PDA

View Full Version : Avatar RPG style



VoxRationis
2015-10-17, 12:05 AM
Taking a quick poll here (for no real productive end; I don't intend on doing anything with this):
If you, the poll taker, were to devise an RPG based on Avatar: The Last Airbender, would you keep its degree of lethality bounded by what is displayed in the source material (i.e., deaths or even serious injuries are rare, even though people are attempting to set each other on fire or to throw razor-sharp ice blades at high velocity, since it's ultimately a kid's show), or would you have the lethality in keeping with what it logically should be, given the capabilities of characters in that series (e.g., earthbender imprisons opponent in a column of stone with one move and then moves the top half of the column a few inches to the left, neatly bisecting the opponent before they can do anything to escape)?

Enran
2015-10-17, 12:16 AM
I'd personally go for somewhere in the middle, though it should depend. A strong bender should be able to murder hordes of little scrubs if they feel like, but generally Avatar is the sort of material where it wouldn't be faithful if you made it easy for equal-strength benders to kill each other just based on who moved first. Absent an extreme luck advantage or something, benders of roughly equal skill fighting each other in balanced circumstances should be a drawn-out affair, regardless of the technical possibilities of physics.

AmberVael
2015-10-17, 12:17 AM
I'd probably stick to the show's level of lethality. Part of what makes Avatar so fun to watch is the extended, very cinematic combat it has, and if it was turned into pure rocket tag I doubt you'd be able to keep that up as well. Plus, I'm not a fan of highly lethal games to begin with- if death is coming I'd prefer it to be a big deal and well thought out beforehand.

Knaight
2015-10-17, 12:36 AM
I'd probably keep it to the show, but it's worth noting that I have a very different estimate for the amount of violence in it. Sure, a lot of it is offscreen, but we see the ekeletal remains of air nomads following their genocide, a fleet wiped out by Aang's tidal wave, the brainwashing and execution of Jet by the secret police of Ba Sing Se, and a whole bunch of other things like that. There's a constant humorous element to the show, but it gets pretty dark, and I'd want to keep both of those.

Mastikator
2015-10-17, 02:23 AM
I would stay true to the source material and keep it cartoony and child friendly.

Regitnui
2015-10-17, 03:08 AM
I'd go with the tone of Legend of Korra, which took the consequences of bending a little more seriously; metalbending mercury into someone's body to (near-)fatally poison them, or bending the air from someone's lungs to strangle them on dry land. This is, however, stuff bad guys do. The more heroic pull their punches somewhat and aim to knock out, disable, and kill, in that order.

Though can someone explain to me how fire blasts knock people over? They're insubstantial heat reactions, for heaven's sake, not physical objects like ice, rocks, or a strong wind.

Mastikator
2015-10-17, 05:28 AM
I'd go with the tone of Legend of Korra, which took the consequences of bending a little more seriously; metalbending mercury into someone's body to (near-)fatally poison them, or bending the air from someone's lungs to strangle them on dry land. This is, however, stuff bad guys do. The more heroic pull their punches somewhat and aim to knock out, disable, and kill, in that order.

Though can someone explain to me how fire blasts knock people over? They're insubstantial heat reactions, for heaven's sake, not physical objects like ice, rocks, or a strong wind.

Fire can cause strong wind, and plasma is much more viscous like a liquid than a gas. It might be that firebending is a form of electrostatic plasma, which explains why lighting follows. This kind of plasma loses its energy really fast in the air too, so it might be possible to get struck by it and not get serious burns (though, burns can happen, as with Zuko).

Regitnui
2015-10-17, 07:01 AM
Fire can cause strong wind, and plasma is much more viscous like a liquid than a gas. It might be that firebending is a form of electrostatic plasma, which explains why lighting follows. This kind of plasma loses its energy really fast in the air too, so it might be possible to get struck by it and not get serious burns (though, burns can happen, as with Zuko).

I guess that works. The bender could choose whether to use heat (burning) or plasma (force)...

Mastikator
2015-10-17, 07:33 AM
I guess that works. The bender could choose whether to use heat (burning) or plasma (force)...

I know it's a bit of a longshot, but bending through martial arts is pretty ridiculous anyway.

Mark Hall
2015-10-17, 08:21 AM
Depends on my audience, but I'd lean towards the show's lethality levels... scrubs die, named characters get wounded.

