Dec 21, 2014

I Hate Summer

So we had like a month of radio silence just now, yeah.

I've actually been meaning to write something for the past two weeks, but the frequent power cuts during weekends have been making it pretty difficult to sit down and get some work done then write one of these.

This happens every year. Anyhow, I intend to resume a semi-regular schedule as soon as the new year rolls by. Peace.

Nov 23, 2014

Kickstarter Week IV

As you can see on the right, we pulled through. With 79 backers and 111% funding, all's well that ends well. Just like during the first week, let's go over a few numbers.

Edit: I keep forgetting that images posted in blogger have a fixed resolution. That says 5613 downloads total for those of you who don't have microscopes built into your eyes.

Just going over this very quickly, about 1,4% of our total downloads represent one backer. Let's assume some of them are repeat downloads and round it down to 1% for basically one backer every 100 downloads. Most of the downloads (roughly two thirds) are after the campaign started, but I'd be willing to bet most backers are long time fans rather than new blood.

The pie chart does not differentiate between external referrals from this blog and other websites, but it does basically show that Kickstarter is good at promotion but not very good at retention unless you already have a large enough budget to wow people right out of the gate.

So where did most pledges come from? A full 35% (That's $1192) came from direct traffic, that means word of mouth person to person linking and another 26% ($880) came from widget links. That's 61% ($2072) that I bet came mostly from you wonderful people. Thank you, I really don't have enough words to express my gratitude.

So before we get all sappy and stuff let's talk about the other update we had about mechanics this week about Giant Rivals and PCs. Here, I'll sum up the rules for you. Giant Mecha use the following rules:

Unnatural Disaster: You occupy a size between 4 and 9 Zones, chosen during creation, but the number must be your Power Level plus four or lower. Your size can be increased when you go up a Power Level as well, but once increased it may not be reduced. All Zones occupied by your body count as Extreme Terrain for Enemies in them. Abilities that can usually ignore the effects of Extreme Terrain will not help against you if you have a similar ability that works in the same kind of Terrain.

Raw Power: You cannot Engage or be Engaged in a Duel, but all your Melee Weapons gain an Advantage to their use, and Shooting Weapons used against you suffer a Disadvantage to their Might Tests. When measuring the maximum Range of your Internal Upgrades or Weapons you may use any part of your body as the origin point.

Segmented Areas: Your four external Areas are distributed across your body each with its own separate Zone. Each Area has a single Level of Threshold having to be targeted and damaged individually. Other body parts are impervious to damage, and excess damage from breaking through a Threshold Level will not carry over into a different Area. When you restore lost points of Threshold, you choose how to distribute each point individually.

Exposed Weak Points: Abilities that let you treat Maimed Areas as normal have no effect. Replacement Maim effects like those of Biological still function as normal. Offensive Actions that target multiple of your vulnerable Areas gain an Advantage to their Might Tests for each additional Area affected. Any time you would take Damage to more than one of your vulnerable Areas at once, only one Area of the attacker's choice receives Damage, but if the Damage is more than enough to break past that Level of Threshold then the remaining Damage will transfer to another Area of your choice.

As you can see, they've got a lot going on in terms of rules. Colossus works just fine if you want to keep things simple, but Giant has a little more personality to it and gives more options to GMs... As well as to entrepreneurial PCs.

The expansion does not shy away from this kind of complexity, but at the same time this is about the most complex I want any individual mechanic to get. There might be one or two more mechanics just as complex as Giant, but nothing more complex than it.

What Now?

The holiday period is always a busy one so I'm probably going to space out updates more. I still owe you all that series of posts about Gurren Lagann and I'm going to do it as soon as things calm down.

So I think that pretty much covers everything. Until next time.

Nov 16, 2014

Kickstarter Week III

Week III is basically Week II redux. You know how bad guys with multiple forms are remembered for their first and last forms but the other ones in the middle all kind of just blur together? Yeah, it is a little like that with crowdfunding too. This is an appropriate comparison, given our subject matter, but more on that later.

Here's your weekly summary:

Three Updates in Three Minutes

First of all there's Design Flaws which are Upgrades that you can take during Mecha construction to have more MP to spend but give your Mecha a big weakness. Here's the two examples:

Limited Battery Time (+30 MP)

Internal Upgrade
Effect: At the beginning of every one of your Turns after the first one, your Mecha reduces its Energy Attribute by 1 until end of Operation. After your Energy is reduced to 0, you will lose your current Level of Threshold every Turn instead.
This is a prototype so experimental that it cannot run for more than a few minutes at a time. It is so inefficient that after its battery for external equipment runs dry it the limbs will start to power down individually until it can't move at all.  

Walking Coffin (+60 MP)

Internal Upgrade
Effect: Double all the Damage that you take.
Your Mecha is a fragile little thing and the designers have made it a testbed of every feature they could think of, but apparently forgot to armor it with more than aluminum foil and to fill the tank with something other than explodium.

Then there's Interference Terrain which is a variant of Defensive Terrain. with a focus on jamming sensors and obscuring vision. Unlike Defensive Terrain, Interference Terrain does not provide real cover, it only makes you harder to pinpoint and is thus useless against weapons that don't require precise targeting and cover a wide area of effect.

Interference Terrain works both ways, any Units attacking from within, into or through Interference Terrain will suffer two Disadvantages to the Might Test unless it is with Weapons that have the Blast ability or that affect Zones instead of specific targets. That means you can use it offensively to force enemies to move out of their current position, defensively to nerf their (most likely) strongest weapons, or as a barrier between both groups to do a little bit of both.

Lastly there's nerfing Guardian of Steel. The update goes more in detail, but here's the two options I'm considering the most:

The first is to reduce Guardian of Steel's area of effect to a 1 Zone radius. This makes it only work with a team full of snipers or after a lot of setup positioning the party properly, which in turn makes everyone more vulnerable to kiting (the group now has to move at the speed of the slowest member of the party) and area weapons will hurt more. Waaay more. The effect is just as strong as it used to be but it is more situational, so you have to think about how and when to use it.

