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POWERPATCH

A supplement for Powergame 5th Edition

Edition 1.0 beta (12 March 1999)

Copyright © 1999 by Mikko Kauppinen

All rights reserved, except as noted below

All references to characters appearing in various comic books, films and other media are made without permission. These characters are copyrighted and/or trademarked by the respective publishing companies. They are only referred to because they are well-known examples of different superhero types, thus being an effective way to convey an image of a similar character. This usage should not be taken as a challenge to their copyright status.
 

INTRODUCTION

Once again, over a year has passed since the last edition of Powergame, which was supposed to be the definitive one. But to err is human; to try to improve on your past work is what being a writer is all about. Powergame was good, but not as good as it could be.

Computer game companies these days rarely release games that do not require patch files to work properly. I adopted this patch approach because I was too tired to rewrite everything. Thus some sections of the text are more fully defined than others. If something is not mentioned here, it has not changed from 5.0. In the future, I plan to write a fully-fleshed out version of the new and improved Powergame (hopefully before the year 2000). Meanwhile, armed with the 5th edition rules and this file you should be prepared for both serious and silly superheroic roleplaying. And while you are at it, try to use the system for other genres as well.

Once again, I must include the Universal Excuse for Loopholes and Bad Writing: The rules of this game are only guidelines for conducting various situations which might come up during play. In other words, if you do not like the system, tough. But all feedback is welcome and in fact greatly appreciated, since it is likely to be the only compensation I receive for designing and developing the game. My e-mail address is trmika@uta.fi, and the URL for my games page is http://www.uta.fi/~trmika/gameindex.html. Any supplements will be kept on the page for downloading (note that this text includes everything in The Good, the Bad and the Vulnerable supplement). The page also contains instructions on how to join the Powergame mailing list.
 

UNIVERSAL POWER LEVEL TABLES

The entire game system revolves around nine power levels (or PLs). They are used to grade all things of any importance in the Powergame universe. The tables below give examples of the things and effects which belong under each power level.

Levels 0, 7 and 8 are usually of little concern to player characters. The first because PCs are rarely that bad at anything, and the others because starting PCs cannot have powers higher than level 6. They can never have powers higher than level 7.

PL 8 beings are the supreme entities of each GM's Powergame universe. A Marvel Universe example would be Thanos during the Infinity Gauntlet saga. PL 8 abilities, whatever they are, are never subject to penalties or bonuses. They can always be used at full power.
 

Damage Table

 
PL Description
0 Weak attack. Less powerful than a normal punch
1 Typical human punch or kick. 
2 Most muscle-powered melee or ranged weapons (swords, bows, clubs). Large beast attacks (lions, crocodiles, gorillas). Small-caliber firearms (less than 1,000 ft-lb. or 1350 J of muzzle energy); includes almost all handguns and some rifles (all .22 rimfire rounds, .22 Hornet, .30 Carbine, .44-40). Tiny explosions (40mm grenade launchers). 
3 Large-caliber firearms; includes shotguns, most rifles and a few handguns (.454 Casull, .50 Action Express, some .44 Magnum hot loads). Small explosions (hand grenades). Huge beast attacks (elephants, dinosaurs). Huge melee weapons (two-handed swords, lances, polearms, axes). 
4 Portable rocket launchers. Mortars. Autocannons and light artillery pieces (less than 100mm, a fudge factor allowed). 
5 Heavy artillery. Missiles. Bombs. 
6 Nuclear weapons. 
7 Beyond modern human technology. Godlike power. Death Star superlaser. 
8 Cosmic power. Matter transformation, creation or destruction. Forces that can do basically anything. 
  

Protection Table

 
PL Description
0 Easily hurt or damaged. Less resistant than a human body. 
1 Human body. Normal animals. 
2 Ancient body armor. "Armored" animals. Weak structures and vehicles (thin walls, motorcycles, ultralight aircraft, inflatable boats). Light, flexible modern body armor (clothes and concealable vests can be made of PL 2 material). 
3 Heavy, rigid modern body armor. Ordinary structures and vehicles (typical outer walls, automobiles, airplanes, boats). 
4 Light armored vehicles and reinforced structures. Armor that is thicker than "bulletproof" but thinner than 100mm (fudge factor allowed). 
5 Main battle tanks. Battleships. Bunkers. Star Wars AT-AT Walkers. 
6 Deep nuclear weapon shelter. 
7 Beyond modern human technology, and beyond most future technologies as well. Some superbeings might reach this level. 
8 Cosmic power. Matter transformation, creation or destruction. Forces that can do basically anything. 
 

Difficulty Table

 
PL Description
0 Average task with only a minor risk of failure. 
1 Difficult task. 50% chance of failure. 
2 Very difficult task. Success is less likely than failure, and critical failures are common. 
3 Grueling task. 
4 Herculean task. 
5 Absurd task. 
6 Inconceivable task. 
7 Impossible task. 
8 The province of divine forces. 
 

Tech Level Table

 
PL Description
0 Obsolete technology. 
1 Everyday civilian technology. 
2 High-end civilian technology. 
3 Common military technology (2nd line weapon systems) or uncommon civilian technology (scientific equipment). 
4 Advanced military technology (modern weapon systems) or restricted civilian technology (nuclear power). 
5 State of the art technology; not very common in actual use (stealth fighters). 
6 Limit of human technology: what can be accomplished in theory. Prototypes. 
7 Beyond modern human technology, but within reach of advanced civilizations (Blade Runner, Star Trek). 
8 Cosmic power. Anything is possible. 
 

