Musings of a Psycho Math Teacher

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Musings of a Psycho Math Teacher

Post by nowhereman2 » Fri Jun 07, 2019 1:31 am

I am GMing my first game on this website. (My first game ever really.) I just had to make a ruling on a very powerful bit of ambiguous language regarding the extra - extra mass. (In short, if the power uses rank level to determine mass, you cannot use extra mass.) This ability has made me really think about the power transform and how, mind-numbingly powerful it is in the hands of a power gamer. I created this thread so I can think through the ridiculous ways I can abuse things, given some math and science. Feel free to do the same.

The first obvious thing to note is how massively overpowered Transform (Any to Any 5/r) is. It allows you to transform up to 1.5lbs of any material into any other material. It is concentration, so technically without the permanent extra, anything transformed returns to its original form once concentration is broken or ended. Even without this bonus, the ability is insanely powerful. Imagine a PL 1 villain walking up to your hero. Not scary right? Now imagine him transforming 1.5 lbs of rock into anti-matter. When matter and anti-matter annihilate, they give up the entirety of their mass up as energy. From Einstein, we have the formula E=mc^2. Plug in 3 lbs (1.5 lbs of matter and antimatter each), we have 1.2 x 10^17 Joules of energy or approximately the equivalent of a 30 megaton bomb. That is about half the yield of the largest bomb ever tested. If your GM were generous and let you do this (and willing to calculate the resultant outcome equivalent), the blast would create a crater of approximately 100 m deep and 2km wide. This would move the equivalent of 8 x 10^8 metric tons of rock. This is equivalent to a strength rank of 36 and so (arguably) would have a damage rank of 36 with a DC resistance of 51. Without immunity, you will have four degrees of failure from that (and then some). :twisted:

This ability would come with an obvious caveat. Its use would immediately kill the user (and the target, and the populace within a 3-5 km radius). However, if we add perception range to it, then we have a nuclear character for the low, low, cost of 7pp. Add precise for another 1pp and suddenly it can serve as a tactical nuclear weapon. A GM might try to mitigate this by saying that the matter cannot annihilate in this manner because it is temporary. I would challenge that myself, but for 1 more pp we can get around that complaint by making it permanent. Of course, part of what makes this so insanely powerful is the idea that a GM would allow the use of this ability to create untold damage. The GM could say that you cannot use this ability to directly cause damage. First, the damage is a secondary (and predictable) effect from the explosion. However, with some creativity, you could do the same with other methods.

Enter building, find a supporting pillar, transform into a liquid or gas. Transform is only concentration, however for 5pp + 2pp for perception range (you do not want to be close), you can turn a substance into another substance of any type. It will revert back to its original form, but a smart player could liquify a pillar bit by bit. At a rate of 1.5lbs per round, the pillar could be eroded in about 4 and a half minutes. Most buildings could stand with the destruction of one or two pillars, but a skyscraper would fall after only a few pillars were taken out in a semi-strategic manner. A PL 1 supervillain could bring an entire building to the ground in half and hour at most. Hero base at the top of the structure? Well... hopefully they can fly.

Even if we limit the ability, it would be relatively easy to have a PL 1 supervillain wreak havoc. Instead of wanton destruction, use economic manipulation. Gold holds its value for a number of reasons, not least of which is its rarity. In total, we have mined 190,000 tons of gold. This is a lot, but nowhere near as much as it might seem. Instead of Transform (Any into Any 5/r), we will use Transform (Water into Gold 2/r) with perception range and permanent for a total cost of 5pp. In Las Vegas, the cost of water can reach as high as $5 per 1000 gallons (approximately 8000 lbs). This would be about 120 000 troy oz or about 160 million dollars for a total profit of $159,999,995. Transforming this much gold would take approximately 8 hours if our PL 1 supervillain used a garden hose. However, if his goal was to disrupt the world economy, he could do much better. Transforming into any of the precious metals would have a massive effect on any number of industries, costing 1000s of jobs and devaluing millions or billions of dollars in investments. If we upped our transform to (Water to Metals 3/r) for the cost of one more pp, we could waste entire industries that pay upwards of $30/hour. My home state of Nevada would basically lose mining overnight.

To end this, I decided to show what I mentioned in the OOC of my game. Part of the reason why I said no to use of extra mass with the Transform ability is because it allows the player to bypass the cost of the ability. A Transform 5 (any to any 5/r) would cost 25pp and allow the user to transform up to 25lbs of material per round. A Transform 1 (any to any 5/r) with +20 extra mass would also cost 25 pp, but allow the user to transform up to 400 tons. It is unclear if the rules actually have a limit on the number of times you can take an extra (it doesn't look like it to me, though I may be wrong). However, we could imagine that we have a maximally permissive GM who would no only allow this obviously broken ability, but have no limit on the number of ranks of extra mass. Here is a table that lists things we could transform and things we could explode based upon cost in pp. To calculate this, I assumed we have 1 rank in Transform (any to any 5/r), and that all the rest of the points went into ranks of extra mass for the power. For explosion, I assumed we were transforming rock (not that it matters) into antimatter. With the exception of the first value, everything else is estimated based on scaling the explosion from Castle Bravo. If you would like to survive this, add 2 pp.
  • pp - - - - Transform - - - - Explode
  • 5 - - - - 1.5lbs - - - - A large City (5km, 30MT)
  • 15 - - - - 1600lbs - - - - New York (26km ,4 GT
  • 20 - - - - 25tons - - - - A small state (160km, 1000 GT)
  • 24 - - - - 400tons - - - - Chicxulub Impact Energy (600km ,5YT)
  • 26 - - - - 1100tons - - - - Gravitational Binding Energy of Earth (Everything, Very unimportant)
  • 81 - - - - 1/2 Earth - - - - Gravitational Binding Energy of Sun (and solar system)
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Re: Musings of a Psycho Math Teacher

Post by Ken » Fri Jun 07, 2019 9:02 pm

Disallowing the use of the Extra Mass extra on a power where each rank explicitly indicates how much mass can be affected only makes sense. Otherwise, it's doing an end-run around the fact that each rank of the power is supposed to have a different cost depending on circumstance.
W: Professor Plum, you were once a professor of psychiatry specializing in helping paranoid and homicidal lunatics suffering from delusions of grandeur.

