I had a question and some concerns about the "Hands Without Shadow" schtick in the "Death Punch" Kung Fu path.
"Hands Without Shadow" gives you, for free, an attack bonus equal to the difference between your defense and your target's defense (bonuses included), if their defense is higher (essentially, this means you are, at worst, rolling against your own defense).
My question is, since Dodge increases your defense by 3, does your attack automatically increase by 3, or does the fact that Dodge is an interrupt mean that "the attack has already happened" or something like that. I couldn't find anything specific in the rules about the interaction between schticks and interrupts. I'd be inclined to say that the interrupt doesn't affect the original attack roll, since negating dodges seems like it would be overpowered, but I wouldn't mind an official ruling.
Even without the dodge negation, I'm a bit concerned about this schtick being overpowered. For a character with a low defense, it can be a huge attack boost with no real cost. In particular, the "Death Punch" path is available to the Big Bruiser archetype, which has one of the lowest defenses (12) in the game, offset by a high Toughness value. The Big Bruiser also has a low offense (12) to offset its high damage values. However, on the very first advancement, the Big Bruiser can take "Hands Without Shadow", which translates into a permanent +1-3 attack bonus against all enemies (even mooks have a base defense of 13!). Masked Avenger and Transformed Dragon get the next highest benefit, since they also have access to the "Death Punch" path and their base defense is 13.
My question is, am I missing something that would mitigate the strength of this schtick? If not, is there a way to modify it (either through a house rule or a tweak in version 1.2) to make it less overpowered?
I always read Dodge as an interrupt, and that the bonus is determined at the time of attack, so it doesn't apply.
As to if Hands Without Shadow is too easy a bonus... I haven't felt it breaks things anymore than some other Schticks. Foe defenses are generally on par with players, and while there are some corner cases where it's more useful than others, like Big Bruiser, I don't see it as broken overall. That said, I haven't seen it in play yet.
Is this something you've seen actually be a problem in play?
No, it's purely based on analysis, not actual play. I'd be happy to hear that it doesn't drastically impact things in actual play.
I'm assuming opponent defenses are generally around 13 (mooks and featured foes), 15 (bosses), and 17 (uber-bosses).
I don't mean to suggest that it's broken ALL the time - it's probably pretty reasonable for the Martial Artist archetype, for example, with a defense of 15, so it would only really applies against uber-bosses. But for low-defense characters it applies much more often. It looks like it would alter the Big Bruiser, with one advancement, from an archetype who hits hard BUT hits rarely (even against mooks) to someone who hits hard AND often (even against uber-bosses). Including their Mounting Fury signature schtick to boost attacks, they would have a significantly higher chance of hitting an uber-boss than an Old Master, who has the highest attack value! (Add in "Training Sequence 1" and a two-advancement character could probably destroy any uber-boss single handed!)
And the same goes for Transformed Dragon, with relatively low attack and defense values of 13. "Hands Without Shadow" has no cost and combines seamlessly with other attack boosting schticks ("Throw" from the Monkey Form, etc.). So it looks like it would change the Transformed Dragon from "highly-skilled and decent-in-combat" to "highly-skilled and impossible-to-avoid-in-combat".
Yah, I'm seeing what you mean with Big Bruiser, but I think your use of an Uber Boss as a measuring stick is exaggerating the issue.
First off, I wouldn't judge things vs Uber Bosses because their defense is just so nuts that even an Old Master gets something out of Hands without Shadow against them. A Big Bruiser would have a total attack of +17 vs an Uber boss, but an Old Master with the same Schtick would be at +18. More importantly, Uber Bosses are rare and special, and therefore not the best measuring stick. I actually think this kind of potency is exactly what this schtick is supposed to be doing: making especially tough bosses easier to hit.
Second, a Transformed Dragon using Monkey Throw and Hands without Shadow isn't so bad because it requires the use of thrown weapons, which means the potent Innate Superiority schtick doesn't apply. The +2 from Monkey Throw is therefore balanced out a bit by the lower damage of a thrown weapon. With a Defense of 13, the Transformed Dragon is still only getting it's bonus on above average toughness foes, which is a sort of cost of it's own: a schtick you can only use in limited situations.
I think the issue here is that the Big Bruiser gets at least +1 to just about everything from this Schtick, which makes it about as potent as advancing Martial Arts (something that is far more restricted.) The downside is that it somewhat locks them into a lower defense. Should they advance their defense score in the future, the power becomes less frequently active. Even abilities that provide temporary defense bonuses will limit the schtick. Does that balance it out? I don't know. Does an extra +1 to fight mooks and average named characters really break an archetype that's got a +12 for base martial arts? I don't know, but I lean towards it not being a big enough issue to change things. Maybe I'd change my mind if I saw it play?