Jul 8, 2018

BCZ Retrospective XXVI: New Boss Capstones

BCG games where the whole PC Squad takes on a solo Superboss ended up being way more common than I expected, and Capstones are the only mechanic that lets Bosses keep up with 3+ PCs of a PL higher than 1 right out of the gate. They still need a little bit of help from things like additional Grunts, going for PLs 6 and above, or Component Rivals to combine with, but of these three options the only one that doesn't involve the creation of additional NPCs is going for a higher PL and granting them more Capstones.

With only 6 Capstones in the core rules, that's going to get repetitive fast. Fight a Boss with Energy Drain or Possession once and it's a challenging, different encounter from the norm. Fight a Boss with Energy Drain and Possession every Operation... And it's going to cross the line into being an annoying experience.

In BCZ I tried to add just enough Capstones to improve variety while including more GM advice and premade Grunt/Rival builds meant for accompanying Bosses without stealing the spotlight from them.

While the system is clearly not meant for a constant stream of 4v1 boss fights (or 3v1, 5v1, etc), I think that all the additions should be enough to run 10-15 operations that manage to stay fresh the whole way. What if you want more than 20? Probably not going to happen. The system is clearly not meant for Boss rushes and it can only be stretched so much.

Anyway, on to the capstones themselves!

All Becomes Dust
This ability is meant to represent some kind of entropic energy-draining aura, so in hindsight it should've also created Anti-Air versions of the Withering and Extreme Terrain to go with the default Anti-Ground ones. That would've made it way more powerful, yes, but it costs a ton of Energy to hit multiple PCs and touching a sniper with it is just plain unrealistic. Maybe I could tweak the Energy cost to rebalance the stronger version around it. Anyway, other than that slight flavor fail, I think it's a pretty solid Capstone that forces PCs to stay away or get wrecked, which is how I think close quarters Capstones should work.

My Final Masterpiece
The best and most known example I can think of for this ability is the third Lavos fight from Crono Trigger, but I'm sure you've seen this idea executed in other games as well. One interesting difference from the way this kind of Boss usually goes in BCG from videogames is that, while you'd think that the ability encourages aggressive Bosses protected by a tanky Grunt, it actually works better if you create a glass cannon Grunt and use the Boss to buff and heal them constantly. Without even trying to get creative, it is trivial to make a unit with Might 10 that spams a Hyper Launcher with You are in my Sights and gets resurrected every time you bring it down. If you focus the Boss, the Grunt gets more buffs and if you focus the Grunt it gets revived anyway! I think it makes more sense in-world for the big bad to beef up their pet and let it do the carrying, even if that isn't how the trope usually goes.

The Ultimate Shield
Grunts and Rivals are expected to have Active Defenses, but Bosses don't have those. This can end up making builds that rely on abilities that ignore Active Defenses (instead of attack bonuses) weaker than usual, so I opted to make Boss Upgrades like Adaptive Morphology and Afterimages count as Active Defenses. As I've already said, one of the problems with the Active Defenses that Bosses get is that they're only active after they've already taken a beating... And they're only at their best when they're near death. The Ultimate Shield solves this problem by being a Capstone and thus being active for the entire fight, making barrier-piercing attacks that much more valuable. I may have gone overboard, honestly, because +10 Defense is kind of a lot to punch through the old fashioned way. It's one of the most effective and easy to use Capstones in the game, forcing PCs to either ignore barriers or cause direct Damage if they want to win.

Tyrant of Lost Souls
Lastly, we have I Accept your Offering but as a passive ability. Usually the best way to deal with a Boss and its minions is to ignore the tanky Boss until you've dealt with the massed firepower of its allies. This punishes PCs that ignore the Boss with a bunch of free Damage. It is also one of the few abilities in the game that references Power Ratings directly, as it is the one variable that gives me (and GMs) the most control over how hard PCs get punished for ignoring the Boss. You set the number down and it never changes, no matter what happens in the middle of the Operation.

How effective is it, though? Well, assuming a Squad of 4 PCs of PL5, with two of them being equivalent to a Boss, that leaves a Power Rating of 24 to be distributed around other Grunts, Rivals and Bosses. Does 24 free Damage hurt a PL5 PC? Yes, but it's probably not punishing enough to force all of them to change their strategy, and a single PC with Threshold 7 can facetank it. Should the effect be 2x Power Rating? Power Rating + Tension? Well, either of these risks making the Boss undefeatable unless the PCs focus fire them immediately... But that's kind of the point, isn't it? And yet, arguably the ability is better off being too weak than too strong. See, a version that is too strong would force PCs to play exactly one way to beat the Boss, while the current and weaker version gives them a choice, and helps preserve a sense of agency. It's a complicated issue, basically, so I'm not going to call it a success but I don't think it is a total failure either.

