December 23, 2012

Halfway There

I somehow managed to eke this one out mid-December. I'll have more time once the holidays are over so I can hopefully churn out the revamp to characters and intermissions faster then. Have at you.

General Changes

-Still no ToC or Indexes because they take time and bookmarks serve the same basic functionality for online use. Yes, I will add them later.
-Moved 'The World' from Chapter 2 to Chapter 6.
-Expanded the introduction a little bit to compensate for the above two things.

Character Creation

-Four new Common Powers that encourage Weapon type specialization a bit.
-Buffed Target Lock
-Nerfed Pierce

Mecha Construction

-You may now apply your Upgrades and Weapons to any Areas without restrictions.
-Added Attribute Modules, Upgrades that provide a passive bonus to stats (like Enhancements) but can be maimed (unlike Enhancements.
-Slight buff to Battlefield Commander.
-Added Stealth Field Feature to Special Modes.
-Reinstated Terrain Adaptability Upgrades as Special Mode Variants.
-Modified Transformation and Frames.
-Buffed Expansion Pack.
-Combiners require to specify who they combine with beforehand.
-Overhauled Weapon balance.
-You can only have one each of Recharging, Technique, One-Shot and Remote Weapons for balance reasons.
-You can now give drawbacks to any of your Weapons regardless of their cost.


Playing the Game

-Disrupt halves Damage dealt instead of taking a disadvantage.
-Whenever an Area is Maimed the attacker picks which one gets taken out if the Damage dealt was odd, and the defender chooses the sacrifice when the result is even instead.

Running the Show

-Modified a few Features and added a new one, Power Armor.
-Bosses no longer gain new abilities when at low health, instead their Archetype(s) get stronger when they lose Levels and they are given new abilities after each Arc.
-Rebalanced some Boss Powers and Boss Weapons.

Playtesting was had to ensure free Beams weren't absolutely bonkers, Bosses were threatening, and Maiming wasn't mind-boggingly dull. Seriously, that table was bad. Also to compensate for Transformers no longer getting to switch their Chassis around, there are Attribute Modules which give you a small yet cheap boost.

Then there's the restrictions on limited-use Weapons (plus Remotes) and the chance to now give Weapons that cost 4 or less drawbacks. The main reason the latter couldn't be done before was because stacking dozens of One-Shots would be exploitable, to say the least, and in general the same could be said of anything that gives you ways to spam those. So now you can only have one of each of these, because you have three different ways to give color to your hissatsu wazas so make use of them all instead of just sticking to one. The nerf to Remotes is kind of necessary now that Beams are Energy free by default.

Bosses now start off a battle weaker than before (Archetypes do nothing at first) but grow exponentially stronger and they take even less effort to build this time around. Weapons have been slightly improved to make sure they can still bully PCs before they start being smacked around too.

Another thing I have in mind for the future is a small boost to Chassis stats to further differentiate them from each other and to improve general longevity, because offenses are that much stronger than defenses since 1.4 but I'm not doing anything like that until I'm sure about it. There's also one or two things about Combiners I want to sit down and see if they can be improved but that'll also have to wait.

And that's it for now! I'd like to have the next one sometime around January, so obviously you should expect it around February.

December 9, 2012

Area of Sorrow

It dawns on me that I never actually explained why Areas, Space and Maiming changed like they did. I just mentioned some issues with them offhand but never elaborated on the solution that I came upon. So let's do that now, starting with a recap of why they weren't all that good.

Space was kind of inelegant as far as rules went, choosing where your robot holds its stuff is cool and all but tracking it was a bit of a chore. It helped balance the other chassis types with each other in making some of them arbitrarily better at being able to equip more or less parts in some or other spots, but at the same time it meant a few arbitrary restrictions on unconventional, yet perfectly fine otherwise, builds.

That worked for a while decently enough, but Maiming complicated things further. The first few maims were the most important ones, taking away the most important equipment of the victim, and making the rest of the combat a nearly-insurmountable uphill battle for whoever suffered the first one.

The game is about (or aims for) intense, back and forth combat, gradually building up to a desperate climax. Two robots reduced to no weapons bashing each other with their battered limbs is cool, but a futile struggle of one character as the near-mint victor toys with them is a pointless, drawn-out slog.

Now I guess I could just do away with both space and area restrictions, and maiming in general, but it is a big part of what makes mecha combat feel like, you know, mecha combat. Obviously I could not just do away with them.

Now to the solution: Everything can go anywhere, you only need to worry about making every area important by keeping them balanced with each other. This enables off-the-wall designs slightly better, specially with the custom weapons engine. Without some limit on placing stuff, you will always have dead areas that you don't care about losing. That's bad and antithetical to a game where every turn is supposed to do something meaningful

Choosing which Area to sacrifice as you get maimed helps with that, because you will not choose an area that you need in order to keep fighting. Defender-side maims are also a lot more badass, because they let everyone describe how damaged their robot is, while still standing and being able to fight. While we're in the subject of narration, it also helps make that flow better. You make an attack, and the defender describes the damage dealt along with their reaction after noting down the damage they take. 

Much like with unrolled Penetration, it helps make the game run smoother. It even gives you the tactical choice to either bunch up your good stuff somewhere it'll be safe until the end, or to make a couple sets of key areas and sacrifice the lesser useful ones depending on the situation. It is a bit of a change from how it used to be, but it is for the better, and works very well in mitigating the generally stronger offenses that everyone starts with. If it is absolutely necessary to do so, you can always use a controlled attack to pick off a specific Area, even.
The only issue is that you need to spread your weapons all over the body, which often means placing stuff in the head when you'd rather have those guns on the arms. This is, fortunately, a problem of flavor and not of mechanics so it can be solved without a lot of fuss. Head, Arms, Torso and Legs could become Left Arm, Right Arm, Shoulder-Mount and Chest-Mount for instance. Or it can abstract placement and be more functional instead, with the Areas being Held Weapons, Mounted Weapons, Defense Systems, and Utility Equipment.

So with having four unnamed, generic equipment slots that can be renamed to anything you want and some guidelines for making them tick, things should be set. I am, however, intending to write in a chapter with several alternative rules after the ground level content is changed, and there will be an alternative Area/Maim system in it.

Edit: This is a flavor-based change. It is, however, entirely possible for one to not like the way this works rules wise. There's hoops to jump, and some people aren't too fond of hoops. There's a wiser designer than I who says that if you fight human nature, human nature tends to win.

So here's the deal. We can lift the restrictions on placement entirely, all it would mean is making sure the game doesn't get too imbalanced as a result. And while I'm not a fan of what I'm about to propose as a solution, it gets the job done:

Random Maim Locations Table

aka Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

All Upgrades and Weapons that aren't exclusive to the Core can be placed in any Area of either Head, Torso, Arms or Legs. When a Threshold Level is lost and an Area is to be Maimed, said Area is chosen at random depending on the last digit of the Total Damage Dealt dealt to the Maimed Unit:

1 = Defender's choice of Head, Torso, Arms and Legs. You cannot choose an Area that has already been Maimed.
2-3 = Head. If the Head has already been Maimed, it is an Area of the Attacker's choice on a 2 and the Defender's choice on a 3.
4-5 = Torso. If the Torso has already been Maimed, it is an Area of the Attacker's choice on a 4 and the Defender's choice on a 5.
6-7 = Arms. If the Arms have already been Maimed, it is an Area of the Attacker's choice on a 6 and the Defender's choice on a 7.
8-9 = Legs. If the Legs have already been Maimed, it is an Area of the Attacker's choice on a 8 and the Defender's choice on a 9.
0 = Attacker's choice of Head, Torso, Arms and Legs. You cannot choose an Area that has already been Maimed.  

