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.


  1. Thanks for this, it will be an immense help.

  2. One problem with this is mooks not benefitting from Tension means that they'll basically never hit Personal units or damage Titanic ones. I would make it "Mooks gain only half the normal value of Tension, rounding up" to make it less of a turkey shoot.


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