Dec 17, 2017

BCZ Retrospective VII: New General Powers.

The New General Powers are... Well, they're New and they're Powers alright. They don't have a specific purpose or theme, they're just ideas that I thought would make for good Powers or stuff that people commissioned. Not the most exciting origin story, I know, but that's how it happened.

Hang in There!
This Power is the kind of ability that the expansion was made for. As a countermeasure against a very specific kind of enemy (Invasive ones), it is either a lifesaver and nearly obligatory (because you're fighting them often) or almost a waste of a Power slot because you're not fighting them at all. These are what I call 'feast or famine' abilities, where they're either great or terrible with little room for a middle ground. I think it is best when a core book sticks to stuff that more or less everyone can use and the binary or niche rules content is expansion material. There are some feast or famine powers, upgrades and weapons in BCG, but none to the extent of this Power.

I Am a Loose Cannon and Stake My Life on It
Attack bonuses are badass, and attack bonuses that hurt the user are even more badass. The problem with balancing them is that, should you win the battle after using them and before the enemy gets to counterattack, their risk factor is negated. Hence, I think these bonuses are best when you don't have full control over neither the damage boost nor the kickback you get from it. Of these two Powers, the former is highly variable in effectiveness while the latter depends on the status of your current Threshold Level. I think that's the right way to go about them. With that said, they're still very exploitable and an instrumental component of some overpowering builds which I'll get to later. Some fun facts about both powers: I Am a Loose Cannon is a commissioned ability that went to print as it was conceived after my first chat with the creator. Stake My Life on It used to be a Weapon in an early draft of BCG (and in GGG, before that) but was discarded because it was a bit too complex and difficult to use properly.

I Am Your Opponent
Another commissioned ability. This one is a staple of the anime action genre and the mechanics go very well with its flavor. It is an okay option for duelist builds, but I think this could have been a bit stronger.

Take Cover!
By far the easiest way to break the game is to stack attack bonuses with a crowd control weapon and nuke the entire enemy force all at once. This is a huge no-sell to those strategies. Arguably, it is too much of a hard counter, but it is a necessary one. I have said in the past that defensive abilities need to be stronger than offensive abilities, partly because there's less of them (so you can stack offensive buffs to overcome them) and partly because there's no point to bothering with a defensive ability if it can't negate the kind of attack it is supposed to defend against. Having around NPCs with Take cover! means that Blast-and-Burst happy PCs must get rid of those NPCs first or at least make them use the Power before going all-out. Which, in turn, means that the PC squad need to spend more GPs scanning enemies to figure out who are the Take Cover! users and how many there are in each given fight. It makes combat much more cerebral and forces PCs to work together so they can make the huge blowouts possible. I don't think that's the right approach for every kind of game, but it is the one I prefer for a point-buy system like BCG.

You are Already Dead
I don't know how it took until the expansion for a Power with this name to get made, but somehow it wasn't in the core book. Unfortunately, I think it ended up a little bit on the weak side, as all it really does is hit an Enemy for moderate Damage once per battle. At high levels, the Damage is very high indeed, but it is only to a single target and at that point enemies are much bulkier than low level ones. It is simply more practical to take Signature Weapon (which does about the same total Damage, if not more, at all stages of the game) and Impetuous Style (which almost always does more, though only with specific Weapons) But then, what would be the right Damage number? Might + Tension? That would probably be overpowering with all the Tension bonuses in the game. Might + Half Tension? Probably unnoticeable without the aforementioned bonuses making the halved Tension large enough. Half Might + Tension? This one is more interesting, as it is more useful at mid and low levels, but it remains exploitable. I'd be interested in hearing ideas for this Power, if you my readers have any.

That's the General Powers. These didn't have to commit to any strong particular themes and could largely be anything they wanted. They ended up being rather strong and, for the most part, perform their jobs very well.

Next: Rush Powers.

Gimmick Out.

Dec 10, 2017

BCZ Retrospective VI: Alternative Powers.

A long time ago I made a houserule for a game, in this game all PCs had three extra Genre Powers that costed a special resource unique to that game. I liked them enough that I made two more and considered making them general powers in the expansion. Then I realized they were very similar thematically to the default powers and figured they would make cool alternatives to them.