137ben
2015-10-17, 12:02 PM
Between equal level opponents, the level of lethality should be really low.
Between opponents of very different power, combat should be swift and deadly (for the underdog).

Honest Tiefling
2015-10-17, 12:39 PM
I'd stick with the show's level of lethalness. I too, do not tend to go for high-body count games (and I HATE killing a PC before they have a chance to shine), so introducing more would be a bit weird anyway. Others have mentioned the cinematic combat, and given the types of bending, it'd be a real shame not to let it shine and have tactical elemental battles.

Honestly, if for some reason I wanted a more lethal game, I'd probably just steal the concept of elemental magic and use it elsewhere. It doesn't fit the tone of the series, so for me, it'd be a huge departure from it. Elemental magic is such a common trope I think deadly elemental combat is better elsewhere.

TheIronGolem
2015-10-18, 10:26 PM
I'm only superficially familiar with the show and don't know the details. That said, were I designing an RPG based on some established fictional setting, I'd feel obligated to match the feel of that setting as best I could, and the level of lethality in combat would certainly be a big part of that. This would apply regardless of which setting in particular I were using.

Now, if I were making my own setting that was merely inspired by Avatar or whatever, then I'd feel free to take some more liberties, and dialing up the lethality might be on the table.

Mastikator
2015-10-19, 01:55 AM
I'd stick with the show's level of lethalness. I too, do not tend to go for high-body count games (and I HATE killing a PC before they have a chance to shine), so introducing more would be a bit weird anyway. Others have mentioned the cinematic combat, and given the types of bending, it'd be a real shame not to let it shine and have tactical elemental battles.

Honestly, if for some reason I wanted a more lethal game, I'd probably just steal the concept of elemental magic and use it elsewhere. It doesn't fit the tone of the series, so for me, it'd be a huge departure from it. Elemental magic is such a common trope I think deadly elemental combat is better elsewhere.

Warlocks with elemental nonlethal damage and the option to reactively block/deflect incoming attacks. That's probably how I'd adapt D&D to it.
And the avatar would be a quad-gestalt of 4 warlocks and the option to go super sayian.

Weirdlet
2015-10-19, 02:30 AM
re: fire blasts knocking people back/over- there's also a strong element of ki/chi being behind the various moves, and for more insubstantial ones, like fire, the same mystical energy that moves around water or stone would probably be pushed through a firebender's attack.

After the first Agni-Kai- Iroh catches Zhao by the foot, then seems to propel him backwards with hardly a visible motion. Mystical energy turns kinetic (beyond the physical motion) for dramatic effect, and not a wisp of smoke to be seen.

Doorhandle
2015-10-19, 03:38 AM
I'd go with the tone of Legend of Korra, which took the consequences of bending a little more seriously; metalbending mercury into someone's body to (near-)fatally poison them, or bending the air from someone's lungs to strangle them on dry land. This is, however, stuff bad guys do. The more heroic pull their punches somewhat and aim to knock out, disable, and kill, in that order.

Though can someone explain to me how fire blasts knock people over? They're insubstantial heat reactions, for heaven's sake, not physical objects like ice, rocks, or a strong wind.

Explosion of superheated air? Reflex due to OHGODFIRE? The magic of the all-powerful Classification Board?

Mutants and Masterminds seems to have a similar lethality system: for the most part, you don't kill someone unless you want to. I wouldn't extend that to situations where you could accidentally kill someone though, like air-blasting them off a cliff.

Drynwyn
2015-10-19, 10:58 PM
I'd probably just use this one. (http://www.scribd.com/doc/36548716/Avatar-the-Last-d20-Supplement-MAIN-SOURCE#scribd)

Lvl 2 Expert
2015-10-23, 03:12 AM
Burning fuel creates expanding gas, that's where explosions come from. Combined with the instinctive reaction to duck away fro heat, and the air currents they produce that's how real life blasts of fire propel people. And sure, Firebenders don't seem to use a lot of fuel, they just magically produce air, which does heat the air into expanding, but this doesn't create nearly as powerful a blast. But I'd handwave that bit. Fireballs can just shove people.

I'd keep it as a martial arts story where people can have duels and stuff up close without everyone ending up dead all the time. Say something about benders instinctively reducing the impact of all attacks with their own bending or something if it bothers you.

