1:31 PM +Calum: So I’m Calum Kitching from Scotland. Unlike some of Dan’s guests Superlatives is my first published work.
1:31 PM +Calum: Superlatives is a superhero roleplaying game designed to emulate the experience of superhero comics.
1:31 PM +Calum: The system was built around its process of ongoing character creation. Virtually every roll you make (excluding only opposed and damage rolls) adds something to your character sheet. For example if your character encounters a steel door and wants to break it down you would first try and explain why your character can break down a steel door (an
1:31 PM +Calum: easy step for people with superhuman strength or martial arts but a much more interesting step for people with mind control or chalk manipulation). If you can produce a suitable explanation (I usually set the bar for the reasonableness of the explanation round about silver age levels but you can adjust to taste) you can make a check against the
1:31 PM +Calum: attribute you are trying to use. If you succeed, not only do you break down the door, but you also establish this is a thing you can do. Therefore if you latter try to break through a steel box or wooden door you can point to this precedent to say you can definitely do this without even rolling.
1:32 PM +Calum: One particularly well received element of the system was the concept of “prior issues.” These are adventures which occur “off screen” in your character’s own comic before and between the issues of the team comic the campaign is assumed to represent. These allow you to add extra precedents before they come up in play, providing some insulation
1:32 PM +Calum: against silly effects like the guy with laser beam eyes getting the precedent that they cannot fire lasers out of their eyes. This also helps reinforce the idea that these are comics with the convoluted webs of continuity that tends to come with major characters in this
1:32 PM +Calum: medium.
1:32 PM +Calum: The rules ended up being only something like 20 pages which I felt wasn’t a lot to ask folk to pay for so the core book also includes about 110 heroes, villains and supporting cast, ranging from cosmic beings like Zeus and the Dream Dragon down to interns and petty crooks.
1:32 PM +Calum: There’s also a range of settings, most of which are still only available to backers but one of which is out on Drive Thru. This setting covers a silver age desert base along the lines of classic Hulk or Hal Jordan’s early career and various alien powers and human dictatorships they compete against.
1:32 PM +Calum: (Done)
1:34 PM ~Dan: Thanks, Calum! The floor is open to questions!
1:35 PM ~Dan: So is this generally a Silver Age game?
1:36 PM +FamilyFantasyRPG: How much guidance do you give GMs? How do you balance trying not to “hand hold”, but give enough information to be useful.
1:37 PM +Calum: There is certainly a silver age influence but that’s not predominant.
1:37 PM +Calum: The game is certainly comfortable with characters doing absurd things- but the modern age Young Avengers is as much an influence.
1:39 PM +Calum: In terms of guidance, I imagine by this you mean generic advice rather than setting specific information?
1:39 PM +FamilyFantasyRPG: correct, for your system, such as this “reasonableness” scale
1:40 PM +Calum: There are a few pages of advice on how to steer the game towards different ages of comics. But by and large I trust GMs will play in their own style.
1:41 PM ~Dan: Is Young Avengers the general power level of the game as well?
1:43 PM +Calum: Power levels are set during character creation. If you want a really street level group you can set that power level at Peak. If you want more powerful characters like the Young Avengers you would be Super.
1:43 PM +Calum: If you wanted cosmic beings you would set the power level at Godlike or Cosmic.
1:44 PM +Calum: This affects your wounds, opposed checks and certain minor limits.
1:44 PM +Calum: However this does tend towards higher power levels. I’d guesstimate the Young Avengers or DCAU would be about the minimum levels of a typical game.
1:45 PM ~Dan: How are powers selected/created?
1:46 PM +Calum: Well each power is defined by the player. There are four components to that: the name you give the power (one or two descriptive words to give an idea of what you can do), the magnitude (how strong your power is compared to other powers, mostly used in opposed checks), the range (the number you need to roll under to make the power work) and the
1:46 PM +Calum: precedents (exactly what you can and can’t do as determined in play).
1:47 PM +Calum: The name is totally defined by the player. You can say you have something common like “strength” or “martial arts” or something like “shortbread mastery”.
1:47 PM ~Dan: I see… So the scope of the power isn’t determined at all during character creation beyond what the name suggests?
1:48 PM +Calum: The magnitude is selected from a preset list from Child to Cosmic. The GM tells you what options you have here since this verymuch shapes what sort of game you have as mentioned earlier.
1:49 PM +Idanian63: Do the settings ?
1:49 PM +Calum: The range is generated with random dice rolls. There is an option to play around with that roll and the magnitudes to have better mundane skills, but basically this is just set by fiat.
