January 26, 2014

Survivors of Battle Century G

Running a one man operation has its ups and downs. On the plus side I don't depend on anyone else to do my work, so I don't have to delay things when someone fails to deliver their editorial notes or whatever. On the minus side I do very much have to delay things when the problem is on my end.

I wanted to let people take a look at BCG today but I ran into a few Technical Problems, so I'll need another week or two to get that sorted. In light of this being a Day of Hopes Dashed and Hearts Crushed, I'll write about a few mechanics that did not make it through BCG's alpha period for whichever reason, then show the ones that replaced them.

UninTensional Consequences

Let's go straight for the throat with this one. Here is the first version of Learning Computer written in BCG's alpha document.

Learning Computer
Type: External
Cost: 10
Effect: In response to the results of an Enemy Might Test against you, you may spend 3 Energy to deny that Test its Tension bonus from the result.
Description: The Learning Computer is an amazing system that compensates for the rising difficulties in keeping out of harm’s way during battle. It reads and adapts to the patterns and movements of the enemy, moving the Gear on its own to keep it safe.

Expensive, isn't it? Even with that Energy cost, LC had the issue of being way too powerful as a secondary Active Defense. See, early on you'd just use Custom Defense to up your Guard for 3 or 5 points cheaply, but if the enemy used a supermove like a Technique after Turn 4 then having this as a safety net was very much worth the redundancy.

So it had two problems, because by itself it was kind of crap, but as a complement to other Active Defenses it was fantastic. It shut down the game's flashiest finishers hard, and was frankly pretty frustrating to play against (if you missed last turn, you'll probably miss again without your Tension bonus). I tried downgrading it a little and came up with this.

Learning Computer
Type: External
Cost: 5
Effect: In response to the results of an Enemy Might Test against you, you may spend 2 Energy to deny that Test half its Tension bonus from the result.
Description: The Learning Computer is an amazing system that compensates for the rising difficulties in keeping out of harm’s way during battle. It reads and adapts to the patterns and movements of the enemy, moving the Gear on its own to keep it safe.

This is much more reasonable, and the cheaper cost lets you know that it won't be enough as your only Active Defense, somewhat mitigating that it is kind of subpar against anything that is not a Technique. Unfortunately, it still nerfed Techniques way too hard and I was not comfortable having an Upgrade with a cost of 5 that did that. Learning Computer might make a comeback in the future, but for the time being its niche of denying Tension every Turn is not one I'm willing to risk having in the game.

This left me with a hole in my Active Defense roster, and while I briefly considered leaving it there instead of experimenting with something new and risking making things worse, I realized there was something else I could do. There was one that I had not tried adapting to BCG yet...

Reactive Booster
Type: External Upgrade
Cost: 5
Effect: In response to the results of an Enemy Might Test against you, you may spend 1 Energy to increase your Guard by an amount equal to half your Speed against it.
Description: Reactive Boosters read specific patterns and automatically move the Gear in response to even the fastest of attacks. Custom variants include CQC footwork and anti-missile cartwheels, among others.

This is similar to ECS, but with a few very obvious differences. It is cheaper in both XP and Energy terms, but also a lot less powerful. At the low end it is slightly worse than Custom Barrier, while it is is only slightly better at the high end. Reactive Booster is not particularly exciting, but it does work against Blasts and assorted Area of Effect Weapons (unlike ECS), so you can always count on them if you've got Speed on your side.

It works better at the higher Power Levels, when the cost of 5 XP and 1 Energy is basically an afterthought, yet the Guard bonus remains useful. Not to mention you can afford to spend a bunch of points on Speed by then without sacrificing everything else.

Specialists of all Trades

Early on I thought these two were a neat idea:

Wind Cutter
Type: Melee
Cost:  5
Effect: Long-Range. When using the Aim Action with this Weapon it gains an additional Advantage and its Maximum Range increases by 5 .
Description: With this oversized, rocket-powered shuriken you can now slice and dice from a distance - and have the Weapon come back to you afterwards!

Hand Cannon
Type: Shooting
Cost: 5
Effect: This Weapon gains an Advantage when used to Engage in a duel or against a target that is in one.
Description: Giant handguns designed for use when other firearms would be too unwieldy. These come in many forms and shapes, with the Verne Military Police’s favorite being that of revolvers. Cocky ace-wannabees are known for customizing them to resemble the old Desert Eagle.

Inspiring stuff, I know. Not only were they really boring, they gave specialists a really cheap way out of their biggest weaknesses. Evidently trying to blur the lines between Weapon types was not a good idea. So I went in the complete opposite direction and used their differences as a strength.

Arm Guardian
Type: Melee
Cost: 5
Effect: Passing the Might Test with this Weapon increases your Guard by 3 against any Might Tests from the Enemy you just attacked for a Round.
Description: A giant shoulder guard with pointy ends might not sound like much. It is pretty useful for pointmen trying to draw the heat away from the rest of their team, though.

Superheavy Machinegun
Type: Shooting Weapon
Cost: 5
Effect: Blast, Unreliable. This Weapon inflicts an additional Disadvantage when using the Suppress Action but you may not Move as part of your Actions when using it.
Description: An oversized firearm that lends itself to accusations about trying to overcompensate for something. The recoil is terrible, forcing the Gear to brace itself and remain immobile. Even then most of the shots go in the wrong direction anyway, but after all is said and done there is no better gun to provide suppressive fire.

