(DC comics emotional spectrum)
Power rings appeared in DC Comics in 1940, with Green Lantern (Alan Scott)’s magic ring turning his willpower into powerful green energy constructs.
Decades later another type of ring emitting yellow energy constructs appeared.
During the 2000s, and later on
In more recent years, a colour-coded mini-mythology appeared around other types of power rings, with the colours corresponding to “emotions” (assuming a loose understanding of the term). This article examines the common ground between the various kinds of power rings in the modern DC Universe.
The Green Lantern titles emerged from Flashpoint relatively unscathed (which means they’re probably completely alien to New 52 continuity). So information for the Rings is drawn from both eras.
Stats for the Green Power Ring can be found in the Green Lantern Hal Jordan (Iconic Take) profile, while the others will be in individual profiles.
The article is partly technical, but should be generally comprehensible by the layman.
Powers & Abilities
The Power Rings harnessing the power of the emotional spectrum work in similar ways. This is due to being based on the technology the Guardians developed to manipulate the green energy of Will.
Most rings tend to :
- Have a degree of artificial intelligence (often with unspecified sensory abilities) [In DC Heroes terms, INT].
- Offer the wearer enhanced protection from damage and hostile environments [/BODY/, Sealed Systems, Skin Armor].
- Allows them to fly at significantly faster than light speeds [Flight].
- Can allow the wearer to communicate in most galactic languages [Comprehend Languages].
- Can detect other members of the respective corps [Life Sense].
- Can locate suitable recruitment candidates within their assigned region upon the death (or imminent death) of the current wielder [Detect].
All Rings allow the creation of force constructs of some kind. For some it can be harder to achieve due to the Ring’s influence. For instance the rage induced by Red Rings interferes with the focus required.
In addition to the standard effects of the Power, constructs can be programmed to operate outside of their regular range. One example is green constructs transporting prisoners back to Oa without the Lantern having to accompany it.
Such programmed constructs can last until set conditions are met, taking up an AP of the wielder’s Force Manipulation until it’s run its course.
The Rings automatically provide the wearer with a uniform of the appropriate colour [Insta-Change]. They tend to follow a certain design, with a degree of variation for the individual.
The wielder’s eye colour is also often changed to that of the Ring while using it.
They can further modify the costume, or even their appearance, as desired. This can also be influenced by the Ring. For instance Red Lantern Rankorr changed to looking less human once he truly accepted the Ring [at the extreme this may mean an Appearance Drawback].
Temporary changes, such as Green Lanterns making their uniforms black for stealth are achieved by the Ring’s other Powers, [Omni-Power in this case].
They also suffer from similar vulnerabilities. Such as the need to recharge from their power battery (which may be carried around in a dimensional tesseract) every planetary revolution.
Also, a lack of mental faculties can affect their ability to maintain force constructs (for those rings capable of doing so).
It is apparently possible to break Power Rings by pushing their capabilities too hard. This hasn’t been seen, but Sinestro claims to have broken two in this way during his time as a Green Lantern.
Rings tend to be programmed to search for wielders who show an affinity for, and traits aligning with, their portion of the emotional spectrum.
[In DC Heroes RPG terms these may include certain APs of Link Attributes, Advantages or Drawbacks. Or merely situational factors affecting the individual. E.g. Red Lanterns look for individuals with a driving desire for revenge, which may not manifest as a full Rage Drawback.]
When the ring begins its search (either when first created or following the death of a wielder) it will fly as fast as it can towards its designated sector of space. The ring’s artificial intelligence guides it in finding the person there who best matches the specified criteria.
While this is how they’re programmed to act, this programming can be overridden by the Corps. Notably:
- The Orange Power Rings are all hoarded by Larfleeze, who doesn’t want to share their power.
- Blue and Indigo Power Rings have some kind of control where the Corps recruit the new members themselves rather than letting the Ring choose.
Whether the Blue and Indigo Rings return to the Corps on the death of a wielder, or go off to find a replacement on their own, is uncertain. Following Black Hand’s ’death‘ his Indigo Ring stated it was searching for a replacement. But not having seen the result of this it may just be a programmed statement that wasn’t overridden with the rest of the programming.
