Power Surges

Paranormal powers are poorly understood and potentially very dangerous. Whatever the cause of paranormal powers may be, it appears that using them manipulates some kind of energy beyond normal definitions. A person who can hurl flames, read minds, or bend space and time is somehow altering the very fabric of reality, or arguably surpassing what we assume to be real.

Periodically, those energies run wild, causing the paranormal’s powers to surge out of their control, possibly harming themselves or others. These power surges are not well researched, and don’t seem to afflict every paranormal.

Often, paranormals who have suffered surges have stated that prior to the event, they felt a sort of “pressure” or impending build-up of energies. They find these sorts of feelings difficult to describe, since they don’t seem to necessarily correspond with any form of physical stress. Therapuetic methods for dealing with this potential are in development by groups like the Rosemont Center, but like many elements of parascience such research is in its infancy.

GAME RULES

In the Paragons campaign, a Power Surge can take place when one of the following things happen:

- A character uses Extra Effort to enhance a power in some way, whether increasing the power’s rank temporarily, or gaining a temporary Extra for the power. The chance of a Power Surge is the same whether or not the player spends a Hero Point to ignore the fatigue of Extra Effort.

- A player rolls a natural 1 or a natural 20 on any roll involving an active use of a power (including attack rolls, and skill, ability, or power checks). This does not apply to passive uses of powers, such as Protection.

- The character is stunned while using a power with a duration of Sustained or Concentration.

- When a character is under extreme emotional stress. This may be due to social or psychological Complications, or decided by roleplaying and the GM’s judgment.

In order to resist having a Power Surge, the player makes a Will check against a DC of 10 plus the character’s Power Level. Thus, as a paranormal becomes more powerful, their powers become more and more difficult to control, although their Will defense bonus may also increase.

In cases where multiple conditions apply, each additional condition increases the DC of the Will check by +2. A character is only required to make one Will save per round to avoid Power Surges, regardless of the number of conditions, and makes only one check per condition for as long as the condition applies. So only one check is required for a particular emotional stress or stunned condition, for example, even if it lasts longer than a round.

A successful Will check means no Power Surge, but the character gains a Surge Point. A failed Will check means a Power Surge occurs. Players may spend a Hero Point to improve Will checks as normal.

POWER SURGE EFFECTS

A Power Surge causes the character’s powers to go out of control. It is much like an uncontrolled use of Extra Effort, with results dictated by the GM.

The character is stunned for 1 round after the Power Surge ends with the usual effects of that condition. One round after that, they are fatigued. If they are already fatigued (such as from a previous use of Extra Effort), then they are exhausted, and if exhaused they become unconscious. The player may also spend a Hero Point to ignore the fatigue of a Power Surge, as normal.

For a normal Power Surge, apply the effects of Extra Effort and the Uncontrolled Flaw to one of the character’s powers. This is often, but not always, the power that triggered the Surge itself. The GM decides the exact effects of any given Power Surge, with input from the players, as desired. Possible Power Surge effects include:

- A power is used for an immediate attack against a random target with a +2 bonus to power rank. The attack is rolled normally using the character’s normal attack bonus.

- The power acquires a new Extra (like a normal use of Extra Effort) that activates wildly on its own. A paranormal with Energy Blast might suddenly acquire an Area version as a power stunt, emitting an omni-directional blast of power, or a Dazzle effect as a power stunt, releasing a cascade of blinding light.

- One of the character’s other powers activates at random and at +2 power rank, such as a flying character suddenly taking off at full speed or a teleporter vanishing into thin air.

CONTINUOUS POWER SURGES

If a Power Surge involves an instant power like Energy Blast, then its effects occur and end immediately, although the damage and after-effects might linger for some time. A Surge involving a sustained or continuous power may continue after the initial round. Each round after the initial Surge, the player makes another Will check for the character with the same DC, but with a +1 bonus for each round. A successful save means the paranormal gets the Surge under control and its effects stop.

A failed save means the Surge continues another round. The Surge may continue with the same effects as before, or it may change, depending on the GM’s whim. The Surge doesn’t grow any more powerful, but an out-of-control flier may suddenly change direction, or a character uncontrollobly broadcasting his emotions may change the feeling he’s generating.

A successful Will check to stop an ongoing Power Surge does not earn a Surge Point, unlike a save to prevent a Power Surge from occurring, nor can a natural 1 or 20 on the roll cause another Surge to take place.

SURGE POINTS

The previous section describes the normal effects of a Power Surge. Those change if the character has garnered any Surge Points from resisting previous Surges. Each successful Will check to avoid a Power Surge causes the character to acquire a Surge Point. Characters can accumulate an unlimited number of these points and they are difficult to get rid of prior to another Surge. Surge Points represent a build-up of paranormal power; by resisting a Power Surge the character only delays it, and ensures the Surge will be more severe when it finally does happen.

Each Surge Point a character has applies a cumulative -1 to their Will check to resist having a Power Surge, and augments the effects of the Surge itself when it does finally happen.

The exact impact this has on the Surge is at the GM’s discretion, but some examples include:

- Applying an additional increase to the affected power’s rank; +2 per Surge Point. As a general rule, most powers won’t exceed twice their normal rank, but this is at the GM’s discretion.

