December 29, 2013

The Super Robots of Battle Century G

Before getting to the meat of today's post I want to clarify a few things that I glossed over or outright forgot last week - I wrote that post in a hurry and a few things escaped my mind. For instance I forgot to bring up Terrain. Anti-Gravity focuses around ignoring it and Fire at Will causes someone to suffer Extreme Terrain, and knowing what Terrain does is kind of important in the context of discussing those two.

Rocky and uneven hills, deserts that clog your Mecha’s joints with sand and strong currents that leave your giant robot waist deep in water. These are all good examples of Difficult Terrain, known for how much it complicates the lives of those trying to cross it. Units Halve their Speed while they are within Difficult Terrain.

Extreme Terrain covers a variety of hazardous environs that are deadly to both people and giant robots. Examples of Extreme Terrain include magnetic storms and erupting volcanoes. An Unit that begins or ends a Turn within Extreme Terrain must average their Systems and Speed and Test against a DN of 10. Should they fail the Test, they then take the amount they failed it by as Damage. If they begin and end a Turn within Extreme Terrain, each instance threatens them separately.

Extreme Terrain is a lot less brutal than its GGG incarnation, but it is much harder to avoid entirely as well. It is almost always guaranteed to trigger at least once, and because you are averaging two stats it is harder to autosucceed. Yes, an average roll (5) with slightly above average stats (5) will nullify it entirely, but when it happens twice it is likely to end up hurting you at least a little, specially if you did not invest in Systems and Speed. Something like Fire at Will is a death sentence for 0 Systems, 0 Threshold Grunts everywhere.

The averaged Attributes mechanic is pretty similar to the way Maneuvering works. To Maneuver you average your Systems and Speed then roll a Test, you gain half the result in Defense for a Round. You may give this Defense bonus to an Ally within 1 Zone of Range from you instead of keeping it for yourself. Multiple Maneuvers do not stack together, using only the highest result of the bunch. This is much more effective than just imparting a -2 or two to your opponent, lets you cover your allies without having to buy special abilities (though there's going to be some of those for designated party tanks), and only gets stronger with Defensive Terrain. Speaking of which...

Defensive Terrain is distinguished by having a lot of cover for Units, making it comparable to the Mecha equivalent of war trenches. Examples of Defensive Terrain are most urban settings, deep jungles, and asteroid fields. Defensive Terrain adds the entirety of the Test result to Defense when using the Maneuver Action.

So that's Terrain. I also glossed over the fact that Support Upgrades are Utility Actions (aka, the not-Offensive ones) so you can use them from really far away (twice your Systems is usually beyond the reach of most Long-Range Weapons, specially as a Systems specialist) while keeping your distance and running away at the same time. Yes, you can run away while bombarding someone with Fire at Will for as long as your Resupply allows.

Just, you know, be careful about running into a wall. Most Battlefields shouldn't have more than a couple Turns' worth of Benny Hill chase scenes to them, for reasons that I hope are obvious.

With these matters settled, we can now return to our scheduled blog post.

Today is Super Robot Day! If monster trainers are going to have rules for handling multiple monsters at the same time and spellcasters get to have multiple elements for their blasts of wizardry, then giant robots get to transform and combine. Let's not waste more words and get to it.

Two Vehicles for the Price of One

The Transformation line has always been the toughest for me to design and balance in GGG. It was either too strong, didn't let you do things you'd expect a transformer to do, or was too complex. Usually it was a combination of those three factors too. Ultimately I ended up making them a bit stronger than they should be, essentially making the Upgrade pay for itself and grant you an extra free 5 UP. Because it was better than the alternatives, even if it ended up being a tad wordy for my liking.

Not anymore. Meet Battle Century G's Transformations, courtesy of the new Attribute system.

Name: Transformation
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 10
Effect: Choose two of Might, Guard, Systems or Speed when you take this Upgrade. You switch the value of the chosen Attributes around when you Transform. You may switch back and forth from this Transformation at the beginning of your Turn by spending 2 Energy or as an Action.
Description: Your Mecha is a transformer, going from flying robot to a faster plane form, retaining all your equipment and abilities between forms.

Your tank form trades speed for power, while your plane form is more fragile but also moves faster. You can even use this to represent combat stances, trading your might for guard or something along those lines. Because all stats are equal(ish) in value, we can do fancy things like switch defense for speed or speed for attack without it breaking the game's math down its knee, and since Energy regenerates, we can also give it a cost and make it a thing you have to think about using without punishing you for using it a lot.

With that said, this doesn't work very well for Mecha that want their forms to be radically different from each other. Sometimes you want your plane form to be the only one that can fly and your robot form the only one that can use melee weapons. And that's why we have this little thing here.

Name: Superior Morphing
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 20
Effect: You may Transform for 1 Energy instead of 2. When you purchase this Upgrade, make two sets of External Upgrades or Weapons with a total cost of 10 MP for each set. Assign each set to a different Form, but all in the same Areas. The Cost in MP of these sets is already paid by this Upgrade.
Description: Your internal framework has been modified to allow for faster and more versatile changes between equipment. Your jets can turn into cannons and your wheels into shields.

I love creative solutions to design problems. In practical terms you are only paying for the ability to switch stats, since Superior Morphing splits its cost of 20 MP (Mecha Points, not Upgrade Points) between two forms, it doesn't really cost you anything. You can get more Transformations this way, and the cost remains even. Buy Transformation twice and you have three forms, each with its own discrete 10 MP to spend on things.

But of course, the ability to transform is at its strongest when you use Features...

Name: Terrain Specialist
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 0
Effect: Choose one of underwater, space, or land when you take this Feature. While you are in said environment you gain the benefit of Defensive Terrain, ignore the effects of Difficult Terrain, and may shoot through a Zone occupied by an Enemy to reach another behind it as if they weren’t there. Outside your chosen environment your Speed and Guard Attributes are halved.
Description: A lot of machines derived from the technology that is used for Gears are not humanoid. You can find anything from mecha mermen to fearsome beastly robots resembling mammals or even arthropods, adapted for land-to-land encounters.

