View Full Version : D20 Spectaculars: Ideas and Brainstorming

Milo v3
2013-10-24, 05:37 AM
Originally one of the planned sourcebooks for d20 modern was "D20 Spectaculars" about giving the characters Superpowers, but it wasn't made because they stopped making stuff for d20 modern.

I've been thinking of trying my luck at making the sourcebook myself, but I'm not sure how to exactly go through with it content wise in regards to what stuff I should put in the book, and how I'd actually implement the mechanics.

Because it's a genre splatbook, I'm probably using D20 Future and D20 Past as the base templates.

Content Overview:


What you need to play
What is D20 Spectaculars?
Campaign Models
Progress Levels
Chapter One: Characters

Starting Occupations
Expanded Skills
?[Advanced Classes]?

Chapter Two: Campaigns


Chapter Three: Gear

Whatever else stuff

Chapter Four: Powers


Chapter Five: [Optional Material]


Chapter Six: [Optional Material]


Chapter Seven: [Optional Material]


So far I'm at the stage where I need to decide four things:
1. The "Mechancial" method the characters obtain their powers (Advanced Class, Feats, subsystem, etc.)
Advanced Classes 1: I make an advanced class for each of the base classes, where you gain powers instead of talents. The Talent trees could be Power Trees of common powers associated with that archetype.
Advanced Classes 2: I make an advanced class for the common superpowers themselves.
Advanced Class: I make a single powered class, which gives you access to any power, by either a points system of selecting powers or just getting one every few levels.
Feats 1: Powers are feat chains.
Feats 2: Select one feat to grant access different levels of a subsystem
Feats 3: Select one feat to grant access to a subsystem.
Mutations: Just expand the mutation system already present in d20 modern rules.

2. What material should I base the campaign settings on.

Setting Inspiration Ideas (If you have a suggestion, I'll add it to the list):
Generic DC/Marvel Universe
One Piece
The Darkness
Mass Effect
Darker Than Black
Code Geass
Ben 10
Max Steel
Scott Pilgrim
Shark Boy and Lava Girl
Jak and Daxter

3. What optional material should be detailed.

Optional Material Ideas (If you have a suggestion, I'll add it to the list):
Mutation Rules: Expanded list of mutations and drawbacks
Headquarters: From batcaves to crystal castles to space stations.
Interacting with Settings: How Spectaculars interacts with sourcebooks such as D20 Future, D20 Past, and Urban Arcana.

4. Which powers should be represented in the rules (because I doubt I can represent them all).

So yeah... If anyone has an ideas about the stuff I've said or anything about the sourcebook in general then please comment.

Milo v3
2013-10-24, 05:52 AM

Someone already made this.

I know it says "Expansion" but, this looks more like an alternate game based on d20 modern rules rather than just a sourcebook, especially since the character creation rules had a fairly large modification.

T.G. Oskar
2013-10-24, 08:22 AM
I personally incline towards Aberrant, from White Wolf, as my preferred method to define superpowers (everyone gains powers from the same way, powers are given as a template and independent from "class-based" progression, different ways to play the game), so bear this in mind as I dish out ideas.

First and foremost, you HAVE to define where do powers come from. Magic and Psionics are generally left undefined, but when superpowers come to mind, you need some sort of unified source that separates one from the other. The reason is as follows: if you don't define the source that grants superpowers, they would be not very different from spells or psionic powers. This is important regarding the latter, because it's pretty evident most superpowers would easily overlap psionic powers, particularly if you have X-Men in mind (some of the most powerful mutants have psychic powers). Once you have that defined, things will go much, much easier.

Second, regarding the "Mechanics"; the way Aberrant handles superpowers is by means of a template combined with "Superhuman" levels, which are akin to bloodlines (from Unearthed Arcana) or racial classes (from Savage Species; both are naturally from D&D). Definitely one of the methods where you gain powers (or rather, allow creatures to naturally manifest powers) is to create a template (akin to the Half-Fiend template) that grants superpowers, and define which creatures get them (probably humanoids and monstrous humanoids, with VERY few exceptions). Then, you might work on other methods of adding powers.

One thing I vehemently oppose is granting powers via feat chains, as while you get more feats than in D&D, you still don't get enough to justify having as many powers as you desire (plus, they'd have to scale or otherwise be obscenely strong). I could allow one or two feats that modify or even grant powers, but that power-granting feat should be much like Wild Talent or Divine Heritage; only granting a taste of the power, and nothing else. That could be used to create advanced classes with that feat as a prerequisite (much like Battle Mind, Telepath and Psionic Agent require Wild Talent). Aside from that, limiting feats to powers is a big no-no, particularly if going the same method as Blood and Guts (a 3rd Party supplement that advances most martial arts by means of feats, leaving you with very basic maneuvers at the rate that most FX or Psionics users get their 3rd or 4th level spells/powers).

