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Thread: Why doesn't PL cap everything?

  1. #41
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    Re: Why doesn't PL cap everything?

    Quote Originally Posted by FuzzyBoots View Post
    Protip: Google lets you use a "site:" keyword to constrain the search. Here we go.
    I'm aware; I've still had bad luck with it on the old ATT for whatever reason.

  2. #42
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    Re: Why doesn't PL cap everything?

    I'd also like to reiterate that capping other powers at PL has the combination of not doing much, and doing too much.

    Not doing much: any problem you have as a GM with a lot of powers at rank 15, you'll probably have at rank 10. Once you can go 4 miles in a melee round, the number of occasions when going 120 miles will matter instead is vanishingly small unless you're running a very specialized kind of game. Most of the problems I hit in play were synergies within PL range powers (i.e. having full Toughness and Regeneration) or particularly wide powers because of Extras (2e Disintegration). We had a character in one group that, because of the way dynamic arrays worked, could, if she wasn't using her pool for anything else, do Flight 24. I'm sure there was some particular point in the campaign when that speed was noticeably beneficial, but I can't recall it. I suspect strongly you're looking at things through the lens of genres far less stylized than superhero games here. Note that even the supersense example given a few posts up was more an issue of having a particularly long range on one element of the super sense while having another one in combination; you could have capped super senses and someone would have gotten likely nearly the same result by combining a middlin' high rank of Remote Senses with mental-only Quickness at the same rank.

    Doing Too Much: as noted, some times there are things fairly important for some character concepts that capping would, well, kneecap. This is, in fact, the same issue that creates the problems I mention in my two discussions of PL; its very hard to have a superhero game that does a proper job of covering the right ground without having some problematic synergies. Similarly, to cover the range of a character concept, you sometimes need relatively high ranks of a power that aren't really going to translate into anything all that concerning in game (unless, again, the structure of the game for some reason over-values them). The only issue that is likely to arise is that occasionally these non-combat powers can kill certain kinds of plots...but then, so can walking through walls. Or reading minds. Or any number of other things that easily land within normal PL range ranks. That just has to be accounted for, or a superhero game will be an incredibly frustrating experience.

    The reason almost all the PL cap items are combat related is simple: it allows the GM to properly assess the opposition needed to challenge the PC heroes. That's also why big gaps in hitting PL categories are usually a bad idea; at best, they require the GM to be extremely carefully about who he uses against which characters, potentially creating a lot of problems when the PCs are not so restrained (so when Bricky-Boy takes on the opponent designed to fight Glass Cannon Man, there is now no opponent who can attack Glass Cannon Man without likely folding him up like wet cardboard) Some people and groups can keep those sorts of balls in the air, but a lot either can't or don't find it desirable to have to.

    It is not a coincidence that very few non-PL interacting abilities have anything to do with making or resisting a check of any kind.

  3. #43
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    Re: Why doesn't PL cap everything?

    @Fuzzyboots you mean that yes you are okay with requiring PCs at the maximum balance for the Fort+Will or Defense+toughness caps. I'll again point out that this additional build constraint (forcing PL-limited sums near their maximums) feels similar to enforcing ranks=PL maximums for otherwise none-limited things. I'm fine with both, nor do I consider it an insult to the system to talk about (or use) either.

    I also agree that no player should expect special treatment. In fact, building a support character would logically put a big target on that character (since they are often easier to take down and have a very noticeable effect if removed from combat). I know the jist but I don't know the minimal build components to actually making a "bathroom psychic". As someone worried about balance, I'm curious if someone can distill that for me.

    Speaking of supporting characters and balance, I noticed today that the "affects others" modifier works on most powers (personal ones). By having a shrunk character in your pocket, you can shift huge amounts of pp (especially without the max of PL ranks) from one character to another. This seems very problematic to the 15PP/PL understanding. Am I missing something?

    @Nunya B what is "effect shifts" versus unshifted and is there a writeup to the omega you reference? It's not anything in the Heroes & Villians books I can find. Google just gives me this "omega" M&M build.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darkdreamer View Post
    Once you can go 4 miles in a melee round, the number of occasions when going 120 miles will matter instead is vanishingly small unless you're running a very specialized kind of game.
    Agreed. We mentioned the fact that ranks aren't actually linear in cost. One of the things that forcing PL caps would do, though, is prevent players from going too overboard and mismanaging builds. I do get that this loses some of the "fun" of flying really, really fast. But yeah, if no one's really worried about high [movement] power ranks, then I guess I'm not as much either. It still does make it difficult to tell 'how much' to invest, though. It's less elegant than just maxing any particular powers' rank just so say that this is your PC's "thing". And I don't like to fret

    nearly the same result by combining a middlin' high rank of Remote Senses with mental-only Quickness at the same rank.
    That's quite clever. Still, its not the same since then it becomes about searching as many different perspectives/pockets/rooms rather than just seeing them all at once.