One common trend among them is that Default Powers lean towards handy narrative aids and common genre conventions while the Alternative Powers lean more towards raw power or represent more uncommon genre conventions.

Fight Smarter
Despite being the first in the book, this was the last of all the Alternative Powers to be created. I had Alternatives for all the Default Powers except Knowledge Is Power, so I tried to think of ways in which gaining enemy data could give you an edge. The problem here was that a lot of Genre Powers in BCG already use that flavor, Tactician Powers in particular. The power itself is a generic buff that involves a Systems Test to make it feel more unique. I do like this Power thematically but mechanically I think it is too generic and not interesting enough to be the corresponding Alternative to one of the most useful and memorable Default Powers. In hindsight, a more interesting mechanic (like predicting an NPC's next turn) would have been better in its place. It is my least favorite of these six. It is okay for the high systems combat builds though, so there is that.

I Don’t Think So
This was one of the first three Alternative Powers, back when they were just houseruled abilities. While Not so Fast is stronger, it only works for Squads in which characters want to (or can) protect each other. This is weaker but way more useful for selfish characters who don't care about their allies, such as most Rival NPCs. It is a hit mechanically and a good fit thematically. What more could you ask for?

It’s Over!
This was the fourth or fifth of the bunch to get created. It draws inspiration from the Try Again With Feeling houserule from the BCG core book, except that instead of adding +2 to a result it adds +5 but only if it would finish off an enemy. In being more narrow and stronger it loses 90% of what makes people use Try Again (to reroll low results) and that's a cool take for an Alternative.

Parting Shot
The second of the three houseruled abilities. Back then, you could could combine it with Live Another Day for a tremendous middle finger to your enemy. That was silly. As an Alternative Power that can't be used at the same time as its Default counterpart, it works a lot better. This is my favorite Alternative Power, because there's no more obvious way to signal that you're willing to let your PC die than taking this Power. There is no other Alternative Power that trades this much narrative power for pure combat power, making it the best example of what I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Additionally, it is one of those Powers that are amazing for Rival NPCs - assuming you don't care about letting them die, of course.

The Strong Adapt
This was the last of the original three houseruled abilities. The idea was to make a power that represented anime powerups in a different way from Mid-Scene Upgrade. With Mid-Scene Upgrade, you keep your powerup forever. With The Strong Adapt, you get your powerup once and then forget that it exists for the next dozen episodes. This is basically how every aquatic modular upgrade in Mecha works - you see it once and it helps beat the giant shark or whatever and then it ceases to be outside of plastic models. Other than that, I think this is very good. IIRC this Power originally lasted until end of Operation but that was very silly in terms of power level so it got changed. Much like most of its friends, NPC Rivals love it.

This Is For My Friend!
This was created alongside It's Over! as either the fourth or fifth of this bunch. It is a badass and strong but conditional Power. The problem with this it, from an optimization perspective, is that this Power only works when things have already gone wrong, as opposed to most Powers which you use to make sure things never go wrong in the first place. Still, entire groups shun Synchro Attack on principle, and for them this is a godsend. It is cool, powerful and simple. By the way, this isn't just good for Rival NPCs, it is incredibly silly if you go by the rules as written, as it refreshes when Grunts of the same PL blow up.

And that's Alternative Powers. The Default Powers are my way of giving every PC abilities that I think are necessary for a game like this, but by using Alternative Powers you can greatly change tone and mood. Instead of using Synchro Attacks to win as a unit, you are at your strongest when you're the last pilot standing. Instead of being harder to kill than a cockroach, any time your Mecha is defeated could be your PC's last dying breath. They're simple changes, but no less effective.

And, of course, they give you fun ways to tweak your PC. That's a big draw in a system like BCG.

Next: New General Powers.

Gimmick Out.

Dec 3, 2017

BCZ Retrospective V: New Anomaly Traits.

