December 1, 2013

Characters in Battle Century G

I've been talking about the general mechanics of my new project and spiritual successor to GGG for the past two weeks. Today I go a little more in depth into what changes for the Characters and Intermissions.

I want Intermissions in Battle Century G to be much like those in GGG, just perhaps a tiiiiny little bit smoother, and I'd like the various abilities to be sightly better balanced all around. I think that the Skill/Trait system works pretty well. Skills grant Advantages to a single type of task, which can be very broad or specialized at a reduced price. Traits sometimes have stranger effects and sometimes are just like Skills but applied to more narrow circumstances. If Attributes are the heart of the rules more now than ever, then sticking to the model that was originally that way is a good idea.

I want to keep Miracles more or less as they are, because I think they're a pretty decent take on superpowers without having to bloat the rules with a hundred pages of fireball or mind control variants. Deathblows can spice up Intermission combat, though I need to rewrite them if I want XP costs to come in multiples of 5. Equipment is also a neat way to handle special tools and gadgetry, specially since you can obtain them temporarily through Resources. Lastly there's Anomalies, which could use some adjusting but also provide clean and simple ways to play things that aren't fully human.

If you are interested in how GGG's take on all of those things (and some more) came to be, I wrote a few pieces about that in the past. That post also talks a little about the general math behind Intermissions, which I won't fully do over today, I'll just cover the more important bits.

That more or less sums up my intentions for Character and Intermission rules. Let's see how I chose to go about it! And what better way to start than with numbers?

The Math of Intermissions

We know our Attributes, and we know we're keeping them on a scale going from 0 to 10. But how are they going to measure against the average Difficulty Number? Pretty much like GGG, for the most part. (That is going to be a thing I say a lot through this post.) I want Difficulty Numbers ranging from 5 to 20, with most Tests requiring a result somewhere around 10 and 15. Just for the sake of clarity, I'll break it down below:

Trivial (5): You can only fail this with low Attributes and genuinely terrible luck. Failing like this means that you just made a total trainwreck of the situation, and trainwrecks make for fun roleplaying experiences. 
Standard (10): If the average Attribute is at a Rank of 4, and we assume that you will roll an average of 6 (or 5 and a Tension of 1) then you should be able to beat this DN pretty reliably with a small XP investment and a bit of luck.
Challenging (15): Now these are harder. You need above average Attributes (A rank between 6 and 8 will do) a couple of Advantages from Skills or Traits (representing around a +2 to a +4 bonus) and to roll average or better. Otherwise, matching this DN is possible but unlikely. 
Amazing (20): Outright blocked off to characters who aren't highly specialized. You need top-of-the-line Attributes and to squeeze every possible Advantage you can get out of the situation, plus being lucky enough to roll at least average.

With this in mind, I now have to decide just how much each Advantage is going to cost in Character Points, and how many of them you can have. Since Advantages can directly translate to a +2 bonus now (as an alternative to rolling more dice and keeping the better number) each Advantage is the equivalent of being one step higher in the Attribute ladder. A PC with an Attribute at Rank 4 is average, but if they have an Advantage to said Test then they will perform above average, and with another Advantage they are just as good as the Rank 8 geniuses.

In general, matching a DN of 10 is easy, but I want DNs of 15 and above to be difficult to get. I don't want them to be too difficult, just enough to make matching them feel like a challenge. Therefore PCs should be able to pick up somewhere between one and three Advantages. These Advantages will usually come from Skills, General Traits, and Equipment Traits, in that order.

The Cost of each Advantage would be around 5 Character Points for the narrow ones and 10 for those with more wide applications. Getting all three would be between half a Power Level (15 CP) and a full Power Level's worth (30 CP) of XP, depending on how broadly useful you want your Skills and Traits to be. Characters in Battle Century G have more CP to spend than those of GGG (60 on Skills and Traits at Power Level 1, the suggested starting point). So while this might seem a little expensive, it is actually more generous than what GGG offered.

The downside as far as character power goes is that Skills will only grant one Advantage to Tests, effectively only existing at the Specialist and Generalist levels, at 5 and 10 Character Points. Some Traits will grant more than one Advantage, but they will be of conditional use. For example, Facility (Laboratory) could give you two Advantages to using Sciences and Electronics, but you can't carry your Laboratory around with you, you have to stay in there to gain those Advantages.

I'm not counting these conditional Traits for the purposes of making sure there's one to three available Advantages to take for any given task. If you can find an overlap between multiple of these Traits, then you can have more than three Advantages. This means you can still specialize enough to make you unbeatable at your field if you want to, it just takes more than a Master Skill.