1:49 PM +Calum: The precedents comes back to Dan’s question of determining scope in character creation.
1:50 PM ~Dan: Oh, so you do get to set some precedents starting off?
1:50 PM ~Dan: I think I misunderstood.
1:50 PM +Calum: My very first draft could have allowed you to establish silly things like your laser beam eyes can’t fire laser beams because you failed the very first roll.
1:50 PM +Calum: I changed that long before the first playtest.
1:51 PM +Calum: So now you get what we call “prior issues”. In these your character has some semirandomly determined adventures where you agree with the GM what precedents you have set.
1:51 PM ~Dan: How many precedents do you get to set?
1:51 PM +Calum: So you can start with a few positive precedents, and a few limits.
1:52 PM +Calum: At default these are also randomly generated.
1:52 PM +Calum: Although a more generous GM would be free to change that around.
1:53 PM +Idanian63: Are the settings linked to the magnitudes in any way? If I wanted to run something without really high powered characters is there a setting that lends itself particularly well to that?
1:55 PM +Calum: The settings aren’t explicitly linked to the magnitudes.
1:56 PM +Calum: That said some settings are more high powered than others. The aforementioned Ultra Base runs from street level Hydra lookalikes to cosmic dictators, but is heavily inspired by Hulk so does pull towards more powerful characters.
1:57 PM ~Dan: What makes Ultra Base interesting enough to have it be the whole setting?
1:57 PM +Calum: Conversely Epoch City is a settlement where nobody has superpowers before the pcs come onto the scene so this leans more towards low powered street stuff.
1:59 PM ~Dan: Or is Ultra Base simply the base of operations?
1:59 PM +Calum: From an in universe perspective it is filled with high tech research and strategically important missiles that all manner of spies want to get to. From the perspective of a buyer mostly the sixty characters and one adventure.
2:01 PM +Calum: The characters include a few soldiers (including the superpowered WarHound) and civilians from the nearby town of Glory Field, the cult like THRONE conspiracy, a score of warlords from the failed states of Mycella and Falkestan, four alien powers and the monsters of an alternate future after nuclear war.
2:01 PM ~Dan: So are all of your settings a specific location rather than a “universe”? And if so, are they all a part of the same universe by default?
2:01 PM +Calum: The adventure takes you from Ultra Base to the headquarters of the aforementioned conspiracy with its inevitable volcano.
2:02 PM +Calum: Yes. I was aiming for something modular.
2:02 PM ~Dan: I see. I follow you now.
2:02 PM ~Dan: Do you have a character sheet that we can see?
2:02 PM +Calum: So Ultra Base and Odlican (the next setting I plan to release) reference each other but can be played independently.
2:03 PM +Calum: That said some of the settings would take more work to combine than others.
2:03 PM +Calum: In particular Epoch City is a city without superhumans and Nightworld depicts a city approaching Ragnarock.
2:05 PM +Calum: Will just scramble around for one.
2:05 PM +Inky: (howdy!)
2:05 PM ~Dan: (Howdy, Inky!)
2:06 PM ~Dan: Inky: Quick summary: This is a superhero game that scales from street level to cosmic, and the scope of your powers is determined in large part during play.
2:06 PM +Calum: Uploaded file: (Link: https://uploads.kiwiirc.com/files/fb3eff32d221efc80d6aa89df1dead55/character-sheet.pdf)https://uploads.kiwiirc.com/files/fb3eff32d221efc80d6aa89df1dead55/character-sheet.pdf
2:07 PM +Calum: Here’s the blank character sheet.
2:09 PM +Calum: There’s also two examples of characters here. (Link: https://superlatives30882206.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/sample-characters.pdf)https://superlatives30882206.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/sample-characters.pdf
2:09 PM ~Dan: So looking it over, I don’t see anything resembling attributes. Do those just fall under powers?
2:10 PM +Calum: These sample characters don’t use the same template because they are from a very old version of the game before my editor applied all the beautiful layouts.
2:10 PM +Calum: Yes. If no power is relevant it defaults to your experiences.
2:11 PM +Calum: In all instances you need to find something on your character sheet to justify why you would be able to do whatever you are trying to do.
2:13 PM ~Dan: How do you differentiate between unusual human-scale strength and super-strength?
2:14 PM +Calum: Well earlier I mentioned magnitudes.
2:14 PM +Calum: These are assigned to your powers and your experiences, which determined all of your “mundane” skills.
2:15 PM +Calum: So if you have unusual human strength you would give it “Peak” magnitude. If you have super strength you would give it “Super” magnitude. If your strength is amazing even for superhumans you would give it “Hyper” or better.
