From Radioactive to Riches: the Jenny Gamma Story, part 3

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This is the required picture for the Market forum to show you're an Ebil Marketeer. Seriously.Even with frequently played characters in the late levels, I’d never had access to more than 100 million influence at a time. Seeing all the high-level build suggestions on the forums relying on literally billions of influence worth of enhancements introduced a disconnect. How did all of these people think money was so easy to come by? All of my friends had long been impressed by a lucky drop that could sell for 10 million. How were we ever going to possibly have enough game currency to make use of the inventions system the way everyone expected (i.e., by buying lots of rare sets to stack awesome bonuses until one’s character defies game balance entirely).

Turns out, though, that there’s a lot of money floating free in the economy. High-level characters farm missions, turning on the money faucet until it screams, happy to blow all of that money on their own character upgrades. Even if you don’t want to farm, you can get money off of those that do. Here’s what I wound up paying:

Components Number Purchased Average Price Paid
Alchemical Silver 2 107,586
Ancient Bone 4 4,381
Bleeding Stone 4 3,421
Carnival of Shadows Mask 1 20,171
Ceramic Armor Plate 76 5,605
Chaos Theorum 50 3,451
Chronal Skip 42 1,419,215
Circuit Board 60 12,331
Commercial Cybernetic 2 22,551
Demonic Blood Sample 5 9,123
Demonic Threat Report 12 1,088
Destiny 19 8,750
Diamond 2 2,000,171
Enchanted Impervium 1 1,500,171
Energy Weapon 55 5,226
Ensorcelled Weapon 1 10,001
Fortune 87 3,160
Gold 32 3,546
Hamidon Goo 3 1,500,171
Hydraulic Piston 120 1,071
Improvised Cybernetic 1 250
Inert Gas 1 20,100
Kinetic Weapon 123 36
Magical Conspiracy 59 1,334,069
Mathematic Proof 19 329
Military Cybernetic 2 1,800,136
Mu Vestment 3 2,000,171
Mutant DNA Strand 3 1,171
Nevermelting Ice 72 2,587
Pangean Soil 59 1,395,086
Penumatic Piston 3 13,171
Photonic Weapon 49 1,040,987
Platinum 14 1,150,171
Pneumatic Piston 56 16,171
Positronic Matrix 98 1,000,171
Prophecy 28 1,257,314
Psionic Threat Report 3 10,171
Regenerating Flesh 48 1,157
Rikti Alloy 10 1,710,171
Ruby 59 3,849
Sapphire 39 9,581
Scientific Law 4 1,381
Scientific Theory 4 3,379
Silver 55 316
Soul Trapped Gem 13 1,115,556
Spell Ink 55 25,819
Spirit Thorn 59 1,154
Synthetic Intelligence Unit 1 1,000,171
Temporal Analyzer 59 171
Temporal Tracer 21 1,266
Titanium Shard 6 726
Unquenchable Flame 9 12,838
Essence of the Furies 8 1,912,671
Recipes Number Purchased Average Price Paid
Recipe: Blessing of the Zephyr -KB L50 25 8,040,185
Recipe: Decimation Acc/Dam L40 1 3,000,010
Recipe: Decimation Acc/Dam/Rech L40 1 1,000,001
Recipe: Doctored Wounds End/Heal 3 100,171
Recipe: Doctored Wounds End/Heal L50 37 308,549
Recipe: Doctored Wounds End/Rech L50 16 113,296
Recipe: Efficacy Adaptor End Mod/Acc, L50 18 50,171
Recipe: Efficacy Adaptor Rech/Acc, L50 43 135,055
Recipe: Gift of the Ancients Defense L40 3 4,500,000
Recipe: Interrupt, L20 9 100
Recipe: Luck of the Gambler +Recharge L50 7 100,000,171
Recipe: Luck of the Gambler Def L50 3 30,000,000
Recipe: Luck of the Gambler Def/End/Rech L50 1 4,000,171
Recipe: Luck of the Gambler Def/Rech L50 1 400,171
Recipe: Luck of the Gambler End/Rech L50 4 78,921
Recipe: Luck of the Gambler: Def, L50 1 25,000,171
Recipe: Miracle End/Heal/Rech L40 3 100,171
Recipe: Numina’s Convalescence +Rech/Rec, L40 1 50,000,171
Recipe: Numina’s Convalescence End/Rech, L50 2 100
Recipe: Performance Shifter Chance L50 52 6,105,937
Recipe: Performance Shifter End Mod/Rech L50 3 1,500,171
Recipe: Positron’s Blast Acc/Dam L50 3 500,171
Recipe: Range, L20 30 150
Recipe: Range, L30 9 150
Recipe: Range, L35 15 150
Recipe: Red Fortune Def 3 300,171
Recipe: Red Fortune Def/End/Rech L50 12 333,504
Recipe: Red Fortune Def/Rech 3 100,000
Recipe: Sleep, L25 5 100
Recipe: Titanium Coating End 3 10,171
Recipe: Titanium Coating End/Rech 3 10,171
Recipe: Titanium Coating Rech/Res 3 50,000
Recipe: Touch of the Nictus Acc/End/Rech L50 9 10,000,171
Recipe: Touch of the Nictus Chance L50 1 100,171


