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Abusing physics for trivial purposes
If a particular friend runs Masks again, I am planning on playing what the game calls a "Bull":

Someone changed you, made you into a perfect weapon: superhumanly tough, incredibly strong, and uniquely skilled at fighting. Decide how each of those abilities manifests.

What I thought would be funny is a Lightning Bruiser, a speedster whose shtick is

speed without any of the physics cheats characters like the Flash use. Instead they just brute-force their way up to superhuman velocities, thus the enhanced strength (needed to get up to speed) and durability (needed to survive super-speed). The downside for the character is they start having regrettable effects on their immediate environment once they break Mach One, thus their appellation: Maelstrom.

This isn't an angsty character:

From their point of view, they always have lots of time to carefully think through each situation, to consider how not to splut the squishies.

My question is, at what speed would Maelstrom be blinded by plasma as the heat of fiction with the air ionizes it?

Wait: second question: do speed limits apply to pedestrians?

Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comment(s); comment here or there.

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"as the heat of fiction with the air ionizes it"

I absolutely love that typo.

I've done a fair amount of analysis of this sort of thing in writing Flicker. Not sure about the plasma blinding speed, but I'm guessing somewhere between top speed of an SR-71 and Apollo capsule reentry speed. It's probably going to depend on air density.

But it's going to be the same order of magnitude as the point where another problem become unavoidable. Can he fly? If not, how does he stay on the ground when he gets above Earth surface orbital speed? This can also be a problem well below Mach One if the ground isn't perfectly flat--he's going to catch air every time he tops a rise. The most important direction to be able to accelerate is down.

If he can fly, one solution to the plasma problem is to pick a spot where there is a known clear path and distance (for example directly above where he wants to go) and head straight there without worrying about trying to see on the way. Then stop, let the plasma dissipate, look around, and repeat. The faster he can accelerate, the better this works.

Good luck and have fun! I have a lot of fun writing Flicker, who does have cheats, but they aren't 100% efficient, so the side effects build up more and more as she speeds up.

Oh, and his costume is going to have to be made out of unobtanium, but lots of superheroes have that problem.

The speed at which wind resistance strips clothes off may also be worth keeping in mind...

As yet unwritten backstory for one superhero--that problem was so bad for her that she finally got a set of subdermal tattos that projected a hologram of a costume rather than trying to wear anything.

For those who are unfamiliar with Flicker and curious:

Edited at 2017-02-16 06:49 pm (UTC)

Properly-fitted and -constructed clothing should survive any amount of wind resistance. You might need nomex or similar for plasma heating though.

Maelstrom can run and jump splendidly but not fly. Once they are off the ground, it's pure ballistics.

Running is jumping, jumping is flying

When a person, or a horse or a cheetah or pretty much anything with feet, runs there is a point in the stride when both, or all, feet are not in contact with the ground. Running is essentially a series of low long jumps. This is going to impose a maximum speed on a runner as the time to fall back to earth in order to take the next step is dependent on gravity. It may be a very short time to fall those few centimetres but the falling can't be speeded up. Maelstrom might be able to get around this by rollerblading but that introduces a host of new problems. Some kind of power-walking stride might also work since there will always be at least one foot on the ground at any juncture. And it has the added benefit of looking absolutely ridiculous.

Re: Running is jumping, jumping is flying

This. With no way to accelerate down, his maximum speed is going to be dominated by ballistics anywhere that's not flat. Maybe give him a costume that gives negative aerodynamic lift. Or some kind of super-gecko feet, so he can pull himself down going over any bump or crest longer than his stride length. Or have him skate on a foot generated force field that does something similar.

I don't think he's going to get up to plasma speeds very easily.

I wonder what speed his footfalls are going to start tearing up concrete roads? And that's not even considering direction changes.

"You call it the Very Expensive Building. I call it collateral damage from making the turn onto 4th street without slowing down!"

Edit: I think it was Champions 2nd edition that suggested that the best way to model Super Speed was as Flight with the +1/4 limitation 'only next to a surface'.

Edited at 2017-02-16 10:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Running is jumping, jumping is flying

Yes, I think that's where that particular convention came from. Although it was more aimed at handling the speedsters who could do 'impossible' running up walls and across water.

Speesters who couldn't do those things got by with some mix of plenty of running, non-combat multiples, (or megascale), and high SPD, possibly combined with a "turning mode" limitation.

Re: Running is jumping, jumping is flying

It depends on the running style. If someone has a more gliding style of running, the forward foot is barely off the ground when the pushing foot leaves, thus they're airborne for a significantly shorter period of time, have a shorter stride length, but use a greater cadence for the same speed. When you look at some of the best gliding-style runners, it does look like it's getting close to race-walking. If, on the other hand, they have a loping style, their vertical distance is significantly greater and thus distance to fall would have a greater influence.

The reality is that someone with superspeed doesn't have the same metabolic issues as a normal human: in real life increasing your cadence hits a wall because it takes a given amount of energy to accelerate and decelerate all the mass of the leg, and at some point the energy expenditure cancels out the potential increased speed. But if that isn't a concern, then short, choppy paces are the way to go.

You question about speed limits for speedster superheroes on FB made me imagine Jiffy Fuzz, Traffic Cop: the speedster with an eye for safety! We all fight for justice in our own way.

It would be interesting to see him ride a bike.

Enhanced strength and durability may let him get impressive traveling speeds, but how's he getting the increased mental speed? (Which, IMO is the truly impressive part of the power.)

yeah, that was my question.
If his power is not "magic super speed" but "can run really, really fast", how does that give him more time to think?
At a brute force physical level, you could tie in lightning reflexes etc, and that's how they manage to avoid running through people. But increased time to think seems unconnected.

I assumed part of the secondary powers needed to survive being fast was decreased synapse firing time, so his ability to react to events would be faster. Which I guess might not affect how fast he consciously thinks. Hmmm.
Cue Jack Burton?

Once you have the reflexes, you've already done the handwaving for the faster nervous system, so there are no barriers on plausibility. There are some other reasons you might not want him to think faster--play balance, and avoiding having him die of boredom when nothing is happening quickly.

Of course, you could give him a variable-speed mind, with normal human thinking speed being 'power saver' or 'compatibility' mode for him. Lots of fun to be had with that 8-)

Just because you think think faster doesn't necessarily give you an advantage. You might just come to the wrong conclusions a lot sooner than someone else.

I *was* thinking of making them a sprinter as another way to distinguish them from the other speedsters. They are always a fast brick but every once in a while, when it matters, they can be very, very fast. Presumably, there's a cost to be paid afterwards.

(Icons has something like this, where they draw a distinction between characters with permanently boosted abilities and ones who are enhanced for short periods of time)

Maybe faster = more heat. They sweat superheated steam and wind up dehydrated after a burst of speed.

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