House rule for Vehicles skill

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RainOnTheSun
Posts: 339
Joined: Wed May 03, 2017 7:20 am

House rule for Vehicles skill

Post by RainOnTheSun » Sun Mar 18, 2018 9:28 am

I have a few problems with the Vehicles skill, and I've been giving them some thought.

Problem one: It's extremely niche. In the default genre for Mutants and Masterminds, many characters will be able to fly, swing, run, or otherwise move quickly under their own power. Even when the heroes have a Batmobile or a Quinjet, opportunities to make a meaningful Vehicles check during the game are few and far between. In a fantasy game, like Freeport or Freedom's Reach, finding a use for the Vehicles skill is even harder.

Problem two: It's one of only two Dexterity skills. Not many character concepts call for someone skilled in Sleight of Hand and Vehicles at the same time. Not many escape artists are also NASCAR racers, not many master thieves are also ace pilots. Without anything connecting Dexterity's only skills, there isn't much incentive for anyone to buy more than a rank or two of Dexterity instead of buying whichever skill you want by itself.

Problem three: Technology. Mutants and Masterminds has one skill for the operation of 95% of the machinery in the world, and another skill at the same price for the remaining 5%. When you hold them up side by side, it's not hard to think that that split should be more 50-50, or at least 70-30.

So, house rule: Vehicles is replaced with a skill that encompasses everything the Vehicles skill does, along with setting or disabling mechanical locks and traps, planting or defusing bombs, remotely piloting drones, and all other interactions with machinery where precise action is vital. Call it Operate Device, or Manipulate Device. Doing this splits the Dexterity attribute into two skills: one for precise control of the body (Sleight of Hand), and one for precise control of the world outside the body. It also splits the Technology skill into things Lex Luthor is an expert at, and things Catwoman is an expert at.

I know about the Burglar benefit. I like it, but it doesn't solve my issues with the Vehicles skill. I haven't tested this house rule yet, and if anyone has any thoughts on it I would be grateful to hear them.

Ken
Posts: 1928
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 10:40 pm
Location: DeKamore, IL, Earth-Two

Re: House rule for Vehicles skill

Post by Ken » Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:07 pm

Problem 1) So, it's extremely niche... And as far as the "default genre" is considered, which of the myriad super hero genres is the default? Netflix's Defenders is not the same genre as the Avengers films. Arrow and Supergirl aren't the same genre, leading to Oliver's complaining when they crossover. One could make the argument that these are different subgenres in one larger genre. But that doesn't change the fact that if the Batcopter gets hit by a rocket, in some super hero genres, Batman doesn't have to worry, because Superman will catch it, and in some Batman will have to try to steer (use a Vehicles check) the copter to the giant pile of foam rubber outside the convention hall.

And as far as having opportunities to have characters make Vehicle checks go, doesn't that largely depend on what kind of characters your players build? All it takes is one person to play a "talented normal" super who actually takes vehicles into combat, and the opportunities spew forth. Loki blasts the Quinjet? Vehicles check. Batman makes a wild run with the Batmobile while being chased by parademons? Vehicle check.

Problem 2) There are THREE, plus. Ranged Combat is a dexterity based skill. And while there aren't many Master Thieves who are also Ace Pilots, there ARE Master Thieves who sometimes have to shoot people and there are Ace Pilots who have to shoot people, or other vehicles. Now, yes, there is the Ranged Attack advantage, and yes, it's still often cheaper to buy skills rather than pumping points into Dexterity. So what? It's a point expenditure consideration. I fail to see why it's a problem.

Problem 3) In your 95%-5% comparison, which is which? Because on any given work day, I drive to Large-Mart and park in a lot filled with hundreds of machines, which don't require a Vehicles check to operate, but would require a Vehicles check if any one of them were put into a situation where they had to avoid an accident. And, by the same token, as I go to my little kiosk, where I do people's taxes, I pass dozens of complex machines which are used by people to purchase their goods. And again, one doesn't need to make a Technology check to use those machines. But one certainly needs to make one if those machines break down. We live in a world filled with machines. And yes, there is one skill for doing fancy maneuvers with the ones that are capable of self-propulsion, and a different skill for getting into the operating parts for any of them, whether they can move or not.

