Make your own free website on Tripod.com

POWERGAME 5TH EDITION

The Increasingly Serious RPG of Superpowered Heroics
Edition 5.0a (11 July 1997)

Concept, design and development by Mikko Kauppinen
Design help by Guy Robinson and Scott Baxter
Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 by Mikko Kauppinen
All rights reserved, except as noted below

All references to characters appearing in various real world 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.

INDEX

  1. Introduction: What's New?
  2. Universal Power Level Tables: Combat Table, General Purpose Table
  3. Basic Task Resolution
  4. Character Creation: Attributes, Alien Races, Superpowers, Options, Good and Bad Things, Vulnerabilities
  5. Combat: Initiative, Attacking and Defending, Special Situations, Vehicle Combat
  6. GM Section
  7. Afterword
  8. Appendix 1: Character Sheet

1. INTRODUCTION

Back in 1994, I intended Powergame to be the definitive superhero roleplaying game for munchkins and powergamers. The rules were to fit on a single page, and for a while they did. I never imagined someone would use the game for more or less serious campaigns. People did, however, and this prompted some thinking on my part. I found out that there were indeed the makings of a decent system buried under the silliness. The 4th edition was a step to a new, somewhat more serious direction, and this one represents another tentative step down that road.

Having played many different RPGs I have come to respect systems with simple rules. They allow for GM interpretation and keep the game fast-paced. They are not necessarily any less realistic than highly complex systems with countless charts and modifiers for every imaginable situation. The 3rd edition of Powergame, the first I was really happy with, was a very simple game. This edition is basically the same thing with more examples, some additional rules and, hopefully, better organization. The game itself has not become that much more complex. And it is still possible to create truly horrifying characters who have enough power to take on a whole world, or at least give it a damn good try.

Potential players should note that this text does not even attempt to explain the basics of roleplaying. It is assumed that at least one person, usually the GM, has some previous experience with RPGs. Besides, an experienced GM will likely be more at home with the open-ended approach of this game, since he does not need a rulebook to back up his every decision.

Finally, 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.

1.1. What's New?

Over one year has passed since edition 4.11. Something had to be changed, because your campaigns must be running smoothly by now. And as a designer, I felt an urgent need to keep up with Call of Cthulhu and Magic: The Gathering, both of which are now in their fifth editions. Seriously, a campaign world project is being revived as I write this, and I thought I might as well polish the rules a little bit. Thus the attribute Prowess was discarded. Agility and Strength are capable of doing the same job well enough, and Prowess was too reminiscent of a similar attribute in the Marvel Superheroes RPG. The character creation rules were also adjusted and some combat rules were modified or clarified. I hope this does not disturb your game too much. You can of course ignore any changes you do not like in your ongoing game. For those updating from the previous edition, I have tried to mark all changes and new rules with the legend MODIFIED.

2. 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 following two tables give examples of the things which belong under each power level. They are divided in five categories: Firepower, Armor, General, Size & Mass and Speed (all of which should be self-explanatory).

2.1. Combat Table

Level  Firepower                     Armor
----------------------------------------------------------------------
0      Weak attack. Less powerful    Easily hurt or damaged. Less
       than a normal punch.          resistant than a human body.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
1      Average attack. Typical       Human body, that is, some skin,
       human punch or kick.          flesh and bones.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
2      Attack with muscle-powered    Ancient armor (chain mail, plate
       melee or ranged weapons.      mail). "Armored" animals.
       Large beast attacks.          Weak structures.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
3      Firearms. Small explosive     Modern body armor. Ordinary
       attacks (hand grenades).      structures (normal vehicles).
----------------------------------------------------------------------
4      Portable rocket launchers.    Light armored vehicles.
       Mortars. Autocannons.         "Typical" comic book power suits.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
5      Artillery. Missiles.          Main battle tanks. Battleships.
       Bombs.                        Bunkers. Star Wars Walkers.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
6      Nuclear weapons.              Deep nuclear bomb shelter.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
7      Beyond modern human           No technological examples.
       technology. Godlike           Some immensely powerful
       power. Death Star             superbeings.
       superlaser.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
8      Cosmic power. Matter transformation/creation/destruction.
       Forces that can do basically anything.

2.2. General Purpose Table

Level  General             Size and Maximum Mass   Speed
----------------------------------------------------------------------
0      a) Simple task.     Smaller than man-       Slower than
       b) Impaired human   sized. (No more than    a human.
       ability.            50 kg.)
       c) Obsolete tech.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
1      a) Average task.    Man-sized.              As fast as a
       b) Typical human    (100-150 kg.)           human. Slow ship.
       ability. c) Normal                          (Around 25-30 kph.)
       civilian tech.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
2      a) Difficult task.  Motorcycle.             Bicycle.
       b) Limit of human   Snowmobile.             Many animals.
       ability.            (400-500 kg.)           Average boat.
       c) High-end                                 Tank or APC.
       civilian tech.                              (60-80 kph.)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
3      a) Grueling task.   Car. Small helicopter.  Average car.
       b) Superhuman       (A few tons.)           Very fast boat.
       ability.                                    Civil helicopter.
       c) Restricted/                              (Top speed
       military tech.                              around 200 kph.)
----------------------------------------------------------------------
4      a) Herculean task.  Fighter jet (F-16).     Prop-driven
       c) State of the     Tank. (Dozens of tons.) airplane.
       art military tech.                          Sports car.
                                                   Combat helicopter.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
5      a) Absurd task.     Huge airplane (747).    Jet aircraft.
       c) The best tech    (Hundreds of tons.)     Bullet. Missile.
       in field use.
       Not very common.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
6      a) Impossible       Skyscraper. Golden      Spacecraft (at
       task. c) Limit of   Gate. (Lots of tons.)   sublight speeds).
       human technology
       (can be done in
       theory). Mostly
       prototypes.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
7      c) Way beyond       Cloud City. Death       Warp speed.
       human technology,   Star. (Guess.)          Hyperdrive.
       but within reach                            Time travel.
       of advanced
       civilizations.
       Godlike power.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
8      Cosmic power. Matter transformation/creation/destruction.
       Forces that can do basically anything.

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 rest 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 beings of each GM's Powergame universe. Equivalents in the Marvel Universe would be Eternity, Death and Thanos during the Infinity Gauntlet saga.

3. BASIC TASK RESOLUTION

The character who attempts to do something chooses the power, skill or attribute he wants to use. The GM determines the difficulty of the task (the opposing PL) using the above tables as guidelines. If two characters directly oppose each other, they use their respective power levels. Then both sides roll a number of D6 equal to their power level. Whoever gets the bigger total result wins. When comparing the results the GM should note that if one roll is twice as big as the other (or more), it is a significant difference. This kind of a result is called a critical success (or failure, as the case may be). A tie means that the relative situation does not change.