Randomized results means that attempting to optimize Areas so you won't be affected by Maims is about as likely to hurt you as it is likely to help you out. There is a slight bias for Defender's choice, Head and Torso Areas but it is negligible, really. Instead, you can focus on getting your unit just right and give it whatever you want, without worrying about the effectiveness of optimizing your Areas. It might work out fantastically, or it might not! Good thing there's plenty of healing to work around a key Area getting chopped down.

November 27, 2012

Pump Me Up

I wanted to address common concerns with a quick update but evidently I'm not finding the time to do so. So let's talk about the biggest of the bunch for now.

Second to Genre Points, the most precious resource in the game is Energy. A lot of the game's inherent tension in managing your Genre Points went over to managing your Energy, this was by design since you can do a lot with each point. If you dedicate your 5-8 points to one ability, it'll do its job and then some.

Beam Weapons are absurdly powerful. While the other types an Advantage in specific circumstances (which is about a +3 to Accuracy) the full-rollover benefit of Beams grows in power in a linear fashion through the course of the game through both Tension and your own Accuracy enhancements, while every other kind of weapon is very good at hitting things but not that great at piercing through. This is, incidentally, why they have the most expensive Reliable modifier - because it is better than the one the others get.

Active Defenses (by which I mean stuff you spend energy to increase Evasion or Armor) likely nullify an instance of damage entirely barring crazy powerful finishers, which just suffer a very large reduction. Other Upgrades offer different tactical advantages, some are raw temporary boosts(Three Times Faster) while others offer a variety of bonuses and are meant to be used sparingly (Anti-Gravity) but the key point is that you can't go around using multiples of these without a failsafe or two.

So let's back off for a second here. What exactly would be wrong with giving everyone a permanent solution in the form of regeneration, instead of purchasable failsafes? Mostly that it is really, really boring. A game where you can always do everything that you want is not a tactically interesting one, and by being a limited resource you need to actually make choices regarding how to use it. I'll be frank in that early on I was considering giving everyone a static regeneration of 1 Energy per Round. The result of giving everyone regeneration while keeping things sane was nerfing the hell out of everything that needed fuel to use, and that just wouldn't do. It devalued the resource instead of making it more important, was rather fiddly to play with, and went against the goal of keeping things dynamic by encouraging battles of attrition.

Fortunately the available failsafes are excellent. Really? Well yes, the issue with Energy being so cost-efficient is that it always is more powerful than it looks at first glance, so when you get a handful of points back it seems disappointing that you're only only going to get a couple more uses of your stuff. When, you know, just getting the chance to shoot three more beams is easily all you would ever need. Ready for Another Go gives you an average of 3 for 1 Genre Point as many times as you need it and at reaction speed, Resupply will give you even more and can combo with Regenerative to give you up to 15 of it at no Action cost, and Micromanage can be used with a mix and match of Cooperate, Tactical UI, and Assistant to keep yourself or others in top condition. Even with the best method to regenerate energy gone (RIP old Limiter Release, which I affectionatelly dubbed Necropotence) any one of these is efficient enough to make sure you finish off the enemy before you run out of juice.

But still, while six or so uses of an active defense are more than enough to outtank an opponent, and three or four turns of 3x Faster are most certainly decisive, Beams and Anti-Gravity require a bit more finesse. If you fire beams or fly around all day long from turn 1 onwards, chances are you'll be wasting that Energy and will have to fight uphill afterwards. It was not an intentional design trap (Rest easy knowing that you will not find an equivalent to the Toughness Feat in the game anytime soon) but it is still there, and my job is to make sure that there's nothing you can casually walk into and be killed by without being clearly aware that something has to be wrong first.

So what is to be done about this? Well, for one I think we can make the basic Beam type cost 0 Energy. That would come with a change to the selection of modifiers that can be attached to the custom weapons. We can also make using Anti-Gravity free of charge Energy-wise, its effects being up in the air (so to speak) and other modifications being possible for use in other terrains.

There's a couple other things too, but that's as far as Energy is concerned. By ensuring that every point spent is meaningful, there is no need to make busywork with regeneration shenanigans since everyone is already on equal footing. So! On to the temporary fixes:
Custom Beam Weapon
Range: 0-7
Accuracy: +0
Penetration: 0
Energy: 0
Special: Beam

Areas: Core
Cost: 7
Effect: You ignore the effects of Terrain and can shoot through a Zone occupied by an Enemy as if they weren’t there to reach another behind it, but may also be attacked by anyone within range in the same way. This Upgrade has no effect underwater or in space.

Proper new modifiers and custom AG, along with other small changes to things like areas and transform, will come soon enough, until then this should do.

November 19, 2012

Rise, Guardian God Game

I always want to begin these update posts saying how this one took longer than expected, which I really should have been expecting all along by now. So I'll spare you from that and show you 1.4, linky link.


General Changes

-There's some stuff missing, such as a table of contents, index, or list of example NPCs. Those will be back in later.
-The Term 'Actor' was changed for 'Avatar' because the former got a bit messy since it is a relatively common word. The latter still plays up the meta angle without getting confused with its other meaning. Enacting is still a thing, because no one uses that word.


Character Creation

-Natures no longer grant you Power-related Traits, nor do they have fixed lists of Powers. Instead you choose two Packages of Powers when you make a PC, and pick Powers from them when you need to learn one. 
-Default Powers increased to six from three.
-Powers all cost one point, can be repeated even in the same turn at will, and have been obviously rebalanced.
-Starting number of Points is one, but you get another one for each Threshold Level lost as well.
-Genre Points reset every Episode instead of every Arc, but increase in their starting amount by 1 after each Arc.

Mecha Construction

-Nearly everything that is a mecha rule changed in some way, and a good chunk of abilities were eliminated. Rebuilds are pretty much obligatory.
-Designs were cut in half, then reworked to be generally build-defining without being too niche.
-There's four Chassis types instead of five.
-You can assign Upgrades and Weapons to any Area, and there are no space restrictions anymore.
-You do not Enhance Upgrades anymore.
-Exceptional Aptitudes were either rolled into other Upgrades or cut out.
-Potential Upgrades were nixed.
-Most Terrain Adaptability Upgrades were also thrown out, they're either a special mode (in the case of Anti-Gravity) or rolled into Features.
-Enhancements increase your Gear stats but their costs increment gradually like with PC Attributes.
-All Weapon Types have in-built abilities to them.
-You can now create Custom Weapons. Every generic Weapon in the game has been deleted as a result.
-There's a seventh Mecha Attribute, Systems, which is equal to your Genre Points and used for a few specific abilities plus Initiative.


Playing the Game

-Damage calculation changed. Penetration is no longer rolled.
-A bunch of Actions changed, from names to function.
-Terrain streamlined a bit further.


Running the Show

-NPCs come in three tiers: Grunts, Rivals and Bosses. Grunts are simplified PCs, Rivals are exactly like PCs, and Bosses have unique rules.
-Features are special abilities with an upside and a downside that can be applied to any Unit to make them distinctive from regular Gears, such as Kaijus or Squads.

