April 22, 2012

Live, Monster. You belong to this World.

Since the release of first version of GGG there has been a constant amount of new content for both pilots and mecha in each update, but the majority of it is not even meant for everyday PC use, in fact the grand majority of the time only antagonists will be making use of said new content; I am obviously referring to Aberrant options.

This might not seem like such a great idea at first. I mean, the GM already has lots more toys to play with and free reign to make up more of their own if the need arises, why are you giving them more than they need while I still get to keep the same boring old guns, GGG Guy? There's several good reasons for this, but the one that most concerns Players is that of Complexity Creep.

Let me explain: Everyone likes having options, being able to choose which brand of forcefield or missile launcher you will be using makes your own robot more unique and lets you tailor it to be good at the things you care about. If your robot has a dragon head for a chest weapon then you want to use an Incinerator instead of Scattering Beam because you want more than a reserve weapon to handle crowds - you want one that roasts them all to cinders because dragon breath is too badass for a lousy +0 penetration bonus. A multitude of options lets you represent a multitude of concepts better, so the more options the better, right?

Not exactly.

The more options you have, the more time you are going to spend fidgeting over which one works best. Right now there are 14 Melee Weapons for PCs, and they all amount to more or less the same idea: Punching, stabbing, or kicking another robot. If you only have enough points left for one backup weapon in case an enemy gets too close, it can be a problem to decide which one it is that you really want. Do you go for the one that does not use energy so you can save up for your long range beams? Do you take the general use one that will eat up the space you had remaining on your arms? Do you take a big flashy finisher and change your strategy to be more of a midrange combatant?

Sure, it is easy enough when there's only three or four real options that sound reasonable for your character, but imagine that every new update adds one new Melee option. In a few months you will be staring at half a dozen separate flavors of rocket punches that all do the same thing but with only minuscule differences you have to carefully balance against each other. If you are familiar with big line tabletop Roleplaying Games (the kind that have books numbering in the tens) you should have an idea of what I am talking about.

But there is another problem with having tons of options. Every time a new option gives you an idea for how to better represent something, it is also implicitly telling you that any other way of representing it is wrong, or at least not the optimal one.

Let's say that your character concept is that of a duelist, after a talk with the GM he informs you that this is a Clarke game and it will not feature many chances for duels because throwing half a dozen Cryptids against the group would be grounds for a trial against violations to human rights. You think that is fine, you can still make use of that bit of flavor text out of the battlefield so you keep your concept. But when it comes to weapon selection for your Gear you encounter a problem: One going by the name of Dueling Blade. You originally were going to take a Beam Saber for a melee weapon, but Dueling Blade just fits the flavor of your character so much better that you grit your teeth a little and take the option that makes sense over the option you really want.

While this is not an everyday scenario, it is not at all uncommon. Because GGG is primarily an effects-based game there is already an in-built way to circumvent problems like this, but they still happen. Many will shrug and take the 'good' option anyway, or ask the GM to rebuild later - but for every person for whom this is not an issue, there is another who has no idea which option works best, or one who wasn't savvy enough to ask the GM if their choice will work out in the game, or who completely missed that sidebar about getting mid-season upgrades. These people will screw themselves through no real fault of their own.

A wealth of options is a double edged sword, one that many games written by people with far more experience than yours truly have cut themselves with, and I would rather not take my chances if I can help it. This brings me to Aberrant options once again. Why does the GM get new toys, then? Because they need them.

The GM does not just need to make one character, they need to make dozens, and many of those are entirely different from PCs conceptually to the point they need uniquely tailored mechanics. Sure, the GM could make them up, but how do they know if they got them right? It is a designer's job to make the GM's life easier, not harder - they already have it hard enough running a game for the group, after all.

Incidentally, and as an aside, the more options you provide for the PCs the higher the chances that one of them will stumble into an unbeatable combination of abilities that forces the GM's hand to ban said combo. Usually this is only noticed after it has come into play and made an impact by breaking the game in half, its damage to the fun of the overall group already done. The more options the PCs have, the harder it is for the GM to keep them all in check with fair and balanced methods, as such I do not want to enable powergamers too much.

But wait, GGG Guy, were you not saying a moment ago that more options complicates things for people and that the GM does not need to have a harder time preparing their sessions? Yes, hypothetical critical reader of mine, you would be correct that this argument appears very contradictory. If not for your observant questioning I would not be able to proceed with my already overly-long-aside and would have to resort to a silly display of talking to myself just so I can continue to elaborate. Thank you for your earnest participation.

Obligatory Ahem.

You see, options for antagonists can come in pretty much any shape or form, this gives them a lot more variety than the kind of options that PCs would be allowed to have. By providing a number of abilities that are each very distinct from the other, choosing one of them is not made harder but easier, because they don't have to distinguish between three very similar upgrades but just go for the one that does what they need.With this aside clear, we can move on to the third big reason Aberrant options exist.

I am sure you are familiar with houseruling. Every group has their own set of things they change to the ruleset for their own games, and if yours does not have any yet, then it is only a matter of time until it does. Inevitably you will want to explore some of the weirder kinds of games that can be run with GGG, maybe the game calls for everyone to have psychic powers, or you want one of the Players to play the role of recurring villain and they need some unique abilities to be a match for the rest of the group.

Aberrant abilities are there to give the GM a starting point in regards to that. They are a building foundation for the GM to either make more things like them on their own, or an excuse to take it easy and use what is already there without having to do any homework.

That said, I am not only looking forward to giving PCs a few more trinkets in the future (there are a few holes that need filling as far as concepts go), but I also don't think I will be adding too many more Aberrant Options from now on - just a few more until I'm reasonably sure that all the bases are covered.


  1. It may just be me, but are the Aberrant abilities "Impetuous Style" and "Impregnable Defense" a reference to that infamous Mike Tyson speech?

  2. Short Answer: Sort of. Long Answer: Kind of sort of.

    The names were taken from a videogame hyperactive fighting style so slick it makes you drool... Which, after a quick round of Google-fu, turns out was inspired by said speech.

    What we can get from this is that GGG nests references within references even without my intent behind it. I am okay with this.

  3. Blast your ass into the Milky Way! Milky Way!



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