stevekenson: (go-play)
[personal profile] stevekenson
Some superhero settings feature truly cosmic levels of power. While, in my experience, it is most often easier to simply treat such massively powerful beings as plot devices, sometimes it’s fun to consider the limits of the game system in terms of modeling them. Case in point: how many ranks of Damage would you need to destroy the Earth in the third edition of Mutants & Masterminds?
Now, a lot of it depends on how we define “destroy.” For the same of discussion, let’s stipulate the following:

• The Earth is an “object” in game terms (albeit a big one). So it is subject to the rules for damaging objects.

• While made of a variety of materials, we’ll consider the Earth’s base Toughness that of stone: rank 5.

• The “thickness” of the Earth is its diameter: 7,901 miles. That’s technically a distance rank of 20, since it’s shy of the 8,000 miles value of rank 21. Since an object’s Toughness equals its base rank + (distance rank + 7), that would make Earth’s Toughness rank 5 + (20 + 7) or 32.

• Let’s say that the Earth’s Toughness is also Impervious, so nothing less than Damage 17 even has a chance of damaging the planet as a whole. Anything else might mess up the landscape, but that’s all.

So, the minimum Damage rank (17) has a resistance DC of (17 + 15) or 32, the same as the planet’s Toughness value, meaning the resistance check pretty much can’t fail.

But wait: let’s assume the “attacker” is going to take the option of making an attack check, since the Earth is a pretty massive object. It’s not like he’s going to miss! That’s good for a critical hit and +5 Damage. Likewise, let’s assume the attacker goes for a Power Attack for – to the attack check and +2 Damage.

That ramps the Damage up to 24, or DC 39. Now the GM needs to roll a 7 or better for the planet to suffer no serious damage. A 6 or less means a Toughness reduction, while a 2 or less (for a Toughness check total of 34 or less) actually means two degrees of failure: the attack blows a hole clear through the planet! While that doesn’t shatter the Earth in one blow, it probably means the end of life as we know it as the molten core burst out and floods the surface.

(Indeed, if we were being really pedantic about this, we could probably stipulate the Earth’s “thickness” as that of the rocky mantle—mere tens of miles—since any attack that blasts through that will unleash the high-pressure molten magma from the core. But I digress...)

Ramping things up further, a Damage 20 attack, made with a successful attack check, a full Power Attack (+5 Damage), and some extra effort (for +1 Damage) does a whopping Damage 31, DC 46. The planet needs a die roll of 14 or better to avoid damage altogether. A roll of 9 or less means a hole punched right through the planet, while a roll of 4 or less shatters the enter planet in a single blast! So it’s quite possible for some high-level characters to at least threaten Earth-sized planets, to say nothing of smaller moons or the like. Take the Damage rank up by even 5– and the attacker has even odds of smashing planets with single attacks!

Date: 2010-12-05 03:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For a more practical example, how much strength is needed to push a planet (like, say, Thanagar) out of its orbit?

Date: 2010-12-05 04:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Already did that in M&M 2e, but probably in the neighborhood of Str 78, if you're going by an Earth-like planet's actual mass.

Date: 2010-12-06 04:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"since any attack that blasts through that will unleash the high-pressure molten magma from the core"

Not quite true. Yes, the magma is under pressure because it is covered with miles of dense material, but that doesn't mean it will pop out like a bottle of champagne if the crust is punctured. There are areas of pressure, but this is generally caused by the migration of magma up into the crust under specific conditions where it has dissolved water and carbon dioxide. This is why the volcanoes of the Cascade range are so dangerous (e.g., Mt. St. Helens) vs ones like Kilauea which aren't as much by comparison. What will actually happen in an "attack" on the crust (e.g., a large asteroid or such) is that an impact will cause the crustal material to liquify and vaporize, and this material will be ejected from the resulting crater to rain down on the rest of the planet. This molten ejecta will radiate heat as it ascends and descends, turning the atmosphere into a gigantic Jiffy Bake Oven, resulting in forest fires over a wide area, followed by planet-wide cooling as particulates of rock and smoke in the high atmosphere block sunlight from reaching the surface.

Date: 2010-12-06 04:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
MIchael, you spend far too much time thinking about planetary destruction... :-)

Date: 2010-12-06 05:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I usually use my powers for good. Be content with that. :-P

Date: 2010-12-06 10:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
... 3rd Edition? *begins to hyperventilate excitedly out here in the sticks*

Date: 2010-12-06 11:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In production as we speak. Same rules material as in the DC Adventures RPG.

Date: 2010-12-07 12:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Awww... see now you've got me all excited! LOL

Date: 2010-12-07 02:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
When I did the planetary destruction estimate in GURPS Supers, I treated the crust of the earth as "armor" and the entire mass of the earth as "hit points." It basically worked out, though, that any attack that could meaningfully damage the core would go through the crust without noticing it.



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