The second is to halve the Defense bonus granted to allies. Cutting the bonus to half makes it go from 6-8 to 3-4 which is a lot more manageable. Those 3-4 extra points are usually the difference between hitting for very little and not hitting at all, meaning that weapons with effects that trigger on hit can still have an effect with a good roll. Still not enough to make using those over Finger Nets and Bombardments a good idea though, but it is something. This is a boring change, but an effective one.

The Finish Line

The beginning and the end are the most important stages of a campaign. Continuing the comparison from before, this is when all the fighters get serious. I may not be able to blow up a planet in 5 minutes (that somehow take a zillion episodes) but I've been preparing for this period the most. Maybe this will work out, maybe it won't, but I sure am not going down without fighting to the end.

Nov 9, 2014

Kickstarter Week II

Kickstarter creators whisper to each other in hushed tones about 'the slump', that period between the first and last weeks when activity dramatically cuts down. When you have to earn every 1% by trying out all sorts of things.

It is a learning experience to be sure.

Battle Century G - A Cinematic and Tactical Mecha RPG. -- Kicktraq Mini

Not what I'd call an utopian experience either.

There are many ways to approach this problem, and I'm trying to take the high road whenever possible. Many creators want to trade pledges and positive comments with each other like it is a business transaction, saying nice things about each of our projects and offering support without actually feeling it. That's not for me and I would rather fail than succeed through lies.

In other news, I would make a pretty bad politician.

But hey, we're officially 2/3rds of the way there and a new week means new ways to approach backers. Now that I know what works what doesn't work, I am going back to the drawing board for a new strategy.

But enough about that, let's talk about game things. This week I started previewing some of the material that will be in BCZ, our first two previews are about Genre Powers and Weapons respectively. It is important to not lose sight of the ultimate goal here. No matter what happens, one thing will always be true: I want to make fun games and fun games will be made.

Now I'm off to the proverbial war room of the mind.

Nov 2, 2014

Kickstarter Week I

Things are looking good. I won't bore you with the details of what it feels like and everything I'm doing. Instead I will bore you with data. Yes, data, that most elusive of resources that all anime scientists go crazy over. What kind of data? This kind of data:

So as is more or less expected, there's a quick initial surge in contributions from all of you awesome people who were waiting for your humble deliverer of roleplaying goodness to get this thing going. Then it stabilizes and slows down until the day where I make the first update and promptly starts to climb up again. Note that this is before I make today's update or rounds of promotion, so the line is flat precisely because I haven't done anything new.

What I find more interesting are the near 3k downloads in the span of a single week, it is especially interesting because I still have under 50 backers, most of which already had the game. This tells me that either there's a high rate of interest (not in the economic sense) but a low rate of retention, or that a really, really high number of people are waiting for the magic moment when everything spirals out of control with crazy stretch goals. If you've ever followed a successful Kickstarter you know what I'm talking about.

Also, just to let you know that I didn't forget about you guys: Have an offsite poll. For your convenience, and here is a link to the non-backer inclusive update discussing the matter at hand.

That'll be all for now, I gotta go back to making games. Toodles.

Oct 26, 2014

Let me Tell you About my Kickstarter

Well, it is happening at last. I'm not even sure what to say anymore, other than that the past two months have been interesting to say the least, seeing as I'm typing this on my second-and-half week of sleeping 3-4 hours a day. I'll try to be brief and keep myself from rambling incoherently, so let's get to the meat of things.

As you might be able to tell if you have the most rudimentary reading comprehension skills, I'm running one of those. In case you don't know what that is, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform for creative projects for creators who want to involve their audience in the creative process. Which is a really fancy way of saying that it is a way for people like me to get money from people like you to fuel our mutual dreams of playing games of pretend with giant robots, but don't let my ironic cynicism get in the way of that.

Anyhow, you can find out more if you click the linked widget to the right. For the most part I want to take this moment to explain a few things that have changed since I started sharing my plans a while ago. You can read this first then go check out the other page, or go there first and then come back here for the differences, it doesn't really matter that much. Honestly they're barely noticeable changes for the most part, but I'm trying to be open about the process so I might as well explain why I've changed my mind about those things.

First, the release date is pushed to May 2015. As you are probably aware if you've been following any of what I've been doing, I'm something of a perfectionist. I wanted to have this finished before the end of the year, but the past 1-2 months were pretty bad in terms of getting things done, and it is much harder to keep to a schedule during the holiday season. I could instead offer a closer date like February or March, but just this once I'm going to play it safe. If I can get it out earlier, that's awesome and I will be happier than anyone else, but life always finds a way to complicate things and this time I'm prepared.

Second, every physical copy of the game is going to be delivered through print-on-demand self-service. That means you have it printed and shipped from DriveThruRPG (Go make an account if you don't have one) and not through me. This saves time and money for me and you, because I can focus more on game design and less on roleplaying a FedEx manager, and you have everything handled by professionals at a cheaper rate than usual. I once said I thought I could charge more with each pledge and handle those myself - after doing more research I realize that was naive of me, and I apologize for that.

Third, we're running from today until November 23. I wish we weren't finishing so close to Black Friday, but I'd rather finish before it than run through the Holiday Season. If I could have launched last week, I would have. We work with what we've got.

Fourth, Gurren Lagann chat is on hold temporarily. It will probably stay that way until the end of November. With the campaign behind us I will be able to talk more freely about I could actually add to the game as a whole from it, though.

If I sound exhausted, that's because it is a pretty good way to sum up my current state, but I am also really energized by having finally gotten here. There's much work left to do, and a lot of it is not going to be fun, but having crossed this checkpoint at last I can now finally move forward. And it feels good.

Now let's make some games happen.

Oct 19, 2014

Pause and Resume.

