November 17, 2013

Introducing Battle Century G

As I mentioned last week, I'm crafting a new RPG system from scratch. The idea is to take a lot of what makes GGG work and streamline it so it can cover a better variety of action genres. My goal is to make a game where sentai heroes, giant robots and monster trainers can work under the same ruleset.

That is Battle Century G, and it will be the focus of my efforts from now on. Until it comes out I'll be posting about how exactly it is going to differ from GGG, enough to merit being its own thing. The first version will be about giant robots as a proof of concept, then I'll write the corresponding system hacks around it for the magical girls and the kaijus and whatnot.

Today we start it off with the building blocks of the game, the Test system and Attributes. There's a lot to talk about so let's jump into it.

The Core Mechanic

To decide whether a character succeeds or not at what they're doing we are going to keep the Test system more or less as you know it. You roll 1d10 and add your Attribute (ranging between 0 and 10) to it, then check against a number in a range of 1-20. 5 is for trivially easy tasks, 20 is for things that you're lucky to see happen once in a lifetime.

This is how Intermissions worked in GGG, but Operations were only vaguely like that. This time we're going to try and make the giant robots stick to this idea too, for the sake of simplicity.

There are also Advantages and Disadvantages, accounting for things like specialized training or lack of proper equipment. We are going to simplify them a bit too, so that when you have an Advantage you get to choose whether you use it to roll two dice and keep the better result, or to transform it to a +2 bonus. Likewise the GM may choose to transform Disadvantages into a +2 increase to the DN.

This should greatly simplify things, without having to juggle conversions into additive dice or the such. Don't get me wrong, I still love the idea of having to choose whether to roll three dice and keep the best, or two dice and add them up. This is just going to be much simpler to play with, and the game is going to be complicated enough already.

Similarily, I am going to keep the rule where Damage dealt to someone is equal to the amount you bypass their defenses by. It is fast to play with, it rewards you for rolling really well, and it is simple enough. More importantly, it works very well with Tension.

Speaking of which. Tension is one of the GGG's most defining and unique rules, and it will have a place in Battle Century G. Combat is probably going to be a bit too fast for Tension to be a decisive factor by itself, but it does what it needs to do.

Math Time!

I am going to balance combat around the following formula:

(Attack Attribute + 1d10 + Tension + Other Modifiers) - (Defense Attribute + Base Defense + Other Modifiers) = Damage dealt.

We'll start by assuming there's no modifiers from abilities in play. We'll also assume both characters have average corresponding Attributes (Ranked at 5) and that the 1d10 roll nets us an average result of 5. This gives us 1 damage against a Base Defense of 5 during Round 1. Then 2 Damage during Round 2, 3 during Round 3 and so on. Essentially, the Damage dealt will average around the current Tension. Sometimes they will roll higher and will deal even more Damage, while other times they will roll lower and hurt the enemy less or miss the attack entirely.

That's pretty cool, I think. The math is pretty transparent and you can tell how effective an Advantage or Disadvantage to your Attack Attribute is going to be right out of the gate.

Let's assume our characters also have less inflated HP totals. Let's say the average character has their HP Attribute at 5... Now that's not very much. Why, a good enough roll would destroy them on Turn 1! But let's see how that works with four HP Bars like GGG's Threshold Levels.

If we keep the formula where Tension = Damage dealt then characters will deal first 1, then 2 (3 total), then 3 (6 total), then 4 (10 total), then 5 (15 total), and lastly 6 (21 total) points of Damage to take out a character with 20 HP during their sixth attack. That's a goodish number, I think.

This is ignoring all the wacky abilities that grant advantages to using Weapons, increase the benefits of Tension, raise your Defense, or flat out buying more HP. But we'll get to that some other day. For now, our conclusion here is that health values can be lower and the focus of the math can be more on whether you get hit or not, rather than how many hits you can handle.

We've been tiptoeing around Attributes for a few paragraphs, let's fix that and take a look at them.