Some Rings have trouble taking no for an answer, particularly those at the extremes of the emotional spectrum. Thus they can frequently take over a suitable target whether they’re willing or not. [This attacks them as Control (6 AP), which they can continue trying to resist until the recruitment has been completed].
Most Power Rings exert some influence over their wielders, although most wielders are inclined towards the emotion the Ring embodies to begin with.
The influencing increases the further they go from the centre (Will) of the emotional spectrum. So:
A Fistful of Colours
There are a small number of cases where powerful people have used multiple power rings at once.
The upper limit appears to be how many they can fit on terminal manipulative appendages, such as fingers. The lower limit is one even without a manipulative appendage. Such as Dex-Starr — a house cat –wearing his ring around his tail.
However, using too many can put a strain on the wielder.
In DC Heroes RPG terms each additional ring adds one AP to all the Powers of the first ring. In the rare cases where it was possible (Hal Jordan as Parallax, Hank Henshaw aka the Cyborg Superman, Hal Jordan with an arsenal of yellow rings, Mongul…) the person wielded enormous power.
The problem with doing this is a/ to find these rings in the first place and b/ that these rings normally have a firm programming to fly away and execute on contingency measures when they have no owner. The wielder essentially has to cancel this programming to have the Ring stay on their fingers.
[In DC Heroes RPG terms this is a Power Ring/Power Ring roll against an OV/RV of 12. Partial RAPs let the Ring stay with the user for another Phase; full RAPs mean the ring stops trying to get away and can be fully used by this specific wielder without further hindrances.]
When Hal used multiple Yellow Rings on Qward he suffered noticeable pain, so there’s obviously a limit to how many can be safely used. [The wielder suffers a Mental or Mystical (depending on the Link Attribute) Bashing Damage attack similar to Sorcery, with the APs of Force Manipulation used serving as the AV/EV, and their Force Manipulation with one Ring as the OV/RV.]
Rings can be programmed not to have this behaviour by Corps leaders. Examples include:
- Alpha Lantern Boodikka’s additional power ring from the Guardians.
- Those rings given to Hank Henshaw by the Anti-Monitor.
- Sinestro promising a second ring to the member of his corps who killed Hal Jordan.
Jordan also once found a cache of yellow rings which didn’t have their full programming yet. These would thus stay on his hands.
DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
Lots of ground to cover here.
The Power Batteries for all Lanterns except Indigos and Orange (see individual Ring entries) appear to be pretty much the same:
Power Battery [BODY 25, Invisibility: 15].
Power batteries are shaped like late-XIXth century railroad lanterns. They contain an uplink to the central power battery of their respective Corps. They’re used to recharge Power Rings of the appropriate colour, usually while reciting the oath.
Power batteries can become invisible if their owner wishes, presumably to reduce the chances of being stolen. They are often stored in a dimensional tesseract by the wielder’s Power Ring. One battery can simultaneously recharge at least two Rings.
Green Power Batteries are known to cost almost 3 rotox, equating to over $177,000,000.
There’s evidence that Power Rings can be taken from their wielder. The exception is Red Rings, which form a physical bond with the wielder.
But there’s contrary evidence that Rings can’t be removed other than by the wielder, or the wielder dying. It appears to vary by writer.
So the Rings have been written up as non-Take Awayable Gadgets. But should you wish to play them as Take Awayable there’s little to change other than halving the cost (and Red Rings should remain non-Take Awayable), and using the following:
- Given their APs of Miniaturisation the Take Away is difficult. They also can’t be removed while their force field (Skin Armor) is active (unless enough damage is done through it to separate the appendage holding the Ring from the rest of the body). It usually occurs only when a wielder is knocked unconscious; through subterfuge; or through will-against-will combat.
- Even when not worn, a ring can be mentally controlled by its user up to 5 APs distance. However, their effective Power Ring Skill is reduced by 1 AP for every AP of distance between the user and the ring.
- Sometimes another party can attempt to control a character’s Power Ring. The circumstances for this vary. Whether this option is available at all in a particular situation should be determined by the GM. The most frequent example is if someone has taken a Power Ring from its previous user and the prior owner attempts to reassert control.
- If two characters are attempting to control the same Ring, have each character make an Action Check using their Power Ring Skill/WILL or AURA as the AV /EV and the Power Ring Skill/MIND or SPIRIT of their opponent as the OV/RV. Whether WILL/MIND or AURA/SPIRIT are used as the EV/RV depends on the Ring’s Link Attribute.
