MindWanderer's Character Creation Tips

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MindWanderer's Character Creation Tips

The Sentinel Comics RPG is focused mainly on theme and storytelling.  Although there are combat abilities, "balance" isn't the focus of its design.  As a result, it's quite possible to create a character who's frustratingly ineffective.

That may not be a priority for you.  Maybe you have a specific concept in mind, or you're trying to duplicate a specific character from popular culture.  Maybe your campaign consists almost entirely of role-playing and narration, and the dice and abilities don't matter very much.  Maybe your campaign isn't about "winning" and "losing" but doing whatever feels appropriate and seeing where that takes you.  If any of that applies to you, this guide isn't going to be of help to you.  But if your idea of having a good time is feeling like every one of your actions is contributing to the party's success in every scene, you may find it helpful.

This guide is in two parts.  The first part, aimed at everyone creating a new character, contains suggestions for what to bear in mind when choosing your powers, qualities, principles, and abilities so that you don't find yourself rolling d4's or taking basic actions all the time.  The second part, aimed at optimizers, is an evaluation of what abilities, and thus which power sources and archetypes, will get you the most bang for your buck.

This is based on pre-release information shared by Greater Than Games.  Specific are subject to change.

Being Useful

When following the character creation instructions, you'll first choose a background, a power source, an archetype, a background, and a retcon, in that order.  This gets you:

  1. Background: A principle and usually 2 qualities
  2. Power Source: Usually 3 powers
  3. Archetype: A principle and usually 3 powers/qualities
  4. Personality: One custom quality at d8
  5. Retcon: Several options, but the ones that change your powers, qualities, or principles aren't ideal.

Don't feel like you have to be a slave to exactly that order of operations.  Your choices have to be legal at each step but you can feel free to go back and forth and change your selections.  Just make sure that if you make any changes to an earlier step, you make sure all your later choices are still legal.  For instance, you can't make an ability from your power source key off a power you gained from your archetype.  But if you choose Cursed as your power source and then Elemental Manipulator as your archetype, it's fine to go back and swap out one of your other Cursed abilities for Attunement.

Give Yourself Options

If your character concept is simple, it can be tempting to design a character who can be a bit of a one-trick pony.  For instance, you might give a soldier a bunch of athletic power and physical qualities, or a scientist a bunch of intellectual powers and information qualities.

Resist this temptation!  If your character over-specializes in a certain concept, you'll find yourself having lots of options in some situations (and probably just using the stats with the largest die over and over) and completely clueless in other situations.

Instead, look at the other options you have and think about ways your character could show some depth or versatility.  Maybe your soldier is a natural leader (Presence, Leadership) or a wilderness survivor (Awareness, Alertness).  Your scientist could have Gadgets that do any number of other things, and they could have a Mental or Social quality that reflects their personality.  This will give them dice to lean on when they're outside their area of expertise.

Obvious Combinations

For each of your qualities, look at your list of powers and make sure there's at least one power that has an obvious application.  For instance, if you have Banter, and your powers are Strength, Fire, Flight, and Power Suit, it's going to be hard for you to come up with ways to make use of that quality.  Not impossible, but making use of it on the fly in an unexpected situation won't be something that happens very often.  Consider swapping those qualities out, or swapping a power to something that works more easily.

Then, do the same thing with your powers, making sure they each work easily with at least one of your qualities.

This is doubly important for your principles.  For each of your principles, make sure you can imagine several scenarios where you might use that principle, in combination with at least one, preferably more than one, of your powers and qualities.  If you can't, choose a different principle or change your powers and/or qualities.  Remember, it's easier to imagine scenarios that might happen than it is to come up with something to do in an unexpected situation your character might be thrown into.

Default Abilities

The same applies to your abilities.  Each of your action abilities will have either a power or a quality you're required to use with it, but make sure you have an obvious quality (if it uses a power) or power (if it uses a quality) that you could easily pair with it without even thinking about it.  If you have to think carefully about which dice you're going to use every time you use an ability, you may not end up getting full use of them, or at best you'll slow down the game when it comes to your turn.  You don't have to use the same dice every time you use an ability, but it helps if you have a default combination you can fall back on without worrying about it.

Swiss Army Knives

Some powers, qualities, and principles are easy to use in a variety of contexts, and having them means you always have something to fall back on.  Some examples:

Technological powers plus the Technology quality mean you could have a device for almost any situation, especially if you have the Gearhead principle.

Elemental/Energy powers are mostly destructive in their application, but Cold is especially useful because it also allows you to create or manipulate ice, and Electricity can work with electronics (though crudely).  Creativity and Science are especially useful qualities here; they goes well with Materials powers, too.

Intellectual powers (except Presence) can help you do almost anything, because what problem doesn't involve thinking about something?  The tricky part is having qualities appropriate to the situation.

A "Signature Weapon" could be a device that doesn't just kill people.  It could be a magic sword, a modular cannon, or a cosmic artifact that has other capabilities.  Make sure you communicate with your GM about what your signature weapon can and cannot do, so it isn't just an omnipotent Swiss army knife.

Some principles (Energy/Element, Fauna, Flora, Future, Gearhead, Science, Stealth, and Strength) apply basically any time you use the specific power or quality it describes.  If you take one that's tied to a power, try to pick up as many different qualities as possible to use with it, or one or two qualities that apply pretty much all the time.  The reverse is true if you pick up one tied to a quality.

(There are a couple of principles that are thematically connected to other powers or qualities, but their Overcomes don't boil down to "use this whenever you use this die.")

There's one principle that stands out here: Great Power.  If you have several powers with a d10, it's a supremely versatile choice and doesn't require any thought at all.  If you have just one d12 power, treat it like a single-power principle.

Limited Use

On the other hand, some powers are limited in when you can use them, because they work on something in the environment that may not be present or accessible.  If you choose one of these, be aware that it's not always even going to be available, and make sure you have fallback options.  These include Weather, all Materials except Transmutation (especially Toxic), Swimming, Animal Control, Suggestion, and Absorption.

This is also true of many qualities, especially Information and Social qualities.  Sometimes you can use Social qualities on your teammates, but if you're doing that to solve problems, you have an unusual set of problems.  And unless they apply to your own tools (notably Magical Lore and Technology), every Information quality except Science only applies in a context where your area of expertise happens to be either the problem or an available solution.  Sometimes you can make it work anyway, but often you can't.  That's not to say you shouldn't take these unless you know the campaign will make them applicable most of the time, but the more of these you have, the more other high-die qualities you'll want to have as well.

Principles are even more important to consider, since you only get two of them.  A large number of principles only apply under specific conditions (e.g. Exorcism, Space, or Family) which may or may not be common in your campaign.  Talk to your GM about these so you know if they're likely to be completely useless.  Others can be broadly applicable but hard to use often (e.g. Destiny, History, Equality).  In either case, try to choose at least one principle that's going to be useful more often than not.

Being the Best

So, just being generally useful isn't good enough for you?  You want to crack this game wide open?  Read on for tips about the best backgrounds, power sources, archetypes, personalities, abilities, and combinations thereof to give you the most bang for your buck.  Bear in mind that you're deliberately putting character concept second here.  You can still create interesting characters this way, but it'll be hard to make a specific concept while also min-maxing.  You can, of course, take some advice from this section without optimizing whole hog.

Unlike other RPG's, SCRPG doesn't particularly encourage specialization.  While you can construct a party this way (e.g. one single-target damage, one multi-target damage, one booster, one hinderer), it's often even more effective to branch out and take several really good abilities that do different things.  That way, if your best abilities are multi-target attacks and you face one big bad villain, you might also have single-target attacks, boosts, hinders, or defense abilities you can switch to.

Dice

It probably goes without saying that you're going to want to use d10's and d12's as often as possible, but it's a little more complicated than that.  The options that let you get d12's usually penalize you by giving you fewer or smaller dice.  That means that you should only go for d12's when you have a very specific schtick that you can use nearly every time you roll.  If you want versatility, go for d10's.

You pretty much never want to be rolling d6's--they're barely better than the default d4.  However, d6 powers and qualities serve a useful purpose: gaining access to Red abilities.  Several great Red abilities (listed below) don't require you to roll the die associated with the power or quality that gave you access to it.  Try to save your d6's for these.  But you only get to choose two or three Red abilities, so there's a limit on how much use you can get out of this.

Also remember to put as large a die as possible into either an Athletic power or a Mental quality, since those are used to calculate Health.

