July 28, 2013

Reining NPC Forces In

Gonna make a few posts about some supplementary material that will, maybe, get its own manual down the line. The first content of this type I want to bring up is not specifically about PCs, or even about enemies. It is about support NPCs, and it called the Reinforcements system.

What are Reinforcements?

Reinforcements represent helping hands that are completely separate from your own Mecha, and thus different from Subpilots. Reinforcements can come in the form of sidekicks not directly under your command, bridge bunnies sending you crucial new information in the middle of a battle, or regular armed forces without their own Mecha contributing in their own way.

For instance, most of the GaoGaiGar cast can be represented through Reinforcements. They can't defeat the enemies entirely on their own, but they have a myriad of support abilities like the Eraser Head or the Melting Siren to make GaoGaiGar's fight easier. But Soushi Minashiro from Fafner in the Azure, who shares a mental link with the other pilots and guides them in battle from the base, is also a good example of Reinforcements.

Reinforcements are ranked from one to ten representing just how strong they are as a whole, as follows:

1-2 Insignificant: Lacking in power and versatility, these Reinforcements are better than nothing and can come useful every now and then, but aren't anything to write home about.
3-4 Elite Mook: The Reinforcements are strong enough to make the difference between otherwise matched opponents, and are equivalent to an Enemy Grunt in power.
5-6 Friendly Rival: As the equivalent of facing another full-blown Rival NPC, these Reinforcements make great companions out there in the front lines.
7-8 Mentor: The Reinforcements are powerful and have a deadly variety in what they can do, making them genuinely fearsome and the equivalent of having another Boss Enemy on the battlefield.
9-10 Deus Ex Machina: The Reinforcements are overwhelmingly powerful and victory is all but assured to the Squad that benefits from them.

How do Reinforcements work?

Reinforcements are NOT regular NPCs, they are simpler to work with and more useful to the Squad as a whole, for a variety of reasons. Let's see how, specifically.

First, they are a group resource represented by a single Squad Reinforcement Unit. This represents all of their sidekicks and allies at the same time - If there are multiple members to a Reinforcement Unit, they'll have to take turns sharing the narrative spotlight.

Second, the Reinforcement Unit has its own Initiative always set at 10, during which it may use any of its abilities. A Reinforcement Unit may use one ability during its Turn, and it may only use a total number of abilities equal to its Rank per Operation. The group should decide as a whole what they request the Reinforcement Unit to do.

Beyond Rank 5, Reinforcements exceed Rivals in power (and as such are likely at least a group of Rivals) they may use two abilities in one turn. A Rank 6 Reinforcement can use 2 abilities on turns one, two, and three, but it will have spent all of them by then. It may not, however, use the same ability twice per Turn.

Third, a single Reinforcement ability can be repeated any number of times (unless otherwise noted) for as long as the Reinforcement Unit’s Ranks allow, repeatable abilities are interchangeable this way as far as the number of uses they have go.

Lastly, a Reinforcement Unit has no other discernible battlefield presence outside of their own abilities. They cannot be attacked or disabled, but they also cannot win on their own and if the rest of the PC Squad is defeated, so are they.

A Rank 4 Reinforcement can use its abilities four times, and has four abilities. It can use each ability once, or use two abilities twice, and so on. Note that Reinforcements do not need to use an ability every Turn, they can just pass a Turn.

What can Reinforcements do?

There are ten Reinforcement abilities, Reinforcement Units have a number of these (of their choice) according to their Rank. A Rank 10 Reinforcement Unit has all 10 abilities.

Airstrike: All Units within a target area the size of a Blast suffer an amount of Damage equal to half the current Tension.
Assisted Targetting: One Ally gains the benefits of the Aim Action to their next Offensive Action this round.
Flash Analysis: One Enemy’s complete rules are revealed to the Squad. If they need an update afterwards on their status, they will need to use this ability again.
Pathfinder: One Ally may Move an additional Zone as part of their next Action, ignoring the effects of Difficult Terrain while doing so.
Remote Hotfix: One Ally may ignore the effects of Maiming on all of their Areas for a Round.
Electromagnetic Detonator: One Enemy may not restore Threshold by any means for a Round. Use this ability once per Operation.
Fight On!: Restore one Ally's Threshold by 5. Use this ability once per Operation.
Fire at Will: One Enemy suffers the effects of Extreme Terrain (in addition to any other Terrain properties) during their next Turn. Use this ability once per Operation.
IFF Hacking: One Enemy loses the benefits of Tension to Offensive Actions for a Round. Use this ability once per Operation.
Supply Drop: An area the size of a Blast becomes Base Terrain (in addition to any other Terrain properties) for the rest of the Operation. Use this ability once per Operation.

What is the best way to use Reinforcements?

Their primary use is to represent NPCs without the GM having to stat them out and take Actions in their stead. This becomes more important for weaker, sidekick-esque characters, who usually are left to do as they please constantly getting extra attacks in or explode violently the moment anyone looks at them funny and are completely useless. This system adds a middle ground to that.

It becomes a lot more useful when you're trying to represent that the PCs have some serious firepower backing them up. I am talking about having fleets of grunts behind them, which would be a nightmare to handle if we were trying to give 100 planes/tanks/robots turns of their own.

