PRT Power Classifications Analysis: Part 2


So last time I talked about the canon list, and covered how I think it has flaws.

Here I lay out what I would expect a list to look like.

Note, first and foremost, that I would simply dump the Changer and Breaker ratings, as they serve little to no purpose for PRT squads. I can buy that Changer is a term in cape culture lingo, but it's not terribly useful to the PRT when Stranger+Brute/Striker covers it just fine, as far as tactical implications, and Breaker has no value as a rating at all, or very little if you run with my attempt to describe how canon applies it.

All the PRT Quest descriptions are pulled from this Google Document and were penned by Wildbow. They can be found near the bottom if readers want to confirm I'm not making them up. 

Mover

As per canon. The PRT Quest description is:

Mover

General response is to limit movements where possible, anticipate attack from any direction.  When declared in the field, if possible, append classification with type.  Mover: Teleporter!

Threat level 2+: Communicate mover nature.  Where possible, move fight to a contained area where free-ranging movement is less effective, targeting objectives or other threats to draw attention and focus.  Lock down area.

Threat level 5+:  Assume containment is impossible.  Clearance granted for truck-mounted nonlethal measures (net launchers, foam sprayers) that might otherwise inconvenience locals.

Threat level 9+:  Higher office and PRT offices in nearby or neighboring cities should be notified of possible threat or retaliation in case of confrontation.

I have no objections or additions to this. I would presume internal PRT doctrine is more detailed, but PRT Quest's summaries are just that: summaries.

Shaker

As per canon. The PRT Quest description follows.

Shaker

Can affect a broader area, asserting some degree of control over the battlefield.  May include gas, explosions, forcefields, and ambient or radiated effects.

General response is to spread out, minimizing the shaker’s ability to affect multiple individuals at once.

Threat level 2+:  Communicate shaker nature.  Where possible, move or stagger fight locations with some regularity, to slow their ability to seize total command over a battlefield.  Shaker-class threats take high priority, and can or should be baited out and taken out of action.

Threat level 5+:  All individuals should remain as mobile as possible, operating alone or in pairs.  Evacuate the area, and personnel are warned not to rely too much on cover, environmental advantages, or situational advantages.  Stagger confrontations, leaving an area when identified.

Threat level 9+:  Evacuation takes utmost priority.

The only point I'll note is that I've always found it a little odd how force-field-generating capes are considered to fall under Shaker, as Shaker's descriptions seem to be premised under the assumption that a Shaker slowly tightens their control over a region the longer they remain in it. By contrast, force-field powers are usually rapidly generated and moved, but only last as long as the creator retains focus on them and often have a fairly harsh upper limit on how many can be deployed at once. The overall result is that Shaker policy isn't very useful for fighting someone like Narwhal: Blaster and Brute are probably much more usefully accurate descriptors for her battlefield threat.

Otherwise I see no problem with it.

Brute

Probably rename to something like "Survivor", and in any event reclassify it as being specifically for capes that are superhumanly durable. PRT Quest description follows.

Brute

Has enhanced strength or durability, most dangerous in a melee, typically very difficult to put down.  While the execution may remain fairly stable, the source of this power can vary.

General response depends on degree of brute classification, but should involve focusing fire, limiting movements, and maintaining a safe distance.

Threat level 2+:  Communicate brute nature.  Assume divided fire will not have any serious effect, and devote focused fire to the target. Treat as low priority unless movements cannot be restricted, in which case the brute can be escalated to moderate priority.

Threat level 5+:  Assume standard munitions are not going to hamper the brute.  Lethal munitions are authorized, truck emplacements are authorized.  Property damage should be expected and accounted for.  Where possible, move fight to an open area.

Threat level 9+:  Inter-city missile emplacements and other large scale munitions are authorized.  Assume standard parahuman abilities are not going to hamper the target.

These guidelines basically reinforces my stance: aside from "Property damage should be expected and accounted for" and "maintain a safe distance" the focus is primarily centered on an assumption of extreme durability. The superstrength is a secondary focus. I find it especially curious that the guidelines don't allude to impromptu projectiles. Superstrength is a wonderful thing for picking up lightpoles and hurling them, picking up tanks and hurling those, etc.

Functionally, Brute is being treated as a defensive rating. I feel it would be an improvement to make that explicit. That aside, it's perfectly functional.

Striker

In line with the previous post, I would ensure this was only applied in cases where the cape is dangerous in close combat/when allowed to touch the opposition, and exclude capes like Othala whose power is applied through touch but is not threatening to the person being touched. The PRT Quest description follows.

