Gotham - Forged in the Dark - Playbook Ideas (+)

Aldarc

Legend
This is where I hit my most significant snag when I was tinkering with this. How exactly to handle powers? Would it be solely as playbook abilities? Or would I graft on a whole new module to help with that? I think either approach could work, but each has its drawbacks. I was going with a more broad supers approach, so that probably made it worse for my project, but I think this will be a significant element.
Depending on how one utilizes the flashback mechanic or the Devil's Bargain, it could potentially be used for Powers. Powers could require that the players take stress (or a Devil's Bargain) for an increased Effect. So you can use your Powers, but doing so attracts more Heat on the gang by law enforcement or masked vigilantes.

Playbooks in Band of Blades, from what I recall, switch out one action for a specialized action that the Playbook Archetype can do, typically a limited number of times. That may also work for a supers game.
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
One option for powers is something I've cribbed from CCaVF and that Marvel hack. The number of dots you have in a power is the number of times you can use it without it costing stress or decreasing in effectiveness. That doesn't necessarily mean the power simply doesn't work other times, but that you get, lets call it two extraordinary uses or something (anything with significant mechanical rather than fictional bonuses). After that you have to push to use the power. That might require power write ups to have a differentiation between constant effects and individual use effects somehow. Maybe on a case by case basis.

So a Tank might be generally strong, and lifting heavy stuff, but has a finite number of times he can, say, huck a fridge or something similarly large to do severe harm to the target (cribbed from SaV).
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Just to clarify the playbook above, that would be (like the Cutter) for melee focused non-tank fighters. We can go all Deadshot on the Hunter.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I think that allowing a certain number of uses for free and then requiring stress may work.

One of the ideas I had was to have most powers have a stress cost (kind of like the whisper’s ability to balst things with electricity in Blades), but then to have some playbook ability that allowed you to clear some stress. So the Tank would clear two stress whenever he protected a teammate, or something similar. I was trying yo promote teamwork and also kind of archetypical behavior.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I like the idea of stress clearing abilities a lot, especially one's like above that emphasize teamwork and synergy. Another option is to have an ability that reduces stress for the push itself. Maybe roll resolve or something similar. Both could exist at the same time, and might be necessary if there are more heavy hitters with combat focused powers floating around (plus things like automatic weapons).

Speaking of automatic weapons, push as a mechanic could work for gear to. So yeah, you can rock and roll on full auto, but you need to resist using quality maybe or the gun jams or whatever. That might be a good answer for character concepts focused more on tech than powers, although abilities will work there too. A rule like that could apply to most tech/weapons, or just specially designed ones. IDK, just spitballing.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Yeah there are several ways to approach it...it’s just a matter of finding the one that works best for the feel you’re going for and general balance within the game.

My approach with gear was to simply treat it the same as powers. When it comes to superheroes, I don’t think gear selection has the same meaning as it does for Blades, where the PCs are going on heists of some sort. Gear tends to simply be more of a power source in superhero stories. I had a couple of exceptions along the lines of the Leech’s bandolier in order to replicate something like Batman’s utility belt or Hawkeye’s quiver of arrows, but otherwise I didn’t focus on gear too much.

When you look at supers comics an movies, gear is usually just a baked in part of the character. Mr. Freeze is always gonna have his armor and gun; they’re what gives him his powers. Deadshot’s always gonna have his wrist guns and his eyepiece, and maybe a rifle.

That may be different for you since you’re definitely leaning into the gang of criminals idea. But since I was thinking of adding a whole new module for Powers, I figured removing the Gear/Load element of Blades might make sense to maintain rather than increase complexity.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
That is very true of costumed supers for sure. The same playbooks have to support normal crooks too though, so gear will probably stay in. I was considering a standard equipment list much like the one from SaV. Every ship has a basic set of gear, including pistols, rifles, spy gear, med kits, comms gear, explosives, armor and illegal drugs. The only stuff the PCs really need to work about is their personal kit if they're crafting. It's in keeping with the games general approach to not counting dollars and cents, and means an easy answer to questions like "what if I modded some detonators to do X...". I thought each lair should have basic kit.