So much red text! It has been a while since I used that, and to think this began with just three changes in mind (Custom Weapons, Faster Damage Mechanics, Better Genre Power rules) the domino effect was reaaally big there. Anyway I hope you have been keeping up with the latest blog posts because they explain a lot of these changes better than I could tackle them all here right now. Instead I'll touch on something else, namely why I removed a bunch of stuff and modified a lot of what remained. All of it is aiming the game in a particular direction so I should probably elaborate on which direction it is.

For the most part a lot of what was excised was, encouraged the slow accruing of benefits - Energy, Tension, Genre, etc. And it did so passively. Whatever replacements exist right now hinge on the fact that they tend to be active and have a limited use (like Support Upgrades) or that you do not control them - such as earning more Genre through getting beat up.

The direction I am pointing the game towards is a more dynamic one, a thing that I have been doing the veeeery first update to the game. One of the big things early on was that I tried to make Tension into as big a part of the game as possible, and it showed. Every Point of Tension was big, it was like an upswing of 1.5 in your Damage output and turns added up fast. I've been slowly making the game faster by diminishing the importance of Tension, with this being the logical end point. This new take on the Damage mechanics is a lot more... generic in comparison, and I'm probably going to miss the charm of the old style, but the game does encourage you less to sit around now, which is a good thing.

Not having a mixed message makes for tighter game balance and sleeker gameplay, since there isn't a bunch of upgrades that can be rendered potentially useless just because you're a slow rolling tank and everyone else in your party is crazy on getting as much damage as possible early on.

Another concern is that more streamlined rules also means less options, which in turn means lack of support for some niche builds. It should be noted that while say, the old Supercharged or Learning Computer are gone mechanically, their flavor lives on in new rules. Maybe a specific build is no longer possible, but the concept of the energizer bunny mecha or the self-learning mecha still does. You will probably have to rebuild, but you're not likely to need to scrap a whole character.

This is a big shakeup, which is why I had to wait to implement all the changes at once and did so after I've been satisfied with playtesting. Even though I've had to take out a lot of stuff I personally liked, I can say that I firmly believe this is where I want the rest of the game to go. With that having been said, it would not be the first time I'm wrong, so we'll see how well this holds and if necessary roll stuff back. Gut reactions aside, I believe that if you give what is there a chance, you will like 1.4 better.

I still want to change the rules for the ground level game, and I would like to see that done by January or February, but I cannot quite make that promise yet - Experience tells me I'm probably going to have to put out fires regarding this new version between now and then.

November 11, 2012

Enemy Mine

A long while ago when I first talked about enemy design I brought up how the priority there is always simplicity. GMs have a lot to do already, making the creation of every single enemy a long and arduous process is only complicating things further. This has to be balanced with the need for a breadth and wealth of options for them, so that any two enemies chosen at random will be, well, different.

Currently we're working with so-called Aberrant options, the fifth element to the PC's traditional four. There's a lot of neat ideas woven into them, such as Aberrant Upgrades being weirder takes on the usual PC abilities in order to represent things like planes or fortresses, or just inversions of what you would usually expect of them to fit more traditional rpg conventions such as bosses with multiple forms or that eat away their minions.

But while they were great at offering more options, they weren't exactly helping solve that 'simplicity' issue. So I started from scratch with Enemy design, with the following objectives in mind:

-Crafting a bunch of bad guys should be doable in under an hour.
-There should be a clear distinction between the lower tier baddies and the higher tier ones.
-Following from above, throwaway mooks can be interesting but don't need to. High-end bosses must be interesting.
-There should be a better sense of balance for how many PCs each enemy is worth.
-They should be able to represent things that aren't traditional giant robots - Giant Monsters, Tanks, you name it
-Whether their abilities are exclusive or not, and whether they can use the same stuff that PCs do are both negotiable.
The Results

NPCs come in Combatant (pilot) and Non-Combatant (nonpilot) flavors, much like before, but they also come in three sizes which are Grunts, Rivals, and Bosses. Elites weren't quite pulling their weight in the end, so off to the chopping block they go. With only three of them I can balance them more tightly, so that a Grunt is half a PC, a Rival is a PC, and a Boss is two PCs.

Then there's Features, which are standalone abilities with a good and a bad side to them. For instance a plane with the Flyer Feature ignores Terrain rules, whether they are detrimental or beneficial. Features cost no UP and are used to represent things that aren't traditional giant robots - vehicles, buildings and mobile bases among others. While they're not usually available to PCs, exceptions can be made for someone who wants to play a landbound Zoid or a regenerating Kaiju.

Now on to the changes proper! Because Rivals are still basically like PCs, I'll stick to Grunts and Bosses.


-Do have a Nature now
-Have a total of 10 PP for spending on Skills or Traits
-No Genre Points (or Powers) whatsoever.
-Choose one type of Plot Armor for them, increase it by 2 ranks at the end of each Arc.

-Don't have an Archetype at all, though they do get a Chassis.
-Get 10 UP to spend on anything that isn't a Weapon.
-Get two Custom Weapons.
-You choose a combination of Evasion and Accuracy, Armor and Threshold, or Energy and Penetration and increase both of those at the end of every Arc by 1.

They're pretty simple, and you can make them even simpler if you don't give their weapons any drawbacks and pick some of the Features that make them even easier to manage such as Squad - so you don't have to worry about Maiming at all because every Threshold Level lost there is a kill.


-Start with one type of Plot Armor buffed up by 5.
-Have either three Skills at +5, +3 and +1 or four at +4, +3, +2 and +2.
-Have up to ten PP in Traits.
-You choose Fitness and Grit, Intellect and Drive, or Empathy and Wisdom to increase them by 1 rank at the end of every Episode Arc.

-Start off with toughened up Chassis with an enhancement of 5 to a combination of Evasion and Accuracy, Armor and Threshold, or Energy and Penetration.
-Have one Boss Power, one Boss Archetype, and one Boss Weapon by default, which are a bit like the old Aberrant options but stronger because they get less of them.
-Get the same number of Genre Points that PCs have, but gain two more with each Threshold Level lost instead of one.
-Are immune to Maiming and instead for each Level of Threshold that they lose they gain another Power, Archetype or Weapon - only one of those, not all three.
-Enhance every Attribute by 1 for each Episode Arc that has finished, even past the usual limit of 5 enhancements.

This way crafting a Boss is not about juggling what to do with, like, 75 XP or something time-consuming like that but about choosing which amazing stuff they start off with, both for pilots and non-pilots. To keep the fighters interesting throughout the whole encounter, they also gain more abilities as they get more beat up, and also more Genre to keep themselves alive with. Note that they do not get the usual PC abilities, and particularly important is that they do not get the six Default Genre Powers. They are very strong, but they lack the versatility of PCs.

There's a sidebar for converting Boss stuff to UP (or to trade in other Powers for Boss Powers) in case you want to give a Grunt or Rival something from the Boss packages. Balance starts to go haywire there, though, let alone if you consider actually allowing a PC to take any of these things, so that's for experienced users only.

I have been very busy so I couldn't get it done before then, but I'll try to have 1.4 up by next Sunday.