Anomaly Traits are BCZ's take on character flaws in the vein of design flaws that mecha get. They're not quite the same, since they have a positive side, but pure negative flaws are supposed to be Banes. You know, from Genre Themes? Yeah. The logic is that a real drawback, something that actually affects the character's life, is best roleplayed rather than given a mechanical representation. If your character simply has a penalty to social scenes, they will just avoid those instead of bumbling their way through them. But if they get a reward for doing so, they will actually roleplay it out. People requested character flaws with mechanical downsides every now and then, but I wasn't sure how they could be implemented in a way that didn't undermine Banes.

At some point I had a conversation with a friend about the "outsider" type characters in anime. By "outsiders" I mean characters that feel inhuman or alien in some way among the cast, usually because they're robots or actual aliens. Those characters usually have some kind of weird plot power (like being able to talk to monsters or being able to use the mcguffin or something like that), which made me think of the Enhanced Human Trait and its original form: Mysterious Origin. You can probably see where that went... Although, ironically, Enhanced Human isn't compatible with them because I was worried it would be too imbalanced. I had an Eureka moment and realized there was a way to add character flaws (sort of) via anomalies. They are more like Anomalies/Features than Design Flaws, yes, but the benefit they give is clearly just a CP bonus and you can buy them out anyway, so they're almost pure flaws.

Augmented Creature
Hey, have you ever wanted to play a psychic cat piloting a giant robot? Well do I have the Trait for you then! Sure, you already could do that with just BCG alone, but it wasn't backed up by mechanics! Intellect is arguably the strongest Attribute in the game and that's why it is linked to what are possibly the two strongest Miracles in the game that don't use Intellect. Because linking a free Intellect Skill with a penalty to Intellect would be a dick move, you see. Probing and Sight are also the most generic psychic abilities (telepathy and clairvoyance) outside of Force (representing telekinesis), which makes enough sense to give to an animal with an upgraded brain.

Financially Incompetent
The idea to have one Anomaly for each Attribute meant that I'd have to come up with a way to represent a Resources Disadvantage. The flavor here is one of cultural differences making a PC consistently commit mistakes, which is more interesting to roleplay than simply being perpetually broke. Resources is the closest thing the game has to a dump stat that nearly anyone can reasonably ignore, but becomes very powerful when you put everything into it. Because this might as well be free points for a bunch of different characters, it gives Phasing and Portals, which are very good but not amazing by themselves and either use Fitness or work best with Fitness builds, which are relatively underpowered. Unfortunately, neither Miracle being connected to Resources.

Hivemind Drone
How do you represent a lack of willpower? With a suicidal lack of fear. What kind of benefit could a PC get from that? Being better at working with others. Fortune and Life were chosen partly because they're the two 'Support' Miracles that can be used to represent someone who will give their life for others or someone who is friends with all the important people. This led me to the concept of a character with a mindset like that of eusocial insects. Mechanically speaking, both Miracles are very different from each other. Fortune is a buildaround that enables a specific gimmick build and Life is the logical end point of a build designed around two different Attributes. This is one of my favorite Anomalies.

Mismatched Body
Phantasm and Temperature don't make much sense with the flavor of being an alien but at least they don't get in the way of the Fitness penalty inflicted by this Trait. The idea is that you're alien enough you can breathe fire or create illusions just because, well, you're a weird alien that can do those things while in a human body, I guess. In all honesty, both Skills are very good while Fitness is kind of weak, making this a mechanical as well as conceptual failure. I do like the flavor of getting a Fitness penalty from using a body that isn't yours and enjoyed writing the description but this is a very weak design all around.

Offbeat Senses
Matter and Electricity aren't related to this Trait's flavor at all. That would be because they were chosen simply because I believe them to be the two strongest Miracles in the game, and so they're tied to the strongest Attribute that doesn't use them, which is Awareness. Coming up with a proper justification for an Awareness penalty was difficult and the flavor I ended up using is... Not the best. I wanted to elaborate more on it to try and justify it but it was going to take half a page just to have it make sense and there wasn't enough space to do that. This is mechanically solid but terrible flavorfully, so I guess that makes it better than Mismatched Body at least.

Wrong Language Data
We end on a high note with this one. Sight and Somatics work very well for a physical powerhouse that is socially incompetent, which is a trope many androids or aliens pretending to be regular people in fiction usually work with. Zany speech quirks are an anime staple and the description gives you a handful of ridiculous ideas to represent your mannerisms of choice. I really like how this one turned out in both mechanics and flavor.