Not a lot of words about robots today as I will be away and with family. But I do have some good news.

My favorite color is Green. Which just so happens to start with G.

See this? For the longest time the Account tab had a big red X because of reasons that can be summed up quite succinctly as "Please let me talk to a human and not a machine". As of this weekend, everything is in order.

Next weekend's gonna be a fun one.

Oct 12, 2014

Battle Century G Gundam: Round 3.

Let's wrap up this three-part series about G Gundam by talking about Operations Gundam Fights in a tournament game. In theory tournament arcs present a series of matches in which both sides have a fair shot at victory and the best side will win. In practice one or more participants have an advantage over the others. A close combat Mecha is at a disadvantage against a flying sniper type and an aquatic Mecha will have an easier time in a battle at sea, though these are arguably still "fair" advantages for one side to have. But sometimes there are external factors interfering in the battle, someone's Mecha runs could be running out of parts for maintenance and thus start in worse condition, or perhaps someone is playing dirty and taking hostages demanding that victory be theirs.

Chapman's heinous plan: Bringing a gun to a Gundam fight. THE HONORLESS CUR.

Point is that there should always be something to make each battle both unique and challenging without making them gimmicky or frustrating. I'm going to write down some ideas below for inspiration, but first there's something else to address: Solo matches or Team matches?

I previously said that Team matches are easier to work with and I stand by that. As written, BCG gives you a lot more to work with if you work with if there are multiple robots on each side. But if you can handle having to homebrew in more upgrades and weapons to make up for the ones that no longer work properly, you also stand to win something from the shonen-esque gameplay.

During 1v1 matches whoever has the most tricks and counters up their sleeve has the better shot at victory. If I have I Cannot be Defeated and you don't have a Technique or a way to do more than one instance of damage per round, I can easily outlast you. If you have Electronic Cloaking System and I don't have a single area weapon (why would I do that in a 1v1 tournament?) then I'm boned unless I built around The Beast or a multitude of Signature Weapons. It is a big change in gameplay.

These changes are not unintentional, though, they are meant to evoke shonen-style battles where the antagonists have the upper hand until the protagonists figure out the trick to beating them. It is a more strategic kind of gameplay where the humble Knowledge is Power rings true to its name. It is also a lot easier for PCs to get totally chumped by accident because they didn't figure it out until it was too late and they had no Genre Points left to even Mid-Scene Upgrade a counter. If that sounds awesome to you, then by all means go for it.

The ideas below were written with both solo and team matches in mind. Some will work much better in a solo match tournament, others would be employed better in team matches. Remember that what matters when coming up with enemy teams is their combined Power Rating, because they can have individually different power levels.

And they Fight, and they Fight, and they Keep on Fighting!

Death from Above
This operation takes the idea of kiting to its most extreme form. It consists of enemies with Antigravity that run away upwards, thus making it impossible for anyone without Antigravity to pursue, while bombarding the PCs with Airstrikes, Surprise Minefields or long range weapons using Reversible Thrusters. Victory will ask for a combination of flight and very long range weapons. A well-timed Ensnaring Trap will also ruin their day, possibly causing one of them to die immediately from the fall damage. Works best as a solo match or at low power levels to ensure at least one or more PCs are caught off guard.

The Colossus and his Shadows
There is only one enemy who matters in this team: The Colossus superboss who carries the others to victory. Really, you can have them as L0 Grunts or just don't even stat them up and have them destroyed as a free action. What matters is that, in place of what would be a normal team match, you have a huge single target like a Mobile Armor. Bullet Hell and Tentacle Lash are a good combo to let it cover even more of the battlefield at once.

I mean, just look at that. Those things are huge. The Devil Gundam itself is just 23m!

The Dark Devil Rangers
Obvious, but still worth mentioning. You should have an enemy team that mimics the PCs, either as actual copies with a dark twist to them, or just as enemies with an uncanny likeness in their equipment and strategies. This is a good excuse to have either a mirror match or to have the PCs pretend to beat up each other.

This is not a Game, it is War
The enemies for this operation play dirty. Individually, each member is weak, but before a match they hide various remote-controlled drones around the battlefield. This is represented by having tactically placed Level 0 Grunts around the edges of the combat area equipped with long range weapons like the Sniper and Powered Rifles. For flavor reasons, the Grunts should be disabled once the real baddies are all defeated, but you can compensate for that by building them defensively - just remember that every 2 Grunts is one less Power Level for them. If you've seen Build Fighters, the Bloodhounds episode is a great example of how to pull off something like this without having to tip off your hand (thus ruining the surprise of the encounter) first.

Seriously. Bloodhounds is a study on how to write rival-of-the-week episodes.

The Flesh is Weak
This one is even nastier than the above. The enemies use modified weaponry to attack pilots directly, possibly through some kind of psychic assault. An Invasive enemy with very high offensive power (8 Might and Duelist Model/Sniper Model/Experimental Reactor is fine) and Invincible Alloy plus I Cannot be Defeated and every other defensive Genre Power they can get. The idea is simple: Deal as much damage as possible ASAP to defeat the pilot through a failed Systems Tests before the activations of I Cannot be Defeated run out. Multiple enemies using area weapons this way will defeat anyone who dumped Systems.

By our Powers Combined
The enemies are technically five but they their hearts beat as one! Truly they are the ultimate manifestation of love and courage. Except that they are on the wrong side of the battlefield, and will thus get their butts thoroughly kicked. The lead focuses on Energy and Threshold, keeping all other Attributes at 0, while each of the other Elements Components takes one of the other stats and also some Upgrades/Weapons. The lead attacks, one subpilot Maneuvers, another uses Jury-Rig or Resupply, the fourth uses Supports, and the final member can help keep positioning superiority them with Boosts, Disengages, and the like.  

 It may be a joke boss but it is still the best scene in the game. 

