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

I haven’t looked into this thread a ton (very good idea), but here is some input on archetype adversity within a specific theme:

1) Basic package (moves, dots, et al) that everyone gets.

2) Diversify via:

a) multiple xp triggers

b) Wide array of playbook moves (grab one at 1st and subsequent).
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I was hoping you'd show up in this thread eventually. (y) I want to add to the diversity of the playbooks. The abilities will be at least the same as S&V or BitD, and then I want to layer on powers and probably weaknesses. Figuring out XP triggers will be key, once I figure out exactly what the abilities, powers and whatnot look like.
 

I was hoping you'd show up in this thread eventually. (y) I want to add to the diversity of the playbooks. The abilities will be at least the same as S&V or BitD, and then I want to layer on powers and probably weaknesses. Figuring out XP triggers will be key, once I figure out exactly what the abilities, powers and whatnot look like.

Not frequenting the boards too much right now.

I’ll take a deeper look at the thread in the coming days and post some “Bladesey” thoughts about how to possibly construct classes/chassis and playbooks.
 


G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Just an idea for you (and maybe it's already in there; I'm only peripherally familiar with BitD)...after watching the first few seasons of Gotham, and a recurring trope that makes the show fun, I've been envisioning an RPG with this feature:
  1. You maintain a number of bonds with NPCs
  2. When you are in trouble, you can spend a resource that essentially lets you get lucky. So maybe you're hanging upside down in shackles, about to be dropped into the bay. You spend this resource, and another NPC intervenes to save you, or you remember that you have a paperclip in your pocket, or whatever.
  3. HOWEVER, the cost of doing that is that something happened to one of your bonds. So you escape, only to discover that somebody important to you is now in serious trouble.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
@Fenris-77 Would some generic playbook abilities work? Like a list of abilities available to any playbook, but not specifically tied to any of them. I mean, that's kind of how all of them work given the veteran advance option, and I know you want to avoid a power list, but that may add some diversity and fill that "Power" category. Seems like it would be similar to the xeno abilities of S&V or the Advance Abilities and Permissions from Blades.

I think you're right that you have to consider Stress cost for ability use. It would seem to make sense for some abilities, but not others. But since power use would be expected to be pretty common, PCs may use up Stress far more quickly than in Blades. So Stress cost is probably something to consider on a case by case basis, some powers may have it and others may not. And maybe having some abilities that allow you to clear stress may also be a good idea.

For XP triggers, you thinking of following Blades with 3 uniform to all playbooks, and then 1 specific to each playbook?
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I don't actually want to completely avoid a power list per se, I just want to avoid three pages of dense text describing every individual power in the known universe. I think once I have categories of power decided on, two or three example powers for each would be more than sufficient. I think the idea would be that some base mechanics are laid out, along with some examples, but after that its up to the player and GM to define the exact nature of the powers. That shouldn't be too much of a burden when its tag based, and I can steal some of the verbiage from CoM about overly broad tags and whatnot.

I suspect that powers will be a complete 'chapter' of the rules. I want that to be more about the narrative uses, setting how they function in play, and outlining progression during play, than about lists of actual powers. I really dig the division of powers in CoM into themes, and I think I want to steal that. There are 8 themes total, and that seems manageable, and has some nice symmetry with the number of playbooks. It's almost a 1-1 relationship between the playbooks and powers actually. Since you would be able to dip into more than one power that really opens up the variety in how characters get built.

On to stress. Yeah, I had thought that this seemed like a high stress-use kind of game. I'm not 100% sure how to manage that. I like compelling weaknesses in return for reduced stress, but I don't know if that will enough. It's not like anyone wants their glaring weakness coming up 4 or 5 times a job. One possibility is to lengthen the stress track a little, and another is to keep the stress costs down as much as possible. One way to reduce the stress use is to have basic power use not require it, but require it for 'souped up' actions. So you flaming fists add a die to melee, and you can burn a stress to have them also grant potency for the duration of combat. Something like that.

One thought I had along those lines is to add some dramatic tension to the game by having two mechanics that really pull the characters in different direction. Since we're talking villains, I think at least some of the XP triggers should be very personal and individual, and perhaps quite different from playbook to playbook. If, on the other hand, some of the mechanics for powers emphasized teamwork and cooperation to help mitigate or reduce stress, that could produce a nice push and pull between individual goals and team success. Especially if those system were purpose designed to work together to get the desired push and pull. I don't know if this exact example will provide the tension, but the more I think about the more I really want that tension in the game somewhere, somehow.