So, yeah, I'm not sure which machines you're counting to get your 95%-to-5% ratio. But the skills are to do different things. No, I don't need to make a Vehicles check to control which direction my refrigerator is going to move, as I'm racing it through the desert. But the Technology check I need to make to fix the compressor when it stops being cold on the inside won't be that different than the one I need to make to fix the compressor in my car's AC system as I'm racing through the desert.
Does a Winnie poo in the 100-acre wood?

RainOnTheSun
Posts: 339
Joined: Wed May 03, 2017 7:20 am

Re: House rule for Vehicles skill

Post by RainOnTheSun » Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:23 pm

Hey, thank you for your reply!
Ken wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:07 pm

Problem 2) There are THREE, plus. Ranged Combat is a dexterity based skill. And while there aren't many Master Thieves who are also Ace Pilots, there ARE Master Thieves who sometimes have to shoot people and there are Ace Pilots who have to shoot people, or other vehicles. Now, yes, there is the Ranged Attack advantage, and yes, it's still often cheaper to buy skills rather than pumping points into Dexterity. So what? It's a point expenditure consideration. I fail to see why it's a problem.
What I want to do is make the point expenditure for Dexterity more attractive, so that players will more frequently say, "Hey, I want all of the things Dexterity gives me, I'll buy a few more ranks in that."

So, yeah, I'm not sure which machines you're counting to get your 95%-to-5% ratio. But the skills are to do different things. No, I don't need to make a Vehicles check to control which direction my refrigerator is going to move, as I'm racing it through the desert. But the Technology check I need to make to fix the compressor when it stops being cold on the inside won't be that different than the one I need to make to fix the compressor in my car's AC system as I'm racing through the desert.
By the rules, it also won't be that different from the one you need to write a computer program, or plant a bomb to destroy a bridge, or crack a safe, or loop footage on a security monitor to fool the guards. The Technology skill covers a lot of situations, and I don't think moving some of its applications into a Dexterity-based skill will make Technology less appealing to the Reed Richardses and Barbara Gordons of the world.

Ken
Posts: 1928
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2016 10:40 pm
Location: DeKamore, IL, Earth-Two

Re: House rule for Vehicles skill

Post by Ken » Mon Mar 19, 2018 4:35 am

RainOnTheSun wrote:
Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:23 pm
What I want to do is make the point expenditure for Dexterity more attractive, so that players will more frequently say, "Hey, I want all of the things Dexterity gives me, I'll buy a few more ranks in that."
There is one more thing a high Dexterity gives a character. What the book calls "feats of fine control and precision when a specific skill doesn't apply" and that, in limited cases, is what you're talking about adding to the Vehicles skill.

I'd recommend not appending that to Vehicle Skill. Instead, consider adding an additional skill, even if it is just a DEX-based Expertise. Call it something like "Fine Work". It would include everything from retrieving that tiny screw that fell from the computer's casing onto the circuit board (so removing it without frying the computer is ideal), to threading a needle, to the physical component of safely disarming a bomb. This would allow a character to specialise in "feats of fine control and precision" This is creating that exact specific skill, so your master seamstress or demolitions expert doesn't also have to be a master pickpocket, marksman, or ace pilot.

This would give you at least four DEX-based skills, so the James Bond types of the world would actually be in a position to benefit point-wise from having a higher Dexterity, or at least make their players more apt to notice the savings.
Does a Winnie poo in the 100-acre wood?

RainOnTheSun
Posts: 339
Joined: Wed May 03, 2017 7:20 am

Re: House rule for Vehicles skill

Post by RainOnTheSun » Mon Mar 19, 2018 4:39 am

That's a good idea! Thanks.

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