Sunday, February 9, 2014

Super Sunday – Power Grids to FASERIP

Recently I got sucked into the fairly extensive Marvel Universe Wiki at Marvel.com. One of the interesting things is that they use a standardized "Power Grid" (PG) metric of common abilities, the same device that the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (OHOTMU) has been using since at least 2004 (see here for details). So it's a tool that has quite a bit of usage and development at this point, and I was wondering how feasible it would be to convert these values to the classic Marvel Super Heroes FASERIP game.



Now first of all, only 4 of these categories directly match up with FASERIP abilities: Intelligence:Reason, Strength:Strength, Durability:Endurance, Fighting Skills:Fighting. Three FASERIP abilities are effectively left out: Agility, Intuition, and Psyche. The Speed and Energy Projection categories in the Power Grid reflect Powers, not core abilities in the FASERIP game.

The next question is, for those abilities that do correlate, how to convert from numbers to ranks? Note that the Power Grids (PG) have a 7-point scale, while FASERIP have 10 ranks from Feeble to Unearthly, so at least 3 of the former have to cover multiple of the latter. Here's the best that I could come up with:


Here's some commentary on how valid this is: The categories on the far ends are clearly correct and not up for debate: in the PG, a value of 1 means "below normal" (Feeble or Poor in FASERIP), and 2 means "normal human" (Typical); the value 7 indicates a maximum superhuman (Unearthly).

The place where there's possibly some debate is the range 3-6 or so -- the long "flat spot" in the FASERIP ranks, where the game was really optimized to handle mid-level heroes like Spider-Man, Captain America, or Wolverine with extra granularity (and not so much higher- or lower-powered characters). There's some evident "gray zone" here, and the PG value of 4 might reasonably convert to any of Excellent, Remarkable, or Incredible, in different cases.

Generally if I check against the top 8 Marvel heroes as featured on the Wiki (Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Nick Fury, Black Widow -- i.e., ones recently featured in the movies), and compare Official Power Grid ratings to FASERIP game ranks, then the conversions are either spot-on or within about 1 rank higher or lower.

However, it's impossible for the conversions to be completely consistent. For example: in Fighting Ability, Spider-Man and the Hulk get PG 5 and FASERIP Remarkable, while Wolverine gets a PG 4 and FASERIP Incredible (that is: lower in the Power Grid but higher in FASERIP), and there's no way for any conversion to synch up with that twisted reversal. In general, when the conversions are off I think I trust the actual FASERIP values as being more well-considered. (Wouldn't you agree that Wolverine should be a more experienced fighter than Spider-Man or the Hulk?) A confounding factor might be that possibly the characters have evolved in key ways in the last 30 years of comic continuity, but I doubt that's a major factor.

On Strength: Technically, the Strength Power Grids are given weight-value definitions that would correlate with a FASERIP rank one step higher than that shown above (examples: PG 2 is "up to twice own body weight", like FASERIP Good "400 lbs with difficulty"; PG 5 is "up to 75 tons", similar to FASERIP Monstrous "80 tons with difficulty", etc.) But on the other hand, actual characters in the Marvel Wiki have scores that do convert according to the table above (examples: Captain America PG 3 with published FASERIP Excellent; Thor and the Hulk with PG 7 and FASERIP Unearthly). So I would go with that, which has the added advantages of being aligned with the other abilities, and allowing the Power Grid range to synch up with the Feeble-to-Unearthly span (no Class 1000 or the like).

On Speed: You would kind of like the Speed category to correlate with the FASERIP Agility, but it doesn't. The Speed Power Grid represents mobility by way of flying or super-speed, and needs to get converted to a Power in the MSH game (examples: PG 3 "Subsonic Superhuman: peak velocity below Mach-1 (approximately 760 miles per hour)", PG 6 "Speed of light: peak velocity up to 186,000 miles per second"). So it's entirely uncorrelated with the Agility ability. Some examples would be Captain America (no speed power: PG 3 vs. Incredible Agility; 2 levels higher) or Thor or Cannonball (high speed but low agility: Thor 6/Ex, Cannonball 4/Pr; in each case 3 levels lower). A really extreme case would be the Hulk who is listed at PG 7 Speed but only Poor Agility, a difference of fully 8 ranks. (Side question: Can anyone explain to me why the Hulk is given a "Warp Speed" classification on the Wiki?)

On Intelligence: While we would like some better way of estimating a character's FASERIP abilities for Intuition and Psyche, unfortunately it's pretty clear that the PG Intelligence correlates to Reason and nothing else; the conversions above work fairly well for the Reason ability, but not for the other abilities. Some key examples of characters with low Reason but high Intuition/Psyche would be Wolverine (PG 2, RIP Ty/Mn/In), Thor (PG 2, RIP Ty/Gd/Am) and Daredevil (PG 3, RIP Ty/Mn/Gd); in each case the PG Intelligence is about correct for Reason, and does not reflect the higher special mental ability. Somewhat ambiguous cases might be Dr. Strange (PG 4, Gd/Mn/Un) or Professor X (PG 7, In/Am/Mn), where the Intelligence scores seems skewed a bit upward in recognition of their famed mental abilities. Overall: You'll have to come up with your own Intuition/Psyche estimates, because they are not usually reflected in the PG Intelligence value.

Conclusions: For less-known characters who never got FASERIP statistics, there may be some value in looking up the Marvel Wiki Power Grid and using the table above as a starting point for the character's Fighting, Strength, Endurance, and Reason scores. The PG Speed and Energy Projection values might be used as an estimate for the Ranks in those super powers (although this is untested). However, judgements must be made because there are some points of disagreement in the systems, and in some cases the Wiki assessments seem suspect (possibly more so the more unknown the character is). Furthermore, the FASERIP abilities of Agility, Intuition, and Psyche have no direct correlates, and must be estimated by the judge in the traditional fashion of comparing to other characters in the role-playing game.

5 comments:

  1. Fighting Skills might have folded in Agility and even Intuition and Strength to some degree, thus accounting for Spider-Man and the Hulk's higher rank over Wolverine. Looking at the early/mid-eighties of FASERIP, Spider-Man could dance circlesa round Wolverine with his higher agility and spiders sense.

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  2. That only partially explains it, as Wolvie's MSH RPG Intuition rank was Monstrous - higher than Spidey's!

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  3. Yeah, I was going to suggest the Wiki's "fighting" stat is a combo of FA from FASERIP (I would not include Intuition as, other than initiative determination, Intuition is not a stat normally used in a MSH slugfest)...this accounts for Spider-Man having overall better fighting ability than Wolverine.

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  4. You know, on second pass (just spent some time on the Marvel Wiki myself this morning) those power grids are all f'd up. I was just looking at the "official ratings" on each: Spider-Man moves at supersonic speed? Nightcrawler the master of all forms of combat? Danny Rand super-genius? Captain Britain maxed out in every stat? Misty Knight is omniscient and a master of all forms of combat?! WTF?!

    I think whoever was tending these Power Grids got bored, long ago, and just started assigning random numbers rather than using their own official scale.

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    1. Those are indeed pretty telling examples. The Captain Britain thing in particular seems totally insane (unless they've massively changed the character's continuity, which I don't think they have). I agree, if FASERIP writeups exist for a character, definitely better to trust that.

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