Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Night and Fog Part 1

I'm going to take a look at a duo from the Worm-verse (an excellent super-hero web-serial you should be reading): Night and Fog.

Night and Fog are a supervillian team who are psychotics who sort of "play" at being husband and wife but are really ... something something (I'm not sure--they seemed personable enough if not exactly functional during their interlude). They compliment each other:

Let's see:

Fog is the "simpler" of the two. He can turn his body into a dark gas. If you inhale it, he can re-form and kill you. He can float around as a dark cloud choking or bloodily exploding the life out of you. Apparently his clothes turn too (I don't recall him being naked after transformation).

When she is not being watched--with human sight--she turns into a super fast, super hard, multi-legged spider-like thing which is, uh, super strong--and COVERED WITH BLADES. When she transforms from human to nightmare-form she heals all damage. Her change is automatic: if she is unconscious and you take your eyes off her? Poof--she's fine.

Questions About The Characters
Here are some things we're not sure of. I've put my answers in here--but they can easily be corrected if the Worm author, Wildbow steps in.

Fog Questions

  1. How susceptible is Fog to fire or other energy attacks? Will the fog "burn"? Would plasma bolts or radiation hurt him? My Answer: Somewhat--I would expect him to flee a really hot area--something hot enough to start breaking down other gases. I wouldn't expect "lasers" or something like the X-Men's Cyclops' blast to do much.
  2. How big does Fog's radius get. My Answer: Big enough to fill a livingroom. 
  3. Can wind-blasts disrupt him--can he re-form if he is being actively dispersed? My Answer: Yes--but they don't harm him. If he was caught in something that truly scattered him (a nuclear explosion) I would expect him to die, even if in gas form.
  4. What can he do if you don't inhale him? My Answer: Not much.
  5. Can he kill several people at once--or must he pick one to reconstruct inside? My Answer: One at a time--it's him reforming and I wouldn't think he could do that in "several places."
Night Questions
  1. If her night-form was badly hurt and and she was then seen, would she appear unhurt--or bloody. Clearly going the other way regenerates her. My Answer: I ... don't know. I think it is more interesting if her night-form's damage remained. I think the rule would be she always wants to be in night-form rather than going back and forth constantly.
  2. Just how hard is she to hurt? My Answer: Pretty tough--but not indestructible. Enough to stand up to an assault rifle but not a heavy machine gun (this is a pure guess--she might be nearly invincible for all I know).
  3. Would Night transform if she was dead? My Answer: No. If you shot and killed her 
Fog is straight-forward to a degree--although our examination of the rules found some holes that needed fixing. Night is much harder because of the absolute regeneration on transformation. We're still talking about that. If her night-form maintains damage it's much easier. If she insta-heals several times a fight ... much harder.

These are not characters you would want PCs to generally play--they make a very fearsome team for the right group but they are both incredibly one-sided when their approach works ... and very vulnerable when it does not. This is hardly idea for a PC Group. This doesn't mean their illegitimate -it just means playing them would have some ... challenges.

What is "Only when not being watched worth?" In JAGS terms it is probably either a LARGE (-30% cost) or VERY LARGE (-90% Cost). Right now those are the two big-league defect-levels and there's nothing in between (but you can have more than one LARGE).

Clearly for a ranged attack, VERY LARGE is too much: snipers always attack from parts unseen. But for hand-to-hand combatants it's a lot harder to get close without being seen. We are talking about the "totality of the circumstance" as a factor (i.e. she is teamed up with someone who makes it hard to see!)--but we don't really like that for most 'circumstances.' 

At 90% Cost Break, a "D&D Thief Back-Stab" (which, presumably, has the same defect) would turn 10 APs into 100 APs. That's ... a lot. By any measure it is enough to end a single target of any reasonable point-scale. So we have to think carefully about that. Perhaps VERY LARGE should be more like 60% or 70% instead of 90%.

After some more consideration, I'll post the stats.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Batman-Like Object

One of the things we learned when making Worm characters (which I intend to continue with--we're learning a lot) is that we really want to mix Fast Company packages with a bunch of TAP abilities like extra speed, weapons precision, and Success Point Pools.

The problem is: You Can't (really). Most meaningful combinations are "over unity."

Let me explain all that nonsense.