2:16 PM ~Dan: And it looks like task resolution is percentile-based?
2:17 PM +Calum: Yes. You need to roll under whatever stat you are using to justify your feat before you can perform it.
2:17 PM ~Dan: Does degree of success matter?
2:18 PM +Calum: No. We have this binary system where if you can do it once you can always do it and if you fail once you will always fail.
2:19 PM +Calum: So the consequences of a check is already pretty serious.
2:19 PM +Calum: Degrees of success would just aggravate that.
2:19 PM +Calum: Also, I decided against modifying the difficulty based on how difficult it is or how tenuous your explanation is.
2:20 PM ~Dan: What was your thinking there?
2:20 PM +Calum: I can see why other systems choose to do this, but I wanted to encourage the inherent absurdity of the genre.
2:21 PM +Calum: Some of the most positive feedback from playtests came from the moments where people were scrambling to find ways to make good use of their shortbread control power.
2:21 PM ~Dan: So how do opposed rolls work?
2:21 PM +Calum: (That was my brother, who is a ruthless powergamer and made Shortbread Man an unstoppable force).
2:22 PM +Calum: Dice off, aim to roll higher than your opponent, and add modifiers based on your magnitude.
2:23 PM ~Dan: So that’s the only time modifiers are involved?
2:23 PM +Inky: WOW, THAT SOUNDS wow, that sounds brutal! color me intrigued
2:23 PM +Calum: You can assist each other, or use multiple powers to assist yourself, to gain bonuses based on half the magnitude.
2:23 PM +Inky: (oops sorry for the double caps XD)
2:23 PM +Calum: For example you could use air control to fan flames to assist a fire control power.
2:24 PM +Calum: Yes the only time you would use a modifier is in opposed checks.
2:24 PM +Calum: That isn’t the only time magnitude is relevant.
2:24 PM ~Dan: Oh?
2:24 PM +Calum: You can also use it to adjudicate what is reasonable.
2:24 PM ~Dan: Can you give an example of that?
2:24 PM +Calum: So strength is easy to explain here- but it does apply to any power
2:25 PM +Calum: A trained human can lift dumbells, but not a car.
2:25 PM +Calum: A Peak human can just about lift a car or a tree, IF they roll well enough.
2:25 PM +Calum: But they couldn’t even attempt to pick up a fully loaded lorry.
2:26 PM +Calum: A Super human can do all manner of absurd feats.
2:26 PM +Calum: But you can’t drag around planets silver age Superman style.
2:26 PM +Calum: Until you are Godlike that is.
2:27 PM +Calum: Cosmic is beyond even that. Then the only limit on your strength is your dice and precedents.
2:27 PM +Calum: (Done).
2:28 PM +Calum: Thanks for the interest Inky. In the hands of my brother it did get pretty brutal since that also happened to be a game where I was aiming for a more iron age tone than I usually would.
2:29 PM ~Dan: So do successful actions only determine precedents within the reasonable scope of the magnitude?
2:29 PM +Calum: Yes.
2:30 PM +Calum: I rarely go into the strict stacking of resolution.
2:30 PM +Calum: But technically you wouldn’t be allowed to roll if it isn’t within the scope of the magnitude.
2:30 PM +Calum: Nor if you already have a precedent good or ill.
2:31 PM +Calum: In theory you could roll a lot less over the course of a campaign.
2:31 PM +Calum: But in practice players are always able to come up with a new use.
2:31 PM +Cortana: oh man
2:31 PM ~Dan: What if there’s no precedent and no listed ability? Like, say, someone attempting a task that’s all about pure agility, and the character has nothing agility-related?
2:31 PM +Cortana: I (deservedly) had my butt handed to me in yt comments
2:31 PM +Calum: Then we would scour their sheet.
2:32 PM +Calum: I rarely find a player who can’t come up with some excuse.
2:32 PM ~Dan: (Cortana: Q&A in progress. #randomworlds2 open for general chat. 🙂 )
2:32 PM +Cortana: (sorry!)
2:32 PM +Calum: But ultimately if they have no agility related powers or skills they can’t do it.
2:33 PM ~Dan: (No worries!)
2:33 PM +Idanian63: But the connection can be tenuous?
2:33 PM +Calum: Immensely.
2:34 PM +Calum: Although that’s partly a stylistic choice I have made, another GM could run a bit more strictly.
2:34 PM ~Dan: Doesn’t the character sheet fill up rather quickly with precedents?
2:34 PM +Calum: For one realatively reasonable example we had one character who was a doctor- and fluent in ancient Latin because of all the medical terms derived from that language.
