Thursday, June 21, 2012

Types of Games

The current "open chapter" is Psionics--which presents a whole host of questions (some of which I have discussed here). However there's another top-of-mind question: the previously discussed Utility Powers.

As said before, the idea is that if you get 32 AP for abilities and you split it between "attack" and "defense" of various types you get a decent degree of balance out of the rules. Maybe not perfect--but: really? Better than we thought (thanks to many millions of sample combats with the Java Combat Simulator!).

However when you start drawing from those points for things like super senses or telepathic communication or even flight that changes. Sure, if you can fly and fire energy beams and no one else can, you'll win a lot of fights--but in an even match (say: indoors?) those 4+ AP have a pretty severe effect on your Percent of Victory (POV). This, statistically, encourages nothing-but-combat characters.

Not what we want.

So what do we do?

Well--if you've been following ... it's what we've already done once. We split point-types between Character Points and Archetype Points because we noted there were some pretty good mathematical reasons for having different cost-schedules. We found in GURPS and Hero we were differentiating between "normal character stuff" and "paranormal stuff." So we formalized it.

Now we can do that again: Combat APs and Utility Power APs. This gives characters a pool of points to use for all that non-combat stuff. Now, the rules are slightly more complex than that: for example, you can always move APs from your Combat Points to your Utility Points if you want to--and how TAP powers are calculated are based on your Combat Points--not your Utility Points ... and okay--this isn't a complete write up of the rules--but you get the idea there's some additional thought around this.

Let's get one thing clear: this whole point-partition thing? It's Advanced Optional--we don't expect most games or most players to care that much--we just want the framework there in case people do.

But that raises the interesting question: what kinds of games use Utility Point Pools?

What Kinds Of Games Use Utility Point Pools?
The big one is superhero games. That's where how well you fight is important and so is color. You want both aspects to be firing on all cylinders for a good supers game. How about Chi Martial Arts Street Fighter type people? They should, maybe, have some non-combat healing type powers and still compete strongly in the Kumite so ... yes. Super Spies? We can see some APs on things like "Drive any Vehicle" and weird senses ... right? Okay--good.

Do they all get the same ratio of Utility Points? How many should they get anyway?

Well, we think there are two "schedules" for Utility Points (if you are using them).

  1. A lot: you get half your combat APs in Utility Points. This is the schedule for supers. A "powerful" 64 AP Super character would get 32 AP to spend on Utility stuff and could have some pretty good flight, senses, environmental support, etc.
  2. A few: you get 1/4th your Combat APs in Utility Powers. So a 16 AP action-heroy super-spy type gets 4 AP in Utility Powers. Enough for one good stand-out trait or so.
What Games Don't?
Some "color" is always good, yeah? However there are some games where Utility Points don't make sense. We think these are (to name a few):
  1. Low AP Games. Clearly if you get 0 AP you don't get Utility Points (or ... do you? There could be a game with weird stuff but no combat stuff--but that's weird). If you get 8 AP for "one trait" you probably have to choose combat or not (or split them yourself).
  2. Level / Adventurer Games: Our now-epic Have-Not game has run for almost 2 years and advanced the characters from Level 0 to Level 9 (each Level is approx. 8 AP). This has been a triumphant success of the Level System and the balance mechanics. There is no reason to mess with that by adding in other kinds of APs.
  3. Standard I-Don't-Want-Complexity Games: The CP/AP split is, we think, necessary for some kinds mechanical issues that are very hard to solve otherwise (consider that rolls cover a range of numbers from 0-20 but most powers are scalar and can go up to any level. If you don't want to trivialize having 20- skills you need to do something about cost-schedules ... the most elegant is to split points). There, we're sure, be plenty of games where the GM just says "You have 12 AP, go for it"--and no one will worry about Utility Points vs. Combat Points. The difference in POV just isn't that much.
Are There Other Kinds Of Games?
Well, sure--and we're not even covering all kinds above. What are "psychic detectives" (we tried a game like that and it proved the ESP rules needed a lot of work). We ran a game with Telepaths and those inexorably mix Utility Stuff (communication, some Mind Reading) with Combat (Psi Blast). If we sell the abilities separately--as we are wont to do now (but did not in the cut of rules tested) then some work needs to be done to resolve that (you kinda must have basic telepathic communication before you can launch most kinds of mind attacks--do we ... formalize that? What does the printed rule look like on the page?).

But "Telepaths" isn't really a game type. It's just focus of Traits. It's like "Cyborgs" where the characters might be more like super heroes or more like adventurers or whatever. 

As I get ready to do the next, probably final pass, on the rules, I have to determine how we explain this and what we need to do to ensure that player's trust in the rules isn't damaged by too many options and too much game-design theory getting in the way of comprehension.

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