[Second Draft] Badass Kung-Fu Demigods

The Free Man

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But it does occur to me that with the newer Tension system, it does open up a new possibility of offering increased Tension as a reward for cool descriptions or the like...that's actually a tempting idea...doing crazier stuff builds your Tension faster without necessarily providing an advantage without altering how combat plays round-to-round.
Now THAT would be really cool. It doesn't even need to follow the same formula as Exalted. I always thought it was weird that providing any more description than just "I hit it really hard" gave you an extra die by default. I like the idea that, in order to get even a single extra Tension bar off a description, you need to REALLY impress everyone at the table.

EDIT: Just to ask, what are some example characters for each level of power? Since I mentioned DMC, are Dante and Vergil examples of Heroic Power ascending to Awakened power? Do characters in Dragon Ball eventually become Limitless, or are they only Unleashed?
 
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Beyond Reality

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EDIT: Just to ask, what are some example characters for each level of power? Since I mentioned DMC, are Dante and Vergil examples of Heroic Power ascending to Awakened power? Do characters in Dragon Ball eventually become Limitless, or are they only Unleashed?

Main thing with DMC is that character power in game is very different from cutscene power. In-game power level is pretty strictly heroic, moving to awakened with devil trigger. But cutscene action can easily move to Monstrous and maybe even Unleashed.

Dragonball is another tough one, because they don't represent their power levels very well in a lot of ways, so despite being one of the core inspirations for the system it's actually got several issues with translating it to the game directly. For example, even before you reach DBZ pretty much every character is already capable of reaching Limitless...master Roshi found it easier to blow up the moon than to deal with goku's big-monkey form. Well before we see anyone go Super-Saiyan, it's relatively easy to blow up planets if you want to (with Vegeta doing it in his first appearance). So...it's complicated?

Here are some good examples:

Heroic (near-human): Guts w/o armor (Berserk), Batman (batman), Mr Satan (dragonball), a mid-tier monster like an ogre or owlbear (D&D)

Awakened (definitively superhuman): Captain America (MCU), Edward Elric and most alchemists (FMA), Seras before drinking (Hellsing), high-tier monster like a demon or giant (d&d), Cole Mgrath (infamous).

Monstrous (destroying a city block with ease): Most bricks like the Thing or She Hulk (comics), Ryuko Matoi with senketsu (kill la kill), Medaka (Medaka Box), Most Servants going all out (Fate/Stay), The Kings (K), major monsters like dragons (d&d)

Unleashed (destroying a city with ease): Superman/Thor and similar (comics), Unit-1 (Evangelion), Akira (akira), Vash the stampede at full power (Trigun), Alucard at full release (Hellsing), Godzilla, Mob 100% (Mob Psycho 100)

Limitless (planetary effects): Everyone in Asura's Wrath, Galactus and similar (marvel), super galaxy dia gurren (gurren lagan), Saitama (one punch man)
 

GMImperfecti

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Flawless

#1 How many Flawless'es are allowed to be queued up? Since it can be used "when your opponent's roll would beat yours" this means it isn't banked. Instead, you can choose to use it if it makes sense.

  1. Attacker rolls 9.
  2. Defender rolls 8, uses Flawless, rolls 12.
  3. Attacker uses Flawless, re-rolls and gets 13.
  4. Defender uses Flawless, re-rolls and gets 9.
  5. Defender Overdrives to use Flawless, re-rolls and gets 15.
  6. Attacker uses Flawless, re-rolls and gets 17.
  7. Defender Overdrives to use Flawless again, re-rolls and gets a 18.
  8. Attacker Overdrives to use Flawless again, re-rolls and gets a 19.

Is that valid?

#2 Since the Defender can use Flawless to counter an Attacker, it would almost seem like with Flawless in place, you'd prefer to go second. After all, if the Attacker (foolishly) used Supercharge or Overdrive on their attack, but gets a low number (e.g. 5), the Defender has the option to defend normally and if successful use their essence on full offense. If the Defender fails the first time, then they can use Flawless. That is Flawless seems to give the edge to the defender, or worse encourage the Attacker to hold back and case a Flawless ping-pong match ala #1 above.