Size & Weight Table

 
PL  Description
Smaller than man-sized. No more than 50 kg. 
1 Man-sized. 100-150 kg. 
2 Motorcycle. Snowmobile. 400-500 kg. 
3 Car. Small helicopter. A few tons. 
4 Fighter jet (F-16). Tank. Dozens of tons. 
5 Huge airplane (747). Hundreds of tons. 
6 Skyscraper. Golden Gate. 
7 Death Star. Small planetoid. 
8 Off the scale. 
 

Speed Table

 
PL Description
0 Slower than a human. 
As fast as a human. Slow ship. Around 25-30 kph. 
2 Bicycle. Many animals. Motorboat. Tank or APC. 60-80 kph. 
3 Average car. Very fast boat. Civil helicopter. Around 200 kph. 
4 Prop-driven airplane. Sports car. Combat helicopter. 
5 Jet aircraft (not necessarily supersonic). Bullet. Missile. 
6 Spacecraft at sublight speeds. 
7 Faster than light. Time travel becomes possible. 
8 Be where you want to be. 
 

Duration Table

If the duration of a given superpower or other effect is instant (like many attack powers), it is not assigned a PL rating. Otherwise, this table will give a rough guideline on how long the effects of a superpower will last. For example, PL 3 mind control would wear off after several hours, a day at most.
 
 
PL Effect duration 
0 Several seconds (1 combat turn). 
1 Up to a minute (1D6+1 turns). 
2 Minutes. 
3 Hours. 
4 Days. 
5 Weeks. 
6 Months. 
7 Years. 
8 Forever. 
 

Range Table

If the range of a given weapon, superpower or other effect is limited to touch, it is not assigned a PL rating. A given weapon might well be effective at much longer ranges than the ones listed below. Hitting a target at extreme ranges is very unlikely, however. Superpowers are usually limited to the ranges given on this table; thus a hero with PL 4 Plasma Burst could hit targets a couple of kilometers away. Whether he sees them or not is another matter entirely.
 
 
PL Effective Range 
0 Less than 10 meters. Short-barreled pistols (as a rule of thumb, shorter than 10 cm/4 inches, there is however a slight fudge factor depending on the caliber, type and quality of weapon). 
1 Less than 50 meters. Most thrown objects. Normal pistols and shotguns. 
2 100-150 meters. SMGs and specialty pistols (barrels over 20 cm/8 inches, with the fudge factor explained above). Bows. 
3 Hundreds of meters. Rifles, machine guns and anti-tank rockets. 
4 A few kilometers. Heavy machine guns. Short-range tactical missiles. Tank guns. Mortars. 
5 Dozens of kilometers. Long-range tactical missiles. Artillery fire. 
6 Intercontinental. Strategic missiles. 
7 Interplanetary. Death Star superlaser. 
8 Infinite. Cosmic power. 
 

Area of Effect Table

In most cases, the area of effect for an explosive weapon or superpower can be determined by comparing its damage PL to the table below. For example, most hand grenades are deadly within 10-15 meters, which fits their PL 3 damage nicely. Powergame is not a simulation, however, so these are only guidelines which the GM can modify.

Most anti-tank weapons (such as missiles and tank guns) produce a secondary blast when they hit a target. For simplicity, this is ignored in their descriptions, that is, they are not assigned an area effect. If the GM believes they should have one, subtracting two from the damage PL will produce a rough approximation of the secondary blast. For example, a PL 4 LAW rocket will hurt anyone standing within a couple of meters from the point of impact. This rule borders dangerously close on realism and thus you are free to ignore it.

This table is also used to determine the distances of certain effects for which the Range table does not offer enough precision. The most common example is falling distance. Falls do lethal damage equal to the distance fallen on the table below. First you roll Agility versus distance to see how hard you land (in effect "dodging" an attack), then you proceed normally to find out how badly you were hurt.
 
 
PL Area (or distance) 
0 20-30 centimeters. 
1 Roughly one meter. 
2 Several meters. 
3 A dozen meters. 
4 Several dozen meters. 
5 A few hundred meters. 
6 Several kilometers. 
7 Planet-spanning. 
8 Cosmic. 
 

BASIC TASK RESOLUTION

The basic rule mechanics are explained in the main rules; they have not been changed at all. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Please read that section before continuing if you are unfamiliar with Powergame.

Assisting in a task

Several characters might succeed where a single hero would fail. If the GM believes that the other characters could reasonably help the "main" PC in his attempt, for example lifting something or researching a topic, the difficulty of the task is lowered by one PL. One example of this is the Team Attack maneuver explained below.

 

CHARACTER CREATION

Attributes

All humans and most aliens share the following innate abilities known as basic attributes: Agility (includes manual dexterity; used to dodge attacks and hit in ranged combat), Strength (used to hit in melee combat and determine unarmed combat damage), Health (general fitness and resistance to various ailments; used to determine how much lethal damage you can take), Charisma (includes appearance), Wits (intelligence and senses; used to determine initiative), and Psyche (willpower; used to attack and defend in mental combat).

All basic attributes of a normal human being are at PL 1 at the beginning of character creation. PL 0 represents impaired ability while PL 2 is the absolute peak of human ability. Anything beyond PL 2 is superhuman. There are also two intermediate levels: 1-1 and 1+1. These will be explained later.

Characters also have two secondary attributes known as Protection and Speed. The first indicates, literally, how hard the PC is to kill, and the second how fast he can run. In secondary attributes, anything beyond PL 1+1 is considered superhuman. Also, skills (see below) cannot be based on secondary attributes. Otherwise they are similar to the basic attributes.

The abbreviated form of the attribute list is ASHCWP/PS, or "ashcup-p.s." for ease of pronunciation. Players of the old TSR-published Marvel game will remember FASERIP, a similar alphabet soup.

