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.


  1. The easier way to deal with hoarding, my group found, was to make GP something that replenishes by Episode, making it much more of a "use it or lose it" resource. Once Genre Points are taken off Defenses, this makes it more likely that groups will use their Genre Powers on a regular basis, which makes it easier to take that into account when designing challenges.

    I'm not sure why the switch to not rolling Penetration and only adding Tension to Accuracy. This seems to make Armor even more valuable than Evasion than it already is. It would be easier, I would imagine, to leave Tension and damage rolls as they are, remove all effects that would boost Tension (our group made it so Learning Computer gives you a Temporary Genre Point whenever someone besides yourself uses a Genre Power, and removing the others is trivial), and give Potential effects a staggered system of activation where they have some effect at 5 and a stronger effect at 10. Perhaps make it so that the effect at 5 comes from the Enhancement, so that at a total cost of 10 UP it can be balanced along the Gravagne Field and TRC's lines.

    For instance:
    Areas: Core or Head
    Cost: 5
    Description: In your battle lust you are prone to bursts of violence that leave nothing in their wake.
    Effect: When your Tension is 10 or higher, any time you roll a 10, 9, or 8 on your Penetration Tests you deal bonus Damage to the Enemy equal to the result rolled. This bonus Damage bypasses Armor.
    Enhancements: For an additional 5 UP, when your Tension is 5 or higher this effect triggers, but only on a roll of 10.

  2. The big thing here is that all of the others should be redone more like Frenzy is. As currently written, Foresight and Bullseye are immediate draws to players because they give straight bonuses to stats. Then, when battles rarely if ever reach 10 Tension, they feel like wastes of UP, or with Tension raisers they break. Invincible, meanwhile, scales with Tension and is the only Potential to do so, meaning it just keeps getting better and better, not to mention it increases the stat that units build Tension largely in an effort to overcome.

    As for why the switch would make Armor even better than Evasion, the way you describe it Evasion now degrades at a rate of 1/turn and Armor at a rate of .5/turn. Since a unit with high Evasion is likely not designed to take many hits once their Evasion is reliably exceeded, they'll go down quickly, while an armored build has a large Threshold pool to fall back on even once they start taking damage.

  3. I probably expressed myself poorly, whoops. What I meant to say is that I can now make Armor values start off lower and cost more to increase, while Evasion and Threshold can keep their higher(-ish) numbers and cheapness. Reduced Armor in turn means they take damage more often than evasive types, but it is lower.

    I am grossly oversimplifying it by putting it like this but everything more or less dies with 1-3 turns in difference against the same Weapons, depending on which type of defense they favor and which offense their enemies use.

    About Potentials, I was about to scrap them altogether but you bring up a good case with the modified Frenzy, I will try that out. Thanks for the feedback.

  4. Right, but my point is that even if you make Armor values lower, Armor-based builds will naturally have more Threshold than Evasion-based builds. Because of this, Armor should be reduced in effectiveness more by rising Tension than Evasion is, not less, because Evasion is by nature much more all-or-nothing than Armor is. Not to mention, removing the Penetration roll removes a valuable variable of combat for adding effects onto, cuts in half the value of Reliable, and while it theoretically increases the speed of combat slightly to remove it, the losses are to my mind not worth the gains.

  5. Those are valid points, I'll try to explain my rationale in brevity. Admittedly what I say would make a lot more sense if I had something to actually show for it, oh well. It might not feel symmetrical any longer but it never was truly symmetrical in the first place and what really matters is that it works in practice.

    -Evasion, specifically because it is all or nothing, is much more frustrating by nature to deal with. No matter how high you roll without decent Accuracy it might not do anything at all. Tension nerfs it the hardest because of this, and so do things like Advantages, etc.

    -Starting Armor values, however, are not high enough to stall other dudes for Rounds and Rounds in the same way that Evasion does. A better Threshold is not going to dramatically increase survivability without someone to heal them if nearly everything deals Damage.

    -It is easier to get Weapons that gain a full rollover bonus to Penetration, as opposed to just half of it, than it used to be. Thereby turning Tension into an effective +1.

    -The two defenses are still fundamentally different, in fact more so now than previously. There is still design space in succeeding at the Accuracy Test but failing to overcome Armor with your Penetration, that is a thing I am now using more, too, such as with Conditions.

    A big picture image of what this change achieves is that it makes the game feel more like SRW, in that you are relying on (successively decreasing) odds to keep you alive, while tankiness is a lot less lasting most of the time but more easily healed.

    Another important point is that this is still on a trial basis, and the existing version of the rules is going to continue being improved until I make sure that the BIG CHANGES edition is just right.

    Again, thanks for the feedback, I do think and test a lot about this but it is good to actually have it questioned from angles I usually do not think about.

  6. Yes, it makes more sense when you put it that way.

    Also, what approximate values will Awareness and Willpower have? Assuming you don't want the P-scale numbers to change too dramatically, I assume they'll have a base value of something like 3 for Awareness and 4 for Willpower, with Awareness expected to rise at a rate of about 1-2 points per Arc and Willpower following the current Plot Armor progression of 10 maximum ranks?