Striker

Has a power that applies on physical contact.  Often applies a changed state, like the breaker classification, but isn’t personal.  Melee range, but not strength or durability, as per Brute.

General response is to maintain a set distance and maintain visual on the striker.  Open areas are preferrable to cramped quarters.

Threat level 2+:  Team is notified as to the striker classification.  Formation should maintain a distance.  Foam sprayers authorized.

Threat level 5+:  Truck mounted foam sprayers and net guns are authorized.

Threat level 9+:  None.

This description is actually inconsistent with canon in two major ways: firstly, canon explicitly claims that certain forms of superstrength do get classified as Striker powers, where this explicitly claims a Striker-rated cape doesn't have superstrength. Secondly, this confirms my statements that canon is wildly inconsistent with Striker: this description restricts the Striker rating to capes whom you don't want getting close to and making contact with your people, while canon applies Striker to literally any power that requires touch to activate/target. I really wish canon had actually held to the standard implied by this description.

That said, Striker is perfectly functional when held to that standard.

Master

I would restrict it to powers that provide the ability to control or manipulate humans. The PRT Quest description follows.

Master

Has the ability to control others.  Can include degrees of control (swaying attitudes or emotions) and a wealth of controlled entities (individuals, animals, objects, created beings).

Numbers assumed to be equal, masters take second highest priority and are targeted first.

Threat level 2+:  Team is notified as to master classification.  Master prioritized as target, with likely location regularly communicated to team and oversight, to allow expedient removal.

Threat level 5+:  Assuming nonhuman, non-sapient minions, full lethal munitions are authorized against any massed forces.  In case of controlled humans, all standard ‘eyes-on’ protocols are in effect (see Changer and Stranger).  Passwords in effect.

Threat level 9+:  Inter-city missiles and other large-scale munitions may be authorized, depending on the situation.

This description is a good example not only of what I've already said, but of still other problems with the Master rating: the description given here could be meaningfully applied to Rune, but her power gets framed as telekinesis and is given a Striker rating because she has to touch objects to manipulate them first, not a Master rating even though she "controls objects."

Also notice how the 5+ rating has two entirely different protocols based on whether the controlled entities are human or not. That's bad when the entire point of a name/number combo like this is to provide critical information clearly and quickly to people in battlefield conditions. Having two different protocols for the same rating at the same threat level is not something that should ever happen in any rating. It's a very clear indication the rating isn't doing its job re: rapidly disseminating critical information.

Once it's restructured to be limited to people who control humans, these problems all fall away. See what I am calling 'Officer' below for other forms of control.

Stranger

As per canon. The PRT Quest description follows.

Stranger

Powers predominantly lend themselves to infiltration.  Ability in question might bypass defenses, mislead, or help to avoid notice.

Full ‘eyes on’ is SOP where possible.  Other safeguards include indiscriminate fire and high priority targeting.

Threat level 2+:  Team is notified as to stranger classification.  Areas may be secured and ‘taped’, to track movement through doors or windows.  Passwords in effect.

Threat level 5+:  Constant communication between every team member and a relay in the operations room is implemented, complete with passwords and personal passwords.

Threat level 9+:  Nonlethal shoot-on-sight implemented for anyone who goes ‘dark’ for any period of time.

The only thing I have to add is: again, why is Night rated as a Stranger? She in no way fits to what's given here.

Tinker

As per canon. PRT Quest description follows.

Tinker

Can create devices or alter existing devices well beyond usual restrictions of education, knowledge, resources, and/or physics.

Tinkers are less dangerous when removed from their gear, but should not be assumed to be harmless.  A typical tinker can artificially assume any number of other classifications, depending on specialty.  Specialty should be appended to the classification in every case possible.  (ie. phasing specialty or electricity specialty)

Threat level 2+:  Team is notified as to tinker classification.  Disruption is encouraged, with use of flashbangs.

Threat level 5+:  Electromagnetic pulses are authorized to disrupt gear, with some property damage likely.

Threat level 9+:  Other tinkers or liasons should be contacted to better inform about capabilities and to answer immediate threats.

The only thing I have to add is: I find something delightfully amusing about how Tinker rating guidelines are basically increasingly "You're just screwed". None of these is a good answer, especially when you consider how many Tinkers either aren't working with anything vulnerable to EMP in the first place or explicitly harden their gear such that an EMP is useless against them. This is quite appropriate to canon, where the main character grows to loathe Tinkers over the course of the story.