With three hits and three misses among six abilities, it certainly could have been better. I suppose the lesson here is to not try and force a whole cycle of six abilities to happen if you only have good ideas for three of them. In hindsight, the other three Anomalies could have used different upsides and the six of them could have been compatible with Enhanced Human - it probably would have been fine.

Next: New Genre Powers.

Gimmick Out.

Nov 26, 2017

BCZ Retrospective IV: New Equipment Traits.

Chapter 1 of BCZ has three main goals: To give more tools for the less powerful PC builds, To allow a greater variety of PC builds and, lastly, to mechanically represent PC concepts that didn't have rules support in the core book. While the robots always took priority, these goals were also present at the character scale.

I bring this up because all abilities address (or attempt to address) one or more of those issues at face value, Equipment Traits have the secondary effect of contributing greatly to the utility of Resources-based builds. Each new gadget added to the rules makes Resources more of a power stat.

The game has less Equipment than it does General Traits because, in theory, Resources can make you like Batman - with enough preptime and money, you don't need other Skills and Traits. BCZ only adds 9 new Equipment Traits, which is a good amount but not remotely close to enough for a Resources Ubermensch to take over and dominate Intermissions.

Let's have a look at the new devices in the inventory.

Call System
This is a handy way to access proxies, which are large and cumbersome by nature, to let you use them in situations where you usually wouldn't be able to. It is not a super amazing effect though, so it's cheap. A bit of Errata: This should say 'Specialist', because you can take it multiple times.

Nanomedical Vest
Intermission combat veterans know that pilots often feel like they are made of wet tissue paper. Even when they wear protective body armor, it feelsl ike upgrading from toilet paper to aluminium foil. The Nanomedical Vest helps by buying combatants another turn in the fight... Sometimes! Maybe. Only if the dice don't hate them. Okay, it is not all that great, but it is cheap so there. Maybe it should have been a guaranteed pass but have been more expensive? It would probably be more flavorful that way than as it is now, where it sometimes helps you and sometimes doesn't.

Portable Barrier
So 5 Defense is a very good bonus... But if you take an Action to set it up you're probably taking more than 5 during that setup Turn, therefore making it rather pointless. The problem here is that making this a free action would turn this Trait into 15-30 CP worth of defense for 5 CP, which is kind of silly. Perhaps this should have been a free action with a duration of one turn? Or maybe make it like Absolute Barrier and absorb a number of damage points (5? 10?) before it expires? I feel like this one was a decent idea that wasn't well implemented.

Tracking Device and Smart Manacles
When your game revolves around simple effects that can be described however you want, you have a problem when you have to coming up with special items. Equipment need to make more sense as, well, Equipment than as General Traits... Yet they must remain fairly simple, as if they were General Traits! Both of these Traits make a lot more sense as items than they do as, say, magic or other supernatural talents, so that goal was met here. There is one unfortunate problem with both of them, and it is that, mechanically, neither technically does anything. I somehow forgot to write what it means to be tracking or to restrain someone, as if the name and the flavor text were all you needed. How far can you track someone and how detailed is the information? What kind of actions are the manacles preventing? These get a one star rating and a frowning face for their review.

Smoke Bomb
This is like the opposite of I was Here all Along, but cheaper because it is generally less useful to get out of trouble than it is to conveniently be at the right place at the right time. This and Live Another Day are the game's Get Out of Jail Free cards, though both work in different circumstances and cost different resources or need different Skills. I like Smoke Bomb. It is good. 

Performance Enhancer
What's cool about this Trait is that it adds an easy Advantage to many Miracles, for those of you that want to exploit Expanded Miracles. It is pretty straightforward, honestly. Though, in hindsight, this could have been an Advantage to all Tests just to make it useable in more builds.

Speed Booster
This Trait should've been in the core book. It is a simple effect that doesn't need much elaboration and even has an equivalent in the Mecha section's Overbooster. So um... That's all there is to say about it, really. Next!