2:35 PM +Calum: It does.
2:35 PM +Calum: I don’t find that a problem because I just use digital versions that expand to fit.
2:35 PM +Calum: Many others, including most of my playtesters, still use paper.
2:36 PM +Calum: So in a short game marginal scribbles spread all over the place.
2:36 PM +Calum: For a longer game you just take the same stance folk do in GURPS or D&D with spells.
2:36 PM +Calum: And you get a wee precedents note book.
2:38 PM +Calum: (Done) [Although I am trying to decide what the most absurd connection folk have made]
2:40 PM ~Dan: You mentioned that this is your first game. What have you learned from the experience?
2:40 PM +Calum: Mostly how much of publishing isn’t the actual design.
2:41 PM +Calum: I was pretty well equipped for the designing, writing and playtesting.
2:41 PM +Inky: (mood XD)
2:42 PM +Calum: I’d been tinkering with my own games since primary school so had made all the stupid mistakes (making a fantasy heart breaker for example)
2:42 PM +Calum: years ago.
2:42 PM ~Dan: (I need to stop away for just a minutes. brb!)
2:43 PM +Calum: I knew about the need to proofread and get art done. Neither of which are things I’m good at so I made sure to secure skilled people to provide these services.
2:44 PM +Calum: Speaking of which the artist’s website can be found here: (Link: https://www.ashlingdraws.com/)https://www.ashlingdraws.com/
2:44 PM +Calum: But then there is the layouts which, as a very non visual person I barely realised needed done- nevermind taking the best part of a year.
2:47 PM +Calum: Then there’s marketing, dealing with Drive Thru’s not entirely user friendly interface …
2:47 PM +Calum: More positively I learnt just how enthusiastic people can be.
2:47 PM +Inky: layouts are really rough, even if you are visual. it takes a lot of know how with the programs! That’s where i’m struggling atm
2:47 PM +Calum: I expected maybe eight people to back me to the level at which they get their own exclusive adventure. In the end I got twenty.
2:49 PM ~Dan: Welcome to #randomworlds, ilm and kiwi_57!
2:49 PM +Calum: Yes. I’ve spoken to other folk who found that it was this stage which made them abandon their plans for publication.
2:50 PM +Calum: Which is a shame, I know several of them have excellent games.
2:50 PM ~Dan: Calum: How does combat work?
2:51 PM +Calum: You establish how you will attack and defend using the usual rules.
2:51 PM +Calum: Then you roll opposed checks.
2:52 PM +Calum: If you can’t come up with an explanation for why you can resist the attack you still get to roll as an exception to the usual rules.
2:52 PM +Calum: But if you can find a power or some special training which will help you your chances of success are higher.
2:53 PM ~Dan: What do you roll if nothing’s applicable?
2:53 PM +Calum: Finally you roll damage. The damage you deal is dependent on your magnitude.
2:53 PM +Calum: If nothing’s applicable you get a flat roll while your opponent gets to add modifiers based on their magnitude.
2:54 PM +Calum: So at low levels this is still pretty helpful.
2:54 PM +Calum: The other wrinkle I would note is that there are separate tracks for mundane and psionic damage.
2:55 PM +Calum: So the more psionic damage you deal to your opponent the more control you have over them. Mundane damage just leads to them toppling over.
2:55 PM +Calum: Like much of the game the mechanics are pretty straightforward.
2:55 PM ~Dan: What dice are you rolling for damage?
2:57 PM +Calum: The real fun comes from justifying why you can resist the latest exotic attack. For example we had a guy whose power was gadgets disguised as mundane items. Facing a cloud of deadly acid he pulled out a desk fan and created a tornado with it.
2:57 PM +Calum: Dice are the standard d4 to d12 progression.
2:58 PM +Calum: Most magnitudes just improve the size of the dice you roll.
2:58 PM ~Dan: So d12 is Cosmic damage?
2:58 PM +Calum: But the most powerful characters get to roll multiple damage dice.
2:59 PM +Calum: So a cosmic character rolls 2d8
3:00 PM ~Dan: Do weapons and armor matter?
3:01 PM +Calum: Mostly as flavour.
3:01 PM +Calum: If your power is Super Armour it works much the same as if your power was Super thick skin.
3:01 PM +Calum: At least until somebody gets out a magnet.
3:01 PM ~Dan: Heh. 🙂
3:02 PM ~Dan: How do weaknesses work?
3:02 PM +Calum: There are two main kinds of weakness: a limit of the power or a weakness of the character.
