January 12, 2014

The Fundamental Principles of Battle Century G

One of the biggest problems I had while trying to fix GGG's issues was its lack of focus. I wanted to adapt SRW mechanics to a tabletop but had to do away with the mathcraft inherent in the videogame. I wanted a point-buy system but had to resort to prebuilt choices in chassis types to make the options balanced. I wanted an effects-based system yet had rifles and missile launchers as inherently different types of weapons. It was messy, you get the idea. I was playing a balancing act with all these things and that hurt the game as a whole.

I had a lot more freedom with the Pilot and Intermission rules though, so I got them to work more or less fine. The idea of making a simplified version of the game by making Mecha and Operations more like their counterparts took root inside my head. And while I was trying to get some GGG hacks working, I realized that writing them would be so much easier with a faster and looser rules system.

The problem with following through on that was that it would not be GGG at all. Sure, it would be similar, in the way that the SNES and Genesis were both big on platformers and shared tons of popular titles, yet were pretty different other than that. Calling the new game GGG would basically be lying, so while it would look like I was giving up on giant robot action, I'd have to give up the name.

And it was a pretty cool name, too.

The Big Three

I've been slowly unveiling a bunch of stuff over the past two months and showing some of the biggest changes. I figure it'd be a good idea to go back to the basics and clearly state the core principles of Battle Century G while showing off some more stuff that I didn't get a chance to preview yet.

Yes, I kind of brought them up before when first introducing the system as a whole, but that was more in comparison to GGG. This post is more about how the game stands on its own, rather than how it differs.

I've got a lot more experience now than when I started writing GGG, and that means a much better idea of how game mechanics work out in theory and practice. I know what I am going for much better this time around, and I have three big tenets in mind I intend to uphold as much as possible for Battle Century G.

Big Heroes

Test results lean toward success rather than failure, and the adjustable Power Levels means you can start a game at whichever power scale you like best, so you can be above average or outright godly in power from the start. On top of that there's Tension, which lets you overcome anything through patience, and Genre Powers to turn failures into successes right now without having to wait. These two also let players who fall behind on the damage race catch up to their opponents, either by using Genre Points before the enemy gets to use them, or through a PC built around drawing more power from Tension bonuses than their foes.

Frankly this tenet is kind of a gimme because GGG already subscribed to it, but I'm just letting you know that it is still priority number one.

Wiht that said, there is one potential problem with Battle Century G in this regard: HP totals are a little on the lower side at Power Levels under 2. A lucky early hit can Maim multiple Areas of your Mecha, or even take you down entirely. That's not a very heroic thing to happen, so let's put a few potential countermeasures in place.

Invincible Alloy
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 10
Effect: At the beginning of your Turn you may spend 2 Energy to ignore the effects of Maiming on your External Areas for a Round. The first time that you would be destroyed during an Operation, you remain functional with a Threshold of 1 instead.
Your giant robot dons a new composite alloy of Element G, reinforced to withstand the rigors of battle better than most others.Even your internals are reinforced, making your equipment that much harder to disable.

Integrated Weapons
Type: Internal Upgrade
Cost: 10
Effect: You may use your Weapons even if the Area they were allocated to has been Maimed.
Your Weapons are integrated to the Mecha’s very frame. Cannons are mounted to the shoulders, blades attached to the hands and knees. You are now effectively immune to disarming.

These are a steal at just 10 MP for the huge safety net they provide. With Integrated Weapons you'll always have your guns available no matter what, though you can still lose key abilities like Reversible Thrusters and Jury-Rig. Invincible Alloy meanwhile almost guarantees you get a parting shot with all your accumulated Genre Points, and also stops Maim status entirely if you can invest some Energy into it.

It bears mention that Invincible Alloy even works with Features like Power Suit, which are incompatible with Integrated Weapons.

Fast Pacing

For a game to play fast it needs as few rolls of the dice as possible and the rules need to be simple enough so that there's no need to reference them in the middle of a session. This is where BCG's focus in transparency of rules comes into play too, because there's less pausing and crunch numbers. As a bonus it is harder to make a suboptimal character by mistake, and harder to break the game's math on your knee too.

The one problem with this approach is that it takes away some of the system's depth of gameplay, increasing the risk of having one possible character build that trumps over all others. Fortunately, we now have the Speed as an Attribute. Speeds adds an element of positioning to the game's battlefield tactics and character build strategy, so there's more to think about than how powerful your guns and shields are.

Since we are on the topic of positioning, let's talk about the primary way there is to control the opposition's movement: Duels.

Units in a Duel may, at the beginning of their Turn, make a Contested Speed Test against their opponent. The winner gets to Move both participants a number of Zones equal to the lowest Speed of the two in a direction of their choice.

Duelists get to control enemy movement better than anyone else, specially with Got You Where I Wanted in the mix. If you have Anti-Gravity this lets you drag enemies around into Difficult or Extreme Terrain and keep them there.

Epic Plays

Player Character Mecha have a lot of resources at their disposal every Turn, and while some of them are renewable like Actions and Energy, most of them aren't. Having so much power to draw from lets you choose when you are going to have a big Turn and make that choice stick. This builds on the transparency mentioned above, where there's less invisible or random variables going on other than the hidden information of the enemy's own abilities. When you use a Power like Signature Weapon you know your attack is going to hit hard, and the only thing that could stop that from happening is another defensive Genre Power. To put it another way, you know that you won't spend your points or energy uselessly.

The primary issue we could run into here is in carefully balancing all the various ways the game has to murder each other without making it too easy to obliterate the opposition on the first round. At the same time, there have to be a few 'risky moves' that PCs can resort to when they don't have any resources like Energy or Genre to burn, making for stronger attacks that could accidentally go catastrophically wrong. To sate the demand for both of those there's Techniques. You already know Radiant Fist, which potentially causes you as much Damage as the extra amount you're dealing to your foe. Now meet his baby brothers of the Technique family.

Type: Melee Weapon
Cost: 5
Effect: Technique. Enemies attacked with this Weapon gain double benefit from Tension to Might Tests against you for a Round.
Description: Sheer size is the name of the game with some Weapons. From giant tomahawks to enormous spears, there is a lot of variety out there for Gears who want to just destroy whatever is on their way without having to resort to energy-based equipment. The downside is that they are unwieldy and often leave you open to counterattacks.

Missile Massacre
Type: Shooting Weapon
Cost: 5
Effect: Technique. After attacking an Enemy with this Weapon, you lose the benefit of Tension to all further Might Tests against them for the rest of the Operation with all Weapons, not just Techniques.
Description: A figurative circus display of missiles shot in a pattern that makes trying to evade them nearly futile. This advanced maneuver impacts from multiple angles at once to increase the chances of a direct hit. But savvy foes will learn your patterns from this move, and will have a much easier time avoiding you afterwards.

Remember, the first Technique used during an Operation gains double benefit from Tension but all Techniques used afterwards gain no benefit from Tension whatsoever. These Weapons make for fantastic finishers, but if you fail to destroy your target when you use them, you'll regret it.

That's all for today, it is a bit of a short post but I'm busy and it was either keeping it short or going for a week without one and I don't want to cut my streak short just yet. I might end up making them shorter but weekly rather than longer but having only one or two per month, we'll see. For now, see you next Sunday!

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