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. Previously: Hyperstats and Hyperskills
Earlier, we examined the baseline, simple miracles and the Qualities that comprise them. Next, we went over Hyperstats and Hyperskills—things normal people can do, at abnormal levels. Between these categories, you can do an awful lot of superhero modeling.
But maybe you want a little more flair. Maybe plain vanilla is no longer enough, and you want the whole sundae. The nuts-and-whipped-cream, in this metaphor, are Flaws and Extras.
Lesson Three: Flaws, Extras and You
Flaws make your power limited or a hassle in some way, while Extras make it more awesome in one way or another. Because there’s a point economy to make things interesting (and to maintain the polite fiction of “game balance”) Flaws make powers cheaper, and Extras make them cost more.
Wild Talents has a lot of Extras and Flaws to simulate stuff from comics (or just things we thought were neat), so the list can look pretty boggling. But let’s break them down into some sub-categories:
|Mainly Applies To Attacks So Don’t Worry About It Unless You Want Your Attack To Be More Fiddly||Area, Burn, Deadly, Disintegrate, Electrocuting, Non-Physical, Penetration, Traumatic||Limited Damage, Scattered Damage|
|Mainly Applies To Defense And Can Be Cheated Around Easily||Hardened Defense, Interference||Armored Defense|
|So Complicated They Get Their Own Article||Augment, Duration, Endless, Permanent, Variable Effect||Always On, Attached, Automatic, If/Then|
|So Simple They Don’t Need More Explaining||Controlled Effect, Daze, Engulf, Native Power, No Physics, No Upward Limit, On Sight, Radius, Subtle||Backfires, Base Will Cost, Delayed Effect, Depleted, Direct Feed, Exhausted, Fragile, Full Power Only, Go Last, Horrifying, Limited Width, Locational, Loopy, Mental Strain, Obvious, One Use, Slow, Uncontrollable, Willpower Bid, Willpower Cost, Willpower Investment|
Cheating Around Defensive Extras and Flaws
Making a flamboyantly personal defense somehow seems less neato than a signature attack. You can amp up your defenses by stringing on contingent powers, but that’s scheduled for Lesson Five. If you just want to not be a creampuff, get Hard Dice in some of the pre-built cafeteria miracles (Heavy Armor, Light Armor, Immunity) or just a load of Hyperdodge.
That big list of Extras and Flaws for Attacks. They’re all fairly straightforward, and trying to find a way to make an attack extremely effective and still affordable by balancing Flaws and Extras can keep you entertained for some time, if that’s your bag.
The Complexity Ghetto
Augment, Duration and Variable Effect aren’t quite as bad as they might seem, but like anything that makes radical changes, they require some explanation. That’s for Lessons Four and a bit of Five. For now, internalize that these are not the magic keys to min-maxing that let people who understand them create Mighty Thor on a Luke Cage budget. They’re fun and tricky, but if you don’t feel like using them, you’re notmissing out.
The Simple Stuff
A lot of these Extras and Flaws are simple enough that you can read their description and decide if you want to work them into your budget. If you’re looking for a way to make a non-combat power cheaper, the go-to Flaws are Go Last or Depleted. Put Willpower Bid on a pool with 10d in it for a gamble you’re unlikely to lose. Use Controlled Effect to show off and Native Power to keep your toys from getting taken away from you. Easy.
The Rest of Them
Now we get to the mid-range Extras and Flaws that really shine if you have a bit of coaching. The Extras in this category are: Booster, Go First, High Capacity, No Upward Limit, Power Capacity, Speeding Bullet and Spray. The relevant Flaws are: Focus, No Physical Change and Reduced Capacities. Like I’ve said, you can do just fine without touching these, but if you’ve read this far you might as well get them unpacked for you.
This means Power Capacity, High Capacity, No Upward Limit, Booster, Reduced Capacities, Self Only, and Touch Only.
Capacities, as you recall from Lesson One, consist of Mass, Speed, Range, Self and Touch. The Flaws “Self Only” and “Touch Only” simply mean that you’re entitled to a free Capacity on an Attack or Useful power, and you’re not using it. Maybe you want your Useful power to be ‘healing’ and you only want it to affect yourself. Self Only makes it cheaper (and therefore lets you buy a lot more of it, or put on an Extra like Engulfs).