Abilities

The most important thing you're looking for is abilities that provide the most value possible.  The best abilities are the ones that:

  • Let you affect more than two targets or affect a target more than two times
  • Let you use a larger-than-normal die
  • Are reactions that you can use round after round (although not more than one of these),
  • Are constantly-useful innate abilities
  • Are the ones that lend themselves to specific interactions.

Noteworthy, common abilities include:

  • Use a large die or a combination of dice: These are the most effective abilities at achieving a single task, notably attacking a villain or a large lieutenant, or achieving Overcomes without racking up twists.  Sever Link, Grasping Vines, Natural Weapon, Flurry of Fists, Power Strike, Load, Exploding Ammo, Ricochet, Imbue with Element, Offensive Strike, Damage Spike, Banish, Powerful Blast, Astral Projection, Telepathic Whammy, Gimmick, Surprise Shift, Analyze Weakness, Helpful Invention, Probability Insight
  • Attack any number of targets: These are critical for dealing with minions, especially multiple minion groups, and helpful for small-die lieutenants.  Dangerous Explosion, Non-Stop Assault (also Hinders), Blinding Strike (ditto), Danger Zone, Live Dangerously, Energy Jaunt, Field of Energy, Run Down
  • Boost or Hinder any number of targets: Fantastic at making your teammates better or your enemies worse.  Can work to effectively augment attacks by hindering minion or lieutenant saves. Area Alteration (uses your Max die), Modification Wave, Mass Modification, Costly Strength (Boost only, uses Max+Mid but hinders yourself with Min), Strange Enhancement (ditto), Alien Boost (ditto), Mass Adjust, Speedy Analysis (boost only but uses Max)
  • Boost all Attack or Overcome actions until your next turn: As above, but both more restrictive and potentially more efficient.  Galvanize, Aerial Surveillance, Psychic Coordination
  • Create a persistent boost: A boost that lasts for an entire scene, when applied early, will help you do everything better.  Expanded Mind (which uses your Max die and adds an attack), Power from Beyond (ditto), Always Be Prepared (which adds an attack), Growth, Personal Upgrade, Draw Power, Onboard Upgrade, Attune, Sniper Aim, Self-Improvement, Psychic Analysis, Power Up, Helpful Invention
  • Attack and ignore penalties, defense and reactions: Many villains have nasty reactions and large defense values that this will bypass.  Be careful with the penalties, though, as a penalty not applied is also not expended.  Use these too often and when you do try to do something else, you'll fail badly.  Precise Shot, Precise Hit, Precise Strike, Unstoppable Charge
  • React to when you are attacked: Free actions that either improve your survivability or retaliate, as long as you're drawing attacks.  Reactive Field, Tactical Analysis, Halt, A Plan for Everything, Combat Stance, Untouchable, Smoke Bombs, Barrel Roll, Illusionary Double
  • Help your allies outside of your turn: Other free actions, easier to trigger.  Misdirection, Mystic Redirection, Magical Shield, Reach through Veil, Procognitive Alteration, Postcognitive Undestanding, Not Quite Right
  • Reroll: Don't underestimate the power of getting a second try to roll well.  Unstable Reaction, Recalculating..., Twist Reality, Psychic Insight, Surprise Results, Analyze Probabilities
  • Universally useful innates: Innates that don't have uncommon conditions are always good to have.  Unflagging, Punishment, Damage Reduction, Charged Up, Created Form, Intentionality, Double-Edged Luck, Resilience, Damage Resistant, Armored, Metal Skin
  • Protect or heal yourself from self-damage: These are for specific combos, but those combos are powerful, usually dealing a lot of damage.  Immunity, Techno-Absorb, Created Immunity, Attunement, Cosmic Ray Absorption, Energy Immunity, Energy Alignment

Abilities to be avoided are:

  • "Perform (specific action).  Also perform (specific other action) with your Min die."  You'll see variants of this ability a lot, and while it's better than the specific basic action, it's not by much.  If you really want to do this, you can take a Risky Action to do it with a minor twist using any combination of actions you want, and not spend an ability slot on it.  It's a poor choice as a Green ability and a horrible choice as a Yellow one.
  • "Perform (specific action).  Then remove a penalty on yourself or Recover using your Min die."  This is okay at removing persistent penalties, but those don't happen often and it only applies to yourself.  It's useless at removing normal penalties since they'll be used up on the roll itself.  The healing is miniscule, and healing is a mixed blessing unless you're already solidly in Red.  This usually appears as a Yellow ability, and there are nearly always better choices.

Backgrounds

You're mostly looking at die sizes here, but bear the principles in mind as well, so try to pick a background that gets you access to a principle you want.  Most give you a d10 and a d8 for its qualities, but there's a lot of variety in what dice you get for the powers that you assign to your power source options.

Noteworthy backgrounds include:

  • Upper Class (10, d8, d8 powers, but the hard-to-use Responsibility principles)
  • Academic (One of three backgrounds that gets you a d12 quality, and no d6's, but one fewer power die)
  • Tragic (Two d10 powers)
  • Retired (Two d10 qualities and the only background with a d12 power)
  • Medical (An extra d6 quality and slightly better power spread than the standard power spread of d10,d8,d6)
  • Interstellar (A d12 quality)
  • Created (A d12 quality and two d10 powers!)
  • Military, Former Villain, and Blank Slate (Slightly better than the standard power spread)

Backgrounds to avoid include:

  • Struggling (lots of dice but all d8's and d6's)
  • Adventurer, Criminal, and Exile (all d8 powers)
  • Otherworldly (Slightly worse than the standard power spread)

Power Sources

Your power source is the toughest choice you need to make, since it determines most of your yellow abilities, possibly a green ability, and the dice you'll use for your archetype that can go to either powers or qualities.  The following is a list of all Power Sources and my ranking of each.

