Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Right Now
I am reviewing the Chapter 1 revision. I'm also trying to close out the Combat GATs section. This, as I've said, is sort of "holographic" to the whole game. Anything we plan to do as a major rules category will likely be represented here. It's a chance to get it all right and make sure we've covered everything we need to have covered.

One of the things I'm looking at are "unlocks" which, as I've said before, are advantages that only show up in certain situations. One of these is: Counter-Punch which is a strike (although we're including the rules for a shot) that is only usable against an attacker after you have successfully blocked them. How much is this worth over an attack you can use first and as much as you want?

This is one of the things we can't (for now) simulate. We're not likely to either--it's a lot of changes for something we can probably ball-park anyway. I think that it's worth something like a .45x cost multiplier. Why? Well, for one thing while you can do it twice a Round you probably won't. Secondly, you can't do it first--and attacking first is a meaningful advantage. Finally: your block might fail in which case not only do you get hit--but your points in extra damage don't kick in.

So shouldn't it be worth maybe less? Like maybe a .20 or .33 multiplier?

Expectations of Optimization
I'm not 100% sure right now--but here's my thinking: in point-buy games (and, really, almost any game) we expect players to make choices to maximize their ability. That doesn't mean we expect or brutally demand that everyone optimize (to the contrary: we want it to be hard to build a grossly inefficient character) but we know a few things:

  • A character who has extra damage when they block will, likely, be pretty good at blocking
  • Being good at blocking--by itself--is a decent strategy so doing extra damage for said blocking isn't all that bad
  • While counter-punching is less dramatic than preemptive punching we think that PCs are a bit more likely to be attacked than attack. Or, to put it another way, PCs will have choice as to when they attack but the GM makes the choice as to when they are attacked in many situations so PCs, in our experience, can often manage to fight defensively in, let's say 60% of their battles. That's a gross estimation--but we think there's some truth to it--for our games anyway.
This expectation of optimization carries over other places too. We don't want to force it--but we want to be realistic. That's a hard balance to strike.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Revised Revision

I got back an edited copy of the opening chapter. We're still revising it ... and trying to trim it. I've also been working on tweaking the Combat GAT's some more and trying to figure out what, precisely, I want to do with some of the specific elements.

Most of what I'm looking at right now can't be handled by the Simulator all that well: it doesn't do powers that "unlock" (such as extra skill levels that kick in later in combat or extra damage that applies after you've suffered a wound effect).

On the other hand I want to keep track of how I'm measuring these modifiers so I can have a consistent front.

In The Game
We're still playing our JAGS Have-Not  Skype game and we ran into a "demon thing" that was able to force us all to make WIL rolls. If we failed the roll it got +10 SPs for that Round. If we made it, it lost 1 SP per point we made it by. Thus, it was running around with 30-something SPs. It could, the GM declared, "buy a 1 REA Block" for 3 SPs.

None of this is "in the normal rules."

Powers that rely on environmental effects are interesting and something I've never seen done well. Things like Dazzler's ability to generate light / lasers based on "how noisy it is" or, for example, someone who gets stronger the more people who are rooting for him--are possible to quantify--but hard to measure in terms of value.

To be sure it's possible given any specific situation to work up some rules--but as a category? How do you determine the "average number of opponents" and what do you make of their "average WIL"?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Resisted Attacks -- Part ... 3?

Resisted Attacks
This weekend I caught some free time and used it to tackle the Resisted Attack rules again--this time with intent to "finish them." Like Mortal Kombat. 

Anyway: in the JAGS Have-Not Skype game we were attacked recently by a robot with a "goodbye effect" pain-beam. In game terms it was a 40 Intensity Power 13 'Stun Beam'/Pain-ray. Each round, at the beginning of the round, each character had to make a save or be stunned for that Round. Ouch. The question was: what would that cost?

I didn't know the exact answer--but we had some rules so I was able to put together a rough estimate. This weekend I wanted to validate that.