Arm Guardian works because once you're in a Duel your opponents will have to attack you or risk giving you free swings with Weapons that hurt a lot more. Superheavy Machinegun outright blocks your ability to move entirely and forces you to park and settle down, but it provides fantastic suppressive firepower. Overall they, much like a lot of the game's Weapons in general, have a tight focus and are less wacky experiments like a lot of GGG's Weapons were.

Hael Me Plz

In BCG every little point of Threshold matters more than it did in GGG, so I have to be really careful with abilities that restore Threshold. One of the most dangerous things I could do is let someone turn their Actions into straight up health, which is my way of saying that the Micromanage Action is not going to be part of BCG. Energy already regenerated naturally, which was half the reason Micromanage existed in the first place, so it shouldn't be much of a surprise it is not coming back for Battle Century G.

What should be slightly more of a surprise is that there's no Base Terrain either.

I originally thought that, as long as you were in Base Terrain, you could spend Energy to regain Threshold at a rate of two to 1 (kind of like how Biological does it) at no Action cost. This lasted all of four hours until I realized that it was much better than Defensive Terrain if you had Energy to spare. Kind of a shame really, mostly because it reduced Base Units to transports and shields for their Allies.

On the plus side now we have these two.

Type: External (Restoration)
Cost: 10
Effect: At the beginning of your Turn you may spend any amount of Energy to restore half that much Threshold to yourself.
Description: Your Gear integrates all sorts of nanomachines into its own frame, letting it draw from them to replenish as necessary. This is much faster than others who have to lug equipment around, though of course it cannot protect allies.

Type: Separate (Support)
Cost: 10
Effect: Increase the Energy available to yourself or an Ally by 5 until their next Turn. Multiple Overcharges on the same Unit do not stack.
Description: The Overcharger looks like a lightning gun that would make Tesla proud, but actually shoots a stream of nanobots carrying Gygravagnite crystals. These crystals will essentially overclock a Gear temporarily, making it run at 200% power for a very brief period of time.

Regenerative is an alternate to Jury-Rig that does not cost an Action but uses the Biological Energy-to-HP conversion ratio and only works on the user. It is only half as effective, but even half effectiveness is worth a lot when the appropriate stats are high.

Overcharge is one of the revamped old abilities that does something completely different now, which is appropriate given its history. Originally, it was part of GGG's healing Upgrades line (along with Jury-Rig, Resupply, and Reload) but it restored a spent Genre Point to the recipient. It was overpowered to the point that I started trying out every thing I could think of with it until it became a portable barrier generator which was both unique and useful, though it was complicated and did not have much to do with its original use.

This time I tried to make the 'restores spent GP' thing work again, but each individual Power is so much stronger that it would have to cost something downright silly like 30 XP. So I went for something that might interest Energy users a bit more.

What Does not Kill you Makes you Stronger

I'm getting a lot better at catching this stuff early in the development process. This goes to show that while I still don't get things quite right on the first try, it is very hard for the really overpowering or game warping stuff to slip past even the first playtest.

Next week, things happen*.

*: Things might happen the week after the next if it comes down to it, but no later than that.

January 19, 2014

Tales of Battle Century G

Battle Century G has been a lot easier to design, partly thanks to the clear focus elaborated on last week, and some of the focus being on simplicity. The grand majority of things I've talked about haven't changed since I last posted them, though things can always be easier to read or a bit better balanced.

It helps that I'm not trying to see just how many crazy mechanics I can get away with this time around, and I'm just going for what a game about fighting robots needs. Today I'll share a few more things and elaborate on how they changed since their conception. I'm aiming for shorter but more frequent posts from now on so let's not waste any further time!

A Net Loss of Stats

We start with a Weapon that changed very little from the start of the game's Alpha period to today.

Finger Net
Type: Melee Weapon
Cost: 5
Effect: Long-Range, Blast, One-Shot. All Units within the Weapon’s area of effect suffer the effects of Difficult Terrain for a Round.
Description: A giant net made of Type-W Gygravagnite, made to restrain the speedier Cryptids. By installing them in a Gear’s fingertips they can be shot as a surprise in the middle of close quarters combat, making sure they will snare their prey.

I'll remind you that Difficult Terrain halves your Guard and Speed. I also think I never quite said how big Blasts were going to be, so I'll make use of this opportunity and say that they have a 3-Zone Radius, which is pretty big.

And now time for an aside on redundancy! This bears a strong resemblance to Ensnaring Trap, previewed a couple of weeks ago. I said I was going to try and do away with most of the game's elements that were redundant, and that is still true. So let me explain how they are different.

-Finger Net has a very short range (2-7 for the most part) while Ensnaring Trap can be used from far in the distance Think around 8-14).
-Finger Net takes an Offensive Action while Ensnaring Trap is an Utility Action. You'll need Reversible Thrusters if you want to use Finger Net to use it while running away.
-Finger Net can deal Damage because it is a Weapon, Ensnaring Trap can't deal Damage period.
-Finger Net strikes everything in an area, friend or foe, whereas Ensnaring Trap is single-target.

