Thinking about BB3

We are contemplating possible simplifications in Bulletproof Blues. Here is one of the ideas we are playing with:

Rather than powers having individual ranks (e.g., Blast 7, Flight 4, Force Field 10), the character would simply have a list of powers (e.g., Blast, Flight, Force Field). The strength of these powers would be based on the character’s attributes, with different powers being based on different attributes:

  • Intelligence – sensory powers, many skills
  • Willpower – mental powers, social skills
  • Strength – “brute force” powers, some physical skills
  • Speed – travel powers, “speedster” powers, some physical skills, ability to avoid being hit at range
  • Power – non-mental powers
  • Defense – defensive powers
  • Combat – ability to hit opponents, ability to avoid being hit hand-to-hand

Here’s part of our thinking behind this:

On the one hand, most characters who have more than one attack power, or more than one mental power, etc., tend to have them at the same (or nearly the same) rank. So having to buy ranks in Telepathy separately from ranks in Mind Hold (for example) seems a needless complication. Why not have a base value for the character’s power level, and then have a list of their powers?

On the other hand, the current method, in which ranks in Flight, Super-swimming, and Super-jumping (for example) are all bought separately, makes a character with all three powers way more expensive than a character with just Flight (for example). But the character who has all three movement powers isn’t actually all that more powerful. So why make that character so much more expensive?

What do you think?

P.S.

Here’s a possible drawback of this model: it makes the strength of a power implicit rather than explicit. In most cases, this shouldn’t be a problem — Blast is obviously based on Power, Mind Control is obviously based on Willpower, and so on.

But what about something less obvious, like Stretching? Would that be based on Strength, or Power? Perhaps the attribute should be placed after the power name: “Stretching (POW)”? Or perhaps we should just default to powers always being based on Power unless it is really, really obviously something else (i.e., when in doubt, use Power).

P.P.S.

A second drawback is that this model would make it difficult or impossible to have a team of characters who have similar sets of powers, but at varying power levels. For example, a team of psychics, all of whom have Telekinesis, Telepathy, and Mind Control, with each being most powerful with a different power (one character has strong Telekinesis but weak Telepathy and Mind Control, another character has strong Mind Control but weak Telepathy and Telekinesis, etc.).

Revised block/dodge rules for ZeroSpace

Here is a peek at a work in progress: revised block/dodge rules for ZeroSpace and Rough Magic. These are not final, but it’s a good bet that the final rules will look a lot like this.

Blocking

During their turn, or as a forced action, a character may use a task action to attempt to block a hand-to-hand attack against them. A block might entail using brute force to withstand the attack, or it might involve using finesse to harmlessly divert an attack away: the choice is up to the player. Blocking gives the defender a +2 defense bonus against the attack. If the defender has expertise with blocking, they gain an additional +3 defense bonus when blocking. A character who is using their action to block continues to receive the +2 defense bonus against hand-to-hand attacks until they take their next turn.

Normally, only hand-to-hand attacks which inflict endurance damage may be blocked. However, if the defender has the same power as the attacker, they may use that power to attempt to block. For example, a defender with Telepathy may attempt to block the Telepathy of an attacker, giving them a +2 defense bonus against the attacker’s Telepathy. With the GM’s permission, a character may attempt to block with a power that has a similar theme or power source. For example, a GM might permit a character with Telepathy to block an attacker’s Torment power, giving them a +2 defense bonus against the attacker’s Torment.

A character may choose to block after the attacker has determined that the attack will successfully hit: there is no need to block an attack that misses.

Dodging

During their turn, or as a forced action, a character may use a task action to attempt to dodge a ranged attack against them. Dodging gives the defender a +2 defense bonus against the attack. If the defender has expertise with dodging, they gain an additional +3 defense bonus when dodging. A character who is using their action to dodge continues to receive the +2 defense bonus against ranged attacks until they take their next turn.

A character may choose to dodge after the attacker has determined that the attack will successfully hit: there is no need to dodge an attack that misses.