3:03 PM +Calum: So Green Lantern’s famous weakness against yellow is an example of the first (at least in the comics when that was still a thing)
3:03 PM +Calum: Superman’s illness near kryptonite is an example of the latter.
3:04 PM +Calum: Limits of the first kind are just negative precedents, either defined in your prior issues or generated during play.
3:05 PM +Calum: The second kind is rarer. When you try to do something which could trigger the weakness you roll under the power associated with that. If you set a precedent that this does affect you it is added to your precedents as usual.
3:06 PM +Calum: So the more powerful you are the more likely you are to have these weaknesses.
3:06 PM ~Dan: What advantage is there to taking a weakness?
3:06 PM +Calum: This is best visualised with a vampire.
3:07 PM +Calum: If someone scatters rice in front of you you would have to roll against your vampire powers to see if you are affected. A weaker vampire with less vampire powers might shrug that off.
3:07 PM +Calum: But a vampire king is riddled with weaknesses to go with their incredible abilities.
3:08 PM +Calum: Mostly you take a weakness because your character should have this weakness.
3:08 PM +Calum: If you want to play a vampire it just comes with the package. If you want to play a plant person a chance of being affected by defoliant comes with the package too.
3:09 PM +Calum: Insofar as there is a mechanical advantage- prior issues do generate these negative precedents anyway- so you do need to take some faults.
3:10 PM +Calum: (Done)
3:10 PM ~Dan: Does the game include any sort of bestiary/rogue’s gallery?
3:11 PM +Calum: Yes. The core game has about 110 characters.
3:11 PM +Calum: I counted 113 but I say about 110 incase I miss counted.
3:11 PM ~Dan: That’s pretty impressive. Are there any monsters in the mix, or are they all superhumans?
3:15 PM +Calum: These include heroes like Snowflake, Dragon Man and Ariadne, human villains like Chess master , weird formerly human characters (like Grave Robber) and things that aren’t human at all (like Doctor Caldas who used to be a lizard before a mad scientist messed with him).
3:15 PM +Calum: Those are all on the cover.
3:15 PM ~Dan: Very nice.
3:15 PM ~Dan: Okay, so it’s time for danhunsaker’s favorite question. Are you here to do the honors, danhunsaker?
3:15 PM ~Dan: (I’ll give him just a minute.)
3:16 PM +Calum: Beyond them we have the olympian gods, a bevy of angels and demons, supporting cast members like Ariade’s manager and Snowflake’s best friend.
3:16 PM ~Dan: Looks like he’s away, so I’ll ask the question…
3:16 PM ~Dan: What is your LEAST favorite aspect of Superlatives?
3:17 PM +Calum: And the royal court of Atlantis who I almost forgot. Many of these characters were submitted by backers- although all the characters in the settings are either mine or my editor’s.
3:17 PM +Calum: Least favourite? Easily the index. Many boring evenings were spent poring over that.
3:17 PM +Calum: More usefully for someone wanting to buy the game
3:18 PM ~Dan: A fair answer, certainly. 🙂
3:18 PM +Calum: I have never found a game where I consistently enjoy combat.
3:18 PM +Calum: And I have tried my best to overcome that.
3:19 PM +Calum: But every now and again this can slip and we get into a boring fight scene.
3:19 PM * ~Dan nods
3:19 PM ~Dan: In the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
3:21 PM +Calum: Well I’ve managed to go the entire interview without mentioning troupe roleplaying.
3:21 PM +Calum: Which I guess stressed that this is an optional element of the game.
3:22 PM +Calum: But one of the key things I was trying to do was emulate the webs of continuity we get in comic books.
3:22 PM +Calum: Which is represented with the prior issues and people having the option to create villains and supporting cast members for each other.
3:23 PM +Calum: Which definitely isn’t for every game but has led to some amazing sequences at times.
3:24 PM +Calum: I think the key to that is not being too strict with the relationships and letting them evolve.
3:25 PM * ~Dan nods
3:25 PM +Calum: In the longest running playtest campaign we had two characters designed as heroes end up being arch enemies, with the younger hero recruiting the villains to fight for him.
3:25 PM +Calum: Meanwhile some of the supporting cast got promoted to proper heroes.
3:26 PM ~Dan: Cool!
3:27 PM ~Dan: Thanks very much for joining us, Calum!
3:27 PM ~Dan: Usual reminder: If you’ve enjoyed this Q&A and would like to treat me to a coffee or two, you can do so at (Link: https://www.ko-fi.com/gmshoe)https://www.ko-fi.com/gmshoe . Anything’s appreciated! 🙂
3:27 PM ~Dan: Now, if you’ll give me just a minute, I’ll get the log posted and link you. 🙂