15 Oct 2014

Project Peregrine Drive

I recently picked up Catalyst Labs' Valiant Universe RPG and finally had time to read through it.  Lots of interesting background for the various Valiant comics to the point where I may pick up one or two to get a better idea of the feel of the setting.  A key point of interest, though, is that the game allows for sidekick-level games.  Nasty, of Subject 13 falls in that level of superheroes.  Thus, this isn't a Project Natasha nor a Test Drive.

I'm creating Nasty.

The Valiant Universe RPG may be the first superhero game I've run into where Nasty won't be underpowered.  With Champions, I'd have to create her as a 75-point character to be accurate, the 150-point superhero level leaves many a character point left over.  The same happens with GURPS Supers and Mutants & Masterminds.  Nasty's power level is below that of a normal comic.  A sidekick level of power?  That's a different kettle of wax*.

It never hurts to go through the recommended character creation steps of a new game.  Shortcuts can come later, once I'm more familiar with the mechanics.  For those of you with the book, and I will recommend it as it has some useful advice for running superhero campaigns, character creation starts on page 60.  There's nine steps, and if you've read any of the previous test drives, especially for the D&D 5th Edition, the steps aren't much different.  Nasty's character creation starts after the break.

Step 1 - Create a Character Theme and Character Name
If you've read Subject 13, you'll know what Nasty is like; a short-tempered, foul-mouthed teenager who, nonetheless, helps those who can't protect themselves.  After gaining her power and being abducted by the Consortium, Nasty breaks free and escapes to Rochester, New York, where she is offered the role of Peregrine by the American Eagle Foundation.  The other theme running through her title is being thrust into situations that are out of her depth.

While Nasty has several, choosing a character name doesn't have to happen at this step.  At some point, a character will need a name, but if you can't come up with one here, perhaps something later will suggest something.  For Nasty, though, her nickname was one of the first aspects I had ready for her.  Subject 13 came up because I needed an overall title, and that lead to the Consortium, its experiments, and its other operatives.  Peregrine came much later; once I figured out the name of the foundation in Rochester, picking another bird of prey was natural.

The game suggests adding tags, one-word descriptors of the character.  Each of the sample characters, all from the Valiant universe, has his or her own set of at least five tags.  For Nasty, I could use teenager, brawler, protective, the Consortium, and loner for her tags.

Step 2 - Assign Stat Dice
There are four main stats - Might, Intellect, Charisma, and Action - plus a special stat called Luck.  Might represents the physical, Intellect the mental, Charisma the social, and Action the combat capability.  Characters can then distribute a d6, two d8s, and a d10 as desired to the stats.  With Nasty, her weaker areas are her social and scholastic skills, while her strength is in pummeling others.  There is the option to increase the d10 to a d12, but the d6 must become a d4.  Nasty will ignore that option, and assign the dice as follows: the d6 as her Charisma, the d8s into Might and Intellect, and the d10 into Action.

With the dice allocated, next step is Health.  The d8 in Might means Nasty has to knock off one pip from the first row.  It's difficult to properly show the Health meter in a character-only set up, but take a look at the sheet below, near the bottom, to see what I did.

The last stat to receive a value is Luck.  The Luck stat isn't a die type, it's a value from 1 to 12.  Rolling exactly that value on a die means the action was a success, no matter what the normal result would be.  There are two ways to determine the number, either roll a d12 or just choose.  For Nasty, I choose the value as 5.

Step 3 - Create Powers
The meat of any superhero RPG is how powers are handled.  Champions provides the basic powers with modifiers to adapt the power to how the player envisions it.  GURPS Supers has a long list of powers with everything already determined.  With Valiant Universe, it's a little looser.  There is no list of powers.  Instead, powers reflect what's important to the character.  A hero who uses trick arrows would have Archery as a power while another who shoots blasts of cold and ice would have Cryoblast.  The power isn't necessarily offensive or defensive, an archer could shoot down a plasma bolt in defense.  One of the NPCs has Monologuing as a power; do not let him catch the heroes at it.