And That's All For Now

And that's it, not just for Bosses but also all of Chapter 1! Woo! I hope that was enlightening. It certainly helped me take notice of a few issues that I hadn't noticed before. They say that you don't really understand something until you can explain it, and that is something I agree with.

I'm going to take a break from the weekly posts for a while. I may do Chapter 2 later, but I want to talk about some other things first. I'll be back with something substantial in the near future, hopefully before the end of the month.

Gimmick Out

Jul 1, 2018

BCZ Retrospective XXV: New Boss Weapons

One of the problems with Boss Weapons in BCG was repetitiveness. Between having a small armory, many Boss Weapons being engineered for very specific purposes and being unmaimable, most Bosses would stick to spamming the same attacks over and over. BCZ obviously expands the armory and adds a few general use Weapons that can slot into most Boss builds, but it is the addition of the Slow drawback that really changes everything.

Slow Weapons encourage Bosses to change things up, (or take turns off defending and the like, I guess) but also they're even stronger than regular Boss Weapons, which means that PCs have to play around them to avoid getting blasted to bits. So let's see how good they are:

Terrifying Attack
The more Units on your side, the more Tension bonuses you get, and the stronger your team will be the longer the battle goes. Terrifying Attack helps Bosses keep up with PCs by both denying Tension for one of them and doing extra Damage based on the current Tension, making it sort of like a Technique. It's very strong but needs to pass the Might Test in order to do anything, so it should be paired up with Caustic Touch.

Whirling Death
Tentacle Lash was already one of the better Boss Weapons. This is Tentacle Lash but better, making it arguably the best Boss Weapon in BCZ. Combining both of the Long Range Melee Bursts with Caustic Touch is like the most braindead easy way to make a threatening Boss and I don't think that is a bad thing. Sometimes you need to have stuff in your game that any GM can use to challenge their PCs with.

Corrosive Sting
I think this is the only Systems debuff in the entire game that you can inflict on someone else. The other Systems debuffs in the game are all negative effects from abilities that the PCs choose for themselves, such as Power Suit. Anyway, it doesn't hit super hard and only targets one PC with each attack, but it neuters many of the game's most powerful builds when it does connect. Works well with Boss builds that like to duel with (or Duel with, as in the rules term) one PC at a time.

Sonic Blades
The Threshold destruction effect is very hard to be on the receiving end of, and because this Weapon is a Beam it is going to land more often than most other Weapons of its ilk. Costs a lot of Energy, though. It's kind of crazy with Power of Despair and, if ignored in favor of other Enemies, the Boss might end up cleaving through the PCs and become unstoppable once the combo gets going.

Shadow Fist
The evil version of Radiant Fist! If Radiant Fist is the Shining Finger, then this is the Darkness Finger. A Darkness Finger that upgrades to Darkness Finger Sekiha Tenkyoken when Boosted, at that. It is absurdly powerful, so it is also Slow. I think this was only Slow when Boosted at first, but that made the unboosted version too good, so now there's more of a choice to using it. You will want to spend the 4 Energy the majority of the time, but not always, and not doing so doesn't make the Weapon useless because it still ignores Active Defenses. Probably my favorite in this batch.

Antimatter Shot
I needed a Slow non-Beam Shooting Weapon and was struggling to think of a buff that went well with Caustic Touch but wasn't overpowering. I settled on a gun that autorolled 10 because it technically doesn't increase the maximum Damage all that much, it only adds +2 or +4 (depending on how many Advantages are now being converted to Might bonuses) and removes the element of chance. Playtesting showed that it was okay, but didn't feel as good to use as other Slow Weapons, so it gained the bonus Damage. It might be a little too strong now, honestly, but it only attacks single targets and the range isn't that great, so it's not overpowering.

Magic Bullet
The way it is currently written, it is basically a worse Burst. On the plus side, because it is a worse Burst, I don't have to give it any drawbacks! With that said, I think this could have been a little bit stronger. Maybe just a bonus Advantage or Tension as a bonus to Damage or something. In flavor terms, this is directly taken from Hellsing. Is it in-genre? No, but it is cool. Little bit of trivia: The Clarke Foundation mini-setting was going to a lot more obviously based on Hellsing until I realized that it didn't have enough giant robots to justify doing that.