Sold Item Number Sold Average Price Received Profit
Blessing of the Zephyr -KB 25 26,990,667 93%
Decimation 2 5,000,000
Doctored Wounds 56 3,935,708 228%
Efficacy Adaptor (End Mod/Acc) 18 3,885,803 313%
Efficacy Adaptor (Rech/Acc) 37 3,853,454 272%
Gift of the Ancients Def 3 15,000,000
Kinetic Weapon 115 250 312%
LotG (Def/End/Rech) 1 15,000,000
LotG (Def/Rech) 1 7,000,000
Luck of the Gambler +Recharge 7 132,857,143 13%
Luck of the Gambler Def L50 4 42,527,778
Luck of the Gambler End/Rech 4 8,525,253
Magical Conspiracy 10 2,010,000
Miracle 3 11,000,000
Numina’s Convalescence End/Rech 2 4,950,000
Numina’s Convalescence Healing 1 30,000,000
Numina’s Convalescence Reg/Rec 1 121,000,000
Performance Shifter Chance 52 17,963,462 83%
Performance Shifter End Mod 2 10,000,000
Performance Shifter End Mod 2 10,000,000
Performance Shifter End Mod/Rech 3 15,000,000
Photonic Weapon 28 2,010,714
Platinum 10 2,000,000
Positronic Matrix 98 1,998,529 67%
Positron’s Blast Acc/Dam 3 8,000,000
Prophecy 10 2,000,000
Red Fortune 7 4,000,000
Red Fortune Def/End/Rech L50 10 3,060,004
Red Fortune Def/Rech 1 3,000,000
Smashing Haymaker 2 3,350,555
Titanium Coating End 3 3,666,667
Titanium Coating End/Rech 3 5,000,000
Titanium Coating Res/Rech 3 4,296,296
Titanium Coating, Res L50 8 5,387,500
Touch of the Nictus Acc/End/Rech 9 27,444,444 83%
Touch of the Nictus Chance L50 1 5,000,000



I like to think these charts bear out what I’ve said in the previous two installments: there’s fabulous amounts of money to be had, but your number of auction slots become the driving force of value very quickly. Items that make a 200-300% profit net at most 3 million per sale. Meanwhile, items that turn less that 100% profit turn over around 10 million each sale. In general, high-profit items that turn over quickly are an easy way for anyone to make money, especially if you can check in multiple times a day, but the higher-value items will bring in more money to the patient (and those not able to check a lot).

Ultimately, it’s very easy to make money on the City of Heroes market. All it takes is identifying an enhancement that sells frequently (all Last 5 transactions from today) and for more than how much you’ll pay to get the recipe and components (and don’t forget the 10% market fee). With the number of players with high level characters flooding the market, and the ease at which the CoH market allows you to set up buy orders that gradually rake in components at reasonable prices, there’s really no reason not to avail oneself of the opportunity to have enough cash to buy all the cool things in game that make your character more competent.

System Review: Cinematic Unisystem, Part 2

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The Conundrum

It would be remiss for me to talk about Unisystem without mentioning the Current Level Conundrum. It’s one of the chief offenders for this problem. Specifically:

  • During character creation, skills and attributes cost 1 point of the appropriate type, qualities cost a fixed amount, and skills or qualities can be purchased with the same points from drawbacks.
  • During play, skills and attributes cost new level x2 exp and qualities cost the same fixed amount in exp.

For example, the Sorcery quality can be purchased multiple times, with each instance giving a bonus to magic rolls. Magic rolls are based on the Occult skill. During character creation, each +1 to magic rolls costs 1 point to raise the Occult skill or 5 points to raise the Sorcery quality. It’s a no brainer to max out Occult before buying Sorcery. During play, raising Occult higher than 2 will cost increasingly more than the cost of buying more Sorcery (6, 8, 10, or 12 exp vs. 5). A character that starts out intending to become good at magic can do it drastically more cheaply than someone who decides to do it in play (unless “becoming good at magic” means taking Sorcery at character creation, when it is more expensive).

It tends to lead to characters min-maxed all to hell at character creation, and I’m not a fan of it, but I’ve said more than enough on that front.

I’ve been damaged!

The hit point (or, “life point”) system for the game is somewhat unusual. A character’s total HP is equal to (Str + Con) x 4 + 10. Effectively, characters have a minimum of 10 HP, and each point of Str and Con increases this by 4. Character on a human scale will range from 18-58 HP (and can buy a few more via the Hard to Kill quality).

During the game, each attack does ([a calculated amount of base damage] + successes – armor) x multiplier. The calculation is generally some multiplier of the character’s Str: Kicking is (Str + 1) x 2, an Axe is Str x5, etc. The multiplier is mostly used to make blades and guns more dangerous than blunt trauma.

This has two major results:

  • It’s nearly impossible to figure out maneuvers on the fly. Players are encouraged to do the math on their sheets for any maneuvers they intend to use, and in-game modifications to Str score will require recalculating all of these. In general, success-based-damage will be dwarfed by base damage and a high roll mostly serves to make it more difficult to dodge the attack.
  • Combat maneuvers do have a more interesting spread than in a less granular system. In the next most similar system, White Wolf, it’s very hard to make more than a few tiers of damage: if a punch is Str + 0  and a Sword is Str + 3, there’s little wiggle room to differentiate things in between. Meanwhile, Unisystem can cleanly differentiate a punch from a kick from a jump kick without making any of them on par with various types of weapon.