A small fleet of spaceships can get by with Airstrike, Fire at Will, and Assisted Targetting as a Rank 3 Reinforcement to have a small but noticeable impact. A Repair & Resupply support dropship can use Assisted Targetting, Flash Analysis, Remote Hotfix, Electromagnetic Detonator, Fight On! and Supply Drop to shape and affect the battlefield about as much effectiveness as one of the PCs.

High-Ranking Reinforcements make for perfect 'here comes the cavalry' moments for those times when the PCs could use a helping hand. They are pretty simple to make up rules for (Decide how powerful the Reinforcements are, think of a handful of abilities that are like Genre Powers and make sense for the Reinforcements in question, done). A final note to make is that, if you choose to customize their abilities, they shouldn't be much stronger than a Genre Power, and they should be more interesting than 'Deal Damage to one Enemy', Reinforcements are at their best when they support the characters, not when they steal their kills. If you are going to make abilities like that anyway (like Fire at Will), make them usable once per Operation.

That's about it for Reinforcements. There is not that much else to explain, since they're just something that the GM may decree necessary or not and is more or less up to them... At least until Reinforcements become purchasable with UP. Next time, it'll be about the return of Mental Plot Armor rules.

July 2, 2013

Patched up, Cleaned out, and Gift-wrapped.

Posting in the middle of the week because my ISP has been making it an ordeal to get anything done. This is a touchup to 1.8 with only two rules changes, to Modules and Cryptids. There is also a number of editorial fixups that provoked this hurried update in the first place: To summarize, a few things (mostly 1.8 changes) are better explained and the example NPCs are completely up to date.

Because it has been less than a month since 1.8 I'll list the changes from there once again in addition to the new stuff in red.

Character Creation

-Limited the number of Enhancements Characters can get to three per Episode Arc.
-Masterwork Tools may now be used as Proxies if applicable.
-Clarified when precisely might Backup Bodies be used.
-Clarified there can't be two instances of Come at me Bro on the same side
-Clarified that Hidden Power can't give you more of something you cannot possibly get more of.
-Buffed Got Your Back and Retroactively Prepared.

Mecha Construction

-Limited the number of Enhancements Mecha can get to three per Episode Arc.
-Increased the limit of Archetypes to 3.
-Rewrote Modules into Speed and Power Modules. You can only have one Module at a time unless they are part of an Alternate Form.
-Sub Units beyond the first take up Archetype slots. That means you can have 3 of one type and 1 of the other or 2 and 2. This counts your starting Archetype.
-Sub Units can no longer be combined into one godly Sub Unit.
-Assistant no longer grants Genre Powers.
-Sidekicks cost 5 more UP but can now be repaired at the beginning of your Turn.
-Tweaked Stealth Field a little.
-You can attack while docked to a Base Unit.
-Small buffs to Incinerator, Divine Wind, and to Weapons with the Defective quality.
-Tweaked Micro Missiles and Nega-G Rounds to make them more attractive.
-Nerfed Disruptor Cannon
-Implemented a limit of one Custom Weapon with a cost less than 5 at a time. You can get around this limit during the initial construction of your Mecha and take multiple cheap Custom Weapons as long as they all have different Costs and no drawbacks whatsoever.
-You can now Enhance Custom Weapons that cost 1-4 until they cost 5.

Playing the Game

-Clarified that any abilities that automatically roll 10 ignore Advantages and Disadvantages entirely.
-Expanded the Time Management sidebar with rules for taking longer in exchange for Advantages.
-Assist cannot be used with area of effect Weapons any longer.
-You can now move after taking a Suppress Action but you take the other half of the Damage it would have dealt.
-Clarified that you cannot escape a Duel through Engaging a different target.

Running the Show

-Toned down Nanoskin Shell and Telekinetic Strike.
-Buffed Hypersonic Striker with the ability to hit and run.
-Changed 3G-Bomb to be a superweapon with high base stats and huge radius.
-Streamlined Payback to use the Damage taken as a workhorse.
-Cryptid now forces you to make a Test to avoid losing Layers upon being Damaged, but you are not defeated until you lose all of them.

In the end I went ahead and rewrote Modules. They give two +2 boosts for 10 UP, and you can only get one. If they're part of an Alternate Form not only can you get both of them (as long as they are in separate modes) but they go into the Core, so they don't run the risk of getting Maimed. They could have been made more expensive to solve the power issue (or made part of the enhancement progression scheme) without being rewritten entirely but it was important for transformers to be able to make forms with different stats. This seemed to be the best way to facilitate that while toning them down.

Cryptid has also been rewritten for the umpteenth time with this instance being less unfair yet more intense: Now you have to fail multiple separate Tests to be defeated this way. This also makes it more interesting to roleplay its effects on Pilots.

From now on I'd like to focus on variant mechanics and rules a little too out there to be made part of the core system. Further changes to the existing rules would likely require a major overhaul of more or less everything so if they do happen it will not be this year. What I can do this year is make posts about adapting the game to suit things other than traditional Mecha or to different playstyles while keeping its distinctive feel.

Should be fun.