Each PC has a list of skills which he is familiar with. Skills describe, literally, what the character can do; they also represent his profession, education, hobbies and other experience. Skills can be written down concisely, just mentioning the character's profession (Doctor of Medicine, US Navy F-14 pilot, small-town used car salesman) or expanded into long, detailed lists (driving, swimming, playing guitar, Chinese cooking, firing, disassembling and cleaning the Colt M1911A1 automatic pistol). Any combination of the two is also fine. One good way is to note the character's profession and then add hobbies and any other skills not obviously learned in his job.

Skills do not have a PL of their own; they are based on the character's basic attributes. Deciding which attribute is used with which skill is a GM call, though the players will no doubt offer their suggestions without being prompted. Depending on the situation, it might not even be the same attribute every time.

The player can freely write up his list of skills, but the GM must approve it afterwards. Nobody can do everything. Most unfamiliar (unlisted) skills are used with a -1 PL penalty; some extremely easy ones or those common to almost all people of the character's culture and background can be considered to be part of the character's skill list even if they are not mentioned. They can be used without a penalty. For example, most people from modern, Western countries know how to read and write. (At least most PCs do...) The GM must still be careful with players who insist that "everyone can do this and this and..."

On the other hand, some skills are so difficult that they receive a -2 PL penalty if the PC does not know them, which makes it impossible for most people to even give it a try. Nuclear physics and genetic engineering are good examples. These are known as specialized skills.
 

Superpowers

After skills have been determined, the character needs some superpowers. The player rolls 1D6; the result is the number of powers. Possible powers are only limited by the player's imagination; comic books are a great source for ideas. Increased attributes are a very common type of power. Superhuman levels of skill (PL 3+) are also counted as superpowers (they are referred to as superskills and explained below). The origin of powers does not usually matter here. However, if the PC receives his powers from an outside source, for example a high-tech suit of armor, he gains some benefits to offset the risk of losing the source of powers (this is explained under Vulnerabilities). The GM must in any case decide whether or not to accept any proposed power. He might want to tone it down a bit, for instance. A power called Design A Mechanical Device For Any Purpose will likely not pass your GM's scrutiny. Then again, if it fits the campaign world, it might, especially if it was the PC's sole power. The X-Men had a friend called Forge who could build just about anything.

Each power has a level, determined by rolling 1D6. After you have rolled a PL for each power, you can swap the numbers around if you are not entirely happy. However, it is not possible to increase one number while decreasing another. (This has changed from the previous edition: I felt it was a very arbitrary restriction, and if you prefer true randomness you can just leave the numbers alone anyway.) For finer control, see Option 1: Point allocation system, below.

If you are trying to increase a basic attribute (NOT a secondary attribute) by taking a power, and happen to roll a result which would not improve it at all, the level of the power will be the attribute PL +1. This is known as a boost. For example, if you normally have PL 1 Strength (as all humans do), decide to take Increased Strength as a superpower and roll 1 for the PL, it is boosted to PL 2. This means that any rolls of 1 are possibly best swapped to increase your basic attributes. If you take a power which is not normally present in a human, such as Laser Vision, it is possible to end up with PL 1, though. This modification can only be applied to your basic attributes.
 

Options: Point allocation system, Modeling, Low-powered heroes, Divine beings, Common people, Aliens

Option 1: Point allocation system (PASS)

If you want to have more control over the creation of your character, do not despair. There is a way. The Point Allocation SyStem (PASS, named after "Thanks, I'll pass") is a non-random method to create PCs and NPCs. It can also be used if you left your dice at home. Under PASS you always get three (3) superpowers and 10 levels to divide between them. However, PASS is not a guaranteed method to get overwhelmingly powerful PCs. You cannot take a power level less than 2 or higher than 5. Thus the possible level combinations are: 5-3-2, 4-4-2 and 4-3-3. Besides giving better control, PASS is a fast way to create stereotypical NPCs.

For example, if you need a power-suited goon quickly, just say that his suit has PL 4 armor, PL 3 wrist lasers and PL 3 artificial strength.

There are also other ways to use PASS; they are explained below. But in general, any 1D6 roll in character creation can be rolled normally or used as a 3, unless otherwise indicated.

Option 2: Modeling

If you have an absolutely perfect character concept in mind but it cannot be realized by using PASS, and you feel that using the random method would probably result in something quite far removed from your brilliant idea (as it likely would), you should start being nice to the GM. He might allow you to use the modeling approach. Actually you do not have to ask: just create your PC and hand it to the GM. If he approves it, why bother telling him it was not generated randomly?

Modeling is really very simple. You just write up your character the way you want it. The method is possibly best used to recreate heroes from comic books, but if your GM allows it, it can be used to create original characters just as well. Or, in humor campaigns, to create hilariously powerful original characters. Needless to say, the GM must approve any and all modeled PCs, just as he has to approve normally created characters.

Option 3: Low-powered heroes

If you do not feel like playing a ridiculously powerful spandex-clad superhero, there is another option. You can choose to play one of several types of low-powered heroes. You do not get any special advantages by choosing to do so, though. They just might suit some campaigns better. In Powergame terms there are three kinds of low-powered heroes: the super normal, someone who has trained for years and years to hone his body and mind (examples include Batman, the Shadow and Captain America); the brilliant scientist or specialist called genius (like Anthony Stark outside his Iron Man suit, or Zarkov from Flash Gordon); and the almost-normal action hero (James Bond, Indiana Jones and Dirk Pitt are good examples).

Super normals get the usual 1D6 powers but at PL 2 (or simply 3 powers if you use PASS), which are almost always used to increase the basic attributes since these characters rarely have any supernatural powers. They might have some relatively low-key powers, such as PL 2 Danger Sense or Telepathy. These could be explained by latent psionic talents, oriental martial arts training etc.

