October 28, 2012

I Love that Little Gun

Waaaaay back when I first started to write major changes to the rules, a custom weapon creation system was one of the three things I was going to toy with. Things kind of spiraled out of control from there since then. Let's take a look at the state of the Weapons rules post-Weapon Builder.

The General Stuff

Weapons work mostly the same as they used to. They have a range, their own accuracy and penetration bonuses, and so on. The only really big things to keep in mind are two:

1) Every Weapon type does something by itself. Exceptional Aptitudes are gone, their abilities integrated into the Weapons themselves. Some of these abilities were changed though.
2) Penetration is no longer rolled - so Tension only benefits Accuracy now. Armor is clearly still superior, but there's more counters to go around now.

The customizable templates for each type of weapon all differ, they all have special abilities or drawbacks with their own UP costs too.

Custom Weapons can cost from 1 to 5 and if you want to give them powerups beyond the 5 UP cap, you must give them drawbacks so that their cost remains at 5. You cannot make a weapon with drawbacks if it costs less than 5, though. Cheap weapons are meant to be filler or backups, not overpowered one-use tricks.

I'll explain how the barebone templates stand next to each other and then list their prebuilt weapons. All of the Premade Weapons featured cost 5 UP, and cannot be modified through the Weapon maker.

The Four Types

Melee gains an Advantage when used during Duels or to Engage them, they start off with the strongest stats and get a discount on several purchasable abilities such as Reliable or Remote. Their drawback is, of course, a lack of range, plus not having many drawbacks to customize with.

All-Out Attack: Much like its previous incarnation, but slightly stronger.
Divine Wind: You sacrifice an Area and Level of Threshold as normal, but this time the Accuracy is equal to the UP in the Area and the Penetration is twice the Threshold lost.
Ensnaring Wires: Has better stats to make trapping enemies easier, and now they have to try to break free during their own Turns.
Gallant Kick and Radiant Fist: These two got their writeups reversed, I feel it makes more sense for the Kick to be the Ultimate Finisher after long duels, and for the Energy Punch to grant full Accuracy excess bonus like Beams do.

Ballistic grants an Advantage when you sacrifice your Move and sit down to aim instead, they have decent range and a variety of range-based drawbacks plus the usual, old ones. Their raw power is the weakest, but their conditional Advantage is the more reliable of the bunch.

Armor Breaker: Now it takes out all of the opponent's Armor until they are Maimed. It also benefits from better stats as well.
Resonance Cannon: Now a Technique instead of a One-Shot. It instantly destroys a single Threshold Level when it deals at least 1 Damage, but has terrible stats and needs to be set up otherwise.
Riot Weapon: This little guy hits all in a straight line instead of being a Blast, and has the Penetration to back it up.
Long Rifle: Modified to now represent a sniper rifle better, with a scope that makes for better Aiming too!
Heavy Machinegun: Still equally prone to jamming as it is to dealing extra damage.

Beams get full roll-over excess accuracy bonus as penetration, but otherwise are all-rounders with decent range and a variety of both abilities and drawbacks. Just be careful to not go too high with Energy costs.

Incinerator: Creates Extreme Terrain where it fires.
Giga Blaster: Still the most preposterous Weapon in the game.
Ground Zero: Still crazy powerful, now with adjustable range.
Lux Cannon: Autohits at no surplus with moderate Penetration, can be augmented with extra Energy.
Disruptor Cannon: A Blast that nerfs other Energy Weapons or Upgrades in the area of effect by increasing their Energy costs.

Missiles grant an Advantage when they are used close up, though they also start off with the highest base range of all weapons and get a discount on Blasts. Their main drawback is the inherent tension to being able snipers but wanting to be used from close up - but not too close, because they lose the Advantage at Range 0.

Bombardment: A remake of Reaction Bomb, hurting everything in an area for a flat 1d10.
Interference Cloud: Denies Tension bonus for a Round to everything in the area of effect.
Genius Missile: A recharging missile that gets better at tracking the same enemy with every subsequent shot.
Micro Missiles: These let you skip rolling dice now, counting Advantages as flat bonuses to Accuracy. Only One Shot.
Nega-G Rounds: Rewritten Air Rods.

