Thursday, April 13, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Powers & Perils

Spoilers for the following post: Remember how much trouble I had with FASA Star Trek? This game was at least an order of magnitude worse. This game broke me. I didn't finish character creation.

Powers & Perils is a game by Avalon Hill. It reads like a tax form. I would imagine that you could create very diverse, unique characters with this game, but the granularity that the average player is faced with in order to actually make a character is (at least for me) too steep a price to play. I've played Rolemaster games that were easier to understand than this.

It starts off innocently enough. There are ten characteristics (Strength, Stamina, Dexterity, Agility, Intelligence, Will, Eloquence, Empathy, Constitution, and Appearance). I roll 2d10 for each one. Fine so far. Then the book tells me:

Native Ability, for each modifiable characteristic, is determined using the procedure below (See 1.111 to determine Constitution and Appearance).


After looking back and forth between tables, I realize that I'm supposed to select my race and gender and then add (or subtract) a modifier to my base rolls. At least, I'm supposed to do that for all but Constitution and Appearance, whose modifiers are calculated differently.

I look over the races and decide that I'm going to play a fairy (or, in this case, "Faerry") lady, because that's different. I note that the usual 1980s canard of female characters being physically weaker, but much wiser and more agile, than male characters is in play here. I also note that the lowest any of my attributes can be is 1, which is good, because Strength and Stamina modifiers for faerrys are pretty hefty.

For no reason I can determine, my Constitution and Appearance modifiers are figured out by rolling a d10 for each and looking at the specific table. Both modifiers are listed on the table, with App in parentheses and the Con one is not. I managed to max out on Appearance (x8!) so this character is even sexier than the last.

Welcome to the game grid, insanely hot, albeit tiny, lady!

The book then tells me that all of the stats apart from Constitution and Appearance can be improved during the course of play. I guess no one in the P&P universe has heard of marathon training, designer clothes, or fleek eyebrows.

Now, the book tells me that I have to determine my maximum ability. This takes me several attempts before I mostly understand it. The gist of it is this: I roll 2d6+14. This gives me the total number of multipliers that I can apply to every stat except for Constitution and Appearance. The minimum modifier I can apply to a stat is 1.5, while the highest is 4. The book tells me that I need to assign multipliers in either whole or half numbers or the whole system collapses. I roll and get a total of 21. I do some more math.

After that, I get to roll randomly to determine my Age and my Station. There's a note that says that non-humans (like smoking hot faerry ladies) spend most of their lives in the Lower World before joining the humans in the Middle World for ADVENTURE! I don't know what this means, but I guess time flows differently in different places? 

I learn that I am 23 and come from Station 3. The book gives me a list of occupations to choose from, so I pick Noted Scholar. My Coin Type for my station is 2SC. This means something. I'll get to it in a minute.

Because the game goes on to say that I don't pop out of the womb (or hatch from a cocoon, or whatever) ready for adventure. I must have lived life a little bit before I had gotten to this point. As a result, I get to roll (Age x 2) + Station + 2d10. I find the total on yet another chart and that gives me my Character Points, Experience Points, and Expertise Points.

I roll a 62. The chart only goes up to 30. Buh?

Closer reading reveals to me that I should not use this rule if I used the Maximum Ability rules, which I did. If I did that, I need to take 25% of my roll result. Instead of looking things up on a chart, I take the new total as a pool of points that I get to spend on everything but Character Points. At least 5 points must be assigned to each area.

I have 16 points, which I split as evenly as possible. Then I take an Advil.

Next, I encountered the Special Events table. This table is optional, but, I figure, why not use it? I roll percentile dice for every ten years I've lived (rounded down). I get a Nothing result on my first roll, but on my second one I get Supernatural Stamina. The only thing that would have been better would have been for me to get Supernatural Strength. This ability boosts my Stamina by 1d6x5 points, to a minimum of 25. I roll a 2. I add 25.

There is a chart full of bonuses on various sub-stats based on the base stat. I am already tired, so I have mostly skipped these, other than to add in any appropriate bonuses. Then I move on to Other Factors...God, this is taking forever!

My Hit Points is equal to (Strength + Stamina + Constitution) / 4 (round up).

My Offensive Combat Value is equal to CEL + SB + StB. Wait. WAIT! What are those?

My Defensive Combat Value is equal to CEL + AB + DB. WHAT?!?! What are those? I'm confused!

I decide to sit in the dark for a while and listen to the blood rushing in my ears. Once I've calmed down some, I go back through the rulebook for some hints. CEL is my Character Experience Level, which is something I would have gotten if I had rolled on the chart (but I didn't roll on that chart, because I rolled on a different chart first). I'm assuming that my Character Experience Level is 0. Then, after a lot of scrutinizing, I realize that all of the other stuff is abbreviations for: Strength Bonus; Stamina Bonus; Agility Bonus; and Dexterity Bonus. 

