Capes & Crooks DevSpeak: Evolving Powers
Hello Deviants! We are back with another DevSpeak. Short blogs where I share my thoughts and design decisions around our upcoming 5e Superhero RPG Capes & Crooks. You can follow along and get notified of our Kickstarter launch here.
One of the largest differences between the fantasy mechanics of Dungeons & Dragons and the Superhero Genre is the growth of the heroes. In D&D the heroes learn a multitude of new features, skills, feats, and spells. This makes growth extremely apparent to the players as more options begin to open up as they gain levels. In the superhero genre, the heroes usually have a set number of powers. These take many forms, some more simple than others. This could be the same powers of a particular wall-crawling insect. Or maybe super strength, speed, and flight. Others are granted unique powers from an accident that changes their shape and form. Whatever the case, superheroes usually have a limited set of powers they can use. This was one of the challenges we had to overcome to keep within the realm of superheroes.
Our decision took on two forms. One is the time period and the setting, that I'll get into in another DevSpeak. The other was having our At-will powers evolve as the characters become stronger. Now, as you can imagine, this is quite a balancing task. But, if we could do it right, then the choice of power would be based on more than just its base feature. This meant the player had to consider the additional features it offered. Let's take a look at one example Nature's Wrath.
Activation Time: 1 action
Duration: 1 minute
The wooden object or weapon such as a club or quarterstaff you are holding is imbued with nature's power. Thorny vines, moss, and other vegetation grow upon it. For the duration, you can use your power ability instead of Strength for the attack and damage rolls of melee attacks using that weapon, and the weapon's damage die becomes a d8 and deals piercing damage. The weapon also becomes magical, if it isn't already. The power ends if you activate it again or if you let go of the weapon.
At Higher Levels.
5th level. When you hit a creature with this weapon, you can use a bonus action to command the vines to entangle the target. The target is grappled (escape DC equals your power ability save).
11th level. The weapons damage die increases to a d10. A target grappled by this power instead becomes restrained.
17th level. The weapons damage die increases to a d12. Additionally, when you score a critical hit with the weapon imbued with this power, you can release a 10-foot-radius cloud of toxic spores that extends outward from the target. The spores spread around corners. Each other than you must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or become poisoned. While poisoned this way, a target takes 1d10 poison damage at the start of its turns. A target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
So in this example, we have Nature's Wrath. This At-will power starts off pretty simple, it basically allows a character who isn't Strength-based to be effective in melee combat. At early levels, this isn't super impressive. But, it allows what may otherwise be a ranged-focused hero to dip into the melee and still be able to bring the pain on any crooks. What is interesting about this power is that as it levels, the damage die of the weapon increases. Which in 5e, isn't anything too special. What makes it particularly interesting is the additional features it gains as the hero learns and masters their powers.
At 5th level, we now can use a bonus action when we hit a creature to cause vines to lash out from our weapon and entangle our foe. Grappling them, and preventing them from moving. For an enemy who can only do melee, this becomes a potent control feature. Allowing innocent civilians to get out of danger, or other heroes that would otherwise be pummeled into the dirt. One thing we wanted to do was to include more uses of all the different actions, beyond just the Action. This includes reaction, bonus action, and even movement action. So now, this opens up additional uses for this action, giving the player more choices during a turn. This is a necessity when the range of At-will powers is 2 at the lowest level and only 5 at 20th level.
The fun doesn't stop there though. The power evolves even further as the hero gains strength. At 11th level, our damage die increases but the most interesting part is that the vines grapple is now stronger. It now restrains the foe. This is a huge surge in power from just a grapple. Not only can they not move, but attack rolls now have Advantage, and the enemy restrained has Disadvantage on attacks and Dexterity saving throws. We've moved on up from a simple battlefield control power to now adding a debuffing or weakening feature. The focus of this power is clear, it's not meant to be offensive, but instead a support skill for the hero.
Now, we decided to stick with the plant theme for obvious reasons. Once again, this power evolves, increasing damage slightly, but has once again gained a new power. Now, if the hero scores a critical hit, beyond just rolling double damage dice, we also get an explosive array of spores that poison the area around its user. Now, at 17th level 1d10 isn't much damage, just enough to kill off any nearby cronies. The poison, however, can turn the tide of battle. Turning what would be otherwise hit to misses. As it is an area of effect, it really makes for a potent At-will power capstone ability that is fitting to the theme of the power.
While this is only one power. All of our powers evolve in the same way. This makes for a feeling of growth and allows for more options for the players. Characters can be built around many ideas, but it's easy to pick a Power and build your theme around that alone. Not even taking into account the origin, role, superpowers, or enhancements. This is just one way we believe we can make the 5th Edition ruleset...super!
You can follow along and get notified of our Kickstarter launch here.
What do you think about our At-will power system? What would you change? Why would you change it? Let us know. Comment below or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to us on social media @critacademy.
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