Flying in the Sky is the Limit

These are just using the rules of the game, some in more creative interpretations than others, to throw PCs for a loop during a tournament series. You can do more than this of course, like in the aforementioned scenario where the protagonists must fight with damaged Mecha, you could have them start the battle with one or more Threshold levels down instead of throwing supernasty baddies at them. Those things are just harder to eyeball and might end up being too strong or too weak as far as difficulty adjustments go.

And that's the end of this G Gundam series. Coming up next... We finally we get to Gurren Lagann.

Oct 5, 2014

Its Loud Roar Tells me to Grasp Victory

Continuing from where we left off last week, we are drawing inspiration from G Gundam to run a BCG game. Today is about ~=|+New Rules+|=~. What kind of rules? Nothing all too fancy, but just different enough to sustain some of the themes brought up last week. And when I say themes I also mean to say Themes.

Our Spirits are Aflame.

Whenever I run a game or help someone set up a game, I like to tweak the Genre Theme rules a little to give them more flavor. They are the most malleable part of the game and are the first thing I change when I want to encourage a specific style of Roleplaying. In our case, we want Themes that make our Player Characters do the following:

  • Have feelings so intense that they can power up giant swords, tornadoes with human faces, or giant monarchs riding a ki blast. 
  • Forge deep friendships in the battlefield by sharing said intense feelings through their fists. This could happen between allies or enemies.
  • Conquer and control the intensity of their own passions instead of letting themselves be controlled by them. As a long term goal they should become the masters of the emotions that power their attacks.
You could also include a bunch of this stuff too I guess.

Here is what I came up with:

Genre Themes - Serene Mind, Burning Palm Edition

Genre Themes work as normal but with a few differences.

All three Themes should be centered about an emotion the character feels very strongly. For example, Love, Anger, and all of their Sorrow. You can also replace common feelings with more abstract concepts such as Honor, Faith and Greed if you can justify them as being so intense that they make you glow and become even stronger. You can make as many of them positive or negative as you wish, and you may or may not tie them to other PCs or NPCs if you want. So a Genre Theme trio of Fame, Family and Blindness would be perfectly fine in an usual game but they don't work as catalysts for hyper mode.

Any Theme can be Mastered once for a burst of three Genre Points, then it is no longer a Theme. These Themes work as normal until you are done developing them, then you are granted with three Genre Points for roleplaying that instead of one. A Theme that has been Mastered no longer grants points for roleplaying during future Episodes and cannot be replaced with a new Theme either. Basically you want to Master them before or during a big battle, possibly saving one of them until the very final Episode.

And no, "Hilariously Racist" is not an acceptable Theme.

It is not a big change in rules terms but it should be much more effective at conveying a tone like that of G Gundam. Not only do the Themes encourage PCs to act in extreme ways, but it also gives the Themes a direction - Mastering them. As a nice bonus, PCs can engage some Emergency Character Development in the middle of a battle to steal a victory from the jaws of defeat. I will say that I think I like these rules more than the standard Theme rules, but I am a self-admitted G Gundam fanboy so take it with a grain of salt.

That's not all though. I also wrote a little add-on to the Power Level rules.

The School of the Undefeated of the Genre

Every Power Level, a PC gains one of the following five bonuses. These are on top of the usual benefits of entering a new Power Level (Another Genre Point and another Genre Power). With this, everyone will be about as strong as Domon or Master Asia.

Power Level 1 - Mecha and Fighter are One: You gain the Giant Slayer Boss Trait. After using the Live Another Day Genre Power during an Intermission, may summon your Mecha to your current Zone and board it as an Action.

Power Level 2 - Ultimate Mode: You gain the Secret Equipment Upgrade. Choose two Attributes of Might, Guard, Systems or Speed, and once Tension is of 5 or higher you gain a +2 bonus to both Attributes.

Power Level 3 - Serenity at the Brink of Death: Whenever you lose a Level of Threshold you gain 2 Genre Points instead of 1.

Power Level 4 - Fists of Friendship: When you lead a Synchro Attack, you gain three Advantages instead of two per teammate involved. When you participate in a Synchro Attack, it does not use one of your Actions, just your Genre Points, but you may spend the Action anyway to grant yet another Advantage for a potential total of 4 Advantages per PC.

Power Level 5 - Bond of Winners: Choose three Reinforcement Powers. You gain those Powers and may activate them as if they were Genre Powers, spending Genre Points in place of Reinforcement Points. Each Reinforcement Power may be used once per Operation, and only on other Allies, not yourself.

Mecha and Fighter are One is arguably the most interesting, even if it likely has the least effectiveness in combat. Giant Slayer was written with Master Asia as the primary inspiration in mind, and as an added bonus you also have RIIIIIIIIIIIIIISE SHIIIIINIIIIING GUNDAAAAAAAM. Neither effect is all that strong in your average Operation but it sure does make the PCs stronger during Intermissions. Now you too can hide your Mecha within the statue of liberty and destroy a world wonder at the beginning of combat!

The name "Mecha and Fighter are One" is more literal than you think.
Ultimate Mode is, in case the name wasn't obvious, meant to represent Super Mode and Hyper Mode. You get new Weapons and Upgrades, then a deceptively powerful boost to two Attributes. A +4, even if it is distributed between two stats, is likely going to be worth around 30 MP. Do not underestimate it.

Serenity at the Brink of Death is my take on Meikyo Shisui. If you're going all the way from Power Level 1 to 5, this is your signal to Master at least one of your Themes around now. Level 3 is the game's sweet spot in terms of PC strength, making a good transition point between pre-Meikyo Shisui and post-Meikyo Shisui character development.

Fists of Friendship at Level 4 is when things start to go crazy in terms of mechanics. Depending on what the group needs, your friends can follow up the damage burst from Synchro Attack with their own actions or  everyone can evaporate the big bad boss in a single super hit. Fists of Friendship enables everything from Double God Finger to Shuffle Doumei Ken. There is very little else to say other than it is awesome.

