April 28, 2013

Mechanical Make-Up III

As of this writing we have 34 Upgrades available to PCs, not counting Archetypes and Features which bring up the total to 49. That is a lot of abilities to pick and choose from, and making them all useful while distinctive is kind of tough. It also means I'm not going to look over all of them in one sitting, so for today I will stick to the first half of the Upgrade lines.

Active Defenses

Evasive Systems and Defensive Barriers get a quick look over because they get a sidebar explaining their functionality and limitations already. The only other thing worth mentioning is that the cheaper, type-specific Defenses can easily go from conditionally useful to very frustrating in the hands of Grunts adapted to counter PCs. That is kind of mean, though, so it should be kept for special occasions.

Aid Another and Support

Also known as the 'team player' line of Upgrades. There's enough of them that you could take all of these and be a full support unit who never does any actual fighting but rather keeps everyone in top condition all the time instead.

All-Stars are Reload for its utility in both reloading One-Shots and repairing Remotes for only 3 UP, Resupply for giving you you back 5 whole Energy all at once, and Support Fire for granting 'free' Advantages to your allies and making duels a lot less risky.

Battlefield Commander is better than Jury Rig at keeping you healed through a prolonged conflict. JR's big benefit is that it guarantees healing, and does so at no Action Cost with Regenerative, where an Assistant-fueled Micromanage fails to do anything at all 40% of the time. They both work fine, though, so I don't think I want to change how either works for now.

Guardian Maneuver and Sacrifice take a bit of teamplay to do anything meaningful at all, but only specific Weapons can get around their solid and hard to pierce defenses once you've got that covered. Last is the Overcharger, deceptively powerful and terrific if you've got a free Gravagne Field effect on top of your Sacrifice tank. Even if you're just using it on yourself through Regenerative, three turns of 20 Evasion or so is going to make anyone who doesn't have the luxury of being able to ignore you cry.

Overall they work as intended but the three-use limitation on pretty much all of these abilities mean they're better off used in concert and with some planning beforehand. A cool thing is that, through them, Grunt forces can make a formidable show for the three Rounds of life expectancy they've got, likely extending them to 5-6 until finally being crushed.

Special Modes

Speaking of three-use limitations, I once considered giving these a three-round duration instead of a drawback, but having a downside is more interesting to play with... though said downside is 'uses up your Energy' half the time. Which is a little disappointing, but there just aren't that many downsides which both hurt and make sense.

This block's cool kids are Beast Mode and Anti-Gravity. One turns you into a whirlwind of death and destruction until you don't need to be one, while A-G has little to no downside most of the time. Chances are that once you activate them, and should you actually need to turn them off, you won't need them again.
Over-Booster is much more attractive after the bigger emphasis on area effects and the Cost reduction, though the loss of energy hurts. It gets the job done and there really isn't much to say about that, and while it is super useful for its cheap UP Cost, the energy drain keeps it from being right next to the others.

Artillery Mode can be pretty nasty if you spend UP on extra Range, the big drawback on a specialized sniper is that by the time they catch up to you, Tension will have gone up and boy you better have a backup close range Weapon because it is going to hurt. Also that sometimes you don't have large enough battlefields to make use of it. The thing that makes it unattractive is that Ballistics are trading an Advantage for that extended Range, and if you are making use of said Range, then your Missiles are also likely not gaining one either. Very usable, though, specially since it only costs 3 UP.

This brings us to the big, expensive ones with the big, expensive drawbacks. Stealth Field can be a free defensive buff. It can also drain your whole supply of Energy after a single bad round, since it tracks each instance separately. It works much better in a duel than it does against a group of enemies, which makes sense from a flavor standpoint, so I'm happy with that.

Three Times Faster is strange for a 10 UP ability in that it does a little bit of everything and costs considerable Energy, which isn't too good when you would rather be doing fewer things but better. On the other hand, doing a little bit of everything is often pretty sweet: Just look at Custom Blueprints. It might want an Energy cost reduction, because the free movement is rarely going to be a deciding factor as much as the other two effects, but when it does it is a pretty major one. We'll see.

I'll wait until I'm done with the UP section in general to bring up potential additions and rule customizations.

April 21, 2013

Mechanical Make-Up II

I like Weapons. As in, GGG's Weapons.

I like that there's just enough variety in their typing to add depth without getting too specific over sword alloys or firearm calibers. I like that you can have enough of them with you at all times to avoid repeating the same trick over and over. I like that specializing in a specific type or mixing and maxing types are both viable strategies. I overall like where they stand right now.

Sometimes I focus a lot on things that could stand to be better, but every once in a while it is a good idea to look back at the bigger picture and realize just how neat some things really are. Mostly so I don't wreck them apart when I'm doing major changes.