Gravity Blast
Ugh, this is so badly written that it has confused me when giving out rulings about how it is supposed to work. It is supposed to be a Blast with an effect like Ensnaring Trap, but you could interpret the text to say that it only affects abilities that grant flight for one Round which... It's just Antigravity, you goof! Also the spacing in the first sentence after the comma is wrong. Gah! This makes me mad! Which sucks because it's a pretty nifty ability otherwise. Good concept, bad templating.

Ultrabeam Cannon
Lines are cool, but what if you could make them... Wider? This Weapon behaves more like a Blast, because it will probably hit most (if not all) of the PCs. I've grown fond of these Wide Lines, I think they capture the feeling of something like a wave motion cannon or dragon breath better than Lines or Blasts do. It's strong, doesn't cost too much Energy and feels pretty cool, so I quite like it.

Assimilation Sweep
The last one of the ten to get made, because I had a really hard time trying to think of a big effect that deserved a high Energy cost and Slow without just doing tons of Damage from very far away. Could I have ignored one, two or all three of those tenets? Kinda. I wanted a gun that could be paired with Shadow Fist, I wanted Bosses to be able to alternate between one and the other, which meant making it Slow and the same Boost cost. Shadow Fist was already very strong though! Hence my apprehension at making a gun that was just "Shadow Fist but from 10+ Zones away." The idea I came up with was a healing effect, something that is fairly rare in the game (even for Bosses) and a debuff that would make it much harder for PCs to focus fire down the Boss. I wish I could remember the flavor inspiration, though.

The problem of repetitiveness was a big deal for Bosses in BCG, so while Powers and Upgrades only had six new abilities each (and Capstones only get four), the Boss Armory got doubled in size with ten new Weapons in total. Overall I'm very happy with how much the BCZ Boss Weapons add to the game.

Next: New Boss Capstones

Gimmick Out

Jun 24, 2018

BCZ Retrospective XXIV: New Boss Upgrades

BCG's Boss Upgrades were a good way to make fights more dynamic than the usual TRPG fashion where people blow their best powers at the beginning then clean up from there. At least on paper, mostly. The execution of Boss Upgrades had some issues. In particular, many of them could only trigger their effects after getting a Turn when they had already lost at least one Level of Threshold. Depending on the Initiative order and the rest of their kit, they may or may not explode violently without ever getting to use the defensive abilities that are supposed to keep them alive.

To help alleviate this issue, BCZ has Boss Upgrades with more instantaneous effects and offensive buffs, guaranteeing that Bosses will at least take out one of the PCs even if they can't withstand the focus fire of 2+ units targeting them. The last time I did this, I kept count of the number of defensive abilities that could come online too late to matter (The total was 5). I'll do the same this time. Let's jump in!

Aura of Dark Majesty
This amounts to autocasting 6 Genre Powers. Of these 6, 5 can do Damage to PCs, and Your Fate is Sealed stops healing to potentially doom the targeted PC to an imminent explosive fate. The Upgrade needs a decent amount of Systems (because it uses Die for Me!) and the effects only happen once, so it's not very good against Squads with long-term survivability. Fortunately, the allure of glass cannons is so strong in the system that this won't be the case for most GMs, making it a fairly effective Upgrade. Fun Fact: Your Fate is Sealed was Crush the Insect once upon a time. Looking back, I still think that it is a lot more fitting... Just a lot less fair to play against too.

Caustic Touch
PCs get tons of Upgrades that encourage them to build around the use of specific Weapons. Bosses didn't really have that... Not until the expansion, at least. I tried to pick effects that would be universally useful and were more interesting than a simple bonus to Might/extra Damage. If the effects were also things that Boss Weapons in BCG couldn't already do, that was a bonus. This Upgrade was co-designed at the same time as the Boss Weapons in BCZ to help make them compatible with each other. The effects are very powerful and getting hit by something like Tentacle Lash or Magic Bullet when this is at Level 4 will wreck multiple PCs. All in all, it's pretty great!

Overheating Field
The least harmful part of Electromagnetic Detonator, but weaponized in an area so large that it is potentially devastating. The passive Damage is in the PC's control, and they could simply choose to not spend any Energy, but if they do then it is going to add up fast. I think this went straight from its first version to print without any changes. It's... Largely okay, really. Not a lot more to say about it.