Yep. Good old Terrain Specialist. It is a lot more intuitive now, having the good parts of Anti-Gravity and giving you a little extra for your trouble. And of course, it works fantastically when you can change your specified Terrain on the go.

What about the other Features? Well, they're still there, and they're better than ever.

Name: Extreme Fortification
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 0
Effect: You halve all Damage you would usually take from any source that isn’t an Might Test, but only have half your Energy Attribute to spend every Round. This also works for abilties that are a secondary effect of using a Weapon but separate from the Might Test itself.
Description: You are reinforced internally and externally, at the price of having to use smaller and less powerful energy reactors. Through this method, you can survive in the most inhospitable places known to mankind and weather some pretty heavy attacks as a bonus. Just mind your reserves.

Name: Power Suit
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 0
Effect: This Unit does not lose any abilities allocated to its Areas from Maiming. Instead each Area lost to damage halves one of your Attributes. Losing the Head halves your Systems, the Torso halves your Guard, the Arms halve your Might and the Legs your Speed.
Description: Instead of a giant robot you have a suit of mechanized armor. It is powerful enough to stand up to the big kids, but it is much more susceptible to direct hits.

Extreme Fortification offers very, very good defenses but you have less Energy to protect yourself with from regular attacks. Power Suit offers a legitimate alternative to the usual Maim system, and a pretty intuitive one at that. I am much happier with the Battle Century G versions of these two.

Two Pilots are Better than One

And so we move on to Multipilot units. Let's start with the simplest one of the bunch, which is for NPC Subpilots. Remember how I said a couple weeks ago that a Genre Power (and the Point spent to use it) cost roughly 10 XP?.

Name: Assistant (Specialist)
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 10
Effect: You gain a Subpilot, this grants you any one Genre Power from the available lists to your character and another Genre Point to use during Operations.
Description: You get a second pair of hands to help you out in the battlefield. The know-how and support from this subpilot will improve your Gear’s efficiency beyond what you could manage on your own.

This would make a lot more sense if I had shown you any Genre Powers yet. But I swear it is strong! We'll get there soon. NPC Subpilots are useful, but they're still NPC Subpilots and thus not all that interesting. Let's see what the dark gods of streamlining have done to Multi-PC Combiners...

Name: Component Unit
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 0
Effect: Choose one of the four External Areas belonging to the Unit you will combine with. After you have Combined, the lead Unit gains all of your External Upgrades and Weapons assigning them to the chosen Area and it may use your Might, Guard, Systems or Speed in place of theirs if it is higher. You are now a Subpilot for the lead Unit. If the chosen Area is Maimed the lead Unit does not lose you as a Subpilot nor do their Attributes return to normal.
Description: Parts of your Mecha have been clearly designed to be linked up and shared with other giant robots. Maybe it can form the arms of even larger Mecha’s torso, or turn into a giant backpack for another Mecha.

...Well, that is a lot shorter than the GGG version. Still wordy! But not half as long. It is also a lot more intuitive. PCs that become Subpilots can still take Actions during their Turns, but they can only be Utility Actions, and may not Move the Unit in a direction of their choice along with it. They will have to Boost if they want to make any Movement at all. Actions from specific Upgrades like Restoration or Support Upgrades may be used this way as long as the lead also has access to them. That means Separate and External Upgrades, but not Internal ones.

Of course, the only reason I managed to make it shorter is because Subpilot PCs have their own sidebar explaining their rules! I am so clever, outsmarting my own formatting like that. Note that this is only for PC Subpilots, NPC Subpilots are just Assistants. This is both because they are less skilled than PCs, and because a single PC should not be able to essentially have two or more Turns each Round, at least not in a game meant to be simpler.

The game is built to handle combiners a lot better now, and there are plenty of ways to build them too, making them fun to play with more than once or twice. A dedicated Component would most likely have high Systems and use Restoration or Support upgrades, but could also grant Systems and Speed to the lead then focus on Maneuvering. This means that you can have multiple Combiners joining up to form a Megazord and they can all split the work of buffing up the lead with each other. A dedicated team of Combiners would usually consist of exactly five PCs, each of the four Components granting the lead unit a different stat boost and External Upgrades to use in each Area. A dedicated Lead would focus on Threshold and Energy, plus Internal Upgrades like Weapon Specialization.

I hopefully did not miss a lot of stuff this time around, and everything (short of Assistants) makes sense now. Next time we'll go over Genre Powers now that I have a firm grasp on their power level, and also over Enemies because I have a few fun news for GMs concerning those.

December 22, 2013

The Secondary Attributes of Mecha in Battle Century G

The last few posts have been about straight up combat specialists and the toys they get to play with, but Battle Century G has more diverse combat roles to offer. Giant robots are fine as primarily bruisers or snipers with an utility option or two, but other types of heroes have dedicated support characters to provide healing, weaken enemies, and empower allies. And you know what? Mecha can have some of that, too.

With the addition of Systems and Speed plus naturally regenerative Energy, there's tons of things you can do if you choose to skimp on the other Attributes. There are three Upgrade lines going by the names of Restoration, Mobility and Support which exist exclusively for the sake of PCs that choose to focus on those stats either as their primary or secondary Attributes. They're ideal for units that don't want to be frontline attackers or defenders and would rather help from the safety of the back lines.
Victory on the Heals of Defeat

Restoration Upgrades let you heal, resupply or otherwise fix up yourself or your Allies. They can be used an amount of times per Operation equal to your Systems, and that goes for all of them together, not individually. They are very similar to Support Upgrades from GGG, though the name has been reassigned to a different line of abilities. We'll talk about those in a bit.

Name: Resupply
Type: External
Cost: 5
Effect: As an Action, you may restock a single One-Shot Weapon or Support Upgrade after it has been spent. You may use Resupply on yourself or an Ally within 1 Zone.
Description: You have a comically big backpack with all the supplies you and your team could ever need to keep their weapons functional. It does not slow you down much, but it does stick out like a sore thumb so be careful with not letting it get caught in the crossfire.