The character who receives the most RAPs on their roll wins out and is able to command the Ring for the next phase. If both characters fail, neither is able to command the Ring. As above, the distance that each character is from the Ring should be factored into their Power Ring Skill for this Check.
- If one of the characters manages to get RAPs equal to 2x the RV, they take full possession of the Ring for that encounter. The Ring will move over to them if they are not already wearing it, and the opponent can make no further attempt to control the Ring at that time, though they can try to do so if they meet again later.
Due to being based on the technology of the Green Power Rings developed by the Guardians of the Universe, all Power Rings have a hidden feature that allows Guardians to have them create a temporary duplicate which lasts for 24 hours.
This is basically Split: 01, only duplicates the Ring, with no AP loss, and lasts for 24 hours.
Attributes and Linking – are Green Lanterns Born Fearless ?
Do candidates possess high Attributes (for Green Lantern candidates a high MIN, SPI and (usually) WIL) when they’re recruited ?
We can’t really say. A likely answer is “no, though they sometimes have appropriate Advantages or Drawbacks when recruited (such as Iron Nerves for Green Lanterns, Rage for Red Lanterns)”.
It makes more sense to assume recruits have both the potential to develop these high scores, and a certain form of mental compatibility with the emotion they’ll be wielding. But they aren’t running around with double-digit Attributes as they live largely ordinary lives.
Thus, in a way, the ring “takes over” part of the mentality of the new wielder and helps them improve these abilities scores at a rapid pace until they reach their current potential.
It is possible to read this hypothesis in a sinister way – it’s brainwashing! And for some rings it does actually brainwash them. Or it can be seen just as the result of certain kinds of person becoming able to express their latent mental strength to its fullest through the medium of the ring.
The question of what sort of Attributes Green Lanterns have before and after training is also informed by a few incidents. A number of thugs who stole Jordan’s ring could use it to an extent. In some case they could even pump out APs of power that were not completely trivial.
On the other hand, Batman once sweated bullets by using a GL ring to do something simple. He has a very strong MIN, but his mental defences are too tough for the ring to really take over specific parts of his mentality. Plus, Batman has a special relationship with fear which doesn’t work well with the Oan approach.
Ditto for Green Arrow, who struggled to create but a single arrow with Hal’s ring. He’s too wilful, cynical and stubborn to cooperate with the ring.
Superman, on the other hand, has a naturally high Power Ring Skill. It has often been said he would have been a fantastic Green Lantern. Mongul and the Cyborg Superman seem to be in the same case – Green Lantern rings just work really well for them.
These incidents are particularly interesting when it comes to disproving the Linking approach — see the next section — and coming up with an approach that works – see the section after that.
Attributes and Linking – the Missing Link
There’s an old, old bug with the official Green Lantern writeups. The system describes power rings Linked to the WIL of the Character, but the WIL in DCH is not… really ’willpower‘ in the usual sense of the word.
The ability to Link some aspects of the Green Lantern ring to WIL was fairly important in the system, and may in fact have been the impetus for the whole Linking mechanic back then.
There have been various attempts to find ways to make this Linking approach work better, but it never quite worked to everybody’s satisfaction. Especially if you take into account the facts mentioned in the “Are Green Lanterns Born Fearless ?” section above.
Having some simple Link that works would be great and elegant. But at this point I think it’s reasonable to throw that specific towel. It’s been 25 years of Green Lantern stats and nobody seems to have found the Grail with the simple Linked approach.
Therefore we collectively came up with a new approach – a special sort of Skill, explained below.
Attributes and Linking – the Power Ring Skill
Power Ring (Colour).
Link: Attribute associated with the colour.
Base cost: 10
Factor cost: 07
This unique Skill is used by those DC Universe characters with power rings (Green Lantern Corps, Star Sapphires, Indigo Tribe, Sinestro Corps, Larfleeze, Red Lanterns, Blue Lanterns, etc.) to augment their power output and the strength of the light they can emit.
Defining what a low, high or medium score in this Skill represents outside of game terms is difficult. The approaches vary from writer to writer. It seems to be a complicated mix of:
- Mental stamina.
- Imagination and ability to visualise.
