Friday, December 14, 2012

Who Gets What?

Monster Adventurers (David Chow)
Aron Son left a post that, if I read it right, goes to a VERY key point of the JAGS Rules: Who should buy which abilities ... and how do you know? When faced with literally hundreds of possible buys--mostly within the same cost range--how can you know which ones you should get? How will anyone even know which options exist?

First Things First
There are a few key tools we already here:

  1. Chapters: We have broken up the chapters into Generic Archetype Abilities: stuff that is "more than normal" but not "super human"--for the most part. Psionics, 'Innate Powers' (which includes 'Super Powers'), Domain Control (Fire, Ice, Wind, Earth, Love, Death, etc.), Fast Company (Action heroes), and so on. This should help as you can go to the general chapter that makes sense.
  2. Tags: Powers are 'tagged' with names like Super, Extreme, or Natural. These tags can be used to limit what "goes into a game." If you are limiting characters to making "intelligent animals" you can keep them away from Super Powers (or Extreme powers). If you are allowing "mutants--but not super heroes" then stay away from Super--and so on.
  3. Advice: We have some--but very limited--pieces of advice on things like "making bosses." A few powers are even listed by name (here is how you have one "boss" attack a bunch of lesser characters", etc.).
  4. Table of Contents: The TOC (right now) is over 20 pages long and lists each ability and a cost or a note that there are several costs for the ability. Browsing this could help.
  5. Statted Out Artwork: As you've seen, we are including artwork with powers-lists. This should help a prospective player get a feel for what kinds of powers a given character type might have. If you find a picture that's "kinda like your guy" you can use that list of powers as a template.

How Can We Improve On That?
What more could we do? Here are some thoughts:

  • More guidance: I'm iffy on this--but it would help. Being more explicit in the opening section of each chapter would certainly help if I could figure out what to say. I do think there are some key things we should call out if I can figure out where to put them (such as how Innate Abilities like Quick and some Cybernetic Abilities like Science Agents Hardwired Reflexes and so on compete with Fast Company). The list of characters is, kinda, this--but it doesn't exactly go into Character Design Strategies.
  • Cross-References: I have been told we need this--but thus far it's been hard to implement due to my lack of understanding exactly how to do this with Word->InDesign. The idea is this: there are powers that can go multiple places. Take "Death Ray/Touch." It can go in Innate Powers ("Death Ray"), Death Control (obvious), Chi Martial Arts (Dim Mak), and maybe a few other places (future/cyber-weapons: Death Wand or Black Ray pistol). I want to list the power exactly once--but where? And where do I tell someone who hasn't digested the whole book that, yeah, this exists--just on Page XX? The answer is with a short table at the start of a section that has Cross-Refs that lists power names, a very short description, and page numbers. So I want to do this--but it strikes me as a kind of last-thing-to-do. It's also a lot of work.
  • Index: a Table of Contents isn't alphabetical--If I have an Index (and possibly: Synonyms!) then a person looking for "Detect Life" power can find Detection (Innate Power) or some of the super senses and get an idea of where / what section to look in. This, too, requires technology to do well. We have it--but my Index Fu isn't up to speed. Also: we may have to split Archetypes into two books. If we do that, does Vol 2 have the Index? How does technology help with that?

NOTE: One of the things I am thinking on now is what the cost for Mobile should be--right now it's kinda expensive--especially when mixed with other TAP cost abilities. I'm thinking maybe it ought to come down a good deal since Fast Company characters really ought to have it. We need to do some serious analysis on how good it is and the Simulator won't really help a lot with that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

System Tests

Cyber-Operative (Derek Stevens)
We're going through the book and building characters. There's a lot of play-test in this thing already but there is literally no way to playtest everything that we've added. The closest I think we can come is:

  • Keep play-testing until (a) the chapters are finalized (close) and (b) the chapters are proof-read (starting on chapter 3 right now).
  • Create characters (and use the Simulator where applicable) doing a careful word-by-word read of the powers. If something seems off, fix it.
The creation of a character you do not intend to play is an interesting thing. For one thing, I'm overly "kind" to the game system when I'm not making a character I want to play: I'd rather soft-land the character rather than "exploit loopholes." Now, as it's my game, I'd rather there not be loopholes--but when I'm making a character I intend to play--and making him bad-ass, I will be far more interested in exactly how the rules will work than if I'm making "An NPC."

