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Old 02-14-2020, 07:46 PM   #1
Raekai
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Default Flexibility and cost of Wildcard Powers vs. Modular Abilities?

Howdy!

I've recently looked into using Wildcard Powers (GURPS Supers, p. 41 and GURPS Power-Ups 7: Wildcard Skills, p. 20), and I ran into the problem that was keeping me from using them before: the rules are a bit too simple. If I take Flight! [160] as my Wildcard Power, it stands to reason that I can use Flight alongside any other ability of 40 points or less so long as I can justify it. That ×4 cost is the same no matter how broad the base ability is—e.g., something like Control Magic! might justify using any power that could be considered a spell. That seems a bit off to me. In effect, a Wildcard Power is your base ability plus a weird single-slot Modular Ability that's worth 3 points per point of ability. Again, it's not modified on how flexible that pool is or isn't. So, Control Fire Magic! might end up costing me the same points for less flexibility. Furthermore, it seems almost impossible to get an equivalent Modular Abilities setup for the same price that does the same thing, but it seems like there should be a way!

I have considered altering that ×4 modifier up or down based on the flexibility of that pool—from ×6 being for something as flexible as Control Reality! to ×2 being for something... well... really limited. This would essentially be the same as calling it Modular Ability (Wildcard Power) worth 5 points per point of ability then limiting it akin to Sorcerous Empowerment. However, that's just the thing: by comparison, Sorcery is much more expensive for doing something very similar.

But maybe I'm looking at it all wrong!

Thoughts?
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Old 02-14-2020, 08:20 PM   #2
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Default Re: Flexibility and cost of Wildcard Powers vs. Modular Abilities?

The limitation that you have to be using the secondary ability while using the primary should be considered a factor here, Yes its a nice bonus and as you say comparable to buying a 3pt per usable point Modular Ability but how often do you see it?
It makes that one power so expensive that I rarely see it used, and when I do it rarely on a primary power.
Is it too cheap for its effect? Maybe but the lack of common usage seems to imply its not. But it can certainly be disallowed or a UB premium charged to offset that.
Making it more complicated though I dont think is a good way to balance something. Complexity should be added to better simulate or model something rather than control balance.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:51 PM   #3
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Default Re: Flexibility and cost of Wildcard Powers vs. Modular Abilities?

The two are really not comparable in that way. Modular abilities are suited to a more realistic, more detailed campaign, the kind where you would give a character a Talent that benefited specific skills. Wildcard powers are suited to a handwavy, cinematic campaign where narrative momentum carries you along—but where you have to have the narrative going with you.

In a past campaign of mine, one of the PCs was the deified spirit of Errol Flynn. There was a scene where he seduced another PC, a tiger-based rakshasa woman, using Sword!—but he had to do it in the course of fencing with her. The character certain had not bought an ability or skill that gave him a Sex Appeal bonus with a focus or gadget; it just came up in play and he went with it.

And that's how wildcard powers should be used, too. They open the door to freeform improvisation, but you have to tie them to a use of the underlying power. But that freeform style of play is meant to be there. If that's not what you want—if you want to spell out what you can and can't do—you shouldn't take a wildcard power in the first place.
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Old 02-14-2020, 10:57 PM   #4
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Default Re: Flexibility and cost of Wildcard Powers vs. Modular Abilities?

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post

And that's how wildcard powers should be used, too. They open the door to freeform improvisation, but you have to tie them to a use of the underlying power. But that freeform style of play is meant to be there. If that's not what you want—if you want to spell out what you can and can't do—you shouldn't take a wildcard power in the first place.
Thats a great explanation.
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Old 02-15-2020, 12:00 AM   #5
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Default Re: Flexibility and cost of Wildcard Powers vs. Modular Abilities?

Yeah; it's actually more closely related to Using Abilities at Default (GURPS Powers pp.173–174), with the difference between them being that UAaD requires a penalized attributes roll land costs FP to use while a Wildcard Power can be used without either of those requirements but costs four times as many character points.
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Old 02-15-2020, 12:05 AM   #6
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Default Re: Flexibility and cost of Wildcard Powers vs. Modular Abilities?

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Originally Posted by dataweaver View Post
Yeah; it's actually more closely related to Using Abilities at Default (GURPS Powers pp.173–174), with the difference between them being that UAaD requires a penalized attributes roll land costs FP to use while a Wildcard Power can be used without either of those requirements but costs four times as many character points.
Also with Abilities at Default your swapping powers instead of using two at a time, most of the time two at once will be a benefit, though sometimes it will be a liability.
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Old 02-15-2020, 10:46 AM   #7
Raekai
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Default Re: Flexibility and cost of Wildcard Powers vs. Modular Abilities?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Refplace View Post
The limitation that you have to be using the secondary ability while using the primary should be considered a factor here, Yes its a nice bonus and as you say comparable to buying a 3pt per usable point Modular Ability but how often do you see it?
It makes that one power so expensive that I rarely see it used, and when I do it rarely on a primary power.
Is it too cheap for its effect? Maybe but the lack of common usage seems to imply its not. But it can certainly be disallowed or a UB premium charged to offset that.
Making it more complicated though I dont think is a good way to balance something. Complexity should be added to better simulate or model something rather than control balance.
True, I don't see it very often. However, I'm sure GURPS Supers and GURPS Power-Ups 7: Wildcard Skills also see less use for rules on powers than other supplements. I'm also happy with it being cheap as it allows me to create a cheap and flexible magic system for my setting. I think Wildcard Powers are a bit too cheap that Sorcery is a bit too expensive for what I want. But an Unusual Background approach is a good idea!

