Friday, May 20, 2011

How To Win ...

What I'm Working On Right Now
I'm testing various combinations of Generic Archetype Abilities that use Total AP Cost as their metric for pricing (as I've noted: they are a % of your Total AP or TAP). Each TAP GAT has a % cost expressed as a decimal number like .21. To find out how many AP's you'd pay you'd look at the chart--but if you were doing the math in your head, you would multiply the Cost Mult x Total AP (so if you are a 32 AP character buying a .21 Cost Mult GAT the cost is .21 * 32 = 6.72 = 7 AP).

Right now, if you get several of these for your character you just add them up and go with the cost. However, close testing indicates that when you have more than one of these and you "just add the points up" the empirical (tested) cost of the group is off by some number. The rules seem to be:

  • The more TAP attributes you combine the greater the deviance from what the estimated cost would be.
  • If you combine some of the really expensive ones (like -8 Damage Modifier or +8 REA) then your chances of being off are much greater and by much more
  • On average you are over-paying ... but in a few cases you under-pay by quite a bit (but over-paying is much more common).
What Am I Going To Do About This?
Well firstly, I'm going to test all the combo-packages that we're listing and include them in the book at their tested point values. 

Secondly I'm going to allow players to buy "a la carte" from a chart "in the back" (I don't know where the raw data will go--probably in the back of some section) if they want with a note saying "you might be over-paying." The GM will have discretion to audit that.

Thirdly: this won't solve the problem of combining packages which should still cause the points to be off--BUT the amount of deviance is pretty small. If I use all the tested packages thus far (27 of them) and I leave in the outliers then the deviation is that the character over-pays by 1 AP, 3 AP, or 4 AP base on their point cost of 16 AP, 32 AP, or 64 AP. That isn't bad at all. In fact, I'd just plain not care even a little if the outliers where problematic (in some cases overpaying by 15 AP in other cases under-paying by 6 AP).

So I'm going to continue with the testing (there are about 10-20 more to do, I think) and we'll put those in the book with the theory that even if the characters come out a little off it won't matter.

How To Win A Battle In JAGS
Having looked at a lot of combats I've wanted to talk about the way that battles are won or lost. Here's how it looks to me (All of these are presumed against a "balanced" opponent).
  1. Kill Them Quicker: If you can deal enough damage to kill an opponent quickly then you can kill your opponent before they can kill you. In this model you take a lot of damage when they do hit you (and they will--one shot kills are rare)--but you hit a lot harder. This is a model I've seen in a lot of games but especially GURPS where it was hard to absorb damage no matter who you were. Battles in this model will be short and fast, usually one or two Rounds.
  2. Out Last Them: If you have a lot of Armor and DP you can absorb damage pretty well and out-last your opponent. In this model you might or might not take a lot of damage depending on how your defenses are structured (Armor or Force Field will tend to result in less damaged characters than a ton of DP). The battles will tend to be long at four or more rounds.
  3. Get Lucky: In JAGS you can do catastrophic damage if you get lucky with a PEN attack. A really good hit and a blown armor-save will often result in a game-winning hit that could come at any time. There are a few ways to maximize your chances of this (Vital Strike, extra skill, Armor Piercing weapons) but mostly it's a matter of luck.
What Does This Mean?
There are a few learnings from this. The big one is that some abilities radically change the profile of the target. For example, Force Field pretty much prevents PEN attacks from Penetrating. If you match that against a Type-3 character you will win. On the other hand, Force Field degrades so if you are against a #1 type character you are in trouble.

Mixing defenses was a bad idea until we improved DP totals and now it's one of the best. Being "balanced" actually pays off in the current model. On the other hand, if you have everything invested in a defense you often wind up getting an advantage in some battles (Full Armor is now often the worst defense--but against lesser attackers it is so much better than anything else it's not funny).

This is exactly what I'd hope for.

ALSO: I left out cheap-shots. Some attacks (Resisted Attacks, Armor-Ignoring Attacks) can radically change how a target responds (armor-ignoring bullets are great against the full-armor guys even if regular bullets aren't). Our costing for cheap-shots needs to reflect this. The fact that DP and ADP will both help against these attacks is a big saving grace. It means that PCs with a good component of Damage Points won't be walking around fearing one shot from an exotic weapon.


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