08
Sep
09

Power level

In the previous version of Dragon In Ninth Heaven, there was a deliberate attempt to escalate the power level of characters. This was aimed at matching the power demonstrated by the characters in the source comics. It was achieved by using “chi allocation”, where a character used their internal energy to increase the damage of their strikes, and reduce the damage of incoming strikes. This is a very common theme in Chinese martial arts which is particularly emphasised in the comic and cinema mediums.

As characters become more and more powerful, their abilities relative to each other remain roughly the same. However, opponents of lower levels quickly become insignificant threats and the environment quickly becomes a canvas that shows the effects of any battle.

For the D&D 4E version of the game I am wondering if this is necessary.

To give a little more context I have inserted the images below, from the original comics (which I have English translations of from the 1990s) which demonstrate the power level of a mid level character. This is significant and there is a moderate amount of environmental damage being caused. I’ve chosen a few images to demonstrate movement, attacks (physical and chi-based) and the results of being hit.

kicking and dodging example

kicking and dodging example

impressive kicking attack

impressive kicking attack

effect of a ranged chi strike

effect of a ranged chi strike

more ranged attacks

more ranged attacks


As you can see, this is more like a superhero comic than a traditional fantasy game. Before moving into more discussion, here’s a few images that demonstrate what a Defender is capable of doing with an appropriate kung fu style:

 

high level defensive powers

high level defensive powers

high level defensive powers

high level defensive powers

high level defensive powers

high level defensive powers

So the question for the Dragon In Ninth Heaven game is; how to handle this level of power? I see the options being:

  1. Leave the system as it is. Make sure that the damage a character can cause and receive is the same as the D&D rulebooks. Assume that all environmental damage is merely a cosmetic effect of the powers and don’t supply any rules for it.
  2. Enhance the system to make the characters significantly more powerful than the equivalent D&D character built using the Player’s Handbook

Option 1 is appealing because of the simplicity. A little roleplaying and description covers all the needs of the genre. However, this will totally invalidate the rules for damage to the environment and breaking objects (found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide). A few substitute rules for this situation would resolve the issue.

Option 2 is consistent with previous versions of the game, but will make creating characters a little more complex and make encounter creation harder for the DM. This power escalation would probably be arranged by adding a flat damage bonus based on character level, and an amount of damage reduction based on level as well (the technical4E term would be Resistance to all damage).

After thinking about this for a while, I’ve decided that option 1 is the best. The added complexity of more damage and damage reduction seems to add very little to actual play. It increases the effort required by both players and the DM, which cannot be a good thing. For this edition I will go with changes to environmental damage and possibly update the rules for that.


Here’s some more pictures of power escalation from significantly further into the comic series. The power levels start to go off the scale a little after this point, with entire mountains being destroyed by a single strike.

 

power escalation

power escalation

power escalation

power escalation

power escalation

power escalation

Next post it will be time to discuss weapons. Notice that there were no weapons used by any of the main characters in the above scans? Weapons are used by some characters, but they do not seem to be a significant advantage at any point. This will require some sort of change to the default system rules. But more on that later.

Advertisements

4 Responses to “Power level”


  1. 1 Fellhand
    September 9, 2009 at 2:04 PM

    A good way of dealing with weapons/fist issues is to classify the trained martial artists hands themselves as weapons, with damage code, resistances etc being based upon a sliding scale chi table.. i.e big increases to begin with, with the increases becoming smaller and harder to get as the power of it goes up.
    IIRC, i think 2nd and 3rd ed DnD monks worked similarly

  2. 2 Fellhand
    September 9, 2009 at 2:05 PM

    then i realised that naturally, your not actually hitting them with the hand itself in most cases, your hitting them with Chi directly..

  3. 3 Cynan
    September 9, 2009 at 4:10 PM

    I think if most of those environmental effects aren’t applied to powers till the paragon or epic level you don’t need to worry too much about the inbuilt scaling. I like the idea of having rules that simulate the damage to the ground around the characters.. but as long as you don’t include it too early in on their careers it won’t get out of hand. Then if you want to play a more powerful game, just start the characters at the Paragon level.

    Option 3. Leave the system as it is. Make sure that the damage a character can cause and receive is the same as the D&D rulebooks. Environmental damage really only starts to become important at Paragon and Epic levels.

    I know you intend to talk about weapons next post.. but I’m not the patient type 🙂

    The way the monk class handles weapons is it creates a ‘unarmed weapon’ that can be enchanted and so forth. This allows proper scaling of magic items and allows you to swap the unarmed weapon with a staff or some other martial out weapon without changing too much.

    The other method would be to call a weapon an implement but still define the damage as a straight value. Ie an attack might do 1d8+Str rather than 1[W]+Str and allow a staff as an implement. This will again allow a character to receive a bonus from a magical staff or some other form (ie the implement could be something like a tattoo signifying the character has learnt the flaming fist ability +2. This will allow use of the inbuilt scaling of the game with minimal corrections needed.

  4. 4 antonyball
    September 9, 2009 at 4:25 PM

    Ah, Cynan, you are stealing all my ideas 🙂 You should meet Fellhand, you’d like him. The only problem is that you two would gang up on me 🙂

    Yes, I’m going to post about the monk ‘unarmed weapon’. It can be enchanted and that needs to be built into the story and background of the game. I have some neat ideas for that. There is the trick of classes of different roles having access to different damage dice, so I’ll address that too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: