On blocking and dodging

We are making some minor changes to blocking and dodging in the second edition of Bulletproof Blues. For one thing, expertise in blocking or dodging gives the player a +3 bonus on those rolls (that’s how expertise will work in second edition). For another, an extreme success on a block or dodge task roll alters the order of play so that the attacker’s turn comes after the defender’s turn on following rounds.

As you know, the difficulty of blocking and dodging are both based on the rank of the attacker’s power or weapon. That seems strange to some players. Wouldn’t it make more sense to make these rolls against the attacker’s Accuracy or Prowess? We base these rolls on the rank of the attacker’s power for two reasons.

First, a character only chooses to block or dodge if the attack has already hit them, which means that there has already been an Accuracy or Prowess roll, and the attacker rolled well enough to hit. There is a good chance that a second roll would have a similar outcome, so we base the block and dodge rolls on the rank of the attacker’s power or weapon in order to give the defender a chance to change the odds, particularly against attackers with very high Accuracy and Prowess.

Second, the rank of a power is more than just how much damage it does. The power’s rank also reflects the character’s skill and finesse in using that power. By basing block and dodge on the rank of the power, we take into account how much control the attacker has over the power in addition to how much sheer force they are using.

Use and abuse of Ultra-power

[Ultra-power], which permits the character to use a wide range of powers for 3 character points per rank, is open to abuse by players who care less about having fun than they do about “winning”. It’s important to stress that the powers in an [Ultra-power] should have a tightly unifying theme and should all derive from the same power source. If the [Ultra-power] is relatively low-powered, like Grimknight’s “investigator’s tools”, then the GM may want to turn a blind eye if the player plays a bit fast and loose with the “tightly unifying theme”. After all, there’s not much harm in allowing the player some latitude when the rank of the [Ultra-power] is only 1 or 2.

Miasma by Sean Izaakse

For a character whose main power is the [Ultra-power], enforcing the theme becomes more important. A character who can accomplish anything the player can think of can easily spoil a game and ruin everyone’s fun.

It’s also important to recognize that just because the [Ultra-power] is rank 6, for example, that doesn’t mean that every power in the [Ultra-power] necessarily has rank 6. For example, Miasma’s “grenade launcher” [Ultra-power] is truly formidable at rank 11, yet she has several grenades which are of far less rank than that. Her smoke grenade, for example, is only rank 2. The most important thing to consider when choosing the rank of a power in an [Ultra-power] is what makes sense for the character.

The theme and the rank of the [Ultra-power] are important limits on the character, but the most important limit should be what makes sense for the character’s background and abilities. A character should never have a power simply because the rules permit it. You control the game, not the rulebook.

While on the topic of [Ultra-power], here’s a question from a player on how to write-up [Ultra-power] in the Bulletproof Blues Character Sheet Helper.

I have some questions about the Bullet Proof character sheet helper spreadsheet. I am in the middle of creating a gadgeteer for a pulp hero game and was wondering about the Ultra Power on the sheet. How do group my gadgets under Ultra Power or do I not and just do them individually?

Logan

Hi, Logan!

The way [Ultra-power] works, it allows you to have any power that a) fits in the theme of the [Ultra-power], and b) has the rank of the [Ultra-power] (or less).

In the Character Sheet Helper, you buy the [Ultra-power] in the top powers section, and then, if you want, you can write up some frequently-used powers in the [Ultra-power] section in the bottom part of that screen. The powers listed in the [Ultra-power] section do not cost the character any points, and you are not limited to the powers you write up in the [Ultra-power] section — that list is just to make it easier for you and the GM during play. If you take a look at the Character Sheet Helper file for Miasma, she’s a pretty good example of how to write up a character with an [Ultra-power].

We hope this has been helpful.

Expertise and extreme success

One of the rules we would like to simplify in Bulletproof Blues 2e concerns expertise and extreme success.

Right now, expertise with a skill (including a combat skill) costs 1 point. Expertise does not provide a bonus to the task roll; the benefit of expertise is that it allows a character to achieve “extreme success” if they roll particularly well (3 or more over what they need):

If the character has expertise in the power or skill, and the player rolls three or more over the task difficulty, the character achieves an “extreme success”. So if a character attempted a challenging task (task difficulty 12), and the player rolled 15 or more, and the character had expertise, this would be an extreme success. (from Actions, “Extreme Success”)

We are considering separating these game mechanics, in the following fashion. First, expertise would provide a +3 bonus to the player’s task roll. A character with expertise in Searching, for example, would have a +3 bonus on a Perception task rolls to find a clue in among a suspect’s belongings. Similarly, a character with Expertise with Archery would have a +3 bonus when using a bow in combat. We would keep the admonition that only *very* unusual villains have expertise:

Only very unusual villains have expertise. Expertise can have a powerful effect in combat, and it tends to be more powerful in the hands of the GM than in the hands of the players because the GM rolls more dice over the course of the game than any of the players do. For this reason, it is best to restrict villainous expertise to only those villains that truly do have an exceptional amount of control over their powers and abilities. (from Skills, “Villainous Expertise”)

How would this affect extreme success?

First, expertise would no longer be required in order to achieve extreme success: anyone who rolled exceptionally well would be able to choose from one of the extreme success bonus effects (overwhelming the target, smashing the target, or staggering the target).

Second, because these bonus effects would occur more frequently, we would reduce the damage bonus of an overwhelming attack from +3 down to +1.

With these revisions, one repercussion of extreme success is that characters with very high Prowess or Accuracy can often rely on doing extra damage with their attacks. Conversely, characters with very low Prowess or Accuracy will often take extra damage from attacks.

We are still discussing this modification: if you have an opinion, we would love to hear it.