Portable Battlefield
It is a somewhat common trope that the heroes sometimes fight a monster that draws them into a zone that is under their control. At first its area of effect also counted as Extreme Terrain... But that was way too good, so it got nerfed to Difficult + Defensive Terrain only instead. The end result is that it is kind of weak. Flavorful - but weak. Now don't get me wrong, a +4 to Defense to the Boss and all of its Grunt buddies at Level 4 can be brutally effective... Except for the part where all the NPCs must bunch up and make themselves super vulnerable to Blasts and Bursts. Delayed Defensive Upgrade Count: 1. On top of all its problems, its likely that the Grunts will die long before the Boss hits Level 3-4. Sheesh, I should've put more thought into this one.

Power of Despair
The Beam-based counterpart to Caustic Touch. The idea with this one is that it lets the Boss mix and match Beam Weapons of different Boost values however they see fit, plus it also provides a viable sink for Behold my True Power. The first Turn or two (or however long until you hit Threshold Level 2) may be a little awkward as you're probably going to have trouble utilizing your Weapons and Powers effectively, but after that the Boss is a total murderbeast. Delayed Defensive Upgrade Count: 2. The Defense bonus counts as an Active Defense, so there's plenty of counterplay options against this, but because it's half an offensive buff and half a defensive buff it does not suffer from coming online in the middle of battle like Adaptive Morphology or Afterimages do.

Rules of Nature
The last of the six Boss Upgrades in BCZ is specifically designed for single-target specialists that overpower the PCs taking them out one at a time. The debuff + buff combo is strong, and the autodamage + healing even gives the Boss an element of inevitability that makes it trivial to overpower PCs in a 1v1 situation. Delayed Defensive Upgrade Count: 3. Much like Power of Despair, this isn't entirely a defensive Upgrade, so there's a lower risk of a single round of focus fire removing most of the value this Upgrade could grant.

So while BCG has 5 Upgrades that are supposedly there to help Bosses survive attacks from the PCs, BCZ has 3. None of these three of them are purely defensive. Also, except for Portable Battlefield, all of BCZ's Boss Upgrades have very direct and impactful effects. I'd say that 5 of 6 is a good score and that BCZ makes it a lot easier for Bosses to keep up with 2 PCs.

Next: New Boss Weapons.

Gimmick Out

Jun 17, 2018

BCZ Retrospective XXIII: New Boss Powers.

The Boss Powers in BCG are primarily defensive, with some Powers that do Direct Damage for offensive purposes. I largely tried to avoid direct attack and defense buffs, because Bosses could end up being unbeatable when you stack those with the buffs they can get at Threshold Levels 3 and 4. In BCZ the PCs have many more ways to buff themselve and also have access to all sorts of new utility powers, upgrades and weapons... So I figured I would give Bosses the same utility toolset plus the simple attack and defense buffs that BCG didn't give them.

Much like I did for the original set of BCG Boss Powers, I'll be grading these on how much they let you ham it up as GM by calling them out loud. Without further ado, let's begin!

Catch me if you Can
This gives Bosses access to something that they would otherwise not be able to do: Teleport. It's not amazing, but if your Boss depends a lot on positioning and already has most of its kit, then this is a pretty decent pick. Ham Rating: Medium. The name fits pretty well and it's a pretty okay taunt, but it's the least bombastic thing in the world.

Crush the Insect
This is a very, very nasty surprise to pull on PCs with low Systems. Everything I said about Invasive in the BCG Retrospective applies to this Power: It's a cheap trick that can be very frustrating and unfun, so it more than does its job but it should be used sparingly... Or with parties that are ready for and expect Plot Armor Damage. Ham Rating: Good. This really should've been called "Crush you like an Insect", then it would've been Great.

I Can Read Your Every Move
I set out to adapt Combat Profiling, specifically by making the rules as similar as possible, and the results are... Mixed. On one hand, it's pretty simple and flavorful. On the other hand, it doesn't really do a lot. The buff only occurs during your next Turn, and the PC has control over whether it happens or not. Arguably, this could've been better as a pseudo mind control power, where the Boss 'predicts' what is going to happen and/or sets up a trap and forces the PC into it. My other problem with it is that the buff is only relevant to Bosses that specialize in direct combat, and this is the kind of power that you give to NPC tricksters and tacticians who should have Systems higher than Might. Ham Rating: Great. The callout is very flavorful and threatening, so at least we end on a high note!

Marked for Death
This is one of those straightforward attack and defense buffs I mentioned... And it's a pretty good one! +4 Attack and Defense, even if it is only against a single target, shoudl let you down a PC in 3 attacks instead of 4 and possibly negate some debuffs that need to meet your Defense to have an effect. Probably my favorite of this whole bunch, in mechanical terms, because it goes on so many builds. Ham Rating: Medium. A simple change like "Mark you for Death" would increase the rating to Good. It's easy enough to make the change and make yourself understood, so it's not bad.

