Living and Dying
Adventurers are almost always in peril, mortal or otherwise, during the course of a game. As characters' fortunes shift, they may find themselves on the losing end of a fight. Sometimes this can be averted with a liberal use of Karma, but other times they will simply run out of Health. The following explains how each of these curious abilities can sway the course of events during play.
While every character has a variety of tools with which to avoid incoming damage in one way or another, whether relying upon inherent powers or advanced combat training, the truth is that suffering such is inevitable. This is why every character possesses a Health score, after all! But what happens when, no matter how hard one tries, they suffer enough damage that they run out of Health points?
They just might die.
Upon losing all of their Health, a character must roll an Endurance FEAT on the Kill portion of the Universal Table - regardless of what kind of damage actually brought them to zero Health. If this FEAT is successful (generally, any non-white result will do), the character is merely knocked unconscious for a short period of time - 1d10 turns, to be precise. After this time has elapsed, the character will regain consciousness.
Upon resuming a conscious state, a character will immediately regain a number of Health points equal to their current Endurance score. After this, a character is 'on their own', where the recovery of the rest is concerned. Barring any special powers or equipment to recover lost Health faster, either in one's possession or that of an ally, a character will heal as follows, based on their Endurance (stamina) score:
|Rank||Health Recovery Over Time|
|Feeble (2)||1 point every 600 turns (one hour)|
|Poor (4)||1 point every 500 turns (fifty minutes)|
|Typical (6)||1 point every 400 turns (forty minutes)|
|Good (10)||1 point every 300 turns (half hour)|
|Excellent (20)||1 point every 200 turns (twenty minutes)|
|Remarkable (30)||1 point every 100 turns (ten minutes)|
|Incredible (40)||1 point every 80 turns (eight minutes)|
|Amazing (50)||1 point every 60 turns (six minutes)|
|Rank||Health Recovery Over Time|
|Monstrous (75)||1 point every 40 turns (four minutes)|
|Unearthly (100)||1 point every 20 turns (two minutes)|
|Shift X (150)||1 point every 10 turns (one minute)|
|Shift Y (200)||1 point every 5 turns (thirty seconds)|
|Shift Z (500)||1 point every turn (six seconds)|
|Class 1000||2 points every turn (three seconds)|
|Class 3000||6 points every turn (one second)|
|Class 5000||10 points every turn|
When a character who is knocked unconscious does not pass their Kill check, they begin to die. This process involves the character losing one rank of Endurance each turn, until that ability score is reduced to Shift 0 in rank. When this occurs, the character is deceased, and barring any ascendant intervention (or even someone performing first aid), they just might not be coming back.
But how does one prevent this, you ask?
The easiest way to halt the loss of Endurance is by having someone attempt to help a dying character. This can be a qualified medical professional, one's teammates or allies, or even passersby. Such help can be as rigorous as patching up a dying individual or simply checking to make sure they're all right. This requires a full turn, at least - and simply shouting 'Are you okay?' from across a battlefield probably won't cut it.
Alternately, if there is no one around to save a dying individual, the player behind him or her may instead attempt to do so themselves. If help is imminent, a character may expend fifty Karma points in order to halt the loss of Endurance ranks for one turn, and if help is not so close, they may instead expend two hundred and fifty Karma points to acquire another Kill check, at their current Endurance rank, to stop dying.
If a dying character's Endurance loss is halted in any manner, the character will not die - at least, not because of their current injuries. Instead, they will remain unconscious for 1d10 hours, and assuming they do not suffer any additional damage during that time, they will awaken as per the above: with their current Endurance rank number in Health points.
If an unconscious character (one who currently lacks any Health points) is struck while they are down, the situation can be handled in one of two fashions. The most simple of these involves prompting another Kill check, against their current Endurance score... which may not be anywhere near their peak level at the moment. The failure of this Endurance FEAT will cause an immediate resumption of Endurance loss, per the above.
However, some Judges might like a more granular approach to such underhanded tactics. Enter negative Health.
