Wild Talents Made Easy: The Simple Path to Ultimate Power, Part 5 — Mixed Qualities

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: Variable Effect, Duration and Augmentation.

What’s left? We’ve explained the simplest, direct Miracle powers and unpacked the advantages of Hyperskills and Hyperstats. We’ve examined how Extras and Flaws alter power costs and their effects—even the really tricky ones like Augment and Variable Effect. Right now, you should be able to build a wide spread of powers with confidence.

The only lesson that remains is creating really complicated powers, the kinds that do a lot and blend Qualities in interesting ways.

Lesson Five: Mixed Qualities

One way to build a character in Wild Talents is to have a bunch of different powers with different pools and switch between them. Colossus, from the X-Men, is a pretty good example. He’s got gobs of Body and he’s made of metal (some armor variation there). It’s straightforward. Shadowcat has one simple power, ditto Cyclops. But what about Professor X and Ororo? Their powers are versatile and complex, even though each only has one (arguably).

Weather Control

Clearly this Attacks, Defends and is Useful. What’s Storm use this for? She flies, she lightnings people, controls wind to make things blow all over, dodges out of the way of this or that, deflects that and this, relieves droughts… there’s a lot going on.

Let’s start with the Attacks (+2). Lightning clearly electrocutes people, so add the Electrocuting Extra (+1). But she also freezes people and buffets them with hellish winds and decks them with hail, right? Sounds like Variable Effect (+4). But shouldn’t she Daze (+1) people with cold? And produce knockback by adding the Mass Capacity with wind (+2)?

So far we’re at 10 points per die and we haven’t even defended or been useful. So let’s rein in add-ons and suggest a different way to get the same goodies. With Variable Effect, you can add Extras for Willpower. If I’m planning on playing Storm as someone who uses lightning most of the time and only occasionally changes it up with other attacks, I’ll just go Attacks, Electrocuting and Variable Effect. I can attack without Variable Effect and zap people, or I can make a roll to reset it and spend Willpower to Daze or add Power Capacity (Mass). That’s a more reasonable 7/14/28 Quality.

How about Defends? Do we really need to tart that up a lot? She flies out of the way of danger or cloaks herself in mist or deflects incoming objects, but… do we need to distort the rules to map all that? Let’s just call it Defends and decide that the exact how and why of the protection don’t matter enough to pay points or attention to.  Defends +2, done.  Now, she’s got to roll it every turn, which is something of a drawback, but maybe she can stand behind Colossus and Wolverine for safety. That costs 2/4/8 and we’re finished with this Quality. Our total for Weather Control is now 9/18/36.

Useful (+2), on the other hand, clearly needs more attention. Her default is flight, so her free Capacity ought to be Speed. Now she can fly with Weather Control. But it’s got Variable Effect (+4), obviously. For that, Power Capacity (Mass) (+2) looks like a must. I think we’re done after that though: Depending on what sort of Weather Control she wants, she can play up Extras using Variable Effect and Willpower (which, I’ll add, she should hoard as much as possible). This quality adds +8/16/32, for a total of 17/34/68 overall. Are we done with the power?

Hm… I’m tempted to add Spray (+1) to each Quality, and I’ll tell you why: If I’m playing a one-trick pony I want to be able to make multiple actions with that one trick and not sweat dice loss. Spray +1 on each quality costs me a lot less than buying another die in this monster. We’re up to 20/40/80.

Are there any Flaws that trim this budget without nerfing my beautiful power? I think so. Let’s start with If/Then (-1), the classic all-purpose Flaw. Each Quality can have the If/Then limit “Only for Weather Effects.” It’s pretty much what we were planning anyhow. On Attacks and Useful that restricts what Variable Effect can do. Her Attacks now can’t be psychic or magical or anything twee like that, and she’s not turning people to stone with Useful. Her Defends power can’t defend her unless there’s some way to use the weather; it might not be any good in tight quarters. A -1 Flaw times three Qualities buys off that Spray, and we’re back down to 17/34/68. Our budget is straining, so let’s add Fragile on each quality (-1 each) so she loses power whenever she gets hurt. That brings it to 14/28/56.

What kinds of dice do we want? Depends on our budget, obviously, but let’s say  that after buying Stats and Skills, Ororo has 200 points left for powers. (I picked that number pretty much at random.) If I go for plain ol’ ordinary dice, I’m golden;, I can get 10d for 140 points and sink the rest into Base Will.  But the defense thing makes me uneasy.  I want at least a Hard Die or two for guaranteed 10s, especially since Spray lets me do lots of things without discarding dice (and HD get thrown out first because they’re hard to control). So… 2HD costs 56 points, leaving 144. I could take 1WD at 56 points and 5d for 70, leaving 18 points for Base Will and, I don’t know, a Hyperskill in Meteorology.