The GM can always rule that a given task is routine, which means that the character does not have to roll at all: he succeeds automatically. This speeds up play and is quite realistic too. Most people can handle everyday tasks easily. It is only when unexpected difficulties arise or when a person is under severe stress that serious failures begin to rear their ugly head.

MODIFIED How do you use a power level 0, then? It is a bit difficult to roll zero dice. The answer is simple: you roll 1D3, that is, 1D6 which is interpreted as follows: 1-2 equals 1, 3-4 equals 2 and 5-6 equals 3.

Example #1: Patrick Shanahan, a computer expert, is trying to break into a system which is supposed to hold files detailing the financial transactions of a certain drug lord. His skill with computers is at PL 1+1 (the +1 part is explained below under Character Creation). The GM rules that this is a Difficult task and the opposing power level will be 2. Patrick's player roll 1D6+1 and the GM rolls 2D6. Patrick gets lucky and rolls 7, while the GM rolls only 5. The result indicates a normal success; Patrick gains access to the system and begins looking for the files (which might require additional rolls).

Had the player rolled 5 and the GM 7, it would have been a normal failure, probably indicating that Patrick finds the security measures too tight. A critical failure could mean he was particularly inept and left behind some traces which could reveal his identity, or triggered an alarm while he was still in the system. A critical success might see Patrick penetrating the security with ease and getting back out without anyone ever realizing he was there. And finally, if both had rolled 7, Patrick would not have gained access, but it would have been possible to try again later since the system was not alerted either.

Example #2: Some days later, Patrick has had a few beers too many. He challenges his friend Joe to an arm-wrestling contest, which is all very well, except for the fact that Joe is a former Marine and currently working as a mercenary. He is considerably more muscular than Patrick, having PL 1+1 Strength as opposed to Patrick's PL 1-1 (Patrick is a wizard with computers, but physically weak). They roll appropriate dice; Joe gets 5 while Patrick gets 2. There is a loud "Ouch!" as Joe slams Patrick's hand to the table, indicating a critical success.

4. CHARACTER CREATION

Now that you have some idea of the rules mechanics, we can proceed to the most interesting part: "How to build your own Power Character" (also known as PC). Just follow the simple steps below.

4.1. Attributes

MODIFIED All humans share the following basic attributes: Agility (includes manual dexterity; used for dodging and ranged combat), Strength (used for melee combat and to determine unarmed combat damage), Health (fitness and poison resistance, among other things), Charisma (includes appearance), Wits (intelligence and senses; used for initiative), and Psyche (willpower; used for mental combat). The abbreviated form of the list is ASHCWP, or "ashcup" for ease of pronunciation; players of Marvel Superheroes will remember FASERIP, a similar alphabet soup. The attributes are at PL 1 unless modified later. The 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. Anything beyond PL 1+1 in the secondary attributes is considered supernatural, as opposed to the human limit of PL 2 in the basic attributes. Also, skills cannot be based on secondary attributes. Otherwise they are similar to the basic attributes.

Each PC also has a list of skills which he is familiar with. They can be expressed concisely (MA from Harvard, US Navy F-14 pilot) or expanded into long, detailed lists (Driving Cars, Swimming, Playing Guitars). Any combination of the two is also fine; see the example below. Skills do not have a PL of their own; they are based on the character's 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 be the same attribute every time.

The skills indicate what the PC knows as the result of his background, education, training and hobbies. The player can freely write his list, but the GM must approve it. Nobody can do everything. Most unfamiliar 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. The GM must 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.

Example: Michael McLeod is a normal human being. Thus all of his basic and secondary attributes are at PL 1 in the beginning of the character creation process. McLeod is a NASA astronaut, which means he has a good education covering many fields. In addition to his professional skills, which can simply be written as NASA Astronaut Training instead of listing all the various fields, he is good at Playing Poker, Parachuting, and Cross-country Bicycling (he likes to live on the edge, even when he is supposed to be relaxing). Since McLeod is a well-educated American male of the 90s, he also has a number of skills common to that background (like driving a car). All these skills are based on his attributes.

4.11. 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, golems) can be similarly created. See also 4.3., Option #4: Divine Beings.

4.2. Superpowers

Every 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 sometimes referred to as superskills). The origin of powers does not matter here. If you have a super-strong hero, for the purposes of character creation it is all the same whether he is a mutant, an alien or a cyborg with artificial limbs. The GM must 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.

MODIFIED Each power has a level, determined by rolling (you guessed it) 1D6. You must choose all your powers before you roll for their levels, and it is not possible to swap the numbers around or increase one while decreasing another. For finer control see 4.3. below. However, if you are trying to increase an 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 attribute PL +1. For example, if you have normal PL 1 Strength, decide to take Increased Strength as a superpower and roll 1 as the PL, it is increased to PL 2. 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. The modification can only be applied to your innate abilities.

Example: Our friend McLeod was on a shuttle flight a while back. During the mission he went outside the ship to repair a malfunctioning reconnaissance satellite. It was supposed to be a routine job, but something happened out there. Something so powerful that it burned out most of the shuttle's electronics and made the rest give insane readings. McLeod has not talked about the event in public, but it is known that during his space walk he somehow gained superpowers. He is still working for NASA, but his job description has changed radically.

The player rolls 4, which means that McLeod will have four powers. After some heavy thinking, and a few additional rolls, it is determined that they are Flight (3), Gravity Control (3), Life Support (1) (he does not need much air, food or water), and ESP (2). The player is not very happy with the PLs, but that is life for you, and besides, his Life Support PL is immediately raised to 2, since PL 1 would not have improved his abilities at all. The GM ruled, quite correctly, that the ability to go without breathing or eating is present in every human to some extent.

4.3. Options: PASS, Modeling, Super Normals, Divine Beings and Common People

Option #1: PASS

If you want to have absolute 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 certain way 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 absolute control, PASS is a fast way to create "typical" NPCs. For example, if you need a power suited goon, 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.

Option #2: Modeling

MODIFIED 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.

Example: A character is needed for a very high-powered and not at all serious campaign. The player spends almost two minutes thinking up a suitable concept, and then starts writing up his hero, known as the Cosmic Crusader. The attribute list looks like this: Agility 3, Strength 5, Health 5, Charisma 3, Wits 4, Psyche 4, Protection 4, Speed 2. He takes the following superpowers: Fiery Blast 5, Meteor Flight 5, Invulnerability to Fire 6 and, just to round it up, Infrared Vision 4. He hands the character sheet to the GM and begins to think about the Good Things he should take.

Option #3: Super normals

If you do not feel like playing yet another ridiculously powerful, spandex-clad superhero, there is another option. You can choose to play a "super normal," that is, a person who has trained for years and years until his physical performance and selected skills are as close to human limits as possible. Well-known super normal characters from comic books include Batman, The Punisher and Captain America (yes, he received that serum, but he is still a super normal in Powergame terms). Brilliant scientists and other exceptional humans also fall under this category.