Let's Look At Resisted Attacks Again
Remember that RA's are things like poison, pain-beams, sleep-rays, and the like (also: Mind Control) which don't deal in damage but can incapacitate or kill or whatever a target. They have: a POWER (which is like their Stat), their Intensity (which is like their "Damage Points they deal out"), and their Effect List which is 6 effects that go No Effect, Minor, Standard, Major, Critical, and Catastrophic. Often Minor is also No Effect--but not always.

The way the rules work is this: if you are hit and the conditions under which it might affect you apply (such as "you are hit with poison gas and are not a robot or wearing a gas-mask") then you do the following: 
  1. Compare your DP (plus ADP) to the Intensity of the attack on the Resisted Rolls table. This gives you a save number like 12- if your DP is higher than the Intensity. If your DP is equal to the Intensity of the attack your save is 10-.
  2. Compare your CON (or WIL for psionics) against the Power of the attack. This modifies the save up or down based on whether your CON is higher, equal, or lower than the Power. Most attacks have a Power of 12 so against a normal CON 10 man, the man takes a -2 to the Save roll.
  3. You roll and depending on how well or how badly you made the roll you suffer one of the Effects. If you had an 8- save and blew the roll badly rolling an 18 you suffer the Catastrophic effect (a miss "by 10"). If you rolled an 8 that's a Minor Effect (which is, again, for a lot of things the same as "no effect.").
The Effects could be things like: "You are totally paralyzed" or "you are under mind control but will not violate your core principals" or "you are Stunned as per the damage effect rules" or "you take 12 points of damage!" Things like that--the higher the effect level, of course, the worse it is (Catastrophic effect for some kinds of mind control are "you are semi-permanently enslaved to the Psi!"

NOTE: These are very complex rules. The basic rules are: you make a roll based on a target number and you suffer one effect. That's what you do if you don't want to suffer the above complexity.

Why'd we do this anyway?

There are a few reasons: the most basic is that for things like Mind-Control you want, if you are looking for richness of experience, more than "I have total control" or "I got nothing." It's really the same for poisons or pain beams or anything else. Secondly, you want the comparison of Intensity to DP rather than, as it was originally, Power vs. CON so that the same Taser that'll work on a man won't stop a bear ... or Godzilla (Godzilla has a billion damage points--but still has a 12 CON or so).

So it's for "richness" (which we define as a fairly granular experience of the mechanics leading to multiple levels of success/failure).

Anyhow ...

The Resisted Attack Charts!
Below is the categories of RA's with a few added notes:

This shows the Class (A+ which is "Death Ray" down to D which is "weak super-market pepper-spray"). The 8 AP column is what you get if you spend a full 8 AP on it.

X: Dead or Dying.
U: Unconscious or otherwise incapacitated
D-2: Dazed (or similarly screwed up) at -2 CON To recover (probably Dazed for 1-3 rounds)
D: Dazed (probably lose 1 Round)
S: Stunned or other minor result.

So what's the Stun Beam: It's not exactly on the chart. It's a C-level attack that does N/A, S, S, S, D, D-2. A daze Beam is C+: N/A, D,D,D, D-2, U.

In these cases I have exchanged an N/A (No Affect) for a less severe result down the line (Major and Critical). This also greatly increases the chances of getting a result of some sort since Minor is easy to score.

The Resisted Attacks Intensity List

Here's the power-factor list for various "kinds" of RA's (aura, gaze effect, gas, and so on). Beam Effect is the "basic" version--the Sleep Ray (or Death Ray if it's A or A+). This table, generated by Excel and my eyeball of what made sense indicates the following:

When you "buy an RA" you can pretty much choose your letter grade. If you have a poisoned flechette thrower you can choose to load it with neuro-toxin (A+) or paralysis Toxin (B?) or some kind of other, probably damage-doing poison (C+? C?). As you move down from A your intensity goes up. This means that its chance of being effective against a target is improved.

