Context for power levels

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Context for power levels

Post by RainOnTheSun »

Open question to GMs and players, whether you play games in your own setting or a published one: how does a Power Level 10 character on 150 points fit into your world? In the post-a-character threads I've seen on this board and others, I've seen PL 10 treated like a special elite status, and I've also seen it treated as the equivalent of level one in Dungeons and Dragons. How significant is somebody on the level of a beginning PC? I know they're the protagonists, so on one level they're the most important people in the world, but how rare or common is that level of ability in the world? And are there any handy tricks you've seen used to establish that context for the players?

If you don't use PL 10 and 150 points as a starting level, please replace that with whatever you do use.
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Re: Context for power levels

Post by Ken »

Well, the thing to remember is that Power Level is an aggregate measurement of power and skill. It's also an abstraction that while the players are presumably aware of it, the player characters aren't.

In the RC Universe, the PL 10/160 (we use 16 pts per PL) level is simply the most common level for costumed adventurers. It includes rookie powerful beings who don't possess gobs of skill, such as Mister Might, and it includes non-powered individuals at the top of their form, such as Shrike. And of course it includes the people who are between the two extremes.

But we have some PL 9/144 characters out there. These represent people who are either slightly less powerful or slightly less skilled or both. And we have some PL 11/176 characters, and some PL 12s, etc.

But the thing of it is that most of the RCU campaigns are one PL campaigns. All of Force d'Orleans and the Nevada Strike Force Consultants are PL 10s, all of Eclipse and the Allied Defenders are PL 11s. B.A.D.A.S.S. has been mostly PL 11s, with maybe one PL 10, but we're about to pick up a bunch of characters from the Pacific Coast Paranormals, which was a PL 10 game. I'm not sure how it will play out.

My Champions of Justice game is the only campaign where the range for PCs can range between PL 10 and PL 14. But it is done Troupe Play style so what happens is that most of the PCs have one character who is a PL 11 and another that is PL 13, and I usually allow the players to choose who they play. Sometimes I may tell them, please play __________, depending one what I have planned, and scale accordingly. But the CoJ are the RCU's JLA/Avengers type group so the "I lack the raw power of my teammates so I need to work harder" type role-playing is actively encouraged.

So, in the end, no, we haven't found any tricks to convey the context to the players. In fact, if anything, I'm not sure if the players who don't GM really do have much context. Actually, we have one player/GM who I think doesn't have context.
Ms S: I hardly think it'll enhance yr reputation at the UN Prof. Plum, if it's revealed that U have been implicated not only in adultery with 1 of your patients, but in her death & the deaths of 5 others.

PP: U don't know what kind of people they have at the UN; I may go up in their estimation.
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Re: Context for power levels

Post by Jabroniville »

For the "Jabverse", PL 10 (150) is actually quite a lot of power, with many villains falling below the points-cost, with many heroes rising above it. There are experienced, respected heroes like Osprey who are only PL 9, but cost more than 150 points, for example, while Big Dumb Brawler types can hit PL 10 pretty easily, but not the points-cost.

To me, a PL 10 implies either a lot of power and less accuracy, or a very well-rounded, respectable super-character. A professional or a jumped-up rookie, more or less. The more "typical" Starter Hero PL is more likely PL 8 (120), especially for super-powered types. "Normal Human" characters are usually less powerful, with only a few (like Night Dragon) hitting PL 10.

I think in the context of the universe, the GM could "break the fourth wall" and suggest that the hero is PL 10-13 or whatever to the players. Maybe not be ultra-specific, but point out the experience level, popularity and Power Feats of the guy in question, allowing them to figure them out in context. Obviously, if they meet entirely new characters, it'll all be treated as a surprise.
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Re: Context for power levels

Post by Harnos »

Let us look at some NPC's from various books, they will give a general idea about power levels.

Green (newbie) soldier archetype from Deluxe Gamemaster's Guide is PL 4, a regular soldier is PL 5 and a veteran is PL 6. An elite soldier is PL 7, this is the most powerful non-super minion i've seen so far. So i conclude that PL 7 is the highest point mundane people can go. That applies only to combat effectiveness, i do not take skill levels into account.