MODIFIED In Powergame terms there are three kinds of super normals: the basic super normal (examples include the above three) and its two subtypes, the super-skilled specialist, called "genius" (your typical eccentric scientist, who has wild theories which of course turn out to be correct) and the almost-normal "action hero" (James Bond and Indiana Jones are good examples). The first type gets 1D6 powers at PL 2 (or simply 3 powers if you use PASS), which are almost always used to increase his basic attributes since these characters rarely have any supernatural powers. They might have some relatively low-key powers, such as PL 2 Danger Sense, Mind Control or Telepathy, which could be explained by latent psionic talents, oriental martial arts training etc.

The second type gets a single superskill, the level of which is determined by 1D6 (using PASS, PL 3 is what you get). It allows him to do anything related to the skill very well, without defaulting to his attributes. These types are commonly NPC scientists who break the laws of physics or something like that. The superskill cannot be a physical one; if you want a kung-fu master you have to create him using the first type of super normal PC. The third type allows for truly normal heroes, who have no abilities even remotely superhuman. Compared to ordinary citizens, however, they might as well come from Mars. These PCs get twice as many Good Things as other characters (see 4.4. below).

What is the advantage of playing super normals, you might ask. They are less powerful and gain nothing in return. The answer is simple: there is no advantage. You play them if you like them, or if the GM decides to run a low-powered campaign.

Example: Mark Chateau is a vigilante who has dedicated his life to hunting down criminals. He had had quite a lot of military training before he began his hunt, and during the years he has only got better at what he does. He was created using the rules for the first type of super normal. His Strength, Agility, and Health are all at PL 2, making him a truly formidable opponent in combat. He has a wide variety of skills, most of which are related to killing people and getting away with it.

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, 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 only meant to be used with humanoid deities. Alien races are created as explained above (though you can use this system for human-looking ultra-powerful aliens: Superman is a perfect example).

MODIFIED All divine beings have a base power level for their attributes just like humans. However, it is determined by rolling 1D6 for each basic attribute and Protection (their Speed starts at PL 1, like humans'). Note that you can also use PASS in connection with gods: an average divine race has a base PL 3 in each attribute. 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. After determining the attribute PLs, proceed as usual. Divine beings do not get any extra powers or Good Things (explained below) in addition to their extraordinary attribute levels.

Roleplaying deities might present problems, even if they were actually aliens. A player might say: "Hey, my character Ares is a god with PL 4 in Wits; he's so smart he can figure out the criminals' master plan, location of their HQ and identity of their leader in less than five seconds." Technically or rules-wise the player is not far wrong. The brightest humans only have an intelligence of PL 2. A PL 4 mind can probably do things humans cannot even dream of.

However, as comic books have repeatedly shown, being super-intelligent does not equal being clever or street-smart. Superman himself has made many mistakes. Besides, the deity's abilities only apply for his own environment. An ancient Greek god is probably not at home in the 20th century world, unless he has lived among us for a long time. Likewise, he cannot invent a "Water-Into-Gold-Matic" just like that. Always consider the deity's home culture. (And be very, very careful with gods from ultra-technological, degenerate future worlds. Cyberpunks rarely believe in gods anyway.) Finally, many divine beings are arrogant and/or very self-confident because of their powers. Thor and Hercules certainly are. This can be used against them by smart opponents. Bad Things and vulnerabilities (see 4.4. and 4.5., below) are yet another way to limit divine beings (Allergy to Kryptonite comes to mind).

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).

Example: Ares, The Predator, a god of war, has the following attributes: Agility 3, Strength 4, Health 3, Charisma 2, Wits 4, Psyche 4, Protection 2 and Speed 1. The player used PASS to guarantee satisfactory PLs in Agility and Health, but wanted to have higher Strength and Protection. The first gamble paid off, the second one did not. The other attributes were rolled randomly because they did not concern the player that much.

Ares also has the following superpowers: Flight 4, Damage Resistance 1 (to increase his Protection; unfortunately the player rolled only 1, which means the final PL will be 3 because his existing Protection PL was 2, thus making PL 3 the minimum result) and Warrior's Sight 5 (he can see really far and accurately).

Option #5: Common people

MODIFIED There might be a player who thinks that even super normals are too powerful. He is probably playing the wrong game, but it is perfectly possible to create common people, characters who have absolutely no special advantages. They receive no superpowers of any kind, unless they take at least a PL 2 vulnerability and spend the points to take a power. They do not get any more Good Things than other characters. However, being PCs, they still get the 1D6 free Good Things which every player character gets (see below). They are normal people, but above average normal people. There is little reason to not play an action hero PC instead and get 2D6 Good Things, except this: common people can spend their vulnerability points however they wish. Action heroes can only take additional Good Things. Thus if someone wants to play an angst-ridden, low-powered psychic whose abilities have caused him to go insane, for example, this might be the way to do it. NPC common people are similar in every respect, but they do not get any free Good Things. See Example #2 under 4.5. below.

4.4. Good and Bad Things

All characters also receive additional abilities known as Good Things. Good Things could be called "everyday superpowers". They include Wealth, Special Knowledge, Good Connections etc. In other RPGs they are usually known as Advantages or Quirks. Good Things can also be small increases to PL 1 basic attributes (higher PLs cannot be boosted with Good Things). One Good Thing equals a +1 increase to one of your character's basic or secondary attributes (note that +1 is the maximum increase per attribute). This bonus is added to the 1D6 rolls; it is not the same as a +1 PL bonus. A PL 2 attribute means that the character is among the very best humans in that field. A +1 bonus in an attribute indicates that the character is good at what he does, but not exceptional.

MODIFIED 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, as you can see from the power level tables in chapter 2. 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.

Note that skills cannot be increased with Good Things. This rule exists mainly to streamline things, but it also helps to maintain play balance (if such a thing exists in this game). The problem can illustrated with the following example: Character A has a Shooting Handguns skill, and Character B has a Police Training skill. If you add a +1 bonus to both, it is clear the B benefits much more. If Powergame had fixed skill lists things would be different, but because it does not, it is simpler to limit the use of Good Things. Besides, increasing attributes directly results in more powerful characters anyway. However, exotic skills which could otherwise be hard to justify, can be taken as Good Things and based on the attributes as usual.

MODIFIED Many Good/Bad Things only exist to help describe the character, without affecting any dice rolls. Wealth and Connections come to mind. The GM just takes them into account when roleplaying his NPCs and making decisions. These can also be used to further emphasize some aspect of the character, above and beyond what his attributes would indicate. For example, if someone has Charisma 1+1 after taking a Good Thing, he could spend another one and declare his PC is Really Handsome, basically supermodel material. The player has a free hand in choosing his Good Things, but the GM always has the right to suggest changes.