November 4, 2012

Its the Same Genre with Different Flavoring

One of the goals I was aiming for with GGG was to make combat not feel repetitive, and a big part of that was making Genre Points a thing that took a while to replenish, making Genre Powers a thing you can only use one of in a single Round and not being able to repeat them in the same Operation. It added a lot to the tension of when to use any, and if to use them at all, in an ideal world this would have been a good thing.

For a variety of reasons this particular aspect of that noble goal was not as good in practice as it was in theory. I kept the basic concept of Genre Points and Genre Powers, but rewrote them almost entirely.

Earning Genre

Characters start not with three, but with a single point now, and earn more during Intermissions through Themes as before. The key difference is that points are reset in between sessions now, which should encourage their use. Additionally, Indomitable Colossus has been integrated into every PC Unit, you gain one more Genre whenever you lose a Level of Threshold during combat. After every Episode Arc, the Points that PCs start with every session increases by one. So during Arc Two you would start off each Episode with two GP, and after Arc Three is over you'd begin with four. This adds a sense of progression and makes it easier to wipe out mooks like they're trash.

Passive Benefits

These are more or less the same. Genre adds to your Defenses on the ground and to your Initiative at both scales, plus a few things make use of your Genre points as a seventh stat of sorts representing fine piloting skill and management of systems.

General Power Changes

Because there's less Points to go around now, Powers all have an universal cost of 1 Point now. Since you could potentially deploy with more Points than you have Powers (not a thing that should be common, but it -is- possible) you can use as many as you want in a given Round and can repeat a single Power in the same Operation. Some have special restrictions, like not being able to boost the same attack twice or against the same enemy, but for the most part you can use them as much as you can afford to. Add all these changes together and at the end of the day some of them got powered up, and mostly a lot of them have been toned down.

Power Selection

PCs start with six default Powers instead of three: The returnees Try Again, Mid-Scene Upgrade and Not so Fast, and the new cool kids that got a promotion Data Scanner, Live Another Day and Synchro Attack (!!!) because those things should be available to everyone at all times.

Instead of having a pool of Common Powers and giving each Nature ten exclusive Powers to themselves, there's eight Packages of Genre Powers. All Natures have a preference for two Packages, but you are not restricted in having to take them - they are just preferences. You pick two of those Packages during character creation and can grab anything that is from the Common Pool or from both of those Packages for your Powers.

As before you start off with your Default Powers plus three of your choice, and get a new one after every Arc. By the way, the special Traits each Nature gets related to Genre Powers are gone. Let's take a look at the kind of stuff we can get.

Common Powers: These have generally useful stuff, mostly ways to make your attacks stronger, plus energy replenishing and countering Enemy Powers.
Champion Powers: In the Champion Package you have ways of improving the user's survivability and long term resilience.
Trickster Powers: The versatile ones of the bunch, they are not as straight forward as the rest, but they really shine when you face something you were not expecting at all.
Assassin Powers: These are all about offense, as the name should make it plainly clear. It should be noted that while Common Powers have a variety of good stuff for improving your attacks, Assassin Powers are less general and more specific, so they are more powerful against the targets they're intended for.
Scout Powers: All about mobility, either in the form of evasion or extra movement.
Supportive Powers: With these you can buff up and, well, support a single Ally to great effect.
Protective Powers: The tank's favorite, great for redirecting the heat to themselves and paying it back double.
Director Powers: For the team leader that wants to support everyone at once. Usually the effects are weaker or more specific than the ones the Supportive types get.
Controller Powers: While these debuff and nerf enemies, single or group.

Overall these went through a bit of give and take, and should be a lot more balanced now that they've been standardized. I really did like the resource management aspect of the current version, and do think it managed to make each power more memorable, but I'm trying to do something that is actually good and not a vanity project here.

There is even a sidebar with rules for making use of the Default Powers during Intermissions. So I did more or less a full turnabout with this, in that Powers are cool and everyone should want to use them when possible. Like with anything that doesn't work, even the new stuff coming up in one week or two, there are no truly sacred cows.

And speaking of things to be slaughtered, the next thing I will be talking about are enemies.

October 28, 2012

I Love that Little Gun

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

The General Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

The Four Types

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, some Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

So What is the Deal?

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

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

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

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

October 23, 2012

Let's Talk Stats

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Mecha Attributes Themselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chassis Models

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

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

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

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

Okay, moving on.


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

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

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

October 14, 2012

A Small Speed-Bump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 7, 2012

The Cat Brought in Another Update

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

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

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

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

September 16, 2012

Character Power-Ups and Growth

One of the subtler, yet most notable ways in which fiction and Roleplaying Games differ substantially is in the growth and development of main characters. See it is RPG tradition to have characters 'go up a level' or otherwise earn their Experience offscreen in-between all the fun stuff happening, which is mostly because that's just how D&D always did it. Whereas in fiction characters often power up or learn new techniques in the middle of it all, or even stranger, don't actually ever change.

There is also the fact that in fiction a character is often good at a couple things and maybe picks up a couple new ones down the line, while the by-and large trend in RPGs is to have dozens upon dozens of little abilities that give a +1 here and a +10% there every single session and before you know it you've picked up a second character sheet just to keep track of it all.
Now I'm not going to say this is wrong (though it is, at least for me, annoying) but it certainly doesn't represent any kind of fiction I can immediately think of. And yet I will justify it, up to a degree, because giving Players new toys often is an excellent idea. When you're in the middle of a dungeon romp, defending your home from relentless aliens, investigating a series of murders, or in the middle of any other kind of story arc, it feels great to actually look at your character and get a feel that you're getting somewhere awesome even if the current storyline is not anywhere near completion.

And that's the short story behind the division of Upgrades and Enhancements. You can pick up Upgrades right as you need them in the middle of a battle, and they're all pretty darn significant (and expensive) so as to avoid a glut of easily-forgotten abilities. Enhancements meanwhile let you power up your base stats or make your Upgrades stronger, either way you never feel like anything you really want to get is off-limits until it is the arbitrary time to level up..

So I like it. It is dynamic without being all over the place. Then again I am biased. But like oh so many things with this game I'm going to fine tune it a little. First of all, Enhancements to Upgrades sound cool until you realize, after spending those Genre Points to save the day, that the Upgrade in question isn't very good without pumping more UP into it. Then there's Common Enhancements, which increase your performance at an absurd degree by increasing base stats for a very low cost.

Which is funny because the former was meant to be flashy and awesome and the latter is there to give people a way to spend the UP they don't know what to do with. For this reason Upgrades are going to be bought at full power right from the start, no more Enhancements to individual Upgrades. Common Enhancements are still going to be there, but because they are so powerful and make it so easy to specialize, they will have incremental costs.

So basically, Enhancements are becoming an UP-sink when you're done getting cool Upgrades and Weapons. You can get them from the very start if you really want them now, though. The changes should replicate the dynamics of anime action that much better.

September 9, 2012

What is to Come

Before today's post proper I'd like to point your attention towards something really cool, chances are that if you're reading this you like both gaming and japanese media in general, so I would like to point you towards the Tenra Bansho Zero Kickstarter. There is not really much that I can say that the page doesn't say better, but I am honestly thinking that once it comes out it will be my system of choice for most anime-themed games. It sounds that good.

Most anime-themed games. Not all. I mean that would be silly given the contents of this blog and all. Also it might actually not be that good. Anyway, robots!

