December 29, 2013

The Super Robots of Battle Century G

Before getting to the meat of today's post I want to clarify a few things that I glossed over or outright forgot last week - I wrote that post in a hurry and a few things escaped my mind. For instance I forgot to bring up Terrain. Anti-Gravity focuses around ignoring it and Fire at Will causes someone to suffer Extreme Terrain, and knowing what Terrain does is kind of important in the context of discussing those two.

Rocky and uneven hills, deserts that clog your Mecha’s joints with sand and strong currents that leave your giant robot waist deep in water. These are all good examples of Difficult Terrain, known for how much it complicates the lives of those trying to cross it. Units Halve their Speed while they are within Difficult Terrain.

Extreme Terrain covers a variety of hazardous environs that are deadly to both people and giant robots. Examples of Extreme Terrain include magnetic storms and erupting volcanoes. An Unit that begins or ends a Turn within Extreme Terrain must average their Systems and Speed and Test against a DN of 10. Should they fail the Test, they then take the amount they failed it by as Damage. If they begin and end a Turn within Extreme Terrain, each instance threatens them separately.

Extreme Terrain is a lot less brutal than its GGG incarnation, but it is much harder to avoid entirely as well. It is almost always guaranteed to trigger at least once, and because you are averaging two stats it is harder to autosucceed. Yes, an average roll (5) with slightly above average stats (5) will nullify it entirely, but when it happens twice it is likely to end up hurting you at least a little, specially if you did not invest in Systems and Speed. Something like Fire at Will is a death sentence for 0 Systems, 0 Threshold Grunts everywhere.

The averaged Attributes mechanic is pretty similar to the way Maneuvering works. To Maneuver you average your Systems and Speed then roll a Test, you gain half the result in Defense for a Round. You may give this Defense bonus to an Ally within 1 Zone of Range from you instead of keeping it for yourself. Multiple Maneuvers do not stack together, using only the highest result of the bunch. This is much more effective than just imparting a -2 or two to your opponent, lets you cover your allies without having to buy special abilities (though there's going to be some of those for designated party tanks), and only gets stronger with Defensive Terrain. Speaking of which...

Defensive Terrain is distinguished by having a lot of cover for Units, making it comparable to the Mecha equivalent of war trenches. Examples of Defensive Terrain are most urban settings, deep jungles, and asteroid fields. Defensive Terrain adds the entirety of the Test result to Defense when using the Maneuver Action.

So that's Terrain. I also glossed over the fact that Support Upgrades are Utility Actions (aka, the not-Offensive ones) so you can use them from really far away (twice your Systems is usually beyond the reach of most Long-Range Weapons, specially as a Systems specialist) while keeping your distance and running away at the same time. Yes, you can run away while bombarding someone with Fire at Will for as long as your Resupply allows.

Just, you know, be careful about running into a wall. Most Battlefields shouldn't have more than a couple Turns' worth of Benny Hill chase scenes to them, for reasons that I hope are obvious.

With these matters settled, we can now return to our scheduled blog post.

Today is Super Robot Day! If monster trainers are going to have rules for handling multiple monsters at the same time and spellcasters get to have multiple elements for their blasts of wizardry, then giant robots get to transform and combine. Let's not waste more words and get to it.

Two Vehicles for the Price of One

The Transformation line has always been the toughest for me to design and balance in GGG. It was either too strong, didn't let you do things you'd expect a transformer to do, or was too complex. Usually it was a combination of those three factors too. Ultimately I ended up making them a bit stronger than they should be, essentially making the Upgrade pay for itself and grant you an extra free 5 UP. Because it was better than the alternatives, even if it ended up being a tad wordy for my liking.

Not anymore. Meet Battle Century G's Transformations, courtesy of the new Attribute system.

Name: Transformation
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 10
Effect: Choose two of Might, Guard, Systems or Speed when you take this Upgrade. You switch the value of the chosen Attributes around when you Transform. You may switch back and forth from this Transformation at the beginning of your Turn by spending 2 Energy or as an Action.
Description: Your Mecha is a transformer, going from flying robot to a faster plane form, retaining all your equipment and abilities between forms.

