Thursday, October 7, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

So I've been hard-core testing energy attacks. This is going to be a lengthy process and my attempts to streamline it haven't born the fruit I was hoping for. I have also hit some philosophical questions that I'm thinking through. Let's take a look.

The Basic Shape Of Things
Right now it seems to me that there are a few basic "types" of attacks. At the highest level is the Impact/Penetration (kinetic blast vs. bullet) split. Now a lot things like Disintegration Beams (PEN, Ignores Armor, Extra Damage on a Hit by 4+) fall under the PEN area that are complex.

Under Impact are the standard things (Fire and Electricity are Impact, so will be Freeze Ray).

One Level Down From IMP/PEN: Major Attack Categories
So right: under the big headings I have what I'm considering "different types of damage." So Electrical Damage is 'just like' IMP damage but CON rolls are at -1 (and possibly -2 for some attacks) and it may ignore a bit of armor (mostly "metal armor" but that's a specification the game doesn't track especially well so it might just be "X-Amount" of armor). Burn/Fire Damage (which could also be acid in other context) will hit for X-amount of damage and the burn next round for X-amount again (or, possibly Y amount). Right now, for simplicity's sake (for our human players) Burn Damage only burns (generally) for 1 Round. But I could see a "napalm attack" that burns longer.

So, stuff like that.

So right now there are around five or six 'Major Attack Categories.' These include (for IMP):

  1. Power Blast. The basic ranged IMP attack.
  2. Burn. The attack hits and then burns the next round.
  3. Electrical. The attack gives negatives to CON rolls. Usually -1. May ignore some armor.
  4. Sonic/Vibratory Attack. Like Power Blast but double damage to inanimate and undead targets.
  5. Freeze Attack. A hit by 4+ will reduce REA and Init (a good effect actually 'freezing' the target for a while)
  6. Rad-Pulse. A hit for damage will inflict a "sickness" effect.
  7. Quantum Beam: Ignores armor.
There might be a few more kicking around (Venom Bolt: if 1pt of damage gets through there is a venom effect), Flash-Bang (a hit will inflict a disorienting/blinding effect), etc.

Down From That: Delivery Type
So for each of these there's a big list of "Delivery Types." Can it be fired  only once a round? Charge Up? Cool Down? Is it 8 REA or 5? Is it a Long Action? Does it have an explosive effect? Area of Effect? Cone Effect? Beam Effect? Auto-Fire? Damage Field (Long, Med, and Short) Some combination of those (8 REA Long Action, Every Other Round?). And so on.

This sort of creates a grid of let's say 7 basic attack types x 10 Delivery Types. That's 70 attack powers. If I combine Delivery Types (as some attacks might) then I would get a 3D grid of 7x10x10  (or so): that's 700 attack types.

But Can't I Just Figure Out What Damage Field (Long) is 'Worth' And Apply That Mathematically?
Maybe. I'd certainly thought so. Unfortunately the simulator says "maybe not." I'm trying to get a good handle on what these abilities are worth mathematically and how they apply and I'm not having a lot of luck. I plan to post my theory on this today or tomorrow as time permits however. 

Certainly there are powerful trends in the data. 1 ROF Charge Up looks like this:

As you can see (Factor is Standard/Charge Damage) the increase is certainly close, but not identical. Is it close enough? For everything? I'm not sure. I'm working on that. If the POV variance for using an average of around .28 is workable then I'll go with it. But it would mean players have to do fractional math--something I am not happy with.

Worse: I will have to prove how these things work together: something I'm really not clear on. That is, if I take Charge Up, 1 ROF and combine it with Costs 8 REA To Fire do I multiply or add Factors? Does that give me the correct number in terms of POV when I test it (Percent chance of Victory)? 

The Other Philosophical Question
The other issue for me is that I want a power  called Sonic Scream (amongst a whole lot of others). It would be a Sonic Attack, 8 REA Action, with a 1 Round Cool Down. That's a reasonably unique combination of powers that I might not do for everything.

If I have a single "power block" for Sonic Attack I can add Sonic Scream in at the bottom--but what I really want is a billion stand-alone powers like Quantum Bolt or Pulse Beam or Breathe Frost (as opposed to Freeze Ray, which would both be the same Frost Attack but with different delivery systems). 

One of the reasons we moved from Hero to GURPS was because we felt GURPS was better at providing specific cool names for things. We liked that. It was enough less generic that it sold us. 

I really don't want to call powers Power Blast + Beam Effect + 8 REA To Fire. I'd rather call it ... Ion Beam and then describe it (and if you don't want "Ions", that's fine--you can define it as Magic Unicorn Blast if you want--and we'll talk about that--but I feel the play experience is helped a lot by having a shopping list with Ion Beam on it ...).

My original graphic could've used more examples. Here's a bigger spread showing what the numbers come out like. Factor is Standard Attack Damage / Delivery System Damage. As you can see, there are trends but it's not exactly even. IGNORE the Damage column. That's Damage for the Blast (and not for any of the others).

As you can see Medium Reach Damage Field has a pretty big variance. Cool Down is dead even for Burn and electrical which is great but comes out low for standard blast ...



  1. Hi Marco,
    I realize this probably isn't the place for this, but I haven't been able to find any other contact or otherwise information on my question.

    I'm interested in buying a physical copy of the JAGS Wonderland books, and seem to remember selling them. They don't now, apparently, just the pdf versions with covers.

    Is there any plan to begin producing the physical copies again, or anywhere I could get a copy on the internet?

    I can be reached at
    Thank you!

  2. This is a great place to ask anything about JAGS. The books should still be there--I'll have to check and see later, when I get a chance.


  3. You should be able to get them here:

    These should be the print versions ...


  4. Just a comment about fire/acid: you'll definitely need a procedure for multiple rounds of ongoing burn for any game that uses modern flame weapons; they pretty much _all_ last for what would be multiple rounds in JAGS terms.

  5. We can easily (in both the simulator and the game) give the burn a number of rounds. The problem with it isn't the mathematics of it, it's the difficulty of handling it during play.

    Having multiple burn attacks means:
    1. Keeping track of this for multiple opponents (especially in flame-thrower style attacks where many people may be hit by one shot)

    2. Tracking the number of rounds that each one has to act (and having rules for "refreshing" attacks.

    3. Determining what happens if a character has "multiple burns going." The most complex (and probably logical) is that the character has several burn attacks that all hit at once when the "burn happens." Again, this is complex.

    4. Determining when it goes out. This sounds simple but it could be complex. What if it just burns "forever" or "until it's put out?" If the character stops, drops, and rolls what happens: is there a roll? Does it just go out? It's different for normal fire, napalm, and acid. So we'd want rules for all of that.

    Now, as it turns out, we kind of have a lot of that.

    The original JAGS actually had rules for determining if a flame blast set something on fire (if that was a PC you'd actually analyze clothes and gear and stuff). There were rolls each turn for it getting worse, spreading, or going out.

    We could bring that back (and expand it for acid and the like). Our observation was that there were a LOT of flame attack situations where we didn't want to play with that (super heroes) and so, when I was thinking about JAGS Revised, I left that out for the time being.

    Now that we can actually simulate of that (we could have the simulator characters try to put out a fire) we can determine the mathematical value of the attack.

    But it's much, much harder to determine the play value and the diminishing returns of having all those (intimidating) rules in the book (not to mention the extra cost-per-page).