Hit points work mostly like in D&D or the like: effectiveness isn’t impacted until they drop very low. Once a character gets below 10 HP, he or she gets penalties and eventually makes rolls to avoid death.

I’m not convinced that the added granularity makes the system better. It’s effectively fake granularity: small numbers are multiplied and modified various ways to create more variation, and the calculation time required is probably more complicated than the system otherwise supports. A character really has HP equal to Str + Con, with some math done on both ends to make it easier to reduce that by fractions. But in an otherwise rules-light, low-granularity game, that degree of math is somewhat glaring.

Ultimately, the combat system for Unisystem feels like the designers were not able to effectively model the variety of tactics used in Buffy and Angel on the default scale of the system, and resorted to some ungainly math to create the necessary granularity. They did succeed in creating a wide variety of attacks, but at the cost of inelegance and increased time at the table. I’m not sure it was the best way to go.

Also, dodging does absolutely nothing if you can’t beat the attacker’s roll. What’s up with that?

Part 3

From Radioactive to Riches: the Jenny Gamma Story, part 2

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Week 2

100 million is nothing to sneeze atIn case you forgot from last week, Jenny Gamma, my alt that found herself dedicated to playing the market for fun and profit, ended the first week with over 100 million influence. This is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s still only 1/20 of the influence cap and barely enough to buy a single really good enhancement. I have a lot of alts in the later levels that would really benefit from some nice enhancement sets, so I’m going to need to bring in the big money.

Day 1

It’s still Sunday on free reactivation weekend, and I’m determined to make some good money before another slow spate of weekdays.

Maybe I didn’t learn my lesson, because I start it off with buying another Luck of the Gambler: Defense.

By the end of the day I’m down again, waiting on some expensive enhancements to sell.

Day 2-5

This took way longer than it should haveMonday through Thursday crawls by before I once again have as much liquid influence as I had on the first day of the week. I flip more orange salvage to while away the time and have something turning over each day. Finally, the Numina’s Convalescence that I speculated on on Tuesday turns over, and I have just over 200 million liquid to take into the weekend.

Day 6

It’s Friday and a lot of the slow-moving, high-value anchors around my auction slots finally find homes with loving (and wealthy) parents. I’m up to 271 million by the end of the night!

Day 7

It’s another beautiful Saturday, although this time without the joy of tons of reactivated players scrambling to consume, and I end the day with over 300 million.

Week 3

Day 1

Wealthy is as wealthy doesSunday is another great day. By the middle of the day, I pass 500 million as my Luck of the Gambler: Defense recipes finally clear out. They’re good profit, but they’ve been very slow to turn over, and I begin to really internalize the advice of the market forum about fast turnover on slots being more important than huge margins.

Day 2-3

Another  middle of the week. I’ve suddenly got so much liquid influence that it’s hard to invest it all if I’m only pursuing low-value stuff. I go whole-hog and begin to invest in the Luck of the Gambler: Global Recharge bonus enhancement that is every high-level character’s favorite accessory (it goes well with any build!). I also make a lot of Efficacy Adaptors to round out my slots.

Luck of the Gambler is expensiveWhen the Luck enhancements sell, it’s very impressive: they go for 130 million each! However, I paid 100 million for the recipes, and the 10% market commission eats an awful lot at those high values. Ultimately, I probably make way more profit on the parade of yellow enhancements than I do on the big ticket ones.

Ultimately, getting a Luck of the Gambler recipe from normal play is a fabulous windfall, but it’s not really worth it when speculating.

Day 5-6

Thursday and Friday are all about the guaranteed, safe, yellow enhancement sales. I end with 637 million to roll into Saturday.

Day 7

With the greater capacity to sell and buy on the weekend, I decide to experiment with a variety of items, buying large swaths of recipes with theoretically good margins. I’m getting the hang of this, and I end the day with 672 million liquid and a bunch of recipes on hand to pad out the rest of the week.

Week 4

1 BILLION dollarsI’m beginning to focus more on big stacks of the same item. It’s faster for me to buy in bulk, and I have enough money to sink into waiting for conservative offers for recipes and salvage to fill. Consequently, I stop bothering to take so many screenshots at this point, because it’s mostly huge lists of exactly the same thing. This week’s big sellers are more Efficacy Adaptors, Performance Shifter: Chance for Endurance, and Gaussian’s Synchronized Fire Control: To-Hit Buff and To-Hit/End (complements to another decent and in-demand proc).

By the end of the week, I’ve crossed the 1 billion threshold. Technically, this qualifies for “Ebil Marketeer” status on the forums, but I’m not done yet.

Week 5

It's starting to get very impressiveAt this point, if I had it to do all over again, I could do it faster. Having the ready cash to just buy big stacks that are slow to fill but quick to sell becomes a huge benefit. At this level, there’s almost no way for me to invest all my liquid cash save on the 100 million+ enhancements. I’m tempted to try, but market volatility when I check shows that the margin on them is razor thin this week. I opt to invest in a lot more reliable and frequent sellers. The heroes this week are more Performance Shifter: Chance for Endurance and Blessing of the Zephyr: Knockback Reduction. I fill in with all enhancements in the Celerity set (a running set that can turn Super Speed into full invisibility with its +Stealth enhancement).