PP: Yes, but now I work for the United Nations.

W: So your work has not changed.

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Re: Musings of a Psycho Math Teacher

Post by Poodle » Mon Jul 29, 2019 10:10 pm

How about tooth enamel into arsenic?
Pocket lint into plutonium? A matchbox full can cripple a city.
Gut bacteria into necrotising fascheitis?
Good cells into cancerous cells and become the worlds most anonymous assasin. Add 'no saving throw' and 'contagious' and decimate the worlds population.
A kilo of air to metal, perception range and precise and take down any plane you can see by putting it in front of the intakes or dropping it from orbit.
Blood to acid
Calcium to sodium pf precise. Literally watch someones skull make their brain boil.
Eyeballs to anything else..
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -Albert Einstein

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Re: Musings of a Psycho Math Teacher

Post by JDRook » Tue Jul 30, 2019 12:27 am

Transform is capable of massive abuse, but there are a few rules in place (or at least suggested) in the book to mitigate that, some of which is specifically mentioned in the description or in the "Under the Hood: Transform" sidebar.

First, duration mechanics. Transform is Sustained by default, meaning the user needs to be conscious to maintain it. Stunning, knocking out or putting the user to sleep makes the transformation revert back. Making the Transform Continuous is a +1 Extra, but it should be pointed out this is a little different from most powers, since it's specifically stated that "Continuous Transform is irreversible except by using another Transform effect to turn the target back into its previous form." My interpretation of that is that if you had a "Water into Gold" C-Trans power, you could change water into gold but not gold into water with that power, even if it was originally water. As a GM I would probably allow Reversible as a 1p flat extra to change things back if needed. I also would not allow the Permanent Flaw as it's not really a Flaw if the power works that way.

The second consideration is Rank. The sidebar mentions how Transform can potentially imitate other effects and specifically states using the Transform Rank to determine DCs. I would extrapolate that mean that if you used the example from the OP to make a Transform 1 (Any>Any) to turn someone's ID badge into antimatter it would do Damage 1 to them. Optionally, they could power stunt the 5p cost and make it Damage 5. Now that would hurt a normal and be brushed off by most supers, so it doesn't seem like it's acting antimatter, and I'd say that's because you didn't buy that effect strong enough. It's not balanced to allow nuclear-level damage for a handful of points. For a really goofy comparison, the Human Bomb in the DCA books explodes at about rank 12, so I would require nothing less than that for an antimatter transform to level a city. You could simply make a character whose whole schtick is generating tiny amounts of antimatter using the Damage effect, possibly several Damage effects in an array.

Third is Modifiers. As a GM, I'd probably keep a careful eye on Range, possibly disallowing Perception Range altogether. Partial Transformations like pieces of a support pillar or hidden targets like a subject's bloodstream could be off-limits for any number of reasons, but allowing that level of precision for standard Touch Range Transforms is a little more reasonable.

Basically anything that describes a power and ends with "and there's nothing they can do about it" makes for poor storytelling and frustrating gameplay, so while it's an interesting thought experiment and can help spawn other ideas, always keep in mind that just because a power is workable doesn't mean it's playable.

All of poodle's suggestions could be usable but limited by rank as well.

On the ecomomic scale, if you actually had a power that allowed you to make antimatter and any kind of stable containment for it, you've already got all the money: antimatter literally costs TRILLIONS of dollars per gram. A pound and a half could literally buy the entire world several times over.

It would make an interesting story to follow a PC with that power, but might be hard to play. Assuming they didn't immediately kill themselves with their power (possibly due to some immunity or specialized protection), it's possible they wouldn't even realize specifically what their power is doing, since it would appear that they just make stuff explode. They might go the hero/villain route and either rob banks or trounce bad guys for a while, but if they had the skills, resources and interest to find out how their powers worked, they might eventually realize they were making antimatter.

From there they'd need to find a way to contain it so it doesn't immediately destroy itself. Research facilities seem most likely: a quick Google search says CERN has traps that can hold 10^12 charged antiparticles, which is roughly a picogram of matter, so the PC might go to Switzerland or try to find something more local. They may want to keep it on the DL since free generation of antimatter would be a strategic asset like nothing the world's ever seen before even in a world of supers, so there's bound to be military, governments, corporations and all kinds of crazy individuals who'd be interested in controlling that.

I mean, the strategic value could be true for all kinds of superpowers, but this one I think is particularly good since you could potentially power the entire world with it. It's not unlike the classic thought experiment of Superman saving the world by just running a turbine all the time to generate free energy for the world and eliminating most war and poverty and environmental destruction as a side effect.

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Re: Musings of a Psycho Math Teacher

Post by Poodle » Tue Jul 30, 2019 9:40 am

I always enjoy the "can you change the world with a PL1 character" threads, especially considering it is already happening in real life.
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -Albert Einstein

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Re: Musings of a Psycho Math Teacher

Post by Flynnarrel » Wed Aug 21, 2019 4:00 pm

In 2E Transmutation couldn't replicate a damage effect and non-damaging effects were limited to your transmutation's rank. I.E. you could turn the floor to grease but their save against the trip effect was limited by your rank in transmutation.
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