Name: Jury-Rig
Type: External
Cost: 10
Effect: As an Action, you may spend any amount of Energy to restore that much Threshold to yourself or to any one Ally within 1 Zone.
Description: You carry a dispenser of fast-repair nanomachines and enough metaphorical (or literal) duct tape to keep allies from falling apart.

Notice how Jury-Rig is more deterministic now - what you get is what you put in. It is also deceptively powerful. Consider that an average Energy and Systems lets you share 16 Threshold among your Allies - that's the HP total of someone who has an average Threshold! You can extend the lifespan of your team considerably if you specialize on Energy and Systems, but you need to put yourself at risk by getting close to the battle then spend your precious Actions there. And yes, I promise we'll get to Support Upgrades soon.

But first let's touch on Mobility Upgrades, which increase your... well, your mobility. They're pretty self explanatory and don't really have any unifying rules to them so let's get to the examples:

Name: Anti-Gravity
Type: External
Cost: 5
Effect: At the beginning of your Turn, you may spend 1 Energy to ignore the effects of any hindering Terrain and be able to shoot through a Zone occupied by an Enemy to reach another behind it as if they weren’t there. These benefits last for a Round. This Upgrade has no effect underwater or in space.
Description: Even though many Gears can jump inordinarily high or carry long-range Weapons to make up the difference. The ability to fly and move in three dimensions provides a lot of advantages that can easily turn the tide of a battle. Do not underestimate it.

Name: Reversible Thrusters
Type: External
Cost: 10
Effect: Anytime you take an Offensive Action, you may Move in any direction with it. The target must remain within a valid range after moving.
Description: With reversible thrusters you can move at full speed back where you came from without having to turn your back on the enemy. Put all that targeting equipment to use while pulling back with the dogfighter’s top pick as far as system improvements go.

Anti-Gravity is very similar to the version GGG uses except it has no downside because is not a special mode, and most of GGG's special modes received a similar treatment. They lost their downsides, became part of the general game rules, were rolled into other abilities or had a fate along those lines.

More interesting are the Reversible Thrusters, favorites of anyone who is not a fan of getting shot in the face and wants to let their friends take the heat for them. With slightly above average Systems, plus a Long-Range Shooting Weapon, you can fire away from as far as 15 Zones.

But just how strong is it? 15 Zones in Range sounds sounds like a lot when you can run away and shoot at the same time. Surprise surprise, it is far from unbeatable. With slightly above average Speed (5) and a Shooting Weapon you can already reach a target 10 Zones away from your starting position in a single Turn, if your Shooting Weapon is Long-Range and your Systems is 5, then you are pretty much set.

What about those poor Melee specialists? Are they doomed to curse this Upgrade and swear revenge on the bloodline of the user? As a duelist you can just invest in Speed and Boost during your Turns. The Enemy will get a couple of free shots, sure, but you will inevitably catch up soon. Incidentally, this could lead to Benny Hill chase scenes, so we'll need a new type of Terrain to put limits on that: Impassable Terrain, which you cannot walk or fly over, blocks line of sight, and grants cover against attacks from that direction.

Speed and Reversible Thrusters add a new dimension to combat: Managing your Range. Usually Melee specialists have the upper hand against Shooting experts, because once the former catches up to the latter it all goes down pretty fast. With this ability thrown into the mix, the odds are more even. Sure, they may still be able to Rocket Punch you, but by keeping your distance you are effectively disabling their strongest Weapons.

The Battlefield Commanders

Our last Upgrade line for today is for dedicated support units who want to do more than heal and resupply their allies: Support Upgrades. These are the replacement for Sidekicks and Remote Weapons, representing NPC allies in battle. The way they work is much like the Reinforcements I wrote up a while ago for the never-to-be manual of supplemental GGG material. How similar are they? See for yourself.

Name: Assisted Targeting
Type: Separate Upgrade
Cost: 5
Effect: One Ally gains the benefits of the Aim Action to their next Offensive Action this Round.
Description: With some help from your friends in the sidelines working the supercomputers, you can mark and track targets in a fraction of the time it would usually take for you to pull it off.

Name: Electromagnetic Detonator
Type: Separate Upgrade
Cost: 5
Effect: All Units within a target Area the size of a Blast have their remaining Energy halved for this Round.
Description: Most Gears these days are shielded from electromagnetic pulses, and trying to disable them that way is usually a fruitless effort. But that does not mean they are immune, and a well-placed EMP can still ruin their battle plan.

Name: Ensnaring Trap
Type: Separate Upgrade
Cost: 10
Effect: One Enemy halves their Guard and Speed for a Round.
Description: The overconfident always walk into their doom. The problem is that they usually don’t stay there waiting for it to come and get them. Enter this entrapment system, thinly disguised as part of the background, webbing down and trapping foes with wires made of reinforced Element G. With any luck it will hold them in place just long enough to fall prey to whatever other devious ploy you have in mind.

Name: Fire at Will
Type: Separate Upgrade
Cost: 10
Effect: One Enemy suffers the effects of Extreme Terrain during their next Turn. Anti-Gravity and Flyer cannot be used to avoid this ability.
Description: Friendly battleships, VTOLs, and tanks are no replacement for giant robots, but boy does their sheer volume of fire help.

How do they work? Support Upgrades require an Action to activate and have a Range of twice your Systems Attribute - way longer than most Weapons will reasonably reach. They are spent after use though, so while they are pretty powerful you do have to think about using them, which is fine if you just want to have one or two of them for emergency uses. But the dedicated Support User has something else to work with...

Name: Commander Type
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 10
Effect: You may use any Support Upgrade you own at the beginning of your Turn by spending 1 Energy instead of using an Action.
Description: You’ve got a special neural interface for a faster, yet more refined manipulation of all AI Units directly under your command.

If you've been paying attention, you will remember that Resupply can restock your Supports. That means you could spam the same Support for as many Turns as your Systems Attribute allows, continuously spending it at the beginning of your Turn then Resupplying it with your Action. You can grant yourself an Aim bonus and shoot during the same Turn, or Ensnare an Enemy right before Fire at Will to make it really hurt, because Speed is now a factor in surviving Extreme Terrain. There's a myriad of uses for Supports, specially if you can use them without having to spend an Action.