Specifically on XP, I'll say I'm not sure. The baseline is obviously Blades but that may change a little once the details start to emerge. One thing I'm considering is either decoupling XP from the attributes and make it more personal beliefs and mission state oriented, or keeping the attribute XP and extending it to powers somehow. Powers could simply be treated as additional attributes, but since they are used in conjunction with actions, where do you put the XP for desperate actions, on the attribute or Power XP track? The option I'm currently looking at the hardest is to keep attribute XP the way it is, but tie power XP to personal belief and goal type stuff. Generally, your actions get better from desperate use, and your powers get better by following through on your core drives and motivations.
 

Band of Blades has a shorter Stress track to emphasize the mortality of your soldiers.

Maybe Gotham can have a longer Stress track? Alternatively, maybe allow 4 or 5 Trauma max instead? With a correspondingly longer list of Traumas? That would be fitting for our damaged supervillains.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Yeah, a longer stress track might be in order for sure. I don't want things to get too gonzo though. I am going to include some mechanics for reducing stress, and its possible that not everything needs to work off stress either. Managing that resource is a key part of the game though, and I don't want to make too easy - players need to feel like they're being challenged. I think I need to lay out all the stress based mechanics side by each and see what it looks like. For example, with powers and tech, there may be less need to spend stress to resist in combat perhaps.

Another mechanic from CoM that I'm looking at is Burning Tags. You can burn a tag (that gets recovered in downtime) to add dice to a roll, or avoid consequences. So essentially giving up a portion of your power to not get dropped in the cacky. That could be something we can work with in addition to stress. At the very least I want to have some non-super power tags so that not everyone needs to be 'super'. There could be tech versions, and skill related tags. All sorts of options. They essentially work as free floating skills in CoM, which doesn't have named skills like BitD. That needs to change, but they certainly could work as specializations that add to skills in certain circumstances, much like we;ve discussed powers doing.

I don't want to fall too far down the tags rabbit hole. I really like the idea, but I'm still not 100% sure I can make it work with the BitD abilities and action pools.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
There's another PbtA supers game called Worlds in Peril. It has an interesting way of handling powers, that I think might be better suited to adaptation to the FitD engine.

Basically, you keep a "profile" of your powers, just a list of things you can do. You can use that profile as narration for what you do. So, you'd still be triggering the "scuffle" or "wreck" move, but you can use your superpowers as part of describing how you do it. Two general moves, "Burnout" and "Push" let you expand your power profile with different risks involved. So, if you want to use your freezey powers to cryogenically shatter a vault door, but you don't have anything like that in your profile, you might "Push" to do it and add it to your profile. Similarly, if you are in desperate straits and trying to use your freezy power to extinguish a burning building...you might be risking "Burnout". I feel like that's an easier route than trying to stack individual power moves into a FitD framework, plus it adds an organic growth method.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I think I may have gotten carried away with the City of Mist content. :D This happens to me a lot when I'm working on mechanics, I read something new, or different and get all ooooh, shiny about it. In the interests of keeping this project manageable I may avoid creating a ton of new bespoke mechanics. I think some of the powers stuff can be handled within the various playbooks, and something low-key on top of that. I'll check out Worlds in Peril and see what it has to offer.

Batman's enemies are primarily schemers and gageteers anyway, with only a small leavening of what might properly be called super villains, so there's no need to get carried away trying to accommodate every super power imaginable. I'm working on the skill list and playbook list now, hopefully I can get that up later on today and you guys can tell me what you think.

Just as a note, I should probably mention that I am very much coming at this from the Scum and Villainy side of things. I have read Blades, a lot, but I've never had the chance to play. SaV is the game I've played and run a bunch, and while they are pretty dang similar there are differences.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Just a few thoughts on recent comments.

I don't actually want to completely avoid a power list per se, I just want to avoid three pages of dense text describing every individual power in the known universe. I think once I have categories of power decided on, two or three example powers for each would be more than sufficient. I think the idea would be that some base mechanics are laid out, along with some examples, but after that its up to the player and GM to define the exact nature of the powers. That shouldn't be too much of a burden when its tag based, and I can steal some of the verbiage from CoM about overly broad tags and whatnot.

