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Teleport logically overpowered?

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xBlackWolfx
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Teleport logically overpowered?

Post by xBlackWolfx »

This is something I've been thinking about for a while.

This is going to be a long story, just to warn you.

I read some time ago an article that stated various things wrong and illogical about comics, including the fact that all the super villains were incompetent. An example he gave of this, is how recurring villains could never figure out the identity of the hero, even though there was an obvious way to do so. All they would have to do is commit crimes all over the city at a specific time of day, and each time take note of how long it took the hero to arrive, along with the direction they came from if possible. Using this information, they could easily triangulate exactly where that person was coming from at that time of day.

That inspired me to make a character who could teleport. This would make it impossible to use this method to identify them. But I've never actually stated the character out because thinking about it, if you were to use the power intelligently, you could be just downright broken.

What could this guy do?

Teleport a large car over someone's head and let it fall on them.
Teleport someone a mile up in the air then let them fall.
Teleport them above someone else and let them fall on them. (I don't think there's anyway to replicate this effect given the rules of the game.)
Teleport away with someone's power armor, effectively removing all their powers and abilities in the middle of combat (that is possibly the most broken thing you could do).

This guy however was somewhat limited since he would have to touch his target to teleport them. Also he couldn't just make things disappear, he could just take things with him when he teleported.

Well earlier today, I thought about making another teleporting character, so of course this all occurred to me again. This character however is different for one reason: she can teleport things from a distance. She's a magician-themed character that uses a wand btw.

Besides doing all the broken stuff he could do, she would more options available to her:

Teleport someone into a cage.
Teleport an object out of a person's hand (I would say this requires a called shot).
Teleport someone out of their power armor, and then teleporting herself into it (again, I don't think you could make a power like this in-game). Now, if that doesn't say 'broken', I don't know what does. And her teleportation gives her instant change, so well if she can use teleport to change clothes instantly, I don't see why she couldn't teleport people in and out of power armor. And on the note about instant change, I really think it should be a power rather than an advantage. I mean, there's plenty of characters in comics that are clearly depicted using this ability on others (I saw Storm actually use this power at least twice while reading some bronze-age comics).

Anyway, getting back on topic, if you really think about it, teleport would be bonkers overpowered and lame if you seriously used it intelligently. And well, a power-armor character like Iron Man could be easily countered by not just this, but other things too. What happens if a guy with power armor fights a villain who can nullify electronics? The villain would instantly win!

Anyone have thoughts on this?
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DevastatingWeakness
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Post by DevastatingWeakness »

There's always an unstable relationship in fantasy (especially in superhero comics) between the Cool Stuff we want our costumed stars to do, and the implications of that Cool Stuff outside of a super-powered punch-up. If Superman used his powers rationally, he's perfectly capable of enforcing world peace, and ending catastrophe and hunger. Unfortunately that doesn't make for a very exciting or relatable drama. To enjoy comics, you have to make deliberate decisions about the places you don't want logic you to take you, and then just don't go there.

That said, it can be fun and exciting to see a super do something clever with their powers, or have a plot revolve around an unexpected application of a super ability. Just don't fall into the trap of trying to set up a completely rationally-worked-out world that has supers in it. That particular cloth will fall apart very quickly when you start pulling at all the loose threads.

As for limiting the implications of powers that seem very easily abused (like Teleport), one approach is to treat the game as being Effect-Based. That means you fairly strictly interpret powers as producing a certain Effect; for example, Teleport's Effect is to move a character from one place to another. It does not damage people - if you want to do that, you'll need to buy a Special Attack, because that's the power that has the Effect of hurting people. If you want to disarm someone, you use the Disarm rules as usual. If you want to remove someone's powers (by teleporting away their armor) you'll need Nullify. You can use a Power Stunt (and a Hero Die) to justify pulling off these tricks.
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Post by xBlackWolfx »

Yeah, its a problem I also see with superspeed characters like the Flash. I was actually intending to avoid having such characters in my novel since well, I don't see anyway to make them work. And even people who write comics with such characters admit its really really difficult.

I decided to look through the awesome powers books, to see if there was anything about disarming people or nullifying powers. AP 3 makes no mention of disarming people, or nullifying electronics either for some strange reason. AP 5 however does mention disarming people through telekinesis, though in this case you have to roll against the opponent's brawn to succeed (assuming you even land the ability since of course telekinesis requires a 'to hit' check).

I'm not sure how you could stat something like that out anyway. And what happens when you 'teleport' a weapon out of someone's hands? Does it end up on the floor somewhere where they can just go retrieve it? Does it end up in your hands? Well, in theory if you can teleport someone into a cage you can also teleport their weapon somewhere inaccessible.