  1. Accident (4/5): Area Alteration is a powerful choice that lets you either boost or hinder (chosen when you choose the ability) any number of nearby targets, using your max die, which is pretty great.  You may even want to take it twice, once for boosts and once for hinders.  Reflexive Burst can be pretty random, but if you can finagle things to get consistent use out of it, it's a free mass attack, nothing to sneeze at.  Inflict is awful.  The green Reactions are niche.  Immunity is a ghetto version of similar yellow abilities; if you're going to set up a self-damaging elemental hero, there are better ways of doing it.  You get only a d12 and a d6 for your Archetype, so you'd better be prepared to specialize.
  2. Training (3/5): Always Be Prepared lets you get a persistent boost, plus attack afterwards, which is an excellent ability even though you'll only use it once per scene (unless an enemy cancels the boost).  Reactive Field is free damage.  Flowing Fight, like every mass attack that requires you to use a different boost on each target, is bad--if you have enough boosts to make it worthwhile, you'd be utterly devastating if you used a straight-up mass attack.  Instead of a green ability, you get a d8 quality, which is a terrible trade-off.
  3. Genetic (1/5): Just poor all around.  Except for Rally, there are plenty of other choices that do what this does but better.  Rally is a solid mass heal for a green ability, although if you're finding yourself needing to use mass heals frequently, you're in a pretty odd campaign.
  4. Experimentation (1/5): Misdirection is nice, and has the odd characteristic of being better the worse the die you put into it is.  Unflagging is handy, making it so you rarely have to put up with being hindered.  Nothing here will define a build but the options are nice to have... except that all the dice it gives you are d8's, so your Archetype choices will be crippled.
  5. Mystical (3/5): Sever Link is nice, especially if you have niche principles--an almost unconditional max-die Overcome plus a free boost is something you'll use frequently.  A mass boost/hinder is a potent option as well.  Mystic Redirection is a powerful protective option, as long as you have lots of health or self-healing.  You don't get a green ability, but you get a d10 quality instead, which isn't bad.
  6. Nature (2/5): A powerful attack, but you have to boost the enemy, so use with caution--best to use on a minion or to try to one-shot a lieutenant.  The minion is decent, it's average for what a minion-maker gets as a green ability but gets the "autonomous" perk for free.  The boost is weaker than it seems--it only works when you finish off a minion, which is more probable the smaller its die.  The max die green abilities are solid but there are better ways to get them.
  7. Relic (3/5): Other than the always-useful free Defens, the yellow abilities are mediocre (although Harvest Life Force can be made better if you pick up an ability from an Archetype that would let this heal you instead).  Punishment can be entertaining for an offensive build.  You get two d10's for dice, which is a nice little perk.  A solid choice if you expect to lean on your archetype abilities all the time.
  8. Powered Suit (2/5): All about risk.  You can make a max-die attack and hit two other targets besides, but you could hurt yourself or incur a twist.  You can get a gigantic boost when you take damage from a specific element (the damage becomes a bonus, not just a boost), but only if you're willing to get hurt a lot--you could make one heck of a kamikaze build if you really wanted to but that's probably not the best plan.  The innates are nice but not build-defining.  Gets d10, d6, d6 for dice, not the best spread.
  9. Radiation (2/5): Meh.  Gets the powerful "take 1 damage to reroll" ability, but at yellow.  Has a green mass attack but you could hit an ally with it (actually strong if you have a teammate who wants to get hit).  Probably not the best way to go about whatever build you have in mind.
  10. Tech Upgrades (1/5): Self-boosting when attacked is nice, though not as nice as defending.  The one reason to take Tech Upgrades is to combo with self-damaging abilities from other sources, and there are other ways to do that.
  11. Supernatural (4/5): The abilities are all strong, if not overwhelming--mass healing, mass hindering or boosting (which covers yourself), a persistent self-boost, and a Reaction Defend that works on any ally regardless of their status and moves them besides.  No Green ability.  But the real gem is the dice--two d10's, plus a free d10 to put in any power not on your list.  Supernatural is thus one of only two power sources that lets you choose literally any power, including "Invented Power" (although your specific choice still needs GM approval).
  12. Artificial Being (3/5): With only one Active ability, you'll be leaning on your Archetype a lot.  Recalculating... and Multiple Assault are usually Green abilities, but better late than never.  Both Green abilities are solid.  But the main draw is Created Immunity, to use for a self-damaging build, and for that purpose this is an incredible choice.
  13. Cursed (5/5): Costly Strength is one of the best abilities in the game--a huge boost for all your allies; even with the self-hinder you'll be handing out +4's more often than not.  And it combos with Extremes, since if you roll a 1 you'll be hindering yourself for 0.  You can also take Attunement to combo with self-damaging abilities.  You also get a d12 to use for your archetype, though you only get two dice instead of three and the other is a d6--double-edged indeed.
  14. Alien (3/5): Alien Boost is the same as Costly Strength, and the other yellow abilities are nice, too (a versatile mass heal and a Reaction Defend).  However, instead of a green ability, you get to upgrade a d6 to a d8 or gain a d6 power, which is a poor trade.  Worse, you get only d8's for archetype dice.
  15. Genius (4/5): Expanded Mind is a fantastic ability--a Max die persistent boost is great by itself, plus you get a free attack.  A Plan for Everything will go a long way towards keeping you alive and give you free boosts as well.  Overwhelming Vision can be two attacks against the same target, great for whittling down lieutenants or shedding penalties, or it can heal you.  Your compensation for losing your Green ability is a d10 instead of a d8, which is a decent trade.  What keeps Genius from being a 5/5 is that you also get d6's instead of d8's for your archetype, and you have a very limited power selection, more restrictive than any other power source.
  16. Cosmos (3/5): A mass hinder/boost that can affect yourself is never bad.  Encourage... eh, I'd rather have Galvanize, but it's not horrible.  Instead of a green ability, you can mess with your die values; this is pretty great if you can downgrade a d8 and upgrade a d8 or a d10.  A good choice for a self-damaging build, a mediocre choice for anything else.
  17. Extradimensional (2/5): Meh.  Like Cursed, it gets a d12 and a d6 for archetype dice, but unlike Cursed it has no Inherent abilities.  Every ability it gets is matched or surpassed by abilities other power sources or archetypes get, except Bizarre Strike (and unlike Cursed, it has no inherent way to mitigate the penalty).
  18. Unknown (3/5): Strange Enhancement is Cursed Strength again, which is great, but nothing else here is so good.  Brainstorm is okay if you must attack.  Volatile Creations makes no sense unless you're a Minion-Maker, because the game doesn't generally involve "destroying" bonuses or penalties, and there aren't really any "other creations" supported by the rules.  Instead of a Green ability, you get a d8 quality, which is again a bad trade-off.  This is a fair choice if you really like Strange Enhancement and want 3 dice for your archetype.
  19. Higher Power (2/5): Mass attacks are nice, especially when you add a hinder, but when they also hinder you with the Max, not so much.  Retaliating to specific energy/element damage is generally worse than healing from it.  Attack + ghetto Galvanize isn't horrible but isn't great.  You do get the very nice Twist Reality, though (and the handy Resilience, which you should only take if your archetype also gives you a reaction you'll use every round).
  20. The Multiverse (3/5): Power from Beyond is a persistent boost with Max plus a free attack, which is great.  Respond in Kind is just okay--it only works at close range and is only potent if you got hit for a lot.  Dread Pallor is a mass hinder, but (mostly) with Min, not great for a Yellow, although the fact that it uses two dice is handy for eating up penalties on yourself and still dishing them out in kind.  Reality Scorned is a Max+Mid, which isn't bad against a big target, even though the damage is mediocre.  Instead of a Green abiltiy you get a d6 Power, which isn't a great trade, although since it can be any Power, it can be good for snagging any Innate Red ability you like.

Archetypes

You don't need to worry about dice this time, but your ability choices are even more important.  You also get a principle from your archetype, so that may influence your decision.  Once again, I'll list and rank them all.