I think leaving a lot of this to the GM and players to kind of hash out and formalize is probably a good idea, and very in line with the FitD approach. Whether it's through Tags or Profiles or some other mechanic, I think just loosely defining and/or providing some examples to prompt players and GMs to come up with more is a good idea.

One thought I had along those lines is to add some dramatic tension to the game by having two mechanics that really pull the characters in different direction. Since we're talking villains, I think at least some of the XP triggers should be very personal and individual, and perhaps quite different from playbook to playbook. If, on the other hand, some of the mechanics for powers emphasized teamwork and cooperation to help mitigate or reduce stress, that could produce a nice push and pull between individual goals and team success. Especially if those system were purpose designed to work together to get the desired push and pull. I don't know if this exact example will provide the tension, but the more I think about the more I really want that tension in the game somewhere, somehow.

Tension like that seems like a good idea. Just an idea that occurred while reading....maybe place the selfishness of Batman's rogues at the heart of it. Maybe a specific XP Trigger rewards selfish behavior, but the mechanic that clears some stress is one that promotes teamwork. The PC has to decide which of these approaches to take, which reward to pursue. Self versus group.

Specifically on XP, I'll say I'm not sure. The baseline is obviously Blades but that may change a little once the details start to emerge. One thing I'm considering is either decoupling XP from the attributes and make it more personal beliefs and mission state oriented, or keeping the attribute XP and extending it to powers somehow. Powers could simply be treated as additional attributes, but since they are used in conjunction with actions, where do you put the XP for desperate actions, on the attribute or Power XP track? The option I'm currently looking at the hardest is to keep attribute XP the way it is, but tie power XP to personal belief and goal type stuff. Generally, your actions get better from desperate use, and your powers get better by following through on your core drives and motivations.

These seem like interesting ideas. Maybe allow some customization by giving each playbook a blank XP Trigger that they can choose? Maybe tie this to their origin/personal goals as you mention?


Band of Blades has a shorter Stress track to emphasize the mortality of your soldiers.

Maybe Gotham can have a longer Stress track? Alternatively, maybe allow 4 or 5 Trauma max instead? With a correspondingly longer list of Traumas? That would be fitting for our damaged supervillains.

Additional stress seems to be a possibility....but may tip too far toward PC strength. It'd probably take a good deal of testing to see how this would work.

Additional traumas seems like a less drastic change. Also, thinking about Batman's bad guys, I feel like having each starting with a Trauma already might make sense.

Yeah, a longer stress track might be in order for sure. I don't want things to get too gonzo though. I am going to include some mechanics for reducing stress, and its possible that not everything needs to work off stress either. Managing that resource is a key part of the game though, and I don't want to make too easy - players need to feel like they're being challenged. I think I need to lay out all the stress based mechanics side by each and see what it looks like. For example, with powers and tech, there may be less need to spend stress to resist in combat perhaps.

Another mechanic from CoM that I'm looking at is Burning Tags. You can burn a tag (that gets recovered in downtime) to add dice to a roll, or avoid consequences. So essentially giving up a portion of your power to not get dropped in the cacky. That could be something we can work with in addition to stress. At the very least I want to have some non-super power tags so that not everyone needs to be 'super'. There could be tech versions, and skill related tags. All sorts of options. They essentially work as free floating skills in CoM, which doesn't have named skills like BitD. That needs to change, but they certainly could work as specializations that add to skills in certain circumstances, much like we;ve discussed powers doing.

One thing that comes to mind here is how Blades doesn't differentiate between "powers" and "mundane" abilities. The Whisper can undoubtedly do some super stuff....but it's not really treated as different. So I'd think you could follow the same approach here. Mechanically, there's no need to treat the Joker's acid corsage differently than a punch from Solomon Grundy or a rifle shot from Deadshot or whatever. Narratively, yes they're different, but mechanically they can be the same, unless there's a compelling reason to highlight the difference.