And that is a wrap for this week. We still have to take a look at all the rules for fancy robots like Transformers, Multipilots and Combiners, which we'll do right before the end of the year. Now if you excuse me, I have presents to buy, because I'm told I need some of those to celebrate a Merry Capitalism Day.

December 15, 2013

Advanced Combat in Battle Century G

Last time we went over the basics of mecha combat options in BCG. The options presented were some of the simplest, and I said they were representatives of about a third of other options of their type. Logic would indicate then that two thirds of the available Weapons would be a lot less boring and more interesting. Now we will take a look at some of those other combat options, starting with the finisher moves.

But first, a short aside for a history lesson!

An Intense Trip down the Memory Lane

Way back in the day, when I originally came up with Tension and was exploring what I could do with it, it was something of a resource much like Energy or Genre Points. Tension would naturally go up, but some abilities could increase or decrease your Tension. The very first version of GGG that was released included some ways to make it go up but none that made it go down. Losing Tension was kind of suicidal, so said abilities had to be overwhelmingly powerful to compensate for that and that just plain didn't make things work out very well.

But here's the thing: Spending Tension was cool, it was like activating your Limit Break, and it is a shame that it did not work out. In the end, and as you can see from the last version of GGG, raising Tension was also deemed too strong. There were other abilities that depended on having a specific amount of Tension to trigger, and they got the axe too, because it is too difficult for the individual PC to control the pacing of an entire battle.

By the late days of GGG's development, only Techniques and very few Tension-derived abilities still remained. Considering that Tension is probably my favorite mechanic from GGG and the one I'm most proud of, it was a disappointment I couldn't do more things with it.

And now Back to the Future

Considering that Battle Century G aims to simplify and streamline combat math as much as possible, Techniques should grant one or perhaps two Advantages on their first activation, then suffer a Disadvantage for each subsequent use. It would be consistent with Deathblows and mirroring Intermission and Operation mechanics as much as possible is aesthetically pleasing. I think a lot about making things feel like they're part of a coherent, aesthetically pleasing whole too and that's important.

Which is why I'm not doing that, because that's super dull.

Techniques are special attacks stronger than normal, but are difficult to pull off and push the machine to its limits. Mecha simply cannot handle using them often at full power, and most Enemies will see them coming after the first time they fell for it. The first time you use a Technique during an Operation, it  gains double the benefit from Tension to its Might Test. All Techniques used beyond the first will treat Tension as 0 until the Operation is over.

Bam! Now that does pack some punch, doesn't it? It is true that getting tricksy with Tension didn't work out too well in the past... But that was with the old combat math. Now that everything is more streamlined, keeping these abilities in check is much easier. And that's why I actually want to have transparent and simpler math, because it lets me make the big stuff bigger without breaking the game in the process. Likewise, I can now have more abilities with effects dependent on Tension, and I want to have enough that you can build around them.

So Tension is going to be a thing that more Upgrades and Weapons play with. Specially Weapons. Upgrades won't quite let everyone shift their Tension up or down because that is finnicky and annoying to keep track of, but expect a lot of things that used to be 1d5 or 1d10 rolls to now use Tension or half Tension instead.

What other thing can finishers make use of to make combat more interesting? Energy is the big other thing. Rationing how you want to use your Energy each Turn is pretty important, since a lot of the stronger Upgrades and Weapons scale in Power the more Energy you spend, and you only have so many points per Turn.

Name: Radiant Fist
Type: Melee
Cost: 10
Effect: Beam (3 Energy), Technique, Overheating.
Description: The ultimate in close range finishers, the unit’s hands are equipped with an extremely damaging system, from electric colliders to a radiation pulse that glows with an awesome power.

Name: Lux Cannon
Type: Shooting
Cost: 10
Effect: Beam (Special). Long-Range, Slow. This Weapon spends all of your remaining Energy on use, but gains a bonus to its Might Test equal to half the Energy spent this way.
Description: A honest to God giant laser cannon. Not only is dodging light a pretty hard thing to pull off, but it packs a very mean punch. Unfortunately, it was not made with energy efficiency in mind, making it rather prohibitive to use liberally,

Slow Weapons can only be fired every other Round. Long-Range Weapons improve their base Range by an amount equal to your Systems (Because I forgot to bring it up last week, the default Range for Weapons is 0-1 if they are Melee and 0-5 if they are Shooting, though they can increase it to 0-10 after Aiming). What about Overheating? If you keep a die roll that results in an odd number when using this Weapon, you take an amount of Damage yourself equal to the current Tension after using it. That means you want to use Radiant Fist when Tension is high, but not too high!

Some Weapons also make for pretty good finishers without being Techniques or using Energy. Of course, they have their own drawbacks.

Name: Chainblade
Type: Melee
Cost: 5
Effect: Unreliable. When you successfully deal Damage to an Enemy with this Weapon, increase the Damage dealt by half the current Tension. This Damage can be reduced by the Unreliable quality.
Description: Giant chainsaws are clumsy and jam in the middle of the action way too often. And yet, they are terrifyingly devastating when everything works out just fine, making this a weapon favored most often by those who feel lucky or simply have no idea what they’re doing.

Name: Resonance Cannon
Type: Shooting
Cost: 5
Effect: One-Shot, Unreliable. After this Weapon deals its regular Damage, the Enemy’s current Level of Threshold is destroyed.
Description: This cannon fires sonic bursts that shatter enemies at the structural level. It is unwieldy and uses up all of its ammunition with each shot, but a mere graze can be as damaging as a direct hit.

One-Shot is, of course, the same from GGG. Unreliable is Defective with a new name. If you keep a die roll that results in an odd number when using this Weapon, you halve the final amount of Damage you would have dealt with it. Time for another aside!

