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Author Topic: Second Version reactions
Cosmic Superhero
Posts: 130
Post Second Version reactions
on: May 6, 2017, 20:37

I’ve been meaning to go over the V&V3 rules since Jeff dropped the first version; now that the second has dropped, and I’ve got a little time, I think now’s the time to do it. I’m going to post this separately so not to bloat up Majestic’s thead.

To give a little background, I’ve been gaming, at this point, for approaching 42 years. Probably a bit more than half of all of that has been superhero gaming. I’ve owned all five versions of V&V (counting LL as a version, though I bought it and never did more than glanced at it, because at the time I was either not doing superheroes or was satisfied with what I was using at the time). I’ve usually argued (did so on FB just this morning in fact) that V&V is one of the two sun-sources of modern superhero RPGs, along with Champions; I’m pretty sure until the more purely-narrative games came out that virtually all published SHRPGs were influenced directly or indirectly by one or both. I ran at least a couple of campaigns with V&V, probably a foreshortened one with 1e, and a longer one with 2e. I’ve also run campaigns with a lot of other superhero RPGs including DC Heroes (MEGS), Superworld 2, Champions (at least three of the six editions), Mutants and Masterminds (at least two of the three editions) and Aberrant. I’ve also owned but not run at least three of the four versions of Marvel games, and both the other two DC based games.

I don’t say all this to build any cred, but just to show the context I’m coming from.

I also want to note up front that, on the whole, I’ve actually been pretty happy with what I’ve seen so far, and I wasn’t necessarily expecting to be, since, in practice, I jumped right from V&V 2e (which wasn’t a bad game for its time, but I think in retrospect has some serious problems) to 3e without paying much attention to LL, which shows where Jeff’s design thought has evolved in the interim decades. I make note of this, because, by the nature of looking at things worth talking about, most of what I say below are either going to be criticisms or at least doubts. But as I said elsewhere, on the whole Jeff seems to acknowledge the heritage of his game without indicating he’s been locked in a cave for the last 30 years.

Character Generation

One of the first things I want to comment on is one of those rare compliments you’ll see here: I think the game looks like it has done a fine job of addressing one of the biggest problems random generation superhero games in general, and V&V1 and 2 in particular has; a tendency to produce incoherent and horrifically imbalanced results.
Now, no superhero game is perfectly balanced; its probably not possible to do at all, and certainly not in a genre with as widely varied character types as you see in superheroes. But matters of degree matter here. In the V&V2 days, it was entirely too possible to get one character that generated Weakness Finding, Heightened Attack and Heightened Senses (toss out one) and another to get Heightened Strength B, Heightened Endurance B, Flight, Darkness Control and Water Breathing (toss out one). The difference in effectiveness between these characters were going to be way to stark to be easily shrugged off. The wide range in number of powers, and the limited degree to which it made sense to drop any was also not particularly helpful in building a character that made any sense.
The change in how even random characters are built (each power gets 20 points normally; six are rolled two to a category, and if you drop the two you may you aren’t losing any overall value) means both these problems are seriously compressed. The categories also help avoid the problem you could see in earlier versions where a character had no defense or (perhaps worse) no offense to work with.
The non-mechanical parts of character generation are a little MT-verse centric, but they’d be pretty painless to replace if running outside of that; the only thing that might even require any notable work is the species tables, since they have mechanical elements on them. Fortunately, since they’re just templates, effectively (as the points they give come out of other abilities), you could probably just ignore them if you wanted and just have them as background color.

Background and Careers strike me as a bit on the coarse side, though obviously there are things that can apply a little more finesse to it like the Knowledge power; its possible that it just seems more obscure a way to go about it than it works out in play.
There’s an argument that in a superhero game, making the “skill” system kind of broad is warranted.

