Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How do you know when you're done?

What I Am Working On Right Now
I have just about completed my investigation into TAP Generic Archetype Traits (TAP GATs). It seems that for the most part the system does work. Oh, sure, there are margins for error and a few of the combinations came out way off--but (a) those were combos with a lot of stuff crammed into them and (b) we can include those with their tested cost. We'll do that as much as possible.

However, I am more or less convinced: the system works.

What Is Next?
I am going to run the current-thinking test against our list of bio-weapons. I will spot-check the Big List of (Ranged) Attacks ... and I will re-evaluate Size. If all of that checks out? I start putting this stuff into InDesign to build the book.

Of course it's not "all complete." Just having a good list of component abilities for GATs doesn't mean everything is covered (and there are a few things like Success Point Pools that I need to do some more work with). However, that brings us to the question: How do I know when I have the right list of abilities?

What do I even mean by that?

What I Mean
So imagine I'm looking at a finished JAGS Revised Archetypes book (it fell back through a time portal) and I'm playing a Fantasy campaign. Now, I don't have the JAGS Revised Fantasy book--I just have the (big, thick) JAGS Revised Archetypes book--so I'm missing some things, probably. But I think I have enough to go on. After all, it hits almost all the major archetypes in their component pieces doesn't it (I'll have to do something about magic, of course--but I can fake that, I think).

So what are the Fantasy Archetypes? Well, we know they kind of go Fighter, Magician, Healer, Thief. I mean, that's the basic list, innit? When I look at MMPORGS I see the "trinity" of Blaster (ranged), Tank (heavy armor), and DPS (damage per second) as the three "lobes" that someone might have.

I can certainly look at D&D 4th Ed and see that there are also Area of Effect guys as a specific sub-class of, er, 'blaster' and there are Buff Guys (outside of the 'Healer' category) who can give people extra bonuses and "Buff" their friends.

What am I missing?

Well, there's probably the "Intel" guy who can see what's coming, knows where enemies are, and pretty much gives you a strategic advantage in finding or avoiding trouble. I might conclude there are several kinds of "Fighter" such as the:

  • Strength-based fighter
  • Skill Based Fighter
  • Agile/Hard-to-hit fighter (also, probably very quick)
  • The highly-defended fighter (the 'Tank')
I can break down Healer types into things like:
  • Defensive tactics guy (heals in combat in real-time, gives you armor buffs, etc.)
  • Offensive Buff guy (augments your 'front line' in terms of damage or maybe things like movement?)
  • Stops You From Dying guy (prevents really bad outcomes--probably a more minor ability)
If I'm looking at the "Blaster" Type then we see:
  • The 'archer' (mundane ranged attacks for a lot of damage)
  • The street-sweeper (area of effect or explosive attacks--good against multiples)
  • The gun-boat: a long range heavy-hitter who will have a few "capital" attacks in a fight but these are either charge-based or slow to fire. Much of the guy's attacks will be lower powered so they have to be marshaled
  • The Exotic Attacker (lightning, fire, frost attacks--maybe attacks based on specific weaknesses of enemy classes)
Some of these (Exotic Attacker) are likely done with magic rules or Mutant Power rules or something--so okay: they might be a bit out of scope for my "basic list of Generic Archetype Traits" (although there could be something in there like that--nerve strikes? I mean, I don't need the whole list).

So what's that mean I need? Well--let's see. I need:
  • Ways to buy more outright damage, skill, and agility/speed.
  • Ways to buy more armor, DP, ADP and other such defenses
  • Ways to "lend" defensive material to other characters
  • Ways to "lend" offensive material to other characters
  • Ways to hit more than one target (either with ranged attacks or in hand-to-hand). Some kind of "back-swing" or "follow-through" strike?
  • A few exotic attacks that break some of the normal rules
  • Some "power-strike" type things that hit hard (either at range or in close) but have limits on how often they can be used (1x per Round, every other Round? Not on the First Round?)
And, hey: for the most part I've got that (the "lend stuff" is shaky--more on that later).

But then: that's just for Fantasy. What about post-apocalypse? Is it any different?

And then there's modern day. Sure: the combat stuff may all be covered more or less but how about:
  • Face: the guy with all the mad social skills who can talk his way out of or into "anything"?
  • The Inventor: solve a problem--even bizarre ones--with SCIENCE!
  • The Investigator: Find a clue--you're a great detective. Maybe no one can lie to you?
  • The Hunter? The Survivor? The Driver/Pilot--the character has some niche skill-set where they excel
  • The Zero: you have no obvious skills but can help other characters out (similar to the buff-guy above but may apply to non-combat stuff as well and the look-and-feel is different).
And, uhm, etcetera ...

How do I know when I'm done?

What Else Might I Check?
Well, there's clearly a never-ending list--and not all those things need Archetype abilities. Stuff like Level 4 skills or just normal skills and Traits can do up a lot of that. The AP abilities kick in when you need to give the character extra juice and paranormal-level talents. So what do I look at?

Well, one place to go is TV Tropes (warning: Time Sink) and go through the massive list of archetypes there and see what jumps out (note: many of these are how the character fits thematically into the story such as "Strongest Man In The World"--it is possible to be very strong in JAGS but there would be no specific trait to make you 'The Strongest In The World'--if that was your intent you'd work it out with the GM).
  • There's a page of Archetypal Characters. It's not that useful--but it's worth looking at. If you had to make a character like this could you do it? Some of it? Maybe.
  • There's the Five Man Band which is a format/formula for teams that's proven successful again and again
  • There's a list of Stereotypes, which is more about situation (and stuff you'd probably want to avoid) than characters per-se.
However, this shows the type of thinking that we're looking at. How do you make a mad scientist? How do you make a character who's a "chessmaster" and can manipulate other people (can they manipulate the PCs?). Is there a way to make someone who can "predict the outcome of events" and be one-step ahead? Is there a way to play a character who does everything wrong and still comes out ahead?

These aren't easy questions. We're still trying for several, several revisions to incorporate a meaningful Luck trait. We think there are ways to predict what NPCs can do--but not what PCs do--they are by nature unpredictable. As the game will not be 'scripted' in the sense that a story is, I don't think anything could "guarantee you'll come out ahead" but maybe we could have seem traits that drive things in that direction.


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