You know how some rules of the game sometimes wanted you to roll odds and sometimes they wanted you to roll evens arbitrarily? Well, now it is slightly less arbitrary. If you are on the offense, you want to get evens, and if you are on defense you want your attacker to get odds. This not only applies to Unreliable and Overheating, but to Duels and (kinda sorta) to Maiming. Attack an Enemy that is Dueling an Ally and an even result means you hit the bad guy. Get smacked for an odd amount of Damage and, if you lose a Level of Threshold, you get to choose the Area. The arbitrary odds/evens thing was a neat mechanic in a game with Advantages and Disadvantages but it wasn't all that intuitive, now it should be a lot smoother to play with.

More Energy Shenanigans

So these are some very powerful Weapons, how can we stop them? Custom Barrier and Absolute Barrier from last week are good, but they can only do so much against supermoves with +6 to Might and extra bonus Damage equal to Tension. The former is capped at +5 Guard so it won't stop the attack entirely, while the latter can do it but needs an expensive and upfront Energy payment so the Enemy could just wait until you lower your guard.

Enter one of our more interesting Active Defenses.

Name: Electronic Cloaking System
Type: External
Cost: 10
Effect: In response to the results of an Enemy Might Test against you, you may spend 2 Energy to increase your Guard by an amount equal to your Systems against it. This only counts your base Attribute, ignoring any modifiers that increase or decrease it. Electronic Cloaking System does not work against Weapons with the Blast ability or that affect Zones instead of specific targets.
Description: An advanced array of rapidly oscillating lasers used to foil most conventional sensing equipment, from infrared to common optics. This proves to be a much better idea on paper than it is in practice, as giant robots still leave giant footprints and produce tremendous noise, but it is a great help for emergency evasive maneuvers.

So with completely average Systems you're spending 2 Energy to increase your Guard by 4. And it does not work against Blasts and their ilk. That's pretty bad. Of course, you will not be using this with average Systems, you will be using it with a Systems of 6, 7 or even higher than that. And at that point it does a pretty good job of evading/blocking finishers entirely, which are almost never area-of-effect weapons. It only costs 2 Energy, so you can use it and still have enough for other Energy-powered abilities, potentially dodging multiple supermoves per Round.

The obvious weakness is that you need to spend some XP on Systems to make it not worse than Custom Barrier, and even then it won't do much against a Blast. With that said, there are also other workarounds for offensive specialists.

Name: Weapon Master (Specialist)
Type: Internal
Cost: 20
Effect: Choose either Melee or Shooting when you take this Upgrade. You gain an Advantage to all Might Tests made using the chosen Weapon Type. Additionally, you may spend 5 Energy after a Might Test made with the chosen Weapon Type to make your current attack immune to the effects of Active Defenses.
Description: The Mecha is at its best at one particular range and with a certain type of weapons. Custom controls like motion feedback and manual overrides for targetting systems let the Pilot pull off amazing moves and overcome most defenses.

Combining it with Radiant Fist nets you have a +4 to Might, double Tension bonus, and immunity to Active Defenses. It is a pretty darn brutal combination. It also does cost you an entire Power Level of XP and requires a monstrous 8 Energy to use. If you want to survive until you can use this the way it was meant to, you'll have to sacrifice Systems, Speed, or perhaps even Might itself. So while you could do all that once you're powerful enough you're bleeding XP, it is probably better used with regular non-Beam Weapons as a reliable extra Advantage that sometimes sacrifices your defense for a super attack.

And that is the key to Battle Century G's depth. In GGG you knew you could pull off a few super moves each Operation, and it was up to you to decide when you would do that. With regenerating Energy and multiple Weapons drawing power from different sources (Tension, Energy, Threshold for those that hurt the user, Actions for the ones that need setup) it used to be a question of when to use your special abilities, now it is partly about that and partly about which special ability you want to use now.

Do you use Radiant Fist early in the battle hoping to disable a key Area or wait a little bit longer and risk blowing yourself up? Will you try to do as much damage as possible with Resonance Cannon as a Shooting Specialist or would you rather guarantee a hit to take out one Level and keep your Absolute Barrier up?

Thanks to the regenerating Energy you have more control over your special abilities and flashy supermoves than you used to. You can maximize or minimize their effectiveness as you need to, and the threat of exploding or getting Maimed before you get to use them is greatly lessened, which is always a nice bonus.

Fun Combat is still a Priority

The simplest Upgrades and Weapons alternate between being average and slightly above average in performance. The quirkier ones alternate between really strong and below average. If all Weapons were just +2s here and there combat would be about who rolls higher and who Maims the better Weapon sooner. That would not be very back and forth, and back and forth action is very much a thing that I want. If the first strike defines the battle, what is the point in playing out the rest of the scene?

Because Upgrades and Weapons are relatively cheaper than those of GGG and you are not so pressed for Energy anymore, it would not be a bad idea for specialists to pack redundant or backup abilities. A defensive powerhouse could have both Custom Barrier and Electronic Cloaking System, and alternate using them as necessary to maximize their defenses.

So that's that for abilities directly related with combat. Next time I'll go into the more interesting utility Upgrades. Are Systems and Speed worth building around? Can the more complex Upgrades be simplified without making them useless? Am I a tremendous tease?

The answer to all of the above is quite possibly, not not entirely certain, to be yes.

December 8, 2013

Combat in Battle Century G

One of the first things I presented from Battle Century G was the basic combat formula, because the rest of the rules would be written around it. Today I go a little bit deeper into that, and because things are a lot more solid now, I can begin to show actual mechanics.

Let's have a look at that formula again:

(Might + 1d10 + Tension + Abilities) - (Guard + 5 + Abilities) = Damage.

With Attributes averaged at 5 and an average roll of 5, the attacking character deals exactly the current Tension in Damage.

Like I said before the benefit of this thing is transparent math and ease of play. You are no longer halving accuracy then adding penetration on top, then checking for special abilities from active defenses or weapons. You just make a roll then add special abilities, being well aware of how much each of them is going to affect the result.

It sounds simple, perhaps too simple, but a simple foundation works well for adding optional complexity on top. And I think by now it is pretty clear that I like having lots of options to interact with combat math.