Bond of Winners is just plain bananas, Reinforcement Powers are extremely powerful and basically turn the PCs into forces of nature - perfect for someone on the league of the Shuffle Alliance, who purified their successors and saved their lives with basically magic. Considering this is Level 5 and everybody already can take giant robots down with their fists, this is about one of the few remaining powerups that could feel meaningful.

Just don't be like this chump and make sure you get Live!

So all in all this is fairly powerful stuff that makes things much easier for the PCs to win. Does it mess with the balance of the game? Yes. Is it really cool? Also yes. I'm calling that a win. Still, a consideration for GMs: Because PCs with these bonuses are considerably stronger than those without, their Power Rating should be treated as of 3 + (3 * Power Level). After PL 3 everyone is so strong that you'll have to get very imaginative to challenge them anyway.

Holding the Wounded Dream

There is one thing that I did not touch on, and it is how enemies often bond through fighting. This is G Gundam's equivalent to Newtype Magic(tm) but with more Kung Fu. While it is a very important part of G Gundam, writing rules for this would require a much, much bigger framework that handles social combat rules. It is beyond the scope of what I want to do with these weekly writeups.

The one other important thing left is GM advice for actually running a game like this. Particularly if you're going to include these changes, which (true to the tone of the source material) tip the odds from 50/50 to around 75/25 in favor of the PCs. That's what I will be doing next week.

Until then, may you look at the East burning red.

Sep 28, 2014

This Game of Mine Glows with an Awesome Power

I love G Gundam to bits. The concept is fun, the characters are memorable, the music is fantastic, and even the English dub is glorious - some would say the dub is bad, but the overacting only makes it better in my view. You know you are dealing with a fan when they argue that something bad is actually good with a straight face. Point is, I really like G Gundam and it has influenced pretty much everything I've ever done related to giant robots.

This is because G Gundam is a very well thought out show. Conceptually it might just be a goofy show about a giant robot tournament with a bunch of really racist mecha designs, but the execution makes it so much more than that. I'm going to delve a little into what G Gundam means to me and what you can take from it for the purposes of BCG.

There will be spoilers for G Gundam below.

G Gundam recap set, reaaadyyyyy go!

Mobile Fighter G Gundam is about a giant robot world tournament. Every four years the space colonies hold a tournament where the winner will rule over the Earth and the other colonies for the next four years. Gundam Fighters are the representatives of each nation, and they all fight each other using the Earth as the ring, until only one remains.

But that's just the window dressing. G Gundam's plot follows Domon Kasshu, pilot of the Shining Gundam and representative of Neo Japan, in his search for the Ultimate Dark Devil Gundam. The Devil Gundam is made out of nanomachines capable of self-repair, self-multiplication and self-evolution. Obviously, it falls into the wrong hands and our protagonist must stop it.

To no one's surprise, the antagonists are participants of the tournament and had something to do with the disappearance of the Devil Gundam.

Enough retreading of what any Wiki article could tell you! Let's talk about G Gundam in the context of BCG.

Gundam Fighter IV: Tournament Edition

As is, G Gundam is fit in both tone and rules for a game using the unmodified BCG rules. This is a setting where people can punch beams from their fists and their Gundams let them channel their anger into giant swords. It is pretty much perfect, really... Except for one little thing: The tournament structure.

Most of the fights are 1v1, which is convenient if the group consists of exactly two people, but a lot less enticing if there's four or more Players. You could run a game where everyone takes turns having fights, but it probably works out for the best if everyone is part of the same team and the matches are 3v3 or 5v5 or what have you. Like in Build Fighters Try.

Get it? Build Fighters Try because they're a TRIo!

This works out much better because BCG is designed with teamwork in mind. Absolute Barrier is a lot better when you are the only target and enemies cannot ignore you, while Reversible Thrusters can outright make you invincible against some enemies. At the same time, Finger Net does very little without any allies to take advantage of it and Steel Guardian is essentially useless.

My Love, my Anger, and all of my Sorrow

From a character standpoint, G Gundam is fundamentally about warriors that express their emotions with their fists. Domon starts as this an angry young adult who doesn't speak much. At the very end of the last episode he admits that he is a guy who only knows how to fight, and that is why he had so much difficulty expressing his feelings to Rain. Domon Kasshu is basically a tsundere. And most of the show is about how a bunch of dudes punch each other until their feelings come out and they get over their various hangups.

One of the most clear expressions of this is in the abundance of combination techniques, as a manifestation of the bonds that the Gundam Fighters have with each other. For roughly the first half of the series Domon fights alone, but in the second half he (and his friends) develop an affinity for Synchro Attacks, with or without Domon. If I had to come up with unique rules for a G Gundam game, they'd be about stronger or more varied types of Synchro Attacks.

There is also a theme of enlightenment and mastery of one's own emotions. Domon starts with the Super Mode that channels his rage into a powerup for the Shining Gundam, but he later replaces it with the Meikyou Shisui ("To have your heart clear like a mirror and still like water") which, in essence, means Serene Mind. The Super Mode renders him vulnerable, like a berserker who does not think his actions through. Thus, Domon needs to master his emotions entirely and have his heart in the perfect balance between passionate intensity and stoic detachment - that's Serene Mind. Also the Shining Gundam upgrades to the Burning God Gundam, because subtlety is for chumps.

And enlightenment turns you into a super saiyan I guess. Sure why not.

Add this to the previous the theme of Fist Friendship and emotions are a pretty big deal in G Gundam. It sounds to me like we could similar thematic notes via tweaking Genre Themes (to focus more on intensity of emotion) along with Synchro Attacks.

But before writing any of those, there is one more thing that needs to be addressed.

Sympathy for the Devil Gundam

Most tournament arcs have a plot twist written into them to make things more exciting, ending in the reveal of a bigger bad that pretty much everyone in the tournament will rally together to defeat. In G Gundam that ultimate antagonist were the people involved in the Devil Gundam conspiracy.