My comment about gear earlier was specific to personal modded gear, like Freeze's gun. A gadget-y villain might have a bunch of that stuff, either as standard or one off mods for a job. Plus in this instance maybe things you might refer to as more like artillery, like missile launchers or turret mounted 50 cals. Not things you tend to have in the back of the lair's closet for use on short notice.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I like the idea of the base having certain gear available and allowing PCs to choose from that. And I do think that for this kind of approach gear is definitely more fitting than what I was doing. And I think essential gear like Freeze’s gun can be easily addressed, for sure.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
OK, I have an idea for how powers might work.

1. Powers are bought like actions, and range from one to four dots.
2. The number of dots you have in a power is also the number of times you can use the power without pushing.
3. Pushing costs the standard 2 stress
4. An additional set of abilities, Power Abilities, will be added and will be available to all playbooks. This could include power specific stunts, but will include ways to reduce the stress from pushing the power, or ways to substitute a gambit for the stress taken. Resisting the stress from pushing a power would be a roll with the die pool set to the dots in the power (representing greater control and stamina as the character gains experience).
5. The resist could be a 4-5/6 or a straight 6 for success, with successes cancelling a stress point.

Other than resist I don't think the power rank die pool gets rolled. If the power is going to add to an action I'd rather have that be an ability. For example, a Strength ability that adds 1d to Scrap or whatever. I'm not sure exactly what that part looks like, but I'd like to aim for a nice synergy between powers and power abilities where the power does X and does it Y times, and the other power abilities allow you to do more things with the power, perhaps adding dice or reducing stress for specific kinds of usage (like throwing heavy stuff for strength, or adding a setting to a freeze ray so it can also create ice sheets on the ground, not just freeze objects). I think the powers will also end up resting on a certain level of cooperative design between the GM and the player. Trying to write an exhaustive list of powers and effects isn't how I want to do this.

*edit*I suppose the power die pool might also be rolled to resist consequences at some point. I'll have to think about it.
 
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Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Cool, I had many of the same ideas. I'm going to take a stab at adding a "what you do" tag to each one and some thoughts on mechanical targets. For anyone not familiar with Scum and Villainy, here are the actions (which are subject to change, but they're closer than Blades). I already swapped Spooky for Attune, and Pilot for Helm. I'm not sold on doctor, but we'll see.

Insight - Doctor, Hack, Rig, Study
Prowess - Pilot, Skulk, Scrap, Scramble
Resolve - Spooky, Command, Consort, Sway

My take on playbooks so far, tip of the cap to the ideas upstream:

Mastermind - Cunning plans and misdirection are your bag. Targets: engagement roll, command, sway, synergy. Examples - Penguin, Riddler, Lex Luthor

Gadgeteer - If you build it, it will work. Armies of drones, power armour, freeze rays? All check. Targets: rig and hack, crazy tech and traps - Examples: Clock King, Mad Hatter

Mad Scientist - If you sew people together, make radioactive spiders, or have tanks of your own clones, this is you. Targets Doctor, Study, chemicals, strange science. Examples: Mr Freeze, Hugo Strange

Ghost - Infiltration, stealth, general sneakin'. Targets: Skulk, Scranble, security systems. Examples: Catwoman

Gunslinger/Mercenary - Have gun will travel. Shootin;, throwing', whuppin', you do it all. Targets: Scrap, Command, weapons.

