This article first appeared on my old ‘Professor Beej' blog and was written by Josh Bury (@ThrownGauntlet) all the way back in 2012. With it being smack-dab in the middle of #JRPGJuly right now, it seemed like a good time to bring this one out of the archive. If you've never heard of the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game, it is definitely worth checking out.
Welcome, True Believers! Even though the system is called Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, it is robust enough to create your own characters and datafiles (character sheets) from any property. This time, I wanted to try to create something very foreign to the Marvel Universe, while still making an interesting character that could actually be played in a game.
Ultimately, I came back to what is one of my favorite video game RPGs of all time: Final Fantasy VI.
This custom datafile represents Setzer immediately following the Opera, roughly 1/3 of the way through the game.
Here’s a brief description blurb for you, if you’re unfamiliar with the character:
Setzer Gabbiani is a playable character in Final Fantasy VI. He is a Gambler who lives on the wild side. He is the owner of the world’s only airship: the Blackjack. In the SNES version he is neutral at the beginning of the war, reluctant to openly oppose the Gestahlian Empire after having made profits from their work.http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Setzer_Gabbiani
When it came to creating Setzer for use in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, I had some pretty simple design goals:
- Emphasize the risk-taking aspect of the character.
- Provide a way of representing Setzer’s special ability, Slots, in the game.
- Give the character the unique ability to pilot his airship, The Blackjack.
Affiliations / Distinctions
Notorious Gambler can be used for a lot of Setzer’s actions and represents the fact that he is generally well-known to everyone. Daring Airship Pilot is fairly straightforward, I think, and can be used for actions involving vehicle use.
Grief-stricken Wanderer refers to Setzer’s past with Daryl. For those who don’t know, he feels guilt for a woman who died in a race with him, and whom he loved dearly. This backstory is further elaborated on in his Limit and his first Milestone.
Gambling was the product of my desire to truly represent the risk-taking of the character. In Final Fantasy VI, Setzer actually makes his physical attacks with various pieces of gambling equipment: darts, dice, and cards. I wanted the SFX names to represent this flavor.
Beyond that though, I wanted the power set as a whole to be high-risk, high-reward and to portray the gambling nature of the character. My idea was to give Setzer the ability to roll many d6s, since these have a fairly large chance of coming up as a “1”–which cannot be used for total or effect dice. In addition, six-sided dice are what are normally used in real life for games of chance involving dice, so it just felt right. The Stacked Deck, Doom Darts and Man of Many Talents SFXs give Setzer access to these d6s.
Having decided that I wanted Setzer to roll many d6s, I went about designing Slots. I thought the best way to represent Slots was to use three dice coming up with the same value. Rather than force the player to make a Slots attempt, I decided it was easier and player-friendly to just let it trigger if it happened, but to have some of the effects key off whether or not the action succeeded and to make it only work on a player’s action and not their reaction.
Running some quick and messy calculations, I discovered that on 5d6 there was about a 20% chance of a single number coming up three times, but that includes 1s, which are useless for Slots as well as for total or effect dice. As a result I tried to make the effects from Slots powerful, but not insanely so. The most powerful effect is on three instances of 7, which is obviously only possible if Setzer chooses not to split into d6s. For the effects themselves, I used Slots effects from the videogame and modified them to work in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, trying to keep them close to the original while making them each different.
I also ended up re-wording Slots so that it stated that it happened after action resolution so that dice re-rolled with the Fixed Dice SFX would be the ones used for Slots resolution.
Setzer’s Limit, Memories of Daryl, is indicative of his emotionally-closed identity. He eventually does open up about Daryl, but not until it becomes absolutely necessary.
Of course in Final Fantasy VI, the reason Setzer is recruited by the party at all is his airship, The Blackjack. I felt it would be appropriate to create an item power set for it. As the Details section indicates, only one hero can be the “pilot” of the airship at any time. The pilot is the only one who can add the power traits to his or her dice pool unless otherwise stated in the SFX.
The SFX for the airship are mostly utility-based, and don’t enhance the power of the pilot, although they can let him protect the people on it. I felt this was in keeping with the airship’s use in the game – it isn’t a weapon, but rather a mode of transportation, a base of operations, and sometimes a battleground.
Obviously, as an airship, staying airborne is a priority. The Airborne Vessel limit means that if you lose the ability to fly, you better fix situation quickly. The Bulky limit was put in place simply to prevent stacking of reflexes when that isn’t very representative of someone who is piloting the craft.
These are all fairly straightforward. Specifically though, Vehicle Master was an important addition as Setzer is essentially the only person in the party in Final Fantasy VI who pilots the airship.
The Woman I Loved is all about Setzer’s emotional struggle with what happened to Daryl and how he ends up reacting to other women as a result.
“My life is a chip in your pile. Ante up!” is based on Setzer’s line as he joins your party. I wanted this milestone to be about his commitment to the party and how they deal with his risk-taking nature.Click the Image Above to Download “The Blackjack” FFVI Item Power Set for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying
So there you have it: Setzer Gabbiani and his airship! Hope you enjoyed the overview of the FFVI favorite, and remember to check out the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game itself. It may be out of print, but there are digital versions available, too!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this black from the past. I'd love to hear your thoughts on FFVI, Setzer, more old-school archive posts, or even Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. Join the conversation on Discord or Twitter. And again, much love to Josh for putting this whole thing together way before G2G was a twinkle in my eye.