GADGETS & GEAR
From blaster rifles to anti-gravity belts, teleportation rings, and battlesuits, heroes and villains develop all manner of gadgets. Villains are forever coming up with doomsday machines and fiendish deathtraps while heroes use all sorts of gear to aid them in their fight for justice. This section looks at various sorts of devices and equipment game terms. It also describes vehicles, headquarters, and constructs, ranging from zombie minions to giant robots.
Under the Hood: Devices vs. Equipment
There can sometimes be a fine line between devices (Removable powers) and equipment (relatively mundane technology). The primary differences are: Devices are part of the character’s traits. They grant effects beyond the capabilities of normal equipment, and they’re only ever lost or taken away temporarily. If an item is integral to the character’s concept or abilities, it’s probably a device.
Equipment, on the other hand, is limited to fairly “mundane” things, can be taken away or even destroyed with impunity, and merely supplements the character’s traits. Equipment doesn’t grant “powers” per se (although equipment does provide certain effects). Here are some examples of devices vs. equipment:
A high-tech suit of powered armor. Device.
A sword or other mundane melee weapon. Equipment.
A magical sword able to slice through tank armor. Device.
The power to summon weapons out of thin air. These weapons never run out of ammo and vanish when taken away from the wielder, who can summon another weapon as a free action. Neither. This is just a descriptor for various attack effect powers. Since the “weapons” can’t really be taken away, they’re not devices or equipment.
The character wears a cape allowing him to glide on air currents. Device.
The character has a commlink installed in her costume. Equipment.
The character has a cybernetic implant allowing him to “hear” radio waves. Neither. Although it has a technological descriptor, the implant can’t be removed without surgery, so it isn’t a device or equipment. The same is true of devices like bionic claws or other implants.
Ultimately, it is up to the GM whether or not a particular item is considered a device or equipment (or neither), depending on the nature of the series and the characters.
A device is an item that provides a particular power effect or set of effects. While devices are typically creations of advanced science, they don’t have to be. Many heroes and villains have magical devices such as enchanted weapons and armor, magical talismans, wands and staves of power, and so forth. Some devices are products of alien technology so advanced they might as well be magical, or focuses of psychic or cosmic power beyond the understanding of both magic and science. All devices work the same way in game terms, regardless of their origin or descriptors.
Generally speaking, devices are powers with the Removable flaw applied to them (see Removable in Powers), meaning the power is external to the character. Take away the device, and the wielder loses the ability to use those powers. So if an armored hero loses access to his battlesuit, for example, he also loses access to the powers tied-up in it. The same is the case of a hero loses a cosmic ring, magic helmet, or alien artifact, which is why Removable is a flaw for those powers.
Just like other powers, devices cost Character points (albeit reduced some by the Removable flaw). Characters who want to have and use a device on a regular basis have to pay Character points to have it, just like having any other power. The device becomes a part of the character’s abilities. If the device is lost, stolen, or destroyed, the character can replace it, given time, since the device is considered a permanent part of the character. Only a reallocation of the character’s Character points will change this, and Gamemasters should allow characters to reallocate Character points spent on a Removable power if it is somehow permanently lost.
In other cases, characters may make temporary use of a device. Most devices are usable by anyone able to operate them, in which case characters may loan devices to each other, or may pick up and use someone else’s device (or even steal a device away from someone in order to use it against them). The key concept here is the use of the device is temporary, something that happens during a single scene or, at most, a single adventure. If the character wants to continue using the device beyond that, he must pay Character points to make the device part of his regular abilities. Otherwise the GM can simply rule that the device is lost, reclaimed by its owner, runs out of power, breaks down, or whatever, and is therefore no longer accessible. Characters with the Inventor and Artificer advantages can create temporary devices for use in an adventure.
Gamemasters may require characters to spend a Victory point to make temporary use of a device that doesn’t belong to them, similar to performing a power stunt without suffering fatigue. This helps to limit the loaning and temporary use of devices.
