- Stats, Skills, and Superpowers
- Dice and Dice Pools
- Hard Dice and Wiggle Dice
- Ordinary Actions
- Combat Actions
- Power Qualities, Extras, and Flaws
Wild Talents: Superhero Roleplaying in a World Gone Mad is a fast, thrilling and flexible superhero game based on the “One-Roll Engine” game system originally developed for GODLIKE.
Action scenes in Wild Talents are quick and exciting, with palpable stakes. Characters put themselves at risk when they throw down with superhumans, and not just the risk of getting knocked out for a few minutes when the skyscraper-lifting villain lands a lucky shot. The game is fully customizable to any tone of play, but it’s arguably most fun when even a run-of-the-mill streetfight with the bad guys makes all the players just a little nervous.
Character generation in Wild Talents is likewise fast and flexible. You have a handful of stats to start with, an archetype system to define the nature of your character’s superhuman abilities, and an intuitive power creation system to let you create literally any superpower you want—quickly—and start playing.
Characters in Wild Talents are defined by three essential components: Stats (short for statistics), Skills, and Superpowers (powers for short). All three are measured in dice; the more dice, the better.
Stats are the basic qualities common to all (or nearly all) characters—how strong they are, how quick they are, how smart they are, and so on. The stats are Body (physical strength and stamina), Coordination (manual dexterity and agility), Sense (perceptiveness), Mind (intelligence and ability to think quickly), Charm (personal presence and ability to influence others), andCommand (level-headedness, leadership, and ability to keep your wits about you). Stats range from 1 (lousy) to 5 (human perfection), with an average of 2.
Skills are specific learned applications of stats. Brawling is the skill for hand-to-hand fighting, so it’s based on Body. Computer Use is the skill for, well, using computers; it’s based on Mind. The skills Perception and Empathy are based on Sense.
There are a few skills common to most characters, but there’s no limit to them; if you don’t see a pre-written skill that fits your character, make it up. Skills range from 1 (basic training) to 5 (the limits of human understanding), with 2 being average for an experienced or highly trained character.
Powers are the impossible abilities that put the “super” in “superhuman”. Some powers are extensions of natural abilities—you might be impossibly strong, for instance, or really, REALLY good at golf—and those are based on your stats and skills. If you’re impossibly strong, take “hyperstat” dice in Body. If your golf games leaves Tiger Woods shaking his head in shame, take “hyperskill” dice in Golf. Powers, including hyperstats and hyperskills, range from 1 to 10. (Interestingly, there are a couple of special options with powers—you can get dice that are better than the dice that represent ordinary human abilities. We’ll get to those in a minute.)
When you want to do something hard, you generally use a skill. Since every skill is based on a stat, you add your stat and skill dice together and roll that many dice as a “dice pool”. (Wild Talents uses ten-sided dice.) If your Coordination is 2 and your Pistol skill is 1, you roll 3 dice when you want to shoot somebody.
Note that you usually don’t roll at all unless the outcome is seriously in doubt; if you’re doing something that you really ought to be able to do without any trouble, don’t bother to roll.
Superpowers that aren’t hyperstats or hyperskills work a little differently. If you have a “Turn Ice to Frogs” power, it’s not based on any human ability, so you don’t add a stat to it. Just roll your power dice as a pool.
When you roll your dice pool, look for matching numbers. They are called “sets”. If you get a set, the action succeeds. If you get no matches, you fail at whatever you were trying to do. If you get more than one, choose which one to use.
If you get a “set,” look at two things. First, how high are the matching numbers? That’s how good your action was—it’s called the roll’s “Height”. A high (or “tall”) roll is good.
Next, how many matching dice were in your set? That’s how fast your action was; that’s the roll’s “Width”. A wide roll is also good, but for different reasons. A wide roll goes first, but a high roll is more effective. A roll that’s wide AND high is both fast and good.
Sets are written in shorthand for “Width by Height”. If you see “2×9,” it means a set with Width 2 and Height 9, or two nines. Two by nine. Three sixes is “3×6”. And so on.
One thing to remember: You NEVER roll more than 10 dice! Period. That’s it. The dial does not go to 11. Even if you have enough hyperdice for a Body of 8 and a Brawling skill of 9, you don’t roll 17 dice to attack—you roll 10 and lose the rest.
I know what you’re thinking. “I’m Super-Body Brawling Guy! Why do I lose dice? What a ripoff!”
Well, that’s where those special “superpower” dice come in.
There are three kinds of dice that you can get with superpowers.
Normal dice do exactly what they ordinarily do. You roll them and look for what comes up. They’re abbreviated “d,” as in “6d” for “six normal dice”.
Then there are hard dice. These represent a power that you can use really efficiently but without much conscious control. If you have hard dice in Body, for instance, you can punch really hard but you’re not so good at punching soft; watch out for those “excessive force” laws. Hard dice ALWAYS roll 10. In fact, you don’t even need to roll them. Just set them at “10”. They’re abbreviated “hd,” as in “2hd” for “two hard dice”.
Finally there are wiggle dice. With wiggle dice your power is really efficient AND you have great control over it. You set wiggle dice to whatever you want, AFTER you roll. So even if you have only two dice in your pool, if one is a wiggle die you always get a match, so you always succeed. They’re abbreviated “wd,” as in “6wd” for “six wiggle dice”.
As you might have noticed, 6wd in a power is way better, INSANELY better, than 6d. You go from “I usually get a match, but who knows what it will be” at 6d to “I get a set of six matching dice whenever I want and however high I want—you ought to buy tickets just to watch me work” at 6wd.
