Saturday, October 16, 2010

Grapple Powers

One of the more interesting questions that's plaguing our revision of the grappling system is this: how much "grapple" should primarily grappling powers give you. Some examples are:

  • Stretching -- the premier "you grapple really well" ability.
  • Tentacles -- want to grapple someone? Go Cthulhu on their ass.
  • Telekinesis -- mostly you'll pound people with force bolts--but why not pick them up and shake them?
  • Pressure Beam -- nail someone with it and you can pin them to a wall.
  • Tangle attacks -- like a 'glue gun.'
So here's the question: if Super Strength (+13 STR at L1, +10 for each L thereafter--remember Levels are 8 AP) gives you Strength and Damage then how much should 8 AP (L1) of stretching give you?

Now, let's get out of the way that Stretching will also give you things like movement forms, ability to get around obstacles, and stuff like that. Stretching will also give you, probably, some defense against physical force and a lot against, like, being dropped off a building.

Take all of that away: assume it costs--all the extra, that is--X AP's. Now: you just spent 'X'. That's gone. As part of buying Stretching you also spent 8 APs on just grappling well.

How good are you?

The obvious answer is "something like 2x better than STR." That would make "some sense." Since grapple doesn't directly do damage and STR gives damage and grapple, the character with just grapple should get MORE GRAPPLE. A lot more.

But when you look closer, that's not the whole story.

Grapple is a Damage Delivery System
Grapple doesn't exist for its own sake. In the current PDF you can score "A Pin" which completely immobilizes the target and ends the fight. Currently we are not allowing most combats to go that far. The maximal "hold" you can get on someone in a combat round will be really severe but will still allow them to strike at you--if feebly (we have reasons for this I've touched on and will go into more later).

So if you are not aiming for "a pin" what are you doing when grappling? There are a few basic strategies.
  1. Damage-dealing grappling moves (like Throw or Arm-Lock). 
  2. Holding someone while your friend pounds him (we can simulate this--but there isn't much need: this maneuver boils down to how well you can immobilize the target over say 4 rounds--the average length of a combat).
  3. Ground and Pound: This one matters. You take them down and apply a Mount. Then you pound them. Mounts put the target at a disadvantage and make the person applying the mount hit significantly better.
  4. Hold. This applies to #2. It also matters. You tie them up really well and their ability to hurt you, while not zero, is limited enough that the battle might take, oh, 6+ rounds for them to wear you down. If you can do this reliably, another character who is free to strike and can "strike into the grapple" will be able to really hurt them. A Hold is "like a mount" but instead of letting the holder hit the hold-ee better (the holder actually hits worse than he would standing up) the holder is even better protected from the holdee. 
Two Asides Before We Continue
There are two really important things that deserve their own post (and which I've discussed before). I want to call them out here for a moment.
  • Super Strength appears to get Grapple "for free." If guy A buys Super Strength for 8 AP and guy B gets a plasma blast for 8 AP, it would seem that either Guy A (who has both punch and Grapple) is getting a better deal than guy B, who just has the damage. We have a rule I'll go into later that somewhat mitigates this. For now, just understand, that when it comes to grappling, guy B--the plasma blaster--can use his plasma blast to fight off the Super Strength guy somewhat.
  • [something that's very important but it's 2:00 AM here and I can't recall right now. It was imporant though. I'm sure it'll come up again.]
So How Much Grapple For The Buck (AP)?
Well, here's the deal: Because grappling is a method of delivering damage (specifically the Mount if you're 1-on-1, but the Hold if you are 2 or more on 1) then making a stretching character utterly dominate a target isn't good for the game. We want the grapple strategy (Hold and Pound) to be viable--even 'very effective'--but not 'so dominant that you can't go wrong with it.'

It isn't "easy" to hold someone you're even with--but it isn't as hard as getting a good Mount either (Hold is easier). When we are dealing with things like nets or glue guns that apply a "Hold" style effect with a single shot, it becomes even more severe (also true for tentacles). If I have a buddy who, for half the points you invested in dealing damage, can isolate you out of the fight, then my position becomes hugely improved.

Too much so, our math says.

On the other hand, we need to encourage people who buy grappling-style powers to some degree. It doesn't make sense to have someone spend a lot of points on Stretching, a viable power which, generally, isn't seen as abusive, and not be able to grapple a semi-strong guy. 

So we ran the numbers with some test spreadsheets. Number we're looking at right now is :1.7x the amount you get for STR alone.

A .7 increase is enough to be pretty dominant but, even at the higher, more extreme levels of spend, it doesn't make the character so dominant that they can move without fail to the highest levels of grappling. It makes it worth it to have pure-grapple spend--but not a degenerate strategy.

NOTE: 1.7 is for stretching. If I am stretching and wrapped around you, when you hit back, you hit me. Ouch. If the attack is, like, a glue gun--where breaking out doesn't hurt me at all--then the multiplier is likely much lower.


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