Posts Tagged ‘ TFCH ’

Making STR Super

As mentioned earlier this week, I’ve uploaded an updated playtest version of The Four Color Hack, implementing some changes based on playtesting and feedback. One thing that didn’t get changed in the update was lifting capacities for heroes. In the current playtest version, I think those lifting capacities are too low. They just didn’t seem super-heroic enough; this was bugging me, and I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of the bug. As is the case when I face things that bug me, it helps to ignore the issue for a bit and then return to it with fresher eyes.

Notice the two tables to the below-right. The first shows the overhead press for heroes who do not have super-strength. It dawned on me that the only characters in the game that have a STR Stat are the heroes. Villains don’t have Stats such as STR or INT or CHA. With this in mind, I chucked the d20 System, which is from where I took the overhead press amounts in the first draft of the table.

Instead, I fell back on the third edition of DC Heroes and those old Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe comic books. As you can see, even a hero with an “average” STR of 10-11 is quite strong with an overhead press of 200-250 pounds.

For super-strength, I got rid of the multiplier. Instead, a Hero Die gives a hero a specific level of super-strength as a defined weight. Thus, a hero with Super-Strength d8 has an overhead press of 5 tons. De-linking STR and super-strength this way makes it possible to have a hero who excels in hand-to-hand combat (meaning has high STR), but who isn’t necessarily super-strong. It also makes it possible to have a hero who can shift quite a bit of weight (say, Super-Strength d12), but who has only average skill in hand-to-hand combat (say, 10 STR).

The other item that was on my list of problems regarding the rules was how to handle on-going effects created by the use of powers. Professor Positron had Positronic Energy Control d12. He packs a lot of power with his ability to control positrons. Can Professor Positron surround a villain in a positronic force bubble? Sure. The player just needs to describe the effect and make a Stat check. If he succeeds, the villain is trapped by a Positronic Bubble d12.

This bubble lasts as long as Professor Positron maintains the effect or until the villain escapes/destroys/whatevers the bubble. While the positronic bubble is in effect, Professor Positron no longer has Positronic Energy Control d12. Instead, he has Positronic Energy Control d10. The concentration, energy expenditure, et cetera, has temporarily reduced Professor Positron’s ability to control anti-electrons. When the Positronic Bubble d12 goes away, Professor Positron’s power returns to its previous level.

This system for on-going effects seems flexible enough, and it taps into the idea that dice upgrade and downgrade, as well as the idea that a larger die can be traded for two smaller dice. Thus, Professor Positron could conceivably trap two different villains in two different Positronic Bubbles, but each bubble would be d10 instead of d12, since 1d12 equals 2d10.

In news unrelated to TFCH, work progresses on Goshahri: The City in a Cave, a site-based adventure setting due to be released to Patrons only before the end of January. If you’ve not checked out my Dangerous Places, please do so. You’ll find the first adventure, Narvon’s Stair, which was released for the whole world in December. If you like what you see, think about committing $1 a month and become one of my Patrons.

January 18th, 2017  in Product Development 2 Comments »

The Four Color Hack Updated

I’ve uploaded an edited version of The Four Color Hack after making changes in response to playtesting and feedback. Here’s a list of the changes:

1. All Stats start at 9. They can be increased during hero creation as before.

2. Body and Spirit starting values are reduced.

3. Base protection starting values have changed. Base protection now works like Armor Points.

4. Odds/evens only matter with failures.

5. Idioms affect outcomes differently.

6. Hero Dice recovery has been clarified.

7. Body and Spirit increases with leveling have been modified.

8. Villain creation has been overhauled, to include adjusting the values found on Table 8: Villain Creation.

I hope the game plays better with these changes.

January 16th, 2017  in Product Development No Comments »

What’s Up This New Year?

Well, the holiday season has ended. My two or so weeks off for Christmas and New Year’s proved productive. I ran a Twelve Days of Christmas sale for select titles. I offered a bundle full of monsters for the OSR. I made a meat pie out of a hobbit. I wrote a few supernatural-influenced classes for WWII: Operation WhiteBox and posted those links on G+ and other Internet places. I started work on Heroes of Mirelyn’s Skyrealm, a White Box fantasy campaign that hope kicks off this coming Sunday. I started converting Chance Encounters for use with Dungeon World. I released The Four Color Hack, a playtest set of rules for superheroic roleplaying. I’m gearing up to produce the second iteration of those rules in response to feedback from players and readers.

I launched Dangerous Places, my Patreon site. For $1, you get about one short scenario a month, formatted into a printer-friendly PDF complete with hand-drawn maps. I’ll post the PDF link via patron-only message. I’ll post the maps without the scenarios separately for the public. My first few maps have been posted. So too has Narvon’s Stair, a low-level adventure for Swords & Wizardry, which is available to everyone, Patron or otherwise.