    it allows the GM to properly assess the opposition needed to challenge the PC heroes. ... Some people and groups can keep those sorts of balls in the air, but a lot either can't or don't find it desirable to have to.
    I'm of the school where aside from players who are clearly doing something silly (like expecting to be treated differently, or building a character with horrible resistances), it's the players job to make sure they build something competitive. GM's just play 'by the book' and if the PC's get steamrolled, they will learn their lesson. It's actually more forgiving in M&M than D&D because of the common trope of being captured and then taunted before being left mostly alone in the escapable/rescue-able death trap. As for that first part: I totally get the need to use PL to assess character limits: whether its a deception match or a swimming contest (both skill challenges in other RPGs). M&M just kinda gives up on any semblance of 'well how bad can it get?' when it comes to out of combat things.

  4. #44
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    Re: Why doesn't PL cap everything?

    > bathroom psychic
    The core traits are the ability to target enemies through walls at distance (Extended and Penetrates Concealment on an Accurate sense or Remote Sensing) and the ability to shoot through walls (Indirect or a power with appropriate descriptors such as a mental blast).
    The result is the ability to fight crime from anywhere with complete impunity while being nearly impossible to counterattack because you're just not there.

    > Affects Others cheese
    Yeah, that works and is abusable. If the players are clumsy and get their defenses from somebody else's Affects Others defenses then they're liable to domino, but if they're just spreading around their discretionary budget they can get massive returns. Affects Only Others actually makes it even sillier.
    It's very easy to notice and nay-say though. Remember, M&M explicitly states that a character has to be approved by the GM before they're play-ready. The fact that you can make a character with inanity like "Variable that costs 4 points per rank and can contain itself" doesn't really impact balance.

    > "effect shifts" versus unshifted
    A character with Effect Rank > Accuracy. Eg Strength 12 Fighting 8 on a PL 10. The converse is an accuracy shifted character.

    > omega
    Premade PL19 villain from the Deluxe Hero's Handbook, page 337. No clue if it's in other versions.

    > It still does make it difficult to tell 'how much' to invest, though
    If you're making characters as a group, the easiest way is to ask everybody else how high they're going, then add your desired "I'm the best!" margin on top. Alternatively, buy it as a Dynamic array so the points aren't wasted no matter how much you (don't) use.

  5. #45
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    Re: Why doesn't PL cap everything?

    FWIW, here's Elric's charts of odds given PL and tradeoffs, which I apparently pulled from here and here according to my RPG SE question on how to address tradeoff imbalance:




  6. #46
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    Re: Why doesn't PL cap everything?

    Quote Originally Posted by DnDVSMnM View Post
    Agreed. We mentioned the fact that ranks aren't actually linear in cost. One of the things that forcing PL caps would do, though, is prevent players from going too overboard and mismanaging builds. I do get that this loses some of the "fun" of flying really, really fast. But yeah, if no one's really worried about high [movement] power ranks, then I guess I'm not as much either. It still does make it difficult to tell 'how much' to invest, though. It's less elegant than just maxing any particular powers' rank just so say that this is your PC's "thing". And I don't like to fret
    Like I said, the problem is that in many cases if people are prone to overbuying, they've already done so before PL kicks in. A rank 10 Speed or Flight is already more than most characters not very focused around it need. So it blocks people who really do want something higher, while not really restraining those who don't even need that much.


    That's quite clever. Still, its not the same since then it becomes about searching as many different perspectives/pockets/rooms rather than just seeing them all at once.
    In terms of the problems it causes, its pretty indistinguishable at some point, though. So capping the other has done--what?


    I'm of the school where aside from players who are clearly doing something silly (like expecting to be treated differently, or building a character with horrible resistances), it's the players job to make sure they build something competitive. GM's just play 'by the book' and if the PC's get steamrolled, they will learn their lesson. It's actually more forgiving in M&M than D&D because of the common trope of being captured and then taunted before being left mostly alone in the escapable/rescue-able death trap. As for that first part: I totally get the need to use PL to assess character limits: whether its a deception match or a swimming contest (both skill challenges in other RPGs). M&M just kinda gives up on any semblance of 'well how bad can it get?' when it comes to out of combat things.
    There's two problems with this:

    1. First, PL tells the players what's competitive. Otherwise, when arriving at the game, how do they know? Especially when new to the system, its not going to be clear why, for example, having a +4 Fortitude save in a PL 10 game is probably a really bad idea.

    2. Not only does a given player pay for being incompetent (because let's be clear here, that's what I'm talking about, not just being a little suboptimal), but all of them; if the PC can't hold up his end, everyone else has to do extra work (if they can even do so sufficiently) unless the GM is deliberately softballing them. So it isn't a case that just a single player pays for his decisions.