NPC common people have to balance every Good Thing with a Bad Thing. However, PCs and important 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 are the opposite of Good Things. They include things such as Bad Reputation and Poverty. They can also be penalties to your attributes. A -1 penalty is the largest allowed. If you put a Bad Thing in Protection, it means your PC is unusually fragile, and if you put one in Speed, it might mean a limp or other form of impairment.

If you have created an action hero type of super normal, he gets 2D6 Good Things free, or 6 if you are using the PASS rule. This compensates for the total lack of any abilities or powers even approaching human limits. Otherwise they are subject to all rules in the above paragraphs.

Example #1: Michael McLeod, the astronaut-turned-superhero, has three Good Things for free. The player decides that they are Wits +1 (not anyone can become an astronaut), Psyche +1 (ditto), and Amazing Knowledge Of Space Shuttles (who needs manuals anyway). To add more depth to the character, the player decides to take one Bad Thing: McLeod has some Ego Problems (he pictures himself as the greatest shuttle pilot of all time). This allows him to take a Good Thing as well: he now has an Important Friend (he has known a Senator from New Jersey since college).

Example #2: Janet Bond, an action hero character, is the politically correct 90s counterpart of the legendary British agent James Bond. She is a black woman in her early 30s who works for the CIA. She is also one of the very few field agents who have an Omega Clearance (or "license to kill", as it is jokingly called). Her Agility, Health, Charisma, Wits and Psyche are all at 1+1. Bond is also Very Beautiful, even more so than her above-average Charisma would suggest. (The player rolled 6 Good Things.) The player decides to take one Bad Thing to add another dimension to her character: Ms Bond is an Aggressive Feminist, whose opinion of most men can only be described as low. Now the character can also have a High Society Background.

4.5. Vulnerabilities

Finally, your character may have a vulnerability. It is not mandatory, but it can be used to balance bad rolls during PC creation. You can freely choose the substance, condition etc. which your PC is vulnerable to (with the GM's approval, of course). Possibly the most famous example in comic books is Superman's vulnerability to Kryptonite. Real life examples include various phobias (darkness, heights) and illnesses (like AIDS, which would make you vulnerable to a lot of things and kill you slowly and unpleasantly). In some cases the GM must carefully consider whether a given vulnerability is actually more like a Bad Thing. A PC can only take one vulnerability.

The vulnerability PL is used as an attack against 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.

For each PL you put into your chosen weakness, 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.

MODIFIED If you have a super normal character of the action hero type, the vulnerability points can only be used to get more Good Things since they are the only powers you have. Thus you should carefully consider whether it is worth the hassle, especially if you are thinking about a vulnerability more serious than PL 1. Genius types can take more Good Things, increase the level of their superskill or take one additional superskill (and only one), and basic super normals and common people can use their vulnerability points as they wish.

There is a special case of a two-point vulnerability, and that is putting PL 0 in one of your attributes. For humans this means an impairment of some kind. This is not a vulnerability in the strictest sense, but in practice it handicaps you at least as much. You can choose an attribute which has a higher PL than 1, but you still get only two vulnerability points since this rule was balanced for normal humans, not aliens or demigods. Choose wisely.

Please note that you cannot raise any power level above 6. In the Powergame universe level 6 is the limit of humanity's cosmic potential. They can only achieve 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.

Example #1: McLeod's power levels are not very high, so the player decides to take a level 2 vulnerability: Michael's shocking experience in the darkness of space caused him to be Afraid Of The Dark. It is good that he has a strong Psyche, otherwise many common situations might render him helpless. Anyway, he always carries a Mini-Maglite in his pocket, and a smaller one in his key ring. The vulnerability allows him to increase two of his powers by one PL; the final list looks like this: Flight (3), Gravity Control (4), Life Support (3), and ESP (2).

Example #2: Nicole Holman, a 16-year-old alien abductee (or so she claims; then again, no-one has been able to find out where she spent the three weeks she was missing), is a common people type of character. Her attributes are: Agility 1, Strength 1, Health 1, Charisma 1, Wits 1, Psyche 1+1, Protection 1, Speed 0. The player rolled 2 Good Things and decided that they are Increased Psyche and Animal Empathy (she gets along well with animals). The player also chose to put PL 0 in Speed, which indicates a two-point vulnerability. Ever since the abduction, her left leg has been practically paralyzed. Sometimes it affects her left side and left arm too. Doctors have been unable to determine the cause. She opted to spend the points for a superpower and chose Telepathy. Instead of taking PL 3 she rolled the power level randomly, unfortunately getting only 1. Not a happy character, perhaps, but certainly a different one.

5. COMBAT

5.1. Initiative

Combat follows the basic task resolution rules. But since it is literally a matter of life and death, it is dealt with in more detail than other tasks. First, all the participants roll an initiative test against Wits or an applicable superpower. The one to get the highest result goes first; he can also let others act before he does, or wait until something happens and instantly act at that point (wait until someone raises his head above cover and shoot, for example). The last option is called a "trigger action". Ties act simultaneously.

MODIFIED If someone has no idea he is being attacked, like when a sniper is shooting at someone from a rooftop several hundred meters away, he loses initiative automatically and cannot do anything that first turn. The GM should usually allow Wits rolls for the victim to avoid being surprised. Not easy rolls, perhaps, but cold-blooded murder of characters tends to turn off players.

MODIFIED A critical success in an initiative check means that the winner receives a bonus action in addition to his normal one; both of them can be completed before the losing side gets to do anything. For example, he can punch his opponent twice before the poor guy can hit back. If there are multiple opponents, the attacker's initiative roll must be a critical success compared to any and all of theirs, otherwise it is treated like a normal success. You might very well get the drop on a guard who is fumbling with his zipper after relieving himself, but it does you little good if he has two companions who are pointing their AK-47s at you. If you do gain two actions against multiple opponents, they can be used against different targets.

Example: Muscleman, a hero with great Strength but little imagination, is raiding a singularly well-equipped terrorist base. They even have an airfield complete with MiG fighter planes. Right now he is in a bit of trouble, seeing a terrorist who is pointing a nasty-looking RPG-7 rocket launcher at his direction. While Muscleman is amazingly strong (PL 4), he is not any faster than a normal human (he has PL 1 Wits). Both roll 1 dice; the grinning goon wins the initiative by one.

Another terrorist, who is trying to quietly sneak out of the combat, turns around a corner and finds himself face to face with Lady Justice. He does not like this at all and decides to gun her down. The terrorist has normal PL 1 Wits, but Lady Justice has PL 2 Superspeed. She rolls 8 while the hapless gunman rolls 4. Lady Justice gets a critical success and thus two actions against her opponent.

5.2. Attacking and Defending

There are two types of attacks, lethal (guns, explosions, lasers, sharp melee weapons, many superpowers) and non-lethal (unarmed combat, blunt melee weapons, stun guns and other attacks specifically designed to stun). Non-lethal attacks are much less likely to kill, but accidents do happen if someone like Muscleman hits a normal person with full strength (non-lethal attacks at power levels 4+ are usually treated as lethal attacks). One can also deliberately use a non-lethal attack form to kill, but this is subject to the GM's judgment, and usually requires a critical success (see Example #2 below).