Its really hard to avoid the trap of trying to make the characters make sense, especially since movie adaptions always try to do just that. And even the characters themselves do demonstrate some competency from time to time. In an Ultimate x-men comic, Nightcrawler attacked the x-men, and he dealt with wolverine by teleporting him to a random location far away and leaving him there. Wolverine didn't make it back to the fight until it was over.

Its such a difficult trap to avoid. Especially considering my own history with conworlding. I used to post on rpg.net and when I talked about my conworld, everyone would point out that logical inconsistencies and claim my conworld was complete and utter trash because of it. For instance, I had a race of elves who living in flying cities and basically saw the other races on the ground as no better than wild animals (they would even put them in zoos, seriously). This was all meant to symbolize their arrogance and detachment from the rest of the world. Everyone thought it was stupid bc there was no rational explanation as to why someone would make a flying city. Thanks to those trolls I have an obsession with making everything make sense, covering every little tiny detail just to make sure no one can possibly accuse it of 'not making sense'. I really wish I could break that habit, but I feel like an idiot if I don't do it.
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Post by DevastatingWeakness »

I feel your pain, xBlackWolfx. I've suffered from the same urge to make irrational-but-wonderful things like flying cities 'make sense'.

But art's not about being realistic or rationally-consistent. It's about communicating a theme or an emotional experience. In many genres, we agree to simply accept some implausible things so we can get marvelous things. Spandex suits. People that can fly. True love. Endless quests for vengeance. The moment someone asks something like 'What about conservation of momentum?' they a) break the spell, and b) show they don't understand the genre.

So * 'em. Fly your city, and pity those poor fools bound by mere gravity.
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Post by xBlackWolfx »

DevastatingWeakness wrote:I feel your pain, xBlackWolfx. I've suffered from the same urge to make irrational-but-wonderful things like flying cities 'make sense'.

But art's not about being realistic or rationally-consistent. It's about communicating a theme or an emotional experience. In many genres, we agree to simply accept some implausible things so we can get marvelous things. Spandex suits. People that can fly. True love. Endless quests for vengeance. The moment someone asks something like 'What about conservation of momentum?' they a) break the spell, and b) show they don't understand the genre.

So * 'em. Fly your city, and pity those poor fools bound by mere gravity.
If it was possible to 'like' posts on this forums (like I've seen on some others), I would 'like' this post.

Back on topic. If only it was that easy to break the spell.

The main problem its giving me, is my novel writing. I was actually thinking: do I need to specify the origin of my character? Couldn't I just start off later in their career where they're more settled? I don't know. I guess I have to give him a backstory, just to maintain consistency and avoiding having to make a retcon later. And besides, it would make it easy to introduce the reader to the inner workings of superhero society, since the main character themselves would be also in the process of learning about the community he has just become a part of.
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Post by DevastatingWeakness »

My process when preparing for a roleplaying campaign (which is a bit different to preparing to write a novel) goes a bit like this:
  • * High Concept: What's the Cool Idea that this is about? The campaign that I'm currently preparing has the Cool Idea 'Super Heroes Torn From Today's Headlines'.
    * Player Feedback: Chat with players about how they react to the Cool Idea, and where they see their characters in the world. This gives some focus to the Cool Idea. My players added 'Multi-ethnic... not just the usual bunch of American heroes.' My players have come up with Apollo (a photokinetic Syrian refugee that used to work for EU intelligence), Ring of Fire (an Aleutian US agent with volcanic powers) and Threshold (an ex-FARC revolutionary with control over space and time). That gave me some focus - the characters are involved in political struggles and intelligence work. Plus I got some NPC connections that will help act as plot hooks.
    * Research and Mulching: I do a bit of reading about the places and themes that have come up, then let it tumble around and see what themes and plot threads and questions come up. In this case, it'll probably deal with power plays in the Middle East and Latin America, and the major theme will be how governments have reacted to the emergence of Novas (super powered people).
    * Stats and Initial Setup: Come up with antagonists and stat them up. Think about the personalities and motivations of NPCs that will help pull the characters into action. Do a bit of work on the probable introductory event. Build a flexible things you can throw in whenever you need them (like a generic government counter-Nova hit team and a couple of unattached super bad guys that can be introduced when needed).
    * Play to Find Out What Happens: Everything becomes completely unpredictable the moment my players make contact, and I improvise, and sometimes it's magic and sometimes it's a mess. See what catches their attention, pretend that's what you were aiming for all along, and run that way.
Writing a novel is different because it's not collaborative - you are your own players, so to speak. But if you are writing to entertain yourself, and you keep in mind the Cool idea that made the thing seem fun to work with in the first place, that'll probably help guide you to writing something that's worthwhile.
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Post by xBlackWolfx »

Yeah, I'm having a problem coming up with an over-arching plot.