The person above was a semi-successful test: I wanted someone with the Science Agent Package who wore Power Armor (Cyber-Suit). I was afraid, going in, that this would be a failure. It wasn't: Although you don't see the results there, you, the point-totals more-or-less worked out. I'm slightly more iffy on the specific details.
I bet it's still unreadable
What you see up there is the list of powers and their general effects with some compilations off to the side. The take-away is this:
  • Her "karate punch" does around 12 PEN damage. Not a lot for a 48 AP character.
  • Her armor-level is 6 (under coat), +4 (Plate) with a bunch of extra PEN Defense and 32 ADP. Not bad.
  • Her Neo Adrenaline and Overdrive Glands (lots of extra REA, better dodges and blocks, etc.) kick in on Round 2 (and cost 5 REA).
Here's the big one: She is expected to carry a gun ... and not pay for it. How do I know that? Because that's how I envisioned things for "this game."

In the game I would play her--something a bit like a cyber-operative Doll House style scenario where she gets personality overwrites to go out and "do missions" (or whatever)--she would have a "standard gun" for whatever "the PCs get." Probably? An SMG.

She would use that--almost exclusively--over HTH combat--and her armor is fairly well constructed to go up against that kind of fire-power: she's probably at -4 to be hit with her +1 AGI Bonus, gets a great CON roll of a 14-, and the damage that does get through will tend to come off her suit's ADP first and then chip away at her DP while she's dodging most of the attacks (since she has an extra +3 REA for it).

I'd also give her a katana: I know my tropes.

In this world? She's great--this is a success. However, if I were expected to pay for the gun the same way I paid for the cyber-suit ... I'd be out of luck. 

Now, I didn't construct the character that way--I went in trying to make a fast, durable Science Agent with a Cyber Power-suit--but I'd be happier if her native attack stacked up better to her defenses. I would also like it if she had some negative Damage Mods (maybe with a Dodge?). I'd have to give her cyber-reflexes for that--and I didn't have the points--but that's life.

So is this a success? Yes--but I found an error (I hadn't put the +8 DP in the Cyber-Suit rules--and had to go add that in--and for two other Power Armor suits). So, you know, not perfect.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mobility Abiltiies

Armored Mutant (Hector Busamante)
I got back the second proof-read chapter of the book (Generic Archetype Points) and was pleased to find a large number of edits--which fits with my internal assessment of how many errors I make. We are moving along to the (far more complex) Innate Powers file which has more than "just powers" but also a whole lot of rules for creating animals and larger or smaller characters.

Enhanced Mobility
After some discussion--including feedback here--we are looking at a suite of "enhanced mobility powers." These allow you to:

  • Always take a 'free step' with an attack (instead of just when you make a very good Initiative roll).
  • Make a "continued move" for 3 REA instead of 5.
  • Get a "Free dodge" with any move you pay REA for. This should include a dodge when closing distance with a Long Move action.
  • Possibly 'retreat' as some kind of Medium Action (allowing you to hit-and-run without getting your turn interrupted by a parting-shot).
The intent behind these is as follows (note: this sort of thing is probably all one power):
  1. The basic JAGS rules do charge a fair amount for running around. You can't easily hit someone and then run. You usually do pay a fair cost for "charging into combat." You are encouraged to move up "kinda close" with one move and then close all the way with a second (rather than rushing across the battlefield). If you run-by people you get hit without a defense. This is done to encourage a kind of tactical wargame feel if playing with a battle map (allow "Front lines" of defense, encourage 1-on-1 face-offs, etc.)
  2. For some characters, though, and some battles, we want a lot of fire and movement--especially when the net impact of that is small (i.e. the mental image of flying super heroes flying all over the battle zone firing blasts at each other--there is no/little net effect of the movement--but it looks good). Additionally, some characters (Fast Company action heroes, for example) will be much more mobile than others and will use it to good effect---but it should more or less cancel out against each other.
  3. The split between characters who "just take damage" vs. those who block or dodge it is a big deal: characters with lots of armor designed to soak up damage don't spend REA on anything but attacks (as a rule--or movement) so they tend to be a lot more "mobile" if they want to be. Characters who must reserve some REA for defenses tend to be less mobile as a result. This goes counter to what we want (hence the "free dodge with move").
The net impact of adding these will require some testing and thought but I think it will generally help if we can make sure that players are properly guided to those abilities where it makes sense.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gaming Night