Nasty really just has one power, her Power Punch.  She's also at the Sidekick level, so there isn't a lot of points to play with, just 15.  The cost of a power is based on the cost of the die type times the cost of the power type, which determines how the die is used.  Nasty is also just limited to two powers at the start.  The first will be her Power Punch.  I choose the die type to be a d8.  For the power type, I take Keep Both; when Nasty rolls to hit someone, she gets to add the results of her Action die and her Power Punch die together.  This should reflect how hard Nasty's Power Punch is and costs 12 points.  I could up the die type to a d10, but her Punch isn't that powerful.  That leaves three points left over, which I can turn into one Event Point, the game's experience point mechanism.

Step 4 - Assign Armour
A bit of math here.  Characters start with ten points of armour, defined as however it works best for a character, then add the average of Might and Action on top.  The characters in the book have armours from psionic shields and reinforced uniforms to honed reflexes to even tax evasion.  Averaging Nasty's Might and Action die types gets an extra seven points of armour.  As Peregrine, Nasty does have a padded costume, but she has been in fights without that extra armour.  I'll define her armour as Sheer Cussedness.  Nasty just doesn't fall after one shot.  She'll be battered and bruised, but she'll hang in as long as she can.

Step 5 - Select Weapons
Characters can choose up to two weapons.  Easy enough, Nasty doesn't really use them.  Worst case, she picks up something handy, like a wrench or a bit of pipe.  Her fist, though, can count as a weapon, at least for game purposes.  I'll give her a damage rating of 2; even without the Power Punch, she hurts people when she hits.  For the Power Punch itself, I'll assign a 4, potentially hurting more than just a regular hit.

Step 6 - Select Equipment
There's no list of gear.  Characters have what they need.  For Nasty, I'll take a sample of items that she's had in the series.  Her motorcycle and her tool kit are at the top of the list.  Nasty also has her school uniform and Peregrine's costume, the latter depending on when in the series it is.  That should be enough for now.

Step 7 - Create Cues and Action Cues
Cues are phrases that define the character and help build narration in a game.  Action cues are similar, but used in action scenes.  Essentially, I just need a few phrases that Nasty would use.  This might be the first NC-17 character sheet for the game, but I'll try to keep Nasty's foul mouth to a minimum.  The most obvious cue for is, "What the f@#%?" followed by, "F@#%!"  I've left a few cues below, pulled from the chapters.  The cues aren't a bad idea, but I tend to internalize characters.

Step 8 - Create Dispositions
Dispositions describe the character and should tie into the character theme in the first step.  With Nasty, I listed two in the first sentence in step 1 - short-tempered and foul-mouthed; and helps those who can't protect themselves.  I add, "Wears sarcasm as armour," and, "Softie on the inside" to round her out.

Step 9 - Final Tweaking
The final adjustments, making small changes to powers, armour, and health as needed.  Not knowing how effective Nasty is, really, I'll leave things as they are.

And that's it!  Nasty's done.  The sheet does reflect her abilities well without leaving her either underpowered or overpowered.  The game is flexible enough to work on a low power level without sacrificing higher levels.

The final character sheet:

Peregrine (Subject 13)

Vital Factors
Name: Natasha Giuliano
Title: Subject 13
Affiliation: American Eagle Foundation of Rochester, Youth Brigade**
Character Level: Sidekick
Event Points: 1

Tags: teenager * brawler * protective * the Consortium * f@#%
History: See Subject 13
Personality: See Subject 13 
Might: d8
Intellect: d8
Charisma: d6
Action: d10
Luck: 5

Power Punch: d8, Keep Both

What the f@#%?
Holy s^&*!
I hate this skirt.
I don't need a reward.

Action Cues:
You're not going to get away.
F@#% this.
Damnit, that hurt.
Come get some.

Short-tempered and foul-mouthed.
Defends the underdog.
Wears sarcasm as armour.
Softie on the inside.

Armour:         Health:
O O O O            O O O
O O O O        O O O O
O O O O            O O O
O O O O            O O
O                       O

Weapons            Damage         Range
                                          Close  Near  Far
Fist                         2          OK     -2     No
Power Punch          4          OK     -2     No

Tool kit
School uniform
Peregrine's costume
* Or is it a ball of wax?  Clichés are so cliché.
** The Youth Brigade appear in a so-far unreleased work, /Crossover/.  The Brigade has been trying to recruit Nasty and should show up after Natasha returns to New York.

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