    As to "giving up" when its out of combat--that's because, honestly, "normal" challenges really just, well, aren't to supers. Supers walk through walls (so how does lockpicking matter?), turn invisible (so stealth?) and fly (so climbing?). That's one reason its very hard to have skill systems in superhero games to be anything but afterthoughts; the nature of superpowers makes most of them moot. So in practice, the GM is going to have to manually assess what the PCs can do before he even puts a certain sort of noncombat challenge out, because a lot of powers qualitatively change things in a way that makes a lot of such things moot; so the fact a few of them also do so quantitatively is almost irrelevant, since you have to be aware of the specifics anyway. Often the very first rank of a power makes the biggest difference.

  7. #47
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    Re: Why doesn't PL cap everything?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nunya B View Post
    > bathroom psychic
    The core traits are the ability to target enemies through walls at distance (Extended and Penetrates Concealment on an Accurate sense or Remote Sensing) and the ability to shoot through walls (Indirect or a power with appropriate descriptors such as a mental blast).
    The result is the ability to fight crime from anywhere with complete impunity while being nearly impossible to counterattack because you're just not there.
    There was a slightly weaker version we discussed back in the day to this: Orbital Laser Man. You skip the Penetrates Concealment, but just build a character with Perception range attacks, telescopic vision and the ability to fly and survive in space. In any outside combat he just flies up into orbit and fires down with impunity. He can't shoot at anyone inside, but anyone outside without a similar power set is largely hosed.

  8. #48
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    Re: Why doesn't PL cap everything?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nunya B View Post
    The core traits are the ability to target enemies through walls at distance (Extended and Penetrates Concealment on an Accurate sense or Remote Sensing) and the ability to shoot through walls (Indirect or a power with appropriate descriptors such as a mental blast).
    That actually makes sense. It seems to spring from a desire to make otherwise noncombat-participating minions into combat helpers too. Isn't the easiest solution to disallow remote (usually perception) attacks and indirect attacks at extreme range. Say ... only at range of the ranks you have in indirect -3 like (60')? It seems attacking through anything should be a higher rank disadvantage than swimming (-2) compared to speed (0).
    Remember, M&M explicitly states that a character has to be approved by the GM before they're play-ready.
    That's a problem in itself, though, because you never can make a build guaranteed to be playable for anyone![quote]The fact that you can make a character with inanity like "Variable that costs 4 points per rank and can contain itself" doesn't really impact balance.[quote]No that's categorically different than any other power or unusual combination because "In short, Variable effect is a “last resort” in power design, and the GM should treat it as such." Thus you have to ask permission to use the variable [template] where you don't have to ask permission for, say, power lifting. Making a custom variable effect is really an automatically illegal character for 99% of GMs, because they simply won't allow the power even if the character is otherwise fine. Speaking of this, I've compiled all GM-interventions I can find in the rules. Would anyone be interested in me posting this resource? Or has someone already categorized it all? Is there a repository of M&M build resources I'm not aware of?
    Premade PL19 villain from the Deluxe Hero's Handbook, page 337. No clue if it's in other versions.
    My Mutants & Masterminds Deluxe Hero's Handbook only goes to page 317...
    Alternatively, buy it as a Dynamic array so the points aren't wasted no matter how much you (don't) use.
    Ah yes. Arrays. In most randomized cases, so balanced...


    Quote Originally Posted by Darkdreamer View Post
    Like I said, the problem is that in many cases if people are prone to overbuying, they've already done so before PL kicks in. A rank 10 Speed or Flight is already more than most characters not very focused around it need. So it blocks people who really do want something higher, while not really restraining those who don't even need that much.
    That was well put. You got me. That's the kind of clarity I needed.
    In terms of the problems it causes, its pretty indistinguishable at some point, though. So capping the other has done--what?
    Er, make you count rooms to see how long it takes? I don't, honestly.
    walk through walls (so how does lockpicking matter?), turn invisible (so stealth?) and fly (so climbing?). That's one reason its very hard to have skill systems in superhero games to be anything but afterthoughts; the nature of superpowers makes most of them moot. So in practice, the GM is going to have to manually assess what the PCs can do before he even puts a certain sort of noncombat challenge out, because a lot of powers qualitatively change things in a way that makes a lot of such things moot; so the fact a few of them also do so quantitatively is almost irrelevant, since you have to be aware of the specifics anyway. Often the very first rank of a power makes the biggest difference.
    Yeah... I agree with all of this. I know people cringe when I say this, but this paragraph is actually pretty similar to D&D discussions of optimal casters (just search people complaining about knock at level 1). Perhaps I was thinking too much on 'how high' ranks can get when I should have been thinking about 'how low' one can get away with. Apparently this is a more usual line of thinking, which would explain people building low Will+Fort character (which seems crazy to me).