Souls Bound by Gravity
I don't remember what came first, the idea of naming a power after Char's phrase or making a debuff that removes Flight. Whatever the case, the result is inarguably flavorful. It originally didn't have a range limit, which made it kind of bullshit as all Extreme Terrain anywhere forever would wreck your shit until the Boss died. At least now the Boss has to be close to the PCs and can't spend its Turns running away while forcing them to suffer Extreme + Difficult + Withering Terrain hell combos. Ham Rating: Meh. This depends entirely on whether you get the reference or not and, even then, it's not a particularly menacing line. Bump this to Great if you're Shuuichi Ikeda.

You are in my Sights
Aiming is a pretty good and simple buff, but it's too good to make it easily accessible to PCs without jumping through a hoop por two. With that said, there's no reason that Bosses can't have it, and if I'm going to do that then might as well let them use it to buff Grunts and Rivals as well. Ham Rating: Good, but would be Great if it was "Sniping the Targets" or even "I've Got you in my Sights."

So I think the BCZ Boss Powers average out to good, if not spectacular. Two are solid, two are conditional, one is meh and the last one is PTSD-inducing on munchkins without systems. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't pick out better names for them, but from a mechanical standpoint there's only one dud among them. And, er, that's it! I really don't have much more to say here. There's no big essay or profound realization to be had here. Sometimes stuff is just okay and that's fine!

Next: New Boss Upgrades

Gimmick Out

Jun 10, 2018

BCZ Retrospective XXII: New Beam Weapons.

If Melee Weapons needed more utility/aoe potential and Shooting Weapons needed more generalist tools, then Beam Weapons needed to complement existing builds using similar Energy costs. This may seem like a sort of OCD-ish quirk, more than a legitimate requirement concerning game balance, but it doesn't matter how powerful your gun is if it's too expensive or its drawbacks are too impractical for your build. Likewise, if it is too weak and cheap, then it won't slot into builds that are already made with higher costs in mind. So I deliberately looked for abilities that could make sense at costs 2, 3 and 4. My original idea was to focus primarily on 2 and 3, but most of the ideas I could think of were too powerful and thus leaning towards 4. Here's how it all ended up:

Boost 1: 2 Weapons.
Boost 2: 6 Weapons.
Boost 3: 4 Weapons.
Boost 4: 8 Weapons.

I'm not super happy with the Boost 4 glut there, but it's sort of how things turned out. I think that if I'd had the opportunity to do all 20 Beam Weapons at once (instead of doing them in two waves for two books), I could've figured out a way to make half the Boost 4 Weapons into Boost 3 and reshuffled some other abilities to make them more consistent. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and I had to keep the new Weapons balanced not just with each other but also with the older options. With this in mind, their Boost cost will be an important metric for my judging.

And about that balance... Well, I guess it's time to get started on the individual entries:

Magneburst
It's a Weapon that works as a Defense, and is better than Maneuvering if your Systems/Speed are super low. This used to be able to gain Long Range and it was ridiculous. It is still kind of obnoxious, specially since a ton of Grunts can spam this to make a Rival or Boss immune to everything but AoEs. While we could argue whether this is balanced or not, I'll just say that creating a cloud of Interference Terrain is not a Boost 2 effect.

Burnout Edge
A handy debuff, but suffers from not having an effect that lasts a whole Round. This way, they still refresh their Energy, so all it really does is stop Active Defenses and possibly Boost Powers. This would've been better as a Boost 2.

Fangs
Fangs are the only Remotes optimized for tanking. The idea is that you use them to Engage while staying away, that's why they have a Guard of 10. With some Active Defenses like Shielding Aura, they can pull off the feat of fully dodging some Weapons and only being weak to automatic Damage and lucky rolls of 8+. I think this merits its Boost 3.

Gravity Knuckle
Gravity Knuckle used to push for 5 Zones doing an added 5 bonus Damage. That was kind of insane, so I toned that down to 3 Zones and 3 bonus Damage. It's an okay utility Weapon for Melee or Beam specialists, but the Boost 4 really hurts. It's a decent pick, but you rarely want to spend that much Energy on anything but a finisher, so I wonder if I could've tweaked with the numbers until making it balanced for Boost 3.

