? Other ideas?  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

OCI: Portals, VR, and Campaign Iterations

This month's RPG Blog Carnival covers Gates & Portals, hosted by Tales of a GM. One of my current campaigns relies on the idea of Portals. This post covers that in depth. The first lengthy part talks about the evolution of the campaign, in particular the two previous iterations which came before it. If you'd just like to read the cool synopsis of what's actually happened in the campaign, jump down to the What We've Done So Far section. This is a long post and it hits on some ideas I've gone over in other posts, but I wanted to assemble a synthesis of that. 

Back in the ‘90s, we had a flux of campaigns. Many ones ened simultaneously and we had a sizable group of free players. That ended up re-configuring into two GURPS campaigns, a Champions run, two Rolemaster games, and one other. In that a local GM gathered some of the best players for an ambitious campaign he called "Hudson City Interface" (or HCI). The name came from the Hudson City, then being used in the Dark Champions sourcebooks. In this game, everyone would make up near-future characters, scattered across the globe. But no one would reveal their identity to other players. Those characters would then have an alternate identity and persona within the HCI, a shared VR hub. Going down one more level, those PCs would play together within Portals: VR game worlds of various genres.

HCI had a solid concept that borrowed from Dream Park, Mindplayers, Snow Crash, and other VR fiction. It adapted anime elements for its modern setting (in particular Bubblegum Crisis). This came well before .dot Hack, Log Horizon, Soul Hackers, or Sword Art Online. The game mostly alternated arcs of sessions between the Interface and the Portals. But a huge amount of play went on privately outside the game, with the GM describing out the “real world” of these characters in one-on-one play-by-email exchanges. Some portals lasted a session or two, while others stretched on and recurred. HCI had a large and overarching story which came out in pieces, mostly in those away from table interactions.

The premise had several opportunities. The GM could play different genres within the same campaign. They could easily use and integrate modules into play. It supported several levels of mystery. NPCs could appear in portals, the interface, or the real world. Fun could be had finding connections between those. As well, group played might off each other- trying to discover various RW identities.

On the other hand, the framework had many disadvantages. Portals dragged on for many sessions, with players becoming attached and reluctant leave. It also required repeated character creation sessions. Different player opinions on portals and what they wanted from them made things tense. Importantly, the portals' VR nature meant they had less weight. What happened there could be treated as a game, without seriousness or consequence. Finally HCI had a great deal of complexity. All players had to participate heavily or get left behind and confused when meta plots came up. The reliance on out of game communications and effectively one-on-one PbF play with 7-8 players taxed the GM heavily.

Ultimately HCI died in mid-campaign, to the disappointment of the players. Part of the failure came from the GM’s reluctance to pull the trigger on the cool plots he’d set up. When players pushed to figure out a big secret, he’d defer or create another layer. So while the "real world" level had depth, it had no resolution. He wanted to keep all the plates spinning. Social tension at the table created problems, with new players added late to an already full table. Finally the sheer volume of PbF was unsustainable. The GM burned out and dropped the campaign without explanation or promise of continuing. He took it up again a few years later with a select set of those players, alienating others who’d enjoyed it. But that campaign lacked the spark and fizzled out again.

I didn’t play in that campaign, but heard about it through my wife. I’d also spoken and batted around ideas with the GM before he ran. I saw what happened and tried to learn from the problems. I decided I would run a game, called Ocean City Interface (to move it away from the Hudson City reference). Initially I came to it because I wasn’t sure if I could run a sustained Legend of the Five Rings campaign with our Sunday group. But rather than try or aim for a shorter campaign, I thought I could bootstrap one into the other. To do that I made a dumb choice that I’m lucky didn’t upend everything. I started them out in the L5R world of Rokugan, thinking we'd begun a samurai game. Three sessions in, I switched things up when a crisis event occurred.

They found themselves awoken in a VR interface, having been together in a created world. However, that world felt stronger and more real than it should have, subsuming their memories. More importantly they discovered OCI didn’t have a samurai portal. Somehow they’d gone to a non-existent VR world. The campaign took off from there, with the players working in the interface and dealing with events in the real world. They discovered they all lived in Ocean City, though they didn't actually meet until late in the campaign. They went traveled through various portals and returned to Rokugan several times. Eventually they learned this all connected to Mage the Ascension. The PCs were Awakened in a world which recovering from a magical catastrophe. The Portals were real places, refuges for Mages who had fled before the disaster. The Ocean City Interface was a means for Technocracy survivors to take control of the world and cut off passage back. The whole campaign ended in a massive battle in Rokugan following the Emperor’s death. That conflict stood in for their final struggle against the Technocrats.