A common staple of comic books is the battlesuit, also known as power-armor. It is an advanced suit of technological (sometime magical) armor, giving the wearer various powers. Battlesuits commonly grant the following powers:
Armor: Protection is the foundation power for a battlesuit. Whether it is armor plating, metallic mesh, flexible ballistic material, or some combination of these and other cuttingedge technologies, a battle-suit protects its wearer from damage. Some battle-suits provide Impervious Protection and some have Sustained Protection in the form of built-in force fields or the like.
Attacks: Battlesuits are typically equipped with some kind of weapon or weapons, based around various attack effects, particularly Damage. A battlesuit with an array of weapons may have a primary attack effect and several others as Alternate Effects (see the Alternate Effect modifier in Powers ).
Movement: After defense and offense, battlesuits typically allow the wearer to get around, whether it’s hydraulic-assisted Leaping, boot-jets or anti-gravity repulsion for Flight, turbines for Swimming, or some other movement effect.
Sensors: Battlesuits often come equipped with a suite of sensors providing Senses. Darkvision, direction sense (possibly from a global positioning system), infrared vision, radio, time sense (from a chronometer), and ultra-hearing are all common battlesuit sensors.
Strength: A battlesuit might have servomotors or other mechanisms to magnify the wearer’s Strength. This is typically a combination of Enhanced Strength and Limited ranks of Enhanced Strength to increase sheer lifting ability.
In addition to being stylish, costumes may be made of unusual materials much tougher than they appear (courtesy of super-science or magic), allowing them to provide a Protection effect. Costumes may have other properties and can even be the source of a hero’s powers, such as in the case of battlesuits (previously).
Comic book costumes are usually immune to their wearer’s powers. They don’t burn, tear, or otherwise suffer damage when the wearer changes size or shape, bursts into flames, freezes, and so forth. The GM can assume this is just a descriptor for all costumes. It costs no points, since everyone has it. In a more realistic setting, Gamemasters may wish to make Immunity (wearer’s powers) a 1-point feature and require characters to pay for it if their characters have such a costume. Otherwise characters have to make do with ordinary clothing (which may be damaged or destroyed when they use their powers).
Some devices are otherwise normal equipment with special properties. Magical items, normal equipment imbued with magical properties, are examples. Magical weapons may have greater damage bonuses or grant attack bonuses while magical armor imposes no penalties and provides greater protection. Such enchantments move archaic weapons and armor from the realm of mundane equipment to devices. The same is true of equipment using super-alloys, bulletproof cloth, and other wonders of super-science.
Weapons are common devices, ranging from super-powered versions of ordinary weapons like swords, bows, or guns (see Enhanced Equipment) to more exotic weapons like magic wands or alien power rings. A weapon device usually has one or more attack effects but may provide virtually any effect the player wants to include. Weapons often have several different attacks as Alternate Effects. One example is an array of magic rings, each with its own effect, but only usable one at a time.
The full range of devices characters can create and use is limited solely by your imagination. Essentially any item with a power is considered a device. Players and GMs may well come up with devices beyond those described here. Use the guidelines here and in Powers to handle any new devices and their capabilities.
Characters with the Inventor advantage can create inventions, temporary devices. To create an invention, the inventor defines its effects and its cost in Character points. This cost is used for the necessary skill checks, and determines the time required to create the invention. Inventions are subject to the same power level limits as other effects in the series.
First, the inventor must design the invention. This is a Technology skill check the GM should make in secret. The DC is 10 + the invention’s total Character point cost, including all modifiers except Removable, which does not apply to inventions, as they are temporary by nature.
Designing an invention requires an hour’s work per Character point of the invention’s cost. You can make a routine check to design an invention. You can reduce the rank of the design time, taking a –5 circumstance penalty on the check for each –1 time rank reduction.
Design Check = DC 10 + invention’s point cost
If the check is successful, you have a design for the invention. If the check fails, the design is flawed and you must start over. With three or more degrees of failure, the designer is not aware of the design flaw; the design seems correct, but the invention won’t function (or at least won’t function properly) when it’s used. For this reason, the GM should make the design check secretly and only inform the player whether or not the character appears to have succeeded.
