((I don't mean to shoo anyone away by saying this but I think this thread might be better understood if you know something about the Trinity RPG from White Wolf.))
I am not sure how many of you know of White Wolf's 'Triniverse'. It's essentially their setting vehicle for Pulp Fiction (Adventure!), Superheros (Aberrant) and Sci-Fi (Trinity, once known as Aeon).
I first came into knowlege of the existence of M+M when WW handed the Triniverse to Arthaus Publishing and said "Turn this into a D20 System game series".
Oh God have mercy did that ever suck. I was advised at the time to use M+M, but I was worried about continuity issues that might crop up if I decided to run Trinity - I shouldn't have. I should have used M+M.
It's when I first came to the realization that the D20 system - the out-of-the-box system, not the version M+M makes use of - doesn't really do ANYTHING except D+D and even that it only does okay....but I digress.
Anyways. Since M+M was built for superheroes it did Aberrant very well. Some modifications had to be made to red-shift M+M's four-color tendencies more towards Aberrant's grit and grime but p'shaw that weren't nuthin.
But now I want to do Trinity using the same ruleset, and I want to talk about some of the challenges I face. Get some of your input.
Most of what I need to do is cosmetic. My Trinity campaign will actually take place almost 80 years after the events in the published books and I need to advance matters forward to compensate - that's just really a matter of hard work and skull-sweat.
The three biggest problems I will face are:
1) adapting the regulations of the powers listed in M+M to reflect the reality of Trinity's take on Psions.
2) expanding the rules on vehicles, mecha and powered armor so that there is more meat to them rather than them being treated merely as either devices or equipment. In a world where superscience is the norm, nobody's space cruiser is gonna behave like any of the vehicles listed in the Core rulebook and shouldn't be treated as if they do.
3) dealing with the skillset such that it better reflects some of the hard demands of a sci fi campaign.
So, lemme ruminate on them one by one if you don't mind:
1) In the Triniverse, Psions are NOT super-heroes. They are a more stable, more predictable and in many ways less overtly dangerous (singly anyways) than Novas/Aberrants. Humanity believes that they are the next evolution of their kind whereas the Aberrants were obviously mistakes (this has a lot to do with Alien propaganda but I shan't get too deep into that).
This is reflected in Aberrant (and the M+M rules as presented) by basically few limits on choices a player can make concerning where her character advances. Yes, I know the GM is allowed, even encouraged, to set what limits he thinks are appropriate and to ask that characters maintain a consistent theme (especially with Alternate powersets) but apart from that, you can have what you want and what you can pay for.
Trinity will have to be different. The Psions will have to have hard limits on their character's generation and advancement paths that won't be covered simply by throttling the P.L.'s for the campaign.
Now, in the original Trinity setting Psions are horrendously limited as to what sort of powers they can have. When the Aliens came and gave Humanity the means to activate their noetic (what Trinity calls Psionic force) potential they made sure you could only have a limited family of powers to come into, each with three sub-families.
How limited? Well, there are the Teleporters, who can bend space, send themselves places and send others. The Psychokinetics who can manipulate fire and ice as well as telekinesis. The Clairsentients who have ESP and that sort of thing. The Telepaths (nuff said). The Biokinetics who can manipulate themselves and others on a fleshy level. The Vitakinetics that heal body and mind but also have the ability (if they choose to develop it) do do horrific damage to body and mind. And finally there are the Electrokinetics, those who can manipulate light, power and machines.
As a character in the old Trinity you chose ONE of the above modes and you rode it out until you were the best at it and that was that. In my version of Trinity, I want to change that somewhat. While I don't want to give the PC's the same unlimited choice or potentially unlimited power levels, I do want to open things up somewhat and have a greater degree of utility among the Psionic powers.
To that end I have set up an - wait for it - trinity of Psionic 'fields' or 'families'. Broad groups of powers that while they are connected to each other and allow for some dabbling in everything should it be desired, do force a PC to take a direction, a 'major' if you will. These broad groups will be called (tentatively) Flesh, Machine and Mind.
So my next step was to go through and see which of the powers in M+M could concievably correspond to what broad group. Some powers were simply not permissible at all because they have never been part of the Psionic legacy of Trinity. Those were removed immediately. Some I wasn't too sure about like (Element) Control so I left them aside for a bit. The rest seemed to be self evident in terms of where they fit best. It was kinda like those multiple choice tests we all did in high school that asked us to select the BEST answer of the following....
Of course, the inevitable happened. Even allowing that some powers could be concievably used by all three broad groups with different descriptors (Such as Blast) I came up with 46 for Flesh, 22 for Machine and 34 for Mind. Which is of course a dilemma that I can solve any number of ways. I can make some of the powers associate counter-intuitively with a broad group to even things out artificially. I could make Flesh harder to select as a group...I can do all sorts of things.
What would you do?
On to Dilemma #2 - Expanding the rules on vehicles.
This IMO is one place where M+M fails a little. Yes, it does have vehicle rules. Yes the rules aren't too bad, but they tend to break down a little under heavy use. I can see why. The X-men don't use their jet to fight really, they use it to go where they need to do then get out and fight. Same with Batman's batmobile though it has guns. M+M wants to treat vehicles as background. Unfortunately I can't do that in Trinity because the PC's will have to rely on their vehicles' strengths and weaknesses since they themselves will have less power. Traditionally this is how the Psions made up the gap between themselves and Aberrant - with technology.
The Gadgets book does go into greater depth but it still sort of wants you to treat a vehicle like a big-assed Device or a piece of equipment you can do with or without. One of the ways it does this is failure to properly lay out PRECISELY what happens to a vehicle when it is damaged. Yes, when a vehicle is damaged "Systems will drop offline". Very good. Now which ones? When? How? How does that affect the vehicle's performance?
Now, perhaps unwittingly M+M's use of a four-tier damage category comparison chart mimics another game I played once, one where vehicles were not thought of as nice bunting - Heavy Gear. That game had the same set up, just with a few more details as to what happened when each category was reached.
Do you guys have any other ideas on how I can make the use of vehicles etc. more detailed?
Finally, Dilemma #3 - Skillsets:
Anything D20 (and sadly this includes M+M too) has trouble with it's skills. Lemme explain.
The people who wrote D20 were acutely aware of the fact that low level PC's had to make as much use of their skills (perhaps moreso) as high level PC's. This jammed them between a rock and a hard place. If they made the DC's to accomplish anything too hard low level characters' skills would be useless and likely stay that way right up until they reached mid-level. Thus they had no choice but to engineer a system that once you reached any significant level you pretty much only rolled a DC check to make sure you didn't cop a 1.
That is a problem. Not neccessarily one endemic to Sci-Fi, but definitely a problem. When all is said and done, I want skill ranks to mean something wether a PC is PL 10 or PL100. The problem is, how do I do that? Do I just up the DC's for some things? If so how high? Do I start making some more things impossible to do untrained? Should I create more skills or more specialized ones? If that's the case doesn't it demean each skill specialty that exists already the more skill specialties I create?
And what happens to skills in a Sci-FI setting when you add in technology? I mean, in modern times you need the right tools to do a job at all in some cases and the right tools can certainly make a tougher job easier, but in the far future some tools can do the dang job FOR you - and often better than you can yourself!
How do I handle these problems? How do I maintain skill relevancy in the face of these challenges?
Thanks for reading this long one guys and thanks for your input.