We are keeping the current six Attributes for Characters, because they work well enough. Awareness would still be tied to Defense, and Willpower to Plot Armor. The only difference is that I want the six of them to be equal to each other in power. That means giving them all the same costs, rather than having Awareness, Willpower and Resources as the 'support' Attributes that cost less.

But Mecha Attributes are getting a major rewrite. There is no going around that. Let's take a look at them in order.

Might and Guard are your Attack and Defense Attributes. Might is used to punch things and shoot guns, Guard is used to parry blows and evade shots. I'm doing away with the Speed/Power divide of Evasion/Armor and Accuracy/Penetration because they're too mecha-specific. The game is meant to make it easier to play things that aren't giant robots, and that division was mostly there to have the Mazingers feel different to the Gundams.

Threshold is the Attribute you know and love, and because it is essentially multiplied by 4 it can afford to be a lower number without being completely worthless. A low rank of 1-2 is obviously suicidal, but an average rank of 4-5 is good enough to grant us 6 turns to live assuming we've got an average Guard. More than that, and you get considerably beefier.

Energy also joins us one more time, as the Attribute that can also represent Spiritual Energy or Mana Pools. The big change here is that Energy regenerates back to full every Round. This means that energy-dependent abilities are less about a long term plan and more about choosing how you want to spend your Energy each Turn. In order to make a high Energy Attribute an appealing choice, the game will need more abilities that let you dump extra Energy for more power.

Systems is something of a new entry to the list, in that it previously existed as a sub-Attribute of sorts but has been promoted now to full Attribute status. It does not directly contribute to combat, but instead powers up support abilities and increases the range of some Weapons. If you want to take a support role and heal your buddies, modify the battlefield terrain, and manage NPC sidekicks then Systems is your primary Attribute.

Speed is a completely new Attribute, though it is one that has been requested as part of GGG several times, and some groups even added it into the game by themselves. Well, now it is official. Giving characters different movement speeds is more important when you've got giant robots right next to regular-sized folk. Speed also handles Initiative and works together with Systems to get around Extreme Terrain and Defensive Maneuvers.

Of these, the first three are going to be more important than the latter trio the majority of the time. But they're all important, and you would do well to invest a little into each. Grunt Enemies can get away with having no Systems or Energy, but they're nameless mooks and are not expected to survive most things you throw at them anyway. Specially since Grunts can now have a Threshold of 0, letting us finally have simple throwaway enemies that die in a single hit.

Wait. Attributes can be at 0? Yes. Thanks to years of progress in game design technology, we have a point-buy Attribute system where you can customize your mary sue and accompanying giant robot to your heart's content.

There will be templates to pick from to simplify things, but I figure this was well overdue.

The Templates

My original plan with Natures, Archetypes, Power Packages and their ilk was to give Players lots of pre-balanced options they could play with. The game would start having a handful of them, then I could later expand it by adding more Chassis types, Natures, and so on. That went slightly against the effects-based nature of the game, not to mention it was harder to balance after PCs earned enough XP. And so we ended up slowly making things more customizable over time.

The logical conclusion of this process is to finally let Players customize their PCs however they want through a point-buy system. Most games like that generally don't bother with making the options balanced, largely because it is really difficult to pull off. My biggest challenge will be making sure that Battle Century G is a fully customizable point-buy system that remains balanced.

The tradeoff of this streamlining is that we lose cool bits of rules here and there that make mecha different from each other. The Speed/Power divide was kind of a big part of GGG, following the Super Robot/Real Robot logic. But Battle Century G is not just about robots, and if I want spellcasting support wizards in the game, then I can't make four out of six stats devoted just to see how much damage they do and take through attacking.

So that's what is happening with the game's foundations. As you can see Battle Century G will borrow a lot from GGG, but if you think it already looks different then just you wait until the next few posts. Next time, we will go into Experience, Genre, and character growth or advancement in general.

I leave you with just one two words: Power Levels.

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