Martin Greywolf
2015-10-23, 04:38 AM
I actually did a conversion of Avatar for one of the local (czech) RPG systems and run gmes in it for some time. For the purposes of this discussion imagine that it was FATE, it's close enough.

First hing you need to establish is greatest lethality acceptable for the setting. Avatar is based a lot on wuxia movies, at least stylistically (not so much plot-wise), so things like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ip Man, Hero and so on are you baseline. Death is possible, but only happens in significant battles, and how much of a threat a mook is varies a lot (see extravagant Hero vs more grounded Ip Man).

Effects of bending on normal people should be pretty gruesome, but we saw main characters take fireballs to the face like a champ. I personally solved this with chi, much like a bender channels it into fireballs and stuff, a non-bender can use it to make himself tougher. This has zero mechanical effects at first, it just explains how your PCs can take such amounts of punishment. Added benefit is that it makes some chi channelers capable of slicing through steel with a sword and block things they really shouldn't have (see Zuko Alone and rock shattering).

After this, I'd leave it up to the DM to decide how lethal he wants things to be - though admittedly, this is easier to do in FATE than DnD.

Finally, I wouldn't use d20 to do it. Getting creative with your bending is really hard to do consistently and simply - you use different roll systems for trapping someone in a rock coffin, throwing a rock fist at someone and making a field of sharp rocks, all of which you're liable to do in quick succession in an Avatar story.

The Fury
2015-10-23, 11:47 AM
I'd go with the tone of Legend of Korra, which took the consequences of bending a little more seriously; metalbending mercury into someone's body to (near-)fatally poison them, or bending the air from someone's lungs to strangle them on dry land. This is, however, stuff bad guys do. The more heroic pull their punches somewhat and aim to knock out, disable, and kill, in that order.


To the credit of the original series, the consequences of just plain ol' Firebending were taken pretty seriously. Not just the fact that Prince Zuko got a substantial portion of his face burned off, though that's part of it. A cool background detail is when we see Water Tribe sailors that we know fought the Fire Nation is that a few have burn scars. There's also Song with a huge burn on her leg. Early on it was also established that one of the scarier things about Firebending is that it's difficult to control. Even if you wanted to pull your punches with fire, it's still fire.

It's handled pretty differently in Korra. I don't recall that anyone was ever horribly burned with Firebending, (not that it would have necessarily been appropriate, mind you. Just an observation.) Maybe that was due to most people taking hits from Firebenders being either Airbenders, Firebenders or wearing protective Pro-Bending gear, (which might be fireproof? Maybe. Probably.)

Regitnui
2015-10-23, 03:54 PM
It's handled pretty differently in Korra. I don't recall that anyone was ever horribly burned with Firebending, (not that it would have necessarily been appropriate, mind you. Just an observation.) Maybe that was due to most people taking hits from Firebenders being either Airbenders, Firebenders or wearing protective Pro-Bending gear, (which might be fireproof? Maybe. Probably.)

If the pro-bending gear wasn't fireproof and sturdy body armour. I doubt it would have ever become a public sport.

TLA could excuse the burns for two reasons that TLK couldn't. Firstly, the world was at war. The firebenders who inflicted those scars weren't trying to hold back their blows. Secondly, most of it was done off screen. The only time we saw anyone physically injured by the fire was that one attack on Iroh. And even then, we didn't see much between Iroh's flailing and Zuko's distress. Azula and Ozai weren't exactly morally upright enough to not aim to kill, anyway.

Draconium
2015-10-23, 04:11 PM
Secondly, most of it was done off screen. The only time we saw anyone physically injured by the fire was that one attack on Iroh.

I know I'm nitpicking a bit here, but this is not the only time we see Firebending injuring someone on-screen. Early on in the first season, Aang tries to Firebend before he's ready to learn it, and ends up burning Katara's hands. The burns are clearly visible, although they aren't there for long - this event is what led to Katara realizing she can use Waterbending to heal. However, Aang is appropriately horrified, and this event is why Aang originally had trouble learning to Firebend in the third season. He was afriad something like that would happen again.

Knaight
2015-10-25, 01:56 PM
I know I'm nitpicking a bit here, but this is not the only time we see Firebending injuring someone on-screen. Early on in the first season, Aang tries to Firebend before he's ready to learn it, and ends up burning Katara's hands. The burns are clearly visible, although they aren't there for long - this event is what led to Katara realizing she can use Waterbending to heal. However, Aang is appropriately horrified, and this event is why Aang originally had trouble learning to Firebend in the third season. He was afriad something like that would happen again.