The Devil Gundam was originally called the Ultimate Gundam, and its nanomachines were going to be put to use to nurse the Earth's environment back to health. It is not evil per se, it is just... out of control and fulfilling its primary directive: To self-reproduce, healing itself and evolving continuously.

Truly this is the face of a Gundam who just wants to make friends.
And of course, the human antagonists of the series are trying to control the Devil Gundam to use its power for their own ends. Arguably, if the conspirators had never tried to hijack the Ultimate Gundam, it would not have malfunctioned at all. It is a common genre convention of Mecha that technology gives its user the power to be a God or Devil, depending on whether you use it for good or evil. G Gundam does not mince words and pretty much spells it out.

The Devil Gundam will wipe out humankind then do whatever it wants to the Earth, possibly eating it in the process. Its instinctual drive is the opposite of the Serene Mind that Domon must master to defeat it, like a more cunning version of Domon when his Super Mode made him a frenzied berserker. The Devil Gundam needs to have a human core, a sort of pilot as a biological heart, and can infect humans with "Devil Gundam Cells" to brainwash and give them superpowers. This implies that the Devil Gundam is not just a rogue artificial intelligence, it is more like the dark side of the human heart - controlling, uncaring, and always hungry for more.

The Devil Gundam is an instinctual monster and a corrupting influence, it is a thing that needs to be stopped and most free-willed participants in the tournament will agree. If you're going to run a tournament-themed, I strongly suggest to also have a Big Bad Evil Guy Thing at the end separate from the tournament structure.

The big draw of having a secret ultimate antagonist in a tournament arc or series is that it gives you a good excuse to let all the important characters team up at the end. Even old rivals that were previously defeated can show up to assist! In the context of an RPG it is even more important because having encounters with the bigger bad through the course of the tournament raises the stakes and adds more tension to the plot. Even if the PCs actually lose the tournament, they can still end things on a high note by saving the world from whoever was plotting sinister things in the shadows.

It also helps to spice things up and have some variance in encounters. If your tournament is about 4v4 matches, having an antagonist outside the tournament itself gives the GM a chance to throw as many Grunts and Bosses at the PCs as they wish instead of having to juggle numbers to keep it at 4. Creative uses of elite Grunts or Minibosses can keep parties of 4 enemies fresh, and you can pull shenanigans like a team of three terrible Level 0 Grunts carried by a big Level 5 Boss, but it is still quite predictable.

Breaking away from the tournament structure a little for a more ambitious plot is a good idea.

Look, the East is Burning Red!

That is enough for today. This was all theory, so next time I'm going to put this to practice and write some mechanics with all of this in mind.

Sep 21, 2014

So. Much. Noise.

From Wikipedia:

Argentina celebrates the beginning of spring, conventionally, on 21 September, one or two days before the actual spring equinox. This day also marks Student's Day.

Though this is not a work-free public holiday, it coincides with Student's Day, which is a no-school day for students on all the levels of the education system (Except for Primary Schools). The holiday is therefore mostly observed and dominated by teenagers and young adults, which massively take on public parks, beaches and other outdoor venues in the larger cities, and enjoy sports or picnics.

Local administrations usually offer the public a number of entertainment shows, such as free rock concerts. In later years security operations have been staged to avoid incidents such as fights and vandalism, as well as controls to curb the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

As a ~=Responsible Adult=~ September 21 is, for me, "That day in which everyone around where I live is really, really loud.". I have been trying to concentrate for the past few hours to no avail, because I live at an intersection between two of the busiest main streets in the city, and the traffic jams are unbelievable today.

They just spent a whole 5-10 minutes honking, because that is clearly how you make the jam clear up, right?

I need good headphones.

Next week: What a game inspired on G Gundam might look like, with advice and mechanics. I'll do Gurren Lagann after that.

Sep 14, 2014

A Change in Perspective

As a teacher, I would rather help students figure things out for themselves than spell everything out myself. As a designer, I'd like my work to speak for itself objectively without adding my subjective bias to an introduction of it. In my ideal world this would be the formula for success.

Sadly I live in the real world where students need things explicitly spelled out and hype is the most effective form of marketing. I am okay with not being rich and famous, but I do want this to be the best game it can possibly be. The more thoroughly I explain the game, the more feedback I get on it, and the more feedback I receive, the better I can make the game. So I do need to invest additional effort and both talk about the game some more and reach out to people with it.

This brings me to the current poll. Running games in the style of anime series is, obviously, a thing that BCG is suited to. Chapters 4 and 5 give you some good starting points but don't actually tell you quite how to run, say, a giant robot world tournament in the style of G Gundam. Previously I would have refrained from writing about this, because I think figuring this stuff out for yourself is part of the fun of GMing, but I figure it should be useful inspiration to someone.

For the next few weeks I will be elaborating on how to run games in the style of the various polled anime series. An aside: I chose those series because I figured that "Names starting with G" (with some leeway to have more than just super robots and Gundams in it) was as good a starting point as any.

Also I forgot about Gravion and Godannar. Sorry.
And now: Blogging

It became painstakingly clear through the course of the year that, even if I were to stubbornly try to publish BCG entirely on my own, it wouldn't live up to my standards. I mean I could just pick up everything I have right now, publish as an electronic game only on DriveThru (with a Print on Demand option) and call it a day. Some think of crowdfunding as "That thing you do when you want to get easy money from people.", I see it as admitting that you need help.

I keep my cards close to my chest, only cryptically hinting at what I am planning and I never ask for help without offering to pay back with a favor of some kind. Which is not really asking for help as much as it is negotiating for mutual benefit. Basically I am allergic to asking for help.

Last week I spoke of how I'm now working with fellow designer buddy LawfulNice to publish this thing together. I am making another person deal with shoddy webpage coding, sending faxes back and forth (Who the hell still sends faxes???), and of course putting money up front in my stead.

Also he has to deal with all of my nagging which costs less money than any of those but takes just as much patience.

