Sunday, August 26, 2012

'Bending Rules' for Cortex

-Bending is a type of magic from the world of 'Avatar: the Last Airbender' not to be confused with James Cameroon's 'Avatar' (which, for the record, horrible as it seems, I liked; 'the man who learns better' is my favorite plot). Last Airbender is about Avatar Aang, a sort of planetary defense mechanism, a living being who is the reincarnation of all previous Avatars and whose purpose is to protect the world and keep things in balance. It's also about his friends, especially the water tribe girl he falls in immediate puppy-love with, Katara, a water-bender and the last waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe at the south pole.

Katara's waterbending gives her the ability to move water around and change its state, solid, liquid and vapor so that she can throw ice daggers when she's mad (actually when she's really mad and terrifying!), bind hooligans in ice, or form appendages of water, a la 'The Abyss' to fight, block, and defend. The actual results are a special effect, but in roleplaying game terms you need to buy the abilities and the skills.

There are four bendings in LA, excluding energy-bending, which is reserved for the Avatar and certain ancient nature spirits. The aforementioned waterbending, earthbending, which is used by most of the peoples of the world, firebending, which is used by the 'bad guys' (and girls!), and airbending, used by Aangs' people, the Air Nomads who are extinct at the time of the series, wiped early in a hundred years of war perpetrated by the firebending Fire Nation. (For a children's cartoon, LA has some dark content, of which genocide and loss is merely one example. Orphan Avatar Aang is basically adopted by Katara and her brother Sokka, a water tribe warrior without waterbending who is constant comic relief throughout the series.)

For Cortex, my former player-group and I have run at least three campaigns featuring Bending (and Alchemy), and treated them as Assets which must be bought to power the ability and serve as the base attribute, like athletics is agility + athletics, waterbending is the asset plus the skill. And just like you can specialize athletics: 6  to dodge: d8, you can specialize waterbending: d6 to healing watergloves: d8 or, nastily, bloodbend: d12... Toph Bai Fong, Aang's Earthbending teacher, invents metalbending in the course of the series, but I'm sure some creative players can always come up with a lot of interesting and some truly disgusting ideas, approaching mud-bending from earth or water, perhaps shadowbending as an extreme form of firebending, or plantbending a la the swamp tribe. We've seen earthsurfing and airscooters, earthsliding trains and delivery systems, and firebending to lift airships.

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