Geniuses get a single superskill, the level of which is determined by rolling 1D6 (using PASS, PL 3 is what you get). A superskill is an area of knowledge, skill and/or training which can be defined as loosely or narrowly as the player and GM prefer. Superskills are always non-physical (that means no sharpshooters or martial arts masters). They allow the character to use the skill's PL rating instead of basing it on his attributes. Since Powergame does not have skill lists, superskills can occasionally be somewhat awkward to define. NPCs present no problems, since the GM can model them as he sees fit. For PCs, superskills must be agreed upon between the player and the GM, considering the PC's role and function in the campaign. Superskills follow all rules for normal powers unless otherwise indicated.

In a pulp game, a superskill named Rocket Science would be perfectly apt. The skill would cover anything related to the design and construction of spaceships. In a more serious game, Nuclear Physics or Marine Biology might be better. Alternatively, just Physics or Biology might do. Because most geniuses have only one superskill, the GM is encouraged to be lenient. It is hardly exciting to be the leading expert on Romanesque architecture.

Usually only geniuses have superskills. But it is perfectly legal for other kinds of heroes to take them, since they count as normal superpowers. Reed Richards is the textbook example of this. Super normals can have superskills, but they are limited to the usual PL 2 rating. By taking vulnerabilities, any character type can have superskills, but they seldom fit the character concept. However, it can be interesting to play a true crackpot inventor (a genius in game terms), who has two superskills and a mental affliction, or is confined to a wheelchair.

Action heroes have no abilities even remotely superhuman. Compared to ordinary citizens, however, they might as well come from Mars. These PCs get 1D6+1 free Good Things, or 4 if they elect to use PASS (Good Things are explained later).

Option 4: Divine beings

There are examples of men and women who are powerful enough to be considered gods, or divine beings. They might be aliens (Superman) or actual gods of long-forgotten pantheons (Thor and Hercules). Nevertheless, they look like us but are even more powerful than most superheroes. They are not generally recommended as PCs, but an individual GM might have no problem with them. These rules are intended to be used for human-looking (or at least humanoid in shape) deities, but if you really want to recreate Cthulhu, go ahead. You have been warned.

Divine beings are created exactly as normal superheroes, with one important distinction. Their basic attributes do not start at PL 1. Instead, the starting PL for each basic attribute is determined by rolling 1D6. You can also use PASS: an average divine race has PL 3 in every attribute but Protection and Speed (most divine beings use their first superpower to increase Protection). It is possible to mix the two methods: if you wish to be sure of having at least PL 3 in some attributes, you can use PASS with them and roll for the other attributes. Divine beings do not get any extra superpowers or Good Things (explained below) in addition to their extraordinary basic attribute levels.

A note to GMs: if you decide that a divine race exists in your campaign world, you can pre-determine its attributes. This way, if a player wants to play a deity, you can control the character's power levels to some extent. Of course PC gods tend to be more powerful than average members of their race; this is accounted for by giving them super powers, some of which might increase their basic abilities (Thor is more powerful than an average Asgardian).

Option 5: Common people

There might be a player who thinks that even low-powered heroes are too powerful. He is probably playing the wrong game, but it is nevertheless perfectly possible to create common people, characters who have no special abilities. They receive no superpowers of any kind, unless they take at least a PL 2 vulnerability and spend the points to take a power. However, being PCs, they still get a tiny break: one (1) free Good Thing. They are normal people, but slightly above average normal people. NPC common people are similar in every respect, but they do not get the free Good Thing.

Option 6: Alien races

The GM, if he allows alien PCs, must work out the characteristics of each race before he presents it to the players. This includes determining the starting PLs for its attributes (as opposed to PL 1 for humans) and choosing any innate superpowers. If he creates a race that is super-strong, highly intelligent, nearly invulnerable and capable of using devastating psionics, and then allows players of that alien species to roll for superpowers normally, game balance will suffer quickly. Thus caution is advised. These rules are built for normal humans. If an alien race already has many powers beyond human norm, it is probably best that they are not allowed to have extra powers.

If a player wants to have an alien character but the GM has no alien races prepared, or the player is not happy with any of them, he may let the player to create an alien PC using normal rules. The powers of that character could then portray a typical representative of the alien race. Various technological and magical beings (androids like Vision, golems, T-1000 series killer robots) can be similarly created. See also Option 4: Divine beings for ultra-powerful aliens.
 

Summary of hero categories and their benefits

Good and Bad Things

In addition to their attributes, skills and powers, all characters also receive additional abilities known as Good Things (abbreviated GT). Most types of PCs receive 1D6 GT for free. Good Things could be called "everyday superpowers". They include things like Wealth and Connections. In other RPGs they are known as Advantages, Traits or Quirks. A reasonably comprehensive list of common Good and Bad Things can be found at the end of this chapter. In game terms, they usually do not affect any dice rolls. The GM just takes them into account when roleplaying his NPCs and judging the result of the roll.

GTs can also be used to increase PL 1 attributes (higher PLs cannot be improved in this fashion). One Good Thing equals a +1 increase to one of your character's attributes. This bonus is added to the 1D6 rolls; it is NOT the same as a +1 PL bonus. A PL 2 basic attribute means that the character is among the best humans ever in that respect. A +1 bonus in a basic attribute indicates that the character is good at what he does, but not exceptional.

However, if we are talking about secondary attributes, putting +1 in either one represents a truly remarkable individual, someone who laughs at normal punches or runs as fast as Carl Lewis. PL 2 in a secondary attribute would mean someone with supernatural ability. Someone with PL 2 Speed could keep up with a greyhound, while someone with PL 2 Protection would have a skin as thick as a rhino's.