They're similar on the surface, but clearly are meant for different characters. Finger Net can help clear crowds of mooks and put pressure on enemies while you're wailing on them, Ensnaring Trap pins down big foes for a round of focused fire or helps you get out of dodge.

While I'm doing away with redundancy, I don't want to do away with options. Two abilities that do the same thing with minimal differences are bad. Say, a Barrier that grants +3 Defense for 1 Energy and another that grants +5 Defense for 2 Energy is a no-no, instead I'll just consolidate both options into a single Active Defense and let you choose which mode to use each activation. But when both abilities do similar things that work differently depending on which character is using it? I'm game. So ends our aside.

You might remember the version of Ensnaring Trap I posted previously simply halved Guard and Defense, while this inflicts the effects of Difficult Terrain. That's because both halved stats originally, but now... Well, they do basically the same thing, just pointing you to the Difficult Terrain rules so they'll be easier to remember.

The Power Stat

Energy is a resource that replenishes every Turn to full, and that wouldn't have worked with GGG's rules. Well, it would have worked on a technical level, but it'd have made the game revolve entirely around how much Energy you could have spent per Turn. Energy had the best guns, the best Defenses, the best ways to improve your mobility, and the best support options. At least outside of Genre Powers.

Battle Century G takes a different approach, where Energy can do a little bit of everything but it cannot outright replace other Attributes. In GGG anyone could spend Energy to move 1 extra Zone as part of an Utility Action while going forward. I briefly considered doing something similar with BCG, but it quickly became obvious that a high Energy stat was basically like having a high Speed stat but better.

We still had this though.

Over-Booster (old)
Type: External Upgrade
Cost: 5
Effect: At the beginning of your Turn, you may spend 1 Energy to increase your Speed by 2 for a Round or spend 2 Energy to increase your Speed by 4 for a Round instead.
Description: Originally part of the Helios Project and meant to help with travel times for space exploration and colonization, but repurposed for war since then. The Over-Booster improves acceleration times considerably for any Gear that installs it, and in any kind of environment - not just space.

This worked, but still had issues. Y'see, without getting into spoilery territory, there's some Weapons and Upgrades that care about your Speed Attribute and in that context increasing your Energy was still better than increasing your Speed. That's why Over-Booster got a simple rewrite too:

Over-Booster (new)
Type: External Upgrade
Cost: 5
Effect: At the beginning of your Turn, you may spend 1 Energy to Move 2 extra Zones with your next Action this Round, or 2 Energy Move 4 extra Zones instead.
Description: Originally part of the Helios Project and meant to help with travel times for space exploration and colonization, but repurposed for war since then. The Over-Booster improves acceleration times considerably for any Gear that installs it, and in any kind of environment - not just space.

Now this works better as a supplement to Speed, instead of being an outright replacement. The cost of the Upgrade plus two points in Energy is often higher than outright getting three points in Speed in the first place, and Speed has more uses than just Movement, not to mention Over-Booster can get disabled. On the other hand, Over-Booster does not care about Difficult Terrain, and does grant you a single extra Zone of Movement. If you really care about your Movement Speed then you might want to get both just in case rather than just one.

And this leads me to a point I've been trying to make about Energy for a while and haven't gotten the chance to insert into the conversation yet:

Managing your Energy isn't particularly powergamey, because while it can do some powerful stuff, it is still a secondary stat. Your Energy starts at 0, and you could get by with as little as 2-3 if you only want to make use of one or two Upgrades or Weapons that cost 1-2 points. That's pretty simple to manage. You could build around having a higher Energy, and that's where abilities like Absolute Barrier come into play to give you an obvious outlet in case of doubt.

Even then, it is often a good idea to just keep a few points open in case you want to use an emergency Active Defense in response to an attack. You might not end up using them, and that means you are technically wasting those Energy points, but it also means you didn't need them in the first place. Let's put it this way: Optimizing your Energy is like optimizing your Movement - sometimes you'll have extra Energy or Zones of Movement left unused, and that is okay.

Energy supplements pretty much any strategy, but it is costly and cannot make up for having low stats entirely. Well, it technically can in the case of the most powerful Beam Weapons as a replacement for Might, but that takes a big chunk of XP. Battle Century G has subtle differences between the gameplay of its various power levels, and one of those is that death laser strategies are much more viable (read: possible) at Power Levels 3 and beyond.

Your Face is Beaming

Both of the previous changes were pretty subtle, and the ability did not really change much when all was said and done. This one is a little like two of the above issues, but the change is more pronounced. Let me introduce you to my friend Shooting Beam Technique.

Reactor Overdrive (old)
Type: Shooting Weapon
Cost: 10
Effect: Beam (Cost 3), Technique, Overheating.
Description: You overload and expose the Gear’s generators redirecting the power surge towards outside rather than your own systems. The process may cause lasting damage to your own machine, but the brutal energy blast released is much more certain to do even worse for whoever is on the receiving end of it.

On paper this is a perfectly balanced mirror of Radiant Fist. They're both Techniques that Overheat and have an Energy cost of 3. One is Shooting, the other is Melee. So they're balanced, right? Well, not quite. This version of Reactor Overdrive was better than Radiant Fist pretty much all the time.

