Thursday, August 22, 2013

The ultimate test

There are all kinds of useful things you can learn in a playtest and I have been doing a lot of those for Heroes By Trade.  Players will try things that seem problematic in terms of rules (Hobo and his whip / trip attack of opportunity) which need to be quashed.  Other players will have all kinds of interesting opinions on what things are overpowered or underpowered or just badly written.  One thing I should never underestimate though is what happens when I try to break the system myself.

I am starting a new campaign shortly with In The Hat presiding as GM.  This will be a fantastic opportunity for me to see the game in a whole new light from the other side of the GM screen.  Tonight I started out making a character and quickly figured out some changes that needed to be made.  I began by staring at the Voidbringer and Channeler classes and trying to map out my choices for Powers based on a few different builds.  The thing that kept coming up was that no matter my build, no matter my other picks, I always took Spiralling Shards for the Channeler and Slip Through The Shadows as a Voidbringer.  This is not a good sign.  If my theory about Power costing is right I should be all over the map so when I continually come back to one Power and conclude that every sensible player takes it something is wrong, wrong, wrong.

There were two fundamental problems.  First off both of those Powers were the only AOE choices for the classes in question.  This is a big problem because effective AOE is a really important niche to have covered.  At some point we are going to get swarmed by legions of zombies and I need to be able to mow them down like grass!  Having a single choice for such a critical combat function is not appropriate so I modified some things to make sure there were two choices.  The second fundamental problem was that even when I added another option I kept coming back to Slip Through The Shadows and concluding that I had to take it - it is just that good.  It is an odd ability that works in really interesting ways and clearly my optimization brain was seeing something that my designer brain was missing.  I ended up bumping its rank up to 11 from 10 and calling it a day.

When I build Powers I often develop favourites.  Sometimes those favourites are just neat and aren't actually very good but sometimes I end up loving things simply because they are effective.  It is only when it comes down to designing a character that I really find these things out because my characters always seem to end up taking the good stuff.  Funny, that.  The fact that I tend to work hard at building a strong character is sometimes irritating I am sure but it does come in handy now and again.

Spiralling shards

Shards of power swirl all around, glinting with murderous potential, slicing deeply into every enemy you can see.

Rank 10
Target:  All enemies within 2 squares of you.

Slip Through the Shadows

You blink in and out, rushing from one shadow to another in a terrifying display, striking every enemy to come within arm’s reach.

Rank 11
Effect:  Take a Move.
Target:  All enemies adjacent to you at any point during your Move.


  1. I don't think that having a "mandatory" power or two is necessarily that bad, as long as you still have plenty of choices to make overall. Like, if you have 10 powers to pick and 2 of them are mandatory... that's ok. It's when almost all of them are mandatory that it's not ok, IMO.

    Also, I really like AOE powers... but depending on your system, your GM, and your other players it might actually be just fine if you skip them, especially if they're not that good. For example, if you're only going to fight a weenie horde 1 fight in 10, then I think it's pretty reasonable to let one of the other PCs with good AOE options take care of them. You can then focus on being the madcap boss killer that you presumably are.

    That said, your power description makes Spirally Shards sound ok.

    Slip Through Shadows sounds darned good if it works the way I would assume it works. I'm not that familiar with your system, so some questions: Do people normally get attacks of opportunity ala D&D? Would people using this power still provoke them? Would you be allowed to move through enemy squares with this power (thus allowing you to move directly through blocks of oppponents)?

    If the answers are yes, yes, and yes like I somewhat expect, then this power seems pretty tasty.

    - Brent

  2. People do not normally get attacks of opportunity and using this spell does not expose you to attacks of opportunity. You are not allowed to move through enemy squares. The huge advantage of this power is you can end your turn away from enemies forcing them to move to get to you and also that you can hit a bunch of enemies without targetting friends. In addition it is useful as a gap closer if you don't have another option that way. It is simply so flexible that it is amazing even though no individual enemy gets hit very hard.