Thinker

As per canon. PRT Quest description follows.

Thinker

Possesses enhanced knowledge, skills and/or perceptions beyond any reasonable norm.  Includes clairvoyance, precognition, skill acquisition, enhanced hearing and enhanced sight.

Thinker capes, all numbers assumed to be equal, take the highest priority in engagements.

Threat level 2+:  Team is notified as to thinker classification.  Communication should be limited and the thinker should be cut off from teammates where possible.  Encrypted or coded communications may be necessary.  Failing that, the operation may need to be silent (noncommunicative team).

Threat level 5+:  Maximum disruption to the senses, with flashbangs and nonlethal truck emplacements put into regular effect.  All possible measures should be undertaken to keep the thinker threat from communicating.  Pre-prepared thinker countermeasures (false information) should be entered into play.  PRT thinkers should be contacted remotely to maximize counter-thinking.

Threat level 9+:  Contact the head office to discuss needs and resources available.

Thinker 9+: "You're screwed bro". Well. That's not unsettling or anything.

No, I don't have anything substantial to add. In spite of what intuition might suggest, I have a hard time arguing anything else should have a higher priority except maybe Masters and Strangers, and those entirely because the former can subvert your forces and the latter can potentially be killing you without you even realizing it.

The ability to destroy a planet is nothing compared to the power of the Force Thinker Powers.

Yes, the line fits Worm, all too well.

Blaster

As per canon. PRT Quest description follows.

Blaster

Ranged, offensive attacks of some form.  Can include blasts, thrown or moved objects, grenades.  Not always damaging, but generally deleterious.

Response varies greatly depending on the nature of the blaster.  At low levels, cover is highly recommended.  At higher levels, movement is a higher priority, and cover should be assumed to be useless.

Threat level 2+:  Team is notified as to blaster classification so they can take cover at next opportunity.  Frequent reporting on blaster’s location and likely direction of fire are encouraged.  Suppression of ranged fire is encouraged but not mandated.

Threat level 5+:  Resources and/or personnel are devoted to pressuring the blaster threat, keeping them moving and focused on a target to protect other personnel.  Truck-mounted emplacements may be necessary to apply sufficient pressure.

Threat level 9+:  Evacuation of likely firing zone is prioritized.  Responding to high-caliber ranged threat is likely to necessitate matching response, if civilians or property are endangered.  Inter-city missiles and other large-scale weapons are authorized.

It's interesting to me how Blaster is actually one of the more threatening-sounding ratings when you go by the PRT Quest description. Bonus points: Legend is the premier Blaster of the setting, and his lasers can turn corners. Not only is cover useless against him, so is dodging.

Trump

Restrict to "Cape has variable powers." I'd provide the PRT Quest description, but it better fits Ace, below. This could also cover "Breaker states" in cases where the cape has multiple of them. (There's really no reason to be talking about "Breaker states" in a cape who is locked into that state)

Instead, here's my own attempt at making one to fit.

Trump

Has access to a wide array of powers, but only a relatively small selection at any given moment. This may take the form of a set of "modes" that are switched between, a cyclical pattern outside of the Trump's control, the ability to directly select a handful of powers from a larger pool, or yet-unknown models. A Trump should never be assumed to be fully documented, and caution should be taken when cornering one, as they may manifest a previously unknown power.

Threat level 2+: Team is notified as to Trump rating. Team should report in observed powers for future analysis, even if Trump is well-documented. Trump should not be assumed out of combat unless confirmed unconscious or deceased.

Threat level 5+: Multiple forms of attack should be employed wherever possible, to overwhelm individual defensive powers. Assaults on the senses are also prioritized.

Threat level 9+: Contact the head office to discuss needs and resources available.

It's unfortunate we don't get much focus on power-changing/variable-power capes in canon. It makes it difficult to hypothesize what tactics would be reasonably consistent in the Wormverse against such.


Supporter (New)

For capes whose power enhances the abilities of others, and especially capes who are virtually helpless when isolated. Rachel, Usher, and Othala, etc. No PRT Quest description, so here's my own attempt at one.

Supporter

Grants benefits to others, usually but not always humans specifically. Supporters are typically no more threatening than a non-parahuman when isolated, assuming no other ratings apply. Supporters should be taken out of the fight where possible, but merely separating them from allies can be decisive. In most cases, it is enough to separate them from parahuman allies.