That's because Melee Weapons are better at sustained Damage output, while Shooting ones are better at sudden bursts of Damage. Turns out, when Techniques are all about bursts, a Shooting Weapon makes them even better! Not only did it hit harder, but it also did so from a distance, where Overheating hurts less

The combination of Shooting, Beam and Technique was way too powerful even with Overheating in the mix. Reactor Overdrive was the strongest Weapon in the game available to PCs in terms of Damage, but was also easy to use and didn't have much of a drawback. Clearly I had to do something about it.

I considered just giving Reactor Overdrive a higher Energy cost to make up for it, but that ironically made it look very weak in comparison to Radiant Fist, and if the most damaging gun in the game looks weak then I'm doing something wrong. Eventually I settled down on something.

Reactor Overdrive (new)
Type: Shooting Weapon
Cost: 10
Effect: Beam (Cost 5), Long-Range, Technique, Overheating. If you take the Aim Action with this Weapon before firing it attacks all Zones within Range in a straight line aimed in a direction of your choice.
Description: You overload and expose the Gear’s generators redirecting the power surge towards outside rather than your own systems. The process may cause lasting damage to your own machine, but the brutal energy blast released is much more certain to do even worse for whoever is on the receiving end of it.

I did not, strictly speaking, nerf it. I just added more abilities and charged the extra Energy cost. You could even argue that I made it stronger, because now it can hit multiple targets! In some ways it is even easier to use, because it has better reach, but things are not so simple.

First of all, by the time you want to use a Technique, most Enemies will be within the Range of your other Weapons, so you can snipe a Boss with it from afar if you put in the effort to keep your distance but it doesn't do all that much on its own.

Second is that Aiming with this Weapon isn't always a good idea, because the longer the battle goes the higher the odds that Melee units will reach their targets, and the higher the odds you'll end up blasting your friends to pieces with this monster.

Third is the Energy cost. Five is a lot to spend on a Weapon. Unless your Energy Attribute is solidly above average it means you don't get to shield yourself that Round. And if you get hit by something that halves your Energy while you're Aiming (like Cool your Jets) you'll have to wait another Round to use it... Unless your Energy is of 10, but at that point you deserve getting to fire your armageddon device no matter what.

On the other hand when it goes right, it goes right. Because is a Big Freaking Gun that blows up everything on its path. It is the Granzon's Degeneracy Cannon meets the Shin Getter's Stoner Sunshine by way of the Yamato's Wave Motion Gun. It is powerful, it makes you think about how you can best put it to use, and it is fun to let loose with when you just want to tell a bad guy that their face is beaming in the bad way.

In Closing

I've made it pretty clear I care about Big Heroes, Fast Pacing, and Epic Plays. But I still care very much about options and balance, and of course none of all these things would mean much if not for the over-the-top robot action flavor to tie it all together.

It also goes a long way towards showing I've got a solid foundation to work with and a few simple changes here and there are enough to fix most issues. Which is good because I'm done rewriting things from scratch and I don't want character concepts ruined because they were written around something that needed to be taken out.

Next week: Announcements! Changes! Things Happening!

January 12, 2014

The Fundamental Principles of Battle Century G

One of the biggest problems I had while trying to fix GGG's issues was its lack of focus. I wanted to adapt SRW mechanics to a tabletop but had to do away with the mathcraft inherent in the videogame. I wanted a point-buy system but had to resort to prebuilt choices in chassis types to make the options balanced. I wanted an effects-based system yet had rifles and missile launchers as inherently different types of weapons. It was messy, you get the idea. I was playing a balancing act with all these things and that hurt the game as a whole.

I had a lot more freedom with the Pilot and Intermission rules though, so I got them to work more or less fine. The idea of making a simplified version of the game by making Mecha and Operations more like their counterparts took root inside my head. And while I was trying to get some GGG hacks working, I realized that writing them would be so much easier with a faster and looser rules system.

The problem with following through on that was that it would not be GGG at all. Sure, it would be similar, in the way that the SNES and Genesis were both big on platformers and shared tons of popular titles, yet were pretty different other than that. Calling the new game GGG would basically be lying, so while it would look like I was giving up on giant robot action, I'd have to give up the name.

And it was a pretty cool name, too.

The Big Three

I've been slowly unveiling a bunch of stuff over the past two months and showing some of the biggest changes. I figure it'd be a good idea to go back to the basics and clearly state the core principles of Battle Century G while showing off some more stuff that I didn't get a chance to preview yet.

Yes, I kind of brought them up before when first introducing the system as a whole, but that was more in comparison to GGG. This post is more about how the game stands on its own, rather than how it differs.

I've got a lot more experience now than when I started writing GGG, and that means a much better idea of how game mechanics work out in theory and practice. I know what I am going for much better this time around, and I have three big tenets in mind I intend to uphold as much as possible for Battle Century G.

Big Heroes

Test results lean toward success rather than failure, and the adjustable Power Levels means you can start a game at whichever power scale you like best, so you can be above average or outright godly in power from the start. On top of that there's Tension, which lets you overcome anything through patience, and Genre Powers to turn failures into successes right now without having to wait. These two also let players who fall behind on the damage race catch up to their opponents, either by using Genre Points before the enemy gets to use them, or through a PC built around drawing more power from Tension bonuses than their foes.