The idea behind this secondary ability of Health itself is that, upon suffering damage when one has no Health, a character will lose negative Health points instead of rolling Kill checks. This can help to avoid instances where a character with a particularly high Endurance score can withstand a staggering amount of punishment while unconscious - when they really shouldn't be able to.
If a character runs out of negative Health points, they will immediately drop to Shift 0 Endurance, and will cease to function. They can be revived with skills such as first aid or medicine, or perhaps ascendant abilities that specialize in such feats, but otherwise the character is dead. Unless, of course, a strange occurrence acts to revive him or her (as often happens in the realm of comic books).
Negative Health recovers at the same rate as a character's regular Health.
While one's ordinary Health score is a good indicator of how much physical damage they can absorb before passing out and possibly passing on, their mental fortitude may not necessarily be the same. When the Judge wishes to make the Health of a character's body and the Health of a character's mind distinct from one another, they can make use of the mental Health secondary ability.
Mental Health showcases how much Karmic damage a character can withstand before their mind folds like a house of cards. While some Karmic damage is material in nature (such as a psion beam), most comes in the form of attacks such as a psi bolt or empathic hammer. These assaults act against the 'core' of a character's mind, and thus subtract points from one's mental Health score.
When a character runs out of mental Health, they must pass a Psyche FEAT roll or begin to lose ranks of such - in the same way that one loses Endurance ranks upon running out of regular Health. When one is all out of Psyche, their mind is gone, essentially indicating that while their body is still alive, nobody's minding the store any longer. Which is, of course, never a good thing.
If a Judge doesn't wish to separate physical Health from mental Health in this fashion, this secondary ability can instead be used as a sanity indicator. In such instances, mental Health loss can occur in the event of mind-bending occurrences, whether one is exposed to the alien physics of other universes, causal shifts, or other Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. Running out of mental Health means one has gone insane!
Mental Health recovers as does regular Health, though at a rate determined by one's Psyche instead of their Endurance.
Recovery and Disability
When a character has lost Endurance ranks or negative Health, they are often at a considerable disadvantage until they've fully recovered. While the latter heals as fast as regular Health, lost Endurance ranks are recovered at a rate of one per week, barring the use of powers like recovery. While at a reduced Endurance or suffering from negative Health loss, a character makes all FEATs rolls at a -2 CS.
A character who has slipped to Shift 0 Endurance (or Psyche) has a longer road ahead, however. Even if rescued at the last minute by some agency or another, such characters are at risk of suffering permanent disabilities. When this occurs, the character must pass a FEAT roll on each ability score and power they possess, the failure of which indicates that the rank in question has suffered a significant decrease.
This loss comes in the form of a -1 CS applied, permanently, to that ability score or power. This is indicative of permanent damage suffered by a character's near-death experience. Barring healing powers or equipment, the only way to resume the normal operation of such lost ranks is through the standard advancement process - representing difficult therapy to ultimately get over one's severe injuries.
If one's Endurance is disabled in this fashion, the character won't suffer the -2 CS penalty indicated above - their disability is penalty enough.
Gaining (and losing) Karma
As a character moves through life, they experience a myriad of different events. How one responds to such events helps to define a character - perhaps more so than what's on their character sheet. After all, actions do speak louder than words, and one's actions invariably have an effect on others. Thus, a character's actions may cause them to either gain or lose Karma, depending on their ethos.
As stated in the Ability Scores portion of the rules, a character begins play with an amount of Karma equal to the sum of their Reason, Intuition and Psyche rank numbers. This sum may be used in one of two fashions during play - as is determined by one's game Judge.
The first implies that this represents a character's inherent luck. As such, a character always begins an adventure (not necessarily an individual game session) with a like amount of Karma, which he, she, or it may spend to manipulate die rolls. This Karma may not be saved, and cannot be dedicated to either a permanent team pool or an advancement pool - though a 'one shot' style team pool can make use of this Karma.
The benefit of this interpretation is that players need not engage in quite so much bookkeeping. For example, knowing that they'll have that much Karma handy might just free them up to put it all the Karma they earn into either a team or advancement pool. Of course, players in such a game can still warehouse a large amount of Karma for spending during play - they simply have more options in that regard.
