Super Medicine: Part Two, or Help Me, Doctor, I Don’t Feel So Good…

Super weaknesses like Kryptonite aren’t just for the superhero. They can be used in places other than combat to encourage roleplaying and add new life to your superhero game. When a character has a super weakness, the first thing that a gamemaster needs to realize is that for a superbeing, this is a condition that is no different from heart arrythmia or diabetes. While the cure for the so-called disease may be impossible or nigh-unattainable, a trip to the doctor may net the hero more information about himself than he previously thought possible.

1) The Doctor NPC. This can be a useful tool for the GM if the hero regularly sees a doctor. If the hero has super powers and a secret identity, he might wish to avoid regular medical checkups. If he has a separate doctor for his super identity, his doctor may know more about him than he does. This can lead to the doctor becoming a supervillain, the doctor’s records being stolen by the characters enemies, etc. But the longer the hero avoids the doctor, the more this might concern his fellow supers.

2) The PC Doctor: This can be useful too, especially if the characters DON’T know each other’s identities. Properly roleplayed, this could generate a lot of laughs around a table.

3) The Injured Hero: When the characters take one of these super-weakness characters to a physician, one should be sure to inform the physician of the super weakness of the character. A long time ago, in a distant game that I never played, my friend’s character was brutally crippled by a lethal supervillain attack. Unable to determine the cause of his affliction, they went to a nearby superteam for help. The hero was vulnerable to anti-matter, and the NPC doctor, designed before the character was ever built….?

Anti-Mistress. That’s right. Needless to say, the character died on the operating table. And no one knew why.

Doctors are a part of the superhero gameworld. When a hero is injured, sometimes it is necessary to bring him to a doctor who’s never seen his like before. “Well, let me open him up with this industrial laser!” This may ilicit struggles with the doctor over what the best way to deal with the super-affliction, be it weakness or an engineered super-disease.

When a character develops a new illness, somehow related to his powers, that trip to the doctor can be more than just a reason for points on a character sheet or some sort of weakness. It can also be the gateway to a fascinating world of roleplaying…


Help me, Doctor! I don’t understand what’s wrong with me!

Today, we’re going to talk about super-physiology, super-weaknesses, and what makes superheroes different in comics from superheroes in roleplaying games in this regard.

A very wise man once said that the only purpose of the Justice League is to kick the kryptonite out of the way for Superman. While that may work fine in the comics, in game terms, this can be kind of annoying. We all sit there and kind of groan when we see Superman and say “Kryptonite? Again? Really?”

The thing that makes this particularly heinous is not that Superman isn’t so super around Kryptonite. The thing that makes this particularly heinous is the flaw in the design as far as playing around a table is concerned. Take enough limitations and disadvantages of this sort, and most of the time, your character will be more powerful than most of the others around the table.

But the problem is, in a tabletop roleplaying game, your character doesn’t have writers fiat, and neither does anyone else. So when the guy who’s playing the Superman equivalent gets squashed by his mega-weakness, he stays squashed for the rest of the fight. And then his fellow heroes get squashed too, because they can’t fight the guy who is designed to fight the Superman equivalent, plus, they have to deal with everyone else also.

This isn’t fun. Period. Especially since it’s always the same guy who you have to resuscitate or kick the Kryptonite away from. The way to attack this problem from a player and a gamemaster perspective is not to allow characters to be designed like Superman when everyone else is at a lesser power level. There are numerous ways to do this, from just saying “no” to having a set of rules in place that keeps it from happening. It gets old after the first five or six sessions.

Next time, which may be sooner than you think, we’re going to talk about super-weaknesses, super medicine, and super surgery, now that we’ve covered the mechanics side.

  • Upcoming Appearances

    Heroicon, Decatur, Illinois, May 15-17

    Michael will be appearing at Heroicon as a Special Guest, where he will run games and appear on panels. All proceeds from this convention go to benefit troops overseas with games, both donated and purchased, sponsored by a group called Games for Troops. I know it's a trek. Come join me anyway.

    Nexus Game Fair, Milwaukee, WI, June 25-28

    Michael will be appearing at Nexus Game Fair as a Special Guest, where he will run games and appear on Panels.

    Gencon, Indianapolis, IN, July 29-August 2.

    Michael will be attending Gencon and representing Blackwyrm Games, where his latest products will be playtested and he will have at least one signing.