Frankly this tenet is kind of a gimme because GGG already subscribed to it, but I'm just letting you know that it is still priority number one.

Wiht that said, there is one potential problem with Battle Century G in this regard: HP totals are a little on the lower side at Power Levels under 2. A lucky early hit can Maim multiple Areas of your Mecha, or even take you down entirely. That's not a very heroic thing to happen, so let's put a few potential countermeasures in place.

Invincible Alloy
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 10
Effect: At the beginning of your Turn you may spend 2 Energy to ignore the effects of Maiming on your External Areas for a Round. The first time that you would be destroyed during an Operation, you remain functional with a Threshold of 1 instead.
Your giant robot dons a new composite alloy of Element G, reinforced to withstand the rigors of battle better than most others.Even your internals are reinforced, making your equipment that much harder to disable.

Integrated Weapons
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 10
Effect: You may use your Weapons even if the Area they were allocated to has been Maimed.
Your Weapons are integrated to the Mecha’s very frame. Cannons are mounted to the shoulders, blades attached to the hands and knees. You are now effectively immune to disarming.

These are a steal at just 10 MP for the huge safety net they provide. With Integrated Weapons you'll always have your guns available no matter what, though you can still lose key abilities like Reversible Thrusters and Jury-Rig. Invincible Alloy meanwhile almost guarantees you get a parting shot with all your accumulated Genre Points, and also stops Maim status entirely if you can invest some Energy into it.

It bears mention that Invincible Alloy even works with Features like Power Suit, which are incompatible with Integrated Weapons.

Fast Pacing

For a game to play fast it needs as few rolls of the dice as possible and the rules need to be simple enough so that there's no need to reference them in the middle of a session. This is where BCG's focus in transparency of rules comes into play too, because there's less pausing and crunch numbers. As a bonus it is harder to make a suboptimal character by mistake, and harder to break the game's math on your knee too.

The one problem with this approach is that it takes away some of the system's depth of gameplay, increasing the risk of having one possible character build that trumps over all others. Fortunately, we now have the Speed as an Attribute. Speeds adds an element of positioning to the game's battlefield tactics and character build strategy, so there's more to think about than how powerful your guns and shields are.

Since we are on the topic of positioning, let's talk about the primary way there is to control the opposition's movement: Duels.

Units in a Duel may, at the beginning of their Turn, make a Contested Speed Test against their opponent. The winner gets to Move both participants a number of Zones equal to the lowest Speed of the two in a direction of their choice.

Duelists get to control enemy movement better than anyone else, specially with Got You Where I Wanted in the mix. If you have Anti-Gravity this lets you drag enemies around into Difficult or Extreme Terrain and keep them there.

Epic Plays

Player Character Mecha have a lot of resources at their disposal every Turn, and while some of them are renewable like Actions and Energy, most of them aren't. Having so much power to draw from lets you choose when you are going to have a big Turn and make that choice stick. This builds on the transparency mentioned above, where there's less invisible or random variables going on other than the hidden information of the enemy's own abilities. When you use a Power like Signature Weapon you know your attack is going to hit hard, and the only thing that could stop that from happening is another defensive Genre Power. To put it another way, you know that you won't spend your points or energy uselessly.

The primary issue we could run into here is in carefully balancing all the various ways the game has to murder each other without making it too easy to obliterate the opposition on the first round. At the same time, there have to be a few 'risky moves' that PCs can resort to when they don't have any resources like Energy or Genre to burn, making for stronger attacks that could accidentally go catastrophically wrong. To sate the demand for both of those there's Techniques. You already know Radiant Fist, which potentially causes you as much Damage as the extra amount you're dealing to your foe. Now meet his baby brothers of the Technique family.

Type: Melee Weapon
Cost: 5
Effect: Technique. Enemies attacked with this Weapon gain double benefit from Tension to Might Tests against you for a Round.
Description: Sheer size is the name of the game with some Weapons. From giant tomahawks to enormous spears, there is a lot of variety out there for Gears who want to just destroy whatever is on their way without having to resort to energy-based equipment. The downside is that they are unwieldy and often leave you open to counterattacks.

Missile Massacre
Type: Shooting Weapon
Cost: 5
Effect: Technique. After attacking an Enemy with this Weapon, you lose the benefit of Tension to all further Might Tests against them for the rest of the Operation with all Weapons, not just Techniques.
Description: A figurative circus display of missiles shot in a pattern that makes trying to evade them nearly futile. This advanced maneuver impacts from multiple angles at once to increase the chances of a direct hit. But savvy foes will learn your patterns from this move, and will have a much easier time avoiding you afterwards.

Remember, the first Technique used during an Operation gains double benefit from Tension but all Techniques used afterwards gain no benefit from Tension whatsoever. These Weapons make for fantastic finishers, but if you fail to destroy your target when you use them, you'll regret it.

That's all for today, it is a bit of a short post but I'm busy and it was either keeping it short or going for a week without one and I don't want to cut my streak short just yet. I might end up making them shorter but weekly rather than longer but having only one or two per month, we'll see. For now, see you next Sunday!

January 5, 2014

Genre Powers and Enemies in Battle Century G

It is a new year and by the end of this month I expect to have something to show of the new game. Is this a promise? No, it is more a statement of intention. So let's get started on today's post and I'll get back to working on the game. Today on exhibition we have the Genre Powers that I talked about previously but weren't quite balanced enough yet to show off and, on the GM's side of the ring, enemies and their new toys.

