"There we were, no crap, knee deep in bones from all sorts of undead, but those stinkin' hordes just kept coming, wave after wave after wave. We were doomed, no second thoughts. By pure chance I saw the blue glow coming from our party's main fighter. (He was glowing! Blue! I mean, who glows blue? A mage maybe, but not a fightin' man. That's just unheard of!) So he's glowing blue, and all of a sudden his sword starts to move faster! Pretty soon all we can see is this indistinct blur of movement, and in its wake bones are everywhere! He was like some sort of insane zombie thresher! Well, suffice to say, we got out of there by the skin on our teeth, thanks to our glowin' fighter..."
Today's topic is Supermoves. To clear the air, since the last time I mentioned them it caused some confusion, when I refer to supermoves, I don't mean nifty techniques and whatnot. Gouts of flame, fancy sword moves, blasts of energy, they're all good, and they're all similar to what I mean, but they're not it. When I talk about supermoves, I'm meaning the sort of high-power badarse moves that someone in an anime pulls out of their butt when the going gets impossible. I'm talking about Limit Breaks, Overdrives, and Trances (for those who know the Final Fantasy series).
One of the best roleplaying games I ever played in was Play by Post in style, and it incorporated supermoves into the game mechanics. So, gaming with supermoves is something of a piece of my history, and quite frankly it was rather fun and cool to be able to do that sort of thing. It made the PbP game much more dramatic and fun. However, when I expanded into the rest of the world of roleplaying, I discovered that such things were mostly unheard of, and I often wondered why. I guess most other people get their kicks by being able to pull off a spell at just the right moment, and I can relate. But still, the urge hit me to try and find a way to let the tabletop community experience something of what I experienced, without overwhelming the GM with a major power increase of the PCs.
I've therefore come up with three different systems that I believe all Supermoves can be played under: Freeform, Spell, and Point. I'll explain each below.
Freeform supermoves is included mostly for completeness. While I'm sure a GM could allow their players complete freedom in choosing when their hidden inner powers activate, I think that this is perhaps one of the worst things that ever could be done. However, if you trust your players to play in a mostly freeform gaming system, this might be an interesting addition, if you haven't already included it into gameplay.
Alternatively, freeform could mean that the players don't get a choice in it at all, and you as a GM choose if and when their powers activate. This is the most restrictive of the systems, but gives a GM the final say in whether a PC takes out that really important baddie or not.
No mechanics are discussed here, simply because there isn't anything to discuss. Freeform is freeform. *shrugs*
The Spell method of Supermoves is probably what most GMs will go for if they absolutely MUST allow supermoves in their game. In this system, supermoves are just added in as better, more powerful spells. How the players can attain these better spells is up to the GM in question, but the general limiters in the usage of powers here are the same as with other spells: mana points, or spells per day. I'm not sure that this is the best way to do it either, but this will be the most familiar and easily incorporated system for a GM to use with Supermoves.
For example, you could make up a spell list with various Supermoves on it, and allow players who're both magi or not to pick a spell every few levels that they can learn. Thereafter, they can cast it whenever they could cast another spell, though melee fighters would need a uses per day number (see the Point system for how to handle this).
The Point system is much like the Spell system above. However, I believe it is unique enough to be given it's own section. In essence, the Point system is where a PC has a number of points that he can spend using a supermove. Now, whether those points happen to be uses per day of a specific supermove, or a pool of points that can improve the effects of a supermove with more of them, the result is a limiter factor: a supermove can be used by a character whenever they have the points to use it. The pool of points option is probably better associated with the Spell system (indeed, it's no different save in name), and thus will not be discussed here.
Now, the major issue with using such a point system is deciding how a character gains, stores and uses such points. In the aforementioned PbP freeform game, you had a gauge that tallied your points. Every time you were hit or hit someone else, you gained a number of points. When your gauge was full, you could use your supermove, draining the gauge and resetting it to zero.
The system could also be designed so that a PC has a very small number of points, 1 or 2 to start out with, that don't regenerate at any major rate. They must then be careful of when they use their power, because they might need it later to get out of a worse bind. This also lets the GM reward good roleplaying by awarding points to a player.
So, with these three systems defined, I'd like to open up this thread for discussion. Do you have another type of system that I didn't cover? A custom system that you've used before that worked great? Post it. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
As an aside, I do recognize I didn't quite cover the improvement of Supermoves, simply because I consider that to be something each GM must decide on their own. However, if someone does desire me to do so, I will expound on a few methods of improvement.