Monday, June 28, 2010

Low Damage [LD] and Very Low Damage [VLD]

Read this blog from the bottom up as each of these posts build on each other.

Early on I was testing an Archetype Trait (a power) called 'Speed.' It granted the character +4 REA or, in English, +4 Reaction Speed which means he could generally go before normal characters and could make an extra attack with his primary weapon.

My back-of-the-envelope thinking showed that this was worth about 8 AP and, lo and behold, in early tests that seemed about right. However when I got to the "balanced" herds I discovered to my consternation that the guys with Speed were winning around 85% of their fights. That was a lot. It was somehow clearly worth more than 8 AP. What had happened?

What Happened
What happened in the early testing was that I was sticking to "speedy characters" when I tested speed. These were ninja assassin types who tended to hit weakly but hit a lot. I tested martial arts masters, blade-armed lithe cyborg types, and so on. In the hands of those characters it was fairly balanced. In the hands of someone who had spent almost half their points (minus the 8 AP for Speed) on their attack, however, it was a disaster.

When I tested those guys for balance it turned out that it was worth more like 24 AP. That was: a 48 AP balanced character (50% defenses, 50% attack) who invested 8 AP of their attack points (or, even worse, 8 AP of their defense points) in Speed would wind up around even with a 72 AP character.

I immediately sat back and wanted to understand what was going on. I couldn't charge 24 AP for Speed--that was way too much for the "good" characters I'd tested it with. But how could I prevent other characters ("bad ones") from buying it?

Some analysis showed that the problem was how many AP's the character had spent on their attack compared to their total points.

Balancing Speed
If, it turned out, a character had spent no more than 1/4th of their total AP on their attack? Then for 8 AP, giving them an extra attack with it was, in fact, balanced. I ran this at several AP levels and it held. Now, against heavy armor, those characters did have a big problem: they lost a lot against the "full armor" (50% of AP spent on Armor) but if I factored those out they were often slightly above 50% (but under 60%) in percent-chance-of-victory. This was good: a fast character who was rated for Low Damage for their AP level had a profile that they were a little better against characters without heavy armor but had real problems against characters with "Full Armor."

That seemed like a reasonable strategic trade-off: in your group of PCs you might want a few of those guys but they won't overshadow the heavier (slower) hitters.

We then tested 1/8th of your AP spent on an attack and called this Very Low Damage. These guys had a hard time against "Mixed Armor" (roughly 1/4th of AP spent on Armor) but got two extra attacks for their 8 AP. If you wanted to play a lightning quick character, that was a good way to do it.

Speed And Unusual Attacks
This brings us to the question of how an attack like a Charge-Up blast applies to this situation. In a play-test game E. one of our guys (T.) had a winged character who's wings were knife like. He was fast and agile but hit weakly. E. felt that in a lot of the battles T. didn't have a lot to do since he could hit like six times but usually got nothing through (part of the problem was that K., who suggested the parameters of the campaign had specified that we could all get "free armor" on top of whatever else we paid for--so the characters in this game were almost all heavily armored).

When we played a second game, he designed several weapons to have a Low Damage profile but, once a combat, fire a super-blast that did a lot more damage. E. felt that this let people "play in the game" without "breaking" their Low-Damage "promise" that allowed them to get Speed for much less.

Was this actually true?

Testing Normal Damage + 1x Attacks
I have numbers that are balanced (50% Chance of Victory) for a character at the 48 AP level who has 24 AP "to spend on attacks." He comes out balanced with 24 AP spent on Power Blast. NOTE: These characters were NOT fast or speedy. Just normal. Let's see what happens with some combinations:

  • 24 AP (29 IMP Ranged) and NOTHING ELSE: 52.64%
  • 20 AP (25 IMP Ranged) on a Standard Power Blast, 4 AP (36 IMP Ranged) on a 1x-per-battle blast: 49.96%
  • 20 AP (25 IMP Ranged), 4 AP (30 IMP Ranged) on a 1-Round-Cool Down blast (can be used 1st round of combat). 49.52%
  • 20 AP (25 IMP Ranged), 4 AP (33 IMP Ranged) on a 1-Round-Charge-Up blast (cannot be used 1st Round of combat): 49.43%
From this we can see that if the person goes "plain vanilla" they hit for 29 IMP per Round--but taking a 4pt of damage per round hit (the standard attack now hits for 25 IMP) they can get damages up to 36 IMP for a one-time hit and still be balanced.

This means that, yes, a LD or VLD character should be able to "punch above their weight class" (hit harder than 1/4th AP in an attack should allow) so long as we get the pricing and the rule right. Unfortunately this comes at the cost of hitting less hard the rest of the time. For a character who already hits pretty weakly, how bad is this?

Testing Speed + 1x Attacks [Low Damage]
I ran two tests with Speedy characters (3 attacks per Round): for the first I took an 12 AP (18 IMP Ranged) attack--a legal Low Damage blast--and paired it with a 4 AP 1x-per-combat attack (similar to what E. had done). This character is over spent on attacks for a LD character: he has spent 12 (1/4th his points) on a blast and then gone and spent another 4pts on a 1x per combat attack. I didn't expect the character to balance but I wanted to see how far he was off.Victory was a too-high 65% vs. everything but full armor (I'd allow 58% or even 60%).

This means that for a 1x attack the damage would have to be somewhere lower than 36 IMP. I'm not yet sure how to calculate those numbers.

On the other hand, the second test I did was more promising: The LD character has 12 AP to spend on attacks however he wants. I spent 8 AP on a standard blast (14 IMP) and then spent the remaining 4 AP on a 1x-per-combat (36 IMP) blast. If the system were working this should theoretically be balanced as the character has spent the "proper" amount of points (1/4th their Total AP) and no more. In fact the character won a reasonable 54.21% against everything but Full Armor (and was above 50% even with that). 

It meant that the basic thinking is probably right.

Now I just have to figure out how to make this a rule.


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