You've got the Touch

I mentioned before that there will be less Genre Powers to go around for Battle Century G, but that they will be stronger by comparison to compensate. Everyone has the Default six Powers, which are largely like their GGG versions, so let's move on to the Powers you get to pick for yourself. Remember, there are no packages this time around, so you can mix and match Powers suited to different roles if you'd like to do that.

Signature Weapon (Specialist)
Type: Setup Power
Effect: Choose any one Weapon you have when you take this Power. Activate Signature Weapon to make your next Offensive Action using the chosen Weapon immune to the effects of Active Defenses and increase the result of its Might Test by 5. You may use different Signature Weapons during the same Operation.
Description: “FINAL ATTACK, SKULL COLLECTOR!” The Demiurge violently tore off the head of the alien monster, and impaled it along the other 49 on its crystal-riden back. “YESSS, I AM THE BEST AT SKULLS!”

Having only one attack and defense stat instead of two, this basically doubles your offense and halves enemy defense, so it'll hit like a colony drop. On the other hand, it can only be used once per Operation and only with a specific Weapon, so you have to plan for it and time it properly. It is the go-to power of choice for Offensive specialists who just want raw power.

But it is not the only offensive option.

Got you where I Wanted
Type: Reaction Power
Effect: After dealing Damage to an Enemy through a Might Test using a Melee Weapon, you may slide the target a number of Zones in a direction of your choice equal to half the Damage dealt this way. If the target is in a Duel, this will cause them to Disengage, and if you drag them into your Zone you may force you both into a Duel. You may not use this Power more than once per Offensive Action.
Description: Isaac made his Gear tackle a Botakuri, the team was being swarmed and they had to corral the hordes one way or the other. “ORYAAAAAAAAA!!” One giant robot lifted the other, swung it around like a flail, and violently threw the Botakuri back into the killzone.

Melee Weapons are consistently stronger than Shooting ones once you've locked down your target, and this Power helps you set up that scenario. It also lets you knock an Enemy all the way across the battlefield into a patch of Extreme Terrain or the middle of your allied forces. This would be too powerful on a Shooting Weapon, but as a Melee one it works just right. Take note how it synergizes with Weapon Master too - that Upgrade already lets you bypass active defenses and makes all your Melee attacks stronger, so you're better off with this rather than Signature Weapon.

Sniping the Targets
Type: Setup Power
Effect: Gain an Advantage to your next Might Test using a Shooting Weapon. Increase the maximum Range of that Weapon by 10 for your next Offensive Action. You may not use this Power more than once per Offensive Action.
Description: The G-Bow was already at maximum output, yet the target was beyond what Charlotte already knew was her effective range. So she aimed upwards and fired, piercing the clouds with a burning arrow that struck down its target like a meteor. “I didn’t make Archery Team Captain collecting coupons, mate.”

This one is a little like an Aim Action, except it grants less power and has longer reach. More importantly, it stacks with Aiming, giving you a Range of around 20 if you combine those, and higher than that with a Long-Range gun. That is more than enough distance to let you activate Weapon Master's barrier piercing ability safely, with your four Advantages to the Might Test (one from this Power, two from Aiming, one from Weapon Master). It is perfect for brutal opening salvoes.

You've got the Power

Powers can do more than just make you hit bad guys for bigger numbers, and there are several utility and support Powers to that end. Here's a few of them:

The Tacticool Approach
Type: Reaction Power
Effect: Replace your Might with your Systems to alter the result of a Test you just rolled or replace your Guard with it to change your Defense against a single Might Test.
Description: They both knew there was no way their flimsy weapons would overwhelm the Cryptid’s forcefield, but Jo kept typing madly as a dutiful operator “I am done redirecting all power to the Helix Cannon.” Harry gulped in response “So this is it. Win big or go home.” his trigger finger sweaty and itchy. Jo just chuckled “My suggestion? Hold on to your butt.”

Systems-users have several tricks up their sleeve to fight head to head with Might and Guard specialists. This is one of them. It is not as strong as the others, and requires a specific build, but it can be used multiple times to compensate.The best part is that nothing about it is random, and because it works at Reaction Speed you can just activate it when you know you need an extra one or two points to negate an enemy attack or to bypass their defense.

This is my Trump Card (Specialist)
Type: Setup Power
Effect: Choose a combination of External Upgrades or Weapons that Costs no more than 10 MP when you take this Power and assign it to a compatible Area. Activate This is my Trump Card to gain those Upgrades or Weapons until end of Operation. You may not use more than one instance of This is my Trump Card per Operation.
Description: “Give up, you’re out of ammunition and surrounded, be reasonable!” The enemy shouted.  “NO, I REFUSE!” Came the reply from the silver-coloured Gear. It flew into the air and began bombarding its enemies with a rain of fireballs. “I TOTALLY HAVE ICE MISSILES TOO!”

That whole thing about GP being worth 10 MP comes back full circle here. This only gets External abilities, so you cannot use it to get an Assistant. Other than that, it is notable for being weaker than its GGG equivalent, mostly because the original was ridiculous - now you get one third of a Power Level, not a full Power Level.

