Monday, November 26, 2012

How Do You Make A Car Invisible?

Officer Law (Hector Busamante)

One of the sub-systems that we're working on right now is Gear (equipment, devices, etc.). The rules for gear are complicated for two reasons:

  1. You do not always pay AP for gear. In no game I can imagine would you pay AP for things like normal clothes, a toothbrush, etc. That's (reasonably) common sense--but in a lot of games you won't even pay Archetype Points for things like weapons and armor. For, for example, a modern-day Cops game the PCs would have very few AP (if any) and things they buy would generally represent unusual native abilities (such as an exceptional physique or extreme detective skills). The gear would just be "issued" to them in-game.
  2. When you ARE paying points for gear there are still a few ways it can go:
    • You can take a Trait like Powered Flight and turn it into gear (a "flight ring"). This is an example where being equipement is usually a (small) disadvantage (or, if you make a very limited flight-rig that's dangerous and difficult to control, a substantially larger disadvantage).
    • You can take some gear you did not pay points for (like a normal car which "anyone" can get in most games for no AP) and turn it into a tricked out vehicle. That's another implementation of the Mod-Point rules. In this case, while you do pay character points (MPs) for the modification, you do not pay them for the initial piece of gear (assuming it's something "anyone" in the game could have).
Which Brings Us To The Question
So as I look over the Gear rules, I find that to a certain extent they work "okay." Ability modification rules are always complex (take, for example, a theoretical simple set of rules that simply reduces the cost of an ability by a set % amount per defect added: how do you handle the case where the %-total reaches 100% (free) or above 100% (you get points for having a defective ability)).

Our current rules work as follows for modifying a non-combat power: you pay (for enhancements) or get (for defects) a certain number of Mod Points (MP). So being a "simple hands-free device" is -1 MP (a defect). That "-1 MP" is per 8 AP of the Ability

So if I have 1 to 8 AP spent on Flight and I turn it into a "Flight Ring" (magical, thought-controlled, small and convenient) I get 1 MP "back." If I have, say, 16 AP spent on Flight and I turn it into a Flight Ring I get 2 MP back.

I can use those MP to buy other small advantages or I can turn them into Damage Points if I want to.

That, conceptually, isn't so hard.

Okay--but what if I want to make a car invisible (I have a cloaking device for my automobile!). Firstly, the rules, as written right now, don't address this (or do only barely). Secondly, the answer isn't that easy even going by "what I think should be the case."

Let's See
  1. We presume the "basic car" is 0 AP in cost. In most games you don't pay Archetype Points for a normal car. In a Mad Max post-apocalypse game where the guy with the car is a big deal? Maybe. But in most games you don't. For purposes of this question, let's assume you don't.
  2. There are rules for "Awesome Upgrade" (which invisibility certainly is) but these are generic and  are best applied for stuff that we don't and are not going to have rules for. In the case of Invisibility we do know how it effect combat. We know some things about entering and leaving "cloak" (8 REA Long Action).
  3. There should be some basic rules for "modification cost to ability that does not directly effect the character." Let's say that "doesn't effect you is half price for the power: so if I want to put Armor on the car to make it tougher for 4 AP I get 8 AP worth of armor on the device. This would be represented, by the way, as -16 MP cost (for people keeping score). That rule isn't clearly listed--but let's say it was. Okay ...
  4. But Invisibility is a TAP-cost power: it's cost is based on a percentage of your Total AP Points. Is that still right for the car (which is 0 AP points) or is it based on your character (which is, let's imagine, 32 AP)?
What are the right answers for these points?
  1. We already have some rules for modifying "0 AP gear." Firstly we tend to "Assume" it cost 8 AP for purposes of doing the Mod Point math. That is, if some enhancement is listed as +4 MP (which is 1 AP for the character to spend) that's for 8 AP worth of an ability (so to put that enhancement on a 24 AP Trait would cost 12 MP or 3 AP if you wanted to pay AP for it). For a 0pt piece of gear we assume it's 4 MP. This is a simple rule (a 747 jetliner is the same "AP cost" as a Ford Focus--which probably isn't quite right--but hey).
  2. While it isn't 100% exactly how invisibility will impact vehicular combat (even from what we know about it) we can make some good guesses: it is hard to "shoot out the engine" of a vehicle you can't see--called shots become far more risky or impossible. That can be a big deal when shooting at vehicles where a lot of "hits" won't disable anything critical. So, yeah, we should probably try to use as much of the power description as possible.
  3. The cost for having a trait only work on a device is probably heavily dependent on the device. For example if you take the Trait "Flight" and declare it "only works on my clothes" (which you then wear and fly around in) that's like having the Flight power yourself. If you take Flight and declare it works on a camera so it can hover around and take pictures ... that's not like you having flight. Big difference. It also matters whether you can be expected to be inside the device or not. That's a big deal. Having an invulnerable clock-radio that will ignore any attack that hits it on your bed-side is cool. Having an indestructible trench coat that does the same thing is much, much better.
  4. We could do something like say the TAP cost for the vehicle is based on it's assumed cost (8 AP) but there is a point raised: does it cost fewer AP for a low AP character to have a cloaked car than a high AP character? Maybe it should? Especially if the character can, say, fire out the window while remaining mostly invisible (the reason Invisibility is TAP costed is that it presumes the advantages will be more severe the harder the character hits, etc.). So there is a case that the cost for the car being cloaked should be based on the cost of the owner.

So, you know--that's something we're thinking about.

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