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Knocked out -- Champions Now

I've just had a session of Champions Now where a villain was knocked to 0 knockout. The players, being in control of the field for the moment, just blasted him a second time to ensure he did not wake up. Is that kosher by the rules? How is the rules about recovering the first time but not the second supposed to play out? It seems one can only really take advantage of the first waking up if your opponents are distracted. How does it play in your games?

Department: 
Actual Play

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Ron Edwards's picture

... that's kinda how the comics fights often end. The final punch is delivered to a villain who's clearly been shaken by the last exchange. More subtly, a given foe goes down when they (i) get hit hard and (ii) carom into something (or the thing collapses onto them) and thus take a second impact.

When those don't happen, then the villain is often "down" but able to surrender, thus avoiding the final strike. In fact, when the final strike occurs, it's usually because the foe is obviously shaken but is not giving up.

Maybe it's because I'm more used to seeing heroes get to this point rather than the villains, but another function of this rule is that it's a hard signal to the hero that they better change things up big-time. If they are at this point (first Knockout) and their allies cover for them, or they get to some concealed place, then they can recover quite well, perhaps even fully. And from that point you can typically see them address the whole confrontation differently.

A subroutine of that point is that the once-Knocked-Out but recovering hero can still operate quite soon, whereas the twice-Knocked-Out hero wakes up in considerably altered circumstances. You can see both of these very, very clearly distinguished from one another in the comics. So conceivably a hero will be "defeated" and hit the dirt, but has a whole second wind waiting for them with hardly any lag, so they continue to be "defeated" until, obviously, they actually really weren't. This doesn't even have to be consciously playing possum; the hero might even think of themselves as taken down the first time.

Anyway, that's getting far afield into edge cases. Back to the point, ideally, the game is designed to see both heroes and villains take massive amounts of Knockout more than historical Champions play has typically displayed. In one of those multi-character brawling dust-ups, with two or more sides, one or more characters per side is likely to be on the "second wave " of Knockout pretty soon. The ones who aren't are the ones who either have insane defenses (and are feared because of it) or they have been avoiding being hit.

What you say about how characters get knocked out in the comics helps me conceptualize what was going on in our game. I was focused on the mechanics and thinking a character with second wind needed to actual take their "wake up" recover before they could be knocked down a second time. In practice, I decided that the player's immediate second attack on the villain was sufficient.

I do recall scenes from comics where a knocked out character will start to wake up only to see an incoming fist.

In the battle I referred to in the first post, one of the heroes, Lord Kelvin, had already been knocked out once. As the field played out, he had time to recover. Action by another pc was distracting the villain while.

After that, Kelvin did change up tactics. He and The Mariner coordinated an attack on Bulldozer and knocked the big guy from 100% to zero in one shot. While Bulldozer's teammates were otherwise engaged, they gave him the second shot to ensure he stayed down.

Lord Kelvin's initial knockout actually brings up a related example. He was grabbed by Holocaust, who has a 4d6 severe, piercing aura. The special effect is burning fusion arcs that dance around Holocaust like solar flares (4" stretching, 4 extra limbs, and the aura). This stunned Kelvin the first segment and put him out in Holocaust's second action on segment 4. When Kelvin's phase came on 4, the player questioned whether he could recover because, in the fiction of the moment, he was encircled by a electromagnetic tendril of intense fusion flame.

In the moment, I felt bad about how quickly Holocaust had taken him out and I didn't want to KO Kelvin for good. (That Holocaust had KOed Kelvin the same way in a previous battle contributed to my feeling bad; Kelvin had no defense against the severe attack.) So I made the following argument: 1) the mechanics would normally let Kelvin spend his action on waking up, and 2) in a comic we'd see one panel of Kelvin in the fiery grip going "Argh!" and then a second of him fighting to stay awake. Further to my impulse to not ko the player, I had Holocaust drop him instead of give him the coup de gras, justifying it as being distracted by other plans.

In retrospect, I think the player's interpretation of the situation made sense with the special effects that were happening. It would have made sense if Kelvin was unable to recover in that situation.

(This is also an example of me backing off in favor of a player -- a phenomenon that Ron and I have emailed about. I'm getting better though! In the same battle I brought the pain at least two other times with no remorse.)

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