Note that "badass normal" characters like Batman,Punisher, Black Widow etc. are categorised as "super", even though they have no powers.

2e Paragons and Wild Cards settings state that PL 6 is your number to go for characters with low level powers and no combat training-experience. For example a powerhouse with 8 str and 4 melee attack bonus is PL 6. These guys can resist regular soldiers and police for a while but a squad of elite soldiers with armor-piercing amnution can take down PL 6 guys easily. There are some tv shows which portrays the adventures of the regular people with low-level powers, like Alphas, Gifted, Heroes etc. The characters from these shows generally fit here.

PL 8 is the level of teen heroes, who have mid-level powers or some combat training. Hero archetypes and NPCs from Heroes High generally has +6 attack\defense and 10 rank of effect ( strength, damage powers etc). So they are as accurate as standart soldiers with their attacks and they have the fire-power of a tank cannon. Powerhouses of this level can lift generally 25-100 tons.

Pl 10 is the standart super hero level where guys like Cyclops,Nightcrawler, Nightwing, Punisher, Green Arrow, Luke Cage,Hobgoblin, Green Goblin etc. PL 11's are elites of this classification, like Spider-Man, Colossus, Wolverine. Also, this is the highest level super-heroes without powers can go, unless they are Batman of course. They take down squads of elite soldiers without much hardship.Fights between the strongmans of this level cause collateral damage. Heavy military- grade weapons like rocket launchers, cannons and armored vechiles are necessary to deal with them,

PL 12-13 is the level of mid-tier Avengers and Justice League members. Aquaman, Iron Man, Thing from Fantastic Four, Juggernaut,Venom,Flash, standart Green Lantern members, lowest level of godly beings stand here. Standart soldiers cannot even scratch them without heavy artillery. They excel in their areas, Flash's speed.

Pl 14-15 is where world saviors stand. Thor, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Magneto, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Hulk, Sentry, Silver Surfer... These guys can endure tactical nukes, lift aircraft carriers, fight armies. Most of them also have diverse powers.

PL 16-17 is where the strong gods and cosmic villains dwell. Darkseid,Doomsday, Thanos, Sky-father gods like Zeus. They are the leaders of pantheons and world conquerers.

PL 18 and above are generally not used in the game. Only examples I have seen so far are Spectre, Omega and Argo. I guess they are given stats for the reason why D&D gods have stats. Unless these cosmic beings have known weaknesses or there are artifacts that weaken them, you can just handwave them as PL X characters.

I hope this helps.
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Re: Context for power levels

Post by Post-Human Resources »

Honestly, most of my 'power level' context is... non-existent. I don't think necessarily that people of a high power level are well known, certainly not outside of their specific field. People on the street, going to work, who see a superhero fighting a supervillain, and who run away from the danger, are not going to be carefully observing exactly how accurate and damaging their laser vision is compared with the last time this happened, nor are they measuring the intellect it takes Dr Fabulous to create her cybernetic prosthetic limbs compare with the intellect it took Repulsor to create his own, based on reverse engineering her work. Not in any easily quantifiable, detailed numerical way like Power Level.

Typical people are about PL -1 to +1 in a fight, with a couple of skills that may include whatever hobbies or professions they have had, and maybe some equipment. Of course, it is always easy enough to quickly level up a bit, just by starting to carry around something to use as a weapon and maybe wearing a leather jacket. Quick and easy low level street thug: just make a typical person, but then add enough Equipment to get a leather jacket and a club, or a knife, and suddenly they can beat most unarmed, unarmoured opponents easily. Which makes sense.

At really low levels, fairly normal people can, offensively, compete quite well against otherwise talented, or experienced, people simply by picking up a decent weapon and maybe some absolutely basic practice or training. PL 2 can be a fairly well-built person with some martial arts training... or just somebody who bought a pistol and spends a couple of hours at the firing range every weekend. PL 3 is more like somebody using that same gun but with professional training, or a more seriously dedicated martial artist. PL 4 is appropriate for miscellaneous soldiers, with a +3 to hit with a gun, and carrying an assault rifle. PL 5 is a soldier with a bit more training and/or experience, using the same weapon (assault rifles & sniper rifles).
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