Alternately, the Judge might think this is too generous. If this is the case, such Karma is subject to the 'no free lunch' rule, meaning that it represents Karma earned before a character enters play - and once it's gone, it's gone. Such Karma may be used for any purposes, even advancement, since it does not replenish itself over time. The character's actions, and their actions alone, provide more Karma to use.
The benefit of this interpretation is that the Judge can more readily control the pace of advancement in their campaigns. If he or she does not want players to ascend to greater heights of power quite so quickly, this interpretation of the starting Karma score can aid them in this regard. On top of carefully metering out the rewards they hand out in the first place, that is.
The quirks rules assume that the first interpretation of starting Karma is in play. However, if the no free lunch restriction is applied to a campaign, this drastically affects two quirks which are directly related to starting Karma: Karmic Dearth and Karmic Shell. When using the no free lunch rules, these quirks should be disallowed, as they're not particularly beneficial (or deleterious) over the long term.
Perhaps the simplest way to earn Karma is overcoming one's foes. One need not bash their opponents' heads in to achieve such a victory, though given the nature of comic books and role playing games in general, this is quite often how people succeed in life. Any significant victory over an opponent allows a character to earn Karma points, based on just how competent that foe happens to be.
The base amount of Karma a victory will provide is determined by the highest power rank number the vanquished foe possesses. A character whose highest rank is her Unearthly (100) mind control, for example, provides a base Karma reward of 100 when defeated. If a defeated enemy has a talent or quirk which enhances that highest rank further, raise the base reward by +1 CS (as if her highest rank was Shift X (150)).
For every doubling of ability scores or powers that have a rank number within 1 CS of that base value, consider it +1 CS as well. For instance, if that Unearthly mind controller had another power of Monstrous or Unearthly rank, add a +1 CS to her highest rank for the purposes of determining her reward value, while if she had three more, one would add a +2 CS. This is handled in the same basic fashion as a buddy CS.
The flip side of this is, of course, losing in an effort against one's foe(s). Being defeated costs a character twenty five Karma points, assuming the public at large is unaware of this defeat. If a body is beaten in public, they instead lose fifty Karma points. This is one reason villains tend to abscond with defeated heroes in order to place them within death traps - so they can be beaten twice!
Keeping Up Appearances
Another relatively easy way in which a character can earn Karma, albeit in smaller sums than when crushing one's foe under their boot heel, is simply being dependable. Showing up for work when one is expected to, watching the kids every day, or even lording over the minions in the usual fashion is a good way to earn Karma. Each week a character manages this, he or she should gain ten Karma points.
Making commitments to others is another way in which a character can earn Karma. Such commitments can be anything ranging from going out on a date, having a poker night with the buddies, or even hanging with those curmudgeons at the bar who like your tall tales so. As long as a character keeps such a commitment, they should earn five Karma points - this reflects a body proactively trying to 'have a life'.
Third, a 'meta' sort of Karma reward involves a character being played in character. If a player assumes the role of a wholesome, mom and apple pie kind of hero, only to have her utilize a brothel, they're not really playing that character appropriately. Sticking to one's guns and playing a character in the stated fashion, whether it is a pre-generated character or the player's own creation, is worth ten Karma.
The down side to these options is, of course, failing to keep up appearances. Calling in sick from work to fight crime might earn a character plenty Karma, but they'll first lose ten Karma points for being undependable. Similarly, skipping one's scheduled gaming session in order to rob a bank costs them five Karma points, and playing a character totally off-base will result in a loss of ten Karma points.
Acts of Charity
Similar to the idea of keeping up appearances, a character has the ability to engage in charitable acts. This involves going out of their way to perform actions that are not combat related, doing things to the benefit of his or her community at large. Such acts can involve either a character's public or secret identities - or even both, if they're particularly motivated.
