Musings on Exceptional Individuals, Genre and Other Stuff

This is Ben musing on game-design theory. May be dull as dishwater. Dull Dishwater. With paint drying in it.


OK. The Hughniverse is a universe with superhumans in it; some people and things are just plain better than humans; demons, gods, angels etc. They can brench-press buses, fly, teleport, read the future. Obviously, in so far as it contains this stuff, the Hughniverse is not realistic at all.

But let's set that aside for a moment and consider the baseline humans of the Hughniverse. Where do we draw the line on what normal humans can do? Is this an Indiana Jones type universe where you might be exceptional, but everyone fears a gun? Are there some dudes who can go all Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on you? Go all Jackie Chan on you? Go all Dragonball Z on you?

The way I see it, Human characters with all stats 1-5 work out moderately realisticly in OAGS. Not clipped-by-a-bullet-and-die-from-gangrene realistic, but cinamatic-realistic. Indiana-Jones-realistic.

A couple of things can unseat this. Firstly, there are 6s. The original design goal with humans with a 6 are either the best in the world or one of a few of the best in the world. There are, as I imagine it, never more than about 10 people with any given stat at 6 in the world, which gives an upper value of about 100 exceptional individuals with a 6.

Now, one factor in how cinamatic the universe, or a particular game set in the universe, is, is how frequently people with 6s turn up. And as a rule, they turn up pretty frequently. Nick Slater(Marksmanship), Doctor Schadenfreude(Medicine), Maddie Edwards(Empathy- not including bonuses from Telepathy), Anna Smith(Control Vehicle- yes, Anna was a ghost, but her Control Vehicle scores is independent of that), Father Creed(Knowledge), Kim Thomlinson(Investigation), Ted Austin(Athletics), Percy Adler(Intelligence) and Don Wright(Marksmanship).

This is not necessarily a problem. It's a pretty common pulp conceit; a team is assembled, each the best in the world at what they do. But I have a concern that it is leading to a slight inflation of stats in people's minds. Not sure what to do about this, if anything even needs doing. It's natural that people want to give their dudes 6s- it's bitching cool to be the best in the world at what you do. I mean; I did it for the only PC I've played in OAGS. Maybe making 6s for baseline humans require GM permission, allowing GMs to set how cinamatic they want they want their games to be.

Other factors making games more cinamatic are the Gunslinger and Martial Artist advantages. These allow people with just hand guns or their bare fists to fight on equal terms against people with assault rifles and body armour. This is cool and allows a larger range of base humans to compete at the high-end of combat effectiveness. On the other hand, it's not realistic. Someone with Martial Artists fights like they are in a kung-fu movie. Someone with Gunslinger fights like they are a Grammaton Cleric out of Equilibrium. These Advantages change the genre of the game they appear in a little. Again, part of me is tempted to put them in GM permission category.

I'd like to stress, none of these things is broken or overpowered to my mind. They just slightly alter the genre of play. Thus I'm not gonna try and solve this problem by increasing costs.

The last point is regarding multiple 6s on baseline humans. Currently the rules forbid this, but in some genres it's appropriate. Batman, for example, probably has multiple 6s in some of the comics. At the top end of what's considered unaltered human in comics, I'd probably say the appropriate stats are multiple 6s with maybe a single 7. In the Hughniverse, the upper end of humanity is a multiple 5s with a single 6. In reality, it's probably multiples 4s with a single 5. I'm comfortable with the Hughniverse falling where it does allowing individuals like Nick Slater or, to take a cinamatic example, Jason Bourne to exist, without allowing people like Ozymandias or the more epic versions of Batman to exist.