The attacker can always choose to use less than full power, unless he is using a weapon which has a fixed power setting. It is impossible to slow down a bullet, while it is easy to use your Disintegration Ray superpower at less than full power. Some high-tech beam weapons such as phasers and blasters have adjustable power settings ranging from mild stun to vaporization. But it is possible to limit the damage done by a gun, for example, by careful aiming (see below).

The attacker should clearly state what he is trying to accomplish, declaring the power, skill, or item he will use. Options include actions such as "just punching him", "trying to vaporize that sucker with my Cosmic Energy Blast power" and "trying to knock him unconscious." This helps the GM to determine the final outcome. The attacker can also try to limit the damage done by an attack with fixed power by saying that "This .44 Magnum will blow his head clean off; I'll try to shoot him in the leg" or something along those lines. While there are usually no modifiers to the attacker's roll (vehicle combat is an exception), the GM might sometimes require a critical success for an attack to work out as intended (shooting the gun out of someone's hand might require this).

MODIFIED The accuracy of an attack will depend on its type. All forms of melee combat, whether armed or unarmed, roll against Strength, while all ranged combat, including shooting, throwing and using long-distance superpowers, roll against Agility (in both cases an appropriate superpower could be used instead). Note that if your character does not have an appropriate skill he might be subject to the penalties for unfamiliar skill use (for instance, he has picked up a gun and tries to shoot for the first time in his life). Unarmed combat always defaults to Strength; every character is assumed to know how to punch someone, even if he does not have any kind of unarmed combat skills.

An area attack can be used to harm multiple targets, intentionally or otherwise, but it does not improve your chances to hit. It does make dodging near misses harder, though. Sometimes technology can compensate for your character's weaknesses: many advanced combat vehicles have fire control systems which could improve the accuracy of the weapon operator. See chapter 5.3.

MODIFIED After the attack roll the defender can try to dodge the attack, using Agility or an appropriate superpower. If there are multiple targets, all dodge against the same attack roll. However, if the attacker used an area attack, such as a PL 5 Fire Creation power, hand grenade, or nuclear bomb, the dodge might not help at all or only a little. The GM will have to determine how effective the dodge was. It is perfectly possible to survive a hand grenade by hiding behind something, or maybe even by lying flat, but the effects of a nuclear explosion are considerably harder to avoid. A critical success on the part of the attacker means that he hit a particularly vulnerable spot, hit the extremely small target that was aimed at or achieved some other special effect he had in mind. A critically successful dodge gives the defender a free action, such as a counterattack (if possible), if he has already spent his normal action for the turn. If he still has his normal action left, he automatically wins initiative for the next turn but does not gain a free action. Tie in an attack-dodge contest indicates a near miss, such as a bullet whistling past your head.

MODIFIED Mental attacks are treated in a slightly different fashion. They are "aimed" with Psyche and "dodged" by Psyche as well. If the attack "hits," the defense roll is also made against Psyche (the damage is naturally rolled according to the PL of the mental power in question); see below.

If the defender does not avoid the attack, it is time to see if the attack was powerful enough to damage him. The attacker rolls against the PL of his attack: Strength for unarmed attacks, the appropriate PL for superpowers, and whatever the power level table says for various weapons. The defender uses his Protection attribute or any other defense he might have, such as a bulletproof vest or a Force Field superpower. The GM determines what happens, taking into account the power levels involved, results of the dice rolls, and intention of the attacker. If there are multiple targets, all defend against the same damage roll.

MODIFIED A normal success in a damage roll means it more or less accomplished what the attacker had in mind. A critical success indicates unusually severe damage for a given attack (really hard punch, hollowpoint bullet expanding violently). A double critical indicates a truly dangerous attack, one which both hits a vulnerable spot and does exceptional damage there (karate strike in the throat, bullet in the head, anti-tank missile cooking off a tank's ammunition). Tied rolls or a normally successful defense mean that the defender took the attack as well as possible (rolling with the punch, taking the bullet in his kevlar vest). A critically successful defense indicates a failed attack (weak punch, 120mm round ricocheting from the tank's armor). But even the last result might not save the character from some particularly powerful attacks, such as nuclear weapons. If a nuclear warhead is faulty and only produces half the expected blast, the difference hardly matters to a man at ground zero. In all cases, the GM's decision is final.

Example #1: The terrorist has PL 1 Agility, which determines his skill with the rocket launcher, and Muscleman has PL 1 Agility for dodging. The enemy gets lucky again: he rolls 4, and Muscleman rolls 3. The PL 4 antitank rocket hits Muscleman squarely in the chest. It is good for him that he has a superpower called Tough Skin at PL 4. However, Muscleman's bad luck continues: his roll of 16 is not enough to beat the bad guy's 18. The GM rules that the rocket knocks Muscleman unconscious for a while. He also has one or two fractured ribs and a nasty burn in the chest. Since the difference was so minimal, and the power levels involved were equal, the GM decides that the blast did not do more serious harm. Still, the terrorist now has plenty of time to finish his job...

Meanwhile, Lady Justice rams her knuckles up her sorry opponent's nose (first rolling 4 against his 3 to hit, then rolling 5 against his 3 for damage), stunning him momentarily. Then she whirls around and kicks loose most of his teeth with a move Chuck Norris would be proud of (again 4-3 for hitting, then 6-3 for damage, indicating a critical success). The bloodied scumbag staggers back a few steps and falls down, unconscious. Lady Justice looks at Muscleman to see how he is doing, and then speeds off to rescue her partner from the terrorist who is currently reloading.

Example #2: The infamous vigilante Mark Chateau spots two crackheads beating up an old lady. Infuriated, he reaches under his voluminous overcoat and draws a compact Heckler & Koch MP5K submachine gun. He yells: "Freeze or I'll shoot!" The punks are not to be intimidated: one flicks open a butterfly knife and the other draws a Glock 17, which he has stolen.

Chateau does not have any fancy powers, but his Strength, Agility and Health are at PL 2. The punks are PL 1 throughout. Chateau wins initiative. A satisfied grin spreads across his face when he pulls the trigger and keeps it down, emptying a 30-round magazine at the targets (the GM rules they stand so close together that the burst can hit them both, that is, it functions as an area attack). He gets to roll 2 dice, since shooting accuracy is based on his PL 2 Agility. The result is 7. The punks try to dodge and naturally fail, rolling 3 (a critical hit) and 5.

Firearms do PL 3 damage; being normal humans the punks defend with PL 1. The knifeboy catches a dozen bullets all over his body and dies (Chateau rolled only 7, but the unfortunate punk rolled 2: a double critical). The Glockman is somewhat more lucky. He gets a sweet 6 for damage resistance. A couple of slugs penetrate his torso but miss every vital organ. He is still alive, though bleeding rather excessively. Somehow he manages to avoid falling down. Howling in pain, the punk fires at Chateau, but misses when the latter ducks (the attack roll was 4, Chateau's dodge 6).