Once the design is inhand, the character can construct the invention. This requires four hours of work per Character point of the invention’s cost, so an invention costing 10 points takes 40 hours (about a week’s work normally, or working two days straight without rest) to construct. When the construction time is complete, make a Technology skill check. The DC is 10 + the invention’s Character point cost and you can make it as a routine check. You can reduce the rank of the construction time, taking a –5 circumstance penalty on the check for each –1 time rank reduction.
Construction Check = DC 10 + invention’s point cost
Success means the invention is complete and functional. Failure means the invention doesn’t work. Three or more degrees of failure may result in a mishap, at the GM’s discretion.
Once the invention is complete, it is good for use in one scene, after which it breaks down or runs out of power. If the character wishes to use the invention again, there are two options.
The first is to spend the necessary Character points to acquire the invention as a regular power, part of the character’s traits; in this case, the device qualifies for the Removable flaw and, once purchased, can be used again like any power.
The other option is to spend a Victory point to get another one-scene use out of the invention. Each use costs an additional Victory point, but doesn’t require any further skill checks.
Although it’s possible to prepare certain one-use devices in advance, the GM should require the player to spend a Victory point to have a particular previously constructed invention conveniently on-hand during an adventure.
Example: Your hero needs to whip up a mind-shielding device to confront the bad guy, who has seized control of his teammates. Immunity to Mind Control (a common Affliction effect) cost 5 Character points, so the Technology check is DC 15 (10 + 5) and takes 5 hours. Your hero’s skill bonus is +15, so he succeeds automatically. The construction check is also DC 15 (10 + the device’s cost). It takes 20 hours. Your hero again succeeds automatically on the check. However, that’s 25 hours total to build the mind-shield, and the bad guy plans to send his new “puppets” into action in just a few hours. Even taking a –15 check penalty to cut the time to one-eighth only takes it down to just over three hours. Your hero needs that device right now, so he’s going to need to speed things up….
An inventor can choose to spend a Victory point to jury-rig a device; ideal for when a particular device is needed right now. When jury-rigging a device, skip the design check and reduce the time of the construction check to one round per Character point of the device’s cost, but increase the DC of the check by +5. The inventor makes the check and, if successful, has use of the device for one scene before it burns out, falls apart, blows up, or otherwise fails. You can’t jury-rig an invention as a routine check, nor can you speed up the process any further by taking a check penalty. You can use a jury-rigged invention again by spending another Victory point.
Example: Needing to get the mind shield device ready right away, you decide to spend a Victory point to jury-rig it. You skip the design step altogether and reduce construction time to 5 rounds (just under a minute). The DC of the construction check increases to 20, but still well within your hero’s skill; you only needs to roll a 5 or better. You roll a 25 on the check and, a minute later, you have a makeshift mind-shield you hope will protect your hero from the bad guys power long enough to try and free his teammates from the villain’s influence.
At the GM’s discretion, three or more degrees of failure, or a natural roll of 1, on any required inventing skill check may result in some unexpected side-effect or mishap. Exactly what depends heavily on the invention. Inventing mishaps can become a source of adventure ideas and put the heroes in some difficult situations. They may also be setbacks, suitable for Victory point awards.
Characters with the Ritualist advantage can perform magical rituals. They are similar to inventions: one-time powers requiring some time and effort to set up.
For rituals, substitute the Expertise: Magic skill for both the design and construction checks. The design portion of the ritual takes 4 hours per Character point of the ritual’s cost (pouring over ancient scrolls and grimoires, drawing diagrams, casting horoscopes, meditating, consulting spirit-guides, and so forth). The performance of the actual ritual takes 10 minutes per point of the ritual’s cost. So a ritual costing 10 Character points takes 40 hours to research and 100 minutes to perform. As with inventing, the ritual is good for one scene. Failing the research check means the ritual isn’t usable and three or more degrees of failure results in a mishap (at the GM’s discretion).
