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.


  1. A reasonable concept in theory, but what does this mean for the 10-cost Upgrades? One of the values of having these upgrades split their cost between the Upgrade and Enhancement is that they allow an ability to be bought at chargen and then upgraded later when the player can afford it. If Gravagne Field ends up costing a base of 20, for instance, nobody will be able to afford it at chargen, making it mandatory for any unit with a barrier to purchase Organic Field as their Design. Extremely large costs are a barrier to entry because they require you go long periods of time without buying anything, and at some point the amount of time required to be spent holding onto unspent UP becomes a factor as to how useful something is. 10 at a time is a reasonable cap on how much any one thing costs, but 20 is not.

    This also raises questions about Exceptional Aptitudes, which have their Enhancements raising the cap of a unit's stats as a primary draw. How will these work under the proposed system?

  2. For that matter, Sub Units, particularly the revised versions I created a few posts back, gain nothing and lose a lot from not having separate Enhancements, because not all of the features of the fully-Enhanced versions of those things are appropriate for every concept, and in the case of Aide especially are deliberately designed to allow you to opt out of features you don't want and thus don't want to pay for.

    Overall, while this works for some features like Anti-Gravity and the revised Potential proposals that are somewhat useless without their Enhancements, a blanket ban on Enhancements for individual Upgrades seems like a bad idea to me. Wouldn't it be better to decide from a design perspective that it's no longer mandatory to create an Enhancement for every Upgrade?

  3. Most costs would not be the same, but rest easy that nothing is going to cost more than ten. An important part of these changes is that content is no longer directly translatable from one version to the other on the spot (some options were rolled together, others were made into general rules, etc.) hence why I'm not tossing out pdfs like there's no tomorrow.

    Things Sub Units and Transformations would be some of the ones that change the least, all in all. So no need to be concerned there.

    As for Exceptional Aptitudes, stats going up to +10 of their starting values are a lot harder to keep in line when the rest of the system is less restrictive, so regular stat boosts (plus whatever you can get from energy/genre-based abilities ) will have to do.

  4. Prices on exceptionals are gonna have to go down a bit if they don't offer the +x to a stat with it though. The weapon ones in particular.

  5. Actually, I would say the opposite, the weapon-based Exceptionals are all massive boons to their respective weapon types and pretty balanced for their costs. If anything it's the defensive Exceptionals that need buffing, the primary draws of Shield of the Meek and Elusive Target are far and away their boosts to the Armor and Evasion caps. Indomitable Colossus is a better example of how useful those should be.

  6. Challenger's almost worthy on its own. If it were, say, 8 points, it would be pretty good without the enhancement schedule.

    Dogfighter needs the accuracy booster to be worth its points. Its not as if you lack options for duels, especially given the current cost of missiles: You can stick an Armor-Breaker or Drill in a 2-slot for duels, or a dueling-blade if your arms have room.

    Elusive target is quite a strong effect on its own, but being purely defensive, could use a drop in points if it does not also offer evasion. G-Buster is worth it more for its bonus than the penetration enhancements.

    Supercharged certainly wants the extra EN to go with it, but Sharpshooter is incredible on its own. Team Player really needs to be a little cheaper, even with the enhancements. It does cost valuable genre points to fire off a synchro after all.

    Regarding exceptional attributes to the value of the stats: I'm thinking they still deserve a place even with the enhancements. But +10 to starting values is rather too high. If you're going to switch to incremental costs, however, perhaps the proper exceptionals could allow it to go +1 higher, and lower the cost after the first purchase by 1?

    Example: Elusive Target would allow you to purchase up to +6 rather than +5 Evasion on that mech. If the incremental costs are 1/2/3/4/5 for +1/+2/+3/+4+/5, with Elusive the costs are now 1/1/2/3/4/5 for +1/+2/+3/+4/+5/+6.

    I'd limit the accuracy and penetration boosters to +4 max personally, but allow the appropriate exceptional attributes to get that one weapon type to +5/+5, with the appropriate lowering of the incremental cost.


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