The BC and Ability Caps table is a good idea I’m not entirely sure works. The reason I say that is that there is no cap, per se, for protection value, just for the CPs used to buy them. That seems like it would make it attractive if you want the most protection to fish in multiple powers for it, since presumably the CP cap applies separately to, say, Armor, Force Field, Animal Powers and Cybernetics. So a cyborg with cybernetic armor, armor from the separate power, and a force field could have more armor than someone who’d just tried to buy it all through the armor power. I suspect there should be a cap on protection points as there is with damage; I suspect looking at what value on the Armor table is similar to the damage dice a comparably CP of Power Blast gives might be a good start (obviously, there’s going to be variance anyway depending on whether someone uses the default protection distribution or not, but that theoretically comes out in the wash (though see my comment about that when I get to powers).


Absorption: I’m wondering if there might be a problem with Absorption Protection; specifically I wonder how often it’d be useful against an opponent with a brain. Consider that, presumably, across the course of his career The Grand Pyro has demonstrated he’s capable of absorbing fire. How many people are actually going to shoot fire at him? Especially if he’s apparently just waiting? And of course he’s got to reserve an action even to use it, which seems to compare pretty badly to Invulnerability. It seems like the smart way to go would be to buy Invulnerability and Automatic Absorption.

Armor: I’m not entirely sure the idea all the various protections are equal seems entirely warranted. This is something of an issue with games that just split off physical and energy, too, but is more pronounced here. Specifically, it seems like Kinetic Protection (which protects you against most conventional weapon, knockback, falling damage, and punches) is covering notably more ground than any of the other three; I’m not sure that Energy attacks aren’t likely to be more common than Bio or Entropy ones, too (though I like the concept of those as damage types).

Arsenal: I really like the idea of this one, though I’m not sure I entirely understand how it works. But its nice to have something to use for all those plug-and-play, replace-them-in-the-shop kind of things, including some that aren’t even gimmicks.

Chemical Power: What kind of damage is this assumed to do?

Communicators: I’ve already mostly said my piece on this, but it still seems like this is a case where you could tie up some serious points in a pretty common piece of conventional equipment. Its always hard to draw the line on this sort of thing, but it really sticks out here.

Density Control: I’m probably being picky here, but–does the Density Decrease component here (as compared to the Desolidification one) actually have any practical use? I realize that there’s a weight value in the game, but aren’t the circumstances where you want your own to be smaller pretty limited?

Disintergration: Just to be clear, this doesn’t actually do anything different to a living character than a Power Blast unless it kills them, right? What about cyborgs or robots?

Emotion Control: Seems like the Bio protection should add to the Pheremone version of this rather than Psychic.

Flight: Shouldn’t the Wings Modifier also make you fall if you’re entangled with ice or a grapnel?

Grapnel: Speaking of Grapnel, if you wanted to be able to completely web someone up or equivalent, how do you do that? It doesn’t seem like you can make multiple aimed shots at once. Small area effect?

Gravity Control: Seems like short of Density Control or Flight, that you don’t have too much chance of resisting higher levels of Gravity Decrease; most people aren’t going to have the Wass to resist, say, a 2D10 roll; if I understand the Weight roll for a typical large male is 1D6, and doesn’t go up from that particularly fast. At the other end, it seems like anyone who isn’t super-strong his pretty much toast as soon as they’re hit by a serious Gravity Increase; they’ll be taking at least a d6 or so of Other damage each round while being immobilized.

Healing: Can this be used any number of times? My observation has been that open-ended “use until you’re out of juice” Healing powers in superhero games tend to be a little problematic. The Power recovery version seems even more problematic, since at a certain point, you’re getting more Power out of using it than it costs (which means two characters with it could, effectively, top everyone off at no cost but time).

Heightened Attack: It’s a little unfortunate that there’s no way to buy something like “all melee” with it; as it is your options are more narrow classes than that or everything. Same thing applies to Heightened Expertise.

Ice Abilities: It seems a little odd you can’t just project cold; you can form armor, create ice entangles (which do a little cold damage in an ongoing way but are mostly snares or create objects of ice, but for a straight cold blast you appear to have to buy Power Blast.