And now, some Numbers

The following data is assuming we take these Weapons against Enemies that mirror our own Enhancements, meaning for each Evasion or Armor increase they happen to get, we have the same Accuracy and Penetration bonuses too. Obviously actual PCs (and NPCs) are going to go off those rails, they will sometimes use Weapons that don't quite work and sometimes use Weapons that counter specialized defenses amazingly well, real targets are going to get Threshold Enhancements as well, and finally Weapons have in-built Advantages to help out either against high Evasion or full rollover for high Armor targets adding to their tactical value.

Generally speaking, things like that either substract or add 1-4 Rounds of life.

Weapon Types without any sort of Drawbacks stand around the +2 Acc and 2 Pen ratings on average, going up to +3 Acc and 6 Pen if being more extreme about it. It does not sound like much, and it isn't, but they're acceptable basic all rounders and can reliably finish off an Enemy somewhere between 8 and 10 Rounds.

The Types skirt around 8-13 UP in drawbacks that can be 'gamed' more or less safely, which is about +3 Acc and 3 Pen for the four kinda sorta, going up to +6 Acc and 12 Pen for specialists that sacrifice the other stat with Melee and Missiles at the higher end of the curve. This means the Weapon itself is spammable, or at least repeatable without jumping through lots of hoops (It can be a 1 Energy Beam with very low range, or a long-range exclusive that Recharges and shoots every other turn) using said Weapons will take out most Enemies in 5 or 8 Rounds depending on how effective they are.

Of course outliers are going to exist. This is using vanilla generated Weapons without any fancy stuff, in the real game there will be Incinerators and Armor Breakers and Genius Missiles. Nevermind that this does not take Genre Powers (or Energy-based Defenses) into account at all. Two glass cannons with no defenses whatsoever going all-out at each other from the start can take the other out in three hits, and a guy with topped defenses who sacrifices their own attack power will take around 15 Rounds if we don't have any good weapons ourselves.

Melee makes you a close range monster, but you can be a midrange guy too if you slap an energy cost of 1 or 2 on top for up to a Range of 6. Bullets are pretty much always useful, but they're weak and do better when you're supporting your team. Beams are overpowering against everything (that they can touch) if what you want is an all-range non-stopping beam based offense, and they can be resupplied easily - for some UP. Missiles are the best at the medium to long ranges, and the best versus dodgetanks in general.

So What is the Deal?

Ultimately this means the math is more transparent and less arcane, which is good news for everyone. There is a lot of variance though, and you can still optimize situations tactically, but the playing field is more even to keep things exciting and dynamic in places other than the character creation section. There's no win buttons and no easy mode buttons either (at least not without teamwork), but there's plenty of ways to get back on your feet when things don't look good.

More importantly, it is easier to tailor your own weaponry and defenses to suit your needs and your concept. Balanced stats for protagonist-wannabees are actually a good idea now, but if you want to specialize it is easier to do so without being afraid of hidden pitfalls. You mark your own limits, after all.

Sometimes things might sound like I'm taking away people's toys but I'm only making it easier for everyone to see which are the toys they actually want. It is always more fun if you can take anything, but not everything.

Speaking of making things more exciting and dynamic, Genre Powers changed a lot before I even realized it. And because they're super important, they'll be the subject matter next post.

October 23, 2012

Let's Talk Stats

More or less everything is in place by now regarding the mecha rules update, it'll just be a couple more rounds of testing with some editing passes until it is done. I can only really sit down to work on it during weekends and during the rare all-nighter in the middle of the week, so it'll be a handful of weeks more until it is here.

In the meantime, let's have a look at some of the content I've been hinting at but not actually sharing beyond super vague statements, starting with Mecha Attributes!


The six returning stats are divided into two sets. The first set is slightly weaker, so they tend to start higher and be cheaper to raise, consisting of Evasion, Threshold, and Penetration. The second set is slightly stronger, so they tend to start lower and be more expensive to enhance, consisting of Armor, Energy, and Accuracy.