If a +1 increase is not enough, it is possible to put three (3) Good Things into a basic attribute and thus raise the attribute to PL 2. The intermediate step, using 2 GTs to get an attribute at 1+2, is NOT allowed. This can help unlucky super normals who get only one or two PL 2 abilities and lots of Good Things. It also makes action heroes more competitive. Please note that you cannot increase a secondary attribute to PL 2 (for reasons explained above) or take a PL 2 superpower in this fashion. If an attribute is raised to PL 2 by spending three Good Things, it is called an Ideal attribute.

Note that skills cannot be increased with Good Things since they do not have power levels of their own. Besides, increasing attributes directly results in more powerful characters anyway. However, exotic skills or training which would otherwise be hard to justify can be taken as Good Things and based on the attributes as usual.

NPC common people have to balance every Good Thing with a Bad Thing. However, PCs and major NPCs, superpowered or not, can take 1D6 Good Things for free (3 if they want to use PASS and play it safe), and add some more by taking Bad Things if they so desire.

Bad Things (abbreviated BT) are the opposite of Good Things. They include things such as Bad Reputation and Poverty. They can also decrease your attributes. A -1 decrease is the largest allowed. If you put a BT in Protection, it means your PC is unusually frail, and if you put one in Speed, it might indicate a limp or other form of impairment.

My general guideline was to keep personality traits outside GTs and BTs. If you feel that a given trait could be faked or acted out, it is probably part of the character's personality instead of a Good or Bad Thing. For example, someone could act honestly, even for longer periods if forced to, but it is hard to pretend you are wealthier than you actually are if you are forced to purchase something expensive.

This list was previously released as a separate supplement. The only change was the addition of Ideal attributes.

Good Things with opposite Bad Things

  1. Increased and Ideal attributes are explained above.
  2. Good reputation: the people who know the character think highly of him as a professional or as a person. This can include a small amount of fame in general. Bad reputation works the same way, it just has an opposite effect. People think you can't do your job properly or they don't like you as a person.
  3. Fame: many people have heard of the character and quite possibly idolize him. Note that this is different from having a good reputation: compare a world-famous rock star to a politician who is known for his honesty in a city plagued with corruption. The opposite, being Infamous, is relatively rare among player characters, but someone like Saddam Hussein or any of the major Nazi figures would easily qualify.
  4. Family name: the character's family is rich and/or well-known, which usually means that they have friends in high places too. This is yet another form of fame/reputation. This works just as well as a Bad Thing.
  5. Wealth: the character has more money than most. This tends to include a certain degree of fame as well. Poverty is a good Bad Thing.
  6. Connections: a specific person, small group of people or organization is friendly to the character and very likely to offer him assistance when required. GMs should be careful to avoid abuse of connections; if the character persists, take away his connection at least temporarily. The opposite of this is having a Mortal enemy. Whether it is a lone psychopath or an organization you have crossed once too many times, your enemy wants you dead. Alternatively they could settle for just capturing you: the police rarely have shoot-to-kill orders, at least in the Western countries. Then again, if you end up in a gas chamber, the end result is the same.
  7. Acute senses: this is different from putting +1 into Wits. The latter indicates general ability to think fast and notice details, while the former means that one (or more if the GM agrees) of your senses can distinguish between very small differences. Someone with acute hearing might have an absolute ear for music and/or hear unusual frequencies, while a person with acute taste could work as a wine taster. This Good Thing does not bestow a +1 bonus to Wits rolls, even those directly related to the given sense. The opposite would be Impaired senses, which usually means bad eyesight or hearing since not all GMs think an impaired sense of smell is worth a Bad Thing alone. Combined with the loss of taste buds... maybe.
  8. Animal friendship: for some reason, your PC can easily befriend animals. Wounded, angry and frightened animals or those trained to attack may be a different case altogether. The opposite, Animal enmity, means that most animals hate you on sight.
Separate Good Things
  1. Special knowledge: of a place, culture/subculture, organization, field of technology... Most skills bring with them knowledge about related issues. However, this Good Thing goes above and beyond that, indicating an uncommon level of knowledge in the character's specialty. To offer an example, many policemen know a thing or two about the underworld of their city or district. Someone with this Good Thing would still be much better off, having more and better information. This often includes some low-level connections, though they are not as good as those acquired via a separate Good Thing. This doesn't work very well as a Bad Thing.
  2. Natural talent: artistic, linguistic, mathematical, mechanical... whatever his specialty, the character is a natural talent and seldom suffers the penalty for unfamiliar skill use in related tasks. This also means that he is some kind of an expert in his chosen field and known as such, at least to his peers/colleagues. This includes talented authors, sculptors, translators, scientists etc. Note that there is no bonus to skill or attribute rolls, and thus athletic talent is better indicated by putting +1 to the desired attribute. Natural talent doesn't work very well as a Bad Thing either.
  3. Sixth sense: your character has occasional gut feelings about things. They can concern both immediate events (someone is about to shoot me from that building) or those in the future (better not take this plane), and they can be both negative and positive (bet on this horse).
  4. Intuition: your character can interpret people's body language, facial expressions and gestures better than others. It is very hard to lie to an intuitive person. He can also sense the general mood of a group of people, for example whether a demonstration is going to turn ugly.
  5. Photographic memory: your PC tends to remember whatever he sees very well. An opposite would be absent-mindedness, which is an acceptable Bad Thing if the player can roleplay it properly.
  6. Sidekick: this is a single individual who is a very good friend of your character, to the point of accompanying him for potentially dangerous adventures. Sidekicks do not have as much information or other resources as Connections, but the latter will not fight side by side with you. The above note on abusing Connections is just as valid here. Sidekicks have their own lives to lead (yes, really); they don't spend their days waiting for your phone call. This Good Thing is most common in the superhero genre, but it is also seen elsewhere.
Separate Bad Things
  1. Physical addiction (drug addiction): the character uses alcohol and/or tobacco frequently, but still retains some degree of control. He can also be an occasional user of more serious drugs. A severe addiction is treated as a vulnerability. It is conceivable that there are other physical addictions beside drug addictions, but these cases are best dealt with between individual GMs and players.
  2. Mental addiction: the character is, for instance, a hopeless gambler, who finds it hard to pass a slot machine, let alone a roulette table. This often leads to financial problems. There are other forms of mental addictions; some people spend way too much time on the Internet, for example. Intense greed for money, sex or power could be considered a form of mental addiction.
  3. Persecution: the character is constantly being hassled by others. He might be stopped by the police without any obvious reason, he has difficulties dealing with the local bureaucracy or total strangers may call him names to his face. A likely reason for this is belonging to some sort of a minority group, such as an ethnic group or extremist political party. This doesn't affect your reputation with the people who know you, since it has nothing to do with your abilities or personality.
  4. Sexual disorder: the character's sexual behavior is considered aberrant by most people. This includes homosexuals, sadomasochists, nymphomaniacs, transvestites, voyeurs etc. It is not my business to judge what is right and what is wrong, but this is labeled a Bad Thing since it often provokes negative reactions if people know of the character's sexual orientation. This is another form of persecution.
  5. Illness: your character has a more or less permanent illness. It is normally not life-threatening, but inconvenient nevertheless. Examples include diabetes, epilepsy and various allergies. Something as serious as AIDS or cancer would probably be worth vulnerability points.
  6. Injury: the PC was once seriously injured. Examples include brain damage (Wits, Psyche and/or Charisma penalties are possible), knee injury (Speed or Agility is reduced), lung damage (reduced Health), kidney damage and so on. The GM determines if a given injury is accompanied by an attribute penalty or if it affects you in some other way. Some injuries might be too insignificant to be accepted as Bad Things.
  7. Dependents: there is a person or several persons who depend on the PC for their well-being. He must spend considerable time with them to ensure everything is fine, which can make adventuring a bit difficult. This includes children, disabled adults and old people. If you want to have more capable persons as your dependents, such as families or girlfriends, you should come up with a good enough story for the GM to accept this. After all, most people can take care of themselves pretty well without someone hovering about constantly.