    Quote Originally Posted by Darkdreamer View Post
    Orbital Laser Man. You skip the Penetrates Concealment, but just build a character with Perception range attacks, telescopic vision and the ability to fly and survive in space. In any outside combat he just flies up into orbit and fires down with impunity. He can't shoot at anyone inside, but anyone outside without a similar power set is largely hosed.
    So, like a bond villian? Being atleast half-asian is required. But seriouesly, perhaps perception just shouldn't stack with other powers? Is there a balanced use of that? It's already pretty powerful. Atleast if Orbital Laser Man was "firin' mah lazer" with a chance to dodge, that would be better. Or maybe just attacks themselves shouldn't stack with sense powers? That would force you to be 'in combat', right?
    Last edited by DnDVSMnM; 05-17-2018 at 12:44 PM.

  9. #49
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    Re: Why doesn't PL cap everything?

    > Isn't the easiest solution ...
    The easiest solution is to inform the player that there will be none of that tomfoolery at your table.
    The Bathroom Psychic is just the poster-child for an entire family of "I can hurt you but you can't hurt me" methods such as Orbital Laser Man, Punch Ghost, Variable Immunity Man, Selective Create Man, Sniper Rifle Speedster, etc. Exhaustively and specifically banning them is a fool's errand. If somebody brings something suspicious to the table, sitting down with them and talking it out like adults is the best solution. After all, sometimes the guy with a pocket howitzer and a camera drone isn't out to break the game. Banning potentially objectionable traits means also banning non-objectionable uses of those traits.
    The guy who can just shoot the villains from orbit doesn't become a problem until they become the guy who does just shoot the villains from orbit.

    > That's a problem in itself, though, because you never can make a build guaranteed to be playable for anyone!
    The alternative would be to create a completely balanced set of rules capable of expressing the entire range of superpowers (or lie and say you created such). It's far better to admit that the system has some issues than it is to bury the GM's head in the sand and assure them everything will be fine.
    Besides, this is nothing new. If you try to bring The Gunisher to a Saturday Morning Superfriends game, it doesn't matter how rules-legal you are. Likewise, many GMs have enough house-rules or strongly held balance opinions to complicate things.

    > you have to ask permission to use the variable [template] where you don't have to ask permission for, say, power lifting
    You have to ask permission for everything. The only difference is how likely they are to say yes. A M&M GM might not want super-strength of any stripe in their game, or might seriously over-value lifting capacity and ban anything that increases it cheaply. A D&D 3.5 GM might not want half-casters of any stripe in their game, or might seriously over-value elven trance and ban the races that have it M&M just codifies the "The GM can always say no" portion of rule zero a bit more explicitly. It's a lot like the 3.5 question of "what books are allowed", just because it's printed and rules-legal doesn't mean the GM will let you play a Swordsage.

    > My Mutants & Masterminds Deluxe Hero's Handbook only goes to page 317...
    My copy is the 10th Anniversary edition, that'd be why. I keep forgetting what parts were added in it.

  10. #50
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    Re: Why doesn't PL cap everything?

    Quote Originally Posted by DnDVSMnM View Post
    Yeah... I agree with all of this. I know people cringe when I say this, but this paragraph is actually pretty similar to D&D discussions of optimal casters (just search people complaining about knock at level 1). Perhaps I was thinking too much on 'how high' ranks can get when I should have been thinking about 'how low' one can get away with. Apparently this is a more usual line of thinking, which would explain people building low Will+Fort character (which seems crazy to me).
    Its one of the things you need to engage with when running a superhero game; as a default, you'll have a lot of characters who have movement and informational options that only a subset of mages have in other games, so the kind of challenges you can put together have to be thought through. You just really need to bring a different mindset to the game. In some respects its much like having a high powered fantasy game that starts that way right out the gate.

    So, like a bond villian? Being atleast half-asian is required. But seriouesly, perhaps perception just shouldn't stack with other powers? Is there a balanced use of that? It's already pretty powerful. Atleast if Orbital Laser Man was "firin' mah lazer" with a chance to dodge, that would be better. Or maybe just attacks themselves shouldn't stack with sense powers? That would force you to be 'in combat', right?
    Its really more a case of my general point about power interactions. A Perception attack isn't, when viewed just in itself, too unreasonable; its big thing is that it largely screws any opponent built on Defense rather than Toughness, but there are enough things it doesn't do (Crit, permit power attacks) to be relatively balanced for its cost. Similarly the flight and immunity to space would be no big deal, and the long range telescopic vision wouldn't be.

    Its the combination that is problematic, just as it is with the Perception range mental attack and the accurate, acute detect minds in the Bathroom Mentalist build.

    That's really the gig; its not individual components that turn into problems in a lot of these cases, its how they play together, and that's very, very hard to address in any non-ad-hoc way.

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