Adding injury to insults

Speaking of ZeroSpace, we are working on a different method of tracking character injury for our heroic games (of which ZeroSpace will be the first one). Rather than counting down Endurance as an expendable point total, “Endurance” will be used more literally: characters aren’t usually injured at all during a fight, until a hit finally takes them down. We this more closely reflects the source material for games like ZeroSpace, where characters fire off blaster shots (and duck incoming fire), or circle each other while they parry and thrust with laser swords, until the character gets hit and taken down. This also more accurately depicts a setting where a single blaster hit or slash from a laser sword would take a character out of a fight.

The exact game mechanics are still in flux, but it will probably involve the target making a task roll to mitigate a successful attack against them. If they succeed, they have successfully parried, avoided, or just gritted their teeth and taken the hit, with no negative consequences. If they fail the task roll, the same thing happens, but it wears out the target a little bit, and makes them less able to avoid or withstand future attacks.

We are currently experimenting with four levels of impairment: weakened, impaired, exhausted, and incapacitated. Weakened and impaired impose task roll penalties on anything the character does. At exhausted, the character is unable to move or take actions, but they can speak. At incapacitated, the character is genuinely injured: they are unable to move or take actions, and they can respond (slowly) only if another character engages them in conversation. Furthermore, they might have suffered some debilitating injury, such as a getting nasty scar on their face or losing a limb.

What do you think?

Charming advantage

While working on ZeroSpace, we decided to add a new advantage! Feel free to use this in your Bulletproof Blues games.

Charming

The character is a good listener and a smooth talker. The character gains a +1 bonus on Manipulation and Social task rolls.

Second edition of Bulletproof Blues is now in print

Bulletproof Blues Second Edition is now in print! Bulletproof Blues is a rules-light, setting-dark(ish) superhero roleplaying game. The second edition has more examples! More sample characters! More fun!

If you have previously purchased the PDF, let us know by sending your order information and your DriveThruRPG account name to bblackmoor@kaloscomics.com, and we will give you a coupon to apply toward the print version.

Bulletproof Blues front cover

Current revisions to Order Of Play

After some discussion and feedback, both privately and over on the Kalos Comics Community page on Google+, we have made the following changes to the Order Of Play section for Bulletproof Blues second edition. Knock on wood, this is very close to what will appear in the published book.

Order Of Play

Everything that happens in a round is assumed to occur more or less simultaneously, but the players can’t all speak at once. To keep the game orderly, we need a way to determine the order in which characters act when combat starts.

The most important factor in determining who acts before whom is situational awareness. If a character is not aware of their opponent, then they don’t have the opportunity to attack. For example, if a hero is lurking on a rooftop and observes a gang of hooligans breaking into an electronics store, there is no need to roll to see who goes first. The hooligans are unaware that there is anyone to fight, so they continue carrying boxes of loot out of the store. In the first round of combat, only the hero has the opportunity to act. Depending on what the hero does and how sneaky the hero is, it’s possible that the hero might be the only one with an opportunity to act for several rounds. Only after the hooligans become aware of the hero do they get the opportunity to act. At that point, the order of action in each round is the hero first, and then the hooligans. If the combatants become aware of their adversaries in a set order, then that is the order in which they act in combat — at least, until someone changes it.

Normally, characters take their actions in the same order that they have an opportunity to act. However, if the various combatants become aware of each other more or less simultaneously, or if you would prefer to roll dice to see who goes first, the players and the GM should each make a Perception task roll at the beginning of the scene. Turns proceed each round from the highest roller to lowest. If a character (or one of the non-player characters) has the Super-speed power, the player (or GM) gets a bonus to the Perception task roll equal to the rank in Super-speed (for example, rank 4 Super-speed would provide a +4 bonus to the Perception roll).

The environment always goes last in a round. Any falling objects (including characters) fall, and any free-rolling vehicles move, after all characters have had the opportunity to use their actions. This does not include thrown projectiles or character-controlled vehicles. If any object or vehicle is under direct control by a character, then the object or vehicle will move when that character moves it or at the end of the round, at the character’s option. If a character chooses not to control a vehicle, then the vehicle will move at the end of the round.