IMO, Mechanics is best resolved with a template, a gateway feat (again, like Wild Talent), a set of super-feats, and some advanced classes that represent archetypes such as the super-exemplar (such as the Hulk being the paragon of Strength, the Flash being the paragon of Dexterity, the Thing as the paragon of Constitution, etc.), the blaster (Dr. Light, Electro), and perhaps one or two others. You'd have to distinguish from supers, spellcasters (Dr. Strange would definitely be a spellcaster, not a super), aliens (Superman and Martian Manhunter come to mind), psychics (Professor X and Jean Grey are Telepaths, Psylocke is a Battle Mind, and others are in between), forces of nature (the Swamp Thing is definitely a templated Shambling Mound), exceptional humans (Batman and the Bat-Family; Captain America is a borderline case), gadgeteers (Toyman, Iron Man) and omnipotent beings (the Spectre, the New Gods, Dr. Manhattan, etc.) This is the real challenge of making d20 Spectaculars; with so many ways to become a super-hero, how to write up what's missing? This is the reason why I mention why it's important at first to define the "power source"; in essence, you're distinguishing a Spectacular from a spellcaster, a psychic, an alien, a force of nature, a monster, a gadgeteer and a god.

Now, on the second problem (the way powers are acquired), this is always, ALWAYS messy. I could easily think on how to make an unholy marriage of 3.5/4e psionics (Power Points to augment superpowers), Shadowcasting (powers gained through power sets) and maybe even Incarnum. Aberrant has a somewhat elegant base; you gain one power point per level, which allows you to learn one Extra (much like metamagic feats) or a 1st-level Power, with Superhuman 1, you could spend 2 PP to learn a 2nd level power, and with Superhuman 3 you could learn a 3rd level Power or a Power Set (which has its own set of abilities). I'm definitely NOT a fan of Mutants & Masterminds, and trust me; people will probably tell you to look for it and somehow implement it. It's your decision, but formally consider this as an opposition vote in case you leave it to consider (note, though, that it's just ONE vote against many). That said: I'm very partial to the idea of Power Sets and independent Powers, where your character is defined by its Power Set but you gain access to certain powers that are shared by many other Power Sets and that could be manifested independently (such as Flight, the quintessential independent power). That way, you restrict power choices (unless you want to end up like Superman, but I don't agree much to "power buffets"), but still end up with meaningful choices.

Third, regarding the Campaign Settings: one is OBVIOUSLY DC + Marvel + City of Heroes + Champions; that is, the typical comic-book superhero campaign. You have your heroes, you have your villains, you have your spandex costumes, you have your secret identities, and you have your overarching campaigns. The second is most definitely Watchmen: vigilantes are outlawed, the world is screwed to all hell, and you're essentially one of the few superhumans in a world that opposes your very existence (out of fear, prejudice, or something along those lines). The others are up to you, but if you're going with Spectaculars, those two come to mind. Again, I like the way Aberrant handles each campaign: you've got Project Utopia (your typical caped superhero campaign), you've got Aberrants (something like Watchmen), you've got the Teragen (Spectaculars embracing their superhumanoid nature and considering themselves the pinnacle of evolution), XWF (Spectaculars in sports-entertainment!), Elites (Spectaculars as mercenaries) and some other choices. The difference between d20 Spectaculars and Aberrant is that, in the latter, all of them exist altogether.

Finally, regarding Optional Material...Gadgets. Lots and lots of Gadgets. Maybe set the Gadgeteer here as a Prestige Class, though d20 Past's Scientist is most definitely your Gadgeteer. Another thing would be how to adapt d20 Spectaculars with other material, such as d20 Future, Urban Arcana and d20 Apocalypse.

P.S.: You may want to separate Campaign Settings from the Homebrew Material. Classes, powers and whatnot should be on the Homebrew Forum, while the Campaign Settings should be on...well, Campaign Settings. So as long as you have one "project page" (could even be this one!), people will be capable of using this as a hub for all your other projects.

Milo v3
2013-10-25, 03:28 AM
I personally incline towards Aberrant, from White Wolf, as my preferred method to define superpowers (everyone gains powers from the same way, powers are given as a template and independent from "class-based" progression, different ways to play the game), so bear this in mind as I dish out ideas.
Fair enough.

Where powers come from
I'm weary about exactly stating the origin of where the powers come from because then it would be applying a limiting form of flavor to the game which isn't really fitting when billions of potential backstories should be allowed through the default flavor. Though overlap with magic and psionics (ESPecially psionics), is an issue. I'm thinking of either not having "Generic Magic/Psychic Spectaculars" as a potential character, because you would take levels in a magic or psionic class. Only specific powers would be able to be gained as a spectacular, with that power allowing for use of different techniques or something (I'm literally making this up as I go along so tell me if I'm making no sense).