Invisibility: Camouflage still looks like its underpriced to me; it seems like it’d be far less consistently useful than Chameleon. I realize there’s not a huge amount of wiggle room when the basic Invisibility only costs 10 CP, but I’d expect Camo (which could easily be useless most of the time) to at least provide -5.

Knowledge: The languages seem slightly pricey given how broad Career’s are. I suppose you can buy Translation if you want more than 2-3.

Life Support: I’ve commented about the fact that this and Adaptation seem to be doing the same thing for the most part and that the specifics of this appear to be legacy items. That said, the specifics of what it will protect against and to what degree seems pretty vague.

Light Control: Just a note that it strikes me that this could be entirely be recast as Radio Control, treating the Laser as a Maser. The Glare and Flash components would probably be overpriced then, though. In fact, it strikes me that moving either of those to another sense should probably get a flaw, since they’re unlikely to be as important to most characters as vision.
Glow, by the way, is another case where I think the apparent price of illumination is a bit much for, well, a flashlight.

Magnetic Control: Just a comment, since this came up around here a while back; its pretty clear that the default assumption on this power is that what it really is is metallokinesis, i.e. typical comic book magnetism. People who get fussy about it only working on iron and steel are short-changing the person who bought it, and if it is that limited, you ought to probably at least give them a modifier.

Non-Corporealness: Though its not mentioned there, I’m assuming that it’d be reasonable to apply the the Corporeal Ability modifier to Astral Projection, since its just a variation of Non-Corporealness.

Paralysis Ray: I’m wondering if the Stasis modifier should actually cost extra; once in a while it’ll let you do something benign to someone in danger, but I’d think its normal effect on a combat power like this is to make it less effective (since you can’t pile into the target while they’re paralyzed).

Poison/Venom: Shouldn’t the gas attack still be Bio? If you’re resistant to poisons, being inhaled shouldn’t change that, per se.

Shape-Shifting: This seems somewhat overpriced, given that the effect of the shapes is primarily just cosmetic.

Shaping: With Animated shapes, what do they use for their attack modifier? For things like Strength rolls when needed?

Shield: The purchase here is a little–odd. The cost isn’t based on the effectiveness of the power but its brittleness. Which seems a little peculiar, but I suppose can work.

Sonic Abilities: I’m a bit conflicted as to whether the Boom isn’t overpriced; barring characters who target by sonar or some such, the effect of being temporarily deaf seems a bit limit, perhaps too much so for the cost.

Speed: I’m not clear whether the Acceleration rate actually means anything. I didn’t notice anything about turning radius, so most of the time, does it actually matter that you’re theoretically moving fast? There doesn’t seem much disadvantage to getting up to speed and staying there if you can turn on a dime.

Super-Speed: From past experience with systems with multiple actions, this may, if anything, be too cheap.

Weakness Detection: Given the few comic characters that have this (Karnak and Karate Kid come to mind) wouldn’t it make more sense for this to add to damage, rather than attack, or perhaps to negate some amount of protection?

Wealth: I’ve mentioned this before, but given the limited mechanical effect this has, it should be cheaper. For the most part, wealth is going to to provide some utility functions, and not always that.

Ability Modifiers

I realize its probably waaaay too late int the design process, but I wanted to comment that I’ve always found games that make power modifiers simple adders and subtractors from total cost a little problematic. The first game I saw do this was the Fuzion game Champions: the New Millenium, and while V&V3 isn’t quite as bad as that was proportionately, it has some of the same issues: namely that it ends up meaning reductions (limitations on powers) become progressively less attractive as the total cost of the power goes up (because you’re saving less and less of the overall cost of the power), and increases (advantages on powers) become more and more attractive as they don’t up the overall cost much. I understand that it’s a much simpler approach for many people than dealing with multipliers and divisors, but I’m not personally convinced that’s a good enough reason.

That said...

