December 15, 2013

Advanced Combat in Battle Century G

Last time we went over the basics of mecha combat options in BCG. The options presented were some of the simplest, and I said they were representatives of about a third of other options of their type. Logic would indicate then that two thirds of the available Weapons would be a lot less boring and more interesting. Now we will take a look at some of those other combat options, starting with the finisher moves.

But first, a short aside for a history lesson!

An Intense Trip down the Memory Lane

Way back in the day, when I originally came up with Tension and was exploring what I could do with it, it was something of a resource much like Energy or Genre Points. Tension would naturally go up, but some abilities could increase or decrease your Tension. The very first version of GGG that was released included some ways to make it go up but none that made it go down. Losing Tension was kind of suicidal, so said abilities had to be overwhelmingly powerful to compensate for that and that just plain didn't make things work out very well.

But here's the thing: Spending Tension was cool, it was like activating your Limit Break, and it is a shame that it did not work out. In the end, and as you can see from the last version of GGG, raising Tension was also deemed too strong. There were other abilities that depended on having a specific amount of Tension to trigger, and they got the axe too, because it is too difficult for the individual PC to control the pacing of an entire battle.

By the late days of GGG's development, only Techniques and very few Tension-derived abilities still remained. Considering that Tension is probably my favorite mechanic from GGG and the one I'm most proud of, it was a disappointment I couldn't do more things with it.

And now Back to the Future

Considering that Battle Century G aims to simplify and streamline combat math as much as possible, Techniques should grant one or perhaps two Advantages on their first activation, then suffer a Disadvantage for each subsequent use. It would be consistent with Deathblows and mirroring Intermission and Operation mechanics as much as possible is aesthetically pleasing. I think a lot about making things feel like they're part of a coherent, aesthetically pleasing whole too and that's important.

Which is why I'm not doing that, because that's super dull.

Techniques are special attacks stronger than normal, but are difficult to pull off and push the machine to its limits. Mecha simply cannot handle using them often at full power, and most Enemies will see them coming after the first time they fell for it. The first time you use a Technique during an Operation, it  gains double the benefit from Tension to its Might Test. All Techniques used beyond the first will treat Tension as 0 until the Operation is over.

Bam! Now that does pack some punch, doesn't it? It is true that getting tricksy with Tension didn't work out too well in the past... But that was with the old combat math. Now that everything is more streamlined, keeping these abilities in check is much easier. And that's why I actually want to have transparent and simpler math, because it lets me make the big stuff bigger without breaking the game in the process. Likewise, I can now have more abilities with effects dependent on Tension, and I want to have enough that you can build around them.

So Tension is going to be a thing that more Upgrades and Weapons play with. Specially Weapons. Upgrades won't quite let everyone shift their Tension up or down because that is finnicky and annoying to keep track of, but expect a lot of things that used to be 1d5 or 1d10 rolls to now use Tension or half Tension instead.

What other thing can finishers make use of to make combat more interesting? Energy is the big other thing. Rationing how you want to use your Energy each Turn is pretty important, since a lot of the stronger Upgrades and Weapons scale in Power the more Energy you spend, and you only have so many points per Turn.

Name: Radiant Fist
Type: Melee
Cost: 10
Effect: Beam (3 Energy), Technique, Overheating.
Description: The ultimate in close range finishers, the unit’s hands are equipped with an extremely damaging system, from electric colliders to a radiation pulse that glows with an awesome power.

Name: Lux Cannon
Type: Shooting
Cost: 10
Effect: Beam (Special). Long-Range, Slow. This Weapon spends all of your remaining Energy on use, but gains a bonus to its Might Test equal to half the Energy spent this way.
Description: A honest to God giant laser cannon. Not only is dodging light a pretty hard thing to pull off, but it packs a very mean punch. Unfortunately, it was not made with energy efficiency in mind, making it rather prohibitive to use liberally,

Slow Weapons can only be fired every other Round. Long-Range Weapons improve their base Range by an amount equal to your Systems (Because I forgot to bring it up last week, the default Range for Weapons is 0-1 if they are Melee and 0-5 if they are Shooting, though they can increase it to 0-10 after Aiming). What about Overheating? If you keep a die roll that results in an odd number when using this Weapon, you take an amount of Damage yourself equal to the current Tension after using it. That means you want to use Radiant Fist when Tension is high, but not too high!

Some Weapons also make for pretty good finishers without being Techniques or using Energy. Of course, they have their own drawbacks.

Name: Chainblade
Type: Melee
Cost: 5
Effect: Unreliable. When you successfully deal Damage to an Enemy with this Weapon, increase the Damage dealt by half the current Tension. This Damage can be reduced by the Unreliable quality.
Description: Giant chainsaws are clumsy and jam in the middle of the action way too often. And yet, they are terrifyingly devastating when everything works out just fine, making this a weapon favored most often by those who feel lucky or simply have no idea what they’re doing.

Name: Resonance Cannon
Type: Shooting
Cost: 5
Effect: One-Shot, Unreliable. After this Weapon deals its regular Damage, the Enemy’s current Level of Threshold is destroyed.
Description: This cannon fires sonic bursts that shatter enemies at the structural level. It is unwieldy and uses up all of its ammunition with each shot, but a mere graze can be as damaging as a direct hit.

One-Shot is, of course, the same from GGG. Unreliable is Defective with a new name. If you keep a die roll that results in an odd number when using this Weapon, you halve the final amount of Damage you would have dealt with it. Time for another aside!

