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.

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