Well if we expand beyond just fire to firebending as a whole, there was also that time Azula shot Aang with lightning and nearly killed him.

tgva8889
2015-10-25, 02:35 PM
It's handled pretty differently in Korra. I don't recall that anyone was ever horribly burned with Firebending, (not that it would have necessarily been appropriate, mind you. Just an observation.) Maybe that was due to most people taking hits from Firebenders being either Airbenders, Firebenders or wearing protective Pro-Bending gear, (which might be fireproof? Maybe. Probably.)

Well, there was that time when one of the villains had explosion-powers and got her head trapped in a metal shell while she was trying to blow up her enemies and thus exploded her own head. Pretty sure explosion-bending was clarified to be a variant of firebending.

Then again, there were the countless times that people should probably have died or experienced intense pain due to inhaling superheated air from standing as close to the lava they were near. So they took some liberties. It does seem interesting that firebending seems to act mainly as a concussive attack unless it is somehow plot-relevant for it to burn someone.

If we're talking about lethality here, though, the fact that most of Aang's airbending attacks are shown to cut through materials much tougher than human skin or clothes should probably indicate some things about either the inherent toughness of benders or punches being pulled.

The Fury
2015-10-25, 10:19 PM
Well, there was that time when one of the villains had explosion-powers and got her head trapped in a metal shell while she was trying to blow up her enemies and thus exploded her own head. Pretty sure explosion-bending was clarified to be a variant of firebending.

It is. I gather that Combustion-bending is a rare ability that most Firebenders can't do. I didn't mean that all Firebending seemed less lethal in Korra, just that the basic stuff that any Firebender can do seems less lethal-- that is, just throwing fire around.



Then again, there were the countless times that people should probably have died or experienced intense pain due to inhaling superheated air from standing as close to the lava they were near. So they took some liberties. It does seem interesting that firebending seems to act mainly as a concussive attack unless it is somehow plot-relevant for it to burn someone.

I'd have to rewatch Korra to know for sure, but I think most times people don't get burned from Firebending there's at least an explanation that can be inferred. Like they were wearing protective gear (Pro-Bending and the Equalists,) They're a Firebender themselves, or they're an Airbender.




If we're talking about lethality here, though, the fact that most of Aang's airbending attacks are shown to cut through materials much tougher than human skin or clothes should probably indicate some things about either the inherent toughness of benders or punches being pulled.

There's also Katara's water-cutting move which could cut through metal. I've always wondered why that move so rarely showed up in Korra.

My pet theory is not so much that Benders are tougher, (though they might be,) but rather that they know how to take a hit. Most Bending disciplines seemed to have a defensive technique or application to them-- Firebenders can redirect heat away from them, Earthbenders can use rocks and dirt as shields, Waterbenders can make high-pressure barriers or ice-shields, and Airbenders can deflect attacks away with gusts of wind. I think it's possible that when a Bender takes a hit, maybe their Bending is saving them from the worst of it.

AdmiralCheez
2015-10-26, 08:15 AM
There's also Katara's water-cutting move which could cut through metal. I've always wondered why that move so rarely showed up in Korra.

Probably because it took a really long time to cut through it, and Korra was far too impatient to wait long enough for it to work. It probably didn't even occur to her that it could be done.

Regitnui
2015-10-26, 10:51 AM
Probably because (Katara's waterbending) took a really long time to cut through (metal), and Korra was far too impatient to wait long enough for it to work. It probably didn't even occur to her that it could be done.

At least in the beginning. At the end of the series, she would've been more likely to figure that move out.

tgva8889
2015-10-27, 02:20 AM
If the Air Nomads weren't pacifists, I'm confident that they would have killed many. I mean, that one guy in Legend of Korra did a ton of damage.

Dusk Eclipse
2015-10-27, 11:50 AM
Uh... Monk Gyatso (Aang's teacher) was able to decimate dozens of Sozin comet empowered firebender, if that doesn't say anything about the damage a master Airbender could do, I do not know what can.

The Fury
2015-10-27, 12:14 PM
If the Air Nomads weren't pacifists, I'm confident that they would have killed many. I mean, that one guy in Legend of Korra did a ton of damage.

