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Re-engineering MtAs mechanics for a superhero game.

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  • Re-engineering MtAs mechanics for a superhero game.

    I'm thinking about running a superhero two or three shot soon, and instead of futz around with any of the actual superhero TT RPG's that have come out, I figured I would just re-engineer Mage (20th) mechanics since that's something all my players know well enough to pick up and go. Not to mention, it would allow for character generation and ingenuity on a pretty impressive scale. I figured I'd give it an ask here on what mechanics I could or should target for engineering, in case I missed anything.

    Obviously, since we're not dealing with "Awakened" mages and it's not a cWoD game proper, the characters wouldn't have Avatars. Quintessence expenditure wouldn't be based on any background, and be capped by either Arete rating, or a set number (I'm thinking 3 or 5). Since we're not dealing with Mage metaphysics, Quintessence will regenerate...I'm thinking between 1-3 points per day or something.

    Paradigm, focus, and tools will reflect origins, the source and type of a character's superpowers. I'm going back and forth on the level of specificity to apply here, because of something I'll discuss shortly, and whether a tool should count as a specific superpower (like flight) or go with a more Mage-standard application of "this is what your character does to achieve a given superpower". I'm leaning towards the former, since I feel that will give players specific power sets within a reasonable constraint to build a theme around their character.

    As an addendum, superhuman attributes would count as a "tool". I'm thinking having a superhuman attribute, just to keep things simple, would give automatic successes equal to Arete rating on relevant rolls.

    Powers would be activated by a roll of Arete + most relevant Sphere. Just to keep things flowing and make sure characters have enough dice pools to use powers on a per-turn basis instead of having to take time to build effects.

    Spheres would come in, because of how I plan to work vulgarity and Paradox. Because there would be no Consensus, typical rules for coincidental magic and vulgarity wouldn't apply. My idea is, a PC would have the ability to exceed their power set and use their "spheres" as if they were an awakened mage, but it would be a "vulgar" effect and incur Paradox. So if a character had the ability to manipulate fire, but for some reason needed to fly or throw an ice bolt but that wasn't in their "power set", they could do so but as a vulgar "effect". I wouldn't be looking to be a dick about spheres; if someone can make a cogent argument for being able to fly with Correspondence, I'd allow it.

    Thoughts?

  • #2
    (Let's set aside just porting over material from Aberrant, which uses similar mechanics to the Classic World of Darkness. That's neither here nor there.)

    It might be useful to employ Minor Spheres (from the Revised Storyteller's Handbook), as it would allow you choose powers relevant to the character's skill set.

    Many superpowers could employ things like Martial Arts, Hand/Body Movements, Voice, and the like as Instruments. Things like freezing breath could use Breathing. If the characters are Science or Gadget Heroes, they could use various Inventions, Devices, Weapons, and Armors as Instruments, with little to no change. Certain kinds of superheroes (like Hourman, Doctor Solar, and Underdog) ingest substances to give them powers, while Green Lanterns have their power rings as primary Instruments (though they also have things like their power batteries, and the need to speak their Lantern Oath). And, of course, some superheroes are literally wizards, like Doctor Strange or Doctor Fate. Their Psionic counterparts might employ concentration (Meditation or Thought Forms) for most simple effects, and more involved psychic tools to pull off intricate effects. Others are like Batman or Daredevil, whose "powers" come entirely from gadgets and training (so would follow the Practice of Invigoration). Lastly, costumes can also serve as a form of Instrument, depending on the hero.

    So I don't know if it's necessary to outright do away with Instruments. You just need to be more flexible with what counts as an Instrument, where it's needed at all.


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    • #3
      Hmm, it hadn't occurred to me to employ minor spheres in lieu of greater spheres to shape power sets, as opposed to using tools as the regulatory rule. Honestly, I'd forgotten all about them having never actually used them in a game. Good thought, much appreciated. It still runs into conflict with some of the more standard superhero powers like the ability to fly, but on the other hand if a player insists on something like flight, super speed, or whatnot, it would probably be easy to justify it as a relevant-level iteration of a minor sphere. Going that direction I might need to cut down the number of Instruments from seven to three or four, which will be a lot easier to mediate and for players to wrap their heads around.

      It leaves superhuman attributes in an awkward position, but that might be resolved by making each dot of superhuman attribute a merit or background worth two or three points/freebies. I was already planning on either comping players to Arete 3 or giving them 25 freebies instead of the standard 15, and going that route means the players could count on five or seven dots' worth of superhuman attributes if they please which suits me fine. I can already predict at least one player will want to throw me for a loop by taking either some kind of implant, gene mod, or the like out of the books, so I'd probably need to consider freebie/background cost on that as well.

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