  1. Speedster (5/5): You like mass damage?  Have mass damage!  As a Green ability, you can attack all enemies with your min and hinder them with your mid--that's a lot of dice you get to apply.  And as a Yellow ability, you can do the reverse, which is even better.  Do this twice in between enemy turns and you'll take out most if not all of the minions in a scene (since their saves will be penalized).  Or you can boost with the Max die as a Green ability and really juice up your attack--plus you might get a free attack if you're lucky.  You can also do a mass boost with the Max die.  Or, against one big foe, attack with the Max and take a chance on doubles--either hope you get them and attack for more, or attack everything and hope you don't.  Every choice is a great one.  You could easily make an entire team of Speedsters and it could be incredibly effective.
  2. Shadow (1/5): A Green and a Yellow Reaction Defend, which are effectively mutually exclusive.  Untouchable is probably the better of the two--it's Green and adds an attack, though it uses a smaller die--but the other Yellow ability is terrible.  The other Green abilities can be useful in the right situation but aren't likely to do a lot of good most of the time.  You can turtle reasonably well but these abilities are of little help completing a scene before the tracker runs out.
  3. Physical Powerhouse (5/5): Everything here is good.  Damage Resistant requires no explanation, and it's the good version that covers both physical and energy damage, plus you might as well take it as your Yellow ability.  Max die Green attacks are always handy.  Healing yourself when you defeat a minion would be a solid choice on any other ability list, but it's outclassed here (especially since it can't use the same power as your other choices).  But the class acts here are Galvanize--which boosts the two most important actions for up to two whole rounds if you time it right--and Frontline Fighting, which can control the actions of any enemy.  Normally "choose one of the Green abilities as a Yellow" is worse than getting an actual Yellow, but these are so good that it's perfectly fine.
  4. Marksman (3/5): A Max+Min persistent boost as Green is amazing, though only if there's one specific target you want to take down; great against a big bad, less great otherwise.  Ignoring penalties, Defend, and Reactions is huge against some villains, but dealing only Mid for damage makes it less helpful--plus you can have an interesting interaction where you keep racking up penalties and never using them up, which means that when you finally use a more powerful ability, it'll fail spectacularly.  Two boosts using Max and Mid can be very good; give them to an ally with a mass attack to take out lots of minions right out of the gate.  Exploding Ammo is iffy; the main reason to get a big die on Overcomes is to avoid having to take twists, and using this just introduces another way to get twists randomly (possibly two of them!).  But Ricochet is, if you're lucky, one of the strongest Yellow attacks in the game.  Ultimately, Marksman makes for competent support but inconsistent offense.
  5. Blaster (2/5): A collection of ho-hum abilities.  A Green mass attack, but with Min.  An attack that ignores penalties, Defend, and Reactions, but with Mid.  A good mass Yellow attack, but it deals a lot of irreducible damage to yourself.  The best thing here is a Max die attack with a conditional Mid boost as a rider.  Nothing here is worth writing home about compared to the alternatives.
  6. Close Quarters Combatant (1/5): Four choices from a single list, most of which are of the bad Mid+Min variety, or even Min+Min.  Only three are okay: one Max die attack, one Mid attack that ignores Defend and Reactions, and Throw Minion (which is good at wasting minions' boosts, although it's more fun than it is practical).  Nothing here is good.
  7. Armored (1/5): You always get the very nice physical+energy damage reduction, but that's about it.  Once again you can get the Mid attack that ignores penalties, Defend, and Reactions.  An absolutely terrible retaliation attack.  And three Mid+Min abilities, although at least one of them is healing, which is hard to come by.  You don't get a Yellow at all; instead you can choose a different power to calculate your Health, which can be a nice perk, but if you're min-maxing it's nothing you couldn't manage another way.
  8. Flyer (4/5): Galvanize by another name is a great ability to start off with.  Barrel Roll's usefulness depends on flavor: if you can hover, like a helicopter or a hummingbird, and are always in the air, this is a huge amount of damage reduction, but if you fly like a plane or a falcon and are on the ground a lot, it's less good.  You have a couple of options for rolling your Min die and affecting multiple targets, and an attack that lets you tank a bit for a round can be useful.  The one thing Flyer lacks is a really good Yellow ability, but all of its Greens are solid choices.
  9. Elemental Manipulator (4/5): All those power sources I mentioned that would combo well with a self-damaging build?  This is what you're looking for.  External Combustion is huge if hurting yourself is actually a good thing (and strictly superior to Backlash).  The other Greens are pretty bad (why are you using a Green when you're in Red?), and hopefully you took the equivalent of Energy Alignment from a power source, but Damage Spike and Live Dangerously are crazy good.  If you have to take Energy Alignment here, this archetype isn't nearly as attractive, and if you don't take it at all it's flat-out awful.
  10. Robot/Cyborg (1/5): There's a persistent self-boost at Green.  Metal Skin is the bad version of damage reduction, only working against physical damage.  Living Arsenal is never going to be better than a Max die attack unless you're the luckiest roller in the world.  The rest is all bad, especially since you have to take one of these as a Yellow.
  11. Sorcerer (5/5): Great stuff here!  Two Max die greens, one of which has a random rider.  A handy Green mass attack.  But the real prize is Field of Energy, which is one of the few attacks that can deal Mid damage to any number of targets with no catch.
  12. Psychic (5/5): So many choices, and most of them amazing!  You get Galvanize.  You get a reroll.  You get a persistent self-boost that isn't exclusive.  You get reactions that can throw out free Boosts or Hinders, or Defend yourself.  You can create persistent, non-exclusive hinders.  You can Overcome with Max+Min with no downside.  And you get to pick two of these great Yellows!  What's not to love?
  13. Transporter (1/5): There's a mass attack with Min.  You can force an opponent to reroll a good attack, but you take 1 more damage so it could wind up being worse for you.  You can tank a bit for a round.  The rest is bad.  It's all mediocre at best and you don't even get a real Yellow.
  14. Minion-Maker (N/A): This one's a niche archetype that's hard to evaluate.  You aren't making a Minion-Maker to optimize, you're making a Minion-Maker because you want to make some Minions.  That said, you get a very nice green persistent non-exclusive boost, which you give to allies (but not yourself).  Everything else is minion-specific and can't be compared to other archetypes.  Optimizing Minion-Maker could be a whole guide all by itself.  I will mention that Construction Focus is usually worse than Summoned Allies, not just because 5 d6 minions is usually better than one d8 minion and one d10 minion (and boosts only make the difference more extreme), but because Minion Formation, Swarm Combat, and to a lesser extent Upgrade Minion and Sacrifice are better with more small minions than fewer big ones.
  15. Wild Card (5/5): Normally I wouldn't grant a 5/5 for one ability, but Break the 4th is just that good.  Uncheck a checked off collection as a Reaction?  You could use that to choose the result of one die every time you roll.  You could use it to ignore minor twists, which means you could use a Red ability every round.  Or you could use it to basically write the whole darn story yourself.  If that gets nerfed, or you have zero collections, Wild Card is still fairly good: Surprise Results is very good, Gimmick is all right, Danger! is good but risky (though you can always try a reroll), and Imitation and Turn the Tables can be conditionally valuable.
  16. Form-Changer (2/5): There are a lot of solid Green "use your Max die" abilities and one great Yellow ability here, but you can't just use them.  You have to switch to the form that has it, first, and that takes an action.  About the most effective thing you could do is switch to Towering Form at the earliest opportunity, but that basically makes you a Speedster with fewer options but better dice.  This archetype is mostly about being thematic.
  17. Gadgeteer (4/5): You can hand out persistent+exclusive boosts to your allies, which they'll appreciate, or you can cripple strong enemies with persistent+exclusive hinders.  You can reroll for 1 Health to help those mods count.  Or, if your opponent does the same, you can Turn the Tables on it, which can make it the equivalent of a +6 or +8 mod.  Snap Decision is a bizarrely complex ability: you give yourself a large bonus and then promptly use it up--why not just attack with a larger die?  And Helpful Analysis will get you killed in a hurry, so use it judiciously if at all.
  18. Reality Shaper (3/5): Not Quite Right is weak by itself but combos nicely with abilities that care whether you roll doubles--which Reality Shapers can also take.  Or you can hand out persistent penalties, or control the turn order.  However, note that all the Yellow abilties are Reactions, and while they're okay, you can only use one, and they're all either niche or risky.
  19. Divided (0/5): You're just not taking Divided if you're optimizing.  Having a civilian form is strictly inferior to just being in your powered form all the time.
  20. Modular (1/5): Modular is weird.  It's pretty terrible in Green, since you have to waste an action to switch modes and none of the abilities you get are good (except Improvement, but see below).  In Yellow, you can switch modes for free if you're willing to destroy a bonus you made (bye bye, Improvement), but none of the abilities you get are great except Analysis.  The Red abilities are pretty good but only one is notably better than other Red abilities you might get: Destroyer.  Since Destroyer modifies basic attacks, it's super powerful with other Red abilities that can grant or modify basic attacks, such as Inspiring Totem, Mutable Form, or an ally with Lead By Example.  If you lead with Improvement Mode, then switch to Analysis Mode, you can be a pretty good Overcome engine, but there are other ways to go about that (Psychic, for instance).

Red Abilities

There are a lot of Red abilities, too many to evaluate individually.  Here are some standouts, though:

  • Paragon Feat/Canny Awareness: A Max+Min Overcome combined with a mass Boost/Hinder is about as efficient as you can get.  A great way to wrap up a challenge quickly.
  • Push Your Limits: You have to worry about burning yourself out, but combined with valuable Reactions it's well worth it.  Defend Reactions are a great choice, as you'll almost always come out ahead.  Otherwise, if you're planning on spamming Reactions, you may want to find a way to heal.  A good use of a d6 power.
  • Summoned Allies: Absolutely bonkers.  Unless your opponent has a mass attack and goes before you can, an instant army is always good.  Boosts apply, as always, so that army can be as large as your teammates can help you create.  For extra insanity, apply a mass Boost to the minions as well!  Another neat trick is to combine the Elemental/Energy variant with Improved Immunity or similar abilities and have the minions attack you.  Or create Hinder minions and let loose with a Finishing Blow.
  • Give Time: You can hand out extra turns.  Use on your most effective ally, though you'll need to watch their health.
  • Reliable Aptitude: Rerolling your Min die for free every time you roll will improve your effectiveness radically.  Just use it for a Power/Quality that your best abilities are based on.
  • Field of Hazards: A fat mass Hinder with no range limits will help you in any fight.  And you could get a free mass attack as well!
  • Impossible Knowledge: Penalties?  What penalties?  Especially spiffy if you have an ability that hinders yourself.  Another great choice for a d6 power.
  • Unload: A huge mass attack, though the risk is non-negligible when you're in Red.  Combine with die-adjustment or self-healing abilities to play it safe.
  • Endurance Fighting: Use with mass attacks and watch your enemies struggle to keep up.  Works with all powers and qualities, so you can unlock this with a d6.
  • Inspiring Totem: Any basic action any time you take any ability action.  Throw in a basic Attack when you use a powerful single-target attack like Powerful Strike, Take Down, or Unerring Strike to wear down villains in a hurry.  Or if you're lucky, check off two Overcome boxes in a single action (note that Principles are ability actions, not basic actions).  You can use a d6 to unlock this.

Personalities

Most of what a Personality does is determine your Status dice.  Most Personalities are either d6/d8/d10, d10/d8/d6, or d8/d8/d8.  Note that in timed scenes, you'll be in Yellow or Red most of the time, but in untimed, noncombat scenes you'll be in Green most of the time.  I'd personally rather be at my best when the chips are down than when there's no particular pressure, so I like d6/d8/d10 best (plus your Red status die contributes to your Health).  If your campaign is of the relaxed variety where combat is rare and not particularly challenging, d10/d8/d6 might be better--but in that case, why are you reading an optimization guide?

As for the other personalities: Impulsive isn't usually worth it, you're hurting all your rolls in exchange for improving some of your rolls.  Mischievous is only decent if you have no Athletic Powers or Mental Qualities at all.  Take Nurturing or Naive if you plan to take a lot of damage and get into Red quickly--a risky but potentially powerful strategy.