Self-Destructing Note
And now for the star of the show: As if Electronics wasn't strong enough already, now it comes with the funniest way to kill somebody in the game. This Trait is hilariously lethal once you've sufficiently jacked your Electronics Tests. Remember how I mentioned Team Player and Leadership during the last post? Yeah, with the power of TEAMWORK you can create a bomb with a DN of 30+ that must be resisted with a naked Willpower Test. This should probably be weaker, but honestly it is difficult enough to use (you have to physically access the device and make sure the intended target is the one who reads it) to compensate for the power level. Also, it is funny. I love it.

Next: New Anomalies.

Gimmick Out.

Nov 19, 2017

BCZ Retrospective III: New General Traits.

One of BCZ's goals was to fix imbalance, build variety and concept representation problems in BCG, not just for the robots but also at the character scale. All 10 General Traits in the expansion address one or more of those issues. Let's have a look at them.

Adaptable Eyes
The character creation rules are written for human PCs. If you wanted to use BCG to portray alien species, fantasy races and intelligent animals you had to get by with aggressive reskinning. This Trait is one of many abilities in the expansion made to enable PCs and NPCs of inhuman origins, which are more common in stories that take place in fantasy settings or beyond our solar system. Conveniently, Adaptable Eyes works best in games revolving around exploration and horror, which are both genres that vanilla BCG struggles with. The expansion makes this easier by adding fear and insanity rules for the horror games and assists the exploration games with fantasy and attrition rules. It is not a particularly strong Trait, but it does what it is supposed to do.

Better Lucky than Good, Plan B and Practice Makes Perfect
I'm addressing all three of these at once because they have the same purpose: Making Skill-intensive builds stronger. In vanilla BCG it is more effective to raise your stats very high and buy a few Skills than to buy many Skills and raise your stats to above average. This is particularly true for the Attributes that have too many Skills, such as Intellect. These three Traits give you strong benefits to taking not just one but many Skills, balancing things back towards the middle again. If you're building to reliably hit a result of 15+ in your Skill Tests, Practice Makes Perfect helps immensely. If you want to make use of the Expanded Miracles in chapter 2, you pretty much need Plan B. Of all three, Better Lucky than Good is, well, the most random of the three, but at 5 points it is a very good deal and works very well with the Advantage system (each additional die rolled is twice as likely to be a 10). These three are excellent and probably my favorites (in no particular order) of this section.

Team Player
This one is a little like the three Traits above in that it encourages people to train Skills but I'm giving it a separate entry because it serves a different purpose. It is not the flashiest of Traits, but Help Tests are deceptively powerful. For the majority of Tests, which have DNs of 10 or 15, this is overkill and you might have been better off spending these points in something else, yes. Where it really shines is when you're aiming to let one person get a result of 20+, with multiple Team Player PCs and one PC with Leadership making it possible to hit the legendary DN 30 required for the strongest Expanded Miracles. Teamwork gets things done, people!

Ace in the Hole
I was already buffing Skill-intensive builds, so I figured I would buff Trait-intensive builds as well. That's it, there's not much more to say about this Trait. It gets the job done and, er, I like the trickster flavor, I guess? Next!

Enhanced Human (Specialist)
This is the first of the many abilities in the expansion that were commissioned during the Kickstarter to make BCZ happen. The original was an Anomaly called 'Mysterious Origin' and gave an advantage to all Tests of a specific attribute but had social repercussions, like being hunted by shady organizations or caused roleplaying issues with people who saw you. The first problem with this kind of ability is that, if your drawback is having plot relevance and requiring the GM to write specifically around you... Then it is not a drawback! Getting that kind of focus is a good thing, not a bad thing. The second problem is that roleplaying issues happen with the majority of Anomalies already and they don't suffer a mechanical penalty for it, except some which take a flat Charm Disadvantage. The Trait seemed to want to be all upside and no downside in mechanics so, after a little emailing back and forth, it became a General Trait with a temporary effect. As Enhanced Human, it lets you benefit from a specific Anomaly temporarily, using its benefit only when necessary, and avoiding its drawback until then. Depending on the chosen Anomaly, this can be as close to a direct upgrade as it gets.