Comics and their television adaptations give you the wrong instincts. They often have a 'villain of the week' format, with most stories beginning and ending in a single issue or episode (or sometimes a multi-part special). And most issues/episodes are just one-off story lines that typically don't contribute to a deeper story arch going on. For example in avengers academy, the finale was based off an event that occurred in the first issue, though the story wasn't exactly leaning up to it. They could've just continued to make one-off stories and have easily gotten away with it. Its the same thing with the teen titans cartoon. Most episodes were stand-alone and could be watched in any order. Each season only had 1, maybe 2, episodes devoted to setting up for the multi-part season finale.

I only have two novels in my possession that can really help me with this. One is 'don't tell my parents I'm a supervillain', and 'after the golden age'. But that's just two, so I don't have much to go off of when it comes to coming up with a plot of my own.
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Post by BASHMAN »

Something for doing more than "episodic" "villain of the week" format is for you the Narrator to keep a campaign journal. And I cannot stress this enough, USE the Subplots for the PCs. Have each of them have at least one personal, professional, and super ID subplot going on. If possible, get the Player's input on what sort of stuff they might like to develop in the campaign.

This allowed me to get PCs hooked into an adventure not because they had a particular interest in chasing this particular villain, but because in their Secret ID, one of the PCs discovered the villain was behind an arson attack that endangered his (recently discovered via another subplot) son. This instantly invested the player in tracking down this one firebug villain that turned out to be connected to a much larger plot.

If you look at the pages of Spider-Man, or a lot of other comics, the thing that gets the protagonist sucked in (taking the "adventure hook") is stuff that happens not in Super ID, but in the Secret ID!

Spending a good bit of time in game sessions with your PCs' secret IDs is a good way to round out their characters and develop plot.

BTW, I recently read "Don't Tell My Parents I'm a SuperVillain". I liked it, but got really annoyed at them deciding to be evil just because they could always turn good later...
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Post by xBlackWolfx »

BASHMAN wrote: BTW, I recently read "Don't Tell My Parents I'm a SuperVillain". I liked it, but got really annoyed at them deciding to be evil just because they could always turn good later...
I've only read through chapter 5, so you've kind of spoiled the plot for me. No offense.
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Post by BASHMAN »

Shoot, from the post I had guessed you'd already read it! One thing the book did is make me wish there was a real videogame called "Teddybears & Machineguns".
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Post by xBlackWolfx »

I just had an epiphany: I actually have no idea why most superheroes do what they do.

I've never really paid much attention to a superhero's motivations (mostly because I find it hard to believe that batman is still fighting crime solely because his parents died, I think he has plenty more reasons than that now-a-days). Yeah, I know a few, but most, I have no idea what made them decide to become a superhero.

For spiderman, its because his uncle died just because he refused to be a hero. For the x-men, its because they live in a world full of people who want to kill them. And for batman, its because he was a victim of a heinous crime and now does everything in his power to prevent more. But that's all I know. I know how superman got his powers, but I don't know what made him decide one day to go beat up ppl in his pajamas.

Honestly, I know more of the motivations for villains than heroes. Joker is a nihilist and a sadist who's both trying to prove a point, and enjoy himself in the process. Poison ivy is an eco-terrorist. Riddler is *-bent on proving his superiority to others. Mad hatter essentially lives in a fantasy world and does everything he can to make his fantasy world a reality. Catwoman just steals expensive or fancy stuff. Ra's al ghul is an immortal misanthrope. Penguin, well, is a crime boss. And then there's magneto who either distrusts humans or believes mutants are superior (depending on the continuity).

I think that's where my problem lies. I actually have a better understanding of villains than I do heroes. Its probably why I have a much easier time writing them.

And besides reading those books (well, I haven't even gotten to golden age book, and possibly never will) I've also been checking out movies and watching them. I've gotten batman/superman movie (actually its the 'world's finest' trilogy from the superman cartoon) son of batman, batman vs robin, bad blood, justice league vs teen titans, and batman year one. I've only watched up to batman vs robin. But now that I think about it, there's no way I can learn what I need from these. Its not what I need. I need to look into origin stories. Problem is, most origin stories seem to be more interested in revealing how a character got their powers rather than why they decided to spend their lives beating the crap out of people.
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