An issue with balancing asymmetrical systems is that some options will inevitably end up as better than others, but it is in the rest of the metagame to have enough counters and niches to make all options legitimately viable and not the most obvious ones unstoppable. Making sure everything works, isn't too overpowered, and is ultimately fun is what I've been trying to do here for a while and a lot of things have been shuffling around as of late. As such, with all the talk of what is changing or being cut out, I figure I should list out what exactly is changing and how.

The Intermission/Operation divide:
This one is staying as is, mostly. As I've mentioned before, I would like to have a small influence from the Character side to the Mecha side, but it would be optional and only specific builds would really need it.

Customization and Generic-ness:
The ease of reflavoring is another biggie that mostly stays as-is. The one change here is that with more customizable Weapons (and a couple of Upgrades too) it is much easier to adapt to anything that suits your fancy.

The Evasion/Armor and Accuracy/Penetration distinction:
Currently, stats aren't as balanced with each other as I'd like them to be, and Armor/Accuracy builds are a bit better than others than they should. That said, it does play a part in representing the Real/Super Robot divide, and adds depth to the mechanics of combat that would otherwise be about a linear attack axis. They just need some rebalancing. With the better stats starting out lower and costing more to increase, the issue is mostly solved.

Tension and Timing-based Combat:
It has some issues currently, since each point is 1.5 damage, it spirals out of control pretty fast for anyone who hasn't spent a lot of UP on defenses. It does, however, do a lot for the anime feel of the game and makes combat more fun than the usual spamming of the same stuff over and over, so it stays. Though it will only affect Accuracy, and Penetration will no longer be rolled bringing it down to a +.5 Damage per point of Tension. Tension raisers are still too strong.

Genre Points and Powers:
A surplus of SP GP will steamroll the hell out of anything, in true SRW fashion. A lack of them will make routine fights a pain, again in true SRW fashion. Figuring out the middle of the road is a bit difficult currently, so there will be better advice on handling that plus a bit of streamlining to make it easier to gauge.The grand majority of methods to earn Genre Points only give Temporary ones (including Themes) but in exchange Powers are all being rebalanced so that they all cost a single Genre. That should make the average battle more exciting and do away with the hoarding issues. Also a lot of Powers are going to be built into the default array (such as Live Another Day and Data Scanner) while others are being made Actions (Disarm, Show some Mercy) because that's what they should always have been.

Attributes, Skills and Traits:
Separate Plot Armor values are out, as is adding up Genre Points to calculate Defenses. The new Attribute of Awareness adds to each of the three old Attributes to calculate individual Defenses, and Willpower does the same for Plot Armor. The last new thing here is the Resources Attribute which handles rules for Equipment and Social Networks, mostly its function is that you make a Resources Test when you are looking for an object or information.

That's mostly it. In all honesty the brunt of new content is for Intermissions, to add a little more depth to conflicts there and make sure the rules for them are fun to use. Operations will remain largely as they are, but with a better back and forth flow to them. I don't have an ETA on this, but I've done the proof of concept tests already, so it is somewhere in the horizon.

September 7, 2012

Areas, Threshold, and Maiming

The Area subsystem helps give the game a sizable part of its Mecha feel, you get to build your robot however you like it, and you get to hack those of your opponents apart. Everyone has a large(ish) pool of HP, but taking Damage weakens them and hampers their performance as they lose access to their best offensive and defensive abilities. In addition, this mirrors (mostly) how Plot Armor works with its increasing damage and lasting Consequences.

That said there's a couple of issues with it. A lot of the time the first Maim is the most defining one, taking away the things that are most important to the enemy and making the rest of the battle snowball from there. Because of this abilities that repair Areas back to normal are crucial against an opponent who knows where to hit.

Which is a bit of a problem because there aren't that many of them, and it basically boils down to having to eat up one of your Genre Power slots with Determinator just to be safe. You can fix it by making the Area to be Maimed a sacrifice on the part of the receiver, thus drastically doing away with the snowball factor, but that creates a problem of its own in that you want to stack up all your stuff in one or two areas and always leave those for last. So until I do my extensive rewrite of all these little things, here's a pair of workarounds that can be implemented without much trouble.

One Step Away

-When an Area would be Maimed, the defender chooses which one. Genre Powers such as Called Shot can ignore this.
-The First Upgrade or Weapon to any non-Core Area can go anywhere, but further ones must go to Areas that don't have anything yet.
-No Area can hold more than two Upgrades or Weapons in excess of the one that holds the least.
-Remember that Gears are still bound by the limits of Area Capacity.

Gears Upgrades and Weapons during construction in a way that keeps all non-Core Areas balanced in the number of things they hold. You can still game the system a little by slapping cheap stuff to the Areas that you don't mind that much, or give them one-use stuff. Still an improvement if Maiming has been a thorn in your side.

Two Steps Away

-When an Area would be Maimed, the defender chooses which one. Genre Powers such as Called Shot can ignore this.
-No Area can hold more than one Upgrade or Weapon in excess of the one that holds the least.
-Area Capacities are gone and all have effectively limitless space.
-Upgrades and Weapons that can normally go only in specific Areas can ignore this for an additional cost of 1 UP and go to any non-Core Area. Core-exclusive Upgrades do not benefit from this potential reallocation.

This one is more strict on the balancing, but you also have more freedom of where anything can go, and no longer have to worry about running out of space anywhere. It is less gameable, though it is much easier to stack Core stuff now, and encourages having different sets of abilities in different Area for different needs.

August 26, 2012

So why are there Classes? II

After a lot of tinkering around with the starting numbers from Natures and Chassis, and no matter how much I actually wanted to do away with them to allow people to spread points however they wish, I only made them that much more important.

The main reason they exist is that thanks to them I can give people high starting numbers compared to those of NPCs. The moment I am to take their automatic allocation away then we start to fall to traditional RPG trappings such as diplomancers starting with Empathy crazy high enough they never fail anything ever, and unmovable mountains with Armor that is impossible to pierce.

While I do like the running theme of "character options mostly come in fours as long as they aren't aberrant*" the real reason for the existence of these starting handouts is that they are more easily balanced next to each other than characters entirely made by hand.

I want the numbers to be customizable from the get-go, but ultimately your choice of Nature or Chassis (and really, every choice taken during character creation) should be fundamentally defining. This has as much to do with game balance as it has to do with accurately representing the fiction the game is actually about. You don't see, after all, the big bruisers becoming faster than the agile tricksters with frequency if at all (or if you do, it isn't permanent) and the smart guys retain their role from start to end.

You can, of course, grow out of these choices and expand what you can do, but should you choose to specialize and play to the cliche then you should be noticeable better than someone who didn't start out with your archetype.

What this means for the robots:

Enhancements can be taken from the start, and Chassis both include Accuracy and Penetration modifiers to them. So if you want your robot to be the most accurate you can establish it as such from the very beginning. Next is that since Accuracy and Armor are better than their counterparts, they are more expensive and their starting numbers are lower. Starting Energy is, on average, higher than previously but it is more expensive than Threshold increases as well. All Enhancements to your Chassis have incremental costs.