Assassin, Deceptive Fighter, The Meat Shield
One of the many problems with BCG's on-foot combat rules is that most games either avoid it like the plague or have so much combat that all PCs build around it and become same-y in the process. These three Traits add a few ways to diversify Intermission combat roles by giving Charm specialists something only they can do. They also give an extra edge to those that raise both Fitness and Awareness instead of just one. In hindsight, more Traits like Deceptive Fighter (but using other Attributes) would have been preferable to Yet More Ways To Abuse Awareness, it is not like Fitness and Awareness don't already get plenty of use during combat.

And that's all for now. Mechanically speaking, I'd say The Meat Shield is the weakest of the General Traits in Z. It is only relevant for a specific kind of game and doesn't do much to make those games more interesting or varied. All the others are mechanically sound and make the game a lot better with their inclusion. The 2nd and 3rd place spots would go to Adaptable Eyes (which has at least another purpose) and Assassin (which flavorfully helps PCs survive the onslaught of BCG Intermission combat) so I still like them both.

Next: New Equipment.

Gimmick Out.

Nov 12, 2017

BCZ Retrospective II: New Miracles.

One thing I didn't mention when I did the BCG retrospective is that Miracles are actually very hard to design. You need to come up with a powerset that is broad and useful enough to make it worth the cost, yet can be successfully boiled down to two paragraphs and a handful of examples. Many of the Miracles in BCG went through multiple iterations in which they were streamlined, toned down or otherwise rebalanced compared to themselves and the other skills. The final result wasn't perfect (the power is particularly skewed towards Awareness and Intellect, which, well, read below) but it did its job well enough and was certainly better than the earlier versions.

While writing the first draft of the expansion, I had a handful of superpowers (4-6, I forgot how many) that could be found in anime as well as in other RPGs but weren't present in BCG. I initially tried all of them, but they didn't meet the qualifications in the previous paragraph. In the end only two remained. Life was present in a previous version of the game but got removed from BCG because it lacked the versatility to make it worth taking, while Portal was brand new to BCZ. I wish I could tell you what the other candidates were but I've forgotten them by now.

I'm going to review both of the Miracles in BCZ using the same system I had back for BCG, which is as follows:

Proactive - A good Proactive skill is one that can be used to advance the plot or further your PC's agenda.
Adaptable - An Adaptable skill lets you react to GM prompts and resolve the problems they present.
Synergy - This grades how well the Miracle Skill complements General Skills and Traits using the same stats.

Life

Proactive - Mediocre. It takes the least proactive aspects of Medicine and Investigation and combines them into a single Skill. You can find proactive uses for Life with some creativity, such as locating a plot-critical person or entity that can't be located with other means, or using your healing powers to form a cult around your person... But it just isn't as good as other Miracles at that.

Adaptable - Excellent. A buff to Medicine and Investigation in a single Miracle? Why yes, that does help you adapt to a whole multitude of problems. It is almost like those two are very good reactive skills and getting additional Advantages to them is really good or something. The only problem here is that you can't use Life to heal yourself, but Miracles hurt the user so doing that would be... Not very useful, to say the least.

Synergy - Good. Awareness and Intellect have lots of really, really good Miracles that slot easily into many different builds using those Attributes. This is a good one that also happens to benefit from taking some of the best Skills that those excellent Attributes have to offer. If you have both relevant Skills, this is a no-brainer. If you have only one, then this is a good reason to consider taking the second. If you have neither, then you have better options.

Portal

Proactive - Good. The only thing holding this back from being Excellent is that your Windows need to be set up in advance and that you can only have two at a time. It doesn't make Forces, Phasing, Athletics or Stealth redundant because you still need to physically reach the place you're going to first. Once you've been there though, you can come and go as you please. At least until you need to use another Window to reach somewhere else.

Adaptable - Good. The secondary use of Portals is the ability to create pocket dimensions. Anyone who has played D&D knows how handy something like this is. Need a place to hide something or someone? What about hiding you and your entire group from the enemy sentries? It doesn't actually solve any of your problems, but it sure can avoid them long enough that you don't have to worry about them until a better solution comes up.

