Friday, July 9, 2010

Problems Arise

This blog is a continuing conversation--you'll want to read from the bottom up for it to make sense.

Testing Today
I'm still (slowly) running through bio-weapons Teeth. As you'll see in the post what happened with the tests I ran last night we suffered a setback. A mildly interesting setback.

Juijitsu and Karate
The elation at how "balanced" Jiujitsu and Karate were vanished upon closer inspection. We'd had the karateka trying to "get up" every Round against the Jiujitsu guy and failing (his roll to get up was a 6-, something like 10% chance of success). This cost him an attack. When he just didn't even try and struck "from the ground" his victory percentage was something like 70%. Too high.

However, this was compounded by the fact that the grappler wasn't actually doing a "Ground and Pound" attack. A Ground-and-Pound (G'nP) attack is a strategy so-named in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) where a grappler (often a wrestler) takes down a target and holds them on the ground and then, well, pounds them. The target, usually a striker, lacks the wrestling skill to get up and can't effectively strike from his back (as opposed to the wrestler--who may not be a good striker in general but can rain down hammer fists and elbows and such from a top-mount position without much difficulty).

We did some testing and determined that the key to making this battle actually work was that we had to make the simulator handle a "Mount" move. That's complex--but it's correct. The strategy for a Jiujitsu G'nP attack should go: Close->Throw->Mount->Pound-Pound-Pound. This could take a few Rounds and gives the Karate guy time to go Kick-Kick (at range)->Punch-Punch-Punch-Punch (etc.). Since the Karate guy does a good deal more damage the question becomes can the Karate guy seriously injure the grappler before he's pounded.

What Is A Mount?
Here is a visualization:

In MMA Combat a Mount Position looks like this:

The deal is this: you can "begin" grappling with a Grab (the 'least' grappling) or Grapple ('more' Grappling). You can then try to "add a position on top of it" (in this case a Mount). I'll note here that there are a few ways to get a Grab (you can Throw, which also knocks the person down, do a tackle or take-down which can result in a grapple, or do some special moves like a wrestling shoot which can result in a grab or grapple as well as other effects).

It's also clear that to perform a Mount the target has to somehow be taken down (this is accomplished in the simulator example by a Throw--which also establishes a Grapple).

What We Have To Get Right
Right now, in the rules "as written" (meaning as we interpret them from the book and as the simulator, where it is meant to, will simulate them) we believe that there is a good case that the situation is 'reasonably balanced.' Being taken down isn't good for the karateka and when we implement the Mount the Jiujitsu guy will almost certainly be able to get it (and since the karate guy may 'resist' that'll cost him extra action points (REA) degrading his striking or blocking even more.

What we have to get right is the amount that the Mount helps. What's "in the book" may not be enough (or it may be too much--but we don't think so). This will lead to a change in core rules.

The Other Thing That Didn't Work
The other thing that I ran into is this: the damage for Monster-Jaws was, by our method, way, way, way to high. What do I mean by that?

Monster Jaws: the attack is Short Range and hits for PEN damage. It's a "bite attack" meaning that it can "keep what it hits by" and Worry the target twice a round once the teeth are locked on. The 'Jaws' part means it attacks with the initial bite only once per Round and the 'Monster' part means it has, each round, an activation roll of a 9-.
This means that on a given Round (Round 1) the Monster-Jaws-Only character makes an activation roll. If the roll is a 9 or less (about 40% chance) then hey, he gets one shot to hit with his mighty jaws. If he hits (and hits by 4+) he keeps it and worries the target twice a round thereafter. If he misses--or doesn't hit by enough--then that's it for that Round (he gets an ineffectual punch too but it's ineffectual). If the character does not make his activation roll (60% of the time) he only gets two ineffectual punches and gets clobbered.

This happens again every Round.

Now, in the "wild" it won't be like this: nothing is likely to have nothing but Monster Jaws. It'll be Claws, a Toxic Stinger, and Monster Jaws or something like that--but remember our testing shows that we can give a target nothing but that attack and get a decent value for the attack. That's good.