  1. Fast Company: Fast Company packages are one of 4 (level 1 to level 4) groups of powers that you can buy a character which makes them "an action hero." Namely they tend to be quick, acrobatic, and they hit pretty hard (for a normal guy). They also take less damage than most when shot at or hit. They're resilient. So if Jason Bourne is FC Level 1--and Ozymandias from Watchmen is like Level 4 or something (and we could argue all day) you pick the bad-ass level of your character and "pay the points" and go "Now I'm Fast Co Level 3" or whatever.
  2. TAP Abilities: Some abilities just cost 4 points or 8 points or even "8 points per level of the ability you buy" but SOME cost like 41% of your points. Those are TAP (Cost is based on Total Archetype Points). Things like super-speed and being hard to hit are TAP based. Things like doing a lot of damage are normal cost. Fast Company is TAP (with some normal cost as well).
  3. Over Unity Characters. If you add up a lot of TAP powers whose costs are expressed as, like .41 and .18 and so on, if you get a number that is 1 or higher the character costs 100% or more of the points you have to spend. Such a character is illegal.
So what was happening? Take The Jedi.

The Jedi
For purposes of this discussion The Jedi is a character with a light saber who expects to fight other characters with light sabers. He is a Fast Company Level 2 bad-ass who has a weapon that, if it hits by 0-3 (a glancing blow) does, well, "pretty darn good" damage. If he hits by 4 or more (a vital hit) he does ... YOUR MOMMA. Basically, if he hits by 4+ he will kill almost anything human unless protected by blast door armor.

How do you deal with such a character dueling another such character? The answer is: Success Point Pools. the characters have SPs that they spend during the fight to reduce the level of blows that do hit down to the 0-3 (or even down to a miss). This means the "reasonable" level of damage will come off their Damage Points while a really good hit would eviscerate them--the SP pool ensures that won't happen with just one-lucky-hit (okay, it can--but it has to be really lucky).

This is, we think, good for the game: if you make characters this way they can engage in light-saber duels but their training (which is what the pool more or less represents) will protect them from a sudden killing blow unless from a substantially superior opponent (your opponent can spend SPs for a better hit).

The problem was: either these guys were 100's of Archetype Points or, at the higher levels, "Over Unity." A Jedi might be a lot of points--but he's not 100's of them--he has other Force Powers too. So we weren't happy with this problem.


What could we do?

The Batman-Like Object
When looking at the outer-range of human-style characters we choose "the batman" because he (or, you know, Captain America--he could work there too) is defined as being pretty much topped out. There might be someone better in some dimension--but not across all dimensions. Not really.

So the question was "How many points do you need to play Batman?" Not: the Batman, of course--not someone who can do everything the character ever-ever-ever did in every comic--just someone close enough to feel right. That's the BLO--the Batman-Like Object.

Is it 128? 200? 1000? I settled on 320 APs--which is  really freakin' high--but still ...

But then--what do you do about him. He's Fast Company Level something high (3 or 4, probably). He likely has SP Pool abilities like Analyze Opponent and Mass Attack (hit multiple people). He may have extra attacks or blocks (which are generally TAP abilities) and so on. He has some leadership and strategic SP pools ... probably.

So he's one of those Over Unity guys. He doesn't work--or he's like 1600 points and still not that good.

Back when I was doing cyber-senses in an earlier version of the game I wanted there to be a scout-package of sensors that didn't cost a ton of points--but I also wanted to charge a few points here and there for the better senses so that everyone didn't have them. I came up with the idea of "Stack" (a "sensory stack") where you'd invest like 4 APs or 6 APs (a lot for senses) and get like 10 APs or 16 APs--a WHOLE LOT in senses. That is: for a big investment you got a lot back. It took a little tweaking--but the idea was okay.

What if we did that for Fast Company + TAP abilities?

Fast Company L2 is .52--52% of your Total APs, whatever they are. What if TAP +STACK was 80% of your total APs but you got to add .73 TAP instead of the normal .28 TAP (.80-.52 = .28).

While we know this is complex (definitely optional rule) it has a few advantages:
  • It makes (at first examination) the kinds of characters we're looking for. I've done some preliminary testing and I like the results.
  • It makes characters like Worm's Jack Slash a LOT fewer points for the same punch. This is a good thing.
  • The numbers aren't as bad as you'd think. The decimal numbers come from the simulator. When we put in very high TAP characters they tend to always lose to the armored guys (they can't do enough damage) and do very very well against the pure Damage Point guys--guys who are tough but have no armor. In actual gaming we don't see many characters on either extreme--but a lot more in the middle. As TAP powers don't do outright damage they suffer greatly against these "mixed" characters as they have a very hard time with armor. In other words, the high TAP values are probably overpriced for most games.