Your Personality is when you assign your invented d8 quality.  Now's your chance to look at all your powers and abilities and make sure they all can be used easily with the qualities you already gave.  If not, invent a new one that can be.  It'll be a d8, but that's better than a d4.

Retcons

Most of the Retcon options are there for if you either did your character creation by the seat of your pants and want to tweak something, or you wanted to create a very specific character concept and couldn't quite do it within the rules.  We're assuming neither is true if you've been optimizing the whole way.  The two good ones are increasing your Red die size or adding an extra Red ability.  You almost always want the Red ability, they're all great, and more options is generally better than a slightly larger die and a couple of Health points.  Only take the larger die if you literally have everything you want already.

Combinations

I won't get into specific ability interactions, we'd be here all day, but here are combinations of Background, Power Source, and Archetype that go well together.

  • Tech Upgrades, Artificial Being, Cursed, or Cosmos + Elemental Manipulator:  This lets you unleash a powerful attack and heal yourself at the same time. Artificial Being and Cursed even let you choose Element/Energy types you didn't choose as a Power initially, so you can take it for the Elemental Manipulator archetype.
  • Tragic + Supernatural: Tragic gets you an Ideals Principle, which Principle of Great Power is, and two d10's for powers.  Supernatural gets you up to three more d10's.  This basically lets you use your Principle for any Overcome you care to make, no questions asked, and a broad selection of powers to boot.
  • Academic, Interstellar, Created, or Retired + Accident, Cursed, or Extradimensional: I hear you like big dice!  Choose a power and a quality you can use together to explain the thing you plan do be doing all the time.  You should avoid archetypes that make you choose different powers to use with each of your abilities, namely Blaster, Armored, Sorcerer, and Transporter.

Closing

I hope you enjoyed all that and found it useful.  Feedback and suggestions are gratefully appreciated.  I'll take another look at all this when the finished product comes out.


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Edited by: MindWanderer on May 14 2020 - 4:02pm
catDreaming
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While reading this, I find myself agreeing with a large number of points. However, I feel like there is a point of clarification that you should make: What is your optimized character aiming to do?

Are you aiming to always have a good dice pool?
Reliably roll high out of whatever dice pool you have?
Take down minions/Lieutenants reliably?
Take down villains reliably?
Make Overcomes without the invocation of twists?

All of those are things that an optimized character could potentially be doing, but you never actually state what this guide considers to be an 'optimized' character. Providing a definition of what the guide considers to be 'optimized' could considerably help the reader, or guide further critique.


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Hmm... I'll think about that, but your question seems to be about role specialization, at least in part. And SCRPG doesn't particularly encourage role specialization. It's fine, desirable even, to have several really good abilities that do different things. In a team, roles can be considered, but on an individual level--which is what most people create their characters based on--it doesn't really matter. However, I can comment on that in the guide.


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drkrash1969
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I've enjoyed reading and working with this guide, even if I don't necessarily agree always with the principle of "optimized" as the goal of chargen in this game.

Since I'm in the middle of the project of converting Champions characters over, I told myself that I wasn't going to read the section on, "these are the good and bad choices in each category."  I wanted to translate the characters 1) accurately from their Champions experience and 2) according to the rules as much as possible.  But I gave into temptation. :)  It turned out to be helpful, though: I was able to re-examine certain choices and choose something different that still fit the concept but was better for the character.  

For example, one of the heroes was (basically) an experiment for a sort of Atlantean Weapon X program.  He fled the program, came to the surface and lived as a homeless man until one of the other heroes took him in.  So my initial thought was to make him Struggling, because that description fit best.  But it limited him to only d8 powers, and he is supposed to be the brick of the group.  So you helped me dig deeper and I chose Tragic, which got him the d10 he needed.

(Side note: it's unfortunate that Experimentation is so limited in this game, as that seems to account for a lot of superhero origins.)

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MindWanderer, thank you for doing this! It looks great. It reminds me of the "[class] Guides" people create for D&D.

I'm not quite an "optimizer," but I do like to avoid accidentally making combinations of "weak" choices.

This all looks very solid in theory, have you had a chance to play a lot as well?

The Metallian

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@drkrash - Optimized isn't the goal per se, but a) many players wish to optimize, and b) there's often more-and-less-optimal builds even within a concept.

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I haven't played as many games as I'd like, but a few, none longer than 4 combat scenes, but all with different party compositions, so I've gotten something of a feel for the breadth of things.  I've also listened to all the Sentinels Live content (except the last couple of episodes, since I'm not commuting right now) and read a lot of the feedback of other players.  I've also done a whole lot of character creation with an eye to optimization and theorycrafting.

I'm definitely looking forward to revising this with more experience and more feedback.  But it's a place to start.


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drkrash1969
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I'd like to offer two observations and a new question.

Translating existing characters from another system has been a fun and challenging exercise.  I want to make sure they can do all the things they could do in the old system and I want to follow the rules of this system for chargen and I want the characters not to suck in this system.  I  haven't finished a single one yet that I didn't have to go back and re-arrange things to make them better.

First observation - a very minor one: As a GM, I'm perhaps over-attached to Perception Rolls during a story.  This game is not good for that.  Not only will most characters have no chance to roll a good "Perception Roll," but any excessive Overcome rolls in a story is just going to generate too many Twists.  I'll have to get over this as a GM.

Second observation - Unless you're running a game with all action scenes (which, unfortunately, does seem to be more of the mold for these rules), make sure your character has an Intellectual Power of some sort.  Otherwise, social and knowledge-based Overcome rolls will suffer.

Finally, my new question: any advice on coming up with Custom Qualities? I've generated three so far and I only kind of like one of them.  The intention (it seems) is to make a broadly-applicable Quality that encompasses elements of the character not found in other Qualities or Powers.  For 2 out of the 3, I came up with Qualities that seem like they'd almost never come up.  For the third, I could see him rolling it almost every roll.  Any thoughts on this?

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When I'm making a character, I typically figure out something that could be their Roleplay Quality first, and when I come to that step, I either use the original or have a different one that fits even better. My typical test for a Roleplay Quality is: "<Character Name> is <Roleplay Quality>". If the sentence makes sense, then it's usually going to be useful to the character in some way.


A single man
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drkrash1969 wrote:
First observation - a very minor one: As a GM, I'm perhaps over-attached to Perception Rolls during a story.  This game is not good for that.  Not only will most characters have no chance to roll a good "Perception Roll," but any excessive Overcome rolls in a story is just going to generate too many Twists.  I'll have to get over this as a GM.
Second observation - Unless you're running a game with all action scenes (which, unfortunately, does seem to be more of the mold for these rules), make sure your character has an Intellectual Power of some sort.  Otherwise, social and knowledge-based Overcome rolls will suffer.

It's this sort of observation that makes me wonder how well the SCRPG is going to perform at running investigations or mysteries, which are a pretty deep area for comics. Fully realizing that the answer in many narrative systems is "Well, just narrate out what you're doing and how the GM/player reacts", but that's not a particularly satisfying answer in how to create that sort of game mechanically.

My experience with the system is limited, but my experience with rpgs surely isn't, but I'm starting to get the impression that SCRPG will be really novel at fights/action scenes, but somewhat lackluster in scenes that hinge on a 'slower boil'. I'm eager to be proven wrong on this one.

catDreaming
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My current Campaign alternates between daytime investigations and nighttime combat, and I find that Challenges are your friend. Certainly, if you put in Challenges, your players will likely encounter more Twists. Twists though, aren't a bad thing. Twists are meant to help you progress the story beyond just succeeding at your heroic actions.


A single man
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I don't know that everyone has to have an Intellectual Power, but it does inform the kind of campaign you're going to have to run.  For an investigation scene, you could also use Psychic, Mobility, Self-Control, or Technological powers without going through contortions (with appropriate Qualities, of course).  It's reasonable to tell players in advance what kind of challenges you expect to be running and to create characters who will have something to do in them.


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drkrash1969
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I agree you don't have to have an Intellectual power.  But as I said above, I'm looking over existing characters with skills that they used in the other system, and I realized that I couldn't get those skills to be any good by just rolling a d4, but I also couldn't reasoably force one of their powers to the roll.  Thus, my observation.  I also agree that a game that is not going to  have much social or knowledge-based rolls does not need to worry about this.

catDreaming's experience is helpful; I'll have to remember that an investigation doesn't have to be a more traditional, "come up with a plan and make an appropriate skill roll."  It could instead be much broader like, "Challenge: find information," and the heroes can decide what to do in  more open-ended fashion (and maybe more creatively?)