Now I’m working on Goshahri: The City in a Cave, which should be ready by the end of January. Goshahri outlines the city in a cave, the domain of a ruthless bandit king. The city and many of its denizens are described in broader strokes. The strokes get finer in Jail Break!, the mini-adventure included as part of Goshahri. The table at the right provides some random hook ideas to get adventurers involved. I plan to revisit the city in a cave at least a few more times in coming months, detailing certain sections and providing more short adventures set in the bandit king’s domain.

If you’ve not already done so, check out Narvon’s Stair. If you like it, consider becoming one my patrons. It’s risk free. I produce nothing? You pay nothing. Drop me from your patronage whenever you want.


Brutacles and Agents of H.U.R.T.

So, my soon-to-be-released-in-playtest-format superhero RPG The Four Color Hack is almost ready for DriveThruRPG. As part of the section on villains, I include stats for agents of H.U.R.T., but I have no idea what H.U.R.T. stands for. Thoughts? Suggestions?

Also, let’s take a look at the rules for creating villains and mobs.

Each Issue features certain villains, mobs, and non-heroes. In all three instances, the rules for hero creation do not apply. Those rules exist for the Writers to create their heroes. As the Editor, you have more freedom.

Villains: Every villain has a level, which ranges from 1 to 10. The villain’s level determines his base damage, damage points, and Hero Dice equivalent for powers and abilities.

Base damage shows what to roll when the villain makes a successful attack. You’ll need to define that this attack looks like. Damage points are divided between Body and Spirit in whatever ratio seems appropriate for the villain. Also, the villain has base protection points equal to his level. These base protection points are divided between Body and Spirit as deemed acceptable. The Hero Dice equivalent column shows you the strength of the villain’s powers and abilities. Average the Villain Level column to approximate the villain’s actual level if you mix and match values from the chart.

For example, let’s consider Brutacles, who is something of a novice villain, but he’s not a complete novice. He is level two for base damage and damage points. He derives his powers from mutagenic steroids, which has a d8 value, and he wears protective armor and fights with a ball-and-chain.

Brutacles (Level 2 Villain)
Body: 66 (2 protection)
Spirit: 20 (0 protection)
Base Damage: d4
Powers: Ball-and-Chain d6 (1d4+1d6+1d8 damage), Brutal Armor d6 (4 protection), Mutagenic Steroids d8

Sadistic and violent, Brutacles fights with a Ball-and-Chain aided by muscles enhanced with Mutagenic Steroids. He is physically tough (6 points of protection for Body), but his mental and spiritual defenses are quite lacking. Brutacles is strong enough to lift about 2,400 pounds.

Mobs: Not all threats rise to the level of villain, but that doesn’t mean they can be ignored. Mobs represent a middle ground between villains and non-heroes. Most heroes won’t have too much trouble dealing with mobs, but these bad guys can still serve to slow down, confuse, and harrass heroes. All mobs have d3 base damage, 80 damage points, and at most a d4 Hero Die equivalent. They have one point of base protection at most, and some item of equipment usually explains this defense. Each mob represents either a large group (9-12 individuals) or small group (2-5 individuals). Divide the mob’s damage points as evenly as possible among the individuals.

When a mob (or part of a mob) targets a hero, don’t expect a roll to defend against each member of the mob. A single roll suffices, but increase the mob’s damage by +1 for each member after the first. For example, a mob of ten H.U.R.T. agents lay down a barrage of blaster fire at Diesel. Diesel’s player rolls 1d20 to defend, and fails. Diesel suffers 1d3+1d4+9 points of damage from the combined assault, which is probably enough to inflict a small amount of Body damage to the metal-skinned hero.

Agents of H.U.R.T. (Mob of 10)
Body: 50 (5 per agent)
Spirit: 30 (3 per agent)
Base Damage: d3
Equipment: Body Armor (1 protection)
Powers: Anti-Hero Weaponry d4

The agents of H.U.R.T. are trained, paramilitary operatives. Individually, they present little threat to heroes, but they operate in squads and are typically armed with high-powered blasters or other anti-hero weaponry.

December 19th, 2016  in RPG No Comments »

Your Comic Book

Thoughts about superhero gaming in general as rough drafted in The Four Color Hack.

The first step to playing your comic book is to get all of the players together. One player assumes the role of the Editor. The Editor referees the game during play. Also, the Editor prepares Events and Issues, including the various villains and regulars that the heroes may encounter during a game session. The other players will assume the roles of the Writers, whose job it is to create a hero and determine what that hero does when, where, why, and how during the game.

For your first session, the main goal is to have fun creating the setting and the heroes that your comic book will be about. Don’t worry about figuring out every single detail of your comic book’s setting. Right now, you just need to answer some of the big picture questions that help define your setting in somewhat broad terms. If you want to get really serious about setting creation, I heartily recommend Microscope by Ben Robbins as the best collaborative roleplaying game for creating a campaign background.


