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Thread: Traveling to the Upside-Down

  1. #1
    Inceptor
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    Traveling to the Upside-Down

    Hello, all!

    I'm looking to run a low-PL, 3rd edition, Supernaturals game with some friends featuring a dark, alternate reality not unlike the Upside-Down from Stranger Things (a reality that looks much like our own, but is filled with all manner of Lovecraft-inspired horrors). Out of curiosity, I decided to look at what it would take for players to bridge the gap from one reality to the other using either Inventor or Ritualist, and was kind of shocked by what I found.

    My immediate assumption is that this would be a function of the Movement power (Dimension Travel). "For 1 rank, you can move between your home dimension and one other." Seems like the logical starting spot, and really quite cheap at only 2pp. Maybe even too cheap, but it needs some tweaking.

    The default duration for Movement powers is Sustained, which makes sense for many of them, but not if I'm looking to create a device or ritual to transport a group of people from one reality to the other. As I understand Sustained, simply being knocked out would shunt someone out of the Upside-Down and back into our world, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense contextually (unless the device/ritual uses some form of astral projection, with the physical bodies of the travelers remaining in our world). So, we'll slap on the Increased Duration extra to make it Continuous. If the desired effect of the device/ritual is to create some sort of Stargate-esque portal (feasibly the only means of returning home), it might even be subject to a Permanent flaw.

    So we're up to 3pp for a Continuous effect, still at 2 pp if it's permanent.

    The only other thing I can think to add onto this thing would be Affects Others to make sure the whole party can make use of the device/ritual at once. This would then raise the cost to 4pp for a Continuous effect, or 3pp for a Permanent one.

    This still seems ridiculously cheap and easy for what it does. As an Invention, it would only take 3-4 hours to design and 12-16 hours to construct; as a ritual, it would take 12-16 hours to design, and a mere 30-40 minutes to perform! All of this achievable with relatively simple DC 13-14 checks in the appropriate skills.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but this seems very cheap and easy to do. Am I overlooking something? Is there something I could be doing to make this more difficult? We're planning to start the game around PL 4, and I know a common M&M guideline for making checks challenging but not impossible is a DC of 10 + PL, but someone who really wanted to max out their Technology or Expertise skill at PL 4 could have a starting skill bonus equal to the DC, granting instant success.

    Any insights the folks here have to offer?

  2. #2
    Keeper of Secrets Bothrops's Avatar
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    Re: Traveling to the Upside-Down

    Maybe it's sounding odd to you, but Movement 1 (Dimensional Travel) is really dirt-cheap, at least on its own - you're not overlooking something. If it fits your campaign, you can of course houserule it as GM to increase the point cost, but personally I wouldn't do it - because it's IMHO no big deal. Instead, I'd simply make the PCs gather some information about the "upside-down" before I let them even attempt creating a ritual or invention for reaching it.
    Several other effects that would be high-tier in other systems, are very cheap in M&M. For example Immunity 1 (aging) - you can live forever - or Immortality 1 - you can't be killed permanently.

    Mechanics-wise, I'd make the desired power this way: Movement 1 (Dimensional Travel 1 [upsidedown-prime]; Portal) cost 4p
    The portal extra allows multiple people traveling through the gate, so it's more practical for a team.
    Oh, and you don't need Continuous for staying at your destination. Instead, you'd have to use the traveling effect again for returning home. And here's the DEMOGORGON from Stranger Things.

  3. #3
    Keeper of Secrets
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    Re: Traveling to the Upside-Down

    I mean, if a key plot point for your game is going to be finding out about and visiting the Upside-Down, then I'd imagine you'd WANT the PCs to be able to access it.
    The Foo Travel effects are priced cheap because they're rarely useful and when they are they're often "I really need somebody to have this" from the GM's perspective.

  4. #4
    Inceptor
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    Re: Traveling to the Upside-Down

    @Nunya B: It isn't necessarily that I DON'T want them to be able to travel between the two worlds, I was just shocked that doing so was so cheap and easy to do.

    Of course, something I just realized, just because the CAN doesn't mean they SHOULD. Could be really easy for them to get in over their heads if they're travelling back and forth at will.

    @Bothrops: Okay, so you're saying the method of transport between the two worlds would be Sustained, then, not actively staying in the destination? I suppose that makes sense. I guess I just assumed like a lot of other movement powers, if you stop actively maintaining the effect it would stop working (stop maintaining your dimensional travel, you shunt back to your home dimension). And I assume we're borrowing the Portal extra from the Teleport power for the write-up you made?

  5. #5
    Keeper of Secrets thaumonuclear's Avatar
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    Re: Traveling to the Upside-Down

    I figure things like "Ability to Travel to the Upside-Down" is just a plot hook. It's a gift to the GM, and is appropriately cheap.
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  6. #6
    Keeper of Secrets JDRook's Avatar
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    Re: Traveling to the Upside-Down

    Quote Originally Posted by Aberrant023 View Post
    @Bothrops: Okay, so you're saying the method of transport between the two worlds would be Sustained, then, not actively staying in the destination? I suppose that makes sense. I guess I just assumed like a lot of other movement powers, if you stop actively maintaining the effect it would stop working (stop maintaining your dimensional travel, you shunt back to your home dimension). And I assume we're borrowing the Portal extra from the Teleport power for the write-up you made?
    Movement Powers are a little odd when you look at them mechanically, even though they seem really straightforwary. The Sustained Duration means the power is active, but you still need to use Move Actions to actually go anywhere. If you have Flight (default Sustained) on you can use move actions to fly up to your maximum distance, but you don't have to (although you could just hover) and losing Sustained doesn't snap you back to where you started (although you could fall to earth).