If your character starts the scene by going last, either because your character was caught unaware or because you rolled poorly at the beginning of the scene, don’t worry too much about it. The order of play will change almost immediately. Any character may delay their turn in a round, or force their next action to do something defensive. Additionally, characters who achieve an extreme success on a block or dodge roll revise the order of play so that the attacker whose attack was foiled goes after the defender in the following rounds.

Of course, this is all just an abstraction to make task resolution easier. In reality, everything that happens in a round occurs more or less simultaneously. The difference between going first in a round and going last in a round is less a matter of time and more a matter of who has the better awareness of the situation at that moment.

Delaying A Turn

If a player does not wish to use their character’s turn when they have the opportunity, perhaps wanting to wait and see what an opponent does, the character may delay their turn, with the option of using it later in the round or on a successive round. The character may then pre-empt another character’s turn.

Delaying a turn does not alter the order of play. After the character has taken their turn, the order of play resumes its previous sequence.

Example: Combat starts when Blueshift runs around a corner and sees Ganyeka, who is giving commands to his henchmen. The GM declares that the order of play is Blueshift, then Ganyeka, then Ganyeka’s henchmen.

Round 1 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

On the second round, Monolith runs around the corner, startling Ganyeka’s henchmen because, wow, that guy is huge. The GM declares that the order of play is Blueshift, then Ganyeka, then Monolith, then Ganyeka’s henchmen.

Round 2 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

On the third round, Blueshift delays her turn, waiting to see what Monolith does. When it is Monolith’s turn, he attempts to grapple with Ganyeka. Blueshift uses her delayed turn to assist Monolith by coordinating her attack with his.

Round 3 Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Blueshift’s turn (delayed)
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

On the fourth round, order of play returns to its previous sequence.

Round 4 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

Forcing An Action

Sometimes a character might need to take a desperate action before they have had the opportunity to take their turn in a round or after they have already taken their turn in a round. This is known as forcing the character’s action. Forcing an action allows a character to sacrifice their next turn in order to block, dodge, dive for cover, activate a defensive power, or take another purely defensive action. A forced action can also be used to take a defensive action on someone else’s behalf, such as diving in front of an attack to protect an innocent bystander. The character may not force an action which the GM could construe as an attack, such as blocking a bullet with an opponent’s unconscious body or running into someone. When a character forces their action, they sacrifice their next available turn, whether that action would be in the current round or on the next round. A character may only force an action once per round.

Because a forced action is always defensive, it always takes place at the appropriate time, either before or during the attack which triggered it. The attacker does not have the opportunity to “take back” their attack.

Forcing an action does not alter the order of play. After the character’s next available turn has passed (the turn they sacrificed in order to take a defensive action sooner), the order of play resumes its previous sequence.

Example: Continuing from the previous example, on the fifth round, the order of play is Blueshift, then Ganyeka, then Monolith, then Ganyeka’s henchmen.

Round 5 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

On the sixth round, Blueshift makes short work of two of Ganyeka’s henchmen with a sweep attack. Ganyeka then pulls out a sinister-looking weapon, aims it at Monolith, and fires. Blueshift forces her next action to leap between Ganyeka and Monolith, taking the full brunt of Ganyeka’s attack.

Round 6 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Blueshift’s turn (forced from round 7)
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

On the seventh round, Blueshift loses her turn because she forced it in the previous round.

Round 7 Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

On the eighth round, order of play returns to its previous sequence.

Round 8 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

Blocking

During their turn, or as a forced action, a character may use a task action to attempt to block an attack against them. The defender may continue attempting to block additional attacks until their next action.

A block might entail using brute force to withstand the attack, or it might involve using finesse to harmlessly divert an attack away: the choice is up to the player. To attempt a block, the player attempts a Prowess task roll against the rank of the attacker’s power or weapon. For example, if the attacker had rank a 9 Blast, the task difficulty to block it would be 9 + 8 = 17. If the defender has expertise with blocking, they gain a +3 bonus on their Prowess task roll.