Enhancement costs are 1/2/3/4/5 and 2/4/6/8/10. You can get enhancements during character creation with your starting 30 UP, but that is still not enough to top out an unit. Fully enhancing all your stats used to cost 40, now it costs a whooping 135. Suffice to say that is way over what one is expected to get over the course of an entire, super long campaign spanning months.

By contrast, most Upgrades are cheaper (they are bought fully enhanced, and often cheaper than at the current cost of the upgrade and enhancement combined) Weapons remain more or less the same as far as costs go, but you're probably going to get a handful of  Cost 5 ones and call it a day.

Why such a radical change from before? Because getting all the enhancements was a crazy good idea earlier, to the point it wasn't much of a choice - unless you had tons of stuff to enhance, you just did it. These modified costs mean that you can get anything but not everything. You want to be the fast guy, or the glass cannon, or the energizer bunny, you can do it and it is your thing. You're special, not just a little bit better than the rest at something.

The Mecha Attributes Themselves

Evasion is very good early on, not so good later on. Tension is harsh on dodge tanks, and of course they live by trusting on the edge by the luck of the dice that they won't get hit. It is cheaper than Armor because it just isn't as reliable at nullifying incoming damage.

Armor is great at this whole keeping you alive business at all stages of the game. In a vacuum it is the best of all stats, but against real opponents there are just too many ways to punch through or counter high-Armor builds. It remains more expensive than Evasion, though, simply because most of the time it is better.

Threshold still equates to four points of health per point in it, which sounds good on paper until you realize having 40 total Threshold is worthless if you are getting attacked for 20 in round 1 because you can't soak for crap. It is a good supplement to the other defensive stats, so it belongs in the group of the cheaper ones.

Energy is probably the most surprising change here, as one of the most expensive stats. Each point of Energy is now that much more valuable, but in turn the things that do require Energy have been strengthened considerably. Abilities that restore Energy are more widely available now, but are not as reliable.

Accuracy, more expensive compared to Penetration because effects that grant the full rollover to it are more common. It is therefore a slightly better offensive stat, since a high enough bonus in it can counter both Evasion and Armor, though it can be replaced by lucky dice rolls.

Penetration is the other guy getting a big makeover, mostly because it is no longer rolled. As such, each point of Armor is that much better. But Penetration is super cheap to pick up and there's very little they can do to counter that if you go crazy with it.

Maneuverability is our seventh stat. Wait, what? Well yes, it is there as the 'skill' stat to handle what the other Attributes don't, things like Initiative, Jury-Rigging, and miscellaneous things such as using your sensors or managing Gear subsystems. It is rarely rolled, though, and is not a stat proper but instead uses your Genre Points as a base. As an optional mechanic, you can replace Genre Points with one of your pilot stats to actually let your PC do the fine manipulation of their Gear.

Chassis Models

Currently Chassis types are going from one extreme of the speedy and energy-based type to the other extreme in being tanky and... tankier. That's gone. Every Chassis type has its own niche now. Personal is about speed and precision, Destroyer is about firepower, and Titanic is king of endurance. Dynamic gets to be the all-rounder of the bunch.

Kinda sorta. Destroyer can also be a pretty good all-around tank, Dynamic can be almost as good as the Personal model as a dodgy type, Personal can do better artillery than the Destroyer and Titanic... Well, they're really good tanks.

Now, some numbers: Non-Titanic starting Evasion values range from 5 to 10 (Titanic has 0), Armor goes from 2 to 7. Threshold is more or less as is now, Energy is at 5 or 6, and both starting Accuracy and Penetration go from 0 to 3 depending on the Chassis model.

You might have noticed that Hybrid is gone, and if you didn't then I am making sure you do right now. Yes, Hybrid is no more. It effectively got displaced in nearly every meaningful way by Dynamic, and so it went to a nicer place. A minute of silence please.

Okay, moving on.


What does this all mean? The summary is that the rock-paper-scissors effect of hyper-specialization is diminished, because doing so actually takes effort now. But at the same time if you do pull it off, by picking the specialized Chassis and sucking up the increased costs, you stand to reap better rewards from it because when you're good you're good.