About Advantages

In GGG you can choose to turn a pair of Advantages into another cumulative d10. This provided a way to reach the higher DNs right out of the gate, because during Intermissions you want to see the impossible happen and during Operations you need to make it possible to hit targets with high Evasion. Because there is simply no way Guard in BCG will reach as high as Evasion could go in GGG, there is no need to make Advantages trade into additive dice.

I really, really liked how it let you trade reliability in average results for pure (if random) power. But the math was just too explosive and hard to balance around. BCG lets you trade Advantages individually as +2's to the result, which gets the job done but is less exciting. You will see the impossible happen slightly less often during Intermissions, but that is a price I am okay with - It should be a rare sight, after all!

Miracles and Traits

Miracle Skills are the most expensive options for Characters. These will behave like the ones from GGG do for the most part, they'll just cost double from their General Skill counterparts. A specialist Miracle is 10 CP, and a generalist Miracle is 20 CP. They tend to be better than regular Skills, and are conceptually superpowers, so this is only fair.

The Traits that used to have a Cost of 3 or 7 in GGG have been either promoted or demoted to 5 and 10, with a corresponding increase or decrease in power. This includes Equipment. Anomalies are the exception to the rule of everything costing multiples of 5, since they continue to Cost 0 but carry a downside to them.

But Deathblows and Assets had variable Costs that could go between 1 and 4, and also mechanics designed around their variable Costs. Obviously, they needed a facelift.

My idea is to make Deathblows have a static cost of at least 5, and to make them usable an unlimited number of times. They'll just suffer a Disadvantage for each time you've used them previously during the same Episode. As a tradeoff, stacking multiple Deathblows together won't incur a Disadvantage.

Assets were essentially a more explicit version of what you could already do with Resources, and had the negative aspect of being largely identical to each other and thus kind of boring. They could get away with it because GGG needed the cheap options costing between 1 and 4, but that is no longer the case, so they're being rolled back into the General Traits category.

And Last but not Least...

Any kind of spiritual successor to GGG would need Genre Themes, Points and Powers in one way or another. They're the one thing that links the Pilot with their Robot from a rules standpoint, so I can't really afford to lose them. In this case, they're mostly the same. Mostly. Let's tackle them in order.

I have been wanting to write customizable Themes (a bit like the rules for Insanity or Arcanas) for a long while, but I need to get the core rules functional first. That means Themes will stick to their proven and true gameplay until the basic rules for giant robots are settled, then I'll get on with rewriting them to suit different settings and genres. I really do want to make them more fun to play with and specifically attuned to the type of game you're running. Making them better is specially poignant because there's less Genre Points to go around now.

You see, in BCG you only have your Power Level in Genre Points each Episode. You still earn more through roleplaying and getting beat up, but you will have to ration them more carefully than you would in GGG. This is to be consistent with the approach of simplifying the game to make it easier to hack, though I have to be careful to not take away what makes it fun in the process. In this case, it means that every Point has to matter a lot more than it used to.

With simpler math and lower numbers in most Attributes, Powers are much more efficient. It is easier to tell whether you should use Try Again or if it is not worth the trouble, for example. But that's not all. I am also doing away with Powers that did similar things in different ways. Instead of having to use one Power to increase your attack Attribute and another Power to make it ignore barriers, you have a single Power that does both for just one Genre Point. This maximizes the value of each Power chosen and each Point spent.

It also means that there are a lot less Powers than before. The last version of GGG has 6 Default Powers, 10 Common Powers, and 24 Powers distributed around six Packages of three each. That's 40. Battle Century G does have the 6 Default Powers, but only has 18 more Powers to choose from - at least so far.

The Powers of Battle Century G are also distributed between three categories (Right now under the names of Champion, Trickster, and Director.) that focus in raw power, utility, and buffs or debuffs. But unlike with GGG's Packages, you can grab Powers from any combination of categories you want. You can focus in a specific role, or mix and match as you please.

To Summarize

Characters in Battle Century G are very similar to those of GGG. This is because the Mecha rules are the ones doing most of the changing, but in order to be more like rules for Pilots. The trick is attaining a similar level of simplicity and smooth play without removing all depth from the rules.

And that's why the next post is going to be even longer than this one. Can Systems be balanced next to Might? What kind of rewards will there be for specialists? How are Weapons going to work with this emphasis on small modifiers to Tests? That and more, next time.

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