#3 Why does Flawless (which double dice) gets to trigger on a failed roll, but Supercharge (which only adds 2 dice) needs to be committed up front? What I am saying is, Flawless should require commitment upfront. So there is opportunity cost in not using it. You choose if you want to invest in a Flawless Attack or a Flawless Defense before seeing the result. Basically, Flawless needs to be used in the Hype-up phase just like Supercharge and Overkill.
  1. Attacker decides to do a Flawless Overkill attack. (without knowing what Defender chooses)
  2. Defender decides to do a Double Flawless defense. (without knowing what Attacker chooses)
  3. Attacker rolls 9.
  4. Defender rolls 8, uses Flawless, rolls 12.
  5. Attacker uses Flawless, re-rolls and gets 13.
  6. Defender uses Flawless, re-rolls and gets 9.
  7. Attacker gets 2 Strikes.
  8. Defender attacks normally (out of essence).
  9. Attacker chooses to Overdrive a Flawless Overkill Defense.
  10. Defender rolls a 12 to attack.
  11. Attacker rolls a 13 to defend. Flawless and Overkill are wasted.
 
Dragonball is another tough one, because they don't represent their power levels very well in a lot of ways, so despite being one of the core inspirations for the system it's actually got several issues with translating it to the game directly. For example, even before you reach DBZ pretty much every character is already capable of reaching Limitless...master Roshi found it easier to blow up the moon than to deal with goku's big-monkey form. Well before we see anyone go Super-Saiyan, it's relatively easy to blow up planets if you want to (with Vegeta doing it in his first appearance). So...it's complicated?
Since they're constantly escalating the power of the characters, I'd say the best way to represent Dragon Ball characters is to redefine the access and the capabilities of each power level depending on the villains you're using. So when Vegeta is introduced in the Saiyan Saga, he would be able to reach Power Level 4 and 5 (with Great Ape). In the Namek Saga, he would be limited to a lower power level at the start and would grow to a certain level over time. Depending on the Saga in question and the character training progress, some characters could even be removed from the playing field.
 

Beyond Reality

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Flawless

#1 How many Flawless'es are allowed to be queued up? Since it can be used "when your opponent's roll would beat yours" this means it isn't banked. Instead, you can choose to use it if it makes sense.

  1. Attacker rolls 9.
  2. Defender rolls 8, uses Flawless, rolls 12.
  3. Attacker uses Flawless, re-rolls and gets 13.
  4. Defender uses Flawless, re-rolls and gets 9.
  5. Defender Overdrives to use Flawless, re-rolls and gets 15.
  6. Attacker uses Flawless, re-rolls and gets 17.
  7. Defender Overdrives to use Flawless again, re-rolls and gets a 18.
  8. Attacker Overdrives to use Flawless again, re-rolls and gets a 19.

Is that valid?
It is, although certainly unlikely given the number of explosions it would require, but yeah. In theory the two of you could knock the failure ball back and forth. But, just to use your example, this starts to become a bad bet once the result hits double-digits. In order for a defender with a d10 to beat an attacker's 13 reliably they'd need to already be rolling 8+ dice, which is fairly difficult without the Supercharge power (although a really high fighting spirit can make the difference). Then in order for the attacker to beat the defender's 15, that's requiring easily 10-12 dice to do with any kind of reliability (and even then there's a significant failure chance). It definitely isn't worth dipping into most forms of Overdrive, unless you've got a really easy/cheap form available.

So on a practical level I don't see this sort of ping-ponging happening too often.