If the defender rolls an extreme success, then the order of play is revised so that on future rounds, the character whose attack was blocked acts after the character who successfully blocked the attack.

Example: Ganyeka attacks Monolith, and Monolith forces his action in order to block. Monolith rolls an extreme success on his block. This revises the order of play so that Ganyeka’s turn comes after Monolith’s turn on successive rounds.

Round 1 Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Monolith’s turn (blocks attack by Ganyeka)
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn
Round 2 Blueshift’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

Normally, only attacks which inflict Endurance damage may be blocked. However, if the defender has the same power as the attacker, they may use that power to attempt to block. For example, a defender with Telepathy may use their Telepathy to attempt to block the Telepathy of an attacker. With the GM’s permission, a character may attempt to block with a power that has a similar theme or power source. For example, a GM might permit a character to use their Telepathy to attempt to block an attacker’s Mind Control.

A character chooses to block after determining if the attack will successfully hit: there is no need to block an attack that misses. A successful block completely negates the attack. An unsuccessful block has no effect on the attack.

Dodging

During their turn, or as a forced action, a character may use a task action to attempt to dodge an attack against them. The defender may continue attempting to dodge additional attacks until their next action.

To attempt a dodge, the player attempts an Agility task roll against the rank of the attacker’s power or weapon. For example, if the attacker had rank a 9 Blast, the task difficulty to dodge it would be 9 + 8 = 17. If the defender has expertise with dodging, they gain a +3 bonus on their Agility task roll.

If the defender rolls an extreme success, then the order of play is revised so that on future rounds, the character whose attack was dodged acts after the character who successfully dodged the attack.

Example: Continuing the example above, Blueshift attacks Ganyeka, and Ganyeka forces his action in order to dodge. Ganyeka rolls an extreme success on his dodge. This revises the order of play so that Blueshift’s turn comes after Ganyeka’s turn on successive rounds.

Round 3 Blueshift’s turn
Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn (dodges an attack by Blueshift)
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn
Round 4 Monolith’s turn
Ganyeka’s turn
Blueshift’s turn
Ganyeka’s henchmen’s turn

Normally, only attacks which inflict Endurance damage may be dodged. However, if the defender has the same power as the attacker, they may use that power to attempt to dodge. For example, a defender with Telepathy may use their Telepathy to attempt to dodge the Telepathy of an attacker. With the GM’s permission, a character may attempt to dodge with a power that has a similar theme or power source. For example, a GM might permit a character to use their Telepathy to attempt to dodge an attacker’s Mind Control.

A character chooses to dodge after determining if the attack will successfully hit: there is no need to dodge an attack that misses. A successful dodge completely negates the attack. An unsuccessful dodge has no effect on the attack.

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.

A distracting comment

Distraction can be used by a character to mislead an enemy into dropping their guard. Distracting an opponent requires a Willpower task roll against the Willpower of the opponent. If the distraction is successful, the next attack against the distracted opponent on the following round receives a +3 attack bonus.

Using Willpower for distracting an opponent may seem counterintuitive. Wouldn’t Prowess or Perception seem more appropriate? Not at all. Distracting an opponent — whether in physical combat (such as a gunfight), psychic combat (such as a battle of wills), or in a social conflict (such as a marital dispute) — isn’t about how good you are in a fight or how good you are at noticing things. Anyone who has ever seen a talented stage magician at work knows that the real “trick” to most illusions is getting the audience to look where the magician wants them to look. In game system terms, that’s a classic Willpower vs. Willpower task roll.

Additionally, one of the main reasons we added the distraction maneuver to Bulletproof Blues was to help characters with low physical attributes cope with combat. Characters with high physical attributes don’t usually need to resort to distraction. Characters with high Willpower, on the other hand, are exactly the type of characters that need to use tactics like distraction.