Wednesday, November 30, 2011


So here's the deal with Chi. As I said before we're looking at 16 AP (could be more or less--but I want the characters to work at 16 AP) and we start with the basic guy and work out from there.

Here's how it looks

If you scroll down you can see several things.

The first is that the Chi Fighter spends 2 AP and gets extra damage (+2) with every strike but it does NOT add to his A-Cost total. That's a great deal even though the simulator suggests that it isn't worth the blast (I don't believe that--but it's where we are for now).

When we get to the guy paying REA for armor we are somewhat outside of the simulator's ability to simulate. But we've gotten close with some clever manipulation.

Then we get to Round 2, Fight! and "Style." What is that?

Round 2, Fight!
This is an ability to heal a Major Wound's worth of damage and ignore any damage result. This represents a second-wind, if you will.

In the Chi section activating this (or a second one: Round 3, Fight!) will also unlock some more advanced abilities (in this case the Dragon's Breath attack).

There are some problems with charging AP for special moves. For one thing, while someone could theoretically spend all their offensive AP on the move it would make for a bizarre and probably unbalanced character. On the other hand, most of these moves aren't really worth the points even at the reduced AP purchase--and since they do, technically, add to damage, they'd increase A-Cost rather than being reduced.

And how many AP is someone going to pay for Harmonic Palm, anyway if it requires that they pay several AP in order to get the Ignores Armor effect: 2 AP? 3 AP? At that point it's almost definitely not worth the points.

So Style is a way of spending Character Points for Chi moves where the damage is based on your A-Cost (the cost of your otherwise highest attack). We think this'll work and it means that the character does need to "train" to use the moves--which is in keeping with the theory.

This also echoes the classical Magic system where mages spend CPs for spells in some senses.

In this case, each AP buys 4 CP worth of "Style moves" although the character could theoretically spend their own CP as well.

This method breaks some of the rules and conventions but I think it may work pretty well and it will not rely on the character spending small numbers of APs that are, almost certainly, more effectively spent on straight up damage.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Okay, screw it ...

As the game designer I can do what I want, right? If I want Chi Focus to be one way or the other, who's the simulator to tell me otherwise.

I'm Making A Command Decision
I am pretty sure that the weirdness we're seeing with Chi Focus has to do with the fact that the bolt doesn't draw a block from the 2:1 fights. Thus they use their REA for an extra attack, making an armor ignoring blast less effective in the long run. My attempts to prove this haven't worked too well but I'm still pretty sure.

But it doesn't matter: Chi Focus breaks a lot of rules anyway and I want to make headway. So here's what we've got thus far.

Chi Focus
Chi Focus is bought as an attack that:

  • Gives a 1x ROF Charge-Up (ever round, every other, or every three) armor ignoring long action 5 REA Blast.
  • Gives a 1x ROF, Charge Up (As above) Chi Power Punch which adds to a regular punch's damage.
  • Gives extra damage every round but not "that much"--it doesn't really compete with flat-out damage but it doesn't make you a sucker to buy it either.
  • It allows you to spend Character Points for some "special Chi Moves" such as making your blast burn or shock or knock people back (these special powers line up, kinda-sorta, with "elements").
  • It requires a Chi Focus skill which is probably expensive--but might not be.

And Then Here's the Kicker
It doesn't add to A-Cost. So you will almost always buy it as a separate power in addition to whatever normal attack you have. It breaks the rules--but it should work and be a somewhat "superior" combat form (albeit not /that/ superior and it will cost CPs).

Monday, November 21, 2011

What the Heck!?

I'm testing Chi Focus. The basic idea is that you start with a guy (for a 16 AP character) like this:

  • 8 AP in HTH damage (+16 HTH damage)
  • 8 AP in Damage Points (+32 DP)
  • Character points in building a martial arts bad-ass
And that's your basic "super-charged" (because of APs) martial artist. Compare to someone who has:
  • 6 AP in HTH Damage
  • 2 AP for 6 AP worth of Chi Focus
  • 8 AP in Damage Points
  • Character points in building a MA bad-ass with the Chi Focus skill
So these guys should either be:
(a) About the same -- or -- 
(b) The Chi guy should be a little better because he has mystical martial arts training.

Now, remember: Chi Focus gives you:
  1. Chi Blast (Long Action 1x per round charge-up "Chi Fireballs"). Oh, and it ignores armor.
  2. approximately ever-other-round 1x Rate of Fire Chi Punch for some extra damage
  3. Some other stuff that isn't too important here.
So, okay: how much does that Chi bolt need to do to make them "about equal"?

Answer: A lot. The simulator says like 30 IMP Ignores Armor Damage. That's too much. I was like: that's wrong.

But Then It Hit Me
This is going to get a bit complex, so bear with me. 

The "A-Cost" (Attack Cost) rules state that you pay full points for your most expensive attack (in this case the HTH damage) and 1/3 the cost for any others (the Chi Focus). Unless the attacks add together in which case you just pay full cost (like how super strength and claws are cumulative but psionic blast and poisoned spikes aren't).

