Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Crunch

I was able to get together with my group over the weekend for the first time in several months, following Ark's convalesence.  A member of the group had been clamoring for a superhero game for quite some time, and Ark, having extensive background with the Hero System, offered to GM a game or two of that.

We spent an hour or so preparing our characters, and I was impressed with the versatility of the system - you can literally do just about anything with the rules as they exist in Basic form, and I shudder to imagine what's possible when the rules really start to get wild.  I recycled my character concept from the last superhero game I played, mixing in a bit of Peter No-Parents, and voila!  I was essentially playing Stewie Griffin, carried around in a papoose by a mind slave who posed as my mother.  Massive amounts of Mind Control, a touch of Telekinesis, and some passive protection abilities, and I was good to go!  The party consisted of a Russian Bear, a "man out of time" knight with a very specific code of honor, and a strongman.  Except we weren't really a group.  We all started in the same building, and when demons decided to trash the town, we all fought them, but it was more like we had four individual battles.  By the end of the session, I don't think the party had actually realized that I existed. 

As I play more and more RPGs, I find that mind control, while a staple of comic books, is not the favorite superpower of most game designers.  Writers concoct elaborate moral justifications for why Professor X, while he COULD control the mind of every person on the planet and make them dance to his tune, CHOOSES not to.  Designers realize (wisely) that players typically have no such compulsions, and so any sort of power which wrests narrative control from the GM, like Mind Control, must be neutered.  Stars Without Numbers just made it so that you have to be godlike in your power before anything like mind control is even considered, for instance.  The Hero System just make sure that the mind controlled has every available chance (and then a few more) to not do what you're telling him to do.  First an attack roll.  Succeded?  Okay, now a (separate) degree of success check.  Very effective?  Now they have a chance to break free before they do what you tell them to do.  And they get that check every.  single.  round.

So it was a bit frustrating, especially since after going through all the trouble of mind controlling our foes, the rest of the party would kill my puppet.  Granted, they didn't know that a) I existed, b) I could control minds, and c) that I had mind controlled the guy who seconds previous had been pounding the snot out of them.  So I understand, but yeah - frustrating.

That segues nicely into my next point, though, which is MY GOD THE CRUNCH.  Like I said, these were basic rules, but there were some serious mental and arithmatic hoops to be jumped through just to complete what in other games would be fairly basic actions.  I fully chalk a lot of this up to the fact that we were learning a new system, but the truth is that it took us five hours to make it through 12 seconds of combat.  Again, a lot of that was due to the learning curve, but my god that was one steep curve!  There is a roll for EVERYTHING!  I was astounded that there was that much information crammed into such a small book, and again - these were the BASIC rules! 

I'm looking forward to getting back into it next session, and digging down into things to see if we can separate the rule wheat from the chaff.  The setting Ark has set up is interesting, and I enjoy my character, neutered as he is, and look forward to making the chivalrous knight do all sorts of horrible things :)


  1. My bigger problem with mind control is that it can be used PvP, and that causes all kinds of problems at a gaming table...

  2. Ah. Yes. I neglected to relate that part of the story, but suffice it to say that came up as well. Definitely problematic, yes.


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