Friday, May 27, 2016

What If ... Vader Had Turned Leia?

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I love "What if...?" stories. Especially the ones that look at well trod ground in new ways. Some of the best comic book limited series have come from these grounds, stories like Superman: Red Son, Kingdom Come, and Age of Apocalypse. I don't know yet if this'll become a "thing" but I had an idea and I needed to write about it, hopefully some of my readers will enjoy it. 

In the weeks before the Battle of Yavin Darth Vader had begun to feel a disturbance in the Force. It was weak at first, but slowly and steadily it gained in power. When he came face to face with Junior Senator Leia Organa on board the Tantive IV that feeling came to a head. He recognized in young Leia something of her mother and in searching the Force learned the truth of her parentage.

On board the Death Star as the Sith lord saw to the interrogation of the suspected rebel collaborator Vader saw an opportunity. He awoke Leia to the Force and tempted her with knowledge of her birth mother. When Tarkin ordered her death Vader intervened and removed her from the Death Star to his personal retreat, claiming to Tarkin that further interrogation was needed, and telling Leia that he desired her aid in destroying the Emperor.

With Vader and Leia no longer on board Luke, Han, Chewie, and Obi-wan were able to escape the Death Star and the Battle of Yavin went similarly to the established history. Without Leia to draw out the better part of him Han turned his back on the Rebellion and never returned, but without Vader present Luke was still able to make the shot and destroy the Death Star.

With time Vader wore down Leia, slowly drawing her to the dark side in secret while elsewhere in the galaxy Obi-wan, with a little help from Yoda, once more took it upon himself to train a Skywalker in the ways of the Force. Two years later the battle of Hoth ended disastrously. Luke died of exposure in the frozen wastes without Han to save him, and likewise without Han and Chewie finding the probe droid the Imperial attack was entirely the shocking ambush that Admiral Ozzel intended. Trapped on the planet, Obi-wan and forced to confront Darth Vader and Leia and was killed, but not before making Leia aware of her true relationship with Vader.

The leadership of the Rebellion was killed and the entire movement destroyed, but a wedge was driven between Vader and Leia. At first the dark princess remained loyal to Vader's ultimate goal to overthrow the Emperor and take his place with her at his side. Emboldened by their victory the pair struck the Emperor and together slew him. Leia immediately took the initiative and destroyed Vader, rising to position of Empress of the Galaxy.

How do you think it would have gone had Vader recognized his daughter on-board the Tantive IV?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Nuts & Bolts #80 - Hacking the Cypher System - Cypher Supers Special

On Sunday evening I chatted with +James Walls and +Ryan Chaddock about how to use the Cypher System Rulebook for superhero games. I wanted to compile some of my thoughts on the matter and provide some reference for peoples' use.

In Translation

I mentioned in the show that In Translation, which is a book for The Strange, has a bunch of foci I consider really useful for superhero games. I didn't bother running through a comprehensive list though because I was planning that here. The following Foci are so far exclusive to In Translation:

  • Aspires to Be Posthuman
    • With abilities including telekinesis and telepathy this is a psychic focus that would fit somebody like Jean Grey to a tee
  • Controls Nanomachines
    • I admit, this is a bit of a stretch, but I'm reasonably certain that there are characters in the comics with these abilities.
  • Excels Physically 
    • This is probably the best choice for Steve Rogers/Captain America with his super soldier enhanced physique and reaction time
  • Is a Cyborg
    • You could certainly use Fuses Flesh with Steel to build a character like Cyborg or Metallo but Is a Cyborg provides another option that plays differently, which is always nice
  • Projects Energy
    • This is a little more varied than straight energy blasts like say from Cyclops, but it works well as an alternate for Human Torch to Bears a Halo of Fire
  • Rejuvenates the Infirm
    • Healing others is much less common that self regeneration, but there are some less well known like Elixer who can do so. Again this is an alternate to Works Miracles
  • Sculpts Light
    • What color is your lantern? Seriously, look no further for hard light objects, beams, force fields, armor and travel. There's even a sidebar on the color spectrum.
  • Soars Across the Sky
    • So here's a weird one. An entire focus just for flying, when I cannot think of a single super who's only power was flight. Still if you are building a custom focus and need comparable flight options, this is a good resource. And your type abilities can easily help to round out a flyer like Angel/Archangel
  • Throws Boulders
    • Hulk smash! Sure we have Performs Feats of Strength but again options. 
  • Wears an Iron Suit
    • I touched on this directly. It's hard to be Iron Man out of the gate, but this focus will give you that armor suit and you can integrate type abilities to round out the powers early on.
There's also a Wolverine in the room. He's staring at me and wondering why his healing sucks. I'll tell you what I told him, you may want to grab a copy of The Strange (or borrow one) so you can use the Regenerates Tissue focus. After all, claws are pretty easy by comparison.