Power Capacity is the one that puts an entirely new dimension on a power. If you add Range to a Defensive power, you can suddenly use it to save other people. Putting mass on a ranged Attack isn’t complicated, it just means that, in addition todamage, the target also gets relocated. But mixing Range and Mass with Useful powers gets you into some interesting territory, where you can look at a building and turn its surface into oxygen (to borrow an example from PROGENITOR). It’s expensive, but powerful. But remember that if you don’t have Attack with your Useful power, it won’t do direct damage. So in our buildings-to-oxygen example, it would happen rather slowly. That’s a bit of a blurry case though: You can make a very fine argument that ‘being turned to oxygen’ is ‘damage’ for a building. High Capacity only matters for mixed Capacity powers, and keeps one Capacity at a high level no matter what you’re doing with it. Don’t worry about it unless (1) you’re mixing Capacities and (2) you really care about one being big. It’s a specialized tool.
The rest of these Extras and Flaws just change how much Capacity a power has, based on that chart on page 112 of the Wild Talents Essential Edition or page 111 of the big Wild Talents hardback. If you can turn matter to solid gold, you may not want to change much (and depress the market), so Reduced Capacity gets you alchemy affordably. Booster and No Upward Limit are similar ways to improve Capacity. No Upward Limit lets you do it on special occasions by spending Willpower, and (per the name) is pretty much unlimited. But Booster is free and multiplies the Capacity by 10 every time you take it. (If you’re curious, a super-speed power with 4-6d in its pool needs to take Booster thirteen times to get to the speed of light.)
Including Speeding Bullet, Go First, Spray, and No Physical Change.
We tried to keep it so that there aren’t any cheesy ways to inexpensively make your attacks really effective, but… if there are cheesy ways, they’re probably this trio of Extras and this Flaw.
Speeding Bullet and Go First won’t help you out against armor, and they’re the reason that armor is so common. Speeding Bullet simply means that people below a certain Stat level can’t avoid it (unless, as mentioned, they have passive defenses) because it happens too fast or is simply overwhelming. (Try it with mind control if you want everyone with normal stats to do whatever your character says. That does kind of make you a supervillain though.) Go First cheaply amps up the timing of your actions without making them more effective, but it helps you knock dice out of other people’s sets without letting them do the same to you.
No Physical Change is a versatile way to cheapen powers if you don’t care about tangible results. It’s particularly good for illusions, psychic ‘mind clouding’ and similar stuff. Keep in mind that while -1 per die doesn’t look like much, if you only want the illusion of turning into a sentient flying saucer, you don’t have to buy all the Extras and Capacities you’d need to really turn into a sentient flying saucer. That said, if you want to create the illusion of fire bolts that explode and sear, you’d still need to pay for the Area and Burn extras in order to fool people into believing they were at the ground zero and are suffering ongoing damage.
Focus is the Flaw so complicated it has its own brood of subordinate Flaws and Extras. It’s the element so specialized that it’s getting its own separate heading in this article, alone and insolent. It must be something really mind-blowing, right?
No. It just means the power is in a device. Green Lantern’s ring, Thor’s hammer, the Batmobile, something like that. That’s all focus is. For most uses, just build the power you want, slap “Focus” on it and call it a day. The Extras and Flaws under it? Sure, if you want to lovingly detail the benefits and perils of this version of Iron Man armor, go for it. But they aren’t necessary, and if you don’t care about them you don’t need them.
Even if you do, they’re pretty self-evident. Make the power a focus. Change the focus with the Extras and Flaws until you reach a balance you can stand between “what it does” and “what it costs.” Then stop. In fact, that’s pretty good advice forWild Talents power building in general: Get it to where it’s good enough and stop picking at it. You may be absolutely on target with the cheap, straightforward, unmodified Qualities. You may get the character you want with Hyperstats and Hyperskills.
But maybe that’s not quite enough for you. Maybe you want tremendous versatility and feel like you understand the system well enough to really pop the hood and start tinkering. If that’s the case, read on. The next topic covers Augment and Variable Effect, which are the ORE equivalent of genetic engineering.
Next time: Variable Effect, Duration and Augmentation.