The Gang

The planets aligned last night and people were in town and available. So we did our weekly game face-to-face. I texted the picture to several wives who were somewhat astonished we were outside. As all our characters and stuff were on computer we needed:
  • Power. We have live power out back and I was able to get a power-bar and extension cord.
  • WiFi. My house has a re-broadcaster but only my computer was able to pick it up. Why? I figure "practice" (honestly, no clue). One guy had a phone with hot-spot capability but you had to pay for it. As we weren't going to be outside all night we didn't want to pay money for 2 hours of wi-fi
However, it turned out that you could get to google documents and Gmail without paying if (a) you used chrome and (b) you did not surf anywhere else. So we did that.

It was ... a really good session.

JAGS Update
I am having the next chapter proofed (Generic Archetype Abilities) so we'll have that in good shape. There is a GAT I am considering adding. It was in J-Arch 1.7 (the previous release) and I'd taken it out for this one because I wasn't sure how to price it--and I wasn't sure anyone would miss it. Someone did--so I'll consider putting it back.

The GAT is Mobile. It allows you to take a free step in the direction of a HTH attack when you make that attack (for normal REA). How much is this worth?
  1. Very fast characters with high Initiative get this "for free" any time they make an Init roll by 5 or more (which they often will)
  2. Characters with ranged attacks mostly don't benefit from it or need it.
  3. There is sometimes a bit of an issue about using a step action to disengage by attacking someone else. Could I, for example, "attack a friend" using the step action and then intentionally missing in order to get away from a more dangerous attacker?
We don't cover a lot of conditions but I think that's, kinda, what a GM is for. The intent of the rule is to make combat more dynamic and, as Step actions are more than 1 yard right now (they are a Walk distance) you can go pretty far if you are using a battle-map. This can have significant tactical ramification.

My thinking is that Mobile is probably something like either 4 AP (possibly with, like, +6 DP along with it or so) or a low-cost TAP power (again, probably with some extra DP in to round it out). I'm also not clear "who has it." Clearly some characters, some time, will want it--but who is (a) a pretty mobile fleet-of-feet character who also (b) doesn't have a high Initiative. Initiative is pretty cheap ...

So I'm not really sure--but since I got the request I think it's worth putting in.

There may be some other similar powers that make you really mobile (a Run or Sprint action for 5 REA Long) or a Run or Sprint action for 5 REA Medium (which would be the ability to seriously attack and then disengage). If you could combine that with, say, Teleport or Phase Out you could use it to hit and run pretty ... impressively (unless facing someone faster than you who was Waiting they could, probably never actually get a chance to hit you).

Clearly these are more expensive powers--but they do not simulate easily (the question for the Medium Action move is this: how often will someone be faster than you and waiting? The answer is: kinda rarely if we assume you combine this with being built for speed.

ALSO: Right now I let Initiative bonuses stack because, ehh--why not (and because Fast Company characters often get (a) +5 Initiative for their Fast power and then (b) may take extra stuff that also makes them fast--and I want that to add together rather than robbing them of that extra (little) bonus). However, if there is a power out there that makes you able to hit and then retreat without the opposition getting a chance to hit you back? I might re-think that.