Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Quick Note On Gear ...

What I Am Doing Right Now
I have sent drafts of an almost-complete Chapter 1 to several other people to read and review (not exactly "edit" but at least look over). I am working on the MS Word version of the GATs chapter. It's coming together pretty well.

What Else?
Growing up we played a lot of Champions. In 1983 we got AutoDuel Champions which was, to be frank, a pretty damn weird game. It was a mix of the Champions rules and the Car Wars world or, erm, something. Anyway: you used Champions-like "normal guys"? And played with armed and armored cars and could use the CarWars tiles.

It was a lot to swallow--but it started something very key: it started us playing normal-type guys in Champions. The system wasn't really good for this ... and the games were weird: I recall us driving weaponized cars in modern day out in the desert as some kind of A-Team like road-warrior crew involved with a phantasmagoric government research project gone wrong. This was like our freshman year of high school and it was weird. But anyway.

When Danger International came out it did things with the Champions system and modern-day mercenaries, spies, and private--and so on--much better. It had rules for all kinds of guns, had marital arts that were colorful and not just a damage modifier, and still used the full richness of the system.

This is what defined my thinking about gear: in Champions, you paid for all your gear with character points.

In Danger International, you bought gear with in-game money.

If the question was asked: do we pay for gear? The answer was: "Are we playing DI or Champions?" Frequently it was, like, a mix--and we defaulted to DI: we didn't pay for gear--but most gear was subordinate to super powers anyway so that wasn't a big deal.

Then we moved to GURPS.

In GURPS the question was much harder because there was no way to "stat out" most gear. Oh, you kinda could. They had rules for blasters and stuff--but in the end you just kinda declared something to be "gear" and that was that. Worse: in GURPS weapons often did as much or more damage than super powers (and no one could really take a hit in GURPS 3rd to begin with) and so we were kinda at a loss when it came to making these decisions.

I want to stop for a moment and talk about DC Supers for a second. I remember that set of rules trying to stat out a spoon. I'm intrigued to this day by a rules-set that could stat out a spoon ... the DC Supers game didn't, frankly, do a very good job of it. I think it's more telling that, at a certain point in the inimitable Ambush Bug adventure module, the PCs have to build a Time Machine.

The GM reads them a massive wall of text about how to use the DC gear system to create this thing. It's so complex that even being told exactly how to do it the characters are far more likely to sell magazines door-to-door to get "points" to cash in for a time machine than be able to navigate the rules (the module authors note that with Batman's charisma he can sell all the magazine subscriptions he needs to with one roll).

My point is that gear rules aren't simple and you can easily go wrong with them. Decisions about what you pay for and when are non-trivial. In DC Superheroes, even if you could determine the cost of a spoon would anyone expect me to pay for one? Can I, the real Marco Chacon, go through my silverware drawer and find enough cutlery to trade in for bullet-proof skin?

I doubt it.

So What Are We Doing?
Well, we have a smallish set of revelations on this point. The first is that JAGS is supposed to sit in the space created by the Champions, Danger International, and GURPS "triangle." You should be able to play normal people who have either exotic gear, paranormal abilities, both, or neither. If you do have gear it should conform reasonably well to real-world expectations (so assault rifles are super deadly to normal people, unlike in Champions) and you should be able to play games where you do pay for gear--but also play games where you don't.

How are we going to do that?

For starters, we recognize the difference. It's a heuristic that games where you could attach the world "super" as an adjective require you to pay for important gear. Super heroes and super spies will often pay for gear they use.

Secondly, as a heuristic, games where PCs are assigned gear (police, military, etc.) usually don't require payment.

Thirdly, in a specific type of game we are currently calling Adventure Games which are MMO/Dungeons-and-Dragons style games where the PCs level up, find and use treasure, and just might buy some if they are rich enough, we will track APs in gear but PCs will have to choose between being the 'Class' of characters who use what they find (and therefore have fewer points to spend on innate abilities) or the 'Class' of characters who are all or almost-all innate abilities and therefore don't use found gear (or are very limited in what they can use).

Finally, we recognize there's another mode where you get almost everything for free but then are expected to pay APs if you exceed the mundane. If you want a super-car that costs some AP. If you want a 1995 Buick that's free (in terms of APs, anyway).

Codifying this thinking is complex, but, we think can lead to some clarity of thought around types of play we found very enjoyable and, we think, more or less developed organically.



  1. Since I always think of things in terms of my possibly-upcoming-Morrow-Project-Game, what class do you put that in, Marco? I'm guessing a hybrid of the assigned-equipment game and the find-treasure game, since initially you get assigned equipment, but what you can acquire in the field is only limited by your hauling space, ammunition, and what the fellow PCs will let you have. I'm guessing that just means all PCs are in the "allowed to use any treasure" category if I'm getting your breakdown.

  2. Actually, now that I think about it, its probably closer to your last case other than the initial assignment of gear.

  3. I'll answer this in more detail in its own post.