Cool your Jets
Type: Setup Power
Effect: Any one Enemy has their available Energy halved and will suffer a point of Damage per Energy point they spend for a Round.
Description: Kao dodged another hit from the immense Outsider, and another, and another. He kept dodging until he found an opening to slide the G-Drain underneath the enemy’s feet. The device activated and began to drain the power away from the monster’s Gravagne Field. “Ever heard of fighting smart, not hard?”

In a game where Energy is a resource that regenerates consistently, just losing a few points vaguely counts as a nuisance. At the same time, just shutting down someone's entire Energy reserves is often a death sentence, so there's gotta be a balance somewhere. With this, you can still potentially ruin their entire battle plan, though not destroy them outright - which is fine, you are playing a support role after all!

Mind Over Matter
Type: Reaction Power
Effect: You or an Ally get to treat Maimed Areas and halved Attributes as normal for a number of Rounds equal to your Power Level. Mind over Matter will also stop effects that halve your available Energy, even if the Attribute itself remais untouched.
Description: The Cryptids netted another ally with their labryinthine restrainments, capturing the Paladin much like a spider would web a fly. Russell drawled “You know what I call people who rely on all this fancy bullshit instead of giving their enemy a good scrap?” After a short wait, he spilled the punchline “Cowards.” With a flex of their synthmuscles, he and his comrades broke free.

This is one of the weaker support Powers in that it doesn't give any hard bonuses, it only cancels penalties. But boy does it stop those penalties hard. Enemies relying on debuff gimmicks can be quite nasty if you're unprepared, so as a reward for your foresight you get to shut them down for potentially the entire battle! And yes, there's a few more mechanics that draw from Power Level for strength, though they're mostly support-oriented because the stuff meant for direct combat uses Tension or half-Tension instead.

Enemies and Power Level

Much like with GGG, I want GMs to be able to populate whole encounters full of diverse enemy NPCs in a way that is quick and fun. The general idea behind enemy design in BCG is going to be pretty similar to that of GGG, we'll have Grunts, Rivals and Bosses. Because of the Power Level system, we can scale them to have hordes of mooks made out of explodium and superbosses that take on entire parties on their own, as well as elite mooks and minibosses to go with it.

Grunts lack Genre Points and have Attributes corresponding to one Power Level below PCs. Bosses have special abilities and Attributes corresponding to one Power Level above the PCs. Rivals are the equivalent of PCs but without Themes.

You'd think that creating a high-level Boss would take a whole lot of math and time with all those points to spend on Attributes. You could take your time getting Bosses just perfect, yes. Or you could grab one of the templates below, maybe switch some Attributes around, and call it a day.





These tables are made assuming you spend around 60 MP on Upgrades and Weapons, and everything else on Attributes - you can adjust the Power Level used to compensate around changing that around. There is no Power Level 0 listed because that is just three stats at 4 and three stats at 0.

This should keep enemy generation quick, and also help out anyone who wants to start a game at a higher Power Level than normal.

Bosses Then

I like the way GGG did Bosses conceptually but obviously a lot of the rules won't translate very well (or at all) to BCG. Not only are the various stats different, but the reduced HP totals mean that it is more likely for a Boss to get blown up before they show off their Level 3 abilities.

To fix this they have higher Attributes than normal and most of their special abilities improve their survivability, or are designed around getting beat up. Bosses are a special case in that their Attributes go up while they still get more special abilities with every Power Level. This basically means that they grow twice as fast as PCs do.

What about Boss abilities? Glad you asked:

Your Fate is Sealed
Type: Setup Power
Effect: One Enemy loses the benefit of Tension to Might Tests and may not have any lost Threshold restored for a number of Rounds equal to your Power Level.
Description: Her Gear was unresponsive no matter how much she tried to steer it out of the monster’s way. It wasn’t until Bunny looked into the Cryptid’s piercing eyes for herself that she realized her Gear was frozen in terror. And so had she.

Bullet Hell
Type: Internal Upgrade
Level 2 Effect: When you enter this Level, Enemies within an amount of Zones equal to your Systems must Test Speed against a DN of 10, taking the amount the fail the test by as Damage.
Level 3 Effect: As above, but the DN is of 15 instead.
Level 4 Effect: As above, but the DN is of 20 instead.
Description: When you’ve got more enemies than limbs, it is a good idea to pack several dozen energy cannons. A neat bonus is that your ever-growing colorful patterns of destruction are almost hypnotic to look at.

Ultimate Bomb
Type: Shooting Weapon
Effect: Long-Range. This Weapon is like a Blast but with 10 Zones in radius. If you are within its area of effect, it will cause you to attack yourself.
Description: The UEF’s mighty 3G-Bomb is one of the most fearsome tools of mass destruction ever devised. Preferably do not launch it against anything less than a dozen kilometers away. In fact just do not launch it.

Your Fate is Sealed is nasty. It shuts down Techniques and Regeneration-based defenses pretty hard, forcing you to come up with a new plan or to fall back and play a supporting role until the effects fade away. Bullet Hell is one of a number of Upgrades that trigger special abilities after their Threshold Level was breached. And Ultimate Bomb is horrible to deal with when the enemy has Terrain on their side or bulky Grunts to block your way. Units don't usually hit themselves with Blasts, but with this one they will, so get up close and force them to change their plans.