I'm rich, bitch!By the middle of the week, I’ve been at this for a month and haven’t quite made it to the cap, but I’m very close. 500 million influence becomes something I expect to be able to earn in a couple of days. Despite the bottom falling out of the Efficacy Adaptor market, and the remaining high-cost of common salvage inflated from the Halloween event (where everyone leveled a lot without generating much salvage), by early Saturday, it is done…

This is the required picture for the Market forum to show you're an Ebil Marketeer. Seriously.Next week, a detailed breakdown of what I did, then back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Part 3

System Review: Cinematic Unisystem, Part 1

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In the Silver Age of Licensed Games…

Licensed RPGs have been around virtually since the beginning of the hobby. Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, Marvel, Star Wars, and many more all got treatments during the 80s. Each had its fans, and many are still fondly remembered, but in an era both dominated by D&D and lacking an internet for communication about niche markets, these licensed games seem more popular after the fact than they were at the time. That is, people on RPG forums profess to being huge fans of these systems, but the actual utility of them, even amongst serious hobbyists at the time, seems like it might be somewhat less.

Today, the licensed game market seems primarily filled by Margaret Weis Productions, who have recently produced a whole slate of film-and-TV-inspired games: Serenity, BSG, Supernatural, Smallville, and Leverage. Several of these games have quickly become favorites not only with RPG-playing fans of the properties, but with systems aficionados interested in some of the tricks the games have used to better recreate the feel of a TV show or movie.

However, it’s probably very safe to say that MWP is walking a trail initially blazed by Eden Studios in the late 90s. As the licensed games of the 80s had been primarily small publisher affairs, production values often suffered in a climate where desktop publishing wasn’t cheap and easy and license fees ate up operating budget. Eden Studios, who had a few modest successes in making RPGs with their own IP (i.e., Witchcraft), decided to make high-production-quality licensed games, starting with the Buffy: the Vampire Slayer universe. Their books featured full color throughout, decorated with screencaptures and production photos from the show. It wasn’t just a book for RPG players, but something that actually might attract casual fans of the show.

While the cost of renewing the license (and probably higher production values than the sales could support) eventually caused Eden to stop pursuing the licensed game market, leaving it to MWP, it’s pretty safe to say that the Cinematic Unisystem’s games set the new standard for a licensed RPG product.

My experience with the system in actual play is far less than either of the previous system entries. I played for several sessions of a Buffy game, ran a couple of sessions of Angel, and considered starting several other games using the system. Unlike some of the latest stuff from MWP, the interesting thing about Cinematic Unisystem is that, at heart, it’s a simulationist, universal engine with some minor tweaks to fit the genre. You could run pretty much anything with it, provided you were willing to leave the genre simulation up to the actions of the players and GM and rely on the system to handle the physics of the world. It’s a toolkit system, and, thus, I’m inclined to be favorable.

Core Mechanics

Unisystem uses a basic Attribute + Skill mechanic. Unlike White Wolf, instead of rolling the total as dice, it’s added to the result of 1d10. So a character with a 2 attribute and a 3 skill rolls 1d10+5. This has two interesting variations:

  1. Stats are scaled 0-5 for mundane characters, such that a completely untrained and untalented character will roll 1d10+1 and a master will roll 1d10+10 (or slightly higher, as some very exceptional skills can go to 6). Functionally, with the d10 randomizer, this means that a terrible roll for an expert can be equaled by an amazing roll by a beginner. Meanwhile, supernatural characters can go up to 10 on individual stats. This serves to break play into tiers of competency: a lucky beginner may roll better than an unlucky expert, and a lucky expert may roll better than an unlucky supernatural master, but a beginner will always be completely trounced by the supernatural master.
  2. The game isn’t directly difficulty based. That is, the GM doesn’t say: “roll Attribute X + Ability Y vs. Difficulty Z.” Instead, the result is compared to a chart to gather success level. For example, if the result was 15, looking on the chart this is described as 4 – Very Good. If the GM had set the task as a Very Good difficulty, this would have succeeded (and would have been, de facto, DC 15, but hey). The interesting thing about the chart is how it scales. Up to 4 successes, another success level is a 2 point increase on the roll. Then 5 successes covers a 4 point spread of results. After 5, each result covers a 3 point spread. Essentially, all results on the normal human skill level (up to +10), fall into a 5-success range, and 5 successes is twice as likely as any other result under 5. Then supernatural skill level is actually somewhat compressed: having a 10 point advantage on someone is less significant between supernatural and mundane masters than it is between mundane experts and beginners.

However, despite these interesting conceits of the dice mechanic, it’s fairly similar to any other roll-over system. The interesting parts of the system come, as usual, from elements I’ll discuss in the next few weeks.

