WRITTEN BY GREG STOLZE, © 2012.
Welcome to The Simple Path to Ultimate Power, a series of short tutorials on power building for the game Wild Talents.
Wild Talents has lots of options, allowing the superhero powers described to have the quirks that keep things interesting. But the layers and variables that make things distinct can be confusing. The first thing to learn is that much of that stuff—Flaws, Extras, extended capacities and multiple qualities—is extraneous. It’s the toppings. You may want chocolate sauce and chopped nuts and whipped cream and a cherry on your sundae, but you don’t need those to enjoy ice cream. Even just plain vanilla.
The plain vanilla of Wild Talents is qualities. Let’s start with those.
Lesson One: Qualities
To get some kind of comparison between powers, to let them interact on a level beyond the GM saying “I think this would happen…” they need to be rated and categorized. The three qualities are those basic categories. There’s plenty of crossover, of course, but remember: It does not have to be fancy to be good. So I’m going to demonstrate the three qualities with three simple powers.
Simple does not mean weak or inferior. Let me repeat that in bold and italics for emphasis.Simple does not mean weak or inferior. You can build a character with straightforward, easy-to-grasp powers in Wild Talents. Those powers are not sub-optimal or nerfed compared to stuff with the Extras and Flaws and multiple qualities. The basic qualities are basic because they cover most of the stuff you’d want a superhero to do.
The three qualities—the things a superpower could do—are Attacks, Defends and Useful. We’ll look at each.
You buy powers with points, and the math complexities come in when you change something off the baseline. If you want your power to have more capacities, or do more damage, or have some other crazy effect, it’s going to cost more. But if you keep it simple, the power costs stay simple too.
Powers are measured by how many dice are in their pool, but also by what type of dice. Hard Dice (or HD) always cost twice as much as regular dice, but always come up as a 10, unrolled. They’re a very narrow and blunt kind of awesome. Wiggle Dice (or WD) cost twice as much as Hard Dice, and you can set them to any number you want after rolling the rest of your ordinary dice. They’re a very delicate and precise kind of awesome. But again, they’re sprinkles on the sundae and we’re concentrating on vanilla.
A power with two ordinary dice in a pool is pretty weak and unreliable. A power with two HD is extremely reliable, but not versatile. A power with a regular die and a WD always works, but is a bit random. A power with two WD is reliable and exactingly precise.
The standard attack power has either Range or Mass as a free capacity. Thus, you can either hit at a distance (Hawkeye) or make touch-range attacks that really move stuff around (Hulk). Attack powers with mass capacity do knockback, which is fun but a complication and we’re avoiding complications. So let’s pick range. For our stripped-down attack power, let’s go with ‘Eye-Beams.’ Your character looks at stuff, stuff gets damaged.
All attack powers do damage, and the baseline is that they do a point of Shock and a point of Killing damage for every die in your set. You can make them more damaging (sprinkles!) or vary the proportion, but 1S1K is the standard, just like a handgun.
Range is based on how many dice are in your pool, as explained on page 111 of Wild Talents 2ed, or page 112 of the Essential Edition.
With 2d Eye-Beams, you have 10% chance of hitting, you can shoot out to 10 yards, and if you hit, you do 2S2K damage. This would cost 4 points.
With 1d+1HD in Eye-Beams, you still have only a 10% chance of hitting, but any hit is a head strike. The damage and range are unchanged from 2d, but it costs 6 points.
With 4d Eye-Beams, you have a 50% chance of hitting, you can fire on targets within 80 yards, and could do up to 4S4K damage… but it’s unlikely. Costs 8 points.
Alternately, for 8 points you could get 2HD in Eye-Beams and always hit, always doing 2S2K to the head within 10 yards. Powerful, but you can’t dial it back.
With 10d Eye-Beams, your hit odds are 99%+, your range is close to three miles, and you’re going to get a fair number of 4S4K and 3S3K hits. Costs 20 points.
Another 20 point option would be 2d+2WD. Your range is a modest 80 yards, but every time you shoot at something within that range, you either do 2S2K to any location (head, hand, foot) or you do 3S3K to a random spot, minimum. A tenth of your hits do 4S4K, if you want it that way.
Defends: Body Blur
Defending powers work like jumping out of the way: You roll the pool and assemble Gobble Dice out of your results. The default capacity is Self.
I’ll level with you: Attack powers work well when they’re simple. Defense powers really work better if you use HD (so they always give you a great result) or Extras. But you can still make a pretty good defense power if your pool’s big. Let’s call it ‘Body Blur’ and assume it works by making you look diffuse and hard to aim at. When you activate it, any sets you get let you defend with Gobble Dice.
With 2d Body Blur (4 points), you have a 10% chance of getting a set, and it might be great or it might be too low to help.
1d+1HD Body Blur (6 points) still has only a 10% set chance, but when it comes up it’s definitely useful.
With 4d Body Blur (8 points), you have a 50% chance of getting a set, but again—it might be too low to be much good.
2HD Body Blur (8 points) is pretty sweet. You turn it on and automatically get an optimum set. Everything else being equal, you can escape two typical attacks or one really good one.
With 10d Body Blur (20 points), you’re near-guaranteed some set, but unless you make a called shot (look it up—it’s a good maneuver with this pool), it might help or might not.
You could go for 2d+2WD (20 points), but you’re better off paying less for 4HD (16 points), which protects you automatically against up to four attacks.
Useful: X-Ray Vision
If a power doesn’t engage the fight rules directly, it’s ‘Useful.’ A Useful power has either Range, Speed or Mass for a free quality. It’s the grab bag for all the impossible things you want to do between punch-trades. For example, X-Ray Vision.
(Real x-rays work nothing like Superman’s ‘seeing through stuff’ schtick, but if you want a limited form of clairvoyance, this works great.) If you roll a success, you activate the power and can see what’s on the other side of that wall.
With 2d X-Ray Vision (4 points), you have a 10% chance of getting a set, and it has a 10 yard range.
At 1d+1HD X-Ray Vision (6 points), you have the same range and the same probability. Hard Dice really are best in pairs.
2HD of X-Ray Vision (8 points) has the same 10 yard range, but it works perfectly every time.
With 4d X-Ray Vision (8 points), it works half the time, out to 80 yards.
With 10d X-Ray Vision (20 points), you’ve got a very reliable view of anything within about three miles.
A Concluding Thought
It’s generally a better idea to have a few powers that work reliably (either with big pools or Wiggle Dice or HD pairs) than try to do everything and have it unreliable. A simple, functional power that works all the time can trump a finicky power encrusted with conditions.
Next time: Hyperstats and Hyperskills.