On the GM/Designer side of things a lot of discrepancies with the combat math have been issued, and it is a lot tighter now. It used to be that all rounders would die horribly even against highly specialized attacks, but now they last about the same as defensive specialists against most things, and of course defensive specialists are shot down faster when they do get countered.

And that's a wrap for now, next up are Weapons.

October 14, 2012

A Small Speed-Bump

The rigorous playtesting phase is still going strong and entering the final stretch, things are starting to be set in stone. As far as the robots go, that is, because Intermissions aren't quite so lucky. Only the content related to Operations will be implemented anytime this year.

On the plus side, this was originally going to be a gradual series of changes (that got a bit out of hand with the domino effect) so I guess they can now be gradual-er and less sudden in general. It is also pretty cool that the robots are definitely going in first, since they are what people generally care about the most.

So what happened? Well, beyond life getting in the way and things simply taking longer than expected, I have something of a funny relationship with the rules for Intermissions: I would be fine not having like half of them at all. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud that it is simple but still crunchy, I love that it does not get in the way of but in fact enables the real meat of the rules, and its great to see how empowering it generally is while still presenting relatively balanced options. I like how it came out, flawed as it may obviously be - I am rewriting it after all.

But that does not change that I would be fine with just rolling base attributes for everything, with a couple advantages or disadvantages maybe, and calling it a day.

This is, obviously, not as fun a prospect for everyone else as it would be for me, so it takes a little bit more work than asking myself "What would be really, really awesome if I were this PC?". Worse, that approach works great for the robots but there's a lot of playstyles and design concerns to juggle in what is a 'generic' roleplaying system that has to stand on its own and do a little bit of everything but not lean too far in any direction.

Without going too much into detail, right now (as in, v1.33) the rules for Intermissions are longer than those for Operations, after taking into account that a lot of the rules for Intermissions are shoved into the Character Creation chapter

I am expanding them, I'm not actually taking out content, nor just changing it.

And when I have to get playtesting done? I would rather playtest the Mecha about 90% of the time because that is the part where spot-on rules matter the most. So when something doesn't play as well as it reads or has some other issue, it better not be fundamentally game-altering because boy there's a lot to change afterwards.

Well, I have to change something pretty fundamental, so it is going to take some time to get it right.

I could throw what I have together and slap it all on top of the cool new stuff that I know works, but I would rather take some extra time to get it done properly. So don't expect anything groundbreaking there (beyond Themes/Powers, which are more on the giant robot side of the equation anyway) yet, but if you want the real crunch of the game to be more fine tuned, expect something badass coming your way next month.

October 7, 2012

The Cat Brought in Another Update

Another small batch of changes. Here is one of them mediafire thingies for your perusal. There might be a v1.34 after this but I'll probably jump straight to 1.4 with major system patches. Yes, that is what I said last time but I really mean it this time, pinkie swear. I hope

General Changes:
-Typos and awkward turns of phrasing still existed, and were thus corrected.
Character Creation:
-Nothing, barring a few fixes of the ^^see above^^ variety.
Mecha Construction:
-Potentials now offer a static bonus to stats on specific circumstances, after Tension has increased to 10, or 5 if enhanced.
-Sub-Units modified to now work off three upgrades instead of two: Expansion Packs, Sidekicks, and Assistants. Abilities linked to them like Security Escort were modified accordingly.
Playing the Game:
-Cooperate no longer gives Tension.
-The Assist Action now uses the Advantage and Disadvantage mechanics.
-There were no drawbacks to attacking a target outside of a Duel while you were in one. This has been rectified.
Running the Show:

Potentials have been a thorn on my side for a while, taking way too long to give effects that are either gamebreaking or achieve nothing. Now they should all be useful for their price. Sub Units are now split into super packs/full armor (which can be purged defensively), a subpilot who can use cooperate and a number of genre powers, and the crappy adorable sidekicks like boss borot that we know and love. Notice that Sidekicks no longer use your own stats, I may use a similar approach for Remote Weapons later.

Perhaps the most surprising change is the one to duels, mostly because how the hell did I not notice that thing about Duels all this time? Cooperate should be a lot less overpowered now, and Assist has been streamlined. Aaaand that's it. Tests for the newer, cooler stuff are going well so I'll probably have some of those online before too long.