#2 Since the Defender can use Flawless to counter an Attacker, it would almost seem like with Flawless in place, you'd prefer to go second. After all, if the Attacker (foolishly) used Supercharge or Overdrive on their attack, but gets a low number (e.g. 5), the Defender has the option to defend normally and if successful use their essence on full offense. If the Defender fails the first time, then they can use Flawless. That is Flawless seems to give the edge to the defender, or worse encourage the Attacker to hold back and case a Flawless ping-pong match ala #1 above.
There is actually a fairly strong mechanical incentive to act last or later in the turn, since EP restores for everyone at the end of the round it means that the one who goes first is gambling a bit more since they have to decide how much EP to use while still banking enough to deal with the second character's turn. So the character who acts last can act more...organically might be the right word? They can use EP to respond based on the EP used by the attacker and if they're acting last then they can just spend whatever they have left.

The advantage weakens the more attackers there are though, as the defender must gamble on the amount of EP spent against one attacker while making sure they have enough if they need to deal with a strong attack by another. But in a one-on-one conflict it's pretty definitively an advantage to go last so long as there isn't a risk of your attacker KOing you with their hit (unlikely unless you're badly wounded or they've got a Release ready to go).

I've considered whether or not there should be anything in place to mitigate this...I originally changed to the "whoever wants to go, then go" method because I realized there wasn't actually much incentive to be the absolute first one to go in a fight so I figured I'd put that choice in the player's hands. But if the advantage turns out to be overwhelming I may return to some sort of random initiative and maybe go low-to-high order with the most successful roll going last. But personally I think there's enough of a trade-off...the one who acts first gets to dictate the terms of the round more, but the one who acts last is probably more likely to succeed.


#3 Why does Flawless (which double dice) gets to trigger on a failed roll, but Supercharge (which only adds 2 dice) needs to be committed up front? What I am saying is, Flawless should require commitment upfront. So there is opportunity cost in not using it. You choose if you want to invest in a Flawless Attack or a Flawless Defense before seeing the result. Basically, Flawless needs to be used in the Hype-up phase just like Supercharge and Overkill.
  1. Attacker decides to do a Flawless Overkill attack. (without knowing what Defender chooses)
  2. Defender decides to do a Double Flawless defense. (without knowing what Attacker chooses)
  3. Attacker rolls 9.
  4. Defender rolls 8, uses Flawless, rolls 12.
  5. Attacker uses Flawless, re-rolls and gets 13.
  6. Defender uses Flawless, re-rolls and gets 9.
  7. Attacker gets 2 Strikes.
  8. Defender attacks normally (out of essence).
  9. Attacker chooses to Overdrive a Flawless Overkill Defense.
  10. Defender rolls a 12 to attack.
  11. Attacker rolls a 13 to defend. Flawless and Overkill are wasted.
Balancing flawless was definitely an issue. I don't think it works well in the hype-up phase though, because then I feel like it would be far less effective than other abilities. While Overkill is wasted if a roll fails, flawless is wasted if a roll succeeds...which means that the more dice you have (through powers, fighting spirit or otherwise) the less effective taking the flawless option is if you must declare it ahead of time.

While flawless does double dice, since it can only be used on a failed roll it can't improve a successful roll, only mitigate or turn around a failed roll. There might still be balance problems with it, but if it turns out to be untenable I think the better solution will be increasing the cost or simply removing it (or maybe making it a signature power, with the additional utility enhanced by the need to purchase it).

EDIT: Essentially the intended roles for the Basic powers are for Supercharge to increase both your likelihood of success and the likelihood of earning a Strike, both to modest degrees. Overkill makes earning a Strike certain but does not affect likelihood of success and is wasted if you fail. Flawless is the opposite, it decreases the likelihood of failure but cannot make an already successful roll better.

Flawless also has an interesting relationship with Supercharge in that every point spent on Supercharge makes Flawless more valuable...but only if the roll fails anyway. which means saving EP for flawless is a gamble just like it is when you spend EP on overcharge. If your roll succeeds then the EP could have been spent on supercharge or overkill and probably done better and can't be used for Flawless at that point. You're just saving that EP to gamble on failure rather than gambling on success.