Area Effect Tendrils, Shapes and Selective: I understand the principal of all three of these–primarily to let you target some squares and avoid others–but I’m not 100% sure of the benefit of some over others. For example, does Selective let you avoid anything Tendrils wouldn’t, barring multiple targets in one square (and I’m not clear how often that comes up)? And is the benefit of Shapes primarily that you can have “cut off” portions of the effect?

Carrier/Contact Attack: These seem, at least on the surface, to be much more reasonable than the earlier discussion. I still wonder if the carrier attack is actually harder to deliver than the contact one (but that depends on how easy the combination of protection and roll with it is to just stop damage cold, and I don’t have a good enough sense for that to want to comment on it). The only issue I can see is that they sort-of bypass the damage cap in that they let you do more overall damage that you normally could. Can you roll with them separately?

Multi-Ability: This is more of an observation than anything else, but it should be noted that smart players will probably quickly figure out that there’s no reason not to put multiple offensive powers under Multi-Ability most of the time; arguably, that’s not a bad thing since otherwise their points are a bit on the wasted side (and why that’s usually done with Alternate Powers in M&M or Multipowers in Champions).

I’d also like to say I appreciate the extensiveness of this section; I sometimes get fussy about representing something, and its always nice to have the tools for the job for that.


Lowered Intelligence (and similar); just a note that these are, pretty much, only a method of moving points around in the less flexible versions of the character gen, as they just move some points out of the default BC categories potentially freeing them up for powers.

Phobia: Just a suggestion that freezing might be an acceptable alternative to running away as a response. Both cause trouble for the character, and freezing can sometimes make more sense.

Poverty: I comment about the inverse of this later, but for the opposite reason for my comment on Wealth, this gives too many points.

Other Mechanics

Cool: I’d like to say that changing Charisma into this–and using it for the initiative value in addition to its social functions–seems an excellent change. It’s a good reason for non-social characters not to stint on it (along with its resistance functions)

Critical Successes and Fumbles: It’s a little bit unclear from the phrasing whether these apply to task rolls of just combat related rolls.

Stealth: This seems in the odd case that it has a really strong effect on Basic senses (like hearing) and none at all on Full Senses (like vision).

Initiative: Though there are benefits, I’ll note that with rolled init every round can get a little tedious with larger groups (villain team versus hero team for example).

Leaping: It just occurred to me; thee doesn’t seem to be anything other than buying up your strength to improve your leaping distance. Seems like there should be.

Zones of Control: Though I like the idea, it seems like it ought to be possible to just bull-rush through someone trying to block passage.

Critical Failures - Left an Opening: As written, this would seem to permit the target to attack someone else if they want to, or suddenly run away; I think it’d be best to limit that result to a free counterattack.

Rolling With Damage: Just wanted to mention I like this quite a bit; its better than the “take damage on Power first” of the old day, and puts in a little tactical element once you’re getting low on Power.

Wakeup Rolls: I’m conflicted about this. Its not a bad general idea, but it suffers from the problem its hard to reliably keep someone down except by risking killing them, since non-incapacitated characters get wakeup rolls every round. I suppose blood loss doesn’t happen that fast...

Called Shots: I have some question as to whether the synergies of head shots (at least against opponents without armor) might be a bit much. If you start with enough accuracy you can take that one regularly (and again, being accurate doesn’t count against your damage total) that could get pretty ugly pretty fast.

Combat Stances: The text implies there should be an “aggressive stance” of some kind, but there’s no discussion of it; just the two degrees of defensive stance.

Two-Weapon Combat: This seems to open a can of worms. What about two-fisted combat? Punch and kick? Attacking with extra limbs (armed or not)?

Cosmic Superhero
Posts: 130
Post Re: Second Version reactions
on: May 9, 2017, 17:08

Just a note; the errata now shows that Sonic Boom costs less than in the document by a fair bit, and less than Flash. So consider my comment on the former withdrawn.

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