Clobberin’ Time: Kapow! Playtest

We had our first real (in the sense of using the rules and rolling dice) session playtesting my Kapow! Superhero RPG, and I’d say it went pretty well.  We had one short combat, where the gang–who have decided to call themselves The Beacon City Brawlers–took out a dozen thugs armed with pistols and shotguns who were robbing a diamond exchange with startling ease.  Startling to them, that is…one thing I was hoping to get out of the combat was to teach them how much more powerful they were than normals.  We generally play in much, much lower power settings, so I think they found it gratifying when they realized that bullets really couldn’t hurt them.

The combat out of the way, we moved to the meat of the session, with them investigating a bank robbery by a group of masked, super-strong and fast women the press had dubbed “Barbie-zons”.  The players got to invoke various of their shticks, with Jungle Gal scouting the bank with her heightened senses, The Wraith using his contacts to acquire the surveillance tapes, Redline using the Crime Lab in the base to analyze the tapes with facial analysis software, and even Namaste getting into using her knowledge of yoga and anatomy to analyze the way that they moved.

One thing that I realized in GMing is that even though I made up all the rules, and even wrote them down, I don’t have them all at the tip of my fingers, and the rules aren’t quite light enough for there to be only one thing to remember (e.g. roll vs. target).  I’ll need to review them a bit before I run again.  They did seem to work pretty much as I had hoped, to direct and resolve actions without getting in the way.  There’s definitely a tendency for the players to ask for permission to try things that’s a legacy of other games we’ve played over the years, such as questions about whether they can move and attack, or does the move take their entire action, but I can definitely see them warming to the possibilities of simply being able to say “I phase through the top of the van that’s speeding away and into the seat next to the driver” without needing to make a skill check or negotiate it with the GM.  Which reminds me, I did want to nail down the rule for over-awing somebody (along the lines of a Champions “Presence Attack”) before next session.

The session was it it was over before we knew it, and in fact we were fifteen minutes past our usual stopping time when somebody noticed and we had to wrap things up.  People seemed pretty absorbed, and into their characters, and you can see the personalities starting to emerge.  I’m really looking forward to the next session.

9 thoughts on “Clobberin’ Time: Kapow! Playtest

  1. Doug says:

    At some point I’ll come up with a consistent accent.

    Or maybe it’d be easier to just work the random speech pattern into the back story…

  2. Mike D says:

    I think there were two options about Hindered (sp) results that we talked about before the session.

    1) Can you use your actions to un-hinder someone else? Say, if your powers are useless in the current situation but theirs aren’t.

    2) Allow a character to sacrifice an entire turn/round to completely un-hinder themselves, no matter how many Hinders they have built up.

    I really like #1. I’m not so sure about #2.

  3. Joshua says:

    I think the answer to #1 is Yes, if you have an explanation of how you’re doing it.

    I think #2 is fine as well… since you can act even if Hindered, I don’t see any abuse in sacrificing all your actions to become completely un-Hindered. My only qualm is that the situation where it’s desirable is probably pretty rare.

  4. Russell says:

    I don’t think you need a special presence attack rule. If it’s plausible, the character just announces they are using their powers to impress or startle, and then just make an attack using them as normal. You’d have to interpret whether something could be invoked as a defense,
    but the result would be a missed action or hindering as usual.
    .-= Russell´s last blog ..Unleash the gnomes of war =-.

  5. Joshua says:

    @Tyson – it’s a system of my own devising called Kapow! Once we’re done play-testing I intend to release it as a free RPG.

    @Russell – that’s essentially how it will work, but there are one, maybe two things that I think it would be helpful to cover specifically: first is that I don’t think it makes sense to single out one guy from a group to intimidate, and the second is I want to remove the wishy-washy-ness of whether something can be invoked as a defense against being intimidated. It’s too cheap to always be able to do your normal attack but have it go against something exotic. So the special rules would be that it must be treated as an area effect (splitting the dice until you’ve got everybody covered) and that the defense is always their best power (as they size up whether their best is in the same ballpark as what you’re threatening them with). In other respects it’s normal, just as you describe.

  6. Mike D says:

    RE: Presence attacks.

    As we proved in the playtest, the target of the attack must be aware of the power that you are threatening them with. We had no idea how much more powerful than the bank robbers we were. In the same vein if Redline (a 10′ tall powered armor) and Namaste (a calm looking woman) both say “stop or I will crush you”, they will probably be more inclined to give up to Redline. Until Namaste throws one of them through a wall.

    Maybe a perk that makes you and your powers well known? Or gives you some sort of presence that lets opponents know that you are stronger than them (unless you aren’t)?

  7. Joshua says:

    I’m planning on making you actually use the power. So to get somebody’s attention and take the threat seriously Namaste throws something through the wall. It’s classic comic-book style to give some flashy demonstration of your power when making a threat.

    What I might do for characters that are simply physically imposing is let them use, say, their Armor or Giant Size as the power they’re rolling to intimidate with, without making them demonstrate how it works…

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