Trading Options 

I mentioned this as an idea during the show: as an optional rule the GM may allow players to trade some of their Power Shifts to gain higher tier powers from their foci early. Basically this is swapping a current benefit for a future one. Players normally gain five power shifts to start the game, and when using this option they could defer one or more of these shifts to gain access to a focus power from a higher tier. The player gains the deferred shift back when they reach the tier of the deferred power.

Example: Bob decided he really wants to Wield Two Weapons at Once with medium weapons right out of the gate. He defers a power shift at Tier 1 to gain the Tier 3 focus power of "Dual Medium Weild." When Bob's character reach Tier 3 instead of the normal focus power he regains the deferred power shift.

GMs will need to watch this carefully, and probably should not allow more than two such deferments, but it will allow for certain concepts to work at Tier 1 that normally wouldn't be available.

Negative Power Shifts

Ryan proposed the idea of negative power shifts. Basically taking the normal bonus of a power shift and inverting it. So a negative shift in Dexterity makes all tasks related to movement, acrobatics,
initiative, and speed defense one level more difficult. Taking a negative shift in this way would allow your character to gain another positive shift in another category.

If you wanted to make a very strong and tough character that lumbered around clumsily you could take a negative shift in Dexterity and then gain an additional shift for use in Resilience or Strength. This would potentially allow a character to have 3 shifts in 2 categories.  Again GMs need to watch this, and negative power shifts in Single Attack or Power categories are probably not appropriate since they are easily worked around.

Alternately such negative power shifts could be applied conditionally. Such as a character taking such a shift in resilience against a specific type or attack, or when in the presence of a specific material (i.e. the kryptonite weakness). Negative shifts of this kind should reward Power Shifts on a 2 to 1 basis to account for the fact that they don't apply at all times. For rarer situations the GM may want to increase that ratio even farther. The idea being that odds of encountering the trigger and the value of the Negative Shift should be the same. If a triggering weakness is only expected to show up in 1/4 of game sessions a character would need four Negative Shifts to generate one Power Shift.

Note that if a character has Negative Shifts that apply when exposed to (for example) kryptonite then GMs should not feel compelled to reward GMIs for the appearance of Kryptonite. The idea here is that the player have already received a reward for this weakness in the form of compensatory Power Shifts. For a GMI and narrative focused system see below...

Narrative Disadvantages & Weaknesses

Alternately, instead of weaknesses being tracked with Negative Shifts some GMs may prefer to simply note what weaknesses, drawbacks, and other "heroic foils" the characters have an use them in session as fodder for GM Intrusions. In this way the sudden reveal of kryptonite gains the player (and an ally) some Experience. This can also work well for things that are less about mechanics and more about character and story. Example: having a villain threatening to reveal a secret identity has no mechanical impact but does have character and story impact. A GM Intrusion is perfect for this, as it rewards the player in game for something that makes the game session and story more engaging and interesting. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Story Seed - QPU1

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Jean flipped open the case, "Looks different than I would expected." The glow of Morrison radiation seemed faint in the brightly lit room. "OK, so let's hear it..."

Harv coughed, "Yes ma'am, I'll have Kennedy relay the story, I was out of it."

"Yes, right, a banishment cypher. Most unfortunate. Proceed Mr. Kennedy."

The younger of the two men nodded. "As you know ma'am the Estate and the Cabal have been aggressive in countering all of our Earth and Ruk based attempts to engineer a quantum processor. Thanks to Project August however we learned of a deep indigo Estate project. They called it Heisenburg One-Zero-One. An untethered recursion deep in the strange, well outside of the shoals."

"I'm well aware of the preliminary details," Jean interrupted. "Get to the point."

"Ah, yes, sorry. The team translated to our facility in Ruk and stole a voidship. Extensive use of cyphers and artifacts enabled us to accelerate our outbound velocity to reach H101 far faster than the Estate could have accounted for if they learned of our operational parameters."

Kennedy saw a look forming on Jean's face, "We infiltrated the recursion on the ninth day or the operation. The recursion had some truly unique laws, standard physics mixed with some kind of exotic form of mad science. Whatever it was they were doing exactly as we'd expected, and piecing together a working quantum processor."

He gestured to the object in the case. "We wasted their people and grabbed the processor. The recursion still stands but the Estate won't even hear back about our operation for at least four to eight more weeks until their next voidship can make the full route back. Unless they want to risk a translation."

Jean waited, and when nothing more seemed forthcoming she nodded. "So what we have here is a golden opportunity."

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Last Week Today - Week of May 16-22, 2016

Story Seed - The Wait

Nuts & Bolts - The High Ground

Second Hand Treasures - Requiem for a God


A new Cypher Live airs tonight! Join myself, +James Walls and +Ryan Chaddock as we discuss using the Cypher System Rulebook for playing superheroes!