The next turn Chateau wins initiative again. Knowing his gun is empty, he rushes the distance separating him from the crook and performs a textbook-perfect flying kick, rolling 12 (his Strength is at PL 2 as well). The unfortunate youth fails to dodge (rolling only 3). Then Chateau rolls 6 for damage, while the enemy rolls a big 1. Another double critical. The punk's neck snaps cleanly. (Note: this is an example of a non-lethal attack used to kill.) The vigilante gets on his feet and reloads his SMG. The old lady begins to scream.

5.21. Special Situations

MODIFIED Most of the time, combat will consist of a group of characters trying to hurt another group of characters. But there will always be situations where the above rules fail to cover what a player has in mind. This is where the GM's improvisational skills are tested. Let's say, for example, that Muscleman wants to grab a villain and just hold him there, without inflicting damage. The GM could say that establishing a hold is resolved exactly like a normal attack, but, if the attack succeeds, there will be a Strength contest to see if the villain can break free.

Another situation which is certain to come up involves someone attacking an inanimate object. A villain may wish to blow up a parked car to create a diversion or to impress Innocent Bystanders with the awesome might of his PL 5 Utter Devastation superpower. A car cannot dodge without a driver, so the GM assigns a difficulty level to the task according to the distance between the villain and the target, size of the car, visibility, atmospheric temperature, cosmic vibrations and other relevant factors. For instance, if the villain is standing barely 10 meters from a parked Cadillac Fleetwood, the GM might say it is a Simple task (PL 0 difficulty) to hit the car. The effects of a hit would be resolved using the normal combat rules (the villain's attack versus the PL 3 armor of the Cadillac). Can you say KA-BOOM? I knew you could.

Things like this can come up and will come up during play. But instead of writing definite rules for every situation I could imagine, I decided to trust the GMs' intelligence and resourcefulness. No matter how many pages of rules I had written, something would have been left out anyway. So I decided to write as little as possible.

5.3. Vehicle Combat

Powergame vehicle combat is basically similar to man-to-man combat. However, there are a number of small but important differences, which add to "realism" without slowing down the play noticeably. They help in getting the feel of vehicle combat right; after all, piloting a vehicle is different from more up-close-and-personal forms of combat.

MODIFIED The initiative roll is replaced with a maneuver roll. The roll is made against the skill of the vehicle's commander or pilot, whichever is better. However, there have been cases where inept commanders have insisted on rolling against their skill even if it was worse than the pilot's. Those commanders usually die fast; unfortunately they tend to take their crews with them. In any case, this system is not designed to simulate engagements between battleships or Enterprise-class starships with hundreds or thousands of crewmembers. Cars, tanks and airplanes, yes.

Piloting skills are based on Wits for most vehicles, and on Agility or occasionally even Strength for small, "body-driven" vehicles, like motorcycles and bicycles. The roll is modified by the vehicle's handling PL, which is easily calculated: (speed PL - size PL). For example, a normal car (Speed 3, Size 3) has no bonus or penalty, while a motorcycle (Speed 3, Size 2) has 1 bonus PL and a trailer truck (Speed 3, Size 4) has 1 penalty PL. This is a gross oversimplification, and thus admirably suited to Powergame. Note that if the vehicle is unusually agile, capable of sudden directional changes (like helicopters, vectored-thrust jets or UFOs), it gets +1 bonus PL. Some vehicles cannot maneuver at all (trains are a good example). They always lose the maneuvering contest.

MODIFIED The maneuver roll determines the initiative for the vehicle and its crew members. Passengers roll as usual. It also determines the relative position of the vehicle. The winner of the maneuvering contest will be in a more advantageous position and is usually able to fire his vehicle-mounted weapons with ease, but the loser might have some problems, especially if his weapons are all forward-mounted. Turreted weapons can usually fire even if the vehicle loses initiative. Passengers might also be able to fire through windows or firing ports. The GM has the final say on whether the losing vehicle can return fire. A critical success in the maneuvering contest always prevents the losing vehicle from shooting back during that turn (this includes its passengers), but it does not give a bonus action to the winner. This represents the situation, "Where did it go? Where the hell did it go?"

MODIFIED Note that sometimes characters in vehicles have to make maneuver rolls outside combat situations. Chases are a typical example. If a chase takes place on an empty highway, a racetrack or something similar, the top speeds of the vehicles will eventually determine the winner (this situation is known as a speed chase). If you know the real-world top speeds of the vehicles involved, the winner is clear; if you do not, roll a Speed versus Speed contest. Speed chases involving vehicles with different speed PLs are pretty much non-events from the start. On crowded city streets and jammed highways some maneuvering is usually required and top speed becomes less important (these are maneuver chases). These situations follow the above rules for calculating the handling PL and making the maneuver roll. Top speed helps, but is not all-important. See Example #1, below. A chase can turn into combat at any point.

MODIFIED For foot chases, the basic speed of a human is PL 1 unless it has been increased by powers or reduced for some reason, such as Bad Things. The GM can resolve maneuver chases on foot by requesting rolls against Agility (to avoid pedestrians and other obstacles), Health (to find out who tires faster) or both. If there is plenty of room to run, the Speed attributes naturally determines the outcome of a speed chase.

MODIFIED The attack roll is made against the gunner's skill, or, if applicable, the skill of the fire control system of the vehicle or weapon, whichever is better. Dodge rolls are made against the skill of the pilot; they can be helped with appropriate countermeasure systems, which give 1 bonus PL. For example, if the attacker fires a heat-seeking missile and the defender deploys flares, he gets a +1 PL bonus. The dodge roll is not modified by the maneuver bonus/penalty of the vehicle. It already did its part during the maneuvering contest.

If an attack penetrates a vehicle's armor, the excess damage (damage roll - armor roll) will affect the passengers. They can defend against it normally. For example, if a car is hit with a machine gun burst, both sides roll 3 dice. If the gunner rolls 15 and the driver 7, an attack roll of 8 will go through and attack the passengers. The GM will have to use his common sense when he decides who will be hit. A single bullet cannot hurt everyone in a car, but a 120mm HEAT round from a tank gun can do it easily.

Vehicles in comic books tend to crash quite often. Both sides of a collision suffer the same damage; it is equal to the current speed PL of the faster participant (this can be different from the top speed PL; see Example #1 below). If a vehicle hits a stationary object, simply use the vehicle's current speed. Armor helps to defend against crash damage as usual, but you can also use your vehicle's size PL instead of armor PL, whichever is better. Mass is good when you collide with something. For example, a Ferrari going 250 kph (speed 4, size 3, armor 3) hits the wall of a tall building (stationary, size 6, armor 3). Both sides take PL 4 damage; the car resists with PL 3 while the building uses PL 6. It is not difficult to see which one is going to be damaged worse.

