August 26, 2012

So why are there Classes? II

After a lot of tinkering around with the starting numbers from Natures and Chassis, and no matter how much I actually wanted to do away with them to allow people to spread points however they wish, I only made them that much more important.

The main reason they exist is that thanks to them I can give people high starting numbers compared to those of NPCs. The moment I am to take their automatic allocation away then we start to fall to traditional RPG trappings such as diplomancers starting with Empathy crazy high enough they never fail anything ever, and unmovable mountains with Armor that is impossible to pierce.

While I do like the running theme of "character options mostly come in fours as long as they aren't aberrant*" the real reason for the existence of these starting handouts is that they are more easily balanced next to each other than characters entirely made by hand.

I want the numbers to be customizable from the get-go, but ultimately your choice of Nature or Chassis (and really, every choice taken during character creation) should be fundamentally defining. This has as much to do with game balance as it has to do with accurately representing the fiction the game is actually about. You don't see, after all, the big bruisers becoming faster than the agile tricksters with frequency if at all (or if you do, it isn't permanent) and the smart guys retain their role from start to end.

You can, of course, grow out of these choices and expand what you can do, but should you choose to specialize and play to the cliche then you should be noticeable better than someone who didn't start out with your archetype.

What this means for the robots:

Enhancements can be taken from the start, and Chassis both include Accuracy and Penetration modifiers to them. So if you want your robot to be the most accurate you can establish it as such from the very beginning. Next is that since Accuracy and Armor are better than their counterparts, they are more expensive and their starting numbers are lower. Starting Energy is, on average, higher than previously but it is more expensive than Threshold increases as well. All Enhancements to your Chassis have incremental costs.

What this means for the pilots:

You choose one of two sets of Genre Powers from your Nature, and then one other set that can be from any of the others or from your own. However, Natures no longer have any starting Traits. This means you can have an Ace with their usual speedy goodness, but with the endurance that is usual of Prodigies, in place of their offensive silver bullet-esque Powers. Additionally, we add to the array of Fitness, Intellect and Empathy the new stats that are Awareness, Willpower, and Resources. Awareness and Willpower play a defensive role, Awareness replacing the bonuses from Genre Points and Willpower combining with your other three Attributes to give you your Plot Armor. This means the Grit/Drive/Wisdom triad is going the way of the dodo, everyone say bye!. Resources, meanwhile, handles your Wealth, Equipment and Contacts. I will probably make a post about Resources later.

*: Chassis types are becoming four now as well, with Dynamic and Hybrid merging into one.

August 19, 2012

So why are there Classes?

Has it already been a month? Man, time flies. Anyway stuff is happening, though like I said there won't be any updates for a bit.

One thing that might seem odd about the system is that despite being generic and point-buy there's actual character classes (or character class-like things) in the form of Natures. They're not as restrictive as proper classes, like a Barbarian or a Wizard, tend to be but they have a similar effect. The other choices that are only possible during character creation (Archetypes, Chassis, and to a much lesser extent Traits) all have some kind of rule, or ruling, to let you change them or take more of them - Gears can be changed and the acquisition of Traits can always be justified one way or another, but your Nature is a permanent thing that more or less shapes your entire character in and out of the battlefield.

Like everything, this has its pros and its cons. Natures are a template you can customize to your liking, but they're still a template that you have to play with. And if you want someone who is a great fighter but even better with people then none of the choices seem to fit like a glove: You are going to have to use some of your starting points to up Attributes a little. And you better think of what future choices in Genre Powers you want down the line too! The Prodigy is all about endurance and versatility while the Coordinator is all about support, and if you're the leader type you want the Professional.

At the individual PC level this isn't too bad, but at the party level it doesn't work so well. Two characters with the same Nature will step on each other's toes a little, enough that they will have to focus on entirely different extremes of the archetype to be completely different. Three of the same nature makes it impossible. Now granted, this should be obvious and is not really the fault of the system for the most part, but different games focus on different types of scenes. If you know your game will be heavy on the physical action out of the robots, why should you have to choose a Nature that isn't very good at roughing up bad guys just to have different Powers?

On the other hand, it gives you a mechanical focus, and mechanical focus means you will be good at something. Genre Powers can afford to be pretty damn strong because of this, without risking complete imbalance since everyone is good at a couple different things. Which means it is that much harder to end up by mistake with a character that is bad and not actually fun to play. That and having a guide to help you conceptualize a character is very useful, specially when you're starting out and you're trying to absorb all the rules at once. Making your first PC, or making the first enemies if you're the GM, is tough. That's why there's so many pages of fluff and premade content, to show how these rules can be used in different ways.

But there has to be a way to get the good without the bad, right? I mean it sure would be cool to have multiple Designs such as having both health and energy regeneration, or to mix up a Coordinator's supporting with a Professionals' leadership Powers... Without having to water them down to make sure no single character is overpowered. Well, kinda sorta. Designs can just be a thing you buy with UP, much like normal upgrades but without being a thing that can be enhanced. Chassis types along with the bonuses from Natures could let you shuffle their numbers around. What about Genre Powers? Well, what if instead of being tied to natures you were to instead divide them into thematic packages? One for being speedy, another for being tanky, another for keeping your friends alive, another for weakening multiple enemies, and so on and so on. You choose a couple of said packages starting out, and cherrypick powers from them as the game goes on, with the chance to switch out packages later.

The end result of doing away with these pseudoclasses would be a much more customizable game, without being TOO open ended or easily abused.