By "too many Twists," I simply meant that many Overcomes will result in Twists (it seems).  So I think the Overcome rolls should be "larger" in what they are doing than, for example, a series of discreet skill checks in a single scene in a more traditional system.

PlatinumWarlock, we're on the same page, but I really *want* this system to fly, so I'm tilting my head one way or another to try to look at it from an angle that I think looks good! :)

MindWanderer, this is a great thread.

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A lot of GM's will advise, "Decide what you want to do, then look at your character sheet and decide what dice to use." I actually think that's terrible advice for SCRPG.  Your character's powers and qualities will necessarily inform your options, and your character's approach.  You wouldn't hand someone Superman, tell them to handle a problem however they want, and then watch them struggle as they try to solve an investigation with diplomacy, knowledge, and stealth.  Their hypothetical player should look at the character sheet, see "X-ray Vision", "Strength," "Speed," "Imposing," "Close Combat," "Alertness," etc. and they're going to look through walls, intimidate thugs, and mangle infrastructure because that's how Superman solves problems.  It's the whole "when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" problem, except it's not a problem, it's a feature.

And GM's should bear in mind, their job is to tell a story using the characters they have.  They can tell the players in advance the kind of story they'd like to tell, but after that, they need to work with what they have.  They should either present challenges that can be solved with the skillset of the heroes, or present things in such a way that it's clear they'll need to get help or find an alternate approach.  Superman doesn't investigate crime scenes and Batman doesn't fight space armadas.

And yes, setting challenges as broadly as possible can be tremendously helpful.  Don't tell your players what they need to do, tell them what they need to achieve.  Never tell them what checks they need to make.  In D&D you can say "everyone roll Perception" (or Knowledge, or Insight, or whatever) and either share or withhold information based on the results.  In Sentinels, just put them in the situation, decide on what it takes to move on to the next scene, and let the players do the rest.


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I agree in principle with your Superman example.  However, *all rolls* in SCRPG require a "power," and simply not all rolls you want to make can use a power without a lot of bending.

Social rolls remain my go-to example here.  Banter is fairly easy to mix with powers to taunt someone.  But Persuasion? Short of Intellectual Powers or Mental Powers, how does a charismatic or alluring hero persuade people? What do you do when that's both what the player wants to do AND is the character they tried to design?

My question is partially rhetorical; I understand how the rules work.  I'm just saying that the rules are not well-suited to some kinds of scenes.  I have a feeling the designers might say, "Why aren't you just role-playing out a social scene?" But Persuasion is a Quality in the game.

I'm not actually bitching, though I realize it sounds like I am.  I just think this is a particular kind of scene that is not uncommon in most RPGs that it seems this game will struggle with.  At least it's not as bad as Marvel Cortex, where anything that wasn't combat was pretty much ignored by the rules.

(Which I now realize is ironic because I'm the designer of the Fight! RPG.)

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There's a lot of ways you can hedge to always have an applicable power, but I think this is the weirdest list I've seen that actually has decent options a lot of the time:
Absorption, Transmutation, Shapeshifting, Intuition, and Agility.
All in all? There's no perfect way to hedge all of your options. I advise my players to figure out what they want to do, and then find the powers and qualities for it. If your powers and qualities line up with your character concept, then you can almost certainly find something to do.


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I agree, Powers are the problem with social skills.  Lots of Qualities, but the Powers are a stretch.  If you want to create a "talky" character, there's Presence, Suggestion, and maybe Intuition.  Or a custom Power.  You could shoehorn others in but they'd be conditional and more complex than just "I talk to them."  Banter in particular doesn't mesh well with anything (and there's a whole Principle, Levity, that goes with it).  That's why I have a whole section on making sure you can actually use all your dice one way or another.


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drkrash1969
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That section has been essential to my conversion project.

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I've seen a player use Banter fairly often, and it often boils down to making a witty comeback to something the villain is saying. Not to mention, there are people who just do better when they can self narrate what they are doing. Banter is certainly difficult if your foes don't rise to it, but work with the players if they pick Banter. Self Discipline exists for a reason, after all.


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catDreaming wrote:
I've seen a player use Banter fairly often...

What Powers are they using with it, and how?


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catDreaming
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I've seen it used with Cold, and Duplication mainly. They did pick the Shadow archetype, and Banter often shows up in their Sabotage ability.

The character tends to add on snark or to just banter with foes while fighting.


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So they're not using Banter primarily to talk to people, they're using it to add flavor to an action driven by the Power.  That makes more sense.


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drkrash1969
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Yeah, I said above that Banter seems far and away the easiest social quality to use in this system: just use one of your powers and add a line of snark to it and you justify Banter.

But outside of an Action Scene, using Social Qualities for Overcomes requires unusual circumstances, great creativity, a d4, or an Intellectual Power.

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(Keep in mind many of us play very differently from each other as you read this, so some GMs might not like this approach as much as others. :-) 

I see a lot of powers that can be useful in social interactions, depending on the situation. The key for me is focusing on the character and being imaginative, but that's usually my preferred style of play. (And I'm not saying anyone else isn't being imaginative -- it's just a different focus in how GMs and players handle situations. ;-) 

Strength and a lot of other powers can be useful if you're trying to impress or intimidate a person. A lot of the Psychic powers could be used in imaginative and fun ways in social interactions. Technological and Materials (and maybe even Elements) powers can be used as communications tools, such as holographicly showing what you're trying to communicate / ask about. Almost any power can be used to just say "I'm going to come up with an example of the situation/information that uses my power in a way to get the information across." Say I'm playing a portal generating hero and I want to ask someone about a facility that we saw. I might just show them a portal high above the location so they can see what we're talking about, we can point out areas we're asking about, etc. 

For me, it's purely what makes sense for the character and how imaginative the player(s) can be. 

And finally, if a character just isn't a social person, maybe it makes sense to just use a d4 for power. That often fits the situation, as we've seen in superhero comics/movies when someone who isn't good at being social tries to convince someone to help them (e.g., Thor talking to Banner in "Thor: Ragnarok"). That can result in some entertaining moments!

(But I also don't worry about if a hero has what they "need" to be "successful". I just want to make sure they feel like the character is a fully-realized person that they understand and will enjoy playing. I'll make sure everyone has opportunities to shine, of course, but there are going to be challenges that some heroes will face that they'll have issues with -- that's also why they're in a team. ;-)

I also think this could be hours of face-to-face conversation and a short block of text is going to be hard to communicate it all, soooo... :-\ Take that for what it's worth. ;-) 


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I had someone not realized how Training and Genius are nearly word for word the same until i read this.


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Question- is there a build that is truely unplayable or one that you would pay someone not to play?

I was quite active on the old D&D4E forums back in the day and there was a lot of dscussion about when an adventure would have run better with out one character because they did not compensate for the extra monster that showed up to face an extra hero. 

Of course the game play and objectives are diffrent and the people bragging about being a jerk about it were wrong.


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Sea-Envy wrote:
Question- is there a build that is truely unplayable or one that you would pay someone not to play?
I was quite active on the old D&D4E forums back in the day and there was a lot of dscussion about when an adventure would have run better with out one character because they did not compensate for the extra monster that showed up to face an extra hero. 
Of course the game play and objectives are diffrent and the people bragging about being a jerk about it were wrong.

I've ran a fair bit of the SCRPG now with several groups, and while some characters feel stronger (Tachyon is noticeably able to clean house out of the Starter Kit characters) no one has yet felt like they weren't contributing.

I would go so far to say that if you had as a hero Captain Generic, and he rolled d8/d8/d8 for every roll and could only take basic actions, he would do ok enough to not feel like a burden.

That said, if the person playing Captain Generic also made poor choices and/or rolled badly you might have an issue. If he chose to spend every turn trying to deck the d10 Lt. only for it to fail each time instead of boosting another hero, attacking a minion, or overcoming a challenge there might be a problem.


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I've yet to encounter a combination I'd rather not see play. I actually made a character who often ended up rolling a dice pool of d8/d8/d6 clear through the green and yellow zones, and they still ended up being a boon to the party.

They were a Powered Suit Armored combo, and were excellent at making sure that whoever they fought was going to focus on them, one way or another.


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It depends.  The worst you could do is create a character whose principles are so niche they never see use, has only abilities that are barely better than basic actions, and has such a mismatch of powers and qualities that they're rolling d4's and d6's most of the time.  But even then, the only problem is if the adventure is written to be super challenging, or if the player feels like they're being overshadowed by everyone else.


