Friday, November 4, 2011

Damage Field

JAGS Chi Martial Arts introduces several concepts that we'd had in previous versions--but were afraid of. One of these is the "Damage Field" (named from the Champions concept). Basically an attack that auto-hits anyone who hits you. There are a few variations on this theme:

  1. The basic Damage Field. It costs 5 REA to activate and while it's up, every time you are struck in HTH combat it hits your attacker. Usually it does this at a negative modifier (because it's attacking their fist instead of, like, their face ... unless they hit you with their face or something). However, if they grab or grapple you they get hit for more damage--also: if you are grabbing or grappling them, you can pulse for 5 REA to do damage with it.
  2. The "Ranged Damage Field." This could just be Medium Reach spikes (which can hit people trying to sword-attack you) or even some kind of "return fire system" which would do ranged attacks at people shooting at you.
  3. Block-Damage-Field. Out of Street Fighter II (for example). You crackle with electricity when you block--and only if you successfully block does the opponent take damage.
  4. Partial Coverage Damage Field: Like  a coat of spines or something--but they can hit around it the same way they hit around armor.
These are "scary" because: (a) it's hard to tell how often they'll be used. They cost 0 REA to use so if you have a good damage field and are attacked by a bunch of goblins or something you might kill them all before you even get to act! Secondly because there are some questions and variations around whether / how you can attack with the damage field outside of pulsing it: if you are covered with fire and punch with "flame hands" does your target take an extra damage field hit or not? (Answer: if you buy it that way).

So it was complex--but we can simulate it. So: complete success, eh?

Not So Easy
I've written on this topic before but I'll revisit it here because I'm doing it for Chi Martial Arts. When there's a power that only effects 1/4 of our target characters in the simulator (The Herd) it gets "under reported." The basic damage field, which I tested, shows something like a +10% advantage. That looked pretty minimal to me. But, of course, I knew why: when I counted only the empty-hand targets it was more like +45% Percent Chance of Victory. That's huge.

So what to do?

Who Has This Stuff?
It's true that having a no-range damage field wouldn't be worth that much in a wild-west campaign where everyone is armed and they all want to shoot you. Sure, it'd take the bar-room brawls up to the next level but even there, even the densest NPC would stop trying to break a chair over your back and start shooting ... 'cause he'd have a gun. They all do.

No, the answer to "Who has a Damage Field" comes in about two flavors: Super heroes and martial artists.  And we can sub-class Super Heroes to "those who plan to fight hand-to-hand." In short, the thinking is that the kinds of people who will buy Damage Fields are the ones that will most leverage it. That means it should be costed higher than it tests in the simulator--especially if you think it'll be held by offensive grapplers who will use their high grapples to overcome the low-damage-modifier issue.

So What'd I Do?
The first thing was "balance" the attack just for unarmed punch damage. That was pretty severe though--the Damage Field guy was losing badly to everyone else. So I walked it back up a little, aiming for a moderate advantage if the person with the damage field is fighting a pure hand-to-hand person and substantial but not huge disadvantage.

A HTH-Impact Attack is 16 (L1), 10(L+). The multiplier for making it a damage field is .625 making the damage-field equivalent (which can also be used to strike) 11, 6.


  1. Who uses Damage Fields?

    I think you're over-simplifying saying that Damage Fields largely show up in games where Hand-to-Hand is the norm. Firstly, I think that Fields show up a good deal in fantasy and post-apocalypse, especially if you count things like slimes and monsters with spines and fire elementals and so-on.

    Secondly I question counting Supers as "Hand-to-Hand" -- by my count about 50% of the X-Men (80's Phoenix Era) use primarily ranged attacks (Phoenix, Storm, Cyclops) and most of the Avengers have significant ranged options (Repulser Beams, thrown shields or hammers, special arrows, wasp-blasts, etc.)

    More generally, I caution against assuming a preponderance of HTH attacks because we're taking a deep look at this power while the Chi rules are being worked out: good, balanced rules would increase the likelihood of using this across the board.


  2. Well, remember this:
    1. It can be bought as a back-up attack in which case it costs 1/3rd the normal price. The owner is, granted, down a few AP but if the damage the DF does is pretty high it's literally free in terms of REA.

    2. It's not that I'm assuming a preponderance of HTH attacks--it's that if the Simulator-balance ratios make the character even-steven in a HTH fight they lose badly elsewhere.

    However if the character is TOTALLY DOMINANT in a HTH fight they are more balanced in other fights.

    The second category where they win battles where the DF is in play and are almost as good when it isn't is what I stepped in to avoid.