If you remember from last week's chat about Intermissions, I brought up that I want specialist characters to be able to get up to three Advantages to Tests by spending between half and a whole Power Level's worth of XP. For the giant robot combat I would like to have similar math at work, with the caveat that since robots exist primarily to fight, the straightforward combat options will be a little more expensive to compensate for the fact that they are the better ones all around. This means the best kind of specialization, the one whose Advantages almost always apply, will cost somewhere between a full Power Level and two Power Levels.

At Power Levels 0, 1 and 2 most PC Units will usually have two Advantages to their Might Tests, unless they are heavy offensive specialists, then they get to have three or four. Sometimes even more. That's the theory, anyway. What are the things that will influence this math? Let's start with the most obvious: Weapons.
Weapons of Choice

When I first brought up BCG as a spiritual successor to GGG, I mentioned I would have to rewrite the Weapon types into things more easily adaptable to characters that aren't giant robots. So let's address that issue right now: To start off with, there will be two Weapon Types: Melee and Shooting.

Melee Weapons gain an Advantage when used during a Duel or against a target that is in one, and Shooting Weapons gain an additional Advantage from the Aim Action (while Melee Weapons only get one Advantage out of Aiming). If you can close in on your target, Melee is almost always stronger than Shooting, but Shooting lets you attack from afar and works better defensively. Weapons are no longer about flat combat modifiers, instead they now grant Advantages to Might Tests during special circumstances or have other special abilities. Let's have two examples:

Name: Stun Rod
Type: Melee
Cost: 5
Effect: This Weapon inflicts an additional Disadvantage when using the Suppress Action.
Description: Employed by Hiryu Gears to subdue Outsiders, rather than to kill them. Multiple units equipped with Stun Rods can render the fearsome giant monsters largely ineffectual.

Name: Anti-Air Missiles
Type: Shooting
Cost: 5
Effect: This Weapon gains an Advantage when used against targets with Flyer or using Anti-Gravity.
Description: Air dominance is still very much a thing even in this new era of Gears. Everyone in Earth understands this, and provides their troops with necessary countermeasures against their enemies. The RUF has to be careful of those pesky Majesty types, Hiryu has to worry about flying Outsiders taking advantage of how complicated it is to fight giant monsters in the middle of the ocean, and the GAF wants the Wagner destroyed by yesterday.

These are some of the simplest and most straightforward of the bunch. Notice that while Anti-Air Missiles help you reach that threshold of 3 Advantages against specific targets, Stun Rod instead takes away an Advantage from the opposition when used in a certain way. That's the focus on more transparent math at work, which easily lets you know which Weapon is better at doing a certain job.

Because they are basically the equivalent to narrow specialized Skills, they only cost 5 points, making it easy to have a varied loadout. Speaking of cheap things, everyone now has two free Default Weapons:

Name: CQC
Type: Melee
Cost: 0
Effect: This Weapon suffers an innate Disadvantage to its use, but cannot be disabled through Maiming.
Description: Mecha often carry small weapons like daggers as a last-ditch measure. Others mount small blades and drills into the frame to give your unit something to use when all other options are out. Even Mecha that cannot punch or kick can still ram themselves into the enemy as a last resort.

Name: Fire
Type: Shooting
Cost: 0
Effect: This Weapon suffers an innate Disadvantage to its use, but cannot be disabled through Maiming.
Description: Most giant robots these days come with a variety of ranged weapons integrated into the frame. Even those who don’t can improvise by picking up vehicles or even buildings to toss. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

These do suffer a Disadvantage to compensate for being free, but at least they don't do silly things like hurting you when you use them. They're perfectly viable backups now, and free backups at that. While we remain on the subject of cheap things, I have good and bad news about Custom Weapons. The bad news is that BCG has no Custom Weapons whatsoever. The good news is that it does not need them.

They had a pretty important role in GGG, but they no longer do. Here is why.

They gave Mecha something to do with any extra Upgrade Points between 1 and 4:
Since everything that is not an Attribute enhancement now costs 5, 10 or 20 this is no longer necessary. It would also be really hard to make something balanced at these costs too since an Advantage (a +2) in BCG is worth between 5 and 10 depending on how widely applicable it is.
They let the Mecha choose whether to focus on speed or power:
This divide no longer exists as GGG knew it, because you have Might and Guard now. This is not applicable any longer.
They gave you cheap backup Weapons that were weaker than the norm:
The Default Weapons fit this role, and they do it for free while being impossible to disable.
They gave you a way to have simple, reliable Weapons that don't have any drawbacks:
About a third of the listed Weapons are exactly this, like the example of Anti-Air Missiles. The ones that have drawbacks are the ones that are obviously stronger than the norm, primarily finishers and area of effect Weapons. Some are basically the standard Melee or Shooting template with just an increase to their maximum Range on top, too. There's plenty of simple weapons alongside the more complex ones.

Because a lot of the things that GGG was going for with Custom Weapons are things Battle Century G does by default (pun not intended) there is no longer a need for them. I did mention it was going to be quite a different game, after all.

Heating Things Up

But that's enough about the everyday standard Weapons, let's talk about some of the flashier ones. Like Beam Weapons. Beams are now a Subtype that goes on top of either Melee or Shooting now! They all have an innate Advantage to their use, as a tradeoff for double the cost of other Weapons (10) plus consuming at least a point of Energy. If you can afford them, then they are almost always the better choice for raw offensive power.

A short aside about Subtypes: Giant Robots are most likely going to only have Beam, but other types of heroes can have more variety there. Think of all the possible elemental subtypes that magic usually has in games and you have a good idea of what I'm talking about. You could have flame swords next to freezing rays, and they would have different effects. Anyway, back to Beams, here are two examples:

Name: Beam Saber
Type: Melee
Cost: 10
Effect: Beam (1 Energy).
Description: A favorite for its low energy consumption, solid armor-piercing power, compact size and overall practicality. Mass produced and made standard issue for most factions.

Name: Beam Rifle
Type: Shooting
Cost: 10
Effect: Beam (1 Energy).
Description: Cheap to produce and easy to use, it makes a great all-purpose Weapon if you can get around its craving for energy.

