I played another session of Champions 3rd Ed. with Ron Edwards and MadJay Brown yesterday via Skype. I learned a valuable lesson about Champions play, especially this edition:
Detective Work + Psych Lims = big Presence Attack soliloquy bonus.
One of the things I really admire about Ron is his ability to see how the pieces of a game fit together, especially in terms of the relationship between the fiction and the mechanics. I struggle with this. This is the second session where Ron has shown what a lot of people would consider crunchy nonsense to actually be pretty tightly-constructed, genre-appropriate simulation.
Detective Work (and various skills in general, like its successor, Deduction) never seemed more than useful side-stuff to me, especially given that my long-running HERO group would handwave anything that wasn’t combat and replace it with “roleplaying”. Ergo, any tight connection between that data on the character sheet and actual play was pretty opaque.
But here, Jay and I investigated the opponents who mopped the floor with us last time, figured out what was driving them, and then built an attack plan that leveraged that info to our benefit. We took them out without a single dollar of property damage (on our part) and nary a point of END, STUN, or BODY lost.
Basic summary: we discovered that the four super-dudes we fought the last session were actually being controlled by a powerful mentalist who was also a failed police academy applicant. He was trying to prove he knew how to fight “real criminals” — poor people, a disproportionate amount being POC, who obviously “looked the part”. So, I borrowed a badge from one of the officers, and Jay’s PC used their VPP to build me a PRE-enhancing headset. I walked towards the mind-controlled guys (who had rounded up a bunch of “welfare cheats”, i.e., poor women who had applied for public aid, including my DNPC) with the badge held high and said, knowing the real target could hear me: “We were wrong. You’ve proven that you deserve to be on the force. If you want it, this badge is yours. Come meet us.” A.k.a., a 9d6 Presence Attack that allowed me to hit triple his PRE.
BOOM. Villain captured and neutralized — we have him in, uh, “stasis” for now.
Afterwards, Ron broke down how those steps all fits together, and it was a lightbulb moment for me. “Oh, that’s why you want to spend points on Detective Work!” Targeting an opponent’s Psych Lims is not only totally effective, it’s exactly what happens all the time in the source material. I mean, I knew that, but I didn’t know it, okay?
This is the kind of stuff that I love learning, and I wish I was better at seeing it right off the bat.
It’s also another reason I find myself continually coming back to HERO, no matter how old and crusty it may be. So much of it, even in later editions, just makes sense to me and produces play I find rewarding. It’s a lot like Burning Wheel for me. They’re games that reward the mastery they demand.
(Hmm. That’s not a bad metric for “well-designed game” in general.)