Part 2

From Radioactive to Riches: the Jenny Gamma Story, part 1

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Last month, I began exploring the ramifications of the City of Heroes consignment system. The common wisdom on the forums was that it was incredibly easy to make money (well, influence) in the game via the market, so I decided to see how long it would take me to reach the influence cap based on doing nothing but playing said market. Stipulations:

  • I would use one character (no help from alts); very quickly, limitation on personal storage slots on the auction house and in inventory becomes a limiting factor on this, so I didn’t want to “cheat” by having other characters help with their own slots.
  • I would start with almost nothing; I began with roughly 500 influence (via selling a low level enhancement) vs. a currency cap of 2 billion, and, given the ease at which common salvage can be bought for next to nothing and vendored for 250, I could have started with literally 1 influence and it wouldn’t have slowed me noticeably.
  • I would not actually play the character during the time; all currency would come directly from playing the market, rather than by getting and selling drops from game opponents.
  • I wouldn’t spend a ton of time working on this; on weekdays, I planned to check in after work and before bed, with more times checking in on the weekends. Since most of the time spent is just waiting for listed items to turn into sales, it’s not really necessary to micromanage your auctions unless you’ve identified a product that’s turning over very rapidly.

Completely Broke in Steel CanyonEnter Jenny Gamma, one of my alts. She’s a Force Field/Radiation Defender, which means she’s somewhat painful to solo even if I wanted to try to farm influence. But she does have most of the crafting badges, which gave her above-normal storage capacity for her level, the ability to make generic enhancements cheaply (which made a small difference early on, but not much towards the real money), and can summon a portable invention station (which I wound up using not at all, because it’s perfectly easy to jump over to the regular crafting stations).

Let’s say she had a rough weekend in Atlantic City and came home broke.

Week 1

Day 1

Day 1 is the biggest example of how quick even a low level character can work the market to get money quickly. The game tends to give out lots of “junk” salvage and recipes in the course of play: because of the variety of powers in the game, there are a lot of enhancement types that are in low demand. For example, pretty much anyone has at least one power that can make use of improved defense, but almost no one has use for improved intangibility (it’s like a hold, only you can’t hurt the target and have to wait a fixed time for it to wear off; almost no one takes intangibility powers). However, the less-in-demand items still sell to NPC vendors at a standard rate. However, either because they want the badges for selling lots of stuff at auction, or they just don’t want to bother finding a vendor, a lot of people will throw low-demand stuff on the consignment house for far less than it will sell for at a vendor.

So you can make a killing buying items off the auction house just to turn around and sell them to NPCs.

I buy over a hundred Kinetic Weapons for 10-20 influence each and sells them for 250 influence each. After this, I have enough money to start speculating on recipes. Generic Ranged recipes turn out to be listed cheap, and I wind up getting over 50 for 150 influence each and turn around and vendor them for a average of about 5,000 each. At this point, my time invested is mostly in how long it takes to jump over to the vendor from the market. Jenny has 351,638 influence. That’s enough to begin part 2 of the plan.

Becoming a millionaire is fun and easyDue to her crafting badges, Jenny has “memorized” a lot of generic enhancement recipes, so doesn’t have to pay to buy them from the crafting station. The crafting itself is half cost. So she can craft, for example, level 35 Recharge generics for about 30,000 influence each. These enhancements also require Spell Ink and Circuit Board components, which are, at the time, going for 40,000 and 10,000 each. So, for roughly 80,000 influence, I can make level 35 Recharge generics. They sell for 300,000-500,000.

So, after three of them, Jenny is a millionaire. It’s taken a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon.

I spend the rest of the day stocking up on further Spell Inks and Circuit Boards, and crafting enough to fill my auction slots with Recharge generics, and I’m done for the day.

Day 2

When I log back in, all of the recharge enhancements have sold, and Jenny has 6,608,414 influence. I craft some more of them, and also begin speculating on yellow set enhancements. Set enhancements are where the real money in the market comes from: some of the better commonly available sets provide very significant bonuses, and each enhancement in the set will sell, crafted, for at least 10 million influence. Some enhancements are so good that each one of them sells for over 100 million influence (and this is before getting into the ultra-rare level 50-only purple enhancements or PvP-drop enhancements, that sell for even more).

Interestingly, there’s a lot of difference between the price of a recipe and the price of the crafted enhancement. Even though there’s no barrier to crafting in this game, many people will sell off recipes on the market rather than assembling the components and selling the finished enhancement. Meanwhile, even with all these recipes on the market, many players seem to be impatient enough to just buy finished enhancements; even a 50% or more savings is not enough to make it worth it to them to buy a recipe and make the enhancement themselves. So there’s tremendous money to be made from buying recipes and salvage and crafting them into enhancements for sale.

Tremendous money.

At this point, I’m mostly looking at yellow (uncommon) recipes. While the orange (rare) recipes tend to have better sale prices (few yellow enhancements sell for more than 10 million), they also tend to require rare salvage for at least one of their components. Nearly every rare component in the game auctions for 1-2 million influence, so it’s a bit early for Jenny to start speculating on those. Yellows, though, tend to use much more cheaply available salvage. I get a couple from a melee damage set (Smashing Haymaker) and craft both for under 300,000 including all costs. By the end of the evening they’ve both sold for over 3 million each. With the sale of these plus the generics, Jenny has 16,991,103 influence.

I grab a couple more yellow recipes (Decimation, a ranged damage set) that seem to sell for a decent bit, craft them and put them up with some more recharges, and go to bed.

Day 3

I return to everything having sold, and Jenny’s up to 22,181,440 influence.

Today brings full on experimentation with yellow recipes, and I’m moving away from generics. They have a consistent 400% profit margin, but my 18-auction-at-a-time limit is already becoming a problem. Essentially, limiting to generics means I will turn over around 5 million influence a day unless I constantly log in to turn over sales. It’s good money, but it would take over a year to reach the influence cap at 2 billion that way.