What kind of changes? Well, for starters I don't like that Bullets and Missiles have been difficult to distinguish mechanically from day one. I don't like that when it comes down to it Weapon types are "Beam" on one side and "Everything Else" on the other. I also don't like the half-rollover mechanic in general, but that's more of a general rules issue.

All three of those things could stand to be streamlined further. But doing so would take away a lot of the depth inherent to combat, and the less options you've got out there to choose from, the more likely that a single PC can take all of them. Kind of ruins the point to be able to actually choose anything.

I would like to experiment a little on that end, but that's a topic for when I have a better idea of how to do it, and just what to sacrifice. Now let's go over the current Weapons a bit, see if they can be improved, and if they're doing their job properly.


The premade Melee Weapons tend to be big finishers or desperation attacks in some way, though they all have very distinct functions. Gallant Kick and Radiant Fist were both made to counter Evasion and Armor tanks respectively, while All-Out Attack is a more general finisher and has the most abusiveness potential of the bunch. It makes for a very nasty combination with tricks like Limiter Release or Righteous Fury.

Divine Wind is similarly brutal, though a lot less abusable for obvious reasons. It could stand to be improved, thinking about it, because man, you're taking a lot of damage for what is one big hit that can still be weakened through barriers or nullified with evasive systems.

The really interesting guy here is Finger Net, which is an extremely effective tool to harass groups of enemies with in a teamwork scenario, or put pressure on a single ultradodgy enemy. Yes, it is repeatable to the point of annoyance, but each turn you're doing this is a turn you're not likely doing anything else of value. And ultimately, the choice of whether the effect sticks or not is not yours, but of the guy on the other side, not to mention they can engage you or an ally in a duel to make launching it at them a very bad idea.


Much like with Melee, a number of the Weapons here are made to counter specific types of tanks. Armor Breaker and the Long Rifle are the most obvious, but the Sentry Turret and Resonance Cannon are also quite effective counters too. The Long Rifle and Sentry Turret can also do other things, though, not being quite 'hard' counters in that regard. 

We can extend that to the Superheavy Machinegun and the Riot Weapon too though, while they're both good at handling groups of enemies, the former fares much better with dodgy types and the latter with armored ones. 

Special Ballistic Weapons end up being, in general, really good against single targets, specially those with a focus on Evasion. They tend to have more trouble with armored targets, and swarms of grunts are hell. Custom Weapons can mitigate this, and so can Use More Gun, but you might as well branch off into other types. Overall, fairly solid. 

Beams are almost universally good, but their usual low stats make them kind of really bad against evasive enemies. There's not much left to punch through Armor after a high Evasion has soaked most of your Accuracy, after all. This is easily solved by simply having high Accuracy and Penetration Attributes as a base, and since their other weakness is that they need to consume energy, their faults are the easiest to mitigate. 

Kind of an issue, but it doesn't ruin the game or anything. So how do the premade beams fare? Well, the ones that aren't superweapons of pure, unmitigated destruction are fairly useful, so I would say they're all pretty good which is a success in my book. Most of them need a bit of setup, because they sweep huge areas and are likely to hurt your friend in the process, or at least annoy them.


Missiles have come a long way since they were 'like Ballistics, but worse', and while the similarities still bug me - as pointed out a few paragraphs ago- they're much more distinct and useful now. For one, they're the only Weapon type you can potentially 'kite' with through hit and run tactics, and they're the best at charging into the fray with a moderate mix of Accuracy and Penetration. Plus, they get cheap Blasts. 

Like with nearly every other Weapon type, some of them are clearly engineered to be able to counter tanks. Bombardment, in particular, is good enough that if you can manage to constantly keep it reloaded it might earn you a victory on its own. Micromissiles are a neat primary weapon if you're the type that hates relying on luck, you'd just need something to use in the off-turns... Like say, a Genius Missile.

Nega-G Rounds are utilitarian, but their one problem is that their utility is trumped by Exhaustion, which is a much more reliable Power. Of course, taking Exhaustion means you're locked into the Controller Package of Powers, but once you have a team member with it... Well, Nega-G Rounds are more of an afterthought. I would like to make it more useful, perhaps by giving it another, different function too. But I'm not quite sure how, and the effect is fairly powerful by itself, so maybe it is fine.

Enhancing Customizations

The anime-themed pacing of the rules letting you grab Upgrades and Weapons after Arcs or during a Mid-Scene Upgrade keeps your mid-Season UP spending strictly on Enhancements, which right now, are flat statistical boosts. That's okay, but we can improve on that a little.

A thing I want to add to the next version is a small improvement to the Custom Weapon rules, expanding the Enhancement rules while at it. Currently Weapons with a cost lower than 5 UP are good filler and nothing else, most of their utility comes at character creation when you just have 2-3 points to spare and coooould use another Weapon rather than an Enhancement.

