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Old 11-30-2022, 06:38 AM   #1
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default experimenting with Villains and Vigilantes

Back in 2021, I picked up edition 2.1 of Villains and Vigilantes, which took a first generation RPG and attempted to neaten up some of its details rather than fundamentally changing it. More recently, I decided to fiddle around with it, using it to create a population of superheroes who might be the backstory of a campaign world. After creating nineteenth such characters, I have some impressions of what results are to be expected.

The standard process for creating V&V characters is to roll 1d6 and add 2, to get a number of powers. Each power is rolled on your choice of five tables: powers, devices, magic/psionic items, skills, and magic/psionics. Then you roll one weakness on a table of weaknesses. You must discard one power; you have the option of discarding the weakness and a second power, either to get a more compatible set of powers, or because the weakness is too limiting.

V&V has long had a reputation for producing really ill-assorted power sets that don't add up to coherent character concepts, and past experience had led me to agree with that. So I tried a fix: rolling 1d6 for number of powers, adding 1, and then rolling another 1d6 for both number of additional powers and number of weaknesses. After that I discarded one power, and discarded powers and weaknesses together until I got down either to 1d6+1 powers and one weakness, or to 1d6 powers and no weakness. The idea was to give myself, or hypothetical players, more scope for intelligent design.

Most of my rolls led to tolerable characters with useful abilities. Nearly all of them were greatly advantaged in hand to hand fights; some of them were bulletproof and the rest were at least harder to take down with a firearm. But there were still limitations.

For one thing, it was still hard to come up with coherent power sets, especially if a character has multiple rolled powers. How do you make sense of it when a character has Chemical Power, Illusions, Power Blast, and Size Change? When a character had a lot of powers, I sometimes rolled a long list, decided it was unmanageable, and left the design unfinished.

It was possible to reduce this problem by not taking a full quota of powers, devices, or magical/psionic items, but limiting their total number to the number of weaknesses plus one or two, and taking the rest as skills. But often this led to discarding down to a single power and a lot of skills, and the characters with that profile had a lot of sameness.

At the other end of the spectrum, I got some characters with only one or two special abilities, and often it was hard for them to be interesting or effective.

Finally, some classic characters are best thought of as having certain powers two or three times: the Flash with Heightened Speed three times, the Hulk or Superman with Heightened Strength B three times, and so on. But rolling the same power even twice is vanishingly rare.

I think what this comes down to is that the randomization process, even mitigated like this, still doesn't produce very good characters. Certainly players might justly not want to have to play characters produced this way! There are reasons that RPGs have moved away from random character creation to point build systems, even at the expense of having to take more time to build a character. If I wanted to build a setting, I would have better luck just choosing from one to six abilities, or from two to seven abilities and one weakness, for each NPC; and giving each player four abilities, or five abilities and one weakness, for the sake of a level playing field.
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Old 11-30-2022, 08:21 PM   #2
Whitestreak
 
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Default Re: experimenting with Villains and Vigilantes

In a similar game system from the 80s, our house rule was each player *must* roll 1 random power. The other power(s) were all player choices.

It made for some very interesting game play
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Old 11-30-2022, 09:17 PM   #3
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Default Re: experimenting with Villains and Vigilantes

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Originally Posted by Whitestreak View Post
In a similar game system from the 80s, our house rule was each player *must* roll 1 random power. The other power(s) were all player choices.

It made for some very interesting game play
Did they roll the random power first or last? Or as they chose?
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Old 11-30-2022, 11:39 PM   #4
Mark Skarr
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Default Re: experimenting with Villains and Vigilantes

I would do:
Roll 1 random power, all remaining powers must be thematically related to the rolled power.

Additionally, you could do "roll all powers, then keep those that are thematically compatible and lose the rest."
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Old 12-01-2022, 12:11 AM   #5
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Default Re: experimenting with Villains and Vigilantes

My experience with V&V is that trying to make a coherent concept out of random powers is intermittently possible and may result in character concepts you wouldn't have thought of, but also produces a bunch of characters you just can't make sense of at all.
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Old 12-01-2022, 04:26 AM   #6
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Default Re: experimenting with Villains and Vigilantes

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My experience with V&V is that trying to make a coherent concept out of random powers is intermittently possible and may result in character concepts you wouldn't have thought of, but also produces a bunch of characters you just can't make sense of at all.
Yes. I was experimenting with a possible fix for that, and concluding that it didn't work well enough; the fundamental problem was still there.
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Old 12-01-2022, 06:05 AM   #7
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Default Re: experimenting with Villains and Vigilantes

I played V&V once (though it may have been 1e, not sure if 2e fixed this), but due to the way combat works in the game, I was able to take a nap between when the combat started and when my turn started. Not a short nap, either, and I woke up before my turn.

EDIT: For clarification, I took the nap as much because of how boring the combat was as me actually being tired. This was with someone whom I gamed with many times before and after, and I know is a good GM, so I feel safe blaming the system.
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Old 12-01-2022, 06:56 AM   #8
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Default Re: experimenting with Villains and Vigilantes

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
Chemical Power, Illusions, Power Blast, and Size Change?
Chemistry genius, invents a shrink/growth Pym particle thing, uses hallinogenic gas and the power of suggestion, and built a generic comic book blaster device.

I mean this could be one of Hank Pym's one-off alter egos.
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Old 12-01-2022, 10:15 AM   #9
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Default Re: experimenting with Villains and Vigilantes

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
I think what this comes down to is that the randomization process, even mitigated like this, still doesn't produce very good characters.
That was my experience of Golden Heroes, another superhero game with semi-random character generation. I don't think it's coincidental that point-based character design systems had a strong start in that genre and spread from there.
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Old 12-01-2022, 10:55 AM   #10
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Default Re: experimenting with Villains and Vigilantes

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That was my experience of Golden Heroes, another superhero game with semi-random character generation. .
I've got that one as well as V&V 1 and 2e and Marvel Super Heroes including the Ultimate Powers book and I think there was an Australian thing called Super Squadron (though I remember little of that one). My experience with making random heroes will all of them was that the wheat/chaff ratio was unfavorable.

It was a little more complicated than D&D characters on a strict "3D6 use in the order you roll basis" but maybe about the same as Original LBB Traveller and yeah, you just kept rolling til you got something you liked.
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