Right now I'm (painstakingly) testing a massive suite of attacks using the most recent realizations about costing to try to balance them (I think the discussion around 'balance' is for another post). While that test suite is being run in the background (and it'll run all day long) I want to talk about why it's so big and what goes into it.
This post will stick to bio-weapons. These are your basic claws, teeth, pincers, and so on. Most of these do PEN damage and all of them add to your basic Strength/Build scores so that larger things hit harder. This is all pretty straight forward but let's take a look at these basic things ... and how they get modified.
Kinds of Bio-Weapons
Let's start with some of the common categories:
- Blade/Talon. The most basic bio-weapon is the "blade/talon." This is essentially a broad-sword (which may or may not be a literal sword or might be some kind of unusually large natural blade or tusk or something). It's notable in that it does PEN damage. usually has some kind of "reach" (a punch is Short Reach, a sword is Medium Reach). Straightforward.
- Teeth and Jaws. This kind of attack also includes the "pincer." In this case the attacks can do something called a 'worry.' A Worry is the term for what happens when a dog (or other animal) bites something and then shakes it, the blades sawing through the flesh. In game terms when the attack hits the user can choose to "hold." If the hold (a grapple roll) succeeds then for 1 action thereafter they can attack again with no roll to hit, no chance to be blocked, and the same hit-by modifier of whatever the original attack hit by (so a great hit "to the throat" is more likely to result in the attacker choosing to try to keep it than a poor hit "to an arm"). I really love the simulator because this sort of attack is devilishly hard to cost properly just using math (there are all kinds of decisions that have to be made and the attack is quite complex along several parameters).
- Tails. Tails are usually expensive (in terms of action-points) to use (costing 6 REA instead of 5) and are (typically) hard to block (-1 to block/dodge).
- Toxin-Delivery. This is another case where we were boggled trying to cost it by hand. A toxin-delivery system (fangs, stinger tail, poison dart or quill) is complex. Firstly there is the toxin itself which may do straight up damage, some manner of incapacitation, or both. Toxins have differing 'strengths' (called Intensity) and will work better against a character with tons of armor but few damage points than against a character with lots of damage points (but maybe no armor). On the other hand, they have to get the toxin into the target so there's the factor of "injection" (this problem does not apply to 'poison gas clouds'--but those are treated separately). In this case the attack must "penetrate the armor" doing at least 1 point of damage. This is complex to figure out: how likely is a toxin attack to penetrate? Well, that determines on who is throwing it (if they are super strong, the chances go way up). Trying to figure out who was "likely" to have a toxin attack nearly broke us--figuring out how to factor strength of toxin against a deadly carrier attack (a stinger tail that hits hard enough to potentially kill in its own right) was possibly beyond us. The simulator helps a lot here.
- Defensive Spines. This can also include things like electrified or burning body. In this case the trait is "passive" in that the character doesn't usually use it--instead it "goes off" when someone hits you (think of a porcupine). Again, this is complex: the character is usually assumed to have some back-up attack and the damage isn't usually dealt "at range" so this kind of defense is meaningless against a gun-using opponent. How we'd factor an attack that fed off the other person's action points was a tricky question. The simulator gives us a value but whether it's correct or not is a matter of philosophy (the simulator splits ranged and HTH attacks evenly. If you are playing in an all-hand-to-hand game like a martial arts tournament for mutants then the value will be much higher than the simulator tests).
Now that we've looked at some of the bio-attack types, let's talk about the common modifiers. A modifier is a change in how exactly the attack is "thrown" or what conditions go along with its use. Usually these have some specific intent when it comes to character design.
- Monster. We're using this term as a place-holder. It means the attack will have an "activation roll" each round of a 9- roll (just under 50%). The purpose of this modifier is to allow the creation of monsters who have several attack types but can't always use all of them each Round. Imagine something like a giant scorpion with bladed pincers and a very dangerous poisoned tail. The monster creator can give the tail an activation roll so that most Rounds it'll use its blades but sometimes (and you can never be sure when) it has the option of stinging with the tail. This mixes up the combat flow and, we think, can create excitement.
- Charge Up. A charge-up attack (as noted before) has a 1 or 2 Round period before it can be used. This means that the character cannot "open" with the attack (and can't use it every round thereafter, it re-sets after each Round of use). Depending on the configuration it may or may not be able to be used more than once when it is active. This allows the character to have a very powerful attack that can't be immediately deployed against an opponent: the character may need to fight defensively or attackers may realize they have to work quickly to try to avoid it.
- Easy To Dodge. We haven't done a lot with this to-date but it's under consideration. In the Fantasy games 'rogues' may have a high dodge defense as opposed to everyone else's block defense. A good Dodge is purchased (usually) with the somewhat exotic Acrobatics skill and because it costs like a combat skill you won't see too many 'front-line fighters' with it. On the other hand, it'll appeal to characters who, due to some specific Archetype Traits get some "free points" in Acrobatics or otherwise want to invest there. If we give some modes of bio-attack a deficiency against Dodge defenses ("slow and clumsy") then we allow the (usually more lightly armored) acrobatic characters to survive them better. This creates a (we think beneficial) situation where a monster with a powerful attack ready to go will have to choose between aiming it at a heavily armored front-line fighter or going against an more lightly armored (and possibly less tough) agile character who will not only be harder to hit in the first place but gets extra defenses if they take a Dodge defense. This should tend to aim more powerful attacks at the tougher 'tank' characters. We think that's good.
For ranged attacks we have several other configurations we are playing with and those deserve another post. We are also thinking about how these modifiers might apply to "martial arts Chi fighters" or HTH-Bio-Mod Combat Cyborgs. Would there be any real differences? We're not sure but if there are some good ones we want to consider the ramifications now rather than later.