Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What About Morrow Project?

I'm Still Formatting GATs
The list of GATs we currently have (combat GATs) isn't bad. But there are some GATs that aren't in there that do need to be added. And figured out. Right now the two that are top-of-mind fall into the "Boss" category (i.e. Things you would give a "boss" character--but might give anyone). They are:

  • SP Pools--especially Defensive ones. You don't want someone who "fights the whole party" to have a ton of armor because some character will never be able to hurt them. You want staying power that gets worn down (ideally in a satisfying manner). ADP does that. So can Defensive SPs. If the character has a lot of Blocks and has a battery of SPs that ensure they can always make them until the SPs run out, the PCs will have to batter down their defenses. There's some additional stuff here--but that's all for now.
  • Can't Be Blocked (or hard to block). The question here is "how do you buy a hard-to-block modifier for another attack?" Sure, I can test--and then sell--an "unblockable punch" (or whatever) but I want to know how to give the Black Knight one un-blockable sword-smash each Round--not to have every sword swing be unblockable. There are a few ways to approach this question and we're looking at several. The other wrinkle here is that in the Simulator, the characters don't rely on their blocks but a PC very well could. When teaming up against a boss, the PCs usually have far, far more REA to burn (and, likely, far more incoming attacks) so if the boss gets a few shots a round the GM may want to make them hard to block since in JAGS it's easy for one character to, when targeted, just "fight defensive" and let their team-mates pick up the slack.
Let's Do Morrow Project
For those you who don't know, Morrow Project might be the best Post Apocalyptic game ever produced (well, my opinion). It was a brilliant rules-set with damage for guns being based on an E-Factor derived from real ballistics, instant-kill tables based on hit-location and medical records, rules for dropping a nuclear bomb on your town and figuring out what would happen, and weapon-ized hyper-cool vehicles from Damnation Alley. Your characters were modern-day guys who were frozen by a guy named Morrow to survive and rebuild after the coming nuclear war. They woke up not 10 years after but like 150 and have all kinds of cool gear in a ruined/feudal landscape.

Oh, and it's mutation table list? :: Roll :: :: Roll :: Leukemia. In Morrow Project you didn't get two heads, you got real genetic defects.

Morrow Project was hard core and it impressed the hell out of us.

So Thomas wants to run a MP game--what is being done with gear. Let's take a more technical look at what our guidance is.

The Answer Up Front
The answer [based on assumptions I will spell out below] is: no PCs pay APs for any of their gear. The PCs probably have very little by way of APs in general (4 or 8 APs, with maybe 75 CPs) and will be expected to buy innate abilities with their APs.

How Did I Come Up With That?
Let's look. Before we do, though, note that I am basing my ruling on (A) what I remember of Morrow Project (I don't have the book here) and (B) what I assume about Thomas' "Morrow Project Game." So that could well change.

The Character's CP/AP Totals
I came up with the character's totals based on the idea that the game is supposed to be gritty, "realistic," and the PCs are supposed to be bad-asses but not necessarily Navy Seal caliber (which would be about 100 to even 150 CP). 

Limiting the PCs to 4 or 8 APs means that some might be big and tough but they won't be bullet-proof or bullet-dodging action heroes. They can have things like Instincts or unusually good senses or the like (not super-senses though--just good ones) but will still be recognizably human.

Why You Don't Pay For Gear?
First Point: Well, Yes: There Will Be Treasure. It is pretty certain that the PCs will "find treasure" meaning that the post-apocalyptic landscape does have things like ultra-tech laying around (after being frozen a lot of time passed, apparently). There are robots, lasers, and maybe some other stuff--but it isn't Gamma World. So the presence of "things you might want to find being out there" is noted--but as we'll see, it's not the key issue.

Second Point: The Spirit Of the Game is Not an MMO/D&D. The PCs are not "treasure hunters." They won't be acting as an "adventuring team" and in the Morrow Project world characters don't "level up." They don't "start with pistols but then find machine guns and later ray-blasters." There aren't "Tanks and Blasters and Buff-characters."

In Morrow Project you don't change dramatically in power as you adventure. You don't level-up and "Gain new special abilities" (your skills may improve--you might find a better weapon ... but most likely what you start with is pretty damn good).

As the game is not what we are calling an "Adventure Game" but is a more ... hmm ... I'm not sure what word to use that isn't otherwise loaded--but let's call it a 'narrative game' where the interest is not on finding treasure and leveling up but playing the characters, problem solving, and whatever imaginary action is going on rather than having a significant part of the focus on game-mechanics interaction--this means that we are not likely to use Classes.