    Applied to things like Dimensional/Space/Time Travel, the Sustained Duration allows a character to Move to travel, but if the power turns off they are essentially stuck where they are until it's activated again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aberrant023 View Post
    @Nunya B: It isn't necessarily that I DON'T want them to be able to travel between the two worlds, I was just shocked that doing so was so cheap and easy to do.

    Of course, something I just realized, just because the CAN doesn't mean they SHOULD. Could be really easy for them to get in over their heads if they're travelling back and forth at will.
    The cheapness is a bit of a "narrative discount" for powers that aren't really combat-oriented but can either move a story forward or aren't too disruptive, like low-rank Immortality. Movement powers allow players to move from scene to scene, and if you're regularly going to have scenes in other dimensions, it's not fair to make players cover a high cost.

    As GM, you can limit access to Movement any way you like, including changing the cost, but that's not really necessary. With the base rules and spending no power points, an Inventor or Ritualist could make something that allows them to move between here and Upside Down for the duration of a scene, but it would take over 8 hours of prep (much longer for multiple subjects) and couldn't be used again without repeating prep or spending a hero point. You could easily keep that dynamic for a while if you wanted to avoid casual travel, or allow them to make cheap Devices/Artifacts with the Dimension Travel power and some Flaws (Unreliable, Tiring, Skill Check, etc) that could easily be kept down to 1p. And there's always Complications for when the way back is inevitably blocked somehow.
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  7. #7
    Inceptor
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    Re: Traveling to the Upside-Down

    That makes a lot of sense, Rook. Thanks for the input. I feel a little better about the situation now.

    I do have another question I wanted to bring up. In terms of doing kind of a "low-level supernatural" game, I've really kind of fallen in love with the idea of this setting having a slow, ritual-based magic system. People who can cast spells on the fly are rare (and probably not entirely human) whereas mortal spellcasters rely heavily on the Ritualist advantage and the Readied Rituals option provided in the Gadget Guide. In a way, this would make spellcasting similar to wizards and other prepared spellcasters in D&D/Pathfinder; they need to put in time casting a ritual up to the point of completion and stopping just short of executing the spell, holding onto that energy until the time is right.

    Here's where I run into a rules issue I'm not sure how to clarify, and maybe I'm overlooking something. Rituals tend to last for a scene, but a lot of the examples I see are for lasting effects like Anti-Magic Fields and Summon Monster effects. What if I want to design a ritual Damage effect? For example, if my Redeemed Cultist PC knows they're in for a fight in the near future, they use Readied Ritual to prepare a fireball spell (Ranged Damage). When the fight actually occurs, and they release that spell, is it an instantaneous, one-shot Damage effect, or because Rituals last "for a scene" do they get unlimited uses of the spell for that encounter?

  8. #8
    Keeper of Secrets JDRook's Avatar
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    Re: Traveling to the Upside-Down

    Quote Originally Posted by Aberrant023 View Post
    What if I want to design a ritual Damage effect? For example, if my Redeemed Cultist PC knows they're in for a fight in the near future, they use Readied Ritual to prepare a fireball spell (Ranged Damage). When the fight actually occurs, and they release that spell, is it an instantaneous, one-shot Damage effect, or because Rituals last "for a scene" do they get unlimited uses of the spell for that encounter?
    I don't see if it says specifically, but I'd have to assume the latter. If you can Invent a temporary Flamethrower for a scene, I don't see why a Ritual for temporary Fireball Throwing would be significantly different when the in-game investment of time and talent is basically the same. In practice this would mean that the caster could take the Action of the power to activate it as often as they are able during the scene.

    You could argue that a single application of the power, like a one-shot Fireball, would be a Flaw that would make it cost less and therefore be easier to prepare. Unreliable (5 uses) is a common -1 Flaw for simulating limited ammo for a power, and I've seen builds that extend this and make 1 use a -2 Flaw. However, given the limits of Readied Rituals and a low-PL setting, that discount may not have too much effect. For instance, in a PL5 setting, a PC ritualist's skill would max out at +15, which means the spell can't cost more than 15p, and it still has the usual PL limits. A Fireball as a Ranged Burst Area Damage couldn't be more than rank 5 for 15p, but if it was a Blast you could make it Ranged Damage 10 (20p) as long as it also had Flaw (Unreliable for 5 shots; 10p total) and a +0 attack bonus, for a very powerful but not very accurate spell with limited ammo.

    Most of the listed rituals could be cast multiple times in a single scene, but may feel like a "scene-ender" that doesn't need to be used more than once in a scene, like Banishment or Gate or Summoning. However, they can be useful multiple times as multiple attacks like Curses, or uses like Cures. That also means that if a spell is Nullified you can reactivate it at the next opportunity. (Incidentally, Sending is essentially a "one-shot" use of Communication that has a -2 Flaw.)

    For a low-power supernatural setting, I'd recommend using the 5-shot or 1-shot Flaws often to keep the magic powerful but rare and the tension high. You could even make it mandatory. One-shot Dimension hops to or from the U-D could then be fast-cast with a Hero Point, 1 round prep, and a DC16 check, perfect for emergencies but too "expensive" to do repeatedly in one scene.
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