Ground Zero
It is with a deep and heavy sigh that I admit I screwed up with this one. Ground Zero is worth using without Boosting, and if you do Boost it, then it probably murders the fuck out of the battlefield. This used to gain Long Range when Boosted, which was the most insane thing ever and allowed optimized glass cannons to make a 21x21 square of absolute death that didn't hurt allies. The only easy fix I can think of would be a flavor fail: It would be only an aoe, without a longer Range than 1, when Boosted. Then it would be good, but not as ridiculous as it currently is. It's definitely a Boost 4 Weapon, I got that part right at least.

Graviton Gun
A pure utility gun. It's not a big effect though. At first it pushed or pulled the target towards either end of the line, but that was a little bit much when it sent multiple baddies crashing in one direction. It's handy, but not super exciting, so I guess it is okay at Boost 2. Not super proud of it but at least it isn't awful.

Point Singularity Projector
This was a commission from the Kickstarter. The idea was to have a Weapon that wants to be used withthe Assist Action much like other Weapons want to be used with Aim or Suppress. It's got a good rate on Advantages to Energy spent, encourages teamwork and brings a new kind of build to the game. It's really good! It was, in fact, so good that I completely forgot I was supposed to get back to the creator about it because all the other commissions were so much harder to get right. After like a year of our last contact, I got back to them again and things were fine. Boost 2 is maybe a bit too generous but it's not a noticeable balance concern.

Bits
Ah, Funnels Dragoons Aerods Flying Shooty Things Bits, a Mecha staple. Now, at last, people can actually use them as a Weapon and not as a Support Upgrade. You can either protect them with a combination of Range, Crippling and Active Defenses or just send it to the other end of the battlefield so that Enemies won't be able to blast it and you at the same time. Boost 3 is perfect.

Lux Cannon
This was a Weapon that I tried out in BCG but it was too good. So what changed? Well, now there's more ways to build shooty beam dudes than to make them glass cannons and there's more ways to build tanky characters meant to withstand punishment than to hope your Absolute Barrier holds. It's still quite strong, so it's worth the Boost 4.

Oblivion Buster
It's the strongest single-target Weapon in the game, and it shows. While the ability to destroy Threshold Levels instantly is great for keeping super tanky PC/Rival builds in line, this Weapon shows how much of a problem it can be when Bosses are vulnerable to it. Bosses are at their most threatening for a very brief window of like 1 Turn, which Oblivion Buster can bypass. Even if you give them things like Oldtype, it's taking out at least 2 Levels. Buff it enough, and it's going to be 3. It's appropriate, but probably a bit much, and shows that destroying Levels as a Weapon effect is a worse idea than just bypassing Active Defenses. Definitely earns that Boost 4, though, and all its other drawbacks too.

So, Beam Weapons. Some are good, some are meh, and some are exceedingly exploitable. I'm a lot less happy about them than I am about the rest of the armory. I also think I screwed up with the Boost costs in general but that would've needed a rework of a bunch of BCG Weapons to do it properly, so it's not as much of a problem to me on a personal level.

But that's just me being a perfectionist! Feel free to tell me how wrong I am, how much the 'meh' Weapons are really cool and good, how the exploitable guns are fine and I'm just an overreacting whiny baby. I'd make a poll but it looks like Blogger removed the option to add those for some reason. What the crap, Blogger.

Next: Boss Powers.

Gimmick Out.

Jun 3, 2018

BCZ Retrospective XXI: Shooting Weapons

Shooting Weapons have a higher power ceiling than Melee Weapons and they can also attack from longer distances. BCG had, in my opinion, too many niche or utility Shooting Weapons and not enough generalist options. This led to the creation of a metagame where most of the optimized Shooting specialist builds were of the glass cannon variety, built around using one or two specific guns and sacrificing everything else. My goal with BCZ was to add some variety and make it easier for more generalist builds to compete with the specialists. So let's see how they turned out, on with the show!

Anti-Mecha Cannon
Crippling is a pretty good debuff and with Long Range you could potentially 1v1 harass someone the entire fight with impunity. I considered making this Slow instead of One Shot, but it was still too good. As a One Shot you can build around it (and other One Shots) to keep the most dangerous threat Crippled every turn while you shoot from safety. It's not something you can pull off at low PLs though, so this is a niche weapon with secondary use as an utility/finisher.

Hyper Launcher
Blast 3 is HUGE and Unreliable doesn't hurt artillery builds as much as other drawbacks like Slow and One Shot. You can use this any turn, every turn, to wipe low Threshold Grunts with all but the worst of rolls. It lacks Long Range, but it's a great pick if you want to spam Blasts without having to perform shenaniganry with Slows and One Shots.