Does 5d+2HD+1WD sound right? Eight dice of any type puts her pretty deep on the Capacities chart, which sounds right. If she’s just flying full speed, she moves 320 yards a round, a good clip. Lifting stuff with wind, if she divides her Capacities in half (4d for Mass, 4d for Range) she can move 400 pounds out at 80 yards, which is no Jean Grey but still respectable. I’m ready to stick a fork in that power and move on to Professor X.

Plot-Device Psychic

Am I being snarky in calling his power ‘Plot-Device Psychic’? A little, but man, he really does change it up a lot. According to Wikipedia, his base range is 250 miles but has gone to interstellar distances. He’s instantly learned languages and implanted them in other people; taught classes during sessions with a compressed perception of time; made himself psychically invisible; possessed people; projected illusory pain; unleashed psychic bolts; read minds; altered memories; and engaged in astral travel. Whew!

He’s really only got two Attacks, though, the psychic bolts and the pain illusion. Buying Attacks twice is probably going to wind up cheaper than using Variable Effects, and it’s not like he does lots and lots of stuff, just the two. ‘Psychic Bolts’ I’m willing to hand-wave as a stock-standard Ranged Attack +2 with no trimmings. It’s about like being shot. He looks at you hard and your body starts psychosomatically hurting itself.

For ‘Pain Attack,’ it’s also Ranged and starts at +2, but I’m adding the Extra called Non-Physical (+2). It doesn’t get blocked by armor or dodging or tinfoil helmets, but can be blocked by a Perception roll (to realize the pain is fake) instead of Dodge. (All Non-Physical Attacks that can’t be dodged have to have some kind of alternate vulnerability.) An obvious Flaw to accompany it is No Physical Change (-1), the downside of a non-tangible effect. I’ll also go with Limited Damage (Shock) (-1) because that’s fitting for a phantom pain, and If/Then (Doesn’t Work On Telepaths) (-1). It all fits, and takes the overall cost of this Attack down to 1/2/4.  With its other attack, his deep psychic mojo currently costs 3/6/12.

Defense? Again, I think it can be plain ol’ Defense at +2, which may explain why he doesn’t go on missions that much. (If he really wanted to get out of that chair, he could get Hank McCoy to build him some robot legs or something.) We’re up to 5/10/20.

Ah, but now we get to his Useful (+2). It clearly has Variable Effect (+4). Stuff like brain switching, memory erasing, instant-learning? Those don’t just go away unless he wants them to, so this probably has Endless (+3) and No Upward Limit (+2). He really only needs Range, so we’re covered on Capacities.  Two layers of Booster (+2) get him comfortably close to the established range.  Given the kind of broad-spectrum mind control we see him do, you could make a case for Radius and Controlled Effect, but I think those points are better spent on Base Will. He doesn’t take over crowds very often, so on those special occasions, he can use Variable Effect to spend Willpower to add Radius. Flaws? Well, there’s No Physical Change (-1) and If/Then (Only Psychic Stuff) (-1) but if you ask me, those are the same thing in this instance, so only one of them applies. Go with No Physical Change and his Useful Quality is at 12/24/64 and the whole power—two Attacks, Defense and Useful—weighs in at 17/34/68.

If he was at Ororo’s power level, he could get 10d for 170 points and have enough for 10 Base Will, but I think he’s more of a heavyweight. Let’s assume he had 250 points to spend on his one power (again, a number I picked at random for demonstration purposes). If we got 2HD, that’s 64 points, and 1WD costs another 64. That’s 128 points of 250, leaving us 122 points for regular dice. 7d is 119 points, with 3 left over to buy a single point of Base Will. Professor X has 7d+2HD+1WD. He doesn’t have Spray, so he’s going to have to suck up the loss of a Hard Die when he wants to defend and do something else, but his Wiggle Die gives him a lot of flexibility.

If you have more points, stick ‘em in Base Will. But what if (for plot purposes!) Professor X needs a way to find mutants anywhere in the world? Clearly he’s got that covered by Variable Effect, but the range is going to be a hassle. So let’s build a side Augment power to help with that, because the writers are going to want him doing that every time they introduce a new student. Hello, Cerebro!

By my math, he wants 22,000,000 yards of range to cover the surface of the globe. On top of the two layers of Booster he already has, that’s just two more (+2). Finding Mutants is Useful (+2), and the power Augments (+4). To get it to 10d (so it’s big enough that he can use both its Extras and his own), we’re looking at 80 points. That’s enough for +26 Base Will, easily enough to do it his own self fairly often instead. So let’s Flaw this down. Can we get it from 8/16/32 down to 1/2/4? I don’t know but I’m going to try.

First off, it’s obviously a Focus (-1). Secondly, it’s equally clear that If/Then (Only Helps Psychics) (-1) and If/Then (Only Finds Mutants) (-1) are in play. He can’t move it around, so let’s add Bulky (-1). Unwieldy (-2) isn’t unreasonable because he never uses it in a fight.

So close! How can I get another -1 cost break? Willpower Bid (-1) is a trusty standby for any power with a 10d pool, and certainly I’ve planned for X to have plenty to throw around. So there: A highly specialized device that does one very very narrow thing very well.

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