Vulnerabilities

Finally, your character may have a vulnerability. They are not mandatory, but they can be used to balance earlier bad rolls. Possibly the most famous example in comic books is Superman's vulnerability to Kryptonite. Examples from real life include various phobias and illnesses. In some cases the GM must carefully consider whether a given vulnerability is actually more like a Bad Thing. At the end of this chapter you can find a list of suggested vulnerabilities. Some of them have been released previously in a separate supplement.

The vulnerability is often assigned a power level, which is used to "attack" your character. For example, if your PC had a PL 3 Fear Of Heights (a very serious phobia indeed), he would defend against a PL 3 attack with his Psyche in appropriate situations. A normal human with a Psyche of PL 1 would likely be paralyzed or driven insane by such a strong phobia if, say, he were forced to board an airplane. Other vulnerabilities may attack different abilities, and not all vulnerabilities have power levels.

Basically anything than can be assigned a PL to fight against can be considered a possible vulnerability. The idea of being literally vulnerable to some substance works well, but its usefulness is quite limited outside superpowered campaigns and thus I have expanded the idea a bit. It doesn't matter if you fight against your vulnerability on a physical or mental level (or both). Some of the above-mentioned Good and Bad Things can be vulnerabilities if they are serious enough and if they could logically be fought against.

For each PL you put into your chosen vulnerability (if applicable; some vulnerabilities have special rules), you get one vulnerability point. These points can be used to get more superpowers (2 p./power), increase the levels of existing ones (1 p./level), or get additional Good Things (1 p./2 Good Things). The PL for a new superpower is determined as usual, either by rolling 1D6 or using PASS and taking 3.

With the new vulnerabilities presented in this patch, the rules have changed a little. The basic rule of only one vulnerability per PC still holds, with the following exceptions: a PC can take either Gizmo, Transformer OR Magic, AND any desired Power Limitations (including Gadgets), AND one other vulnerability. Also, a given attribute or power can only be increased by 1 PL by any vulnerability. If a more severe vulnerability is chosen, the additional PLs must be divided across the character's abilities. Any type of character may spend his vulnerability points as the player sees fit. Action heroes can have a superpower and so on. However, remember to remain true to your character concept and the overall tone of the campaign. The GM can always disallow things he doesn't like.

Please note that you cannot raise any power level above 6 with any vulnerability. In the Powergame reality PL 6 is the limit of humanity's cosmic potential. They can only achieve power level 7 with the help of powerful beings. For example, Dark Phoenix, while it looked and acted like Jean Grey, was really an alien being, and Galan of Taa became Galactus when the dying universe gave him unbelievable powers. The PL 6 limitation applies equally to player-created aliens and divine beings in order to maintain play balance.