It isn't perfect.

The problem with just running the simulator is that you run  it and it, well, runs. In this case our playbook of trying to get the Monster-Jaws-Only character to 50% wins against his peers came out to doing 90 PEN with the bite at 16 AP. How over the top is that? A sword at 16 AP does 11 PEN.

It's so over-the-top that any single hit--even a bad one--obliterates the target. The reason our methodology was pumping this out was that even with our "less aggressive normalized herds" strategy the battles were short enough that the bite might do infinite damage and it still wouldn't win more than 50% of the time because the chances of it getting a bite off in the time frame that our characters could survive were pretty much about 50-50.

I discovered this when I looked at the output and went "What The Fuck!?" and ran a detailed battle (several) with the debug turned up and saw that, yes, in the fights the Monster-Jaws-Only character lost he lost because he never bit anyone. In the ones he won? He bit the other guy once.

What We Need To Do With This
Our test characters are 50% offense, 50% defense. This is because we are (a) trying for a "pretty" distribution of points. Having a character who is at least theoretically 50/50 makes some of the math easier. The other reason (b) is that we're sort of looking at a "worst case" scenario where a PC has built a very aggressive character (we think some PCs might well be more than 50% offense, including some reasonable characters like 'Vietnam Infantry Guy' who has an assault rifle and no armor).

With these builds we see the fights take about 2.5 to 3.5 rounds at the upper end and in order to understand what Monster-Jaws-Only might really be worth we probably want to see a fight that takes, on average 4.5 Rounds.

What I did was give that character a 1/4th AP Super Punch to use when the Jaws weren't working and I got some numbers that "look" reasonable. If I have the time and energy I'll go back and look it over again with a better distribution of APs to give our test characters better defenses (and therefore more staying power).



  1. Interesting stuff in general, Marco.

    One sort of side comment about an artifact I think may occur in actual play involving Intensity based effects, because of a suggestion you have in Archetypes:

    Let's say you're playing what I'll call (from lack of a better term) some kind of low powered supers game; it could be modest cyborgs, light urban fantasy, or other things. As such, you're allowed to spend, either at start or over the course of the game, something like 8-16 on general archetype abilities, and then, as per your suggestion, the rest on Damage Points.

    With the new Intensity powers rule, this will have a slightly perverse effect that against a PC or their counterparts, an Intensity based attack (say your sleep ray) will soon lose effectiveness completely, as its comparing to the progressively increasing DP.

    Regular damage will also take some hit, but because even JAGS damage has a certain accumulative quality, it'll at least maintain some effect; it'll just take longer to see it.

    (This doesn't mean I think the change in the Intensity rule in Archetypes was a bad one; quite to the contrary. I'm not sure, however, that that the suggestion that treating buying DP as a substitute for other AP purchases is quite as neutral a choice as you suggest it is).

  2. I think something isn't clear here (possibly it's me). In the example you're citing it would be something like this:

    24 AP TOTAL

    Aggressive Build: 12 AP on attack, 12 DP on Defense (which _could_ be all DP but is more likely some combination of DP and Armor or a Force Field or something).

    Standard Build: 8 AP on attack, 12 AP on defense, 4 AP on something else (flight, etc.)

    Low Damage Build: 6 AP on attack, 12 AP on Defense (probably dealing with negative Damage Mods, extra AGI, etc.), Some LD Bonus (extra speed? Extra ADP?). 6 AP elsewhere.

    There is no general mandate that the PCs just have "a lot of DP."

    The attack's Intensity should be calibrated so that it is as effective (statistically) as normal damage types against the _average_ amount of DP its targets are likely to have.

    If a character has many more DP than is average then it'll be less effective against him--but if one of those characters above is heavy on the armor and light on the DP? It'll be very effective against that character.


  3. What I'm talking about is the suggested rule where, when you've reached the top of the other AP based purchases the campaign supports, you be allowed to spend further APs on DPs. Its on page 31 of the 1.7 version document.