I'm just trying to convey just how much of a paradigm shift it has been for me to try crowdfunding BCG. Anyhow, the next weeks should be interesting,  the campaign may or may not start next week but if it does I will still be doing this short series of posts on sundays. There's still a few days to go until the poll closes and I'm curious to see which series wins out.

Let's see what happens next week!

Sep 7, 2014

Good news, everyone!

It is a good thing that I'm a really stubborn person and I really like game design, because the non-game design aspects of this adventure have been an experience I can only compare to rubbing fire ants all over my face

See, I like writing new stuff and adjusting existing stuff, and I can convince myself that I enjoy doing the layout work and also indexing things manually too, but it is really hard to keep repeating "MMM YES I LOVE HOW IT BURNS AND STINGS AND INSECTS ARE EATING MY EYES." when it comes to everything else. Here, meet our metaphorical colony of arthropods that has been torturing me as of late:

Imagine coding errors stamping on a human face - forever.

When I contacted IndieGoGo Support, they said that they were "aware of an issue that currently affects a small subset of campaigns from saving changes." but "at this time we unfortunately do not have a work-around." which is pretty bad news. I tried creating a new campaign or even a new account and kept running into this problem. I tried doing different things and managed to make it work once every ten tries experiments or so, and only if it was the first draft saved each time for one account, leading me to believe that "small subset" is something of an underestimation and also that their website runs on fairy magic.

Pretty much all of the issues I've been having so far were because I have been trying to publish as an individual through IndieGoGo, and this was the straw that broke the camel's back. I have now teamed up with my good friend and fellow amateur game designer LawfulNice (of DtD40k7E fame) to make a Limited Liability Company for our mutual benefit. Meet Gegenschein Games.

I swear I did not choose the name. Honest.

I am basically banking on him being the cool, successful Jerry Seinfield to my aloof, unlucky George Constanza and between the both of us somehow run a good campaign. Grab the popcorn because this frankly sounds like the setup for a buddy movie and we will somehow end up saving the planet from alien invaders by the time this is over. If I'm lucky, there will be robots.

Anyhow this means I am making changes to the plan - slightly. Going from the second best crowdfunding platform to the one that is just the best but also the one with good tech support and less sketchy practices doesn't really change much as far as you are concerned. As far as I am concerned? Costs go up an additional 5% from extra fees, so I have to be a little more careful with the budgeting. Frankly I'm just happy that I will not have to put up with stuff going wrong from this end again and that I can use the platform with the better prestige.

We're currently getting everything verified, a process that takes up to 7 days. If my plan to leech off LN's good luck is any successful, we should be going live this next weekend. Fingers crossed!

Sep 1, 2014

Get to Know Battle Century Z

First of all, apologies for the late post. The power company decided it was a good day as any for a malfunction that left a noticeable chunk of our capital without electricity. Including the people supposed to provide other services, like drinking water. It was not very fun.

Moving on! I've mentioned a few times that I am already writing the expansion to BCG, Battle Century Z, but I've only hinted cryptically at what said expansion will be. Today in our very originally titled post we remedy this. Cheesy music optional.

Unfortunately I could not find two assistants to cosplay while I ramble about games.
But first let's tackle the most fundamental question:

Why an Expansion?

Because some rules do not belong in the core game. The rules you see in BCG are a combination of what I think is absolutely necessary for a generic mecha system and those that make for a fun and simple game. Some rules are either too genre specific, complex or situational to be part of core. See if I were to add the hundred pages of the expansion to the base game then the manual would be a bloated, schizophrenic mess. Alternative character advancement systems and upgrades specific for underwater use have a place, but it is not in the average game. Thus, they're not in core.

Because content is easier to develop if it is done in chunks and over time. If I focus on the core rules first, I will do a better job at it than if I was also worrying about the expansion content too. By dividing everything into several phases, each phase is easier to do properly. Also, as time goes, I naturally come up with tweaks or new ideas that wouldn't spring to mind from playtesting alone.

Because I want to give you all the opportunity to have a say in what makes it to the expansion. Blogging more frequently and doing more polls has been extremely fruitful in terms of getting to know what People Who Aren't Me & My Friends want (and don't want) from the game. But in order to make an informed choice, I want you guys and girls to settle down and get used to the core game first.

Okay so I've (hopefully) convinced you that doing this as two books instead of just one is a good idea. Let's finally get to what BCZ is going to look like.

What will the Expansion have?

Chapter 1: Expanding the Rules. This is where most of the magic happens. This chapter opens up the selection of Skills, Traits, Powers, Upgrades and Weapons for PCs and NPCs alike. It basically gives all Characters, Mecha and even Bosses a full 50% more options than those available to core BCG ones. Around 40 pages.

Chapter 2: Shifting Gears. The chapter with optional or alternative rules you can use to spice up your game. Add Insanity mechanics for a touch of horror, or replace technology with magic in the swords & sorcery version of the BCG rules. Around 30 pages.

Chapter 3: Weaving Stories. Pre-written episodic adventures and NPCs to showcase some of the expansion's new rules. All are compatible with the BCG core setting in Chapter 5 and include ideas to run them as part of a Hiryu, Wagner or Clarke game. Around 35 pages.

Numbers are, of course, a rough estimation. It will probably take 1-5 or so more pages than that and then there's the 5-10 pages needed for a Chapter 0, index, fluff between chapters and so forth. All in all it'll probably be around 115 pages total.

More feedback and more voices makes for a better game, so I want to continue sharing my working process, making polls, and generally asking for input. But that's not all. I am also going to open commissions for custom content.


The entire point of the expansion is to broaden BCG's horizons (it is kind of in the description of "expansion", really) so I want it to reach as far away as it reasonably can. Even if I were the most creative person in the world, I would still not have the creativity of a thousand people.

That and crowdfunding campaigns need good rewards beyond the first few basic levels to make overfunding possible and actually make a profit, unless you're blatantly scamming people I guess. Put two and two together, and this seems like a really obvious thing to do.