Every setting has a certain style and a certain focus. The styles can be divided into four broad categories: Humor, Four Color, Cinematic, and Gritty.

Humor: Think zany. Think older cartoons such as Mighty Mouse or The Impossibles. Think newer cartoons such as Freakazoid! or Darkwing Duck. Think Adam West and Burt Ward being menaced by an egg-wielding, bald Vincent Price. No ever gets killed or even seriously hurt, and evil the wickedest villain’s schemes have a strong dose of silliness.

Four Color: The heroes are definitely the good guys, the villains are certainly bad, but the tone seldom ventures too deep into darkness. We expect the good guys to win, and the fall out from the villains’ schemes seldom have dire, lasting effects. A Four Color world is also a black and white world. Contrasts are sharp, and the lines between right and wrong are clear and inflexible. Think of stories such as the Silver Age Justice League of America. Think of the Comics Code era and its restrictions on graphic violence, sexuality, et cetera.

Cinematic: Shifting to Cinematic, we find that our heroes are less like mythic figures and more like ordinary people with extraordinary abilities. The action tends to be melodramatic, focusing on a sensational series of events that play on emotions while avoiding too much character development. Many of the big-budget motion pictures depicting superheroes fit into the Cinematic style. So too do some of the more recent comic books, such as Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Uncanny Inhumans. Cinematic stories might tackle real-world issues, but usually in a ham-fisted manner, ignoring nuance and even accuracy in order to emphasize melodramatic elements.

Gritty: This style seeks to emulate the real world while emphasizing those elements of life that create ambiguity, uncertainty, and apprehension. People in the Gritty style still believe in right and wrong, but those with strong moral convictions often face existential challenges that threaten to undermine or even destroy their certainty. Real-world issues are a mainstay of the Gritty style, and heroes that face strong temptations to resort to extreme measures that blur the line between heroism and villainy. The late 80s to early 90s series starring the Shadow written by Gerard Jones and Eduardo Barreto fits the Gritty style. So too does the recent Netflix series Daredevil and Jessica Jones.


The foci can likewise be divided, but into three broad categories: Street, Superhero, and Cosmic.

Street: This focus keeps most of the story confined to a particular city or part of a city. The heroes seldom stray too far from their stomping grounds, and, when they do, they usually end up involved in another city’s Street focus. The villains’ plans likewise tend to be localized and don’t usually require widespread destruction. Examples include the aforementioned Daredevil series and many stories involving Spider-Man and Batman.

Superhero: The heroes’ sphere of concern expands to encompass an entire nation or perhaps the world itself. The heroes are likely to be jetsetters, traveling long distances in their efforts to thwart villainous plots that might affect millions, even billions, of people. Marvel’s The Avengers and DC’s Justice League of America exemplify this focus.

Cosmic: As you’ve probably deduced, a Cosmic focus means the heroes travel from planet to planet, maybe even from galaxy to galaxy, in their quest to fight the forces of evil. Jim Starlin’s thoroughly awesome Dreadstar exemplifies the Cosmic focus.

Keep in mind that neither style nor focus speak definitively about the power levels of either the heroes or villains. Gotham’s most famous masked vigilante has regularly had adventures across all three foci, and he’s run the gamut of styles from Humor to Gritty.


When does your comic book take place? Today? Some time in the recent past, such as the 1960s with the Cold War at its height? The most distant past, such as the American Revolution, Augustus Caesar’s Roman Empire, or maybe further back when the ancient Israelites fought to conquer the land they believed had been promised to them? If the present day or the past don’t interest you, there’s the uncharted decades or centuries of the future waiting for your heroes.

Genre Crossovers

Is your comic book going to be a straight-up superhero saga, or do elements from other genres appear? If the heroes all work for a secret government agency, then spies and intrigue enter the picture. Have strange visitors from distant worlds made contact with your comic’s world? If so, then all sorts of possibilities from “To Serve Man” on The Twilight Zone and The War of the Worlds to the more recent Defiance television series make themselves available. Perhaps all of the heroes are high school kids dealing not only with villains but also social pressures and homework?

To Trope or Not to Trope

Superhero comics, like any genre, tend toward certain conventions or patterns. The colorful, skin-tight costumes worn by most superheroes, for example, is a nearly ubiquitous trope. Hardly anyone in Metropolis thinks its odd that the Man of Steel wears his underwear outside his tights. Many superheroes also have romantic difficulties ranging from missing dates because Professor Evil is at it again to having loved ones kidnapped or attacked. In short, you should decide on two or three tropes that your comic book embraces and two or three tropes that your comic book downplays or avoids entirely.

December 14th, 2016  in RPG No Comments »