Friday, July 22, 2011

Out here at Comic Con

So I'm out here in San Diego at Comic Con wich is a terrible place to get JAGS work done--but I'm still thinking on it. As I've started writing the "official" documents for rules a few things have come up.

  1. Thomas points out that for characters with a huge list of attacks even a 1/3rd the charge reduction may not be enough. That's true.
  2. A potential solution to the Armed / Unarmed STR issue (that, if you are going to use a bladed weapon that makes your HTH damage all Penetrating each point of STR is worth more than if it just does bare-handed Impact damage) is to simply count up your A-Cost in HTH damage and then apply that to the weapon (AP claws? HTH Disintegration Attack? A sword? Etc.). This is simple and elegant--but it has a potential problem as well. We'll see.
Let's look in a little more detail before I run out to the convention center for more interviews.

Many Attacks
We've done some testing and, in fact, having a ranged attack and a HTH attack at the same level is only slightly better than having one or the other. About 1% since it only applies in the simulator to, at most, one attack. In many battles (when the attacker is ranged) it doesn't apply at all: you just stand there firing your ranged attacks at each other.

So, in fact, charging 1 AP for a similar attack might make sense (for people just joining in: if you have super strength and want "heat vision", assuming both attacks just do IMP damage and nothing special like ignoring armor, then it turns out that if you paid for one, getting the other 'at the same level' probably shouldn't cost all that much).

Now, right now the rule is that we give you a 1/3rd cost discount--but what if we went back to the original plan: you can get another "basic attack" for 1 AP?

Well, the difficulty here is this: how do you define a "basic attack?" I mean there are some simple parameters (it should have a rate of fire for 1 shot for 5 REA ... or, you know, maybe 6 like a kick? It shouldn't do Resisted Attack effects, continuing damage, ignoring armor, and so on). But what about +1 to hit large weapon bonus? What about rifle-range vs. handgun range? What if the attack cost 7 REA? What if it cost 3 REA?

The rule itself isn't that complex but the parameters around it are. Also, worse, the magician or super-hero archer guy not only have "a lot of attacks" but often their attacks are pretty exotic. The guy has a "blast attack" but then can follow it up with an "acid burn attack" or armor piercing or "sonic devastator" or "area of effect" or "only hits enemies" or whatever.

The problem is that if we make these super cheap then we'll tend to see a /lot/ of that. If you can get an "Ignores armor" shot for +1 AP then who wouldn't. So our original solution was to designate a lot of that E - for Exotic and not give the discount.

Do we go back to that? Or is there something else we can do?

The problem is that of tagging each attack type (we had Standard, Periodic, and Exotic) and then having rules around that. It was complex and "heavy weight" and moving away from that screws some characters at the expense of simplicity.

What's the right call?

A-Cost Weapon Calculations
On the other end of the spectrum, if you have super strength (for example) and claws we determined you could just add up the A-Cost for both attacks, apply it to the 'weapon' (claws) and voila! You get your damage. It's easy.

This works and makes the A-Cost calculation do the "heavy lifting." It's even elegant.

So all we have to do is say "this is a 'weapon' and if you have it and extra Base Damage--whether from size, strength, or some other effect (Chi Power Field?)--you apply full A-Cost to that and that's what you hit for."

But there's a problem: what if my Super Strength itself has an enhancement or defect on it? What if it takes me 10 REA to "power up" my Super Strength? Then I'll hit harder than I would if I always had the super strength--and therefore my sword-hand strike should do more damage. But that's not so easy to calculate.

The basic equation is "take your Base Damage and add your weapon damage and the damage is of the weapon-type." That's basic but if your weapon is something outrageous (Disintegration punch) and, say, each point of damage costs an absurdly high 2 AP--and then you add 20pts of damage for 4 AP from charge-up super strength you are effectively getting disintegration punch damage very, very cheaply.

We don't want to encourage that loop-hole ... so what do we do?

Well, one thing is this: if you're doing that it's some decimal math but you can, in fact, divide your charge-up STR damage by the disintegration punch cost per-pt-of-damage and make it all come out balanced. No one will want to do that--but it's possible. Writing the rules for that will be a bitch and expecting people to actually do it may be naive.

Another thing to do is just not allow that kind of stacking: if you have an attack (a weapon) like the hypothetical "disintegration punch" then we can say "sorry--it does NOT stack with your strength ... even if it sounds like it should." Or even: "Sure it does--but using the A-Cost calculation--so if your strength is 'charge up STR' you don't get any bonus for that when figuring out your D-Punch damage" (I'm sure I've lost readers here--the only way to explain this clearly would be some examples I don't have time to write).

But the up-shot is that there are all kinds of complex interactions here we need to track and figuring out which ones deserve our time and effort isn't trivial.



  1. So if you're at the point of starting to write the book itself, you must be a good way along. This is exciting.

  2. There's no question this is a sticky design problem. I only see really two useful approaches to it, unless you're going to throw up your hands and use a one-size-fits-all solution:

    1. Do a category breakdown, and have multiple attacks within one category cost only 1 (or maybe one-sixth if you want to keep some relationship to the base cost);

    2. Simply define the two costs, and give the GM guidance about when to use which. This is honestly the more practical approach, since this is one of those areas where the context of the whole character probably needs to be looked at (this is especially true with heavily archetype/power oriented types of characters; what a ranged attack should be worth can turn considerably on the mobility of the character in settings where mobility has a wide range of possibility).