Enter the Enhancing of Custom Weapons, now you can bump up your lowly 1 UP starting dinky pistol to a much more satisfying 5 UP hand cannon of death. Or buy-off drawbacks such as Overheating with UP, increasing the Cost of the Weapon to 5. The UP Cost can never go over 5, so if you want to buy a 3 UP Beam's Overheating ability off, you're going to have to give it three more UP in drawbacks to keep it from exceeding 5.

It is not a particularly big change or anything, but it does improve what you can do in between arcs a little, and because it is just a nice little patch it can be incorporated more or less seamlessly into the rules.

April 14, 2013

Mechanical Make-Up I

I am more or less rereading everything for the umpteenth time over, doing editorial fixups on the way, because those never stop popping up for some reason. So while I'm putting everything under the microscope, I might as well drop some insight on the things I'm inspecting here.

I went over the ground level rules in general in a three-part series right before starting the 1.7 previews. And while they do deserve a more detailed look, I figure I should begin with the Mecha Construction chapter.

It is the more interesting one anyway. And it is not like I can't go back to examine the first, anyway.


Let's start from the basics, which in this case would be Mecha Attributes. One of the first few things I knew I wanted from the game was to have two angles from which you could approach your PC's defense - and by extension, your offense. I knew I wanted to make the fast and accurate robots different from the slow and powerful ones, too. Having four separate stats to track those things, so that you could mix and match them as you please, seemed like a good plan.

Honestly I'm not too happy with the math involved in attacking, but it succeeds at solving the question of whether you hit or not with a single roll and gives characters distinct ways to approach offense and defense, making them more unique. More importantly, the divide between 'mobility' and 'power' makes it difficult to be an offensive god of destruction or an invincible defensive powerhouse. And having a system that works towards balance makes games fun in the long term even if they seem a bit complicated in the short term.

I wanted the HP equivalent to be separate from your armor, so Threshold was the fifth stat that got made, and Energy seemed like an obvious sixth to give all characters an in-built way to do cool things even without any Genre Points.

Then there's Systems! Systems is cool because it serves two purposes depending on the group's playstyle. First, it is a variable stat that can be used for miscellaneous tests involving general piloting skill that are always difficult because the Systems stat is usually lowish, and it gets lower as combat goes on, even if you do gain more points as you get damaged. Second, if you hate variable stats and/or want pilot abilities to have more of an impact on the battlefield, you can use it as a fixed Attribute drawing from the Pilot's own.


The thing with point-buy systems that let you distribute your stats freely as you wish is that, the grand majority of the time, they're inherently and irreparably broken. Even when they're not, they're easily exploitable and encourage powergaming by nature. I wasn't going to run that risk, so I figured I would have prebuilt templates that you could customize further.

That's how the original five Chassis types were born, and why I'm not in any rush to throw them out anytime soon. After rules changes pretty much made one of them useless, they became four. I've said it before, though, while the current four get the job done I'm not perfectly happy with them. That said I am keeping them as is because they all tend towards a specific role without said role being the only thing they can do.

To be perfectly frank for a minute here, replicating the mechanics of Super Robot Wars is not always a good idea. Specially when it comes to Super Robots. If you look at the stats for each unit in the games, those are usually one of two types: Better than the dodgy ones in nearly every way, or they're extremely fragile and get by thanks to having multiple pilots.

Now I can see where an argument for more SRW-like supers is coming from, but those have lower Evasion and better everything else. Sometimes they're huge and size difference makes them slightly less accurate, but that's still two stats next to four! If we want a game that is balanced at least one of those four is going to give, and in GGG, your choices are between defense and offense.

Plus you can always drop Enhancements and Modules on top of your Mecha to better fit a concept, so it is trivial to make a Dynamic into the closest thing to a videogame Super Robot by giving them more Armor and Threshold. That said, I know that it is a thing some of you really wish would change, so while I think of how and when to implement more Chassis types you can play around with this makeshift Custom Chassis Constructor.

C3: or Custom Chassis Constructor

Choose one of the four Chassis types available to customize, you can mix up their Attributes by increasing one and decreasing another as follows:

Rule 1: Armor, Energy and Accuracy are worth the double of Evasion, Threshold and Penetration.
Rule 2: You cannot take out more than 3 points from any single Attribute.
Rule 3: You cannot exceed the existing maximums for each Attribute, and no Attributes may go under 0.

So let's say you want to customize the Destroyer and make it tankier. You can trade a point of Energy for two more Evasion, or for another point of Armor. You cannot, however, trade more than 3 points of Energy this way, so it cannot go under 5. You also cannot increase Armor by 3, because that would go over the starting maximum that the Shield Chassis gets, but you can get 2 Evasion or 2 Threshold to go with your 2 Armor.

And that's a wrap for now. Next time I'll go over Weapons, examining the premade ones and going over a few ideas for modifying your Custom Weapons over time.