Your tank form trades speed for power, while your plane form is more fragile but also moves faster. You can even use this to represent combat stances, trading your might for guard or something along those lines. Because all stats are equal(ish) in value, we can do fancy things like switch defense for speed or speed for attack without it breaking the game's math down its knee, and since Energy regenerates, we can also give it a cost and make it a thing you have to think about using without punishing you for using it a lot.

With that said, this doesn't work very well for Mecha that want their forms to be radically different from each other. Sometimes you want your plane form to be the only one that can fly and your robot form the only one that can use melee weapons. And that's why we have this little thing here.

Name: Superior Morphing
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 20
Effect: You may Transform for 1 Energy instead of 2. When you purchase this Upgrade, make two sets of External Upgrades or Weapons with a total cost of 10 MP for each set. Assign each set to a different Form, but all in the same Areas. The Cost in MP of these sets is already paid by this Upgrade.
Description: Your internal framework has been modified to allow for faster and more versatile changes between equipment. Your jets can turn into cannons and your wheels into shields.

I love creative solutions to design problems. In practical terms you are only paying for the ability to switch stats, since Superior Morphing splits its cost of 20 MP (Mecha Points, not Upgrade Points) between two forms, it doesn't really cost you anything. You can get more Transformations this way, and the cost remains even. Buy Transformation twice and you have three forms, each with its own discrete 10 MP to spend on things.

But of course, the ability to transform is at its strongest when you use Features...

Name: Terrain Specialist
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 0
Effect: Choose one of underwater, space, or land when you take this Feature. While you are in said environment you gain the benefit of Defensive Terrain, ignore the effects of Difficult Terrain, and may shoot through a Zone occupied by an Enemy to reach another behind it as if they weren’t there. Outside your chosen environment your Speed and Guard Attributes are halved.
Description: A lot of machines derived from the technology that is used for Gears are not humanoid. You can find anything from mecha mermen to fearsome beastly robots resembling mammals or even arthropods, adapted for land-to-land encounters.

Yep. Good old Terrain Specialist. It is a lot more intuitive now, having the good parts of Anti-Gravity and giving you a little extra for your trouble. And of course, it works fantastically when you can change your specified Terrain on the go.

What about the other Features? Well, they're still there, and they're better than ever.

Name: Extreme Fortification
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 0
Effect: You halve all Damage you would usually take from any source that isn’t an Might Test, but only have half your Energy Attribute to spend every Round. This also works for abilties that are a secondary effect of using a Weapon but separate from the Might Test itself.
Description: You are reinforced internally and externally, at the price of having to use smaller and less powerful energy reactors. Through this method, you can survive in the most inhospitable places known to mankind and weather some pretty heavy attacks as a bonus. Just mind your reserves.

Name: Power Suit
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 0
Effect: This Unit does not lose any abilities allocated to its Areas from Maiming. Instead each Area lost to damage halves one of your Attributes. Losing the Head halves your Systems, the Torso halves your Guard, the Arms halve your Might and the Legs your Speed.
Description: Instead of a giant robot you have a suit of mechanized armor. It is powerful enough to stand up to the big kids, but it is much more susceptible to direct hits.

Extreme Fortification offers very, very good defenses but you have less Energy to protect yourself with from regular attacks. Power Suit offers a legitimate alternative to the usual Maim system, and a pretty intuitive one at that. I am much happier with the Battle Century G versions of these two.

Two Pilots are Better than One

And so we move on to Multipilot units. Let's start with the simplest one of the bunch, which is for NPC Subpilots. Remember how I said a couple weeks ago that a Genre Power (and the Point spent to use it) cost roughly 10 XP?.

Name: Assistant (Specialist)
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 10
Effect: You gain a Subpilot, this grants you any one Genre Power from the available lists to your character and another Genre Point to use during Operations.
Description: You get a second pair of hands to help you out in the battlefield. The know-how and support from this subpilot will improve your Gear’s efficiency beyond what you could manage on your own.