“Jury-rigging” a ritual has the same effects as for an invention. Spending a Victory point allows the ritualist to skip the design check and perform the ritual in a number of rounds equal to its cost. An Expertise: Magic check against a DC equal of (15 + the ritual’s cost) is needed to successfully perform the ritual. Failure means the ritual does not work and the time and effort is wasted.
Just because a character happens to own a cell phone, laptop computer, car, or a home does not mean the character is expected to have ranks in the Equipment advantage. Broadly speaking, characters are only expected to pay for adventuring equipment, which is to say items that have a direct impact on their roles as heroes. The rest is just background color, perhaps encompassed by ranks in the Benefit advantage for heroes with a lot of wealth and material resources.
So, for example, a hero pays no equipment points for the fact that, in his secret identity, he lives in a nice apartment or owns a computer and a cell phone. He does, on the other hand, pay equipment points for a hidden fortress or high-tech lair, where he keeps various dangerous items and trophies collected over his career. Likewise, a hero with Benefit ranks reflecting great personal wealth pays no equipment points for a sprawling mansion or penthouse apartment, nor for a collection of classic sports cars. She does pay equipment points for things like smoke bombs, boomerangs, and other weapons and crimefighting tools, as well as for a hidden base of operations or souped-up vehicles used in costume.
As with many cases, when in doubt, the Gamemaster can make a ruling whether or not a particular item should count as equipment. If it is something the character regularly uses as part of his or her heroic identity, then it probably should. If a player wants to bring some cost-free background element to bear on the adventure in an important way, the GM can assess a Victory point cost to do so. See Victory points for more information.
Equipment is acquired with points from the Equipment advantage. Each piece of equipment has a cost in points, just like other traits. The character pays the item’s cost out of the points from the Equipment advantage and can thereafter have and use that item.
An item’s cost is based on its effects and features, just like a power (see Powers for more information), so a ranged weapon has a cost based on its Ranged Damage rank. Equipment often provides the Features effect, including some specific equipment Features. Indeed, some items of equipment provide only Features.
Just as with power effects, there is a diminishing value in having multiple items with a similar function, or a single piece of equipment with multiple functions, usable only one at a time. Equipment can have the Alternate Effect modifier (see Extras section of Powers), such as a weapon capable of different modes of operation, or a reconfigurable tool. Characters can also have Alternate Equipment, an array of items usable only one at a time. This is typically a multi-function item, or a kit or collection of various smaller items. The classic example is the utility belt (see its description later in this section). Alternate Equipment can also include things like an arsenal of weapons the character can swap out, providing different sets of weapons, with only a limited number usable at once.
Characters may not necessarily carry all their equipment with them at all times. The GM may allow players to spend a Victory point in order to have a particular item of equipment “on-hand” at a particular time. This is essentially an equipment “power stunt”—a one-time use of the item for one scene—and the Gamemaster rules whether or not having a particular item on-hand is even possible. For example, a hero out for an evening in his secret identity might have something like a concealed weapon or other small item on-hand, but it’s unlikely the character is carrying a large weapon or item unless he has some means of concealing it.
The Gamemaster may rule some equipment is simply not available or that characters must pay for an additional Feature (or more) in order to have it. This may include certain kinds of weapons, vehicles, and anything else the GM feels should be restricted in the series.
Most equipment can be damaged like other objects (see Damaging Objects), based on its Toughness. Equipment suffering damage loses some effectiveness. The item loses 1 Feature or suffers a –1 circumstance penalty on checks involving it each time it is damaged. These penalties are eliminated once the item is repaired.
Under the Hood: Ammo, Batteries, And Charges
Lots of equipment has a limited lifespan: guns run out of ammo, cars run out of gas, SCUBA tanks run out of oxygen, and batteries run out of juice. However, it can be a hassle to keep track of the lifespan of every piece of equipment the heroes may have (to say nothing of all the villains and supporting characters). So these rules pay fairly little attention to equipment running out or breaking down except when the Gamemaster wants to make things interesting for the heroes with a complication or two. Thus equipment failure—either due to running out of fuel or simple malfunction—is a dramatic issue rather than a matter of cost-accounting and keeping track of things like ammo and how much gas is in the tank of the hero’s super-car.