Absolutely. That might be one of the dangers of making an Avatar-based RPG. One thing about the setting that I always thought was cool about the Avatar setting is that there isn't really a cosmic, universal morality. Most RPG settings do offer GMs some kind of tool, (character alignment-based powers, gods, humanity vs. monster scale, etc.) to keep players from being too disruptive. The Avatar universe doesn't have anything like that. Air Nomads might be committed pacifists, though Zaheer is plainly not. Not only is Zaheer a bad dude, he's also pretty darned powerful as Airbenders go-- strong enough that he can go one-on-one with a master Airbender with minimal training and actually hold his own. If a player decides that they want to make an Airbending murder-hobo, that goes against what an Airbender traditionally is but there isn't really anything short of "rule zero" that says they can't.

AdmiralCheez
2015-10-27, 12:28 PM
Yeah, just because 95% of the airbenders we saw in the show were pacifist nomads, doesn't that every airbender ever was a pacifist. I doubt the new airbenders that refused Korra and Tenzin's training would be peace-loving nomads on their own.

Regitnui
2015-10-27, 03:07 PM
And the new Air Nation, while generally peaceful, isn't necessarily pacifist. Tenzin pledged them to 'keep balance', like the Avatar, so it's safe to assume that they will get violent if necessary, even if it is only as a last resort. So a Air Nomad Zaheer? Nuh-uh. A Chaotic Neutral Air Nomad who's hot tempered and prone to smacking people who annoy him with wind? Entirely acceptable with Rule Zero.

Mark Hall
2015-10-27, 10:46 PM
I wonder how many of those who became airbenders had Air Nation genes running around their family tree...

Regitnui
2015-10-28, 01:52 AM
I wonder how many of those who became airbenders had Air Nation genes running around their family tree...

If 10-year-old pre-iceberg Aang was any indication, I could see a number of teenage Air Nomads pulling a Captain Kirk before settling down to life at the monastery.

goto124
2015-10-28, 02:20 AM
Did we see any female airbenders?

The Fury
2015-10-28, 09:01 AM
Did we see any female airbenders?

Yes. Avatar Yang-Chen, Jinora, Ikki, Opal and several unnamed background characters.

AceOfFools
2015-10-28, 12:28 PM
If a player decides that they want to make an Airbending murder-hobo, that goes against what an Airbender traditionally is but there isn't really anything short of "rule zero" that says they can't.

Let me preface this by saying I only saw the first two seasons of Korra.

It would be entirely in keeping with the source material to bar progression along bending paths based on emotional or meditative states.

Zuko was too emotional to learn lighting bending, Aang and Korra had trouble picking up earth and air bending do to mentality.

The Fury
2015-10-28, 02:41 PM
Let me preface this by saying I only saw the first two seasons of Korra.

It would be entirely in keeping with the source material to bar progression along bending paths based on emotional or meditative states.

Zuko was too emotional to learn lighting bending, Aang and Korra had trouble picking up earth and air bending do to mentality.

To fill you in, the third season's main bad guy was an Airbender. Not exactly murder-happy, kill-crazy but certainly not a committed pacifist. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, he does set a precedent for violent people learning Airbending and progressing quite well in it.

VoxRationis
2015-10-28, 03:13 PM
Which leads me to think that the true thing you need to have to "click" with airbending is not pacifism, but rather a tendency towards the indirect: enhancing your mobility and unbalancing your opponent, rather than going immediately towards direct attacks. (Example: except when he's in the Avatar State or extremely angry, Aang tends to try sweeping, partly-environmental attacks with his airbending, like when he pushes a mattress into Zuko and then both of them into a wall, while Korra just uses airbending as a fist.) Korra is apparently incapable of learning anything besides direct assaults (in spite of being taught for 16 years by masters, who should definitely have known about things like environmental-control techniques), which is why she not only has trouble with airbending, but consistently gets the crap kicked out of her by just about everyone.

Notably, however, the "clicking" is shown in both series to mostly apply to the initial stages of learning a bending discipline, and once it's happened, experimentation and practical application can vary from the philosophical ideal. The basic, low-level types we see for each element play directly to their archetypes, but masters (who've clicked long, long ago) often branch out in order to eliminate the weaknesses of their element.

Grod_The_Giant
2015-10-29, 12:10 PM
Concussive firebending (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulsed_energy_projectile)?