MODIFIED The occupants of the crashing vehicle suffer equal damage. They can use their personal armor to defend against it, but dodging is obviously out of the question. If the vehicle is equipped with some kind of a passenger protection system, be it seat belts, airbags or FastFoam (as seen in the film Demolition Man), reduce the damage PL by one before rolling the dice. Of course, ejection seats or escape capsules are the ultimate protection against crashes provided that there is time to use them. High-tech vehicles may even have automatic ejection systems. Also, if your vehicle is considerably heavier than the other side (50% is a good rule of thumb), reduce the damage to passengers by one. This is cumulative with the effect of seat belts.

These rules can also be used for ramming attacks for both vehicles and characters. Most heroes will have more effective ways to fight than running into their opponent, but a flying tackle does look cool. And it will not disintegrate the other guy, unless you happen to have armored skin and supernatural speed.

MODIFIED Note that the GM can always rule that very low-speed crashes do no significant damage. This speeds up the play, which is more important than figuring out how badly the front bumper was dented. Likewise, he can decide that a given crash was severe enough to completely destroy a vehicle. If you drop a main battle tank from a cargo plane, its armor is not going to help one bit. Maybe you can salvage some scrap metal if you are lucky. Any people inside a vehicle which is automatically destroyed are killed, unless they have supernatural Protection, a force field or something similar. In that case they must defend against a damage roll equal to the speed, armor or size PL of the vehicle, whichever is the highest. For example, if a car drives off a cliff and falls for 200 meters before hitting the ground, it is of course completely destroyed. Its passengers have to defend against PL 4 damage (the GM decided that was the impact speed, and both PL 3 size and PL 3 armor are less than that). None of the above modifiers apply.

Example #1: A couple of minutes after the above incident Mark Chateau is trying to escape a police car (it seems that the old woman's screams, maybe even the full-auto gunfire, attracted some unwanted attention). Chateau is riding a Harley (speed 3, size 2, handling +1); the cops have a typical squad car (speed 3, size 3). This is a maneuver chase, so both sides make a maneuvering roll instead of an initiative roll. Chateau has PL 2 skill (it is based on his Agility) and a +1 PL bonus: he rolls 3 dice and gets 8. The officer behind the wheel has a PL 1 driving skill; he rolls 4. This is a critical difference. Chateau turns suddenly to the left, missing a school bus by inches and leaving the lawmen going in the wrong direction.

The policemen try to follow. The driver hits the brakes and rotates the steering wheel frantically. The GM decides that this is a Difficult task. The driver rolls 5, but the difficulty roll is 7. The car skids, out of control, and hits a parked Mercedes. The crash speed is PL 2, since they were not going at full speed in a suburban neighborhood. The damage roll is 8. Both vehicles roll 3 dice to defend against it. The Mercedes gets 7, the policemen 12. The GM rules that the squad car suffered only minor damage, but the German luxury sedan is not going to go anywhere without some repairs. The policemen suffer PL 2 damage as well, but this is reduced to PL 1 since they had prudently fastened their seat belts. The damage roll is 2; the officers roll 3 and 4 and get away with some bruises. While the cops try to extricate their vehicle from the mess, Chateau slips away.

Example #2: Months later, Chateau is flying over a Colombian jungle in a UH-1H Huey following another helicopter which is transporting cocaine. He is not actually flying himself, but acting as a door gunner. Just as he is checking the M-60, the pilot's voice crackles over the intercom: "We got trouble. There's another Huey, and it's loaded for bear."

The two armed helicopters approach each other fast. When Chateau's pilot tries to maneuver to give the door gun a clear field of fire, the enemy does its best to line up its fearsome forward-mounted Minigun. Hueys have PL 3 size and PL 3 speed (an UH-1H can exceed 200 kph, but only just, and probably only on a good day), which means they get no bonuses or penalties, except for being helicopters and thus very agile (+1 PL). Chateau's driver gets 9, a good roll, but the other guy gets 11. After some frantic stick handling by both pilots, the bad guy manages to get a decent aim. He rolls 4 to hit; Chateau's pilot rolls 3 to dodge. The roar of the Minigun fills the air and lots of holes appear in the fuselage very quickly, but miraculously nothing vital is hit. (The enemy rolled 11 for damage, while Chateau's pilot rolled 12 for defending against it.)

The GM feels generous and says that yes, Chateau can shoot back. The hero swivels the M-60 as far back as it goes and cuts loose. He rolls 10 to hit (PL 2 Agility, remember) and the mercenary pilot rolls only 4 to dodge. A critical hit! The burst strikes the turboshaft engine of the Huey and generally makes a mess of it. The bad guy prepares for a hasty landing, while Chateau's bird resumes the pursuit of the drug hauler.

6. GM SECTION
also known as "the stuff that didn't fit anywhere else"

This chapter contains some tables which may help to create a scenario quickly. The GM can look at them and choose the most interesting ideas, or roll 1D6 if he has ran completely out of ideas. The ideas in these tables come (read: were stolen) from various superhero RPGs and comic books. But before you read on, remember this: your word is the law. The Powergame system is so open-ended that it can easily be abused to create munchkin characters. If you are playing a humor campaign, the most outrageous heroes are usually the best. But they can easily ruin a serious campaign. This has been said before, but it is worth repeating here. The GM is a base PL 8 being in his own world. Do not let anyone bully you. Having understood that, you might want to give the players a break every now and then, unless you want to run your campaign without any.

Common Super Types

  1. Blaster: PC who specializes in ranged attacks.
    (Cyclops, Hawkeye)
  2. Gadgeteer: PC who uses all kinds of strange gadgets.
    (Reed Richards, Dr. Doom)
  3. Psi: PC who has various mental powers.
    (Professor X, Psylocke)
  4. Normal: PC who has no really extraordinary powers.
    (Batman, Punisher)
  5. Tank: PC who is tough and strong.
    (Hulk, Juggernaut)
  6. Wizard: PC who can do almost anything with his powers.
    (Galactus, Dr. Strange)

Subtypes

  1. Alien: PC who is originally from somewhere far, far away.
    (Superman, Galactus)
  2. Gizmo: PC who has no powers without (fill in the blank).
    (Iron Man, Thor)
  3. Machine: PC who is a cyborg, android or robot.
    (Vision, Deathlok)
  4. Transformer: PC who changes form when using powers.
    (Colossus, Ice Man)
  5. Unpopular: Persecuted through no fault of his own.
    (X-Men are mutants, Spider-Man is hated by J. Jonah Jameson)
  6. Anti-Hero: PC who kills and/or breaks the law on a regular basis.
    (Punisher, Wolverine)

Hero Origins

  1. Born with powers, or gained them upon reaching adulthood
  2. Exposure to an energy form, chemical or something else
  3. Gained powers in a scientific or magical experiment
  4. Was endowed with powers by another being
  5. Achieved powers through personal study/training
  6. Was created by someone (robots, androids etc.)