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With a die-step system, there's only so much optimization you can do, anyway.  While there's certainly a quantifiable difference between continued rolls of d10s and d12s, the sheer fact that we're dealing with relatively small numbers (less than 15, certainly), means that you're only ever going to get so high.  And, as it seems, the system's pretty well rigged that you're not ever going to have less than d8s in your primary power, and if you do, you're going to be pairing it with a lot of other d8s.  

One thing we should probably also consider is the probabilities involved on mid and min die rolls, when you're throwing variant combos.  I'm sure that the probabilities on a d12-d8-d6 throw will come out a fair bit differently than a d8-d8-d8...

 

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d6/d8/d12 Expected Values:

Min: 2.467 / Mid 4.476 / Max 7.557

d8/d8/d8 Expected Values:

Min: 2.531 / Mid 4.5 / Max 6.469

Maybe not as different as you think!  I actually made a spreadsheet to play around with this stuff; anything calling on your Max die has the widest swing (both in general and as you shift what dice you're using) while your Mid die value stays generally close to the expected value of your mid-sized die, with the main difference being in how tightly bunched up that bell curve actually is.

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Interesting!  That definitely changes what sort of mechanical decisions I might make, if it's looking like I'm going to have larger number of "middling" dice (d8s, d10s), rather than a lot of d6s and a d12 or two.  If I have a lot of abilities that hinge on my mid or min die, I might easily look towards buffing up my die pool all around, rather than simply packing on a high die value and hoping for the best.

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Hm, that is good to know.  I'd have guessed that d6/d8/10 would be roughly equivalent to d8/d8/d8, but that d6 clearly has an outsized effect on the Min and Mid.  Makes it even more important to avoid them, and d4's even moreso.  Although I'm glad that my instict that Min+Mid was roughly equivalent to Max.

I totally disagree that "there's only so much optimization you can do", though.  Abilities that effect multiple targets are huge, and clearly using a larger die--especially going from Mid to Max when you have a large die or two involved--is significant, especially for Overcome checks.  Action economy is a thing in any game.


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Side Note: Mid+Min is often better a little better than Max, but even if it's not, it has a small standard deviation.


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MindWanderer wrote:
I totally disagree that "there's only so much optimization you can do", though.  Abilities that effect multiple targets are huge, and clearly using a larger die--especially going from Mid to Max when you have a large die or two involved--is significant, especially for Overcome checks.  Action economy is a thing in any game.

Optimization in this game is certainly possible and will certainly have a noticeable, even large, effect on the game, but i do think the effect is less pronounced then in other games.

In dnd, for example, you can have the perfectly optimized wizard that can do combat, deal with traps, deal with social interactions, deal with sneaking, indentify magic items, move the party long distances, see the future, and do all this otherstuff alongside a fighter that decided they wanted to do something cool with some exotic weapon that looked interesting but turned out to just not be that good even though it took all their feats just to wield it and contributes to combat a little bit but not much else.

The gap between a fully optimized character and one that wanted to do a thing because its cool is much less pronounced in SCRPG.
.


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I'm not sure that's true.  Some foresight into your die and principle selection can result in a character who can do anything non-combat as well or better than any other member of the group.  Particular combinations of boosts and mass attacks can erase any number of minions smaller than a d10-d12 (assuming they roll well) in the first round or two.  Once you get into Yellow you can get even more ridiculous by combining mass boosts and powerful attacks--enough that even a d12 lieutenant won't withstand more than a couple of rounds, and there are Red synergies that can make a character essentially unkillable.  I haven't gone through all the villain countermeasures that might keep them alive longer, but the ability to build a villain that could withstand that kind of assault would only reinforce the point.


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As someone who has gone through the villain countermeasures, the point is that no villain can reliably survive that kind of assault on their own. The point of Sentinels isn't to be a combat simulator; It's to tell a story. And there's nothing less interesting than a hero who can do everything well, barring a complete lack of conflict.


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It's not at all good that these combos exist, especially since they're being discovered by players who don't even have the final book yet (and I'm doubting they were caught or corrected by the devs).  This means that GMs need to either have a closer eye on character design or play to a certain playstyle that I don't think the rules are ideally suited for.

Bit of a bummer.  I think I'm OK for now because I'm the GM and I'm converting the characters.  But I lack play experience, so I'm relying on what I'm reading here!

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MindWanderer wrote:
I'm not sure that's true.  Some foresight into your die and principle selection can result in a character who can do anything non-combat as well or better than any other member of the group.  Particular combinations of boosts and mass attacks can erase any number of minions smaller than a d10-d12 (assuming they roll well) in the first round or two.  Once you get into Yellow you can get even more ridiculous by combining mass boosts and powerful attacks--enough that even a d12 lieutenant won't withstand more than a couple of rounds, and there are Red synergies that can make a character essentially unkillable.  I haven't gone through all the villain countermeasures that might keep them alive longer, but the ability to build a villain that could withstand that kind of assault would only reinforce the point.

In d20, the difference between your character being amazing in a social situation because you have the right stats and skills and mine being awful means that your character breezes though the scene with no challenge and for me it is literally impossible.

In SCRPG the difference between your character having a near universally usable principle and rolling d12 d10 d8 and taking the Max and me not having a useable quality and rolling a d4 d8 and d8 and taking the mid is that you are more likely to get either no twist or a minor twist and i will likely get a minor twist or a major twist.

In d20 in combat, if your character is great at fighting he might clear out the entire encounter easily while mine might never hit a target or contribute at all.

In SCRPG, your character might use the OP speedster ability to clear everyone out, but my poorly made character will at least be able to contribute to taking out a surviving minion or whittling down the HP of a villain.

I have seen a d20 character do nothing for an entire play session, i can't imagine the situation where that is the case for SCRPG.

I'm not arguing that you can't make a character that is much better then another is SCRPG, i am saying there is a bare level of power that even the least optimized character has that means that character is still able to contribute.


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Modifiers don't get that extreme in D&D until the highest levels, at which point the discrepancy is greater between spellcasters and non-spellcasters than whatever your modifiers are. And it doesn't make a lot of difference if you reduce a d8 minion to a d6 if the player who goes after you hits every minion in the scene for 9.


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MindWanderer wrote:
Modifiers don't get that extreme in D&D until the highest levels, at which point the discrepancy is greater between spellcasters and non-spellcasters than whatever your modifiers are. And it doesn't make a lot of difference if you reduce a d8 minion to a d6 if the player who goes after you hits every minion in the scene for 9.

Disagree heavily

That the discrepancy in effectiveness between one class in Dnd and another is due to access to different abilities and spells instead of of one just having raw, higher numbers doesn't mean that discrepancy isn't there.

And it is there within classes too. If someone makes a standard two handed weapon fighter, and someone else makes one that dual wields a whip and a hand crossbow because they thought being Indiana Jones would be fun they are going to be very different in their effectiveness. Particularly at level one, since the wired build is going to need all kinds of feats before they become remotely effective. I've seen it over and over again from a player of mine who always wanted to do whacky builds that will "start to work at level 7"

Now we are gonna reach a point where i agree with you, and where i think GMs need to be willing to be a little firm in SCRPG since players are roleplaying as character with, well, super powers.

Hitting every minion in the scene for nine every turn would indeed be OP. I don't think its a thing one character can reliably do every turn for a few reasons

First off, Nearby minions doesn't mean every minion in the scene, it means a group of nearby minions. "I know you can run at mach 7, but you still need to pick if you want to punch every minion on the north side of the park or every minion on the south side of the park. It takes takes enough of your focus to hit just the bad guys with just enough force to not destroy the entire park that you only get one group" This does still mean the speedster is doing much more then the person just hitting one minion, but they aren't solving the entire scene on their own.

Next Getting up to 9 damage reliably to me means either you are getting other players to boost you, or you are using a red ability. If its other players boosting you, I think thats fine. If two or three players are spending there turns in tandem to delete a group of minions well that is in general what minions are there for.

If its a red ability it means either you are near the end of the scene, you are wracking up twists, or you are using collections. The first two are fine with me, the last one is where the GM needs to be a little firm.

collections require roleplaying to active. "I draw upon the memory of the last time we fought the Duke of Destruction to dredge up the rage to use my red ability without a twist."

If the player next turn tries to use the exact same justification to do the exact same thing using either a a different collection or the same unticked with Break the Fourth wall the GM can say no, that well of dramatic tension is dry.