Threat level 2+: Isolate where possible, particularly from parahuman allies. Low priority.

Threat level 5+: Likely location and contact with allies should be regularly communicated to team and oversight. If possible, Supporter should be removed before operation begins in earnest.


Threat level 9+: Supporter prioritized as target, with likely location regularly communicated to team and oversight, to allow expedient removal.







I still find it weird how nothing like this is a canon rating already.


Ace (New)

A cape whose powers interact with other powers. Hatchet Face, Usher, and Grue would be Aces. Post-spoiler Grue would double as a Trump. PRT Quest description of Trump follows, since the description given fits Ace better.

Trump

Can manipulate powers in some capacity, altering, granting, strengthening, weakening or removing them entirely, or has powers that interact solely with the powers of others.

PRT squads are encouraged, with capes sidelined, barring all but the most threatening situations.  Ranged fire and distance is encouraged, with minimal contact and involvement, to preserve safety of involved capes.

Remainder depends on nature of power.


Not very helpful, honestly. The lack of actual numbers in this description also raises questions as to why canon gives Trump numbers for some capes, if the PRT doesn't actually use numbers to influence decisions. It's possible that there's invisible bureaucratic processes that do use the numbers?



Officer (New)

Capes who have non-human "allies" through their power in some capacity, whether by producing them (Breed, Nilbog) or taking control of non-human entities. (Taylor) Here's my attempt at a PRT Quest-style description.


2+: Officer's rating and nature of controlled allies reported to team. Low priority.


5+: Fully lethal munitions are authorized against massed forces.


9+: Inter-city missiles and other large-scale munitions may be authorized.


The main point is that control of humans and control/generation of non-humans are radically different powers when looking at tactics that are appropriate to employ. Not many people are going to cry if you incinerate Skitter's hordes of bugs or Breed's horrifying creatures, but blowing out the heads of Heartbreaker or Valefor's victims is not going to go over so well.

Comments

  1. Night gets a Stranger rating because of the eyes-on protocol thing. The associated number should be exactly high enough to trigger that and no higher, because Night. I'm not sure how to class her alt-form.

    I think that rating capes, using the canon cattegories and possibly other similar shorthand systems, would be a fun and potentially useful additional exercise. Purity, for example, is a Mover Blaster. She's inferred to have a "breaker state", because she's glowing (and, as it turns out, she can't fly or use her "Purity" powers when gone human), but as you rightly point out that's functionally irrelevant.

    (It needn't be restricted to capes, I guess; a shoggoth is a pretty clear-cut Changer. Have you read the Worm fic Starry Eyes? Somewhere I've got a file where I did two sets of ratings for that fic: one "what the PRT sees", one cape with a weird mix of powers; and one "what the readers know", one parahuman and a cluster of "minor" eldritch abominations.)

    > It's possible that there's invisible bureaucratic processes that do use the numbers?

    There definitely are. [Spoiler!] When Weaver turns herself in, Director Tagg talks about having given her at least a two in every rating category. I don't recall if this is mentioned outright in canon, heavily implied in canon, or merely mentioned in WoG, but this gives them much different and much much stricter options for restraining her.

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    Replies
    1. The eyes-on protocol is definitely a good adhoc way of justifying the Stranger rating, but I'm pretty sure the real reasons are A: Wildbow hadn't decided on her power at the time and B: his internal concept for Stranger took a while to solidify.

      Yeah, I've read Starry Eyes. Don't remember it very well anymore, though. I remember the basics of Taylor's power, but not much more than that.

      I probably could've been clearer on the "invisible processes" thing. The scene you're talking about is actually why I included that line at all -we know the ratings tie into certain protocols, where the exact number can matter, as a result of that scene... but we don't know that this applies to the Trump rating, since Tagg didn't do or say anything to specifically suggest Trump rating matters in that way. He's not going to tack on "except Trump" if it doesn't matter, after all.

      Your time is appreciated.

      Delete
    2. According to the wiki, Trump numbers denote the type of trump. Othala and Teacher would be one number, while Hatchet Face is another, and Eidolon/GU are rated as yet another number.

      Delete
    3. The wiki is citing a document that uses numbers for categories but those numbers aren't actually connected to the PRT rating system. (Link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jvj6T84NB9Uq81y71MIgb9tk9lQ80cORFj9z2o5OB8c/edit#)

      Whoever was involved in that wiki page is making assumptions that look to me to be incorrect.

      Delete

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