I put nearly all of Jenny’s ready cash into a variety of Luck of the Gambler (defense) recipes and Numina’s Convalescence (healing) recipes; these are from the same set as a couple of the enhancements that sell for over 100 million each, and my hope is that someone dropping 100 million will not worry about more dropped on the rest of the set. Nonetheless, I’m probably dipping into orange recipes a little sooner than make sense. I also grab some yellow Efficacy Adaptors (endurance). All of it gets crafted and posted.

Day 4

It's starting to get labor intensive to get richThe profit margin wasn’t as good as I hoped, and all of the previous day’s work only increase Jenny’s liquid funds by 50% to 36 million. My rate of increase is slowing down as I begin to make huge amounts of influence; but it’s still better than selling generics.

Another mistake I make today is continuing to speculate too early on orange recipes. I hope for a big payday and invest most of my money in a more expensive Luck of the Gambler enhancement. It won’t sell for several days. I begin to learn that big money sales are for the weekend, when lots of people are playing; it’s a better idea to stick to cheap and reliable sales to the weekday crowd.

Day 5

It’s another very slow day. Jenny’s now poorer than she was on day 2. I start trying to flip orange salvage.

Flipping is the process of putting in lowball bids for items with the intention of immediately listing them for enough to make a profit. The CoH forums tend to explode about flipping in a way they don’t for buying and crafting cheap recipes, as there’s the intuition that people flipping are adding nothing to the game, merely making money by making things more expensive for everyone.

The counter argument is that flippers stabilize the market and maintain supply of necessary components: since flippers are buying things people are listing 1-2 per auction slot and re-listing them 10 to a slot, there’s more space for stuff on the market. Additionally, anyone is guaranteed a quick (if small) return on listing components that they might otherwise vendor as worthless.

Nonetheless, I feel a little dirty as I begin buying orange salvage at around 1 million to sell at 2 million. I’ll have to assuage my feelings with the sweet, sweet profit.

Day 6

Hey, it’s Friday, it’s free reactivation weekend, and things are picking up.

My flipped salvage has come through nicely, and I’ve sold a couple of yellow recipes. I begin to realize that yellow recipes are the safe bet. I buy a bunch of them and post them.

Day 7

Saturday is pretty much the busiest day of the week. My stuff sells, I pick up some more items to flip for cheap, and the lead weight around my neck that was the expensive Luck of the Gambler I made earlier in the week finally goes. By the middle of the day Jenny has nearly 56 million.

Feeling a bit saucy, and more confident of a sale on the weekend, I jump back into orange recipes, picking up a Numina’s Convalescence: Heal, a Performance Shifter: Endurance Mod/Recharge, a Performance Shifter: Chance for extra endurance (a big favorite to slot into Stamina, which everyone has), and a Blessing of the Zephyr: Knockback Reduction (an enhancement that goes into any travel power and makes your character resistant to being knocked back by attacks; another big favorite).

100 million is nothing to sneeze atAll these sell overnight, and I’m happily sitting at over 100 million influence.

But, things slow down a lot from here…

Part 2

System Review: Nobilis, Conclusion

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Nobilis seems to be pretty confusing for most players. It’s a beautiful coffee table book that segues seamlessly between rules and setting description, most of it delivered to at least some degree in-character, detailing a completely fantastical take on the modern world in which players are expected to portray modern godlings that participate in a war for reality via their mastery of metaphorical concepts and skill with semantics. That is, there’s a lot going on.

The system for the game is entirely purpose-built for its task, and, in many ways, must be understood as an integral part of the hard-to-fathom setting. You’d have a hard time running the setting with another system, and you’d have a hard time using the system for any other setting (though I’ve heard tell experiments were made with Justice League-level superheros). Ultimately, the reality of the game world is so completely defined by the system that it’s hard to figure out when an issue with the system isn’t just an issue with the setting itself.

That said, perhaps what is most interesting about Nobilis is that it seemed to ride in ahead of the wave of indie game design that took off over the last decade via the help of the internet. Was it just an early adopter of some of its features, or did it actually inspire some degree of change in how certain things were handled? As mentioned previously, Nobilis is the first system I encountered that suggested rewarding players when their flaws caused the character grief in play, rather than giving an up front bonus that encouraged players to actually take flaws that they hoped wouldn’t ever hurt them. Most systems I’m aware of that were released since Nobilis do it that way. While less completely innovative, the focus on assembling abilities and environment as a form of player and GM collaboration (Nobilis’ Gifts and Chancels) seems to have taken off since its release.

There’s a new edition of Nobilis due out soon, and I’m interested to see whether it will involve more refinement of 2nd edition (the same stuff, only easier to understand and play) or whether it will lay out another series of innovations that will be confusing at first, but gradually come into common use over the next decade.

D&D/Pathfinder: Modified Buff Spells

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As per the most popular post on this blog, I have a few issues with some of the lower level buffs in 3.5/Pathfinder. Here are modified descriptions for some of them that I hope are less overpowering, but have some new features to make up somewhat for the nerfing.



School abjuration [good]; Level cleric 1, inquisitor 1, paladin 1, sorcerer/wizard 1
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M/DF


Range touch
Target creature touched
Duration 1 min./level (D)
Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance no; see text


This spell wards a creature from attacks by extraplanar creatures and mental control, and has three major effects.