Psycho - your best skill is always being the craziest person in the room. Targets: Resolve to soak stress, not being fashed about naught. Examples: Joker

Mystic - Master of the Dark Arts, Hell, the Undead, that's you. Targets: Spooky, magical of weirdness of all kinds. Examples: Gentleman Ghost, Faust

Mentalist - Mind control, fear, telepathy, illusion, 5e Psionics. Targets: command, sway, spooky, mental attacks of all kinds. Examples: Killian, Scarecrow

Tank - Jayzus, look at the size of that fella. Looks like a fighta. You're about the crumpin' and looming. Targets: Scrap (vs groups) feats of strength, various hard to damage type abilities. Examples: Bane, Solomon Grundy, Killer Croc

Ninja - this could be mystic, ghost or mercenary, but everyone likes ninjas. Cool martial arts, moving unseen, puffs of smoke to disappear in. Targets: Scrap, Skulk, nunchuks. Examples: Lady Shiva, League of Shadows

Freak - If you talk to your petunias or have other wacky inborn powers. Targets: control and shapechange type stuff, extra ability to realize a complicated power at the expense of action points. Examples: Poison Ivy, Clayface

A lot of Batman's foes could be built using more than one playbook depending on what aspect you wanted to highlight. PCs will be to take some special abilities from other playbooks, so that's fine, it's really the starting ability and Xp trigger that's the key character creation choice and the key mechanic to define the playbook.

I'm no longer sold on Industriaist. I think that could fit under mastermind. Where possible, I've consolidated ideas, with the exception of ninja, which I like too much to dilute I think.

Ninja and Ghost seem pretty similar. Or rather, the Ghost playbook seems like a subset of Ninja.

Also, do you want a playbook to represent a "gang", like the Mutants in Dark Knight Returns? While they had a leader, felt like the gang itself was the villain. Not sure if that would work in the FitD framework though.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Also, keep in mind that Blades in the Dark often presents alternate sample starting builds for each Playbook with a moniker: e.g., Lurk (Acrobat, Assassin, Burglar, Daring Rogue); Slide (The Siren, the Prestige, the Grifter, the Spy); or the Cutter (Captain, Thug, Terror, Devil Hunter).

So you could still use the Ninja, Ghost, Cat Burglar but put them all under a shared umbrella playbook.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Merging some of the playbook concepts upstream would have to happen, yeah. For now I'm going to look at the base model Blades playbooks and what they look like when they get changed to use the more modern actions from SaV. I'm not sure that will be the final answer, but it seems easier to start be seeing what can be done with what exists, and then create more content if there's a gap.
Also, do you want a playbook to represent a "gang", like the Mutants in Dark Knight Returns? While they had a leader, felt like the gang itself was the villain. Not sure if that would work in the FitD framework though.
I don't think that the FitB playbook really supports that as you describe it. That said, if you did the leader up using a playbook and maybe a lieutenant or two, and used the crew rules to represent the gang as a lot of cohorts that would probably work. You certainly can do a mook heavy thing with FitD. Even minus a specific playbook this is something that I'd write up as one of the factions in Gotham. In a lot of ways a version of this is how various mafia-like orgs would work - low-power leaders and lots of muscle and specialists.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I would take the opportunity and lean into the superhero genre for the names of the action, because this is an easy way to communicate setting and genre to the players. An action called "Smash," for example, is more evocative of the superhero genre than "wreck" or "scrap."
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I would take the opportunity and lean into the superhero genre for the names of the action, because this is an easy way to communicate setting and genre to the players. An action called "Smash," for example, is more evocative of the superhero genre than "wreck" or "scrap."
Up to a point. Smash really well works if it's hand to hand, but evokes ranged combat even less that Scrap. In SaV Scrap does both. I do agree that comics sounding terminology is a cool idea though. For example, the action results from that Marvel hack are Kapow, Bam, and Nooo!, which is fun. Once I have a definite list of actions I want to reskin and rename them in the name of genre appropriateness, same with the abilities. I don't want to lean to far into four color comic conventions though as that would be counter to the feel I'm looking for. I'm sure there is some middle ground there.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Up to a point. Smash really well works if it's hand to hand, but evokes ranged combat even less that Scrap. In SaV Scrap does both. I do agree that comics sounding terminology is a cool idea though. For example, the action results from that Marvel hack are Kapow, Bam, and Nooo!, which is fun. Once I have a definite list of actions I want to reskin and rename them in the name of genre appropriateness, same with the abilities. I don't want to lean to far into four color comic conventions though as that would be counter to the feel I'm looking for. I'm sure there is some middle ground there.
I forgot that SaV throws most of the fighting under the Scrap action whereas Blades distinguishes between Skirmish, Wreck, Hunt, or even Finesse.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I forgot that SaV throws most of the fighting under the Scrap action whereas Blades distinguishes between Skirmish, Wreck, Hunt, or even Finesse.
Yeah, I'm not sure exactly how I want to reconcile those. SaV is my default, but it's not a perfect fit. For a supers game it might be appropriate to have melee and ranged separate. I also want to keep the the attributes balanced and I need to add in modern skills. It's a lot of moving parts.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Maybe Blast and Brawl as ranged and melee actions?