    The current pricing should make it pretty darn good when it'll work (but not overwhelming) while not totally sucking if it's all you've got (but if it's all you've got you'd better use it).

    So that positions it as a secondary power more than a primary one.


  3. Not related to your post...

    I'm stunned at the depth of thought that had to go into Wonderland and the Book of Knots. It's one of the best settings I've ever read, from ANY publisher.

  4. Glad to hear you like it--and nothing is off topic here. We're happy to answer any questions or hear about what you liked!


  5. This is always a problem in costing, and it shows up badly in superhero games, because you'll run into two cases:

    1. Someone takes a damage field just because they should have one, but it'll rarely actually matter. The classic example is someone who's, say, on fire all the time, but all their attacks are based on firing off ranged blasts. The only time it'll likely come up is against people insisting on meleeing them, and only a limited subset (martial artists and melee weapon specialists) are forced to; even your brick types can certainly avoid the problem by picking up something heavy and throwing it at them.

    2. Characters built around using it, especially grapplers. They'll get benefit out of it all the time, and sometimes pretty strong benefit.

    I'm not quite sure of any way to address the second case and not make the first case isn't kind of stupidly expensive. I'm not even sure its possible.

  6. I think the A-cost rules should at least help with this -- in case 1, someone who chooses a d-field because they should have one can buy a cheap field and pay only 1/3rd of the costs. This could be a respectable field, depending on the power level (but not especially useful against peers).

    Obviously a case-2 character would probably have his d-field as his main attack, would pay full price for it, and reap the benefits.

    My guess is that in a super hero game (say, 64 AP), with roughly 24 - 32 AP spent on offense, a case-1 character could have the lower end of the range (say 27 AP) spent on the primary attack, and spend 5 AP for an effective 15-AP field... probably enough to blow away agents and normal people.

    In a lower point Chi game (Say 24 AP total) would have about 10 AP spent on a primary attack and an almost-equivalent damage field for 3 AP (9 AP effective). The character would be somewhat less potent than a 12 AP character, but more flexible... and dangerous for even a peer to grapple.


  7. Whether A-Costs help will depend on how, well, "fussy" they are; if you can buy the Damage Field at reduced cost after buying some form of Super Strength as your primary, its still going to be a problem.

  8. You don't get the A-cost reduction on powers that add together -- so if the D-Field effectively makes your super-strength-enhanced punches hit harder, you don't get a cost-break on it.

    If you have a character that has

    * Energy Blast and
    * Super Strength + Damage Field (what we're currently calling "linked" powers)

    The character would get a cost-break on least expensive set.

    If you just have Super Strength + Damage Field, the powers add together and you get no break (same thing if you had Super Strength and a sledgehammer).

    There is another consideration -- if you're being really picky about modeling power effects, Damage Field and Super Strength might not exactly add together: they might be more effectively modeled as two separate attacks, much like a "carrier" attack.

    This is better illustrated by combining a weapon attack with a carried Resisted Attack: consider a radioactive sword.

    The attacks both hit with the same to-hit roll. After that though, the sword does its damage and the Radiation Attack does its as two separate attacks against the target.

    Because these are separate attacks, they don't fully add: the combined effect may well be less than sword+strength which combine to just do more damage.

    In theory, carried attacks that in no way rely on each other and both are applied separately against defenses (e.g. armor, forcefield, etc.) and do separate wounds, are, in theory, less valuable.

    In theory.

    In practice, I'm not sure if handling this level of difference is necessary, but it's probably something we should consider.


  9. I assumed they were done separately. The issue is that a superstrength type is usually hard to break out of a grapple from, so all he needs to do is hold the target immobile (already a benefit) and let his damage field do the job, really. If he can squeeze them and do that too, even if separately (and I'm puzzled why they wouldn't be able to unless its a pure game balance mechanism) that's still too good a gig, generally.

    Of course I'm talking without a particular clear idea how the costs work out.

  10. I see what you're saying. I think that's an argument to have damage field automatically linked to any hand-to-hand damage attack (e.g. to base damage). That would mean that you're not going to get a break on either the damage field or the strength even if the attacks hit separately (Which, I agree -- I assume they would).

  11. In the end that only handles half the problem, though. Damage Fields are still going to be a worthwhile option for hand to hand types who do grapples and strikes, even if the damage field is where all their damage comes from, and less so for ranged attackers who have it for conceptual reasons but aren't really set up to get much out of it. Not sure there's anything that can be done about that, though.

  12. I think the key is to sort of split the difference in cost and effect: allow it to be an /effective/ option for the grappler (although not the only one, we hope) while making it a little less effective for the blaster-type (this is as opposed to making an even-odds proposition for the blaster and super-good for the grappler).