Ah, it's all so clear to me now! Whew! I'm feeling like I'm in the home stretch.

But wait! Now there are derived sub-stats, including Portage Ability, Healing Chance, how attractive you are to members of other races based on your race, know what? No. Moving on!

Height and Weight are, of course, randomly rolled. For Height. I add my Native Strength to my Native Stamina plus my racial number (which is 28). I learn that I am 17 inches tall. Concentrated hotness.

My Weight is derived from my Height. I roll 1d10 and consult yet another table. I rolled a 2 and, according to the table, Faerry ladies have a weight of 1.2. I multiply this by 17 to get a total weight of 20.4 pounds. That seems...wonky? 

Right. What's next? Food Requirements? The minimal amount of nutrition I need in a day to remain alive? Okay. I'm going out for a walk.

*several days later*

I'm back! Where were we? Oh yes! Food Requirements is listed in Food Points. You determine your FP based on your weight. Since I'm less than 100 pounds, I need half a FP per day. Since I'm also a Faerry, this is reduced by a further half, so I need a quarter of a FP per day. I am told that I will eventually starve if I get less than this in a day. I am also told I can eat three times as much per day, if I need to. So I can enter the local Sidh Hot Dog-Eating Contest, I guess?

We have to be done, right? Wrong. There's so many other things to figure out. Liiiike:

Movement Rate is a straight number based on race: 6 inches for walking,  27 inches when flying. No, I'm wrong. I add my AB (Agility Bonus) to walking speed and DB (Dexterity Bonus) to my flying speed. 9" and 31". 

Influence is my chance to influence other people and is equal to my Eloquence + Empathy. There's a pile of modifiers for this, but I'm tired. Just trust me when I tell you that my base chance is 69.

There's healing rules but la la la I don't care!

Now we start to get into Skills with Common Knowledge. These are things that I get because of my race and class. If I were a human, I would get to pick from one of two lists, Barbarian and Civilized. Faerrys only get one list. It's long. It's listed with my character below. The big thing is that the game talks a lot about MEL and EL. I didn't know what these were for a long time. It turns out they're explained in the next section. They stand for Maximum Experience Level and Experience Level. 

Okay! Now I get to purchase skills that my character has learned over the course of her training and wanderings. I have 105 Expertise Points (from a previous table) to spend on skills. I assume that each skill costs a certain amount and...


Oh god. No.

I can't. I can't even.

It starts off by explaining things that I didn't understand from the previous section, notably that all skills are increased in Experience Levels, which cost a certain number of Expertise Points, up to the cap that is the Maximum Experience Level, which is based on your stats.

That's bad enough, but each skill costs a variable amount of points to learn and a variable amount of points to level up. The MEL for each skill is calculated using a complicated formula that is, again, different for each skill. Let me give you an example.

Say I want to buy the Axe skill. It costs me 18 EP to learn at Level 1. Each increase costs 6 x the new EL (12 for 2, 18 for 3, and so on). The maximum level is equal to (Strength + Stamina) / 10. My character can have an Axe MEL of 3.

Now, let's say I want to buy the Rhetoric skill. It costs me 30 EP to learn at Level 1. Each increase costs an amount of EP equal to the new EL squared (4 for 2, 9 for 3, and so on). It's maximum level is (Will + Eloquence + Empathy)/15. My character can have a Rhetoric MEL of 8.

And that's when I decided I was done. Here's my character so far.

Oh! And one of the charts determines my base wealth, which is multiplied by the coin type of my Station to determine my starting money. Almost forgot!

Myrradin the Very Pretty, Albeit Unfinished, Faerry Scholar and Sorceress


+10 (25)

Age: 23
Station:  3, Coin Type 2SC, Noted Scholar
Initial Increases: 16

Experience Points:  6 25 (Level 0)
Expertise Points: 105
Wealth: 25 (multiplied by coin type from Station) = 50 SC
Special Event: 13-None; 77-Special Attribute – Stamina
Hit Points: 10
Offensive Combat Value: 0
Defensive Combat Value: 5
Height/Weight: 17”, 20.4 lb.
Food Requirements: ¼ FP
Movement: 9”/31”
Influence: 69

Learn new languages at half cost.
Mana Sensing and Mana Reading (MEL and EL determined by character)
Speak: Faerry EL 80, Elf EL 80, Human EL 60, Sidh EL 80 if magic-user
I have wings and can fly.
I can enter the Lower World (MEL and EL determined by character)
I have the maximum EL in either Forest or Swamp Survival.

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