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
The two are really not comparable in that way. Modular abilities are suited to a more realistic, more detailed campaign, the kind where you would give a character a Talent that benefited specific skills. Wildcard powers are suited to a handwavy, cinematic campaign where narrative momentum carries you along—but where you have to have the narrative going with you.

[...]

And that's how wildcard powers should be used, too. They open the door to freeform improvisation, but you have to tie them to a use of the underlying power. But that freeform style of play is meant to be there. If that's not what you want—if you want to spell out what you can and can't do—you shouldn't take a wildcard power in the first place.
For clarification, I am in total agreement in that's how they should be used; however, I still maintain that they are quite similar in effect. My point was that I can justify improvising Flight with Control Reality! but can't so easily justify Control Reality with Flight! for the same price, but...

Quote:
Originally Posted by dataweaver View Post
Yeah; it's actually more closely related to Using Abilities at Default (GURPS Powers pp.173–174), with the difference between them being that UAaD requires a penalized attributes roll land costs FP to use while a Wildcard Power can be used without either of those requirements but costs four times as many character points.
...it seems that this is a GURPS problem. Using Abilities at Default is incredibly similar and I almost just used that for my approach, and I'm only just now seeing that it has the same issue. Again, I can way more easily justify using Flight as a default of Control Reality than I can the other way around, and— Well, I won't say it's wrong, but I don't really like it.

Christopher Rice (good ol' Ghostdancer) has a blog post called Call of the Wild that deals with creating Wildcard Skills with different multipliers depending on their breadth. This idea could certainly be used for Wildcard Powers. Honestly, now I can't look at Using Abilities at Default the same way ever again, and I would probably try to find some way to mess with the penalties based on how "flexible" the base ability is, which could be judged on the ability itself or its controlling Power Talent.

Again, I'm not saying the rules are wrong, but I don't like them. I feel like they (could) create an incentive to base any Wildcard Power off of an ability with really broad applications. Low-level Godlike Control can be weak on its own but it makes it easy to justify a plethora of abilities that could be related. Flight for the same price? Not so much.

Thanks for the help!
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Old 02-15-2020, 12:24 PM   #8
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Default Re: Flexibility and cost of Wildcard Powers vs. Modular Abilities?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raekai View Post
For clarification, I am in total agreement in that's how they should be used; however, I still maintain that they are quite similar in effect. My point was that I can justify improvising Flight with Control Reality! but can't so easily justify Control Reality with Flight! for the same price, but...
But where are you even getting Control Reality!, or for that matter Control Reality? That's so high-end an ability that I can't see its being allowed by even the Cosmic version of Control.
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Old 02-15-2020, 01:15 PM   #9
Raekai
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Default Re: Flexibility and cost of Wildcard Powers vs. Modular Abilities?

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
But where are you even getting Control Reality!, or for that matter Control Reality? That's so high-end an ability that I can't see its being allowed by even the Cosmic version of Control.
In truth, that was a bit of an exaggeration. If Control Matter 1 [30] is just 30 points, I could justify even more with the next level up of Godlike Control.
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Old 02-15-2020, 01:16 PM   #10
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Default Re: Flexibility and cost of Wildcard Powers vs. Modular Abilities?

While there are some abilities that lend themselves better to being used to justify more additional abilities, Supers logic (which is what you'll likely be using with Wildcard Powers) mean you can justify almost anything with something else. Don't forget Superman using Flight to travel through time, Antman using Shrinking for the same (and even using it for its polar opposite, Growth), etc. Super Strength! (or even just a high-damage melee crushing Innate Attack) might look narrow, until you use it to strike someone from a distance with waves of air as Innate Attack, bounce around the battlefield with Flight (Requires Surface), damage a Diffuse target with an "air explosion" from clapping your hands together, or alter air currents enough to control the weather with a mere punch. Note all of those are used by All Might and/or Deku in My Hero Academia, despite their only power at the time basically being super strength. It's impossible to predict ahead of time what all a player might come up with to justify their ability allowing them to do, particularly as Wildcard Powers encourage you to play fast-and-loose with that sort of thing, so it's hard to say how much breadth is in play and thus what price is appropriate.
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