When you’re making a character, you buy skills, stats, and powers with points. Hard dice are twice as expensive as normal dice, and wiggle dice are twice as expensive as hard dice.
So instead of taking Body 8 and Brawling 9 for Super-Body Brawling Guy, take, say, Body of 6d+1hd and Brawling of 1d+2wd. That gives you a Body+Brawling pool of 6d+1hd+2wd with which to whale on people, which means you can get a 3×10 whenever you want it or a pair of dice at whatever value you want, even if none of the 6d come up matching. You will kick ass. And you don’t lose any dice at all to that pesky 10-die limit.
Outside combat, usually you just need any matching set at all, even a 2×1, to accomplish something difficult. If something is REALLY difficult, however, the Game Moderator (GM) may assign a Difficulty rating that your roll has to beat. Your roll must be equal to or higher than the Difficulty. If the action is Difficulty 6 and you roll a 2×5, or even a 10×5, you blow it. But a 2×6 succeeds, even if it’s slower than the unsuccessful-but-damn-that-was-quick 10×5.
Combat is important. And not just because, let’s face it, the first thing you want to do when you get superpowers is use them to break things. Combat can kill your character. In combat, things get a lot more detailed.
The Height of your attack roll determines where you hit the target. No, it doesn’t determine damage, because hit location is more important. A hit that might just break your leg if it goes low will kill you if it goes high.
The Width of your roll determines two things: Initiative and Damage. That is, if you have a really wide roll, your attack will go first AND it will do more damage than usual. Why have Width do both? Because it can.
So let’s say Brawling Guy wants to clean some thug’s clock. He gets 1hd (automatic 10) and sets his 2wd to 10s for a 3×10: width 3, height 10. Height is hit location, and location 10 is the head, so he punches the thug in the head. Width is initiative and damage, so he goes on initiative 3 (probably before the thug) and does 3 damage. Punch damage for someone with Body 6d+1hd is “width in Killing damage” (Killing damage is the bad kind—knives, bullets, and superhumanly strong fists do Killing, while ordinary humans’ fists do Shock, or surface damage only). The thug takes 3 killing damage to the head. That’s enough to fracture his skull and send him flying. Ouch.
The beauty of this system is that your one attack roll does everything. No need to roll a die to see who goes first, then another to see if you hit, then another to see how much damage you do, then another to see where you hit, then another to see if it knocked out the target or just shook him up a little, and so on.
In Wild Talents, everybody in the fight rolls once. They compare their rolls. The losers mark down damage. Time for the next round.
We won’t get too far into the nuts and bolts of Wild Talents characters here, but it’s useful to know how the game approaches superpowers.
In Wild Talents, you’re encouraged to design your powers from scratch. Sure, the book includes a big fat chapter of pre-written powers for you to use if you want, but the heart of the game is what we call the “Gourmet” approach to powers. We give you the ingredients; you mix them up, add flavor, and start playing.
Every power has three qualities: Attacks, Defends, and Useful. A power that attacks can hurt people or things. A power that defends can keep you from getting hurt. A power that is useful does something else, some impossible thing that’s not an attack or defense. Powers can have any number of power qualities.
Since characters are built on points, each power has a point cost expressed in cost per dice. The base cost is 2 points per die per power quality. Hard dice cost twice normal, and wiggle dice cost four times normal.
If you want to fly and also be able to hurt people with your Flight (by being able to slam into targets or whack them as you fly past), it costs 4 per die: 2 points for the Attacks quality (the hurting people) and 2 more for the Useful quality (the flight). Two normal dice cost 8 points, but with only two normal dice you’ll hardly ever be able to use Flight for anything difficult. Two hard dice cost 16 points, and you’ll always succeed perfectly but never have much control—lots of fast flights in straight lines for you. Two wiggle dice cost 32 points, but you’ll always be able to use it with as much finesse as you want.
You can enhance power qualities by increasing their cost. Each point you add to the Attacks quality adds +1 to the power’s damage. Each point you add to Defends makes it better at defending; adding to Useful makes the power more flexible and effective.
Extras and flaws are things that enhance or restrict your power by improving (or reducing) the qualities. The basic Flight power allows you to fly; if you want to be able to make everybody within 10 yards fly, too, that takes an extra because it expands the base power effect significantly. If you want to only be able to fly when you’re wearing your grandfather’s medal from the war, that’s a flaw because it makes the power less robust. Extras make your power more expensive; flaws make powers cheaper.
Finally, there’s Willpower. Willpower is a measure of your character’s self-confidence, drive and inner strength. In GODLIKE: Superhero Roleplaying in a World on Fire, 1936-1946—the prequel toWild Talents, you might say—Talents’ superpowers are fueled by Willpower, and they use Willpower to resist the effects of other Talents’ powers.
In Wild Talents, the “Will vs. Will” contest is gone—but powers are still fueled by the self-confidence and strength of the characters. If you run out of Willpower, your powers break down. Willpower is also used in other ways in Wild Talents. At the GM’s option, you can use Willpower to keep your character from getting clobbered by a particularly nasty attack, or to recover a little more quickly from getting hurt, or to boost your performance of an action; characters who can change the world with their thoughts tend to be harder to nail down that the rest of us. (Wild Talents includes options to change or remove the Willpower component if you want to.)
Wild Talents is a toolkit for exciting, fast, intriguing superhero games. What you do with it is up to you.