First, the subject gains a +2 deflection bonus to AC against Outsiders.

Second, the subject gains a +2 resistance bonus to Will saves against mental control magic (including enchantment [charm] effects and enchantment [compulsion] effects).

Third, the spell creates a feedback field around the subject that can damage any Outsider that touches the warded creature, or any spellcaster that attempts to possess it. Whenever the subject is struck by the natural weapons of an Outsider, the attacker takes 2 damage. For every round an Outsider is in physical contact with the subject (e.g., grappling), the Outsider takes 2d6 damage. If the subject is possessed by a spellcaster (not simply compelled, but fully controlled as by Dominate Monster or Magic Jar), the possessor takes 2d6 damage per round. All damage dealt by this field is untyped and bypasses all Damage Reduction.

The protection against contact by Outsiders ends if the warded creature makes an attack against or tries to grapple the blocked creature. Spell resistance can allow a creature to overcome this protection and touch the warded creature without taking damage (the warded creature retains the bonus to AC, Will Saves, and feedback for possession). Outsiders allied with the deity of the caster (for divine versions of this spell) may be immune to all the effects of the spell.



School illusion (glamer); Level bard 2, cleric 2
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S


Range personal or long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level) (see text)
Area 20-ft.-radius burst centered on a creature, object, or point in space
Duration 1 minute/level or 1 round/level (D) (see text)
Saving Throw: Will negates; see text or none (object); Spell Resistance: yes; see text or no (object)


This spell can be cast in one of two ways.

The first method releases the spell energy around the caster. All objects within the radius are muffled by invisible mystical force, reducing their ability to produce noise. All creatures within the burst add the Caster Level of the effect to their Stealth checks to remain quiet (or half the caster level if the Stealth check represents both being quiet and being unseen). Affected creatures can leave the radius after the spell is cast and retain the bonus. Voices are muffled somewhat, but subjects retain the ability to speak and cast spells without penalty. This effect lasts for 1 minute per level.

The second method uses the energy to make an attack on the ability to vocalize. In this case, the spell is used at range. All creatures within the burst must make a Will save. If the save is failed, they lose the ability to make any noise for 1 round per level. This prevents spellcasting, sonic attacks (if created by the creature rather than as a spell-like ability or spell-completion effect), and speech in general. Once affected, leaving the area of effect does not eliminate the silence.

Magic Circle


School abjuration [good]; Level cleric 3, paladin 3, sorcerer/wizard 3
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, F (a circle of silver or silver dust describing the boundaries of the magic circle)


Range special (see text)
Area special (up to 10-ft.-radius) (see text)
Duration 10 min./level
Saving Throw Will negates (special); Spell Resistance no; see text


This spell empowers a circle of silver with warding effects. The circle must be made of unbroken silver, and can be up to 10 ft. in radius. While under the effects of the spell, the circle has Hardness 20 against all attacks to break it, but only 1 HP. If the circle is broken, the spell immediately ends.

Each Outsider that encounters the circle receives a single Will save. If successful, it can ignore the boundary of the circle (but those within are still protected, see below). If the save is a failure, however, the Outsider is unable to cross the circle, attack the circle, or direct any supernatural or spell-like abilities across the boundary of the circle (it can make purely physical ranged attacks across the circle, however).

All creatures within the area gain the effects of a Protection spell, and can enter and leave freely. These effects apply even to Outsiders that have successfully saved against being bound by the circle.

Outsiders can be called (e.g., via Planar Binding) into the circle by a caster standing outside of it. A creature successfully called in this manner is automatically treated as having failed the Will save against the circle. A Dimensional Anchor spell can be cast immediately before using a calling effect in this manner, and will automatically affect the called creature for the same duration as the Magic Circle (though the Dimensional Anchor can be Dismissed independent of the Magic Circle to allow called creatures to return home but not exit into the physical plane).

A Magic Circle can be made Permanent.

System Review: Nobilis, Part 3

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The thousandth cut is just as negligible as the first…

Nobilis’ combat is designed to model an epic action movie where a character can be covered with superficial wounds and bruises and be no more impeded or closer to dying than at the beginning of the day. However, once the character takes a significant wound, the story shifts to the injury and vulnerability, and new lesser injuries are a threat because the character is no longer at the top of his or her game. Essentially, characters get three different tiers of health levels, at least one of each, and cannot take damage to the easier-to-damage health levels unless the harder-to-damage levels are filled.

Dealing damage is a chart lookup. The amount by which the attack miracle exceeds the defense miracle is compared to the chart to see the maximum wound that can be inflicted by the attack. Characters can buy bonus powers, called Gifts, that make them harder to damage: in particular, the Durant gift is extremely cheap and a common place for players to spend leftover character points, and it shifts the amount needed to deal a major wound to a pretty drastic difference in attack vs. defense. The more expensive gifts make it even harder to deal damage.

Meanwhile, characters have an attribute called Spirit that makes them more difficult to hit at all with miracles (as well as providing a long-term ritual that, at even low levels of the attribute, makes non-miraculous damage negligible). In order to hit the character, the attacker must increase his or her miracle’s level by the character’s Spirit score. For example, against a character with Spirit 3, a 6 point attack becomes a 3 point attack: 3 of the levels of the miracle were allocated to penetrating the defenses. Specifically, this isn’t a reduction of damage, it’s a complete invalidation of the attack. If a character deals a 9 point miracle against a target with Spirit 1, and forgets to allocate for Penetration*, the target will ignore the miracle. There’s no straightforward indication that opponents are aware of a character’s Spirit score without trial-and-error; a savvy opponent will try free attacks with increasing amounts of Penetration until one of them succeeds, then try a big attack.