Synergy - Good. You know how I mentioned that this Skill isn't a replacement for the other Skills that let you move around? Well, those Skills use Fitness (and Intellect, in the case of Forces), while this uses Awareness. If you don't want to actually invest in Fitness then this lets you have a way to escape from danger and get to places fast with a different Attribute. What is very interesting is that, unlike most Skills in competition for a similar function, Portals is even better when combined with its competition, because you can combine it with Forces, Phasing, Athletics or Stealth to get anywhere and transport your whole team afterwards.

I really like both of these. At least, I like them by themselves. My one problem with them is that the Awareness and Intellect builds already had some of the best General Skills and Miracles in the game, and this just gives them more toys to play with. By the time I did the BCG retrospective and realized this, the expansion was already out. If I'd caught wind of that a few months sooner, I would have made a serious attempt at coming up with more Miracles using the other Attributes. It is something to keep in mind for possible future supplements.

And that's all for today! Join me next week when we continue making our way through the Character options towards the Mecha goodness 5 pages away. We're getting there!

Next: New Traits.

Until then, Gimmick Out.

Nov 5, 2017

BCZ Retrospective I: New Terrain.

A little over a year ago, I started to write a series of posts reviewing the mechanical aspects of BCG. Today I start the review of BCZ, judging how well the mechanics do the job they were created for. Along the way I will be sharing behind-the-scenes information and talking about game design in general. Much like with the BCG Retrospective series, this will take many months, but at least updates should be weekly on average. I will be going through BCZ in the order of the book's contents, which means we'll start with the new Terrain types that BCZ introduces to the rules. It is not the most exciting new content, but it serves an important purpose, so let's get started already.

Interference Terrain
Interference Terrain uses the same rules that Stealth Field from BCG does. I don't remember when stealth became synonimous with 'Two Disadvantages to non-AoE attacks' but, if I'd known how much it would stick conceptually, I'd have made a Stealth keyword or status condition so I wouldn't have to repeat the rules every time. it was solidified like that. One unique thing about Interference Terrain is that you can't ignore its effects by flying over it. This is for two reasons: The first is that Interference Terrain doesn't represent something you walk over but rather a cloud or mist in the vein of Minovsky Particles from Gundam. The second is that you could exploit flight + Interference Terrain to grant yourself an insane edge against non-flying units.

Sliding Terrain
Sliding Terrain started as a way to represent strong gravity, winds, currents or other terrain that would move units around. Originally, it was going to be used by several abilities as an indirect way to move both enemies and allies around. At some point I realized that it was much more more convenient to simply slide targets around directly, leaving Sliding Terrain as a tool for the GM when creating battlefields.

Withering Terrain
This almost suffers the same fate that Sliding Terrain did - the few abilities that create Withering Terrain almost got rewritten to halving the target unit's energy. Halving someone's energy regeneration isn't quite the same thing as halving their currently available energy, though, and most of the abilities that create Withering Terrain also create Difficult or Extreme Terrain as well, so sticking to Withering Terrain is simply more elegant.

Variant Anti-Air Terrain
This rule is mostly there for GMs. If the entire PC squad is flight-capable then your battlefields might as well be flat Boss Platforms. By using Anti-Air Terrain the GM can force Flyers to avoid specific areas and keep Antigrav users in the ground to make them choose between the dangers on the ground and those on the air. It is also handy for PCs who can create two instances of Terrain during one Turn (like, say, using Surprise Minefield twice) to force a target to take the effect regardless of whether they fly or not.

Lastly, there's the sidebar about how multiple instances of Terrain stack. This was a rule back then in BCG as well, but the rules effects weren't properly spelled out and, I figure, the addition of new Terrain types is a good reason as any to write everything down. All the effects are pretty intuitive, but I think Extreme Terrain might deserve some explanation. Originally, stacking Extreme Terrain simply added a Disadvantage to the Test, but that didn't feel as lethal as it should've been. I tried two Disadvantages as well and, while that was sufficiently lethal for two stacks, it was thoroughly insane for three stacks and above. Now you add Tension multiple times to the Test, which is sometimes rather anemic and sometimes absurdly overpowering, but the transition happens over time in a natural fashion instead.

That's it for today. Think of this update as a short appetizer, we'll get to the main dish and its walls of text soon enough.

Next: New Miracles.

Until then, Gimmick Out.