Random Super Powers (roll 1D6 twice)

  1. Enhanced abilities
    1. Body armor
    2. Enhanced basic ability: Strength/Agility/Wits etc.
    3. Body alterations: size, material, density, elasticity
    4. New body parts: wings, claws, extra limbs, tentacles
    5. Invisibility/shape-shifting/transformation
    6. Life support: regeneration, no need for food/air/rest
  2. Movement powers
    1. Flight
    2. Teleporting
    3. Climbing
    4. Swimming
    5. Astral travel
    6. Running
  3. Nature powers
    1. Air
    2. Earth
    3. Fire
    4. Water
    5. Control weather
    6. Control animals/plants
  4. Psionic powers
    1. ESP (extra-sensory perception)
    2. Telekinesis
    3. Telepathy
    4. Danger sense
    5. Mental blast/drain
    6. Mental defense
  5. Supersenses
    1. Hypersensitive version of normal sense
    2. Radar/sonar sense
    3. Night vision/ thermal vision
    4. Microscopic vision/ telescopic vision
    5. X-ray vision
    6. Detect life/magic/superpowers
  6. Other powers
    1. Force field
    2. Absorb energy/superpowers/memories
    3. Illusory powers
    4. Magical powers
    5. Energy control: electricity/heat/gravity/light/magnetism
    6. Matter control: size/density changes, animation

Adventure Ideas

  1. PC spots a crime in progress.
  2. PC is asked to solve a series of super-crimes.
  3. PC has a dependent who is kidnapped.
  4. A natural disaster, monster or super-villain threatens the city.
  5. An enemy tries to harm one or all of the PCs.
  6. PC is accused of a crime he did not commit.

Criminal Organizations

  1. Drug Cartel: Importing, processing and selling drugs.
  2. Major Fence: Serves only the most wealthy clients.
  3. The Mob: All kinds of crimes, from petty to serious.
  4. Mercenaries: Combat-experienced personnel for hire.
  5. Secret Society: People who want to rule the world.
  6. Mad Scientists: They develop and supply hi-tech equipment, sometimes using it as well.
  7. All of these organizations can be either local, national, or international. Roll 1D3 (1D6/2) if you cannot decide.

Finally a note about experience. Powergame has a very simple experience point system. For each successfully completed adventure you get one (1) experience point, or E-point. If the adventure was really, really difficult and dangerous, like saving the world from invading alien hordes, the GM may give you two E-points if he wants to. If you do badly, spoil other people's fun or otherwise irritate the GM, he can give you zero E-points. Zero as in zilch.

What to do with E-points? First, you can increase your attributes and powers. The increases have to be bought one PL at a time; the cost is the new PL, squared. For example, raising a power from PL 3 to PL 4 would cost 16 E-points. The only exception is this: if you have a related Good Thing, the cost of going from PL 1 to PL 2 is only 3 E-points. But it makes the Good Thing worthless, since they are only useful with PL 1 abilities. If you raise an ability from PL 2 to PL 3, you better have a good, plausible explanation ready for the GM, since this means your character has just acquired a new superhuman ability. Likewise, if you go from PL 0 ability to PL 1, give a reason why your PC is no more impaired.

New powers and skills are a more difficult matter. The heroes in comic books simply do not acquire new powers unless there is a plot reason for that. It struck me that Powergame could use the same method. If the adventures could give your PC a new power, discuss it with the GM. He is after all responsible for the "script" of your shared "comic book". Sometimes you might find the GM changing your PC's powers without your urging. It might be uncommon, but it happens, though changes of that kind are not always positive. And sometimes the GM might not tell you.

New skills only take some training, but you have to demonstrate that your character has had enough of it. New skills cost one E-point apiece. New powers also have a nominal cost of one E-point, regardless of their initial power level, which has to be determined by the GM. Both can be increased normally. New Good Things can also be taken; they cost one E-point each. The GM may require you to explain why your character suddenly gains the new ability.

The second use for E-points is helping you in tight situations. If you are facing a truly desperate task, which absolutely has to succeed or the Conquerorman will destroy life as we know it, you can spend one E-point before rolling the dice. It gives you one extra PL for the attempt. This can represent an adrenalin surge or some such thing. You cannot improve a roll afterwards.

7. AFTERWORD

I hope you liked what you read. Besides being a fully generic superhero RPG, Powergame is adaptable to most gaming situations from fantasy to science fiction (what are spells and fantastic technology but superpowers in disguise). And you only need the basic rules. However, this does not mean that there will not be any supplements. I am currently working with an outside writer to create a campaign world. But if you get tired of waiting, write up your own. Better yet, tell me about it and I will put it on my home page for everyone to admire.

This being the last chapter, it is about time to thank Serena M. Aman (the official First Woman to Play Powergame), Scott Baxter, Daniel Brown, Kendall P. Bullen, Centurion, Carl L. Congdon, Andrew Craig, Frank Crowell, Eric Garrison, Kathy Heim, Michael Hopcroft, Hyong Kim, Mike Jacobs, Philip Jeffes, Joshua Marquart (aka Cheese), Duncan Milner, Martin Moore, Steve Perrin, Guy Robinson, Georg "Kalimar" Seipler, Larry Smith, Christopher Weible, Mattias Wikström and everyone else who expressed interest, gave helpful feedback or just told me that they had seen my game. I doubt there would have been this many editions without you. Thanks, guys and girls.

Now, pick up your favorite comic book about superheroes. Convert its heroes and villains to Powergame, and while you are at it, steal a plot or two for use in your campaign. Playtest the system. If you are into games emphasizing loose, free-form rules and storytelling, you might find yourself liking it. Maybe you will even decide to use it for regular campaign play. If that happens, my game and the time spent improving it have been worth something. Please let me know about it.

Powergame was born to be a quick-and-dirty "funnygame". It can still be played that way. But it can also get serious if necessary.

8. APPENDIX 1: Character Sheet

Below is a suggested template for a character sheet. It is far from pretty, but it lists many of the things that players (and GMs) should consider when creating characters in addition to their powers and attributes. If you design a particularly pleasing record sheet, please e-mail me and I will put it on my home page.

POWERGAME 5TH EDITION CHARACTER SHEET

Name:                           Nationality:
Sex & Race:                     Place of Residence:
Family:                         Friends & Enemies:


Appearance & Age:               Personality:


Background:                     Education & Occupation:


Notes:                          Experience:



BASIC ATTRIBUTES                SUPERPOWERS
Agility
Strength
Health
Charisma
Wits
Psyche

SECONDARY ATTRIBUTES            GOOD/BAD THINGS (and VULNERABILITY, if any)
Protection
Speed

SKILLS






EQUIPMENT (carried)             PROPERTY