By the way, Boss Weapons cannot be Maimed, but you can still gain benefit from Maiming certain Bosses

Type: Internal Upgrade
Effect: At the beginning of your Turn you may spend any amount of Energy to restore half that much Threshold to yourself. Whenever one of your Areas gets Maimed, one of your Attributes is halved. Losing the Head halves your Systems, the Torso halves your Guard, the Arms halve your Might and the Legs your Speed.You ignore the Ejection rules, and losing the fourth Level of Threshold kills you.
Description: Both Outsiders and Cryptids have very unique physiologies. The bad news is that they are relentless and will heal any wound that is not fatal in time. The good news is that their bodies are unstable, paradoxically reacting the most violently to Element G, the substance they seem to be made out of.

This serves two purposes in making Bosses harder to kill while not rendering them completely immune to the whole Maiming mechanic. Giant monsters have longer fighting matches on their side so you can't afford to let them live for long, but blowing up the right body part can be a deciding factor in ending the battle with fewer casualties.

Any good sequel knows what things to keep from from the original, and Enemy creation possibly changed the least from GGG to BCG as far as big things go. For the most part it is just a refinement and adaptation of the old version to fit better the gameplay of BCG. The Power Level system lets you get away with encounters that were kind of hard to set up before, and there's going to be a sidebar with suggestions to make Enemies going beyond Power Level 5. Mostly Bosses, because that's what you want to do with them anyway.

But this is not over yet.

Bosses Now

Of course I'm not just stopping there when it comes to Bosses. Bosses have new toys to make not just more threatening and effective enemies, but also more interesting ones. For instance, if you think you can make easy pickings of a Boss while they're vulnerable out of their robot, then you'll be surprised when you find out they can read your every move.

Combat Profiling
Type: Boss Trait
Effect: At the beginning of your Turn you may ask one Player a single yes or no question about what their PC will be doing during their next Turn. If the Player abides by their answer, you also gain double benefit from Tension against them for a Round. If they do not, they lose a Genre Point. You may not use this ability more than a number of times equal to your Power Level per Episode.
Description: You have magnificent observation skills and put them to use during battle, and can read movement patterns from your enemies like they’re an open book. Just stay away from reckless savages who act crazy and break their mold.

As expected of Dark Overlord-sama, he is on a whole different level from the average PC!

Boss NPCs get one Boss Trait for each of their Power Levels, so expect the high tier NPCs to present a legitimate threat if faced early on.

Specially because you can't even overpower them with Mecha.

Giant Slayer
Type: Boss Trait
Effect: You do not halve the Damage you would deal against Mecha while on foot and they no longer deal double Damage against you. You increase your Defense by twice your Power Level against Mecha and may use Deathblows against them.
Description: You can fight toe to toe with giant robots, which is every bit as superhuman as it sounds. Enemies regard you as more monster than human, and they might even be right.

The first sidebar ever written for GGG was about fighting Mecha on foot and how much of a terrible idea it was. Also about how I wasn't going to include rules for playing Master Asia in the name of balance. While I still very much think that this should not be an option for the average PC, it is a perfectly valid thing for Boss NPCs to do.

But that is not enough power yet. If Boss Mecha of a high Power Level are going to be endgame encounters by their own, they need something more, something special and beyond regular Boss abilities. A Boss Capstone, if you will. One like this.

Type: Internal Upgrade
Effect: You occupy 9 Zones in a shape of your choice, chosen when you take this Capstone. All Zones occupied by your body count as Extreme Terrain for Enemies in them. You cannot Engage in or be Engaged into a Duel, but all your Melee Weapons gain an Advantage to their use, and Shooting Weapons used against you suffer a Disadvantage to their Might Tests.
Description: Giant robots are huge, yet you make them look like ants. You could raze a city to the ground in minutes just moving around, and without having to fire any of your Weapons.

Just standing near them is enough to make them swat you like a fly, and good luck outrunning a guy who is almost ten times your size. This is what you call a Boss Capstone, an ability so powerful you have to be of Power Level 5 to have just one of them. But a genuine final boss who flies solo will need more than one Capstone, because there's baddies, there's big bads, and then there's the vast and unknowable entities whose pure hatred for you and your friends cuts into your soul like a knife through butter.

Embodiment of Evil
Type: Internal Upgrade
Effect: Enemies must spend two Genre Points instead of one to activate Genre Powers.
Description: Your hatred for everything that lives is pure and relentless, flowing through all of your being. The heroes think they can face you with their clever plans, dramatic speeches, and great sacrifices. But you hate them so much that none of those things will matter. In the end, there is only hate.

Bosses of Power Level 5 get to have a single Capstone ability, but if you want a single enemy who can take on parties larger than 4 then you'll have to increase their Power Level beyond 5, upping their Attributes and granting them one more Capstone each Power Level. This in addition to, you know, having to deal with the regular assortment of Boss Powers, Upgrades and Weapons.

High-End Bosses with multiple Capstones should make for some really memorable boss fights. Add some Boss Traits for the on-the-ground encounters and you're a long way into making bad guys that Players will love to hate.

Anyway, that's all for today, join me next time when I make a more general theory post about the principles of game design I'm going for and show off some more stuff.

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.