I suppose the main difference is one of potential stress cost. I think that anything that would be considered a base attack (as they'd translate to Blades or S&V, at least)....a punch or a stab or a shot.....shouldn't cost stress. But tacking on an effect or an additional die should. So maybe Solomon Grundy has a Skirmish of 3d and that's what he rolls whenever he tries to smash someone with a fist. But he also has the ability "Strength of the Grave" (or some such) which allows him to add dice at the expense of Stress.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
The way I'm trending now, in the hangover of too much CoM, is to keep the powers mostly within the playbooks as add-ons to actions and as abilities. The abilities will be available as veteran abilities, so if the coverage of stuff is good across the playbooks as a set then a given player should be able to mix and match to get the concept they are going for. I like the idea of tying the base functionality to an action, whichever one best exemplifies the power, and having it add a base +1d to that action at no stress cost. That's well within the existing rules. Anything above and beyond that costs stress. If the power also works something like a narrative tag, you could take that +1d to a different action, but at the cost of stress (and having to narrate the reality of how it works). The special abilities are more specific and 'power-y' manifestations of the power. I think the two fit together well from a narrative standpoint.

I think that model would take care of most low-end blasting, gadgets, stealth, mind control, illusions and that sort of thing. A couple of nails that stick up are flight, body transformation, and elemental control type stuff (poison Ivy for example). I'm not going to sweat the edge cases too much, and I think there will be a specific playbook for the Clayface/Poison Ivy crowd.

I do want the main drive for each villain to be a key piece. Every villain has a pretty transparent reason for all their villain-ing, and their power or 'thing' is usually tied pretty directly to that core drive. I like the idea of making selfish actions related to that core drive a key part of play, that sounds cool. If it's set up so that the individual drives will often be in conflict with the teamwork necessary to pull jobs I think the tension I'm looking for will be achieved.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I dont think stress tracks should be longer
Reading through City of Mist and thinking about Gotham villains I started thinking that perhaps every character could have an Obsession Theme which is their major weakness - eg Mr Freezes wife Nora, Twofaces coin, Penguins ’rejection from society’.
Burning Obsession tags could then be a way to access Power-ups that go beyond standard abilities but with the drawback that it triggers Trauma - eg Batman becomes a threat to Nora, causing Mr Freeze to go into overdrive but also risking his descent to crazy.
The Joker becomes special because his Obsession tags have all been burned
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I dont think stress tracks should be longer
Reading through City of Mist and thinking about Gotham villains I started thinking that perhaps every character could have an Obsession Theme which is their major weakness - eg Mr Freezes wife Nora, Twofaces coin, Penguins ’rejection from society’.
Burning Obsession tags could then be a way to access Power-ups that go beyond standard abilities but with the drawback that it triggers Trauma - eg Batman becomes a threat to Nora, causing Mr Freeze to go into overdrive but also risking his descent to crazy.
The Joker becomes special because his Obsession tags have all been burned
I'm not sure this is exactly the way I want to go, but its very much generally the way I want to go. I really want to find a way to take the obsessions of the villains and put them center stage. I believe that in CoM you can't actually burn weakness tags (could be wrong) but somehow activating that tag sounds like the right idea. Maybe the end of the road there is bughouse crazy and a nice comfy room at Arkham.

Perhaps obsession should be a whole track of its own. I can think of a bunch of ways to use that. Perhaps its like the anti-XP. In any session where you don't invoke your obsession you mark the track. That could be cool, and invoking the obsession could be a way to reduce stress.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I'm not sure this is exactly the way I want to go, but its very much generally the way I want to go. I really want to find a way to take the obsessions of the villains and put them center stage. I believe that in CoM you can't actually burn weakness tags (could be wrong) but somehow activating that tag sounds like the right idea. Maybe the end of the road there is bughouse crazy and a nice comfy room at Arkham.

Perhaps obsession should be a whole track of its own. I can think of a bunch of ways to use that. Perhaps its like the anti-XP. In any session where you don't invoke your obsession you mark the track. That could be cool, and invoking the obsession could be a way to reduce stress.

That might be the exact tension you were looking for....maybe a second track makes sense.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Hmm. Maybe players could take obsession like they take stress, but only if it directly feeds their obsession. So if the Joker wants to watch Gotham burn, he could use obsession to buff a roll but only if it were to directly cause terror and chaos to the citizens of Gotham. The downside of filling the track is immediate retirement, and I suppose there would be downtime actions to reduce obsession, but there's an opportunity cost there because that's less time to reduce stress or do other downtime things. I like it.