You know how some rules of the game sometimes wanted you to roll odds and sometimes they wanted you to roll evens arbitrarily? Well, now it is slightly less arbitrary. If you are on the offense, you want to get evens, and if you are on defense you want your attacker to get odds. This not only applies to Unreliable and Overheating, but to Duels and (kinda sorta) to Maiming. Attack an Enemy that is Dueling an Ally and an even result means you hit the bad guy. Get smacked for an odd amount of Damage and, if you lose a Level of Threshold, you get to choose the Area. The arbitrary odds/evens thing was a neat mechanic in a game with Advantages and Disadvantages but it wasn't all that intuitive, now it should be a lot smoother to play with.

More Energy Shenanigans

So these are some very powerful Weapons, how can we stop them? Custom Barrier and Absolute Barrier from last week are good, but they can only do so much against supermoves with +6 to Might and extra bonus Damage equal to Tension. The former is capped at +5 Guard so it won't stop the attack entirely, while the latter can do it but needs an expensive and upfront Energy payment so the Enemy could just wait until you lower your guard.

Enter one of our more interesting Active Defenses.

Name: Electronic Cloaking System
Type: External
Cost: 10
Effect: In response to the results of an Enemy Might Test against you, you may spend 2 Energy to increase your Guard by an amount equal to your Systems against it. This only counts your base Attribute, ignoring any modifiers that increase or decrease it. Electronic Cloaking System does not work against Weapons with the Blast ability or that affect Zones instead of specific targets.
Description: An advanced array of rapidly oscillating lasers used to foil most conventional sensing equipment, from infrared to common optics. This proves to be a much better idea on paper than it is in practice, as giant robots still leave giant footprints and produce tremendous noise, but it is a great help for emergency evasive maneuvers.

So with completely average Systems you're spending 2 Energy to increase your Guard by 4. And it does not work against Blasts and their ilk. That's pretty bad. Of course, you will not be using this with average Systems, you will be using it with a Systems of 6, 7 or even higher than that. And at that point it does a pretty good job of evading/blocking finishers entirely, which are almost never area-of-effect weapons. It only costs 2 Energy, so you can use it and still have enough for other Energy-powered abilities, potentially dodging multiple supermoves per Round.

The obvious weakness is that you need to spend some XP on Systems to make it not worse than Custom Barrier, and even then it won't do much against a Blast. With that said, there are also other workarounds for offensive specialists.

Name: Weapon Master (Specialist)
Type: Internal
Cost: 20
Effect: Choose either Melee or Shooting when you take this Upgrade. You gain an Advantage to all Might Tests made using the chosen Weapon Type. Additionally, you may spend 5 Energy after a Might Test made with the chosen Weapon Type to make your current attack immune to the effects of Active Defenses.
Description: The Mecha is at its best at one particular range and with a certain type of weapons. Custom controls like motion feedback and manual overrides for targetting systems let the Pilot pull off amazing moves and overcome most defenses.

Combining it with Radiant Fist nets you have a +4 to Might, double Tension bonus, and immunity to Active Defenses. It is a pretty darn brutal combination. It also does cost you an entire Power Level of XP and requires a monstrous 8 Energy to use. If you want to survive until you can use this the way it was meant to, you'll have to sacrifice Systems, Speed, or perhaps even Might itself. So while you could do all that once you're powerful enough you're bleeding XP, it is probably better used with regular non-Beam Weapons as a reliable extra Advantage that sometimes sacrifices your defense for a super attack.

And that is the key to Battle Century G's depth. In GGG you knew you could pull off a few super moves each Operation, and it was up to you to decide when you would do that. With regenerating Energy and multiple Weapons drawing power from different sources (Tension, Energy, Threshold for those that hurt the user, Actions for the ones that need setup) it used to be a question of when to use your special abilities, now it is partly about that and partly about which special ability you want to use now.

Do you use Radiant Fist early in the battle hoping to disable a key Area or wait a little bit longer and risk blowing yourself up? Will you try to do as much damage as possible with Resonance Cannon as a Shooting Specialist or would you rather guarantee a hit to take out one Level and keep your Absolute Barrier up?

Thanks to the regenerating Energy you have more control over your special abilities and flashy supermoves than you used to. You can maximize or minimize their effectiveness as you need to, and the threat of exploding or getting Maimed before you get to use them is greatly lessened, which is always a nice bonus.

Fun Combat is still a Priority

The simplest Upgrades and Weapons alternate between being average and slightly above average in performance. The quirkier ones alternate between really strong and below average. If all Weapons were just +2s here and there combat would be about who rolls higher and who Maims the better Weapon sooner. That would not be very back and forth, and back and forth action is very much a thing that I want. If the first strike defines the battle, what is the point in playing out the rest of the scene?

Because Upgrades and Weapons are relatively cheaper than those of GGG and you are not so pressed for Energy anymore, it would not be a bad idea for specialists to pack redundant or backup abilities. A defensive powerhouse could have both Custom Barrier and Electronic Cloaking System, and alternate using them as necessary to maximize their defenses.

So that's that for abilities directly related with combat. Next time I'll go into the more interesting utility Upgrades. Are Systems and Speed worth building around? Can the more complex Upgrades be simplified without making them useless? Am I a tremendous tease?

The answer to all of the above is quite possibly, not not entirely certain, to be yes.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.