Once per week, a character may benefit from a charitable donation, gaining a minimum of ten Karma points in the process. This minimum assumes no FEAT roll was required when making a donation (spare change in a charity drop box, etc.) If a donation requires a Resources FEAT, the amount gained can grow as high as the intensity of the Resources FEAT in question - assuming that it's successful, of course.
Good deeds are another way to use one's abilities to help others. Such instances include a fire controller extinguishing forest fires, a healer moonlighting in a hospital, and so on. The Karma gained with such work depends on the FEAT(s) required for such work. If no FEAT is necessary, the character gains ten Karma, though if a FEAT is required to pull off such a good deed, the Karma gained is equal to the intensity of such.
Dovetailing with the idea of making commitments, above, a character can make a personal appearance, appealing to others for charity - or simply giving a charity the benefit of public awareness through their own Popularity. This gives a character an amount of Karma equal to their Popularity score, though doing so first requires passing a successful red Popularity FEAT with said charity.
They know heroic types are almost always ambushed by foes during such events, after all!
Character Ethos and Other Actions
Most other means of earning Karma depend on a character's ethos. Heroes generally gain Karma for doing good deeds and foiling crimes, while villains generally gain Karma for doing bad deeds and committing crimes. This gets a bit murky when you consider that a character can fall within any one of five different ethical callings: either a good, evil, orderly, chaotic or balanced morality.
Judging the Game has much more on handling this, since a Judge must decide whether a character's actions fit within their ethos (on top of being within character). However, various actions which can change one's Karma are described in detail below. A character experiences the listed amount when preventing or committing such an act, or half that amount for arresting the perpetrator, allowing it to happen, or getting away with it.
* Inverse Popularity actions occur when a heroic character is saddled with negative Popularity (or vice versa), and has to make use of that opposing reputation for some reason or another (such as scaring a crowd out of an endangered area). Exploiting inversed Popularity costs a character a number of Karma points equal to their current Popularity score.
* Major Crimes are more serious illegal activities that do not readily fall into any other category of crime. This might include selling or trafficking drugs, gun running, or any other non-violent activity that national governments typically disapprove of. Major crimes involve a Karma change of twenty points, though they often escalate into violent crimes.
* Minor Crimes are generally 'victimless' actions - nobody gets hurt as a direct result of one's activities, and property is not damaged or stolen. This category of actions can include any number of infractions against the law which, while minor, are still patently illegal. Events like this, such as driving recklessly or downloading music without permission, involve a Karma change of ten points.
* Property Crimes run the gamut of actions against other people's property. This covers a wide range of activities that range from looting to theft to shoplifting to vandalism - or simply the destruction of a given thing. Such actions have a minimum Karma rating of ten points, and can earn/lose more if the Resources rating of the property involved is higher.
* Rescues / Imperilments involve saving those in dire peril of imminent harm or death - or placing innocents in such. This includes saving people from a burning building, tying victims to train tracks, or even placing a foe in a death trap. Each incident of this type allows a Karma change of twenty points, to a maximum of one hundred Karma in one instance (saving a busload of kids, for example).
* Robbery is similar to property crimes, above, save that it is done with the added threat of violence against the property's owner. Such activity can involve anything ranging from an armed robbery to extortion. A robbery involves a minimum Karma change of thirty points, though this can range as high as the Resources rank of a particularly good haul.
* Subversion involves crimes against an entire nation, actively working against its interests for another party - or to simply take it over for oneself! Activities ranging from the management of nation-spanning conspiracies to assaults on military personnel to sedition to treason itself are considered subversive in nature. An act of subversion involves a Karma change of forty points.
* Violent Crimes involve inflicting grievous physical damage or other harm upon others. It can include anything ranging from kidnapping to assault to torture to murder. A violent crime involves a Karma change of fifty points, as it can permanently scar (or even end the existence of) its victim, potentially haunting them for years to come.
