Saturday, March 23, 2013

Regeneration and JAGS

I'm taking a short break from the (immensely educational) exercise of trying to test-create characters from the Worm-verse to talk for a moment about regeneration in JAGS. I'll also talk about learnings so far.

What We Have Learned
There are a few things the act of trying to create characters from the Web-Serial Worm has taught us. Here are some of the key ones:

Power Modification: We have always found this a sticking point because (a) it is complex and (b) our methodology deals with a bunch of fiddly decimal points which, frankly, no one likes. We had tried to use a "Mod Points" system which extracted some of this difficulty but, really, it doesn't seem to hold up in practice as well as in theory. So we're looking at just using decimal numbers and saying "fuck it."

There are two kinds of modifications: the kind we can test with our Java Simulator and the kind we can't. The kind we can test are things like "takes a Round to charge up" or "Armor Piercing." The kind we can't are things like "only in sun-light." For the first the rule is easy: you take whatever the tested modifiers are and you multiply the damage done by them.

For the latter you assign a modifier of SMALL, MEDIUM, LARGE, VERY-LARGE or EXTREME and you add all the modifiers and use the chart:
So three Mediums make a Large and so on. These are different methodologies and so they will need different explanations. It's messy--but we're getting a much better handle on it than we had in "theory land" where we didn't have a good set of highly problematic characters to test the system against.

Errors and Typos: Although we are having the book proof-read, the proof-reader is not a roleplayer. This means there are classes of errors that can't be caught by her. Using these characters tested some of the powers we'd considered but had never implemented in play. In most cases the raw material was there for the character but the specifics were not in the book. For example:

  1. Animal Control and Swarm Body. The powers were more or less there but as written they didn't work to my satisfaction.
  2. Vital Strike was in the book but needed the "only if you Penetrate" option to be complete.
  3. The power Bodyguard works well--but additional levels of it are not cost effective.
Batteries of Attacks: We need to think hard about how we will handle certain types of "grouped" attacks. The current rules say "you pay full cost for your most expensive attack and then 1/3rd cost thereafter." This is fine for Super Strength and Heat Vision--but if you have either a billion different types of super-arrow or a bunch of normal guns and knives this gets kind of silly (do I pay for my Glock AND my six-shooter ... and my knife?). There needs to be some kind of sanity check rule that allows for "batteries" of attacks" when the GM and players rule that they are not really additive in terms of value (the arrow guy does get some benefit from having the Tangler Arrow and the Explosive Arrow and the Armor Piercing Arrow--yes--but if he just dumps all those points into the Cruise Missile Arrow he'll probably win more fights that way assuming most fights come down to dealing straight-up damage ... which we think they will).

In the Worm-verse there are a lot of characters with regeneration--far more than we've usually had in our games. Part of the reason is that most game systems we've played haven't paid a lot of attention to regeneration and part of the reason is that our general view of it was as a minor after-the-battle type of thing rather than "your primary defense" sort of thing.

Here's how it works today in JAGS.
  1. Round 2/3 FIGHT! One of the powers we have is the Super Street Fighter power where you can, once or twice a combat, heal a significant ("Major") amount of damage and get rid of Damage Effects. Essentially you get your "second wind."
  2. Healing: Healing powers can be used on others or yourself and you get back X-number of DP for some REA. This X-number recovers once per day.
  3. Fast Healing: you heal quickly but not in-combat-quickly. You are probably good to go an hour or two after combat.
  4. Immortality: There is a level of immortality which is basically just "I heal completely--even if killed." As with other kinds of 'combat-immortality' this is pretty much "all your points." (or, well, so many of them you are not likely to be even remotely effective against people of your same scale).
  5. ADP recovery. Ablative Damage Points may be actual flesh-and-blood (and therefore heal slowly) but they can also be a bunch of other things (cybernetics? Generally "cussedness"?). We allow ADP to "Come back after a scene" if the narrative allows for it in some way (i.e. the damage done could be declared superficial, you get bandaged or get painkillers, you stop by the cyber-repair shop--or whatever). 
In the Worm-verse there are a few things that are needed to be added:
  1. Crawler's Regeneration: I would say this character gets a Major Wound back each Round. This probably does not remove damage effects (if he gets Stunned or Dazed, he still suffers it) but would wake him up pretty quickly. At this level you pretty much have to kill him in one shot or do extreme, grievous damage to have a chance.
  2. Really Fast Regeneration: Healing one or two Minor Wounds per Round would be below Crawler's level but still pretty extreme. It would make any fight where you didn't dominate quickly a losing proposition but not as bad as Crawler's. I'm not exactly sure who I'd give this to--but probably just about any character with better-than-Lung's regeneration.
  3. Lung's Regeneration: This might be "Fast healing" (which we have) but is probably, rather, some (low-ish) number of Damage Points per second so long as he isn't at Injured Condition (badly hurt, out-of-the-fight). It would also explicitly heal limbs. The reason to make this separate from after-the-fight speed regeneration is that fighting Lung is explicitly a bad deal if it goes on for a while. He gets stronger as he fights. This, in JAGS terms, would mean healing damage taken during the fight.
  4. Night's Regeneration: she heals "instantly" and completely when she's not being looked at. It's not clear to me if, in the darkness, her attack-form always insta-heals or if it's just the transition back and forth that heals her. This functions even if she is unconscious (nobody blink!). 
The Good News--We Can Simulate: I'd normally be very reluctant to include these abilities in the game as, if we got them wrong, we could "break it." To address this, we built a Java simulator that runs quite complex battles of characters against each other. Usually these characters are pretty basic--the battle is done to isolate a specific ability and see how its presence shifts the odds of victory around at different cost levels.

We don't currently have the hooks in the code for these levels of regeneration but we're putting them in.

This isn't being done "just" so that you could play Worm-verse characters but rather because, after looking at the characters we've decided that regeneration at a level of being a "primary" defense.


  1. Lung would probably scale steadily from what you describe as 'Lung's Regeneration' to 'really fast regeneration' to 'crawler's regeneration'. At the very high end he's been stated to fall into a Brute 10 classification.

    Night doesn't heal second-by-second in her monstrous form, but it's so durable that it hardly matters.

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  3. This is off topic, but is either Wonderland or Have-Nots in print at the moment?

    1. The answer right now is "no." We did have Wonderland on RPGNow but it looks like they took out the print edition. Our first order or business will be to get both a print edition of Have-Not (cleaned up, modernized) and Wonderland up on