This would make a lot more sense if I had shown you any Genre Powers yet. But I swear it is strong! We'll get there soon. NPC Subpilots are useful, but they're still NPC Subpilots and thus not all that interesting. Let's see what the dark gods of streamlining have done to Multi-PC Combiners...

Name: Component Unit
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 0
Effect: Choose one of the four External Areas belonging to the Unit you will combine with. After you have Combined, the lead Unit gains all of your External Upgrades and Weapons assigning them to the chosen Area and it may use your Might, Guard, Systems or Speed in place of theirs if it is higher. You are now a Subpilot for the lead Unit. If the chosen Area is Maimed the lead Unit does not lose you as a Subpilot nor do their Attributes return to normal.
Description: Parts of your Mecha have been clearly designed to be linked up and shared with other giant robots. Maybe it can form the arms of even larger Mecha’s torso, or turn into a giant backpack for another Mecha.

...Well, that is a lot shorter than the GGG version. Still wordy! But not half as long. It is also a lot more intuitive. PCs that become Subpilots can still take Actions during their Turns, but they can only be Utility Actions, and may not Move the Unit in a direction of their choice along with it. They will have to Boost if they want to make any Movement at all. Actions from specific Upgrades like Restoration or Support Upgrades may be used this way as long as the lead also has access to them. That means Separate and External Upgrades, but not Internal ones.

Of course, the only reason I managed to make it shorter is because Subpilot PCs have their own sidebar explaining their rules! I am so clever, outsmarting my own formatting like that. Note that this is only for PC Subpilots, NPC Subpilots are just Assistants. This is both because they are less skilled than PCs, and because a single PC should not be able to essentially have two or more Turns each Round, at least not in a game meant to be simpler.

The game is built to handle combiners a lot better now, and there are plenty of ways to build them too, making them fun to play with more than once or twice. A dedicated Component would most likely have high Systems and use Restoration or Support upgrades, but could also grant Systems and Speed to the lead then focus on Maneuvering. This means that you can have multiple Combiners joining up to form a Megazord and they can all split the work of buffing up the lead with each other. A dedicated team of Combiners would usually consist of exactly five PCs, each of the four Components granting the lead unit a different stat boost and External Upgrades to use in each Area. A dedicated Lead would focus on Threshold and Energy, plus Internal Upgrades like Weapon Specialization.

I hopefully did not miss a lot of stuff this time around, and everything (short of Assistants) makes sense now. Next time we'll go over Genre Powers now that I have a firm grasp on their power level, and also over Enemies because I have a few fun news for GMs concerning those.


  1. Hey
    Nice to see you working on a new system. GGG had lot of interesting ideas but has some balance problems deep in the system.
    From what I see Battle Century G design takes them into account and solves those problems and overall simplifies things. It's looking very promising.

    My only suggestion is making energy recover 50%/turn not 100%/turn. When you can spend energy on offense and defense they act like floating points that you can put into might or guard. This means that they have to transfer on a worse ratio. You can't make it 2:1 because then it'd be better to just boost both might and guard for the price of 2 energy. You can't make it 1:1 because then it'd be too flexible. 3:2 sounds about right but it might be still too flexible.

    Recovering 50% of energy adds some bookkeeping but adds strategy too. It makes the attribute stronger by allowing stronger attacks/defenses than you'd normally be able to do but at the cost of needing a turn to recharge.

    If you recover 100% it's just floating points that can be moved between defense and offense (and other stuff) but it will never allow you to make an attack/defense stronger than if you pumped all the points into might/guard.

    50% allows you to gather 2 turns worth of energy and making a stronger than normal attack but your attack next turn would be weaker than normal to compensate.

    In either case module that allows you to store extra energy over the normal limit (like up to 150%) is cool idea in either case.

    Anyway. Good luck. I'm looking forward to the first release of the system.

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence! I'll go a little more into Energy in the next post, I did take the energy:stat ratio into account as part of my math.

  2. Will combined units have restored threshold and maimed areas after combining as it did in GGG?

    1. No. In general you'll want to combine as soon as possible (like before deployment, even) rather than wait for a while to maximize your gains. I'll go into the longer list of reasons when BCG is properly released.


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