* World Conquest - or at least a competent attempt at such - is often the culmination of many villains' goals. A plot or crime that would affect the entire world is one which involves a Karma change of one hundred points, if only for the actual climax of said plot. A variety of steps along the way may well offer any number of additional opportunities to earn (or lose) Karma!
|Action||Karma Reward / Penalty|
|Major Crimes||20 Karma|
|* Arrest/Escape/Permit||10 Karma|
|Property Crimes||10 Karma|
|* Arrest/Escape/Permit||5 Karma|
|* Arrest/Escape/Permit||15 Karma|
|Violent Crimes||50 Karma|
|* Arrest/Escape/Permit||25 Karma|
|Action||Karma Reward / Penalty|
|Minor Crimes||10 Karma|
|* Arrest/Escape/Permit||5 Karma|
|Rescues / Imperilments||20 Karma|
|* Arrest/Escape/Permit||10 Karma|
|* Arrest/Escape/Permit||20 Karma|
|World Conquest||100 Karma|
|* Arrest/Escape/Permit||50 Karma|
'... and Hilarity Ensued'
Finally, the whole point of the game is to have fun. This is why, when a player goes above and beyond in their efforts to entertain their fellows, they should be rewarded for it. A player who manages to do something so over the top (whether utterly 'stumping' the Judge or simply when joking with their fellows) that the action is stopped by overwhelming laughter, they should be given a ten point Karma award for their efforts.
That which separates a living, breathing hero from a cold, unfeeling robot, Karma is a measure of a character's place in the cosmos. A reflection of who they are and what they've accomplished, Karma can be cashed in for a variety of purposes, both selfish and selfless. But how does one actually go about spending Karma in order to aid themselves and their allies, you ask?
Manipulating Die Rolls
The most common reason to spend Karma is to manipulate the results of a die roll. Such rolls can be almost anything required of a character in the game, unless the FEAT in question specifically bars the use of Karma from helping it to succeed (which is admittedly a rare occurrence). When a character wishes to spend Karma on a die roll, they must declare it before the dice are thrown.
Upon declaring that Karma will be used, the character will immediately spend ten Karma points (or whatever they have left, if their Karma is less than ten in total). The idea is that this helps to prevent characters from 'threatening' Karma use without actually spending anything. Once the dice are thrown, the 'down payment' of ten (or less, if that's all that was available) Karma will be immediately applied to them.
After the (modified) die result is apparent, the character in question may then cut his or her losses, if success would be too costly, or pay the additional amount required - if any - to allow the FEAT to succeed.
In rare instances, a player may spend Karma to affect a result in combat after the dice are thrown - though only to reduce it. Characters may reduce the color result of combat effects on attacks that are ordinarily barred from doing so (anything that has a Kill result, for example). Doing this costs a character 25 Karma points - but may save them more in the long run, if their attack would have killed, say, an innocent bystander.
The greatest thing about having super powers is that they often lend themselves to uses that are not readily apparent. A power stunt is a special use for a power that does not fit its description, strictly speaking, but seems apparent from its very nature. In order to attempt a power stunt, a player must first describe the stunt in question, as well as his or her logic as for why it should work.
If the Judge approves of both, the character can attempt the stunt - at a cost of 100 Karma points. The first time a power stunt is attempted, a red power FEAT is required for it to succeed. As such, the character in question may opt to spend even more Karma in order to allow that to happen. If a power stunt fails on the first attempt, the possibility of making subsequent efforts is up to the Judge.
But, once that stunt is successful at least once, the character attempting it may develop it into an official use for their power(s). This requires nine more successful uses of said stunt, and each additional attempt costs 100 Karma points as well. The next four successes must be yellow in color, while the last five merely have to be green (any success will do at this point).
Once a character has succeeded in the use of a power stunt ten times, it is considered an official part of their power roster at that point. Power stunts will typically operate at the rank of the power that generated them, unless specifically described otherwise in a power's description. Unless a power stunt duplicates a power with a higher point cost, that is; in this case, subtract -1 CS for each additional point involved.
One secondary ability of Karma is the team pool. A team pool is a shared pool of Karma that multiple characters can draw upon in the course of play. A team pool may be either temporary or permanent in nature. The former generally describes the transient team-ups that super heroes tend to engage in over time, while a permanent pool is one which is maintained by a regular grouping of characters.