The campaign barely managed to hold together. While the players expressed overall enjoyment, it had many weaknesses. On the one hand, we had real world problems impact the campaign. We added a problem player after the start. Selfish and disruptive, he made things uncomfortable for other players. For a long time one of the other, older players kept his worst tendencies in check. But then that veteran player died. His death shook the group and for a time I considered shutting things down.  On top of that had a house fire that put us out for many months. We only managed to play irregularly during that time. When we returned the problem player kicked into a higher gear. But their tenure with the group, passive-aggressiveness, and martyrdom-complex made correcting the behavior hard. In the end, I wrapped the whole campaign quickly to be done with it.

I made many missteps in this campaign. First, I did “switched up” the campaign without consulting the players. They'd gotten into the groove and we could have done a solid L5R campaign. But I was so wrapped up in my idea I didn’t see that. Second, since we started with L5R and had the longest continuous sessions throughout, players became attached. If another portal frustrated them, they could think why aren’t we playing L5R? Third, in the beginning  I tried to echo the previous GM’s approach, doing a ton of PbF individual material. Responses varied so a few players got more info and attention. Eventually that overwhelmed me and I cut it off for the last third of the campaign. But that inconsistency frustrated players. Fourth, I kept the “real world” stuff loose and unfocused. The players wandered around without direction. They’d find a clue and then be distracted by portal business. Fifth, I made the mistake of switching systems around for the portals. The previous GM had done that as well. But in my case the players hated some of the new mechanics. In particular they despised the Fading Suns and Dying Earth rpg systems. Add to that having to learn new rules all the time and it just didn’t work.

But I decided to try it again five years later.

A couple of players requested a new OCI campaign. They hadn’t played in my earlier version. Besides them we would have one veteran from OCI 1.0 and three newbies. I set some principles for this campaign. 
  • Transparency: At the beginning I made clear the campaign's structure: what we’d be playing and how we’d be playing it. I talked about the system and pointed to some of the game themes.
  • Player Choice: Rather than Portals chosen by the GM, the players selected them. In fact, each player would select one of their own. They would be considered the “leader” within that portal, and we’d reinforce that during play. I created a list of 28 possible portals, each with a name, simple “x meets y” description, and list of tropes. The players talked among themselves to make sure they had a good spread of genres.
  • Establishment: We would do each portal in turn, returning back to the “Alpha” world in between. A portal would last 6-8 sessions. Once we’d gone through a full cycle of the portal worlds, we’d return to the start. On following cycles the portals would be tighter (2-4 sessions) since we’d already established the premise and goals. I also made clear the order we’d go in.
  • Clear Goals: When players arrive in a new portal, I make objectives clear. They might have several goals, but they know what they need to be doing. When they solve a problem, I make the next one’s on the horizon. At least some problems can be solved in the span of sessions they have. That idea holds true for sessions between portals when they return to the Alpha World. I make sure they have something concrete and specific to investigate, usually connected to the most recent portal. Eventually I’ll loosen up on that. Still I try to keep the reins in the players’ hands. If they choose to go X, then we go X.
  • System Continuity: Everything- the Alpha real world of Ocean City and the various Portals- uses the same system. That's Action Cards, our Fate-flavored homebrew. We tune some of the surface mechanics genre (skill and stunt lists). As well each portal adds a unique element or system. For Sellsword Company, we had managing a mercenary group. For Neo-Shinobi Vendetta, they had unique cyberninja powers to choose from. For Masks of the Empire, each player received a unique magic item they built at the start. For Sky Racers Unlimited, we added mechanics for aerial dogfights and building planes.
  • Character Continuity: Players create new characters for each portal, but there's a connection between them. The player-deck structure of Action Cards allows this. A portion of their deck remains in across portals. That core element is fleshed out with drafted cards for the particular world. Since each portal has a unique card frame design, the base cards serve as a reminder of the link. Players can buy up “shared” cards, but they’re a little more expensive.
  • Stakes: From the start I wanted to make clear that while these portals might or might not be “virtual” they had an impact on the Alpha world. People, events, and forces from them could impact their daily lives. At time has rolled on, it’s become more and more clear that the Portals aren’t exactly VR, but they’re also not exactly a full reality.
  • Slow Introduction of Complexity: Rather throw out many, many threads and NPCs, I’ve restrained myself. I use index cards at the beginning of sessions to note important outstanding threads and NPCs. That gives me a firm sense if I’m too complex (I have too many cards to put out).
While I’m positive about the campaign, I’ve hit a couple of rough spots.
  • Just People: For the Alpha World of Ocean City itself, I had the players make up competent people with a small strange ability (compelling voice, ability to hide, talks to computers, etc). They have skills, but at core they're ordinary people and not adventurers. That’s made them a little skittish about some of lines of investigation. I have to keep that in mind. Throwing them directly into a High Adventure gun-battle doesn’t fit. They’re evolving, but I need to offer them challenges appropriate to their characters now.
  • Player Loss: We began with six players. Two I expected would play through the first portal or two and then drop. One left after portal one and some sessions in Ocean City. The other left after portal two. I’d expected that, but I didn’t have a graceful plan for writing them out. I could have planned for that better.
  • Time: I’ve tried to keep the initial portal instances tight, but haven’t always succeeded. I think I’ve got a good balance of “I Want to Keep Playing This” and “I Want to See What’s Next.” But it’s tough. I’ve been lucky that the group’s good and I’ve been delivering an engaging experience throughout.
The group finds themselves members of a fantasy mercenary company. They have a vague inkling this is a game, but can’t see other evidence. They’re given a mission which brings them into conflict with Northern Raiders. They win and then descend into an ancient dam where they’re forced to disable a sentient magical structure.

