Friday, July 13, 2012

A New Discovery ... TAP Revision ...

It's a bit unsettling to, when I think I'm "finishing" the book, make what amounts to a major discovery and rules change. But we did (it's not exactly a 'discovery' as a 'realization'--but hey). Let's set this up ...

An interesting "test challenge" from one of our team led to the conclusion that an optional rule should be less optional and that our costing for some abilities was not just too complicated but NOT VIABLE. We're changing things.

The Jedi Challenge ...
So E sends me an email saying "you wanna test the new rules-set? Make a space-knight Jedi." He lists a bunch of stuff they have: TK, super-acrobatics, block lasers and reflect them back, some "cosmic awareness" and "read person" and control the weak mind ... and so on.

I sit down: this is interesting. Firstly, one thing (this isn't important) jumps out--all our Mind Control centers around Telepathy. Jedi can't really read minds but they (and a lot of other characters) can influence them--so right away I see a space for some influence and mind control type powers that do NOT require Telepathy. Okay, fine.

I also start giving these guys Defensive SP pools so they can duel with light-sabers and not die on the first hit. I give them extra REA and Initiative and all this stuff. A lot of it is TAP-Costed.

What Does TAP-Costed Mean?
If you're new to the blog, TAP-Costed means the cost of the ability (such as Extra REA) is based on how many Total AP's (TAP) your character is built on. We determine this factor (usually a decimal like .50 if the ability cost a whopping 50% of your Total AP's, whatever they are). And early on we noticed that the %-of Total APs varied a little as your Total AP count went up. So an ability might test at .17 (17% of your Total APs for a 16 AP character but only test at .09 (9%) of your Total APs for a 64 AP character.

Why? We think it's because the "normal person" (built with Character Points) is a lot more important at the lower AP levels than the higher ones and the 64 AP test is a more 'objective' view of the ability's worth absent the "regular guy" who has it--which does not mean that the value of extra REA isn't higher at lower levels. It just means that if you played with a hypothetical 1024 AP (a HUGE number) the value of the extra REA in a fight would be FAR MORE heavily based on what you spent your AP on than your (probable) 50 Character Points.

So we got 3 numbers for each TAP ability: the tested value at 16 AP, the tested value at 32 AP, and the tested value at 64 AP. We'd then calculate the cost, rounding normally for each 8 AP "level" of a character from 8 to 64 AP and "smooth" out the intermediate values between the tested ranges (so a 48 AP character's % of a TAP power is the average of the tested 16 AP value and the tested 64 AP value).

I know your eyes are glazed over. The write up looked like this:

Lucky Dodge

TAP [.18,.17,.16]
Description:  You can manipulate probability when being attacked to make it less likely to hit! The Lucky Dodge works like a normal dodge but:

v It only costs 3 REA (even if you don’t have L3 Acrobatics)
v You get +2 to Dodge or Block moves and the dodge works against Ranged Attacks
v -4 Damage Mod if the defensive move fails

NOTE: If using a Block roll the above modifiers still apply save for the +2 to roll.

Lucky Dodge
 Down at the bottom here you can see how we computed the cost for each AP level (so if you are 32 AP, you pay 5 AP for Lucky Dodge. If you are 64 AP, it cost 10). The raw numbers are up at the top so that if you are getting all advanced ... you could calculate the cost yourself (if you are playing on more than 64 AP, you just use the last one).

So, okay--it's complicated--but most people will just use the chart and they're fine.

This is important in a minute.

The Second Thing: Utility Powers

 So the Jedi Write Up had a bunch of TAP stuff if you added it all up it came to .76--a BIG number (that means: 76% of their points went to stuff like Success Point Pools, extra REA, extra Initiative, Reflection Blocks, and 'Chi Leaping.'). 

Of the rest of the stuff (Damage Points, Psychic Abilities) they came to about 29 APs. Okay ... good so far. Except of those 29 APs about 10 of them were on psychic stuff (sensory) and yet they were paying the 76% surcharge on those points too.

We had (thankfully) already written up the (Optional) Utility Point rules that say if you are calculating TAP costs you need only use the combat points and not the movement / sensory / social stuff. So that helped.

But then came the problem: How many points were these guys? Remember: to calculate TAP cost you have to start with the Total AP the GM gives you and take the % of that. But what if the GM just picks a bunch of abilities and wants to know what they add up to?

The Formula
Unless I miss-remember the formula it's this: Total Cost = Fixed Cost / (1-TAP Total)

Fixed Cost is all your stuff that isn't TAP (and, if using Utility Power rules, isn't a Utility Power). So that's around 19 AP (for extra DP, Telekinesis, the Influence ability, and so on). You divide that by 1-.76 = .24 and you get 80 AP (+10 AP Utility) = 90 AP total character. High--but not absurd and it's a pretty bad-ass space knight.

Except ...
Except there was a problem: how did I get the .76 in the first place--remember, these powers each have three ratings. I just "eyeballed" the numbers and said "these guys are gonna be more than 64 AP so I'll use the 3rd number"--but that's not ... accurate. We can't expect even advanced players to do that. There is math that can figure it out--or trial and error--but both of those fail even our (insane) level of expectation.

The Conclusion
Our conclusion is as follows: firstly that you should ALWAYS be able to deduct any points spent of Utility Powers from your Total Cost for purposes of TAP calculation. Paying an extra cost on your "make rocks glow" ability because you get extra attacks kind of adds insult to injury. 

The second thing we're doing is just going with ONE rating for TAP powers instead of three. We're using the highest AP rating (The lowest cost version) and, so long as there isn't a big difference between the 16 AP tested cost and the 64 AP tested cost, leaving it at that.

The difference is usually 1 but sometimes 2 AP (the largest tested differences are around 4 AP for very complex power-sets).

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