They could both be under Prowess, likely replacing either Pilot or Finesse, I think.

Or you could put Brawl under Prowess as the Skirmish/Scrap equivalent and Blast under insight, replacing Doctor, I suppose.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
One way to go is to add powers as a fourth action type, that get bought with the same points. So a starting character would have to sacrifice skills for powers (also perhaps an extra actions point to spend on CC). Adding in the above starting abilities helps there too. Using the Xenos idea to swap the starting ability (which BitD doesn't use as a mechanic) for a more power-y power would also work.

FWIW, I wouldn't "handle powers" mechanically much at all. Even with powers, they still fall within some broadband "wrappers" of how they'll groove their super-villainy. I would just leave the powers a narrative descriptor, maybe have a "Freak" playbook for those characters where their power/weirdness is THE thing about them.

I was also thinking that one change might be to not have a "crew". At least, in my memory, comic villains always seem to be recombining in new schemes/team-ups. So, maybe replace the crew playbook with a "scheme" playbook for the group. Also, betrayal seems a big part of the way villains work with each other (and a big way their schemes fall apart), so that should be anticipated, if not a part of the game.

Perhaps have a "State of Gotham" book, instead of a crew book. Downtime might feature the heroes "fixing" Gotham. So that, unlike Blades, instead of an inevitable march towards dominion over Gotham's underworld, long-term play is a tug-of-war with the heroes.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I was picturing more of a three way tug of war, where the players have to balance gaining power at the expense of other criminals with trying to avoid costumed hero intervention. The latter is probably unavoidable past a certain point. Playing factions of against one another should a key component of survival in what is really a pretty overpopulated Gotham underworld. I wanted the game to start in a state of 'you can have what you are strong or clever enough to take" rather than having a ton of unpopulated spots on the map.

Your crew idea is interesting. I was considering some kind of shared goal thing that wasn't a crew type anyway. You know, revenge against Carmine Falcone, build a mad science empire to rival Lexcorp, rule the narrows with a iron fist, watch Gotham burn, or whatever. Something that would let the group have a little more say in setting the agenda and how they gain group XP. Unless I want to completely remove group XP there needs to be something there. The phrase that occurred to me was mission statement. Villains always seem to have that kind of motivation that drives their overall schemes. From a session zero standpoint that could be decided on prior to character creation, cast as sort of a "what kind of Gotham story are we telling", at which point the players can make characters appropriate to that kind of story. Having a shared metier kind of holds Blades together. I can see competing goals and betrayal working really well in a PtbA treatment though, and that would also be very cool.

Betrayal is a thing for comic book villains though. Perhaps there's a way to make pursuing your personal goals at the expense of the group goals a 'flaw' of some kind that triggers XP when you roleplay it. Somewhat like a vice I guess. The idea has some real potential for sure.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I think you have to keep some kind of crew element to the game. Sure, criminals double cross each other all the time in fiction, but you also have to remember you’re playing a game. It helps when the players’ characters are at least partially united.

My Blades in the Dark campaign had plenty of conflict among the crew members without any of them ever fully betraying the crew. I’d expect this game to work similarly.
 

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