- Applying additional Extras.

- Improving die rolls associated with the Power Surge. One Surge point allows the GM to add +10 to any die roll associated with a Surge that is 10 or less. Two Surge Points turn any such die roll into an automatic 20 (although not a natural 20). This only applies to rolls made by the GM for the affected power, not things like defenses or other checks made against the power’s effects.

After the character suffers a Power Surge, the character’s Surge Point total is reset to 0 and he begins building up Surge Points again from successful Will checks until a new Power Surge occurs.

ELIMINATING SURGE POINTS

Naturally, characters try to avoid Power Surges as much as possible. However, the more you avoid a Power Surge, the worse it will be when you inevitably succumb and lose control. A character with enough Surge Points can do considerable damage. Therefore, characters may try to find ways to “bleed off” their excess power, developing various sorts of “pressure valves” to keep them under control.

One means is for the character to trigger a deliberate Power Surge, generally under controlled conditions. You can always choose not to make a Will check to prevent a Power Surge, so some may choose to go somewhere suitably isolated, where they can trigger a Power Surge with a measure of safety and “blow off steam” before they lose control.

One of the drawbacks is the unpredictable nature of Power Surges. The character doesn’t have any control over how the Surge manifests and, the broader the character’s powers, the more unpredictable the Surge becomes. Since Power Surges can add Extras to a power (including Alternate Effects), there’s no telling what might happen. Therefore, it’s questionable whether or not any place is entirely “safe” for setting off a Surge. For example, a character out in an isolated area like the Sahara Desert or Antarctica might trigger a Power Surge that creates an environmental catapstrophe, such as a massive shockwave creating a desert storm or a heat pulse melting a tremendous amount of polar ice or turning desert sand into a sheet of glass.

Characters capable of surviving in space and leaving Earth have an additional option: they can trigger a Power Surge in deep space, with nothing nearby for millions of miles. This is the safest possible alternative, but there’s still no way of knowing what might happen. A space-faring character might still be capable of generating energy pulses that affect Earth in some way, from interfering with communications to bombarding the planet with increased levels of radiation, for example. Bring things like mental powers into play, and almost anything could happen.

The other drawback to deliberate Power Surges is that a Surge stuns the character (unless the player uses a Hero Point to overcome this). This means characters may be momentarily bereft of their protective powers after they Surge. So, a space-faring character must have appropriate Immunities; otherwise the cure is far worse than the malady as the character is exposed to the vacuum of space. An opponent may lie in wait and try to take advantage of a character’s momentary disorientation and fatigue. There’s also the possibiliy of encountering trouble on the way to an isolated locale to safely trigger a Power Surge. This in and of itself may cause the character to Surge prematurely.

However, intentionally having a Power Surge by way of opting to automatically fail the Will check does not risk the character developing an Aberration, fortunately.

Another means of eliminating Surge Points is the opposite of a deliberate Power Surge. A character who refrains from using any powers at all for a length of time can slowly “bleed off” the excess energies leading to Power Surges. This takes considerable time: A character must not use any powers for a full week to eliminate a single Surge Point. This includes continuous powers, which must be “switched off” during this time. Permanent powers still function, but the character cannot use any other powers during this time. Use of any power, even for a moment, means he has to start the process all over again.

The difficulty with this approach is it renders the character an ordinary mortal while eliminating Surge Points. This leaves paranormals vulnerable to their enemies, although they don’t necessarily advertise their vulnerability (and their enemies may not know the character’s powers are “on hold”). It also generally keeps them from pursuing any goals or activites requiring their powers. In fact, some paranormals simply can’t take a week off when there’s so much for them to do.

A character trying to avoid using any powers, but forced into a situation where power use is necessary, may be considered under the kind of stress that can cause a Power Surge. So, the effort of trying to desperately refrain from power use may actually trigger the Power Surge the character was hoping to avoid in the first place!

Finally, a player may spend a Hero Point to outright remove a Surge Point, once per game session. This represents extreme personal willpower, meditation, introspection, prayer, or some other form of self-overcoming that allows the player to shed the excess energies by force of will alone. Note that this cost of a Hero Point is entirely separate from any other Hero Points the player may have spent in regards to Surging, such as spending a Hero Point to improve the Will check to avoid having a Power Surge.

THE RISK OF ABERRATION

When a player fails a Will check to avoid a Power Surge (and not intentionally choosing to release the energies), they run the risk of developing an Aberration of some kind.

If the player fails the check by only one degree, they are not at risk of developing an Aberration and simply have their Power Surge as normal.

If they fail by two degrees, they risk developing a Minor Aberration. Once the Surge ends, they must make an immediate check against their Fortitude defense with a DC of 5 plus their current Power Level. If they fail that check, they gain a Minor Aberration.

If they fail by three degrees, they risk developing a Major Aberration. Once the Surge ends, they must make an immediate check against their Fortitude defense with a DC of 10 plus their current Power Level. If they fail that check, they gain a Major Aberration.

See the section on Aberrations for more details on them.

Power Surges

Paragons - Next Gen EricZenith