WRITTEN BY GREG STOLZE, © 2012.
A lot of comic heroes don’t do anything that’s necessarily impossible, they just do it impossibly well. Any of us can pick up a heavy object: Wonder Woman lifting a motorcycle over her head is different in degree, not nature. Where the first lesson covered basic Miracles, the superpowers that are just not humanly possible, we’re now going to examine the abilities that are the same, just… more so.
Lesson Two: Hyperstats and Hyperskills
Stats and Skills are pretty straightforward. Everyone (for the most part) has the six Stats: Body, Coordination, Sense, Mind, Charm and Command. Getting a Stat up to 5-6 is tremendously impressive, the upper range of historical human achievement. But the scales go up to 10 because a superhero game has to cover the Thing and Brainiac. Moreover, normal Skills and Stats can’t have Hard Dice (HD) or Wiggle Dice (WD). (These are described on page 19 of the Wild Talents Essential Edition and page 23 of Wild Talents, and discussed a bit in Lesson One.)
Skills, on the other hand, are specialized applications of Stats. To get a task done (if it’s not a ‘miracle,’ one of those superpowers covered in Lesson One) you roll a pool equal to Stat+Skill.
With miracles, you’re ill-served seeking versatility with a lot of low-pool, unreliable powers. The way to be versatile is to go with Hyperstats. If you want to be really good at a narrow category of achievement, try Hyperskills. If you get some of both, you’re going to be really impressive at the intersections.
Hyperstats cost 4 points each, 8 points per HD or 16 points per WD. (Normal Stats cost 5 points per normal die. Hyperstats are cheaper, but they can be negated, while your natural capacities can’t. But that’s a minor edge case.)
Stats provide you with both unrolled benefits and they add to your action pools. With 16 points, you can add a WD to (say) Body or you can add 4d. If you go with the WD, you’re guaranteed a set for every Body-based task. Your punches never miss. Your Athletics rolls always get a set. Alternately, if you add the 4d, you can go from being a 1d shrimp to a 5d Adonis. It improves your unrolled ability to lift, jump and rundrastically.
Hard Dice are interesting with Hyperstats because they give you absolute, full-power success, but no refinement. They’re like a blender with only two settings, “off” and “purée.” You don’t have to use those HD in Body when having a friendly wrestling match with your girlfriend’s dad, but if you use any of them, you have to use all of them, with inevitable head-torquing results. It’s less of an issue with stuff like Sense or Charm.
With a total of 7d in a Stat (28 points if all bought as Hyperstats), you’re comfortably above human achievement. It offers some unrolled benefits—lifting over a ton with Body, the ability to dodge gunshots with Coordination, use your hearing like sonar with Sense, instantly recall anything you’ve experienced with Mind, brainwash people pretty quickly with Charm and ignore wound penalties with Command. Moreover, if you roll a pool based on it, you have a minimum 93% chance of getting a set, even with a complimentary Skill of 0.
If you just add a single WD to a Stat (16 points), you don’t get any of that inhuman greatness. But you neatly succeed all the time. Take a WD in Coordination and you never miss with a rifle, never take a false step with Stealth, and never have to take a second pass parallel parking. As long as you have at least one other die in the pool with your Wiggle Die, you’re a lock. You can still be stymied or overcome by penalties or better sets, but you never fail on your own merits.
The other way to succeed every time is with a pair of HD (16 points), which not only guarantees you a success, but a pair of tens to boot. For tricky situations like spotting difficult clues with Sense or solving hairy math problems with Mind, that 2xs10 set may be better for you than that WD.
Remember the 10d in Eye-Beams from Lesson One? Negligible miss percentage, three mile range, fair number of 3S3K and 4S4K hits? All that for 20 points? Well, for 10 points, you could take 10d in a Firearms Hyperskill, getting the same exact accuracy and (if you use a typical rifle) do 4S4K at a minimum, with a fair chance of 5S5K or 6S6K. Granted, your range is going to drop and you have to deal with running out of ammo, but if you have average Coordination (2), your actual pool is going to be 12, letting you take extra shots or make called attacks.
Hyperskills, then, are the cheap way to get really good at one particular thing. You may need the proper equipment (a car to use Drive, say) and Hyperskills don’t give you any unrolled benefits like Hyperstats. But let me repeat: CHEAP. One point per regular die! Two points for a Hard Die, and four for the never-miss WD! For less than the cost of a natural Coordination die, you can add +WD or +2HD of Hyperdodge.
If you’re building with Hyperskills, slap +2HD into Scrutiny and you’re Sherlock Holmes for 4 points. If you never want to worry about losing your grip, consider that +2HD in Stability. For four points, you can buy a lot of peace of mind.
In combat, Hyperskills may be a bit limited. If you have a 12d Dodge pool, and nine of those are from Hyperdodge, you still can’t avoid bullets in flight, and it won’t do you any good against stuff like area attacks. It also only works if you switch it on, but so far, everything we’ve discussed has been like that. To get automatic defenses, you need to get into Extras, and that’s the topic of the next article.
Next time: Flaws and Extras.