Now, although Chi Focus can add to HTH Damage with it's Chi Punch, for the points that's a losing move--so I was just testing the blast part. This is, technically, an exception to the rule--but that's okay for now. 

So it hit me: the way the Chi guy is constructed, he's not supposed to be better--or even "as good." Since he is splitting his attack points (between ranged Chi Bolts and HTH damage) he should be "more versatile" which ought to be okay. 

If I wanted mystical martial arts training to be "as good" it needed to add damage to every attack the guy did with his fists to bring it up to -- not as high as the straight up damage guy -- but not quite that far away. You know, closer. 

This would make Chi Focus statistically the most desirable expenditure of points possible. Which is bad. But I would mitigate that by requiring several CPs in Chi Focus (which is good)--and also having some restrictions on how it's usually sold and what's available with it it (which is bad--we usually don't want to rely on those rules) and it would give us reasonable Chi Martial Arts rules. Which is good.

The Frogurt is also cursed.

So anyway. I was set. I just needed some testing.

So I Tested
I tested the basic guy and got a base line. Then I added in the once-every-other Round AP blast. And his Percent of Victory (PoV) went down. This is baffling to me. What. The. Fuck?

So check this out: our Chi guy hits on odd turns for +16 damage. This is a total of 18 Damage with STR (no factor for martial arts here). On ever other round he blasts once for 17 IMP damage. This blast:
  • Can't be blocked by the Herd (it's ranged)
  • Hits at +1 since their defensive AGI doesn't fully apply (ranged)
  • IGNORES ARMOR (Which 2/3rds of them have)
  • Works, uhm, at range (should they somehow be at range by Round 2)
And yet, the character gifted with this attack wins 4% fewer battles than those without it.

This makes no sense to me. Something must be wrong with the simulator.

But if something is, it's not happening often: I've looked in detail at five or 6 fights--and these are complex and as far as I can tell, everything is working.

A Clue!
However, there is a clue to what's going on: the guy with the attack does, it's true, win more often against the 1:1 fights. It's the 2:1 fights that he loses substantially more. I still can't figure out what's going on here. I haven't seen anything in the battle logs that make sense.


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.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chi Bolt!

What I'm Working On
The Chi rules as informed by the Generic Archetype Traits.

The Chi Rules
As said, these are the mystical martial arts powers. In this case we will be looking at Chi Bolt--the ability to throw Chi "Fireballs" from your hands!

How Does It Work?
Well, the Chi attack power is pretty unusual by JAGS standards. Here's how we want it to work:

  1. It's a ranged attack--Impact damage, 5 REA to throw, Rate of fire 1x per Round
  2. Any round you don't use it you can for "0 REA" charge it. So if you throw it on Round 1 it does X damage--but on Round 2 it'll do 2X (not really--just for ease of thinking about it) and on Round 3? Almost 3X! So the more you hold it in reserve, the better!
  3. You can use your "1 shot" to improve damage done with a strike. Not by as much--but it'll add. This has the same effect: the more you hold it in reserve, the more it adds.
  4. If you have invested enough Character Points (CP) in Chi Training you can do some tricks such as area of effect attacks (Chi Bomb) and Chi Power Blast which is a higher-damage 8 REA version.
Why So Complex?
Well, it's so complex because it does a lot of things we like. It meets the Chi Battle criteria of having you not do the same thing every Round and having strategies that go from one Round to another. It also gives you the option to use it in a few different ways which is unusual for a JAGS power but works for what we're trying to do.

So How Does This Work?
Right now? Uhh .. okay: Here's the charts.

The RED is the costs in Damage per level (8 APs). So if I spend 8 AP I get 10 IMP damage every Round, 22 if I fire every other, and 32 if I fire every third.

If I spend 16 APs (two levels of Chi Attack) I get 17 damage on Round 2 I'd get 33 damage (22+11) and on Round 3 I'd do (32+21) 53 damage.

So anyway. Then in PURPLE you see the other attack types. Forget the %'s for a second--you wouldn't see that in the book per se. You'd see tables that, if I did the math right, lead to the below numbers.

Why Ever Use A Chi Punch Instead of A Chi Bolt?
So we can see that a Chi Punch (or kick) does +X damage where X is less than the bolt does. This is partly because the punch adds to your martial arts damage and the bolt doesn't. However, there's another possibility: what if throwing a Chi Bolt is a long action?

What Would That Mean?
Typically taking a Long Action means the target can respond by taking a Medium Action (any regular attack) to hit you before your Long Action ends. If you are in close range to a hand-to-hand fighter you wouldn't want to do that (although, with a Long Attack, there's a trade off: if they hit you, they can't block or dodge--but neither can you).

So that would relegate the move to being a long-range style deal. Which is good. The bad side is that a cop (a mundane cop) could shoot you while you're throwing a Chi Bolt at them--it'd be "slower than a gun." I'm not so sure I like that. But I kinda do.

In any event: it's on the table.