It's one of the areas where the "last to act has an advantage" dynamic is reversed. An attacker who goes first can save EP for flawless and if they don't need it then they still have that EP for when the defender's turn comes around. But the person who acts last is incentivized to spend all of their EP because it comes right back...so EP saved for flawless is worthless if it goes unspent due to succeeding on your initial roll.
 
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Beyond Reality

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Since they're constantly escalating the power of the characters, I'd say the best way to represent Dragon Ball characters is to redefine the access and the capabilities of each power level depending on the villains you're using. So when Vegeta is introduced in the Saiyan Saga, he would be able to reach Power Level 4 and 5 (with Great Ape). In the Namek Saga, he would be limited to a lower power level at the start and would grow to a certain level over time. Depending on the Saga in question and the character training progress, some characters could even be removed from the playing field.
That's one potential solution.

In theory you could also just drastically redefine what each Power Level means "in universe" without changing the actual mechanics of the system and treat it like a Cultivation style game. So for instance, establishing that a Heroic character can perform feats like crushing boulders, cutting the tops off mountains or smashing meteors, but they still get only 1 EP a round and the rules are handled as though the vast majority of normal human forces are simply Extras who don't even reach Heroic level.

Then Awakened level opponents like Vegeta (rival) and Nappa (unworthy?) show up and they're capable of blowing up a planet (if unopposed), but like normal Awakened-level opponents they get access to 2 EP and get a free Strike against Heroic characters, giving them a strong advantage that goku and crew barely manage to overcome.

Beat them and we move to Frieza whose final form is a Monstrous level opponent (3 EP and treats Heroic characters as extras) and Goku manages to unlock his Monstrous-level Super Saiyan mode.

Then we move to the androids (also Monstrous) which leads to Cell who, on achieving perfection, reaches the Unleashed tier, forcing the discovery of Super-Saiyan 2 to beat him.

Then next comes Buu who further ups the ante to Limitless...and then???

The biggest problem Dragonball has (in my opinion) and the problem I intentionally designed against was that it very quickly reaches the point where the stakes can't be effectively raised any further and there's almost no way to represent a character's power differently than a weaker character. The power level differential is only important when comparing two characters together: a fight between SS1 Goku and Freiza isn't dramatically different than a fight between SS2 Gohan and P. Cell. They fly around, throw a flurry of punches and shoot energy balls at one another. The "weight" of the fights doesn't increase and while, theoretically, the opponents are stronger (frieza being able to personally destroy a planet, with stronger opponents being able to destroy a solar system or a galaxy), this isn't represented "on screen" and it's difficult to feel that "I will blow up your planet if I win" and "I will blow up your galaxy if I win" are significantly different stakes. There's a huge diminishing returns on impact.

For comparison, the Asura's Wrath game (during cutscenes) does a better job of showing power escalation with weight. At the start of the game you fight a truly gigantic opponent and your fight levels mountains and results in massive collateral damage. Then when you fight Argus on the moon where he cuts a new canyon in the surface and then punches you back to earth and stabs you with a sword that proceeds to punch through you, into the planet and out the other side. Then, in the DLC you're back on the moon and you and akuma hit each other so hard the moon splits into pieces and you both start fighting among the chunks of lunar debris. Far from a flawless game (and pretty wildly schizophrenic over how strong you are at any given moment) but it does more to communicate the impact of ultra-powerful beings clashing.

That's also why I capped Limitless (by default) at the planetary scale rather than moving up to "you can shoot black holes through solar systems and punch suns across the universe". I just felt like there wasn't a good way to have power on that scale and anything resembling remotely normal character interaction and plot escalation. It's not impossible, but it felt like something that would be better handled out of the book and at the table with house rules or optional rules. That's why shows like Gurren Lagan or games like Asura's wrath end after you reach the point where you're using entire galactic spirals as shuriken. That's a great over-the-top way to wrap up a hyper-power story...but the game rules are about the stuff that's accessible on the regular. If you want to end a campaign going beyond limitless into ultra-infinity-maximum levels of power that'd be cool, it just didn't feel appropriate to write rules for something like that.
 