Beam Weapons are the easiest way to get those three Advantages I spoke of, because they have two (or three, in the case of Shooting) of those in-built. What about the third Advantage? That's the hardest one to get, because most Weapons only grant two. Some Weapon special abilities can give more than one Advantage, some Upgrades also give you Advantages when attacking, and of course Genre Powers like Try Again can do it too. But that talk is better reserved for later, because now is time to talk about Active Defenses.

Shield, don't Yield

So just from Weapons alone, characters get to add +4 to their Might Tests. That's a lot! Specially when you consider that, assuming average stats for everyone, they are already dealing base Damage equal to Tension. If nothing else is in play and they roll average, they are hitting their targets for 5 Damage during Round 1, and it only goes higher from there.

Fortunately, we have Active Defenses to mitigate that somewhat. Evasive Systems and Defensive Barriers were rolled into one single series of Upgrades, since Guard covers for both Evasion and Armor. How do they match up against the fearsome base damage of offensive powerhouses? Well, there is a lot of variety in Active Defenses, but the most universally efficient types are these two:

Name: Custom Barrier (Specialist)
Type: External
Cost: 5
Effect: Choose one of Melee, Shooting, Beam or non-Beam when you take this Upgrade. In response to the results of an Enemy Might Test against you using a Weapon of the chosen type, you may spend 1 Energy to increase your Guard by 3 against it, or 2 Energy to increase your Guard by 5 against it instead.
Description: You can equip a variety of defensive mechanisms. Examples include attaching small forcefields to your arms as shields, nanomachine bubbles that stop or slow down high velocity physical weapons, and a variety of chaff dispensers or jamming devices. You just need to know what it is you want to be protected from.

Name:Absolute Barrier
Type: External
Cost: 10
Effect: At the beginning of your Turn you may spend any amount of Energy to create a shield that blocks an amount of Damage equal to twice the amount of Energy spent and lasts one Round. An active Absolute Barrier means you may not use other Active Defenses.
Description: An extremely powerful barrier that repels nearly everything you can throw at it through a constant series of violent explosions. The Gravagne Field is one of Hiryu’s most famous successes, and the UEF would love to get their hands on its technology.

The general idea is that, for 5 UP, a point of Energy blocks two Damage from a few sources, and 10 UP nets you protection from basically everything. Because you can take Custom Barrier twice, you could choose to shield yourself from Melee and Shooting, or Beam and non-Beam. Both Upgrades play very differently, though. Absolute Barrier is better at blocking super attacks from single sources while Custom Barrier can handle a multitude of weaker attacks better. There will be more varied Active Defenses, but these are just going to be the basic ones the others build upon.

(By the way, Internal Upgrades go in the Core, while External Upgrades go into any of the other four Areas.)

Back to our Damage formula, a defensive specialist can counter an offensive one pretty well. Just Custom Barrier alone blocks 5 from that bonus +4 or +6, and Absolute Barrier can negate it entirely for 2 or 3 Energy.

And that's all for Today.

I hope you can see what I mean now by having a game where the math is more transparent than GGG's. This is also the most basic level of combat, because there's plenty of ways to tamper further with fancy effects coming from Upgrades, Weapons and Powers.

What about the flashier Weapons or Defenses? What about the other Attributes? And what about the special abilities not directly related to attacking or defending? There's a lot to go over, and it'll likely take most of December to cover it all. I haven't decided what the next post is going to be about yet, so we'll find out a week from now!

December 1, 2013

Characters in Battle Century G

I've been talking about the general mechanics of my new project and spiritual successor to GGG for the past two weeks. Today I go a little more in depth into what changes for the Characters and Intermissions.

I want Intermissions in Battle Century G to be much like those in GGG, just perhaps a tiiiiny little bit smoother, and I'd like the various abilities to be sightly better balanced all around. I think that the Skill/Trait system works pretty well. Skills grant Advantages to a single type of task, which can be very broad or specialized at a reduced price. Traits sometimes have stranger effects and sometimes are just like Skills but applied to more narrow circumstances. If Attributes are the heart of the rules more now than ever, then sticking to the model that was originally that way is a good idea.

I want to keep Miracles more or less as they are, because I think they're a pretty decent take on superpowers without having to bloat the rules with a hundred pages of fireball or mind control variants. Deathblows can spice up Intermission combat, though I need to rewrite them if I want XP costs to come in multiples of 5. Equipment is also a neat way to handle special tools and gadgetry, specially since you can obtain them temporarily through Resources. Lastly there's Anomalies, which could use some adjusting but also provide clean and simple ways to play things that aren't fully human.

If you are interested in how GGG's take on all of those things (and some more) came to be, I wrote a few pieces about that in the past. That post also talks a little about the general math behind Intermissions, which I won't fully do over today, I'll just cover the more important bits.

That more or less sums up my intentions for Character and Intermission rules. Let's see how I chose to go about it! And what better way to start than with numbers?

The Math of Intermissions

We know our Attributes, and we know we're keeping them on a scale going from 0 to 10. But how are they going to measure against the average Difficulty Number? Pretty much like GGG, for the most part. (That is going to be a thing I say a lot through this post.) I want Difficulty Numbers ranging from 5 to 20, with most Tests requiring a result somewhere around 10 and 15. Just for the sake of clarity, I'll break it down below:

Trivial (5): You can only fail this with low Attributes and genuinely terrible luck. Failing like this means that you just made a total trainwreck of the situation, and trainwrecks make for fun roleplaying experiences. 
Standard (10): If the average Attribute is at a Rank of 4, and we assume that you will roll an average of 6 (or 5 and a Tension of 1) then you should be able to beat this DN pretty reliably with a small XP investment and a bit of luck.
Challenging (15): Now these are harder. You need above average Attributes (A rank between 6 and 8 will do) a couple of Advantages from Skills or Traits (representing around a +2 to a +4 bonus) and to roll average or better. Otherwise, matching this DN is possible but unlikely. 
Amazing (20): Outright blocked off to characters who aren't highly specialized. You need top-of-the-line Attributes and to squeeze every possible Advantage you can get out of the situation, plus being lucky enough to roll at least average.