Ultimately, what this means in play is, in a fight:

  1. Characters make no-cost attacks on the target using their highest attribute, testing defenses until they ascertain the target’s Spirit.
  2. Characters see if no-cost attacks are sufficient to damage the target; they probably aren’t unless the target is already wounded.
  3. Characters unload huge value attacks to hopefully smash through the target’s major wounds (because there aren’t enough miracle points to test the target’s major wound threshold gradually, might as well spend heavy and all but guarantee a hit rather than slowly burning them to figure out the precise number). This is more complicated with some attributes than others (Aspect miracle levels are just an increase in power—level 5 is just a nastier version of level 4—but Domain miracles have prescribed effects at each level: it’s hard to figure out how to hurt someone with a Major Divination, even if that’s the exact level of power needed to hurt him).
  4. The target probably runs the hell away as soon as his or her major wounds are gone.


  1. The attacker has a min-maxed attack gift that always has maximum Penetration and huge damage, sufficient to down most targets (at one point, I costed out a maximum-Penetration attack with sufficient cost reduction to only cost as many character points as the damage intended to be dealt).

Ultimately, direct combat against a remotely comparably powered opponent is confusing, long, expensive, and unsatisfying. And, in a setting where characters are meant to snipe at one another and engage in long-term, subtle battles for power, this is not necessarily a bad thing: any character with a moment of thought put into defense is someone that you don’t want to engage in a giant anime battle if you can at all get what you want another way.

But when you’re playing a game with demigods as PCs, sometimes you’re in it for the knock-down, earthquake causing, building-destroying giant anime battles. Nobilis can do those, but it’s probably not what the system does best.

So the damage system is, though entirely arguably in line with the desired play experience, ultimately flawed.

* Yes, it’s just as snicker-worthy in play as it reads.


Vampire: Older Character Gen

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This is intended to allow older vampire characters to coexist with younger ones in the same PC group: age provides definite improved character stats, but youth includes some significant bonuses regarding quick advancement and activity within the setting.

For five-dot traits, First dot costs half, fourth dot costs double, fifth dot costs triple (for base points and freebies). Out-of-clan disciplines cost one extra point per dot.

If generation allows these to go over 5, each dot costs new level (times base freebie cost with freebies).

Willpower, Humanity (and any other 10-dot traits) costs 2 freebies up to 5, 3 freebies up to 8, and 4 freebies up to 10.

Age Attributes Skills Disc. Bg. Morality WP Hum. Free
1 9/6/3 10/7/4 2 4 10 3 7 20
2 10/6/3 11/8/5 3 6 10 3 7 30
3 10/7/3 12/9/6 5 8 9 4 7 40
4 10/7/4 13/10/7 7 10 9 4 6 50
5 11/7/4 14/11/8 9 12 8 5 6 70
6 11/8/4 15/12/9 11 14 8 5 6 90
7 11/8/5 16/13/10 13 16 7 6 5 120
8 12/8/5 17/14/11 15 18 7 6 5 150
9 12/9/5 18/15/12 17 20 6 7 5 200
10 12/9/6 19/16/13 19 22 6 7 4 250


  1. Newly Embraced (0-4 years)
  2. A few years undead (5-10 years)
  3. Nearly a generation gone (11-22 years)
  4. Early 20th Century birth (23-46 years)
  5. All contemporaries are dead (47-94 years)
  6. They call me Ancilla now (95-190 years)
  7. Few active are older than I (191-382 years)
  8. Am I an elder already? (383-766 years)
  9. Torpor is an old friend (767-1534 years)
  10. I am a whisper of the past (1535-3070 years)

Benefits and Consequences of Age:

  • All chargen points are increased with Age
  • Roll exp as dice vs. diff equal to Age to keep
  • Roll for downtime actions is diff equal to Age
  • Characters must take one dangerous secret or similar flaw per level of age
  • Characters may have to roll against Age to avoid Torpor in sessile situations

Downtime Actions

Roll 1d per week of downtime vs. Age, each becomes a point that can be placed in various categories; points stack until expended or attacked by a rival

  • Culture: Spend to add dice to social dice among supernatural, persuasion against mortals
  • Exploration: Spend to add dice when superior knowledge of territory would be helpful
  • Planning: Spend to add dice when the situation could have been prepared for in advance
  • Power: Spend to declare local control/influence (1-10 scale for minor to major manipulations)
  • Reputation: Spend for bonus social dice among mortals, intimidation against supernatural
  • Secrets: Spend to add dice when having an ear to the ground might help against a supernatural target
  • Security: Spend to add dice to defensive rolls in locations that could be considered secure
  • Study: Spend to add dice to extended action supernatural effects or knowledge rolls
  • Sustenance: Spend to automatically recover blood points when off screen (One point per BP)
  • Wealth: Spend to declare access to specialized equipment or convert to raw cash: roll 1d10 per point spent, total results, sum x 100 is dollar value