Savage Worlds supers - brainstorming (long)

shockvalue

The Puncher Strikes!
Validated User
Both the couple of Savage Worlds superhero offerings have decided to represent "super" levels of power through either large numbers of multiple dice (an 8d6 power blast), or through large bonuses (Str + 12). Both of these rub me the wrong way, because part of what I like about the core SW rules is the small number of dice and small or nonexistent bonuses.

So, I started thinking, why not use a tiered system, breaking things down into Normal, Super and Cosmic tiers? Tim Kirk's Hearts & Souls takes this approach, though I first heard it mentioned in the Universalis discussion group on using Universalis to do superhero stories.

The more I think about it, the simpler it becomes. Any skill or attribute is rated with its normal die type, and its tier (Normal, Super, Cosmic). Anytime a trait is up against a trait on its tier, everything is handled normally.

If a trait is going up against a trait on a lower tier (a Super d6 Strength against a Normal 7 Toughness), then its effect is automatically bumped up by a step - a miss becomes a Shaken, a Shaken becomes a Wound. Conversely, if you're up against something a Tier higher than you, your effect gets bumped down a step - in order to cause a Shaken, you have to do a Wound.

I've been running it through theoretical matchups in my mind, and I think it works out pretty well. Take the Hulk (d12 Super damage) punching the Batman (Toughness 8 Normal) - ooohhh, crossover! (We're assuming the Hulk successfully hit and jumping straight to damage.) The Hulk's average damage roll (6.5) is going to be less than Batman's Toughness 8. This would normally be no effect, but since the Hulk is on the Super tier (and Batman isn't), the Hulk is going to automatically get a Shaken effect on Batman every time he connects. And a little less than half the time, he'd going to get a Wound.

This strikes me as about right. In a typical comic fight, if the Hulk connects with Batman, Bats is going to really feel it. He'll go flying, he'll be reeling. He'll think, "A couple more blows like that and I'm dead!" There's no way he's just shrugging it off. But he's also not likely to be a gray and blue smear after one punch, either. The typical results from this tier-system seem to reflect that.

Likewise, the Batman is going to have to very very well on a damage roll to get past whatever the Hulk's Toughness is, and is probably not going to get better than a Shaken without a miraculous string of Aces. Again, this seems to fit. I can see Batman getting a Shaken result on Hulk with a really good roll (nerve strike, boxing the ears, or a kick to the solar plexus, perhaps). But actually causing a Wound? Near impossible.

(The only slight oddity is that a d4 Super is almost equivalent to a d12 Normal (yet, not). They both have the same average, but the the d4 Super always beats a TN 4, but the d12 Normal has a higher maximum. For skills and traits like Spirit which are rolling vs. TN 4 on a regular basis, I'd say the d4 Super is still better. But for something like Vigor, which is used mainly to decide the Toughness value, they're pretty much equivilent - which means it's probably a waste of points to bump a d12 Normal to a d4 Super. But in true Savage Worlds style, I've decided that minor glitch isn't worth worrying about.)


Throw in some tables to point out how much the varying Normal, Super and Cosmic strengths can lift, or how much general effect powers at the various levels have, and you've got yourself a system that should be able to throw Batman vs. the Hulk vs. Superman in the same rules, without ever having to roll more dice or do more addition than in your typical SW normal-human game.

Then you can throw in some setting rules like weapons of a lower Tier can't add damage to your attack - so there's no point in Superboy picking up a sword, but he might hit you with a girder. And things like Martial Arts might let you ignore a higher Tier when you attack them, but won't give you bonuses when fighting people on your own tier. Powered armor could simply jump your Strength to the next Tier without changing the die type. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

What do you think? Worth pursuing?
 

TheRoleplayer

Nowhere Man
Validated User
Good suggestion.

I've always looked at scale rules with appreciation. It worked great in old school games (such as Star Wars D6 and Blue Planet v1). H&S also does it elegantly. It's simple enough and doesn't really break the system into unnecessary sub-systems.
 

Apok

Corporate Tech Priest
Validated User
Very interesting, I like how it adds a nice layer of granularity without resorting to crazy amounts of dice/bonuses.

I would go a bit further and say that a person could have attributes and skills at multiple Tiers of effect (ie, the Hulk would have a Super-Tier Strength, Vigor, and Toughness but Normal-Tier everything else).
 

Mike McCall

Registered User
Validated User
An excellent way to approach it, though I will point out that it has the same mechanical effect as a +4 bonus or penalty.

In the supers game system I'm working on, I've chosen to work with Super-tier abilities, both Attributes and Skills. Things that are routine actions to a normal are auto-successes to someone with an appropriate Super attribute. Things that are challenging are routine (and yield high levels of success), while some things can only be routinely attempted by Super attributes (mundane attributes can do it, but they have to spend willpower and roll at massive penalties).

I've found that it feels more like superheroes than any other system I've tried.
 

shockvalue

The Puncher Strikes!
Validated User
An excellent way to approach it, though I will point out that it has the same mechanical effect as a +4 bonus or penalty.
You are exactly right. But the beauty of SW is that they've already built that +4 into the different effect levels of Fail/Success(Shaken)/Raise(Wound). Which means I get to remove the math step and jump straight to effect. Much more elegant, and something I haven't seen anybody take advantage of yet.

In the supers game system I'm working on, I've chosen to work with Super-tier abilities, both Attributes and Skills. Things that are routine actions to a normal are auto-successes to someone with an appropriate Super attribute. Things that are challenging are routine (and yield high levels of success), while some things can only be routinely attempted by Super attributes (mundane attributes can do it, but they have to spend willpower and roll at massive penalties).

I've found that it feels more like superheroes than any other system I've tried.
Agreed, and as far as I can tell, this is exactly what I've proposed as well.

(For instance, take Batman with Stealth d8 Super. To break into any normal facility, he'd never have to roll. Any failure on the dice would automatically be bumped up to a normal Success, so as long as he's sneaking past "passively listening" guards (TN 4), he'd automatically succeed. He'd only ever need to roll a contested roll if he was getting within 5' of them, according to the SW rules - which fits the comics, as he is occasionally detected at the last minute. But if he's just sneaking around, he can just do it automatically, unless there was some sort of "super tier" security device.)
 

Brawler

Retired User
I really like where this is going and I'd be interested in seeing it playtested. I love the idea of a tier system. As far as the whole +4 bonus thing goes, because it's tiered, there would be things that you could do with say a mundane d6 strength that you'd never be able to do with a super d6 strength.
 

Gavinwulf

Registered User
Validated User
I would like to see if this works in play as well! I've been debating wether or not to buy Necessary Evil or Dawn of Legends for weeks now and thinking, "There's gotta be an easier way to do Supers for SW". Perhaps this is it.
It kind of reminds me of 'There is No Spoon' where the matrix die trumps any number of successful skill dice.
 

Sunsword

Cosmic Enforcer
Validated User
I think the Step Up or Down system is a well thought out idea.

However, you could go another direction & change the Wild Die.

So if my Tier is higher I roll a D8 or D10 & if its lower I roll a D4 or no Wild Die.

Just a different perspective.
 
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