Superheroes, not Superbowl

Lat night we ran another session of Kapow!, my superheroes rpg that we’re playtesting, and I take it as a good sign that despite the fact that before we started a couple of our players expressed interest in watching the Superbowl half-time show, once we got going they forgot all about it.  We had our first big set-piece battle, and it went really well I think.  Everybody was engaged and involved, and despite the fact that it went for most of the session it felt fairly fast-paced and like they got a good amount done.  They were facing off against the big boss and her 64 minions, so the fact we managed to wrap it up at all is good.

The group had tracked Alexandra LeGrande to a warehouse where she was training her army of Glammazons, and scouted it out to find a secret lab underneath.  They decided to split their forces, with Harbinger (intangible scout) and Public Defender (Force Fields) sneaking in through the storm drains to confront and delay LeGrande, while Namaste (super-yogini), Akela (jungle girl), the Wraith (power-draining mystery man), and Redline (powered-armor/motorcycle multi-form) burst into the warehouse above to round up the Glammazons and prevent them from just running off.

The fight between LeGrande and Harbinger and Public Defender went particularly well, from my point of view. Once she revealed her supervillain persona,  Olympia, and began chucking her pentathalon-themed weaponry (exploding discus, “switch-blade” javelins, and big old hammer) it became evident that one or two on one they were just no match for her.  She KO’ed Public Defender in the first round, which really bummed him out until I reminded him that by the rules he’d be out for a maximum of three rounds or until one of his teammates revived him, whichever came first.   Harbinger then spent his turn reviving him, which meant that he couldn’t stay phased, but managed to avoid her attack anyway and they were both back in action.

Upstairs the fight went pretty much as expected, with the heroes easily clobbering multiple Glammazons per round, though the Glammazons did manage to at least hinder them, and in one case managed to pile on enough to score as a knock-out on Akela…but her jaguar Nushka was able to revive her easily enough.  The Wraith’s exotic power-drain power proved to be the most effective at dispatching large numbers of agents quickly, though Namaste was no slouch in that department either, just using her strength and acrobatics.  Akela’s heightened senses allowed her to detect that the group below were having trouble, so she, Redline and Namaste headed down to the lab, leaving the Wraith to deal with the remaining Glammazons.

Once the full group (more or less) was assembled, they managed to combine their powers and take Olympia down, though she did get a good shot in, disabling Redline’s Super Strength with a javelin through his suit’s shoulders.  Basically it worked exactly as designed: a boss significantly tougher than any individual was defeated by the heroes using team-work in a straight slug-fest, and once they had cleared the decks and gotten together it went only two rounds…no slow war of attrition in Kapow!  It could also have easily gone the other way, I think; if she had been able to take one or two out and press the attack so the group couldn’t afford the time to revive them they wouldn’t have had the numbers needed to overcome her higher defense and she might have been able to defeat them all and capture them or escape.

It was also very gratifying that Wendy at least thought the villain was really cool, and seems to be looking forward to her escaping custody and facing them again some time in the future.  Don’t worry, Wendy, you haven’t seen the last of Olympia!

9 thoughts on “Superheroes, not Superbowl

  1. Mike D says:

    I do have one note: The calculations for combining powers were bit off-putting. Everyone was doing a lot of “is that right?” when we tried to add things together.

    I think I have a workable shorthand, though: The highest attack is the base. For each added attack that is weaker than the base, raise 1 die by one type. For each added attack that is the same strength as the base, raise both dice by one type.

    The following all result in rolling d10,d12:
    2d8 + 2d10 -> 1 raise
    1d10 + 2d10 -> 1 raise

    The following result in rolling 2d12:
    2d10 + 2d10 -> 2 raises
    2d8 + d10 + 2d10 -> 2 raises
    d4 + 2d4 + 2d6 + d8 + 2d8 -> 4 raises

    Note that the last is actually incorrect. It should really be:
    d4,d4,d4,d6,d6,d8,d8,d8
    d4,d6,d6,d6,d8,d8,d8
    d6,d6,d8,d8,d8,d8
    d8,d8,d8,d8,d8
    d8,d8,d8,d10
    d8,d10,d10
    d10,d12

    Whew! It’s only off by one, and “four weaker attacks is four raises” is a lot simpler calculation.

    What do you think?

  2. Joshua says:

    I like that it’s simpler. I’m not sure whether I like that adding 8d4 is twice as good as adding 4d10, when it should be only a quarter as good (8d4->4d6->2d8->1d10)

  3. Doug says:

    If you wanted to go simpler, you could just say that the number of additional dice you need for a raise is (High Die – Low Die, Min 1). It means you only need to have 6 d4 (or 8 d2) to bump a d10 instead of 8 or 16, but when you get to that level, you start hitting stacking problems as well, right?

  4. Joshua says:

    I don’t think that would help. The GM is the only one likely to be running groups of 16, 32 or more characters, and I don’t have any particular trouble with the math. What people seem to be finding complex is the very act of combining dice pair-wise to create higher dice. I’m not sure whether it’s because above d12 there’s a trick to it, since we don’t have d14 and d16 so use d8+5, d10+5 etc…or what.

    One potential simplification is to just ignore any dice that aren’t part of a pair at each step… Mike’s pathological case that involves combining that includes a hindered agent and a character that’s contributing one die from movement would look like:
    d4, 2d4, 2d6, d8, 2d8
    2d4 -> 1d6
    d4, d6, 2d6, d8, 2d8
    2d6 -> 1d8
    d4, d6, 4d8
    4d8 -> 2d10 -> 1d12
    so in the end you roll d4, d6, d12.

    I’m not sure if that’s better, in part because I’m not sure what aspect people are really having trouble with. If you actually physically do it with dice it seems dead easy to me, though maybe it’s too time consuming.

    The other thing that concerns me about fiddling with it is that right now it’s symmetric: combining your powers is the reverse of splitting them. You want to hit double the number of people? Drop the die-size by one. You want to hit one person harder, combine the dice into half the number of dice, one size larger. How would it work if you were just counting dice as Mike proposed?

  5. Doug says:

    Well, I was more talking about simplification. I don’t really have a problem with the dice shift. Maybe create a Dice-column shift cheat-sheet for people?

  6. Joshua says:

    Thinking about it some more, I really like the idea that you can’t merge mis-matched dice. I’m pretty sure that once you remove that, it no longer matters what order you merge them in; just grab identical dice pairwise, replacing them with one size higher until you have nothing but mismatched singletons. You could use a tray or designated area of the table to separate the +5, +10, etc. areas so you don’t have any trouble telling the difference between d8 and d8+5.

  7. Mike D says:

    I was suggesting this more as a rule of thumb than a replacement. If only 2 to 4 attacks are being combined, and they are within 2 die types of each other, it seems to work. If someone wants to argue, you can do the full calculation.

    I just now read the difference between Combining Powers and Going All Out. Combining Powers may be OK to cut. I’m not sure, though.

  8. Joshua says:

    Straight Combination is very helpful for a crowd of mooks jumping a hero…replaces counting with just a pick the best and compare. Heroes and named villains aren’t likely to use it without also Going All Out.

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