Typical vulnerabilities

  1. Substance or condition (the "literal vulnerability"): your PC is uncommonly vulnerable to something, be it Kryptonite, water or sunlight.
  2. Phobia: possible phobias include fear of darkness, enclosed spaces, fire, flying, heights, open spaces, snakes or spiders. When a PC with a phobia encounters the object of his fear, he must make a Psyche contest against the PL of the phobia. If the PC wins, he can function more or less normally; if the phobia wins, it takes over and the player must roleplay accordingly.
  3. Mental affliction: these are numerous and new ones seem to be discovered every day. Well-known ones include depression, manic depression, mindless aggression, obsessive behavior and split personality. The affliction is usually in effect, and the PC must win a Psyche contest if he wants to override it temporarily. Mild versions of these are just personality traits; most of us are occasionally depressed and we all have our little habits.
  4. Addiction: if you have an addiction as a Bad Thing, you are expected to roleplay it out. But if you have one as a vulnerability, you must make a Psyche or Health roll (GM's call) whenever you want to fight it. Longtime drug users fit this category well.
  5. Serious illness: these can be somewhat difficult in play, but are offered as a suggestion nevertheless. An illness as a vulnerability usually means a life-threatening condition, such as cancer or AIDS. Its effects are seldom as immediate and frequent as those of a phobia, for instance, but they tend to be lethal in the long run. One way to play this is to have the PC make annual (or whatever the GM sees fit) Health rolls against the illness PL. If he wins, he has bought himself some extra time; if he loses, his condition becomes worse. If the PC seems to struggle on forever, the GM has a right to advance the illness regardless of dice rolls. AIDS is expected to kill within ten years or something like that.
Special vulnerabilities
  1. Impairment: a special case of a two-point vulnerability. Impairment means putting PL 0 in one of your attributes. For humans this means an impairment of some kind. You can choose an attribute which has a higher PL than 1, but you still get only 2 vulnerability points since this rule was balanced for normal humans, not aliens or demigods.
  2. Gizmo: the character's powers come from a Gizmo, whatever it may be. The Gizmo can be taken away, but while the PC has it there are no other hindrances. Amulets are easy to carry but equally easy to grab; power suits are slow to get into (a nominal 1D6+1 turns at least) but hard to steal while worn. No power works without the Gizmo, but Good Things, Bad Things, skills and (usually) other vulnerabilities do. Iron Man and Green Lantern are Gizmo-type characters. This is worth 2 vulnerability points. It is possible (though a little unusual) to have a Genius character whose superskill(s) are tied to a Gizmo.
  3. Transformer: the PC has to change shape or form before he can use his superpowers. Good Things, Bad Things, skills and (usually) other vulnerabilities are shared between the two forms. The transformation takes one action (not turn). The two forms must be obviously different to even a casual observer. Colossus and the original Hulk are Transformers. Worth 1 vulnerability point. It is possible (though more than a little weird) to have transforming Geniuses.
  4. Magic: the character's powers are not internal, but derived from magical sources. There are three possible source mechanisms: Ritual, Talisman and Spellcraft. A Ritual-based PC must perform an elaborate ritual each time he uses a power. Alchemy, spirit summoning and your basic ritual chanting are all forms of Ritual, since they tend to take a long time. The duration of the ritual is derived from the Duration table: the desired power PL determines the duration. Whipping up an intercontinental PL 6 spell could take months, which is why Ritual is worth 3 vulnerability points. Talisman works exactly like Gizmo; use the rules above. Spellcraft works like Transforming, that is, every use of power necessitates one action's worth of chanting, singing, gesturing etc. Spellcraft is also worth 1 vulnerability point. At first glance it may seem that Spellcraft mages are penalized more than Transformers, since they have to spend an action before EVERY use of power, but remember that they can remain in their normal form and thus avoid uninvited attention. Having said that, muttering "Iä iä, Cthulhu fhtagn" in a crowd tends to attract SOME attention, except in New York and Innsmouth.
  5. Power Limitation: limit a power somehow and gain +1 PL to it. Examples include limited range (touch), duration (must be "kept up", during which no other targets can be engaged), type of targets (affects only humans, does not affect yellow targets), slow activation (must spend one action charging or preparing the power) and availability (can only be used during day or night or while under direct sunlight etc.). The GM must accept the limitation in every case. Superskills cannot be modified by limitations.
  6. Gadget (a piece of super-equipment) is usually a valid Power Limitation too. For example, if a PC takes a Flight power, but only rolls PL 2 as its rating, he could say the power is tied to a jet-pack or rocket belt and raise it to PL 3. It is recommended that these gadgets are easy to notice and somewhat inconvenient to carry all day long: giving the hero a magical ring with the power of flight makes it too easy for him. (If all his powers were tied to the ring, it would be a different matter. He could take the Gizmo vulnerability instead.) Gadgets also have a tendency to malfunction or run out of energy at a critical moment. Finally, some kind of an explanation for the gadget is usually expected. The film Rocketeer offers a perfect example of a Gadget-based hero.
 
 

COMBAT

The old free-form descriptive system is still valid, should you prefer it. All the new rules are basically just optional chrome to help the GM in his thankless job. You are free to use only those modifiers and rules which you like.

Note 1: Unarmed combat is still assumed to be a familiar skill to everyone.

Note 2: There are situations where some superpowers could logically be substituted for an attribute. Rather than name all possible substitutions, I leave these to each GM to decide on a case-by-case basis.

Note 3: PL 4+ non-lethal attacks are no longer automatically lethal; they are merely often lethal (see Damage, below).

Note 4: If an attribute which has been modified by Good or Bad Things (PL 1+1 or 1-1) is affected by a bonus or penalty, the modifier will remain. Thus the character can temporarily possess the equivalent of a PL 2+1, 2-1, 0+1 or 0-1 ability, even though these ratings are impossible to have normally. This only became important after the introduction of situational modifiers, and it is only fair to allow the characters to keep the slight edge (or hindrance) they had before.
 

Initiative

A person who had no idea that he was going to be attacked loses initiative automatically and cannot do anything on the first turn, EXCEPT DODGE. However, there is a -1 PL penalty, as noted below.
 

Special Situations

Attack/Dodge Rolls Damage/Defense Rolls Modifier Limits: no modifier will take an ability below PL 0 or above PL 7. Ever. PL 8 abilities are never subject to penalties or bonuses.
 

Damage

If the damage PL of a non-lethal attack is higher than the Protection PL of the target, the attack will do lethal damage. That is, unless the attacker pulls his punch and declares otherwise. Good and Bad Things do not count in determining the difference.