The party returns to the “real world” of Ocean City. They discover they’ve been logged wirelessly into a VR simulation. They never signed up for what they find is called "Ocean City Interface." Discovering newly added contact info in their phones, the six meet up. They investigate in several directions. Eventually they uncover a recent murder linked to this. The victim bears a weird similarity to a character from the Sellsword portal.

Eventually they follow leads back to a crazy computer expert. He was been booted out of OCI, but not without a fragment of source code. He’s kidnapped people to attach them to a micro-VR he’s built from that code. The group raids his hideout and discover the kidnapper has the ability to see through cameras from a distance. They take him down and anonymously call the police to aid his victims. Back at a PC's house, the group begins to questioning. He drops several names and references. When the kidnapper realizes the group doesn’t know anything, he activates some power.

The group finds itself transported into another portal. They assume roles in the game, but find they're able to keep meta-communications via a linkshell. They have access a in-game interface, but it does little beyond minor info. They decide to go along with the simulation to see where it takes them. The lines between their two selves begin to blur.

In this portal, they’re cyber-ninjas betrayed by fellow clans and brainwashed to serve corporate masters. These five (formerly seven) shinobi clans work from the shadows. Having broken their programming, the PCs now secretly hunt those at the conspiracy's head This leads them in search of a broken ninja, an encounter with a mysterious rival shinobi, and finally an assassination mission at a future amusement park. While in the portal, they detect other players- but only get code names.

Ocean City: Alpha World
The group returns to the real world. For a strange moment one of the PCs seems overtaken by the nano-kami from the NSV portal. But the force of this artificial intelligence is cut off quickly. The PCs discover that their captured kidnapper has been shot, and one of their number is missing. Another PC agrees to head off the grid to conceal the body while the rest investigate.

They look into what’s happened and what Ocean City Interface actually is. Then abruptly they find themselves in another place.

Atlantis: Interface Hub
They’re drawn into a VR, without the exact detail of the two portals they’ve previously visited. Is calls itself a closed beta for some kind of online entertainment. The names of the admins (five, formerly seven) match up to some of those dropped by the kidnapper. The group discovers they’re listed in the beta and given virtual space and credit. However, neither of the two portals they’ve been appear in the listings. The group confirms they can move back and forth at will between this "Atlantis" and the real world.