What this means for the pilots:

You choose one of two sets of Genre Powers from your Nature, and then one other set that can be from any of the others or from your own. However, Natures no longer have any starting Traits. This means you can have an Ace with their usual speedy goodness, but with the endurance that is usual of Prodigies, in place of their offensive silver bullet-esque Powers. Additionally, we add to the array of Fitness, Intellect and Empathy the new stats that are Awareness, Willpower, and Resources. Awareness and Willpower play a defensive role, Awareness replacing the bonuses from Genre Points and Willpower combining with your other three Attributes to give you your Plot Armor. This means the Grit/Drive/Wisdom triad is going the way of the dodo, everyone say bye!. Resources, meanwhile, handles your Wealth, Equipment and Contacts. I will probably make a post about Resources later.

*: Chassis types are becoming four now as well, with Dynamic and Hybrid merging into one.

August 19, 2012

So why are there Classes?

Has it already been a month? Man, time flies. Anyway stuff is happening, though like I said there won't be any updates for a bit.

One thing that might seem odd about the system is that despite being generic and point-buy there's actual character classes (or character class-like things) in the form of Natures. They're not as restrictive as proper classes, like a Barbarian or a Wizard, tend to be but they have a similar effect. The other choices that are only possible during character creation (Archetypes, Chassis, and to a much lesser extent Traits) all have some kind of rule, or ruling, to let you change them or take more of them - Gears can be changed and the acquisition of Traits can always be justified one way or another, but your Nature is a permanent thing that more or less shapes your entire character in and out of the battlefield.

Like everything, this has its pros and its cons. Natures are a template you can customize to your liking, but they're still a template that you have to play with. And if you want someone who is a great fighter but even better with people then none of the choices seem to fit like a glove: You are going to have to use some of your starting points to up Attributes a little. And you better think of what future choices in Genre Powers you want down the line too! The Prodigy is all about endurance and versatility while the Coordinator is all about support, and if you're the leader type you want the Professional.

At the individual PC level this isn't too bad, but at the party level it doesn't work so well. Two characters with the same Nature will step on each other's toes a little, enough that they will have to focus on entirely different extremes of the archetype to be completely different. Three of the same nature makes it impossible. Now granted, this should be obvious and is not really the fault of the system for the most part, but different games focus on different types of scenes. If you know your game will be heavy on the physical action out of the robots, why should you have to choose a Nature that isn't very good at roughing up bad guys just to have different Powers?

On the other hand, it gives you a mechanical focus, and mechanical focus means you will be good at something. Genre Powers can afford to be pretty damn strong because of this, without risking complete imbalance since everyone is good at a couple different things. Which means it is that much harder to end up by mistake with a character that is bad and not actually fun to play. That and having a guide to help you conceptualize a character is very useful, specially when you're starting out and you're trying to absorb all the rules at once. Making your first PC, or making the first enemies if you're the GM, is tough. That's why there's so many pages of fluff and premade content, to show how these rules can be used in different ways.

But there has to be a way to get the good without the bad, right? I mean it sure would be cool to have multiple Designs such as having both health and energy regeneration, or to mix up a Coordinator's supporting with a Professionals' leadership Powers... Without having to water them down to make sure no single character is overpowered. Well, kinda sorta. Designs can just be a thing you buy with UP, much like normal upgrades but without being a thing that can be enhanced. Chassis types along with the bonuses from Natures could let you shuffle their numbers around. What about Genre Powers? Well, what if instead of being tied to natures you were to instead divide them into thematic packages? One for being speedy, another for being tanky, another for keeping your friends alive, another for weakening multiple enemies, and so on and so on. You choose a couple of said packages starting out, and cherrypick powers from them as the game goes on, with the chance to switch out packages later.

The end result of doing away with these pseudoclasses would be a much more customizable game, without being TOO open ended or easily abused.

July 15, 2012

Slowing Down a Little

Another small update this month. In fact this is the smallest update as of yet, and unless I've broken the game without realizing it, should be the last one for a while.

Get v1.32 at Mediafire 

Or via 4shared 

General Changes:
-After six months I think I'm finally done hunting down typos, images that go over the borders, and other similar issues.
Character Creation:
Mecha Construction:
-A number of Ranges didn't make sense since the addition of the Range 0 rule. Additionally, a few Ranges didn't make sense on their own. Weapon Ranges in general were touched up a bit.
-Extending Punch costs an extra point of Energy.
-Radiant Fist is Reliable once more (why the heck did I take that out?) and both attack stats scale to Tension now.
-Heavy Machinegun no longer must Recharge but it now 'jams' after an Accuracy roll of 1 and it cannot be used until your next Turn.
-Linear Missile no longer suffers a Disadvantage to the Accuracy Test.
-Interference Barrage is now One-Shot but will inflict IFF Failure even on a miss.
Playing the Game:
Running the Show:
-Debilitate will inflict IFF Failure in place of Chain Reaction now.

So now that I think there isn't much left to improve without any major alterations to the system, what I will be working on instead is the integration of the various major changes I've been discussing. I'm not sure when that beta will be ready but probably not next month. Nor the one after that, if you catch my drift.

Since it is going to be a very different version, it will probably be less like an update and more like a new edition, but the idea is that it will do everything (or nearly everything) the current game can while also being faster and simpler. Since I'm not throwing the current game by the wayside or anything, any really important and strictly better changes can be implemented to it, too, for anyone who doesn't like the future edition.

I will probably post chunks of it as it comes together here, so stay tuned.

July 8, 2012

Making the GM's Life Easier

Down to the core of my design philosophy is that a game has to be simple to understand and easy to run. It is often said that a good group can make playing with nearly any system, no matter how much of a trainwreck it is, a total blast as an experience.

And this is basically the truth. It does not matter whether your game is deep and meaningful or realistic and detailed, it does not matter if your prose is beautiful and the fluff is inspiring. At the end of the day if your rules are incomprehensible and only cause arguments or get in the GM's way then chances are they will throw away the book and just do whatever. While I have been in games without any houserules, I have yet to play or run in a game that does not alter significantly a prewritten setting, so that goes double for fluff in my experience.

I value simplicity and elegance in design very highly, but while PCs can afford to get more fiddly and complex with the stuff they can do (because they have one character and one mecha to worry about) the GM has to juggle about all the NPCs with the plot with arbitrating the results of the (often conflicting) PCs actions with giving solid descriptions of absolutely everything with knowing the rules better than everyone else at the table.

Rules meant for GM use should be the simplest of the bunch, not just because they need speed of play and preptime on their side, but because if they need complexity they can ad-hoc whatever they damn want anyway. Coming up with specific gimmicky rules is easy, coming up with the solid everyday ones not so much, and the designer's job is to provide the latter. The inherent danger to simplifying anything is that it potentially makes it blander and more boring to play with, but when executed properly the streamlining is very much worth it.

With that in mind, we go into today's topic proper: Enemy Generation. Currently Enemies function as either weakened or buffed up PCs, but are made in the same time-consuming fashion. While there is a certain charm to this, only Rivals and Elites are anywhere remotely near the same as PCs in feel and functionality, so Mooks and Bosses could stand to be both simpler and more unique, having special rules for their perks.

Such as this!


Mooks are supposed to come in droves and be painfully weak, so they should be the simplest of the bunch and the GM should not have to check on their sheets much beyond how their Energy and Threshold are faring.

Mechanics: Choose a Chassis Type as normal. Mooks do not suffer Area Cost Restrictions. Enhance each Base Mechanic by 1 per Episode Arc cleared.
Upgrades: 5 Points in Upgrades or Enhancements
Weapons: Two Cost 5 or less Weapons, they may not have drawbacks.
    Quantity - Mooks come in squads of four. They are immune to Maiming and instead every level of Threshold downed is a kill. This has no special rules effect.
    Quality - Mooks do not benefit from Tension.