At least two characters are required to form a team pool. When this is done, the characters involved in a pool may contribute as much or as little Karma as they desire. When a character leaves a team pool, he or she will take an amount of Karma from it equal to their participation in such (leaving a team pool made by four characters will allow one to take one fourth of its Karma with him or her).
Karma from a team pool may not be used for a character's advancement - a facet of such which prevents a team from 'helping' one of their members to acquire greater power without working for it. Pool Karma may be used for any other purposes, however, whether trying to avoid incoming attacks, stave off imminent death, or simply when trying to convince that special someone to go out on a date.
Other than the previous, the management of a team pool is up to the characters that belong to it. Decisions restricting its use for some reason or another should be a unanimous affair, if only to avoid bad feelings - and people leaving the pool in a huff. Of course, this sort of thing does happen in the comics all the time, so there is that.
When a character exits a team pool, he or she may not join it again for the duration of an adventure. There's nothing stopping a player from signing up with a completely different team pool immediately, however.
Another secondary ability of Karma is the advancement pool. A character may assign any Karma he or she has earned to an advancement pool. When this is done, they lose access to said Karma semi-permanently, as it is put aside for their advancement. A character need not state exactly what they intend to do with their advancement pool, at least until they are ready to make use of it, but until then such Karma is off-limits.
The advantage of putting Karma in an advancement pool is that it is not subject to loss for any reason. While a character's actions might cause them to lose whatever Karma they've left for spending purposes, Karma in an advancement pool is immune to such loss - no matter how far off the ranch a character's behavior may wander. Not even the Karma Control power can lay a hand on advancement Karma!
Once a character has saved enough Karma for their intended purpose(s), they may finally withdraw Karma from their advancement pool for immediate use. This use can be anything that would increase the prowess of a character, whether improving a capability they already have or giving them something new to draw upon in the course of their adventures.
Or, alternately, 'paying off' something they acquired in previous play.
Players may advance their character in a wide variety of fashions.
To start with, they may wish to raise the rank number of an ability score or an existing power. To do so, a character must raise either on a point by point basis, spending ten times each increased rank number in order to do so. For example, increasing one's Strength from Good (10) to Good (12) would cost 230 Karma points (first from Good (10) to Good (11) at a cost of 110, and then to Good (12) at a cost of 120).
When advancing extant powers, this assumes that the ascendant ability has a cost of one point per rank. When raising the rank of super powers with a different base cost, multiply the standard cost by the power's listed cost per rank notation. Raising the rank of power duplication, for instance, takes a lot more work than improving one's environmental independence - or resistances, for that matter.
On the other hand, a player may wish to acquire an all new ascendant power. The Karma costs (and potential risk) involved when doing so depends on their character's origins. A high tech hero may just have to build a powerful new knick-knack, while an aberration of science may have to subject themselves to even more radiation to gain extra powers. See the individual character origin guides for more on this.
Acquiring new talents or contacts is relatively simpler than gaining new powers - and potentially far less harmful. A new talent costs a character 1,000 Karma points for most talents, or 2,000 Karma for a talent that counts as two. Elevating a standard talent to a tier 2 skill (double bonus) doubles the cost, while raising it to a tier 3 talent (triple bonus) triples the cost of the original skill.
A new contact is a slightly different affair, however. Contacts a character wishes to acquire after character generation have a base cost of 500 Karma points, plus an additional amount equal to ten times their Resources score. Acquiring a contact with Typical (6) Resources would only cost 560 Karma, for example, while another with Unearthly (100) Resources would instead cost the character 1,500 Karma.
Generally, a character can acquire increases in power or new talents and contacts relatively easily - a simple explanation is all that is required for a tier 1 talent or a +1 CS in any ability score or power (she worked out harder, or hit the books more). Acquiring new powers though, as well as more intense bonuses to ability scores, powers, or talents, often require a bit more explanation from the player.
Which can in and of itself lead to even more adventures, if desired!