All of this is getting far afield though. I largely agree with you. There are power soruces and archytpes that are stronger then others. There are abilities within those that are stronger then others. There are principles that are more easily used then others and there are -certainly- red abilities that are stronger then others. But at the end of the day i could make a party of four characters in Dnd trying to be quirky and do a special thing that wouldn't be able to clear one of the starting adventuers. I think a party of three or four SCRPG heroes using all of the worst power sources and archtypes would still be able to make it though the starter kit.


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The GM shutting off collections is a tough sell, IMO, especially if you consider Break the 4th, which lets you use a Collection every round. I'd be pretty upset if the GM just decided I couldn't use Collections anymore unless I came to with something totally novel every time. Besides, the rulebook says not to be too strict about this.

You can get an average of 9 damage with a Mid and a +3 boost, which isn't hard to get. In my current game, I have a character who gives himself a +3 Persistent as soon as he hits Yellow, then hands out +3-+4 bonuses to the whole team every round.

And yes, it's easy in D&D to create a character who's nonfunctional, so I'll agree that the bottom is lower in D&D than in SCRPG.


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I really don't want to nitpick, but you just made several assumptions that I don't believe line up with the majority of situations.

First, Mid die. There are two dice pools in the game that actually have a 6 or better expected value for their mid die on a single unmodified roll: 10/12/12, and 12/12/12.
Second, Max die. There is exactly one dice pool in the game that actually has an expected value of a +3 on their max die from a boost on a single unmodified roll: 12/12/12

Edit: Got a spreadsheet for inherent reroll 1s data

First, Mid die. 8/12/12, 10/10/12, 10/12/12, and 12/12/12 all give mid dice a 6 or better for their expected value. While more plausible, that's still quite difficult.
Second, Max die. You still need a 12/12/12 to have an expected value of a +3 on the max die from a boost.

Edit 2: Got a spreadsheet for reroll reaction data.

First, Mid die. I set the spreadsheet to reroll a pool if the mid die was below average for that dice pool ordinarily. Dice pools with a 6 or better expected value on the mid die were 6/12/12, 8/10/12, 8/12/12. 10/10/10, 10/10/12, 10/12/12, 12/12/12. These are definitely achievable dice pools, but excluding the 10/10/10, you need to have a d12 somewhere in the dice pool.

Second, Max die. I set the spreadsheet to reroll a pool if the max die was below average that dice pool ordinarily. Dice pools with a +3 or better expected value on the max die from a boost were 6/12/12, 8/12/12, 10/12/12, and 12/12/12. In all of these cases, you need at least two d12s in the pool.

Edit 3: Got a spreadsheet for reroll reaction + 'reroll 1s' inherent data

First, Mid die. I set the spreadsheet to reroll a pool if the mid die was below average for that dice pool ordinarily. Dice pools with a 6 or better expected value on the mid was were 6/10/12, 6/12/12, 8/10/10, 8/10/12, 8/12/12, 10/10/10, 10/10/12, 10/12/12, and 12/12/12. Once more, all of these dice pools require a d12 in them, except for 10/10/10.

Second, Max die. I set the spreadsheet to reroll a pool if the max die was below average that dice pool ordinarily. Dice pools with a +3 or better expected value on the max die from a boost were 6/12/12, 8/12/12, 10/12/12, and 12/12/12. In all of these cases, you need at least two d12s in the pool.

---- Summary ----

So, if you take a reaction that let's you reroll your dice pool once, and an inherent ability that grants you a reroll on 1s (that locks you out of more rerolls), you end up with a fairly sizable number of dice pools that can give the Mid die of expected value of 6 or greater. With the optimizations suggested dice wise, I'm sure it's not too difficult to pull that off. You'll still need two d12s for your +3 expected value on the Max though, which is pretty restrictive.

With just the reaction to reroll, your dice pool will need either three d10s, a d10 and a d12, or two d12s depending on what your smallest die is. Getting d12s isn't terribly easy, and getting two in total will definitely restrict your options. Not much worse than with the inherent added in though, you still need two d12s for your +3 expected value off your Max die.

With just a free reroll on 1s, you can't use a d6, and you need either two d10s and a d12 or two d12s depending on what your smallest die is. Getting two d10s and a d12 isn't impossible, but it will definitely restrict your options. Getting two d12s is very restrictive. If you want that reliable +3 expected value of your Max die, you need to grab three d12s along the way. It's possible... But you're options are extremely limited.

With neither, the reaction or the inherent, you need two d12s and a d10. If you want that +3 expected value off of your Max die, then you're grabbing a third d12 along the way. Welcome to very few options, we hope that you enjoy the ride.


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MindWanderer wrote:
The GM shutting off collections is a tough sell, IMO, especially if you consider Break the 4th, which lets you use a Collection every round. I'd be pretty upset if the GM just decided I couldn't use Collections anymore unless I came to with something totally novel every time. Besides, the rulebook says not to be too strict about this.

I really think that invoking the same bit of back story to do the same red ability every turn is going against the spirit of the collection far more then then the GM saying no if you can't be creative. Eventually the d6 minions you're trying to summon in this hour of desperate need without making the proper offering are gonna get wise.

The slack the GM gives the player is in that they don't need to get the details exactly right of the events they are recalling, not in allowing the death of Uncle Ben to be so tramtic that every action, every battle you recall it to fuel your anger into the same attack. Thats boring.

And its not like such scrutiny makes the ability useless. The reaction still lets you put one of your dice to any facing you want each turn. Thats strong.


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I think that's perfectly appropriate as a house rule if you think Break the 4th (or taking a minor twist to use Summoned Allies in general) is OP (which I do), but it's a house rule. The rules as written don't suggest that you should restrict one use of Collections over another that way.


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MindWanderer wrote:
I think that's perfectly appropriate as a house rule if you think Break the 4th (or taking a minor twist to use Summoned Allies in general) is OP (which I do), but it's a house rule. The rules as written don't suggest that you should restrict one use of Collections over another that way.

Not even remotely a house rule. The rules as written say that in order for a collection to get rid of a twist it has to make sense in the story. Using the same bit of back story over and over again for the same action does not make sense in a dramatic comic book story.

I would go so far as to say ignoring the limitation on collections completely is the houserule, and that its slightly silly to call something OP while ignoring its built in limitation.


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Here's the full text: "You can invoke your collection instead of taking a minor twist, provided you can think of an explanation for how it’s relevant to the situation."

I don't see anything there that suggests that the same collection (remember, you're unchecking it and using the same one again) can't be used to explain the same thing more than once.  "You can't do it because it isn't dramatic enough" is absolutely a house rule, and is a slippery slope IMO.


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Then there is this section right after which does suggest putting a limit on use of collections so what Cult of Gloom is saying is not a houserule  

Quote:

Heroes with a lot of collections can be quite powerful, so issues written to be used by any team of heroes that happen to try them — from street level upstarts to cosmically powerful beings — may limit this power by putting a cap on the number of collections a hero can use to create bonuses. This helps level the playing field, especially when a team has heroes with different levels of experience. If a hero doesn’t have as many collections as the issue’s limit, they gain additional uses equal to the amount they’re missing, leveling the hero playing field.

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That has to do with how many collections people in mixed tables have, not whether you can or can't "re-use" collections for the same narrative function.  While I definitely think Cult of Gloom is capturing the spirit of the rules, MindWanderer is correct about the letter of the law.

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MindWanderer wrote:
Here's the full text: "You can invoke your collection instead of taking a minor twist, provided you can think of an explanation for how it’s relevant to the situation."
I don't see anything there that suggests that the same collection (remember, you're unchecking it and using the same one again) can't be used to explain the same thing more than once.  "You can't do it because it isn't dramatic enough" is absolutely a house rule, and is a slippery slope IMO.

"I'm using the memory of uncle ben to get super angry to draw on deep reserves i didn't know i had to use my red ability early with out a twist"

"You've already drawn on that reserve five times now in this one fight, its just no longer feasible that burst of raw emotion is keeping you going, what else you got?"

I think we're just gonna have to agree to disagree here, but again I think its the other way around. Treating collections like they are just spell points to be ticked off is what goes against the rules text, and its what leads to infinite loop problems in a slippery slope.

I will say that, as the GM, its your job to help your players come up with good collection uses and good twists, or nudge them to find a way to make a power or quality fit. But likewise, as players, sometimes it needs to be accepted that a tool won't fit to every occasion.


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ErekLich wrote:
That has to do with how many collections people in mixed tables have, not whether you can or can't "re-use" collections for the same narrative function.  While I definitely think Cult of Gloom is capturing the spirit of the rules, MindWanderer is correct about the letter of the law.

It still is directly saying to limit use of collections and so it doesn’t make it a houserule to limit use of them.


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