Friday, January 7, 2011

Attack Profiles

So one of the things that we believe should be true about JAGS is that you only pay full points for your most powerful attack. Subsequent attacks cost, right now, just 1 AP (under some circumstances).

How come?

Well, I've covered this before--but consider one of those "archer" super hero characters with a zillion different types of arrows. If each arrow is a "reasonable power-level for the campaign" attack for, say, 16 AP, then if he has three different types (Explosive, Armor Piercing, and Normal Damage) then he has spent 48 AP on attacks. If his cohort just sank 48 AP--the same amount--into Strength he'll hit 3x as hard ... and just as often. The utility of the different arrows doesn't make up for the difference.

This is also true for the guy who's super-strong but has laser vision: although laser-vision is nice (it hits at range) it isn't worth 2x the investment in attacks.

Finally, having a half-price attack laying around--like the guy who pays for a blaster rifle and then also wants a weaker blaster pistol--isn't worth anything extra if you can't somehow use "both at once" (which most characters can't).

So clearly having additional attacks isn't high on the utility list.

But there are circumstances where it is worth more. Consider this one:

A dragon has claw and bite attacks but, after charging it up, can, a few times a battle, fire a powerful fire-blast. The dragon fights "at level"--that is, his claw and bite attacks are not less powerful than one would expect for a character of his AP level. He might have 40-50% of his AP invested in them. But on top of that is the flame blast.

Now, the flame blast only goes off once in a while and takes time to charge up. It might have limited shots each day. So this attack hits quite a bit harder than its AP cost would imply (if an attack that hits twice a Round every Round does 14 IMP, the flame blast that takes a round to charge and is then only active on a 9- roll might hit for 30 or 40 IMP).

The problem is that the flame blast isn't worth +1 AP. It's worth, according to our testing, a lot more. Like maybe +12 AP if the other attack is 32 AP.

So what do we do?

The Simple Solution
The most simple solution is that you only get the +1 AP extra-attack rule when the attacks all have the same Profile (REA Cost, Rate of Fire, number of shots, activation roll, etc.). This is a bit complex to spell out but its easy to grasp: if all the arrows have the same profile you get extra arrows for 1 AP. If Super Strength and Laser Vision have the same profile (range and IMP vs. PEN damage is not part of that profile) then, again, the laser vision is +1 AP. Finally the rifle and the hand gun, again, have the same profile so you can get the handgun for 1 AP (or, maybe, even 0 AP--there is no compelling reason everyone who pays for a rifle shouldn't, if they want, have a handgun)..

The More Complex Solution
However, there are still some less-than-satisfying elements to this. The first is this: consider the fire-elemental guy. He has like 4 different flame attacks with different profiles. Sure, it's worth more than X AP +3 AP but it's not worth 4X. Not nearly. So what do we do about him? We don't want to screw him.

Secondly there's the dragon: we want characters--especially monsters and bosses to have attacks that change what they do in combat over the course of several Rounds. This greatly increases the flavor of combat and is just a net-positive all around. So what do we do?

Well, one possibility is that we give each attack a "Profile rating" and then you can spend some amount of points to get a secondary or tertiary attack based on the difference in Profile. That's the best solution--but I'm not sure how to implement that right now. I'm looking at our data sets to see if any groupings jump out at me.

Another possibly is just that for X AP in your main attack you can get another X AP attack of any profile for, say, 1/3rd X Points (and the exact same profile for 1 AP). This could have some abuses but on the whole it seems reasonable. I think the worst this will do is over-charge someone with attacks that have "almost the same" profile--I can live with that in the name of simplicity.

The Pertinent Question
The thing that brought this up was a question about Stretching: is striking and grappling the "same profile" or not? A pure-stretching character will doubtless take Jujitsu and be the neck-breaker since thats how he converts his awesome grapple-score to actual damage (or he'll just use Holds to tie people up--but that's not the optimal strategy if you need to get rid of opponents).

On the other hand, Grapple Score can act as sort of a "Damage Multiplier" if you use a Mount Attack approach where you disable your opponent somewhat and then beat the tar out of them. It takes longer--but it's pretty effective. So if I grant Grant = Strike for +1 AP I am really helping people with the Mount Approach.

As I said, I'm not sure which the right answer is. I lean towards the idea that Grapple is close to the same Profile as Mount--but not exactly the same. So instead of being +1 AP or +1/3rd AP it might be 1/5th AP invested in Grapple gives equal points invested in Strike.

The good news is that on a case by case basis we can kind of test this (the grapple question is a harder test than it might be). For the flame-control guy we can actually test groups of attacks and see (according to the simulator) how they impact effectiveness--and get the cost right.

But there are going to be gray areas.



  1. I just have to note that what you've essentially run into is the problem Hero ran into with Multipowers in the first edition or two of Champions: if you based multipower slots on real cost rather than active cost (that is to say, after things that reduced its actual cost) you ran into problems with people taking multipower slots that that would be painful by themselves, but as part of a multipower were pretty painless, because their cost was low enough and alternate powers were common enough to avoid that.

    I'm not saying you're going to have to come up with some equivalent to Active Cost (but you might), but you certainly are going to have to do something about how the cost of powers with use limiting problems interact with extra powers that don't have those.

  2. This is correct and the utility of the multi-power (and the EC) aren't lost on us. I'll say more about this later.