Lockdown Missile
Would you believe me if I told you that this used to be a Support Upgrade? The original idea simply surrounded one zone with barriers and let you lock out someone out of the battle forever, unless they had the appropriate Upgrades or enough friends to beat you up and stop trolling them. This was waaaay too good as a 5 MP Support and still uncomfortably griefy as a 10 MP Support, so it became a One Shot Weapon with a decent Blast radius instead. With a way to resupply One Shots you can still murder someone while keeping them out of the fight the entire time, but you have to be close to them and have to be careful about not trapping yourself in there too... And they could still fly over or teleport through your barriers, so it's not as easy to abuse. Still good though. Just make sure you're not making the GM/CoPCs miserable while you're laughing your way to victory.

Macrowave Cannon
A commissioned Weapon. It was inspired by an old design from when this game was called GGG, which only survived to BCG in the form of a Boss Weapon. It may read as a Beam Weapon, but it's just plain Shooting. Which is good for it, because otherwise it'd be even more difficult to use properly. Because it is so strong and has such a huge aoe, the recharging time isn't as much of a  drawback as you may think, since it is likely to end or make unloseable the battle when you use it with some buffs.

Mounted Blaster
A long, long while ago, Shooting Weapons granted an Advantage for standing still while using them, rather than granting two for Aiming with them. While I think the current version of the Shooting Keyword plays a lot better, the simplicity of having a guaranteed Advantage that you could gain just by losing some mobility was nice to have. This is a callback to those days, allowing most types  of gunners to trade in the Movement that they may or may not even be using for attack parity with Meleeists.

Radiation Bomb
This is Bombardment's evil twin. Or, well, eviler twin. While Bombardment is a ruthless, efficient killer. Radiation Bomb will either tickle you or hurt you way more than Bombardment could, making it the cruel sadist of the relationship. While Bombardment is a great Weapon, it does feel like a flavor miss sometimes when you try to use it to represent particularly nasty weaponry like napalm, nerve agents or, well, radiation bombs. So I made Radiation Bomb because there clearly just weren't enough ways to create huge explosions and destroy everything everywhere forever in this game already.

Rapidfire Machinecannon
Another simple gun. Shooting Weapons in BCG had more roles to cover (short range, long range, area, debuff, etc....) than Melee ones, so as a consequence they were generally more complicated and had more drawbacks to use. This is why there's so many more Shooting Weapons that just grant one Advantage (or inflict a Disadvantage) in a specific sitaution in BCZ.

Sentry Turret
It's the only non-Beam Remote! The flavor is that you're planting down an aimbot that has a wide reach and hits hard but is fragile and immobile. In a previous version, it got an automatic roll of 10 to the Might Test. In another, it was Crippling. The autorolling 10 was weird because it arguably did reduced Damage compared to weaker guns when they rolled highly, which led to some moments where it felt bad to use. Crippling from Long Range is, as I have already said, way too good. The final version is nothing amazing, but if you shield it with your body and Engage baddies that would snipe it then it will provide a reliable source of damage every Turn.

Torpedoes
This Weapon is so niche that it's way more likely to be used by specialized NPCs than by most PCs. But it also serves another function in that it is an example of how homebrewers might want to balance their own custom Weapons. This might not seem like a big reason, but given that I wasn't sure whether I was going to end up making a Custom Weapons system or not (and I didn't) I wanted to put it in BCZ to at least provide a little guidance by example.

Tracer Rifle
It's a focus fire Weapon that, while weak, grants a +2 to every other friendly that coordinates with you. This makes it very powerful, particularly if you've got a low Might build and don't really care all that much about doing Damage yourself. It is a very nice side gun for support oriented builds.

Other than the griefing potential of the Lockdown Missile (Which has been described ''legitimately the funniest thing i've seen in a game" by one of its live witnesses and as "the full spicy meme experience" by another, so I think of it as more of a feature than a bug) I don't have any significant issues with most of these. Even the ones that look difficult to use properly, like the Anti-Mecha and Macrowave Cannons have a unique role that works for them, without being overpowered. All in all, a very nice set.

Next is... Oh, it's Beam Weapons. :sweating_emoji: Oooh boy.

Gimmick Out.