You could get Fire Manipulation, to do stuff a mage with fire spells could do, but it would work in a different way, you likely have more flexibility with fire but the mage could cast other spells while your using ONLY Fire Manipulation. So in regards to Magic to Spectactular ur sacrificing flexibility overall to have high amount of flexibility with a specific thing your powers are related to.

You could get Telepathy, to do stuff a telepath with telepathic powers could do. But you wouldn't need to rely on power points, and you'd likely get a larger amount of variety in how you could use telepathy (in and out of combat situations).

Random Ideas from replying to this comment: Powers would be gained in a more point-based method. They were would be several "Primary Powers" which are then broken down into techniques. If you have power you could invest points into it (sorta like essentia but you can't move it around without "PLOT!" power), then you gain use of techniques of the magnitude equal or lower than the level your investments grant. Or you can invest points into a technique to either improve it past your baseline for the power, or gain the ability when you otherwise wouldn't. Obviously gaining a "Secondary Power" would be of lower investment cost then gaining a power on it's own. Also potentionally, Primary Powers may have Associated Powers. If you are purchasing a new primary power, and it's on your associated list the initial investment cost could be reduced or something. The intention being to promote themes and make it easier to have characters with powers that would logically assist each other.

Example time: Person buys Fire Manipulation as a Primary power, with an investment of 3 points. They would gain use of all Fire Manipulation Techniques of 2 level or less, such as Ignite. He also decides he wants to be able to fly with his fire powers, and gets the 5th level Pyrokinetic flight as a Secondary power for 3 points. With his remaining say... 2 points he buys the Energy Resistance (Fire) ability at second level, which he can afford because it's an associated power of Fire Manipulation.

This results in him having spent 8 points for: all Fire Manipulation techniques of 2nd level or less, Pyrokinetic Flight, and "decent" Resistance to Fire damage. On a sheet it would be listed:
Primary Powers:
Fire Manipulation 2
Resist Energy (Fire) 2
Secondary Powers:
Pyrokinetic Flight 5

Then again, it does raise the question about how exactly NOT taking certain techniques would work.

EDIT: Just noticed you talked about something like this later on.

Mechanics for obtaining powers
I'd shy away from a template which advances with you, because of the difficultly having to figure out balance with characters who lack the template. Gateaway Feat with archetype advanced classes seem like the best option. Obviously there would be some form of Spectacular feats other than the Gateway, but I'm not sure if they should give you powers, unless it uses a point system then there could easily be a "Gain Super Points Feat".

Random Ideas: The gateway feats could be different "Power Sources". So they're be Walking God, Badass Normal, Inborn Power, Master of Technology, Reactor's Gift, or Totem (animal based heroes). Every time you take a power, you select which power source it uses, based on the gateway feats you possess. Generally you only need one, but if your like batman then you'd take Badass Normal then take Master of Technology.

Random Ideas: Each archetype could have a list of Power Types at different levels. Example: A level 7 Strong Spectacular might have access to 4 level Personal Physical, but only 3 Mimicry, and 1 (or 0) Mental.

Need to decide what archetypes to make into classes though:

Spectacular Superhuman: Enhancement and Personal Physical
Spectacular ? [Fast]: ? and ?
Spectacular Survivor: Absorption and Negation
Spectacular Inventor: Fundamental Forces and ?
Spectacular Detective: Sensory and ?
Spectacular Manipulator: Emotion Based and Mental
Living Weapon: Manipulations and Mimicry

Random Ideas: Each power would be part of one or more Types. Power Types would effectively be spell schools, likely based on categories from Superpower Wiki:

Emotion Based
Fundamental Forces
Personal Physical

As using the powers themselves, I was thinking they'd probably be something like 3.5e's invocation system in that you can use them whenever you want, could add in a cool down though but I'd rather not.

Campaign Setting
Yeah, generic DC/Marvel style is definitely going to be in it. Watchmen was going to be on the list, but I don't have the comics or movie so I was hesistant considering I have no idea what it really is like.

Optional Material
Hmmm.... Gadgets themselves would likely be gear wouldn't it? Or covered by d20 past? Or covered by a technology based hero. Though details on interacting with other material would be pretty useful.

P.S.: You may want to separate Campaign Settings from the Homebrew Material. Classes, powers and whatnot should be on the Homebrew Forum, while the Campaign Settings should be on...well, Campaign Settings. So as long as you have one "project page" (could even be this one!), people will be capable of using this as a hub for all your other projects.
Perhaps, the campaign sections aren't that detailed though, only about two or three pages each. Still could be a good idea.