And still have added obsession in a session where you didnt invoke it. So the obsession grows either way. That sounds pretty central. Now I just have to fit it into the background mechanics.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
OK, I have a starting action list decided on. It's heavy on the SaV side to reflect the modern setting. I'm a little dubious about only having one combat skill, rather than BitD's three, but I needed room for things like computers and driving. Still subject to change, but here it is:

Insight: Hack, Rig, Survey, Study

Prowess: Skulk, Helm, Scramble, Scrap

Resolve: Consort, Command, Sway, Attune

Not everyone is familiar with Scum and Villainy, so I'll expand a little. Hack covers computers and security systems and control override; Rig alters and creates mechanisms, and covers explosives; Study will cover science generally, plus its normal duties; Skulk is stealth, but no combat; Scramble is run, climb, jump, swim; Helm covers driving, piloting and vehicle weapons; Scrap is the catch-all combat skill for both ranged and melee.

I wanted to keep a wide array of non-combat skills on the table so the game can easily run to Ocean's Eleven, or Boardroom Warrior style crime, not just breakin' and takin'. Crafting will primarily be accomplished through Rig for gadgeteers, and Study for those mad scientists who want poisons, drugs and other mad science inventions. In some cases I'm envisioning a combination of the two, where study gets you the new tech, and Rig builds the fancy gun that uses it. Call those two Science and Engineering I guess.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I also have a list of playbooks banged out. Not the content of course, that's the tricky bit, but the list of basic templates. I think the coverage is there for all the villains one might expect from a game set in Gotham. The list leans more heavily on BitD than the skill list above, in keeping with the more directly criminal feel of the game. I'll list of the books, plus the BitD equivalent, plus some Gotham-y examples for each.

Bruiser (Cutter) - The big fella. Focused on brute force a little more than the cutter. Scrap is the action you'll use a lot. King Shark, one version of Bane, that sort of thing. Powers: strength, resistances

Shiv (Hound) - the Dex-based fighter. Ninjas, snipers, etc. Anyone who fights with speed and grace, and is better at avoiding blows than just not noticing them. Deadshot, League of Assassin's types. Powers: speed, combat

Brains (Leech) - the mad scientist and gadgeteer. Focused on Rig and Study, they're brewing poisons and building freeze rays. Some bonuses for Crafting probably. Dr. Freeze, Scarecrow. Powers: mad science, you name it

Ghost (Lurk) - You second story man or infiltrator. Anyone who excels at going unnoticed. Skulk and Rig are the keys skills here. Cat Woman would be the prime example. Powers: stealth and portation

Face (Slide) - If you lie for a living this is your playbook. Manipulation and fabrication are your stock in trade. Consort and Sway are the focus. Spellbinder is a good example. Powers: disguise, mind control, illusion

Mastermind (Spider) - You love it when a plan comes together. Webs and plans baby, that's your thing. Joker, Penguin, it's a big list. Powers: probably the least power-y

Mystic (Whisper) - The Arts Arcane are what props your tent. Deals with devil, powers from hell, consorting with the undead, you get it. Focused on Arcane. Gentleman Ghost, The Monk.

Freak (new) - Manipulation of the physical world through powers. This is the catchall for the Poison Ivy and Clayface types. This one is going to be tricky to build and it may or may not stick.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I like both those lists, overall. The Actions are always key since these are the things the characters will actually do.

The only questions I have are about Helm and Attune.

For Scum & Villainy, Helm makes a lot of sense. The PCs are a space faring crew on a ship, and they're going to need to get around, and so that will come up. Will it be as integral to Gotham? Is driving or piloting a significant action for most scoundrels in Gotham? If you think it will be, then keep it. If not, then what would you put in its place?

Regarding Attune, I think it's more just a question of the term. It seems very tied to the settings.....attuning to the Ghost Field in Blades, or to The Way in S&V. But I don't know if there's an equivalent force (ha!) in the DCU that a character would Attune to. Would another verb be better for what you want this Action to be? This may be a pretty minor quibble on my part.....I expect that Attune is going to be used for any kind of harnessing or summoning of power.....Poison Ivy would Attune to the Green or to nearby plants, and so on.

That's all I have off the top of my head on the Actions. The playbooks all seem pretty archetypal and align with the Blades ones in a way that makes some abilities an easy choice, but still leaves room to add or alter as needed. Looking at those, I can imagine ways to come up with most of the Gotham villains....usually in more than one way, too. So that's probably a sign that it's a solid foundation.
 

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