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.