May 27, 2018

BCZ Retrospective XX: Melee Weapons

Before we get to Melee Weapons proper, I should probably spare a few words on the expansions' only new Weapon keyword: Remote. Originally I had planned for things like the funnels from gundam or other attack drone-esque weapons to be represented by Support Upgrades, but players reported back that it wasn't scratching their Remote Weapons itch. The game needed to have Remote Weapons that used your Might stat and could be shot down to disable them. So I did just that. There's not much else of a story to them, really, I gave them fairly low defensive stats to compensate for the fact that disabling them requires one enemy to spend a turn not actually shooting you. Like I said back when I wrote about "Go, Funnels!", these don't have a passive Upgrade for balance reasons... But in hindsight I suppose I could've given them an Advantage to attacks and some other bonus, it didn't have to be an extra attack each turn.

So, Melee Weapons! I said a long while ago that what the Melee Weapons in BCG lacked wasn't attack power but versatility and utility value. My goal with BCZ's Melee armory was to add a few options for raw damage while trying to make viable options for attacking at range, crowd control or niche options for specialized builds.

Assassin Blade
Assassin Blade is one of the straightforward damage options, though it is best suited to groups with multiple meleeists rather than a single dedicated duelist. It's also quite effective in the hands of Grunt swarms focus firing a single PC. It draws inspiration from the flanking and sneak attack mechanics found in D&D and other RPGs that encourage having multiple PCs ganging up on the same target.

Countersword
This is a Technique for tanks. With a Pulling Field build, it is somewhat tricky to use but is very rewarding when you do pull it off. It can lead to wasted turns the rest of the time, however, and that's what makes this a very conditional and meta-dependent Weapon... Unless you take I Am Your Opponent, in which case you can force an Enemy to trigger your Countersword, swinging with a fairly strong attack that can potentially Maim or even destroy the offending Enemy before they get to finish their own attack. It's not a straightforward Weapon, but I think it fulfills its purpose.

Great Crusher
This is our first new area of effect Melee Weapon, it either murders tightly packed Grunt squads or debuffs them to the point where they pose much less of a threat. The Range isn't particularly amazing, though. Great Crusher draws an obvious inspiration from the Goldion Crusher of GaoGaiGar, though less on the whole "reducing things to light with a planet-sized weapon" part and more on the way it usually appears in videogames.

Hook Launcher
Positioning-based strategies, particularly those using Guardian of Steel, can be very hard to defeat. That's why BCZ includes more forced movement to disrupt those strategies and add an element of counterplay. It is not a hard counter, because it is a One Shot, so you have to focus fire the hooked target or you'll barely get any value out of it. The forced Dueling can buy you some time to help with this, assuming the target doesn't have Slippery Chassis.

Kamaitachi
Another area of effect Melee Weapon. This one needs a sizable Systems investment to reliably hit more than one Enemy, but it doesn't suffer from in-built drawbacks like Slow or One Shot. You could even use it without any Systems as a counter against enemies with an Active Defense like ECS. One of the best of this bunch.

Magnet Rod
Remember when I mentioned Weapons for niche builds? This one is for PCs with low Energy. You can get by at low PLs without an Energy of 1 or 2, making it a solid pick. And at high PLs, nearly everybody has 5+ Energy so this will always trigger if you choose to stay at 3-4 Energy. It's not amazing, because Energy is kind of a really important stat, but if it's a low priority for you then this is worth taking.

Pressure Point Attack
It's a Resonance Cannon but even more flavorful. It trades Range and repeatability for Crippling and, um, non-Unreliability. It's a solid pick for Duelist builds that need a finisher but don't want to use Techniques.

Rocket Sword
A secondary Weapon for the Boosted Lance builds that are, otherwise, really bad at dealing with mobs and have little reason to do anything but spam Boosted Lance every single bloody Turn (and maybe use Lightspeed Assault once). It's basically Bombardment for Melee PCs, otherwise. Good stuff.

Shocking Swordwhip
This used to be a ranged tanking Weapon, penalizing attacks that didn't target you. After the change, it simply has Crippling (which is a much more effective and straightforward debuff) but is Unreliable so you need to stack Advantages or get lucky to make it hit. It is handy for the right build, if not spectacular.

Stumbling Fists Style
Very flavorful. The combination of keywords makes perfect sense given the name and what the Weapon does. It's very good for Support PCs with 0 in Might, assuming they don't have Unarmed. If you want to make a battlemage build with Tacticool Approach, this is a great primary Weapon to use while building up to Electro-Sapper Pods.

And that's it. I have very little negative to say about most of these, which shows how much of a better handle I've got on the power level of Melee Weapons as a whole. If I absolutely had to tear them down, I'd say that Shocking Swordwhip, Great Crusher and Hook Launcher could take more trouble setting up than they're worth, and that you need to be PL2 or 3 at least for them to be viable, but that's it really.

Next: New Shooting Weapons.

Gimmick Out.