So if you go with the shellfish neuro-toxin you'll have like an Intensity of 25 (assuming it's a blood toxin) which will totally kill a normal man but won't stop a full-on cyborg (who could easily have 40 to 60 DP). On the other hand, if you go with some other venom (D+?) you get a venom that will have a decent chance of scoring an effect on said cyborg--but isn't as awesomely deadly as the neuro-toxin.

Next Step: Further simulation.

What Did the Aura of Pain Cost? for 40 Intensity the cost is 27 AP. If it was a Daze Beam the cost would be 30 AP. That feels about right for something that took a pretty big chunk out of the party.

Double Bonus Question: How do you handle increases to Power? Remember that Power fundamentally acts like "More Intensity" but is not tied to a scalar number as Intensity is (if you have a whopping 1000 Intensity it still won't have any effect on Godzilla--but if you have an 18 Power, Godzilla only has a 12 CON--so it still probably won't help much--but it'll help a lot more than another 1000 Intensity would).

I think the answer is that POWER is either fixed at 12 or can be based on relative AP's of the attacker to the defender (so that bot would be more APs than the PCs (in theory) so it might get a 13 Power). I haven't thought this through yet.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


What I Am Working On Right Now
We are reviewing the first chapter. There's a lot that we have to get right. I am also working on filling out the combat GAT chapter. This, too, is crucial for the foundation of the rest of the book. Not everything will be represented there--but these two chapters are sort of "holographic" to the whole: they are a condensed version of the concepts that are used throughout the entire design (and re-design) of the game.

One of the kinds of GATs--which, honestly, may go more heavily into the Chi Martial Arts chapter--but is exposed in the GAT chapter as well--are combat modifiers that hinge on what has taken place in combat. An example is Executioner. When you kill something in combat you get X-number of ADP (up to a maximum). This replenishes as you kill more things.

There are also effects that kick in, for example, after six blocks--or when you get hit several times. Maybe some that activate "when you are stunned or dazed."

Exactly what these are worth is difficult to figure out: how often will a character block six times in combat? What if it unlocks a big, powerful, pool of SP's that can be used in combat? Would they then block-block-block-block-block-block-win? Maybe. Or maybe they'd buy it and use it only when combats go for a while--or when there are multiple opponents so there are more incoming attacks than normal?

We can't say for sure.

What We Do Know
We know what the effect is worth when you have it from the start. We can presume that things that dictate a more defensive fighting style or require actual kills (or combatant-removed-from-the-fight results, actually) are worth a certain reduction. While we can't identify every game we know a few things are general:

  • Many fights will be against greater numbers of lesser opponents. In our experience nail-biting even-odds 1-on-1 fights are rare compared to fights against either a bunch of light-troops or a few heavier units but not usually heavier than the PCs ... or bosses (with some combination of support troops). There is also the case where, for example, three 24 AP PCs fight two 36 AP "bug bears." In any event it's still many-vs-many rather than a straight up 1-to-1 fight. This means that in more cases there are more kills and more incoming attacks than we see in the simulator (Which has more "balanced 1:1 fights" than anything else)
  • The PCs will win most of the time in 2 to 4 rounds. We've tried to engineer this as a generality. Fights more than 6 rounds are a bit long. At 2 rounds it's still pretty bloody. So we can say that a power that kicks in around Rnd 3 (six blocks if you're not dedicated) is useful in about half the fights. Furthermore, since we expect the PCs to be statistical winners in at least 60% of the fights (and really more like 75-80% unless it's a very gritty/grim game) then we can expect a distribution of kills from Round 2 to Round 4, weighted towards 3 or 4. This means that if the effect relies on a kill--or a wound for the PC it's still likely to kick in more towards the end than the beginning.
From this we can estimate that these "charge up" or "combat-bonus" effects are approximately the equivalent of 1.5 round Charge-Up (which we know is about a 55% cost reduction).