Remember that Classes are an option you can invoke when doing D&D-style games that give some PCs more APs for innate abilities and have other PCs with fewer--but they are expect to find and use certain amounts of treasure (which are also tracked by AP-value and should be "level appropriate."

In Morrow Project there are no "Level 10 Ruins" or "Level 3 Mutant Towns." There are just "Ruins" and "Towns with people with facial cancers."

So the whole Level's thing and Adventure game thing is out the window. It wouldn't make sense with small numbers of APs anyway.

Third Point: Gear Is Issued, PCs are Not Defined "By Their Gear". One of our heuristics is "Did the PCs get assigned gear? Or is it, like, an intrinsic part of their character?" Is the PC's gear unique? You could argue that the sniper has a different weapon than the assault crew (long range rifle vs. high rate of fire SMG) and that's true as far as it goes--but none of these pieces of gear as seen as unique (it isn't a custom rifle that no one else in the world has). Having two characters with the same load-out in a Morrow Project game isn't a problem--in fact, it's kinda expected.

Since gear is issued by the Project, although the PCs might get some choices (which gun of these three? Armor or not? Do you pack extra ammo or extra medical gear? Etc.) it is unlikely to be paid for by AP. 

Some More Concrete Points Of Discussion
The reason to have PCs pay Archetype Points for gear is essentially because of Game Balance. Imagine we are playing super heroes where APs can only buy innate abilities at a power-level where a sniper rifle can kill a super character (Watchmen). If one player makes The Purple Dragon--a super marital arts guy and the other player makes The Commando who spends almost as many points on combat skills as The Purple Dragon but then takes body armor, carries an assault rifle, and uses grenades, The Purple Dragon may find himself following around picking up shell casings as the Commando, who is almost as good in a fight (save for a few points spent on Firearms skill and Thrown Weapon: Grenade) has all kinds of extra fire-power and defenses that didn't come from innate abilities.

In short, if you "add up" the combat stats of the characters both the Dragon and the Commando are equal and then you add on the the Commando's gear and he's way more.

Now, imagine you are playing a modern-day police drama (or Morrow Project): one character may have a shotgun and hit harder than the guy with the heavy pistol--but since the guys they are fighting are usually more-or-less normal and unarmored it doesn't mechanically matter much. Even more-so: the genre of the fiction doesn't call for these guys to be "equals" and, probably, much of the action never involves firing a weapon anyway. 

In the Adventure (D&D/MMO) game we want there to be a distinction between party-roles and we want to carefully track what is found and how good it is. In Morrow Project or a police drama there is no such focus. The cops will "find weapons" but they'll be evidence--not something they pick up and use.

In Morrow Project, again, the focus isn't primarily on "balance" but on other things (the imaginary fiction of the story) so we don't need to track how good each character is and restrict their gear.

How Absolutely Sure Am I About This?
Could there be problems with my approach to the game? Do I think my analysis is 100% accurate? I think my reasoning is pretty tight--if I were running a Morrow Project game I wouldn't charge for gear. It's possible that one character might make a Level 4 assault-rifle wizard and dominate all the combat sequences to the annoyance of the other players who didn't sink as much into combat as the first person did. There are other ways to resolve that though than paying APs for the weapon.

Basically: this game has none of the signifiers that would make me thing I ought to be charging for gear so I'm pretty sure I can stand by my analysis.


1 comment:

  1. That's actually fairly close to my take on Morrow, with a couple caveats:

    1. There was some procedure for acquiring psionic abilities, so I supplied it as an option; however since the APs were low (though they'd slowly rise) it was generally going to be more cost effective to spend them various sorts of "normal" Abilities instead. I thought this worked because while Morrow is more serious in approach than, say, any incarnation of Gamma World or Fallout, it wasn't quite as straight as you're recalling (this is the setting that had animated radioactive zombies after all) so the contrast with relatively mundane and the tinctures of the bizarre seemed to work.

    2. I was a bit more conservative with the starting CP than you're thinking; original Morrow was an old school "roll attributes and stick with what you get" game, prone to producing pretty middle of the road characters. I didn't want to be quite that vigorous, but I'd probably 50 CP plus anything from negative traits (and I limited those, since I couldn't see people with a number of them being in field teams especially).

    That said, I think your general characterization of the setting and how I'd expect it to play out is spot on.