Damage vs. Protection roll (from the attacker's viewpoint)

Failure

Normal success Penalties for non-lethal and lethal damage are cumulative.

Critical success

Double critical Healing

Non-lethal damage will wear off pretty fast, as explained above. No skill check (but one action) is required to wake up someone who has been knocked unconscious because of non-lethal damage.

A PL 1 difficulty first aid skill roll will stabilize someone who is dying. Please note that first aid, especially in this sense, is not an automatic skill on 20th century Earth. Anyone can apply a Band-Aid, but stabilizing a person in critical condition is another matter entirely. In game terms, unskilled first aid receives a -1 PL penalty.

If someone has been wounded but is not dying, a successful first aid roll will return one Health PL. If this brings it back to the original number, the penalty for being wounded also disappears. Beyond this, it takes 1D6 days to heal one Health PL if you are in a hospital or equivalent facility (i.e. trained personnel and proper equipment and supplies). If you are not, it takes 2D6 days per PL, during which you must rest or healing will not take place. Superior technology may speed up healing.

Regenerative or healing superpowers speed the process up considerably. For every PL of such a power, subtract one day from the required healing time. If the result is zero or lower, you heal one PL basically immediately (if you are still in combat, it takes one turn) and can roll a new healing period for the next missing PL (if any). You can always roll 1D6 for the healing period, no matter where you are. However, a double critical can kill anyone, no matter how good regenerative powers they have. (Yes, this rule means that beings with a PL 6+ regeneration power heal almost instantly if they are not killed outright. They should.)

There are rumors of beings who have the power of resurrection. Bringing someone back from the dead is a PL 7 difficulty task, and the methods by which this is accomplished vary widely. Deities can just snap their fingers, while highly advanced civilizations may possess the medical technology needed to resurrect a person (as long as the body is found). Resurrection is very much different from creating an undead monster of some poor victim's body. The latter tends to be easier than PL 7, but the resulting life is somewhat lacking in quality.

The difference between healing and regeneration superpowers is basically this: One must be conscious to use a healing power. Regeneration works automatically. However, the latter cannot be used on other people, whereas a healing power can be used on yourself (unless a power limitation is taken). Resurrection powers cannot be used to heal or vice versa.

Finally, if these powers are used to cure diseases, the GM must determine a suitable difficulty. Currently incurable (but known) diseases, such as AIDS, should be of PL 6 difficulty, while curing a hangover would be PL 1 or PL 2.
 

Vehicle damage

Vehicles ignore non-lethal damage (unless it is powerful enough to convert to lethal). Otherwise: These rules replace the old "excess damage rule." If you preferred it, by all means continue using it. I just felt it should not use a different mechanism from everything else.
 

Other vehicle combat modifications

Huge vehicles

If really big vehicles are involved in combat, even a double critical with a typical weapon (anything below PL 6; nukes CAN take out most targets) might not be enough to destroy them. This I suggest the following simple system: when a huge vehicle (Size PL 5 minimum) is hit, roll 1D6 on the following table. This indicates the general hit location. Then, roll for damage as usual, but apply the results ONLY to the location in question. The exact results are very much up to the GM. If the rolled location is not present in the target vehicle (for example, not all ships have weapons), it represents a hit to a non-critical location (empty space). These do only cosmetic damage.

Vehicle hit location table
 

  1. Mobility: powerplant, propulsion system
  2. Crew: bridge, control center, other stations
  3. Cargo: passengers are also a type of cargo
  4. Fuel
  5. Systems: sensors, communications, life support
  6. Firepower: weapons, ammunition, fire control

Finally, huge vehicles often have active defense systems, such as Phalanx CIWS autocannons or point defense missiles. These can stop an incoming attack if there is enough time (a GM call again). This is resolved by a defense system tech level PL versus weapon's speed PL roll, and only one try is allowed. Since most attacks come in at PL 5 speeds, interception is anything but easy. For example, the Phalanx is probably PL 4 technology, which means an incoming missile has a slight edge.

Example: Let's take a British Type 42 destroyer. Two of them were sunk in the Falklands war, so they know how to play the role of a target. Two enemy airplanes approach H.M.S. Unlucky Alf undetected. The flight leader fires an Exocet antiship missile. He achieves a normal hit. Now he rolls for location. 1 indicates mobility, which the GM decides to be the engine room. He gets a critical success, which means that the ship loses all mobility (dead in the water) and someone working on the engines is injured. ALL OTHER systems continue to function. The second pilot fires his missile. The ship tries to stop the attack with a Sea Dart SAM, but fails. The Exocet inflicts normal damage to firepower. The GM rules that the fire control devices were damaged, giving a -1 PL penalty to all gunfire. Later, under cover of the night, an enemy submarine sneaks up to this floating gunnery target. It fires a torpedo... double critical to fuel! The poor destroyer catches fire and all hands must abandon ship. The blast also killed or injured some sailors immediately.

Crashes

 

EXPERIENCE POINTS

Besides giving one extra PL for an attempt, spending one E-point allows you to reroll the dice and pick the better result. This can be done after you have seen the opposing roll. The two methods can be combined: if you really need to succeed in something, you can spend one E-point in advance to give you an additional die and spend another point to reroll the increased number of dice, if the first roll was not good enough.

All PCs now receive one free E-point at the beginning of their careers, after the creation process is over. This further distinguishes them from normal folks and improves their changes to survive during that all-important first adventure. Major NPCs receive this benefit as well.
 
 

AFTERWORD

A patch does not need one. Go and playtest the crap out of this thing. BTW, thanks to everyone on the mailing list who sent me feedback. I just wish there had been more of you.

Mikko out.