The material in this book assumes equipment and devices have effectively unlimited use, except when the GM declares a complication, and that heroes properly maintain, charge, reload, and refuel their gear “off-panel” in between the scenes of an adventure, unless the Gamemaster dictates otherwise.
Replacing damaged or destroyed equipment requires only time and resources, although the GM has the final say as to how much time. It’s easy to replace a lost item when the store is right around the corner, harder when it’s the middle of the night or you’re out in the middle of nowhere, or the item is restricted in some fashion. Gamemasters can allow players to spend a Victory point to have a replacement for a piece of equipment as an on-hand item (see On-Hand Equipment, previously).
In addition to their amazing devices, characters often make use of various mundane equipment—ordinary things found in the real world—ranging from a simple set of tools to cell phones, laptop computers, and even common appliances. These items are known as equipment to differentiate them from devices.
While equipment is useful it does have its limits, particularly when compared to powers or devices. Equipment is less expensive—it’s cheaper to have a handgun than a Damage power or even a super-science blaster weapon—but equipment is also more limited. Keep the following limitations of equipment in mind.
Equipment includes only items and technology commonly available in the setting. The GM decides what is “commonly available,” but as a rule of thumb assume equipment only includes things from the real world, not battlesuits, anti-gravity devices, shrink rays, and so forth. Those are all devices (see Devices).
Ownership of some equipment is restricted and the GM decides what is available in the setting. For example, guns may require permits, licenses, waiting periods, and so forth. Also, equipment can be bulky and difficult to carry around. Gamemasters are encouraged to enforce the limitations of carrying a lot of equipment at once. Players who want to have an unusual item of equipment on-hand must either remember to bring it along or use the guidelines for on-hand equipment. Devices are not so limited and characters are assumed to have an easy means of carrying and transporting them.
Equipment bonuses are limited compared to the bonuses granted by other effects. Generally, they do not stack with each other or other types of bonuses, only the highest bonus applies. Thus a hero with a high Protection bonus doesn’t get much, if any, advantage from wearing a bulletproof vest. The only exception to this is Strength-based weapons, and there are limits on them as well (see Melee Weapons).
Unlike devices, you do not have the choice of suffering the strain of extra effort when improving equipment, the equipment always takes the strain. You can push your equipment to the limit (eventually causing it to fail) but trying real hard on your part isn’t going to make your car go faster or your gun more effective. You also can’t use extra effort to perform power stunts with equipment. instead, you must spend a Victory point to do so. The GM can always disallow extra effort with equipment if the item is one that is not capable of exceeding its normal operating limits.
Equipment is subject to damage, malfunctions, and loss, even more so than devices with the Removable flaw (see the flaw description in Powers). Equipment may be lost or taken away from the character with impunity, and the GM may have equipment fail, run out of ammo or fuel, or otherwise malfunction as a complication.
Most items of general equipment provide Features or other comparatively minor effects. Each of the following items is a rank 1 Feature, costing 1 point, unless specified otherwise.
Computers and electronics are common in the modern world. Gamemasters should note most of these devices are fairly delicate (Toughness 4 or less) and affected by electricity, radiation, and powerful magnetic fields, which can short them out entirely.
This equipment is most often used by criminals or to catch criminals.
Heroes often use surveillance gear to keep tabs on criminals and their activities.
A common piece of equipment for crime fighters and espionage agents is the utility belt (or bag, pouch, backpack, etc.): a collection of useful tools and equipment in a compact carrying case. A utility belt is an array of Alternate Equipment. Some characters may have a Removable array of devices instead, allowing for far more unusual effects than run-of-the-mill equipment.
Note that equipment with a cost of 1 equipment point doesn’t really need to be acquired as Alternate Equipment, since there’s no change in cost. Still, heroes often have 1-point items in their utility belts, like flashlights, rebreathers, and so forth.
By spending Victory points you can temporarily add Alternate Equipment to your utility belt, for those one-time items you may need in a pinch.