Ocean City: Alpha World
The party continues to look for their vanished member. They discover she’s apparently one of the bad guys and aided in the kidnapper's shooting. This leads to a strange corporation. Observations of it suggest many employees have behaviors echoing the ninja clans of Neo Shinobi Vendetta. Have they come from there to Ocean City? Is the simulation built by them? Or is there another connection? The plot thickens when they realize the shooter bears looks like the strange Shinobi they met in the portal.

Another line of investigation leads the group to their shared upbringing as orphans. They discover a weird family syndicate clearly hunting certain orphans with special gifts. Through clever detective work and legal machinations, they expose this operation. When they confront a lawyer  for this strange clique he calls on a bestial transformation. They accidentally kill him, but his body vanishes. With more questions than answers, they leave. Tat night they find themselves pulled into another portal.

The group becomes agents of a great empire. Each bears an ancient and potent magical mask, the unique symbol of their role. A section of the land, magically closed off for almost a century has mysteriously opened. The PCs are to go there, survey, offer aid, and bring the locals back into the Empire’s embrace. They’re also to ascertain how the vanishing happened in the first place.

Their first obstacle is an evil Geomancer determined to control access to the outside. The party brings locals into their confidence and manage to root him out from his castle. With a new base of operations, they head north to one of the seven lost magical towers. On the trip they discover that at least one other player is in the portal with them.

They find that the Tower has been mysteriously cut off- affected by the insanity of a Sound Wizard. They fight their way in, disabling the traps and wards. Emerging they find another force has arrived. Those adversaries have with them one of the artificially-intelligent walking Colossi. Usually used for service, they’ve repurposed it. The group resorts to subterfuge and misdirection to overcome the superior force, and they enemy eventually retreats.

Ocean City: Alpha World
Back in the real world, players discover more and more strange phenomena. At least one PC’s hidden secret power seems to be growing. They meet with a self-proclaimed Luchadore devil-wrestler dealing with children infected by “Mindworms.” When they follow up, they find out he’s not wrong. A strange Hopping-Vampire spirit exists within the kids. They party's hunted briefly by a flying figure, bearing a mask not unlike those of the most recent portal. Finally they make a connection between strange energy traces scattered across the city. The flare ups of these spot fit with the timing of their forced transition into the portals.

When they go to the sites, the group find itself shifted over to a world not visible to everyone around them. They see bastions, fonts, energy sculptures, and defenses overlaid on the sites. These seem to control a ley-line energy. The players trace that back and find one site weirdly out of synch with the rest, scattered with the wreckage of a great battle. When they approach, a two-fisted guardian attacks and warns them away. After convincing him they’re friends, he tells them his story. He’s the last of the Dragons, a group dedicated to fighting forces who want to control these sites and gain powe. Because the party made it here, he expects they must be the new Dragons. When he tries to show them something else, the group slips into another portal.

They’re the B-team pilots aboard an experimental grand cruiser participating in an intercontinental aero-race. The course will take them across a world devastated by Mad Science, only just now returning to bloom. When rogue dragons take out the A-team pilots, the group must scramble to the rescue. They save the day and receive a promotion.

Now they’re heavily involved in the hotly contested race of seven ships from various countries. One vanishes in the Atlantic crossing, but the other six proceed on. Intrigue, publicity, and mechanical upgrades keep the group busy for the first leg of the race. Then, while on forward air patrol, they pick up a faint distress call. They convince their Captain to delay in order to follow up. The squadron finds a Sky Bandit base, with an escaped Aero-Bus from the lost liner. The party breaks in, rescues the bus, and fights off scrambling bandits in a brief escort mission. From the survivors of the lost ship they learn it was sabotage which took out their vessel.

Next the group heads to Baltimore, the region's capital. They’re assigned to bodyguard the European Heavy-Weight Champion for the big match taking place on their ship. It’s a publicity coup which agents of the fallen Spanish nobles try to disrupt. They don’t succeed. But the players learn the notorious Boston gang, the Kennedy's, has kidnapped the Champ's sister. They investigate and rescue the sister from a moving train. Then they race back to the main event where they prevent a lethal robot doppelganger from killing the American Champ.

Finally, before leaving Baltimore they follow up on info from airfield raid. That leads to the Helldiver Club, a seedy bar built in a beached battleship. They discover a major information network selling details on the ships in the race and planning for accidents. The group breaks up the ring when another faction's spy sets off a bomb to cover her escape. They return  to the ship, but suddenly the player’s in-game interface pops up. A list of names scrolls by, apparently the real identities of players currently in the portal, including their own.