Elites are stronger units that may count as a miniboss early on, but will be quickly outdone by the PCs later. They are perfect for representing recurring enemies that aren't quite an enemy ace yet remain distinct from the rank and file.

Mechanics: Choose a Chassis Type as normal. Enhance each Base Mechanic by 1 per Episode Arc cleared.
Upgrades: 10 Points in Upgrades or Enhancements
Weapons: 10 Points in Weapons.


Rivals are the undying baddies that always come back stronger than before, they are meant to mirror the PCs and continue to be built exactly as them.


A Boss is a big bad whom you should only meet once, when you or they make a last stand where it is kill or be killed. Bosses are supposed to be rare and take longer to beat than most foes, so they need to shake up their strategies and tactics a bit throughout the course of the fight to ensure it does not drag on, they could also use some additional endurance and juice to make sure they get to display all their cool powers - without going into the classic HP inflation problem where everything is a roadblock instead of being legitimately threatening.

Designs: 1
Mechanics: Choose a Chassis Type as normal. Bosses do not suffer Area Cost Restrictions. Enhance each Base Mechanic by 2 per Episode Arc cleared.
Upgrades: 10 Points in Upgrades or Enhancements (Except those from Exceptional Aptitudes).
Weapons: 10 Points in Weapons.
    Multiple Stages - Per Episode Arc cleared choose either 1 Design, up to 10 Points in Upgrades or Enhancements, or up to 10 Points of Weapons and assign them to the Nominal, Superficial, Critical and Lethal Threshold Levels as you wish. Said Designs, Upgrades and Weapons are only available while the Boss is in the corresponding Threshold Level. Bosses are immune to Maiming.
    EN Charge - May spend an Action to turn half the Damage taken into Energy (rounding up) for a Round.

To make the battle more dynamic they integrate a variant of what are now known as the Gygravagnite Charge and Multiple Stages Aberrant Upgrades. Naturally, they cannot pack either of those Upgrades in addition to this. The idea is, you've got a common 'build' for your boss that is shared across all stages of the battle but as they're more worn down they have to resort to backup tactics and systems. This means that PCs can't rest on their laurels even when they've begun to win, and the battle has a degree of unpredictability to the very end.

Note how they no longer get Genre Powers. Those would be entirely the Domain of Rivals. I'm still not too sure about that last one, hell I'm not really sure about a lot of this in general (Bosses might be a bit weak now, even if their base stats are great) but I think that this is conceptually in the ballpark of what I'm going to do.

July 1, 2012

Pilot Skill and Mecha Efficiency

Before today's post proper I want to point out a cool thing that other people have made. Earlier this month I thought "What would it be like if you add cool cinematic stuff like Tension and Duels to a game like D&D?" and set out to write a terrible fantasy heartbreaker as a thought experiment. Turns out it was unnecessary, because such a game is already on its way. If you like Sword and Sorcery and are tired of ancient relics of game design, check out 13th Age!

Now for today's topic proper. Of the many things I'd like to change the one I have the least idea on how to do so is in making PC stats relevant during Operations. Originally, this was the job of Genre Points, but being almost entirely a meta mechanic it does not seem to be conceptually accepted.

A brief aside:

One of my pet peeves of game design are the so-called "Power Stats" these being Attributes/Ability Scores/Whatever that are obviously much better than others, yet are presented as equal. Nothing makes the already long process of character creation feel longer than the illusion of choice being entirely pointless, because all the options are already chosen for you!

You've probably ran into games in which if you create a PC using the 'social stat' as the highest one, your character will likely suck and you're only going to slow everyone down, so you better change your concept to be good at murdering things first and talking to them second.

The end result of this is that most characters and groups look about the same, and playing a second campaign after your first is repetitive in the worst possible way - the boring "I already did all of this once" one.

That aside done and over with, I want people to be able to take whatever with their PCs and have it at least be relatively around the same power level, which is why things like Offensive Tests only recommend stuff like Combat or Diplomacy instead of tying you down to it, because creative descriptions can let you get away with Athletics and Presence in their stead.

Of course, being so open ended does take away some potential depth from the game as a whole, and if I'm going to be adding a handful of subsystems to handle things like Investigations or Social Combat in a more interesting manner, then I should also consider shaking up this balance that all options have with each other for the sake of making them more fun to play with.

One way to go about this is to use Mecha Archetypes. See, Super Prototypes include motion feedback in their cockpits, Production Models are thought-controlled and rely on skillfully managing their subprograms, and Living Weapons are handled like you would handle a very big and large animal who happens to be a giant robot.

Every character has three stats, too: Fitness, Intellect and Empathy. I think you can see where this is going. The question is how to implement it, because a stray +5 or +7 randomly placed somewhere in the operation combat math can wreck things. The one thing that could use having a fixed number is Initiative, because right now it only uses your Genre, and while sticking it to Initiative makes sense (Mooks and Elites don't have Archetypes, so they still have way lower initiative than the PCs) it is honestly kind of weak, even if Initiative is more important in GGG than in most games because of Tension.

The Archetype route also leaves me wondering what the hell would I do with Base Units. Though then again, those are slightly stronger by default so maybe they don't need the extra boost. Unless I want to add a fourth stat like Willpower or Spirit, but that's crazy talk.

June 24, 2012

Another Month, Another Update

We've got another simple one this time around. Links here and here.

General Changes:
-More typos fixed, a few things made to sound clearer, certain sample Gears were still illegal after recent changes. 
Character Creation:
-Clarification on how purchasing items works, plus you can now buy up to 10 PP of them per Arc. 
Mecha Construction:
-Clarified that Mental Link gives a singular Action for all of your Remotes.
-Slight buff to Challenger, the Penetration bonus works in all situations.
-More clarifications for Transform, again, yes.
-Added a Range 0¨for Duel-able Weapons, see Playing the Game.
-The Conditions Chain Reaction and Power Down were buffed to work off the Damage Result. All-Out Attack stats lowered in response.
-Extending Punch is no longer a Technique and is more of a reliable long range melee attack now.
-Modified Radiant Fist to be a better finisher move, its Penetration now scales with Tension.
-Buffed Vulcans with +2 Range.
-Ground Zero buffed with modifiable range to better represent its concept.
-Incinerator is now Reliable.
Playing the Game:
-Range 0 is now part of the rules as written. It still works just like it did before, invading another person's Zone makes it easier to hurt you but lets you shoot past them, and weapons that can be used in Duels now have the Range 0 distinction. 
Running the Show:
-Nothing! For once.

My favorites of the bunch are the modifications to Radiant Fist and the Conditions Chain Reaction and Power Down. Now they really hurt, and All-Out Attack can actually represent its original "You are already dead" concept. Radiant Fist deserves special mention, because I think that damage scaling with Tension makes for awesome finisher moves, even if it makes the combat math go bonkers, so I am testing it out by making it part of just this one Weapon and only with Penetration for the time being.

June 20, 2012

Intermissions as Operations

As a bonus other thing I would like to see modified, I want to add more depth to Intermissions, and hope to make encounters in them as fun as the Operations themselves. That would make it possible to run games in the style of the Giant Robo OVAs or Xenosaga, and let you save up the giant robots for those times when you want to make the robots an occasional thing, to keep them special.

