Wednesday, August 17, 2011


What's Going On Now?
I have finished the GAT section of the book for the "Basic Combat GATs." This is the Word document that will be converted to InDesign. I'll post it after a little more polishing (who knows what Blogger will do with it) but it's no small accomplishment (says I).

For one thing, I have gotten far more serious about doing initial formatting in Word. I was doing all the heavy lifting in InDesign but as InDeisgn is so bad for editing the result was that I'd write and edit in Word, move to InDesign, re-do everything, and then have a book that was pretty much un-edited by the time we were publishing it. Although the books look decent (says I). So, there's that.

Now I have done some of the layout (Table color, getting things into two columns and figuring that out up front, and some decisions about font-size) in Word and I'm hoping it'll import nicely to InDesign. If not? I'll get my for-real editor buddy to take a hack at it.

But what I've also done that I'm proud of is really improved the thinking about organization and presentation. The JArch1.7 document isn't as bad as it maybe could be--but although I'd worked my ass off on it, going back through it, it just isn't even close to what it needs to be.

This cut of the rules is, I think, much, much closer to my ideal. Things are explained up front. There is far stronger "connective tissue" around many of the areas that need it, and I've included sections like "this is the various kinds of bonuses you could get actually mean" before listing them. Stuff like that.

It's much stronger--and for an effort this complex, it has to be.

What About Buffs?
Buffs are (combat) bonuses that one character gives another. In MMOs it's like the "healer" character who repairs other's damage but sure isn't a front-line fighter. In D&D 4ed some characters could grant special movement powers and such to others. When done well it creates the third part of the triangle (Tank-DPS-??) that is part of the basic strategy of integrated-combat-team thinking (Note: I'm not the expert on this--and there are other key roles as well--but the point is that people like Buff characters and they can play a good role in "team-style" games).

How Are Buffs Used In JAGS?
This is the big question. We've identified a category of game we're calling the "Adventure Game" which is a D&D/World of Warcraft style play where we presume the PCs are balanced, each has a role to play, and they are aggressively hunting treasure and getting in fights. Everything is carefully tracked and balanced so a PC team has a certain defined strength and they should face adversaries keyed to that level (and get appropriate treasure).

This is a lot of work for the GM--but we're doing it right now and it's a blast (the "Holy Grail" of this, for me, is to combine that sort of play with characters and dramatic situations I, the player, care about so I can get sort of a "double hit" of enjoyment from doing old-school dungeon-crawls and having a rich enough system to support a lot of non-combat stuff too. Honestly D&D 3rd does this, IMO, pretty well too. GURPS: not so much).

We "have" Buffs in that game but no one took them--and they weren't "modernized" (we are playing "above" the published JArch 1.7 so the stuff in there would be suspect).

So what do I think they 'should' do?

In The Book ...
In the book buffs do things like "add to your side's Init" or damage, or CON rolls, or some of both. In the near future they will have Success Point Pools that will be lent as well. This sort of thing raises three questions:

  1. How much more is +1 Initiative (or +2 CON or +1 Base Damage) worth when you can use it for yourself or lend it to someone? Clearly "a little bit more" than if it's just you--but how much? This is one of the things the Simulator is bad at answering because the initial set-up conditions are what determine the answer (we know how much +1 Init or +2 CON or +1 Base Damage is worth by themselves).
  2. What is the "role" of Buff-characters across the board? In Adventure Games or elsewhere?
  3. Mathematically it is proper to only take the highest positive modifier for a roll-enhancer (If I have Cyber-Heart for +2 CON and someone gives me a +1 CON Buff, it should have no-effect rather than giving me +3 CON). This, however, is boring--so we have to choose between letting it happen and risking characters doing extreme things (+8 CON! I'm INVINCIBLE) or forcing the Buff character to face that their bonuses may not work for all PCs (but we can give them some options, right? And Success Points are always welcome!)
The second question hinges on whether we want groups to "Really want" Buff characters or not. In D&D4th Ed you really wanted Area of Effect characters because of Minions. Minions were foes that did a lot of damage but had just 1 Hit Point--so if you were facing a lot of them (and you would be) you'd need to get rid of them quickly. With one-attack-at-a-time that was slow and dangerous. With an AoE guy, though, "Poof!" (literally: that guy was probably a wizard).

This is a different tactical question but the point remains: should we factor difficulty levels so that we expect individuals to have Buffs or not? If we do we ensure the role is always well received and that a person who wants to do that always has a space to play in.

If we don't we run the risk that these are either "too good" when someone stocks up on them or else that you don't really need them and that role is extraneous.

I Think ...
I think right now that having several Buff-powers in the rules is a good idea and we should sort of meet the above question half-way. Being able to lend value to people should be relatively cheap for things that get expended quickly and should have some substantial expense where it's a constant positive modifier. I'd also like to see if we can, in our current game, figure out what would happen if we added a 5th character with Buff-style stuff to our group: how much would that enhance us vs. adding another "fighter type."


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