- Ability to refine one’s mental state (of willpower, rage, spurned love, etc.) into a way that is most compatible with a ring.
Some characters such as Hal Jordan had a high score even before boot camp. By contrast most ring wielders must train long and hard to reach a 05 or 06. It is possible that power ring wielders of middling power tend to Link their Skill to save points, and then find it very difficult to increase their scores.
The core use of this Skill is to add to a specific Attribute when calculating the APs of User-Linked Powers of the relevant power ring.
For instance, Force Manipulation APs for a Green Lantern Corps power ring are User-Linked to the sum of MIN and Power Ring Skill (Green). This is a linear addition : a MIN of 10 and a Power Ring Skill (Green) of 08 produce a score of 18 APs for User-Linking purposes.
This Skill doesn’t provide any particular AV, EV, OV, RV, etc. on its own. It is purely intended for User-Linking purposes.
Thus, most power ring wielders develop a separate Accuracy (Power Ring) to increase their AV. Rings generally seem to fall outside of the domain of the Weaponry Skill (even Exotic). Such an Accuracy Skill seems to work the same with all sorts of Emotional Spectrum Power Rings.
A complete rookie usually has a Power Ring score of 04 or 05, and most “faceless” Green Lanterns you see for a handful of panels have a score of 05 or 06.
The big-name Green Lanterns starring in their own adventures tend to have a 10. Scores above 10 are reserved for the very greatest power ring wielders, such as Hal Jordan, Sinestro or Atrocitus.
What helps having a good Power Ring Skill involves some arcane and/or innate elements. Therefore, some folks who have never seen a Power Ring can happen to have APs of Power Ring without knowing it. It may in fact look completely random to the outside observers. The most unlikely beings such as G’Nort or Dex-Starr can turn out to innately have APs in the Skill.
Such beings are usually the ones the various Emotional Spectrum Corps will consider for recruitment. They know that they have the right shade of mindset to be competent ring-wielders.
Since there is no OV/RV when it comes to this Skill, the Unskilled Penalty is handled in a slightly different way. Rather than a +2CS OV/RV penalty when it comes to Unskilled Used, lower the main Attribute by -2CS when using Unskilled User-Linking.
For instance Green Arrow, when using a green power ring, would have his MIN (a 07) considered as a 03 – two Columns lower, giving him 3 APs of Force Manipulation.
Unskilled Use of the User-Linked Powers of a Power Ring is Fatiguing. It attacks MIN/MIN with an OV/RV of 09, plus the APs of power being used. Note that, unlike the normal rule, it is possible to employ Last Ditch Defence against this Fatiguing Damage.
How many APs of Power Ring Skill a person can use when wearing a ring of a different colour is best left to GMs. It should be based on their view of how compatible each character is with the various lights of the Emotional Spectrum.
This seem to range from a mere Unfamiliarity penalty to being unable to use more than 0 APs of Power Ring (which prevents Unskilled Penalties, though).
Some Power Rings have an effect on the charge of other colour Rings by their presence or contact.
In general this is handled by some Rings causing another to develop a Power Burnout Limitation. The severity grows the longer they’re in their presence. The Power Burnout triggers the Ring’s Power Loss Drawback. The Burnout is removed as soon as they recharge the Ring.
Blue Rings also have a beneficial effect on Green Rings, preventing them from suffering Burnout while in their presence. Furthermore, Blue Rings charge them up to twice their normal charge – allowing them to go 48 hours before needing a recharge.
Most Rings don’t interact well. Communication [Telepathy] between them, or tracking other colour Rings, doesn’t usually work.
There have been incidents, such as when Kyle Rayner managed to get the Rings to communicating by forcing himself to experience all the emotions of the others. This was likely more due to the changes he was going through, as he soon became able to use all energies.
It’s possible Indigo Rings may be able to communicate with other colour Rings they’re currently mirroring.
The cost of Linking is based on Linking to a single stat, but Power Rings often Link to two stacking stats.
The stacked APs wouldn’t reflect a change in the cost of the Power, which could cause balance problems if used as a precedent. So I’ve costed them with twice the regular FC (since they’re linking to two stats).
Source of Character: DC Comics.
Helper(s): Francisco, Roy Cowan, Adam Fuqua, methusan, Peter S Piispanen.
Writeup completed on the 10th of October, 2013.