That’s where we left off. We’ll have a few sessions back in Ocean City and then on to the final Portal, Assassins of the Golden Age, my mash-up of Mage the Sorcerer’s Crusade and Assassins Creed. 

I'm sure Sherri will have some comments on this. 

This post is part of the RPG Blog Carnival Gates & Portals, hosted by Tales of a GM.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Managing the Long Campaign

I’m a campaign GM. I’m significantly more nervous running one-shots and short series. There’s a safety for me in long campaigns- I have time to fix things. But really I enjoy the slow development it offers and the chance to play to find out what happens over the long haul. In this episode of Play on Target we talk about how we’ve handled long campaigns, for good or ill. As I mentioned in my notes for last episode, we're especially lucky in that we're joined by Rich Rogers for this one. He graciously came in at the last minute. You can check out his work with theIndie+ network as well as on The Gauntlet podcast. He also works for Dr. Tom the Frog.

Here are twelve thoughts, epiphanies, and tips I didn’t get to in the episode:
  1. Preventative Maintenance: Take care of problems early. If you think a game has legs, deal with personality clashes and play tics from the start. If you let something go, it becomes more difficult to address. A player may think they’ve gotten approval for their behavior before. Check in with players in the early days to uncover anything you’ve missed with the at-table dynamics. It’s always good to fix these things, but crucial for the health of a long campaign.
  2. Save the Date: Most of the long campaigns everyone discussed didn’t have any sense of how long they’d go (except for mine). They just rolled on and went well. My instinct is to have an idea about campaign length at the start. But after this episode, I’m not sure that’s a necessity. But you need to make sure players know it could be open ended. A couple of times I’ve joined “limited run” campaigns. But campaign keeps running along well after limited has expired. Then I feel a little stupid. I hadn’t planned that commitment. But at the same time, I don’t want to ask “when’s the game ending?” for fear of looking like a spoilsport. My feelings about transparency in campaign expectations comes from that.
  3. Faces in the Crowd: I love NPCs. I love discovering their voices, seeing which ones the players like, hunting down pictures, and finding out they aren’t how I originally imagined them. But over time you can end up with a huge cast, one which makes A Game of Thrones look like Waiting for Godot. After you’ve created a deep bench and decide to introduce a new NPC, ask yourself “Can I bring the same info/plot/perspective with an existing character?” Work to add depth to existing characters.
  4. Yes, But…: In the episode we toss around the topic of bringing in new players. That probably deserves its own show. My fellow hosts offer good suggestions for integrating latecomers. Let me refine my idea. A couple of situations make adding a new player to a long-running campaign more difficult. One, if the player is new to the real world group as well as new to the campaign. You then must manage several dynamics. Two, if the existing players played the setting in previous campaigns. It’s easy to miss how much a group relies on callbacks and insider info. That can confuse and alienate new players, even if they’re playing a “new to the setting” character. Three, if the campaign has many NPCs, plots, and mysteries. Not even a cheat sheet will help in this case.
  5. Yes, And…: On the flip side, it’s easier to bring in a player late in the campaign if they know the rest of the group. That eases communication about. Sam also mentions the importance of campaign type. Some games, episodic or with little continuity, make switches easy. The campaign’s state can also impact this. I had a fantasy campaign than had been running for about a year when we had a big switchout of players. The resulting group split evenly between old and new. It worked. In a Changeling the Lost campaign I ran we had huge turnover, losing four of the five starting players. That was tough. In that case, it meant changing the course and tone of the game when we added two new PCs to fill out the roster.
  6. You Hold the Purse Strings: If you’re GMing a campaign where you set advancement (via points, advances, experience points) be stingy at the start. You can dial that up later. But you’ll have a revolt on your hands (quiet or open) if you close the tap on their precious, precious xp after they’ve bathed in abundance.
  7. Special Snowflake: I’m an outlier on another point from the discussion. I dislike players switching characters in mid-campaign. The few times it has come up I’ve signaled my negativity. This episode started me wondering why I react that way. At root when players ask to switch, I feel my work and effort as a GM has been wasted. I’ve expanded on character-related plots, developed hooks for them, and integrated their background into the story. It’s not unlike my feelings when a player quits abruptly without giving me a chance to wrap things. But I tell myself my reaction’s about fairness to other players and their character investment, the cost in time to add a new player, and the imbalance of artificially developed vs. levelled up characters. But that’s all a smoke-screen. My reaction’s selfish. It values my pretty, pretty snowflake setting and plot over the player’s enjoyment. I need to take that more seriously and be open to changes.
