Thursday, June 23, 2011

New System Up and Running

After some messing around I've gotten the new desktop up and running (installed the simulator and so on). This was harder than it ought to have been because apparently my jar was corrupt or otherwise not throwing an error--but when I replaced it with a "fresh copy" the project built without a hitch.

So where are we?

I have the complete 'basic list' of bio-weapons done. This is a significant accomplishment since it gets me back to roughly where I was before a string of major realizations that 'changed everything' (such as the need for different levels of attacks, that DP are 4 per AP instead of like 2.5, and so on). However, all is not simple.

In JAGS-land? Shocking.

The Problem With Toxins
One of the cooler things we can do with the simulator is introduce Resisted Attacks--in this case Blood Toxins. I've talked about this before but I'm working on it now so I'll bring it up again. A Blood Toxin is a Resisted Attack that is engaged when:

  1. A Penetrating Attack that is 'envenomed' hits and the Armor Save fails (which is to say the "Attack Penetrates")
  2. The target suffers at least 1pt of damage from that attack ("blood is drawn").
When this happens the target immediately makes a Resistance Roll against the Intensity of the Toxin (using their DP as the resisting value) and you get one of five results: Minor Effect, Standard, Major, Critical or Catastrophic.

Because of the way Resisted Rolls work your DP (and this is your total, undamaged DP in all cases--your current condition doesn't factor in) gives you an expectation of defense: you have a lot of DP? You have a good defense roll (and if you have a lot of Armor you have a good Armor Save).

So there are various kinds of Toxins. One kind just does immediate damage: take a Major Effect take 24 pts of additional damage (and roll for effect). This is the simplest. Another kind does continuing damage (take damage each round). Then there are toxins that visit all kinds of effects on you (visibility modifiers, wound effects like Dazed or Stunned, or Unconscious) and so on.

So Nerve Toxin, about the worst thing I'd ever throw at anyone, has a Minor Effect of Dazed and then goes Dead, Dead, Dead, Dead. Now, this is pretty absurd--but I created it to prove a point. That point is: Assuming the simulator is working correctly--and I can find nothing wrong with it when analyzing battles--it appears that nerve-toxin armed weapons are not all that good.

What the hell? It's like: you suffer PEN, you take 1 point of damage, and then it's Roll-Or-Die.

Oh, and that's with a pretty darn high Intensity (30 per 8 AP in the attack).

What Is Going On With That!?
The upshot is this: given the construction of The Herd (lots of armor when they have armor, and everyone has extra DP) the odds of an Armor Save failing combined with anything but a Minimal Effect on the Poison Save are just not that good. The poison--the nerve toxin--makes a hell of a difference but only in one out of every fights.

In other words, it isn't statistically significant. Most of the time.

So ... What?
Well, this is a pattern we've been seeing, remember: The Herd is a very specific kind of construct--they're over defended (about 66% Defense), everyone has some extra DP, and when they buy into a FULL defense (be it armor or DP) they buy in heavily (the FULL Armor Herd members have half their points spent on Armor).

This is a profile that really works against Blood Toxins--but is not necessarily a winner across all spectra. 

So what do we do? Well, I said this last post: manual modification combined with some extra testing.

See, let's say you're playing a mutant with Lion Fish Spines (a Damage Field at Short Reach that carries a venom): in the simulator only 1/4th of the Herd will ever encounter that--the guys with Sword hit at Medium Reach, Gun and Blaster are Long Range, and only Punch will suffer your attack (granted: your punches will carry the venom--but we've proved that isn't all that effective).

Combine this with the fact that you have both a "normal attack" (punch) and an exotic attack--so your punch is down 1/3rd the points it'd otherwise be (if you are a 24 AP character with a 50/50 split, you could have a 12 AP punch--but instead you have an 8 AP punch and 4 AP in "8 AP worth" of venomous spines).

You are not optimized for, say, a post-apocalypse game where you'll routinely face blasters, guns, and HTH weapons with more reach than your fists.

In this world--which the simulator represents fairly well ... half the attacks are ranged--your toxic spines get to be pretty damn kick-ass before they start making much difference.

But what if you're that guy in a Chi Martial Arts game?

Think Street Fighter + Toxic Spines
In this genre everyone punches. Sure, they have Chi Bolts--but even if everyone has one they don't throw them every Round. Secondly almost no one has armor (sure, there may be Armor-like-effects floating around--but that's not the standard). So in this case the toxic avenger is optimized.

What do I do?

What do I do? I don't want to optimize the game for fantasy and Have-Not and have it fall apart when you play Chi. I think it's a no-brainer to have the GM say that "Damage Fields" cost more in a Chi game than otherwise--and maybe even have a rule ... but that's ugly.

Here's what I am doing: I am manually adjusting a bunch of things to mitigate the simulator world against the worlds we know exists. To wit:
  • Every Periodic Attack with a L1 damage of more than 25 pts gets its damage above 25 divided by 3. Each L+ greater than 12 gets its damage above 12 divided by 2. This produces numbers that look far safer.
  • Toxins are going to be calibrated against characters with fairly heavy investments in primary defenses but without the DP the Herd has. So that means the Intensity of the attacks--especially for something horrific like Neuro Toxin will have their Intensity reduced pretty severely (instead of 30 Intensity for 8 AP something like Neuro Toxin that wasn't deadly--say you replace Dead with Asleep would likely get an Intensity of 12 per 8 AP).
Note: this will make designs like The Herd very effective against toxic weapons and it'll make Monster Designs (where they combine Periodic Attacks with a bunch of Standard attacks) less effective if the Monster is the same points as the 1-on-1 character it is fighting. Both of these are trade-offs I feel are actually good for the game. 

I've little sympathy for toxic-weapons and monsters will often be built as bosses. If they are not, and the GM needs them to be 1:1 balanced against the PCs, the reductions I am making will still provide the kind of play we usually see (and want to see). In our real life games few battles have the PCs facing a 50/50 chance of death.



  1. Quick, off-topic question: is JAGS Revised licensed under current GNU FDL? I only ask because on your site you mention that JAGS2 is under an FDL, but you don't say anything about JAGS Revised.


  2. The answer is that only JAGS-2 is under the FDL. JAGS Revised isn't. If someone wants to /license/ JAGS Revised that is possible--but it would require permission and would not necessarily be free (especially if they were doing it for a commercial project).