This was originally described by K as the "Rifle/Pistol rule." He argued that a character who paid for a rifle should get a pistol for free--even though the pistol is more easily concealable, might conceivably be silenced or what-not.
We expanded it further with some thought experiments around a hypothetical character with "super strength" and "laser vision." In this case the guy is more versatile (he can operate at range or, say, in a grappling situation) but if he is equally invested in both of these attacks he'll be doubly effective if he invests all his points in just one. Unless the situations of the game really encourage a mix of ranged and very close combat encounters he's probably much better off just picking one and doubling up. This is even more clear if he often gets to decide what range he'll fight at.
What Is A Standard Attack?
In order to make this work we had to determine what we thought a "standard" attack was. Clearly super strength and laser vision both counted--but why? Would a sleep ray count? Would a 'super blast' that could only be used once in a while? We had to do some thinking. Here's what we originally came up with:
A standard Attack is one you can fire as many times you want in a Round for some amount of REA (Reaction Speed Points) each time (most characters have 10 REA and most attacks cost 5) and does "normal" damage (being Impact or Penetration--not 'sleep ray' damage or 'teleport the guy to the bottom of the Atlantic' damage).Things that didn't qualify:
- Sleep Rays and Teleport-Guy type attacks
- Attacks that can only be used 1x a round
- Attacks which can only be used every other round
What About The Fact That Ranged Damage Is Better Than Close Damage (and Penetration Damage is Better Than Impact Damage)?
M. (an MMO player) brought up, immediately, the question about whether or not we should allow a character with ranged and hth attacks for such a cheap (1 AP) cost. His MMO online-game experience told him that ranged characters had a decided advantage if they could keep that range going (to the point where the game made them very vulnerable to close in combat).
Here's the answer: We agree and our powers costs takes this into account. We think that if you start at range projection attacks are a better attack form even if you can't keep running and gunning. If the other guy has to waste time and take incoming fire closing with you that's an advantage (the same way that penetration damage, like swords, is better in JAGS on a point-for-point basis than blunt Impact Damage like fists is).
Our simulator takes care of this and our "point costs" for these types of damage reflect it. A character with close-in "super strength" damage will hit for more damage for the same AP cost than a ranged character. If the close-combat guy does blunt Impact Damage and the ranged guy does Penetrating damage (like a gun) then the spread will be even greater.
What About Those Sleep Rays?
In JAGS Revised a "sleep ray" (and probably Teleport Attacks) is a Resisted Attack with a 'spread' of effects. It usually doesn't just knock you out--it could 'daze you' or temporarily knock you out, or maybe put you into a deep comma. How effective these are against you depends on how many "Damage Points" (a measure of your character's toughness) you have so they're kind of like 'normal damage' in that respect.
The work with our simulator suggests that we can, in fact, model these things like Standard Damage. If this continues to be true--if the odds of being taken out by a sleep ray are comparable to the odds of being taken out by a power blast--then we can include them back as standard attacks. This would mean, however, that EVERYONE with super strength could get a sleep ray for +1 AP.
We don't want that so we need to decide how to limit it. Maybe we'll charge 2 AP? I'm not sure.
The Problem With Non-Standard Attacks
This brings us to the end of this post and the purpose of it: a lot of cool attack forms and combat strategies can be created by players if the line-up of attacks they do can change from round to round. This can come from "using up" special attacks or simply from having an attack that recharges after use for a little while. We like this and can build things like interesting Fantasy monsters with it and so on.
But the problem is this: if an attack fires only every other round or just fires once a round then mathematically for the same points in an attack that fires EVERY round (or several times a round--or both, like all 'standard attacks' do) you have to do MORE damage. Put another way, the attack that fires half as often hits twice as hard. That makes sense.
The problem here is that these don't exist in a vacuum. A character with a once-every-other-round Super Blast isn't going to stop there: they'll have some kind of standard blast they use when it isn't working (or use along side it when it is available but they have the actions to do several more attacks).
If every character could have the super blast for +1 point over the normal blast, not only would they, but that +1 point would make them FAR more dangerous (compare to the optimal 'sleep ray' scenario where a character has both Power Blast and a Sleep Ray but both are about as likely to take out a serious opponent--they'll just do it in different ways).
So we're figuring THAT out.