With this in mind, I now have to decide just how much each Advantage is going to cost in Character Points, and how many of them you can have. Since Advantages can directly translate to a +2 bonus now (as an alternative to rolling more dice and keeping the better number) each Advantage is the equivalent of being one step higher in the Attribute ladder. A PC with an Attribute at Rank 4 is average, but if they have an Advantage to said Test then they will perform above average, and with another Advantage they are just as good as the Rank 8 geniuses.

In general, matching a DN of 10 is easy, but I want DNs of 15 and above to be difficult to get. I don't want them to be too difficult, just enough to make matching them feel like a challenge. Therefore PCs should be able to pick up somewhere between one and three Advantages. These Advantages will usually come from Skills, General Traits, and Equipment Traits, in that order.

The Cost of each Advantage would be around 5 Character Points for the narrow ones and 10 for those with more wide applications. Getting all three would be between half a Power Level (15 CP) and a full Power Level's worth (30 CP) of XP, depending on how broadly useful you want your Skills and Traits to be. Characters in Battle Century G have more CP to spend than those of GGG (60 on Skills and Traits at Power Level 1, the suggested starting point). So while this might seem a little expensive, it is actually more generous than what GGG offered.

The downside as far as character power goes is that Skills will only grant one Advantage to Tests, effectively only existing at the Specialist and Generalist levels, at 5 and 10 Character Points. Some Traits will grant more than one Advantage, but they will be of conditional use. For example, Facility (Laboratory) could give you two Advantages to using Sciences and Electronics, but you can't carry your Laboratory around with you, you have to stay in there to gain those Advantages.

I'm not counting these conditional Traits for the purposes of making sure there's one to three available Advantages to take for any given task. If you can find an overlap between multiple of these Traits, then you can have more than three Advantages. This means you can still specialize enough to make you unbeatable at your field if you want to, it just takes more than a Master Skill.

About Advantages

In GGG you can choose to turn a pair of Advantages into another cumulative d10. This provided a way to reach the higher DNs right out of the gate, because during Intermissions you want to see the impossible happen and during Operations you need to make it possible to hit targets with high Evasion. Because there is simply no way Guard in BCG will reach as high as Evasion could go in GGG, there is no need to make Advantages trade into additive dice.

I really, really liked how it let you trade reliability in average results for pure (if random) power. But the math was just too explosive and hard to balance around. BCG lets you trade Advantages individually as +2's to the result, which gets the job done but is less exciting. You will see the impossible happen slightly less often during Intermissions, but that is a price I am okay with - It should be a rare sight, after all!

Miracles and Traits

Miracle Skills are the most expensive options for Characters. These will behave like the ones from GGG do for the most part, they'll just cost double from their General Skill counterparts. A specialist Miracle is 10 CP, and a generalist Miracle is 20 CP. They tend to be better than regular Skills, and are conceptually superpowers, so this is only fair.

The Traits that used to have a Cost of 3 or 7 in GGG have been either promoted or demoted to 5 and 10, with a corresponding increase or decrease in power. This includes Equipment. Anomalies are the exception to the rule of everything costing multiples of 5, since they continue to Cost 0 but carry a downside to them.

But Deathblows and Assets had variable Costs that could go between 1 and 4, and also mechanics designed around their variable Costs. Obviously, they needed a facelift.

My idea is to make Deathblows have a static cost of at least 5, and to make them usable an unlimited number of times. They'll just suffer a Disadvantage for each time you've used them previously during the same Episode. As a tradeoff, stacking multiple Deathblows together won't incur a Disadvantage.

Assets were essentially a more explicit version of what you could already do with Resources, and had the negative aspect of being largely identical to each other and thus kind of boring. They could get away with it because GGG needed the cheap options costing between 1 and 4, but that is no longer the case, so they're being rolled back into the General Traits category.

And Last but not Least...

Any kind of spiritual successor to GGG would need Genre Themes, Points and Powers in one way or another. They're the one thing that links the Pilot with their Robot from a rules standpoint, so I can't really afford to lose them. In this case, they're mostly the same. Mostly. Let's tackle them in order.

I have been wanting to write customizable Themes (a bit like the rules for Insanity or Arcanas) for a long while, but I need to get the core rules functional first. That means Themes will stick to their proven and true gameplay until the basic rules for giant robots are settled, then I'll get on with rewriting them to suit different settings and genres. I really do want to make them more fun to play with and specifically attuned to the type of game you're running. Making them better is specially poignant because there's less Genre Points to go around now.

You see, in BCG you only have your Power Level in Genre Points each Episode. You still earn more through roleplaying and getting beat up, but you will have to ration them more carefully than you would in GGG. This is to be consistent with the approach of simplifying the game to make it easier to hack, though I have to be careful to not take away what makes it fun in the process. In this case, it means that every Point has to matter a lot more than it used to.

With simpler math and lower numbers in most Attributes, Powers are much more efficient. It is easier to tell whether you should use Try Again or if it is not worth the trouble, for example. But that's not all. I am also doing away with Powers that did similar things in different ways. Instead of having to use one Power to increase your attack Attribute and another Power to make it ignore barriers, you have a single Power that does both for just one Genre Point. This maximizes the value of each Power chosen and each Point spent.

It also means that there are a lot less Powers than before. The last version of GGG has 6 Default Powers, 10 Common Powers, and 24 Powers distributed around six Packages of three each. That's 40. Battle Century G does have the 6 Default Powers, but only has 18 more Powers to choose from - at least so far.

The Powers of Battle Century G are also distributed between three categories (Right now under the names of Champion, Trickster, and Director.) that focus in raw power, utility, and buffs or debuffs. But unlike with GGG's Packages, you can grab Powers from any combination of categories you want. You can focus in a specific role, or mix and match as you please.

To Summarize

Characters in Battle Century G are very similar to those of GGG. This is because the Mecha rules are the ones doing most of the changing, but in order to be more like rules for Pilots. The trick is attaining a similar level of simplicity and smooth play without removing all depth from the rules.

And that's why the next post is going to be even longer than this one. Can Systems be balanced next to Might? What kind of rewards will there be for specialists? How are Weapons going to work with this emphasis on small modifiers to Tests? That and more, next time.