  8. Another Kind of Change: Does extended play insulate PCs against their death? There’s pressure when both the player and GM have invested in the PC. In some systems, it makes GMs gunshy about lethality. Even in games with easy death (RM, DCC) GMs may not fudge rolls, but pull their punches. Don’t worry too much about this. But even if that is true, the GM has many, many other ways to harm and challenge a player. Every session deepens a player’s investment in their character and makes them more susceptible to ego-based pushes.
  9. Lethal Hiatus: Long breaks are poison for a long campaign. Especially when those breaks happen out of the blue or in succession. What can you do? Try to schedule out in advance and get everyone to communicate future problems. Look to bundle together breaks; i.e. take advantage of those skip times to do your own big stuff. Look at the possibility of make-up sessions. The GM may have to do a hard press on this and be willing to run for a partial table. If a GM does end up with a significant break, figure out a way to reinforce the game away from the table. Consider brief news reports or background snippets done weekly. Put together an NPC Pinterest board and use that as the basis of an OOC discussion. Do what you can to maintain awareness of the game. In the weeks before returning, the GM (or even players) should send out a synopsis of plots and stories. Emphasize character-centered hooks. When you come back to the table, the GM needs to approach it with maximum seriousness and energy. Charge up the players.
  10. Breaking Builds: If you’re going to make serious rule changes in mid-play, talk to your players. Don’t do it by fiat. They’ve invested time in the campaign, just as you have. Be prepared not to alter things or hold off those adjustments for another campaign. Offer players the opportunity to retool characters in the wake of any significant changes.
  11. Unfinished Business: Alas, sometimes campaigns die. It’s sad and I hate losing games without a resolution. But don’t drag it out, especially if it’s killed by the poison of breaks I mentioned above. We’ve lost several games to cancelled sessions and player schedules. My favorite Exalted game got killed off by a break and then the major life changes of some players. I thought about returning to it, but knew the combination of roster change and lost time wouldn’t work. Most of all I didn’t feel it. In another case, we took a break from one of my absolute favorite campaigns to bring a new player into the group. They’d had awful personal stuff and we wanted to give them something new. A couple years later we returned to it and I spent a ton of time and money putting together cool supplements. But we had one player quit unexpectedly which broke the momentum. Given they were one of the three originals, I felt I couldn’t do it without them. My biggest regret there is I didn’t get a chance to wrap it up, which I could have with a couple more sessions.
  12. Spectacular Spectacular: You don’t always have to top yourself with new plots and arcs. Sometimes, after doing something big, you worry you’ll never match that again. I know I felt that way at the end of each arc of our Mutants & Masterminds campaign. How could I do better than Hel leading the Frost Giants to attack New York with a host of Jack Kirby giant monsters in tow? One trick is to vary your beats. If you’ve done something big for a long time, go small and intimate for a while. Another is to realize that an events scale and impact don’t come from the moment alone but from the lead up to it. You’ll do fine next time. Players will buy in and it will feel big.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The 13th Raider: Secret Base-Crawl

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?

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.
  • Mass-Media
  • Local Law Enforcement
  • The Feds
  • Syndicate(s)
  • Government Officals
  • Anti-Alien/Mutant/Magic Groups
  • Super-Soldier program
  • Corporate
  • 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
  • Sanctuary*

*named specifically in the BR book

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.

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.

Ability Scores
Gadgeteers gain a +2 class bonus to Intelligence or Wisdom.

Possible backgrounds include:

Armor Type
Base AC
Atk Penalty

Melee Weapons

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.

Cyclic X-Powers
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-machine Mastery
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.

Booster Pack
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.

Master Gimmicker
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.

Eccentric Mechanic
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.

Mechanical Servant
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.

Utility X-Power
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:
X-Power Level
1st level
1st level
1st level
power lock
3rd level
3rd level
3rd level
5th level
life support
7th level
  • 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.

Acid Cutter
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.

Homing Rocket
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.

Freeze Ray
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.