  7. Also to clarify, Willpower is added to the individual Attributes to calculate their associated Plot Armors, yes? One of my friends thinks it means there would only be a single Plot Armor, which would be a major loss.

    In this example, a Prodigy would be redone to have Fitness 2, Intellect 0, Empathy 1, Awareness 3, Willpower 4, giving them final Defenses of 5/3/4 and Plot Armors of 6/4/5.

  8. I am keeping the three types of Damage, though I may change Emotional for outright Social, representing just how much the world hates you and leaving insanity to the Mental track.

    As for the numbers themselves, they need to start higher than other Attributes since they are in opposition to them and don't get 1d10 OR Tension to help them out. Their starting values average out at 5, which isn't THAT high, because they -do- get help from other Attributes.

    I am adopting the 'shuffle one stat with another' idea to keep it from being restrictive conceptually. You can do two such exchanges, trading Fitness with Intellect (two 'primary stats'), and Willpower with Awareness (two 'secondary stats'), but not Awareness with Fitness (one primary with one secondary).

  9. I have a question: have you considered increasing the amount of equipment one mecha can carry depending on it's size? 60 points of free space to mount some fancy guns, and suitable utility capabilities is plenty, but when comparing two extremes such as Personal Mecha, and Titanic Mecha I simply couldn't find any diffrence besides evasion and armor. My point is: wouldn't it be a good idea to increase total amount of points which limit the player (and GM), by 5 for each size category? Ie. Personal mecha has 60 points worth to fill with eqipment, Dynamic would have 65, Hybrid 70, Destroyer 75, and finnaly Titanic Mecha would have a smashing amount of 80 - quite fitting for something which can rival space destroyer in firepower. Have you considered such change?

  10. Yes, I have considered this. That would be why the Chassis types that are implied to be larger have more space for weapons and defensive systems, while smaller types are more about special abilities and the pilot or AI's skills.

    Now that's not the same thing as what you suggest, but for two important reasons I don't want any Chassis type going over 60 by default.

    The first is that the various types of Chassis are supposed to be equal to each other in power level, and granting some of them a much better capacity for areas takes away from what makes them stand out.

    The second is that originally area capacity started higher than 60, and that did not work very well: Most area restrictions were rendered pointless, since all Areas had plenty of space to spare under most circumstances.

    Testing showed that 60 was just about right to make players have to think about where to put what without being too restrictive about it.

  11. I did not tak into account such point of view. Thanks for comprehensive answer.

    When can we expect antorher edidion of GGG?

    1. Aiming for another update this weekend, with the big one coming around the end of the year.

  12. Ballistics seem to be the best choice of weapon at the moment if one is to specialize. Sharpshooter adds valuable range and advantage at half, they're nearly all viable at range 0, there's a handful of mobile options, heavy machineguns went from 'recharge' to '10% chance of recharge unless at an advantage', take less space than missiles but hit nearly as hard as beams yet without energy costs on there.

    Its also pretty much your only option for several areas, as nearly all [barring the terrain-adapters keyed to your legs] upgrades cost 3, 5 or 10, often leaving you with one or two points.

    I take it that's part of what the customization of weapons is going to bring? If not, perhaps the capacity change could be a little less set to multiples of 5: Perhaps two of a frame's 10s become an 8 and a 12 in there? I think having to choose where to put things is just fine, its just that there's a lot of wasted space that few, if any at all, combinations can remedy in several areas, at least without a change in pricing or distribution of said space.

    1. Correct, the main draw of custom weapons is that you can fill space however you wish, in addition to tailoring finishers to your liking.

      Ballistics might be a tad on the strong side of things, but I'd rather them be strong than weak. I'm concentrating on playtesting the new stuff right now so I don't want to touch that and possibly make a bigger mess for the time being.

    2. Ballistics have the highest number of useful weapons, and I think I've commented before that Micro Missiles could use a nerf because of just how many other weapons they completely obsolete.

      In general, the higher-grade Beam weapons are worth their costs, if gimmicky, but there's no appreciable reason to ever pick the Beam Rifle over a Light Machinegun, and the Beam Cannon is woefully inaccurate and completely outclassed in every regard by the Long Rifle. Some boosts to those two would help bring Beam weapons up to par, right now they just don't cut it.

    3. Its difficult to compare because most things at cost 5 are specials like the incinerator. The micromissiles are great, but they're the only non-single-shot missile with more than +0/+0.

      At Cost 4, you have the Heavy Railgun. Same range [can be upgraded with exceptionals to 1-9 with advantage at 1-4, instead of mobile and range 0 viable], +4/+4 instead of +4/+2, though it has Recharging. At Cost 6 you could instead be using the heavy machinegun, which is less accurate but is a blast [take that, 'elusive target' and 'foresight'] that only gains recharge 10% of the time.

      The Beam Cannon is a lot easier to fit than the long rifle, though. I agree with the lack of accuracy, but Cost 3 to any non-core, as opposed to cost 5 arms-only.

      The Micros could probably be lowered to +2/+2 if they also lose a point of cost.


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