Feel free to modify this example (adding or omitting items) to create your own customized utility belts. The tear gas, as the most expensive effect, has full cost. The other items cost 1 point each for Alternate Equipment, making the total equipment point cost of the utility belt 25 equipment points, or 5 Character points (for 5 ranks of the Equipment advantage).
Weapons of various sorts are common for both heroes and villains. They range from melee weapons to ranged weapons like guns and bows and devices like shrink-rays, mind-control helmets and more. Characters who don’t have any offensive powers often rely on weapons to get the job done.
Melee weapons are hand-held close combat weapons. They typically have a Strength-based Damage effect (see Damage effect in Powers), adding the wielder’s Strength rank to the weapon’s damage rank. Ordinary melee weapons are limited by their Toughness in terms of the amount of Strength they can add. If a wielder exerts Strength greater than the weapon’s Toughness (4 for wooden weapons, 7 or 8 for metal weapons), the weapon breaks when it is used. Melee weapons have the following traits:
Category: Melee weapons are categorized as simple, archaic, and exotic.
Effect: The effect a hit with the weapon causes, typically Damage, although some modern melee weapons have other effects. The effect has the normal cost given in Powers. The effect may also have certain descriptors, such as bludgeoning or slashing, for defining things like resistance or vulnerability to certain effects.
Critical: The threat range for a critical hit with the weapon. Some weapons have a larger threat range than others. Increasing a weapon’s threat range by 1 costs 1 point, like the Improved Critical advantage.
Cost: This is the weapon’s cost in points. Characters pay this cost from their equipment points to have a weapon of this type as part of their regular equipment.
Ranged weapons include both thrown and projectile weapons. Thrown weapons are Strength-based, adding the wielder’s Strength rank to their Damage rank. Projectile weapons include bows, crossbows, and guns as well as energy weapons like lasers and blasters. Their Damage is generally not Strength-based.
* = See individual descriptions for more information.
The following accessories can be added to the projectile weapons in this section. Each is considered a feature costing 1 equipment point.
* = See individual descriptions for more information.
With so many weapons and super-powered attacks around, characters may need armor to protect them. Some heroes are innately tough enough to stand up to a lot of punishment, while others rely on their high Dodge and Parry ranks. Others choose to wear armor, ranging from ancient metal armors to modern composites or ultra-modern battlesuits.
Armor provides a Protection effect, a bonus to Toughness. Like other equipment, armor bonuses do not stack with other armor or effect bonuses, only the highest bonus applies, one of the reasons why tough heroes rarely, if ever, wear armor. Toughness, even that granted by armor, is limited by your series’ power level.
Armor has the following traits:
Category: Armors are categorized as archaic (ancient styles of armor like chain- and plate-mail), modern (typically bulletproof composites and synthetics), and shields (requiring some active use to protect against attacks).
Effect: The effect of most armor is Protection, sometimes with the Impervious modifier. Shields provide a sort of mobile cover (see Cover in Action & Adventure), granting Enhanced Dodge and Parry defenses.
Cost: This is the armor’s cost in points. Characters pay this cost from their equipment points to have the armor of this type as part of their regular equipment.
Some characters in superheroic settings still wear ancient or archaic armor, either because they are from a place or time where such armor is common or because it is tied to their motif or powers in some way.
Modern body armor is common among superheroes and villains, but even more so among people like police officers, soldiers, criminal agents, and so forth.
Under the Hood: Super-Shields
Just as power armor is a device version of otherwise ordinary equipment armor, some heroes (and, less often, villains) have shield devices providing them with greater benefits than an ordinary shield.
A shield device may provide Enhanced Dodge and Parry defenses like a mundane shield, or it can grant ranks of Protection (which do stack with other effects, since they’re not from equipment), perhaps even Impervious Protection for a “bulletproof” or “indestructible” shield. Such benefits are typically Sustained in duration, requiring some action on the shield-wielder’s part.
A super-shield might even be useful as a weapon, providing a Damage effect, probably Strength-based. This is best handled as an Alternate Effect of the shield, meaning you can’t use it both offensively and defensively at the same time! A hero able to hurl a shield at foes can even have a Ranged Damage effect with it.