The Free Man

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Okay, question. Are you going to be altering the example foes in the 8th draft? Hearing that Batman is Heroic while Edward Elric is Awakened makes me look at some of these sideways. What are essentially Space Marines are Unworthy Heroic foes? Luke Skywalker is a Heroic Rival?? I know we're talking about Canon, not the Expanded Universe (right?), but still.
 

Beyond Reality

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Okay, question. Are you going to be altering the example foes in the 8th draft? Hearing that Batman is Heroic while Edward Elric is Awakened makes me look at some of these sideways. What are essentially Space Marines are Unworthy Heroic foes? Luke Skywalker is a Heroic Rival?? I know we're talking about Canon, not the Expanded Universe (right?), but still.
Maybe, the examples are mostly intended jokingly rather than as a way to draw comparisons to outside sources. So yes, space marines are like walking tanks in the WH40k world and should certainly be Awakened level. And Skywalker is more a reference to the original trilogy, pre-powercreep in the star wars universe where he can pull some neat tricks but also stands side-by-side in effectiveness with a mundane badass like Han Solo. He can be threatened by a squad of stormtroopers and his fights don't tend to cause mass significant collateral damage beyond some sparks and scorchmarks (for comparison, Starkiller easily reaches Unleashed).

As far as batman, I'm referring to batman with plot armor and gadgets and all. The guy who can be tackled by Killer Croc or Bane through a brick wall and get back up and keep fighting (of course, in his bat-mech he'd rate higher). Likewise, although Edward Elric and other alchemists are "normal" humans with some powers...they're still presented as doing things like smashing buildings apart and wiping out vast numbers of weaker foes.

Basically, Power Level translates mainly to scale.

*Heroic is human scale. Your fights will involve human or near human enemies. After your fights are over the room you're fighting in is probably a mess. A Heroic character's punches hit like a quarterback's full-body tackle.

*Awakened is "heavy weapon" scale. You can fight big-ass monsters, attack helicopters, tanks, etc. After your fights are over the building you're fighting in is probably in need of major repairs. An Awakened character can punch like a stick of dynamite.

*Monstrous is "artillery" scale. You can fight dragons and battleships. After your fights are over the entire neighborhood is probably in ruins. A Monstrous character can hit like a missile.

*Unleashed is "kaiju" scale. You can battle giant mechs and giant monsters or alien warships. After your fights are over the city where you fought is probably a crater. An Unleashed character can hit like a tactical nuke.

*Limitless is "natural disaster" scale. You can fight small celestial bodies or gods. After your fights are over the maps have to be rewritten. An unleashed character hits like a mountain falling from space.

Batman or Skywalker's fights don't typically involve buildings falling apart (at least, not as a result of the fight), so they're Heroic, but Edward Elric is good for the city's construction company so he's Awakened. That sort of thing.
 
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The Free Man

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Okay. A Heroic character hits like one and a half Mike Tysons, and a Limitless character hits like Texas falling from space. Gotcha.

And... There's something that's... not really bugging me, but... I get the Rock Paper Scissors of the fighting styles, but why Might > Tech > Speed > Might? In most media, the seemingly frail martial artist stomps all over the big buff dude, but has trouble dealing with a faster opponent, while the speedster isn't strong enough to get through all the buff dude's MUSCLE. Might > Speed > Tech > Might feels like it would make a bit more sense.
 
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Beyond Reality

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That's not a bad point. I might make that change.

I think my initial thought was "big slow guy tries to smash the tiny fast dude who runs circles around them" and "huge raging barbarian overwhelms mr fancy's swordplay with raw power", but admittedly the Tech-beating-speed thing was not much of a cliche to begin with. So if tech beats might, might beats speed and speed beats tech...that works fairly well too and probably fits more media tropes.
 
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