The Intermission system right now is fairly robust, which is to say it can do nearly anything elegantly with a minimum of complications, but suffers from being fairly bland. Skills are like Weapons, but without any of the special effects, and Traits are like Upgrades that cannot be enhanced. Item rules are almost nonexistant, and in fact are simply Traits with a few extra rules attached. I also am being very generous by calling that extra paragraph "rules".

The upside to this is that, as advertised, you don't need to refer to the book a lot to roleplay Intermission scenes. You don't need special rules to research a weapon capable of countering the enemy's latest gimmick, you can just roll an Extended Academics Test and you'll probably find something of value eventually, nor does social combat function any different from normal physical combat at all; You just tell people enough unsavory things until they break down like the bad guys from a series of videogames featuring Ace Attorneys.

There is nothing wrong with this per se, but with all the range of viable choices and tactical depth present in Operations, it is a shame that all you really need to solve any kind of Intermission challenge (whether it is social, investigative, a battle, or of some other kind) is a high stat first, an appropriate skill second, and a trait to help out possibly maybe as a tertiary benefit.

Now, there are limits to how much more complexity I want. As far as items go, I would rather not invoke the common "Inventory minigame" traditional to RPGs, with ridiculously long shopping lists of items half of which are never going to be relevant. Things like that bog down character creation too much in a game where you already need to stat up TWO characters instead of one, so they are going to stay as Traits.

That said, Traits could stand to be more like Upgrades than they are right now, for one they could scale and improve over time, for two they could have more interesting mechanical effects. Most Traits are tied to flavor right now, and they tend to provide an Advantage when that flavor makes them beneficial to you. Keeping in mind that GGG is effects-based and more about cinematics than realism, what Traits need is to be able to cover the kinds of of scenarios that PCs usual face (from diplomancing to treating wounds to hacking databases) problems in a way that is mechanically interesting without being tied to overly-specific fluff.

For example, a common problem with many games in which you are expected to do investigation is that when the PCs fail their rolls to find a clue, the game comes down to a halt until someone figures out a new lead. Many games with investigation as a central theme give people a chance to automatically pass such checks at the cost of some other resource or a limited number of times, in this way they help to keep things moving without necessarily needing a derail of several hours to find another lead.

You can actually do this (or something like it) with the current rules, but by making specific mechanics for investigative Traits we can make them more interesting mechanically than, say, rewriting "Lucky" to apply only to Investigation Skill Tests.

The way Traits would improve like Upgrades is rather self-explanatory, an organization-themed Trait could be powered up to have more retainers the more PP you spend on it, and a style of martial arts will unlock the Secret Succession Technique sure to destroy any who fights you after it is fully enhanced.

We note down the kinds of things that a character could want to do, and make a category of Traits for each. Here's such a list, with a few examples.

-Combat (For people who want their martial artist or sniper to be unique mechanically)
-Healing (Like Support Upgrades, but for characters)
-Movement & Vehicles (Vehicles that can emphasize terrain versatility, combat viability, etc)
-Knowledge & Research (Various ways to get clues from the GM)
-Allies (From having dozens of mooks to a singular ally stronger than you are)

This is only a sample short list, but I hope it gets the point across. I frankly have no idea if this is going to work out, but it could add a lot of fun things to do in the game beyond robots.

June 15, 2012

Simplifying Combat

The main difference between a lot of mechs in a certain videogame franchise that shall not be named is that some of them dodge out of the way of enemy attacks, while others shrug them off with sheer toughness. By giving characters two sets of defensive stats - both obligatory - and making it so that characters have to balance between both or just choose one as their main defense, we can simulate this feature.

There is a small issue with the distinction between Evasion and Armor, however, which has been bothering me a little bit due to getting in the way of speed and flow of play. It is not an issue with Evasion and Armor per se, though, I am talking about the half-rollover Accuracy-to-Penetration mechanic. Not only the math involved is not elegant, but it also adds opportunities for confusion to arise with the GM. They either need to give you the precise excess bonus or the precise rollover for you to do the rest of the math, or simply tell you to roll and then do the math themselves. By splitting the damage process like this not only does it add waiting time until you get your Damage total (or fail to deal any Damage), it makes Armor that much better than Evasion and Accuracy much better than Penetration by default.

Now this last one isn't quite entirely true, the abilities out there that serve to counter Armor are usually that much better at brutally murdering specialists than the ones that counter Evasion, and there's a few that let you add your entire excess bonus to the Penetration roll to just make them even all the time. In this way, betting with Armor is usually going to pay off better, but when it doesn't then it just plain wrecks you. In theory anyway. In practice it is easier to counter anti-Armor measures as a specialist rather than to survive anti-Evasion enemies as the equivalent. This is for multiple reasons, from the higher survivability granted by a naturally higher Threshold to... well, the fact that if you're naturally sturdy then bouncing back from a fall is easier.

Point is, I'm not entirely happy with the way using Mixed Tests as the default for mecha Offensive Actions works right now. I see a few options to fix this little issue off the top of my head.

Bunch up up Evasion and Armor into a single defense:
-With a single roll you know your Damage and there is no room for miscommunication shenanigans
-It lets people fluff their defenses however the fuck they want, alternating between dodging and tanking is what mecha do in anime after all.
-The abilities that improve your offense or defense are that much more valuable since instead of each having a niche now they always help out.
-Damage is less explosive, since Tension no longer adds 1.5 or 2 points of damage per Round but 1.
-Having a single defensive stat sacrifices a lot of in-built flavor
-We sacrifice depth of gameplay, now there's that much less room for customization offensively and defensively.

Make Evasion the only defense but turn Armor into a damage reduction stat that runs off your Genre, much like Intermission defenses work:
-It is fast. Not as fast as the first, though.
-It gives Accuracy and Penetration clearly distinct functions, with the second one being akin to traditional damage bonuses.
-I'm already considering dumping that element from Intermissions, so there would be no longer anything to mirror after that.
-I really don't want to keep encouraging people to hoard up Genre.

Mixed Tests now roll all the relevant skills die at once and only add up the excess from the two rolls if they both pass:
-Fast, though the slowest of the bunch here.
-It makes Mixed Tests work better during Intermissions as the ridiculously swingy checks they're supposed to be.
-We keep the flavor of having both defenses.
-Ideally we wouldn't have to rebalance existing abilities much afterwards, we could potentially keep them as is, too.
-We lose some depth, though nowhere as much as with the first method.
-We now have two mechanics that are exactly the same by themselves and have lost all distinctive mechanical feel they once had, which is an utterly pointless thing to have outside of a flavor perspective. We can still make counters or enhancers for each work differently to help there, but it bugs me.

That said, we could try out weirder things. We could make different mecha attacks resist using different mecha defenses, in the same way physical/mental/emotional attacks have different defenses - though they would keep a single HP bar. I'm honestly leaning more towards combining the other options, though, as that is kind of wonky in multiple ways.

Mixed Tests could use the fix, but I do think that having a single roll for standard combat stuff is the way to go. At the same time, I don't want to lose the flavor of Evasion and Armor (not entirely, at least) nor the simplicity of unified mechanics (when I start to propose fancy subsystems as fixes, please shoot me), so I'll have to think on this matter for a bit.