DC Heroes - A look at the System

One of the most overlooked RPG systems of it's time, also had one of the most elegant
and easy to use resolution systems that I have seen. Although I have not played all THAT
many RPG systems, I did see/read about a dozen or so through the early 80's, which was
a fair amount of them. That system (which was trounced in sales by both Marvel & Champions)
was DC Heroes. 

The Problem
The gist of the system is the inherent problem of superheroes period. You can have guys super strong, and guys 
that have the strength of normal humans and they are all involved in the same conflict/resolutions. This is a particular
problem for a universe which includes main characters varying from Superman to Batman. Add to that all myriads of 
special powers (fire, radiation, lasers, intuitive abilities, precognizance, etc.) and you have a whale of a lot of stuff that
you need to be able to model. 

How do you resolve that in a way that makes sense? 

What Kinds of Solutions Are There?
You could create categories and thresholds to new categories and create 'steps' where it's obvious that one category can do more.
Also inherent in this system is the fact that you then need to categorize lots of items that the characters will come in contact with. 
I don't think creating categories and then thresholds to new categories (like Marvel Super Heroes) is a good solution. Not only do you
have to decide if a car fits in the Good or Excellent weight category, you also have (sometimes different) charts for what you can do, etc. 
that vary for the situation. Why  go through all that?

You could just express everything numerically and build different tables for each type of activity (or create a subsystem for each)
ala AD&D. This has some advantages over categorizing, in that you don't generally have a bunch of charts to translate
items to be used in each category. However, you do still end up with a somewhat inordinate amount of charts for different game
situations, all of which are likely to occur with some frequency. 

The DC Heroes Solution
The DC solution was to create a pseudo logarithmic chart for all attributes in
the game. For each measure like weight, there was an amount that was equal to 1 (like 50
lbs or something like that). You had one for distance, etc. Then, to see what you could do you would take
one, subtract from the other and the result was how much/far/where you could go/do something. An example
would be:

If Superman wanted to throw a car, how far could he throw it? Not using exact
game numbers, but let' say a car weighed 10 units, and Superman's strength was 15

Strength (15) - Weight (10) = 5 Units

Superman could throw it 5 distance units (of which you have a distance chart to know how far that is).

There are no complicated charts for doing actions, and you simply have a reference chart with the
logarithmic expansion for each measure. The same is applied to speed, etc. So, the GM merely puts things
into the units (like 2 miles) as the result after a very straightforward calculation. This allows basically all charts
that are actually used in gameplay to be on one GM screen, as well as make any modifications simple +/- options.
It also has the advantage of being used for anything the players come up with, and is a simple method of subtraction
to figure out how well they did. 

Of course there are problems with it, but I think as a whole it was somewhat
ingenious, and really, necessary to try and model a world with Batman and Superman. It also has the benefit of
all powers working identically from a calculation standpoint. And since the calculation is mere subtraction, you spend
much more time with the game, than fiddling with the game system.