There's going to be a limited number of slots for them, like say 10-20. It will be enough to have some variety in there and allow for crazy stuff I would never have come up with, but not enough to make me go mad trying to properly balance all of the crazy stuff I would never come up with.

They're going to work like this:
  1. You tell me an idea for a Character or Mecha ability you want. It can be a high concept idea ("The Gundam X's Satellite Cannon") or a gameplay idea ("A gun that attacks in an area of effect with infinite range").
  2. I take it to the design & development slate and make sure it is neither underpowered nor overpowered. I may tweak it to this end but I will do my best to stick to the core of your idea.
  3. You are credited in the ability's description using either your real name or a chosen alias. If it is a Genre Power, you will be using said Power. If it is a Weapon, maybe you are the scientist who came up with it. And so on and so forth.
  4. You have your own place in the credits section, one tier above all the plebs other contributors.
One of the coolest things about game design is that I get to give so-called Joy of Discovery with so many people, but by doing things this way I get to be surprised and discover fun things myself. I seriously am having a hard time waiting both to talk more in detail about the expansion and to see what comes out of everyone, but we'll get there soon.

Next Week: Good news oh yes.

Aug 24, 2014

Explanations are in Order

Bureaucracy blows. I'm not into naming names and shifting blames but I'm even less into making promises that I can't keep because of external factors. To summarize: Paypal's crowdfunding policies require you to go back and forth between them and your bank or your credit card's website. The former is uncooperative and wants me to wait (until next month at the latest), while the latter has has a crappy website that insists I do not exist against all physical evidence stating the contrary.

Basically we're all going to have to wait a little longer. It happens.

It dawns on me that if you usually do not see more regular updates on personal projects like this, it is because constantly saying there's nothing new to show and apologizing for it feels rather pathetic. Oh well, other than that I'm basically done with preparations and the plan remains the same. I'm taking off next month from everything to properly devote myself to it and ensure nothing goes wrong. Nothing.

In lieu of making exciting things happen today or next week, instead I'm going to talk about said things. It is not quite as good, but it is still something. Starting with...

My Diabolical Plan to Help you Save Money

Printing and shipping hardcovers costs money. Keeping track of the copies received and delivered also requires a good deal of work and physical space, because the boxes full of stuff need to be stored somewhere. This drives costs even higher. To spend less time and money on this and let me focus more on the Fun Game Stuff, I'm going to use DrivethruRPG's services to deliver all physical product. 

From my end of things, this is fairly practical. DTRPG has experience doing this kind of thing and they do ship worldwide so this minimizes risks of something going wrong and causing us all to lose money. Today opened up with me almost ranting about one named company and two unnamed ones, but my (albeit relatively limited) experience with DTRPG is pretty much only positive.

From your end of things it effectively lets you split total costs into two or three payments. For example, let's say you want one copy of core BCG and one of the expansion BCZ. That has a total cost of $40* (plus shipping) distributed as such:

  1. First you contribute $20 to the campaign.
  2. When BCG Core is ready to print, you receive a coupon to redeem your physical copy any time for around $11.
  3. When BCZ is ready to print, you receive a coupon to redeem your physical copy any time you want for around $9.
  4. You can have them shipped individually or both at once to save more. That's your call.

*: Prices subject to change depending on changes to the pagecount.

Or you could pay everything upfront, adding shipping costs and an extra $5 to account for any increases in printing costs from adding more content. This second method might be more practical to you, but if you want to have more control over the process and to save some money, you can do that too. This is particularly important if you want to print books for your whole group or for yourself - because you don't want to damage your precious limited edition backer-only copy.

Next week I am going to finally start talking about the expansion and how you'll get to decide what goes in it.

Aug 17, 2014

PDF - Pretty Difficult to Fabricate

Part of making a game is presenting it in a way that makes the reader want to play it and the player glad that everything is presented so well. About the worst thing you can do throw over a hundred pages of words in a .txt file at people. On the other hand, you don't need to insert a dynamic document with hyperlinks everywhere either.

The industry standard is the PDF, because it works as a document to read and is a good format for printing. In this digital age there are other options, especially if you don't intend to actually print out anything, but generally speaking if you want to write your own RPG you'll have to make a PDF file.

Too bad that working with PDF files from the creator's side of things is terrible.

Microsoft Word can, technically, export documents as PDFs but good luck not having an aneurysm if you try to add images, sidebars, or anything remotely fanciful to the text. Dedicated software like Quark or Publisher will work better, but they each have their issues.

Probably the best one of the bunch is InDesign, which is okay as long as you admit to yourself you are okay with having to do your tables of contents manually - or are okay with it looking like crap and taking up twice the space it should. Second best is probably Quark and it is one hell of a drop in quality, I used it a few years ago and this twitter account is not mine but it totally could be because it sums up my feelings pretty well. Maybe it has improved since then, but I wouldn't know and I really don't want to have to find out either.

Oh and good luck if you lose the original files or need to convert them to another publishing software. See, all those fancy programs work with their own file extensions then export the document to something the average user can read. If at any point all you have to work with is the resulting pdf, you are boned. About the only thing you can do at that point is edit what you have left with a PDF editor.

Don't do it. PDF editors are the spawn of Satan. I swear they work on Lovecraftian alien physics because none of what they do makes any sense. If you so much as try to insert a new line into an existing block of text then when you export it will roll 1d100 on a mishaps table and the resulting document will likely have one of the following:
  • The line will be in a completely different font and size than the ones you used.
  • The edited page will show up completely blank.
  • You find a whole new page for that one line right after the original one.
  • The document will be entirely written in blood and signed by Qos-Ukthtog, Cacodemon of Despair.

Bottom line is for the love of Valsione keep a backup of your original. If you can do that and can find suitable workarounds for whatever problems you can find with your publishing software of choice (I'm told Scribus is both decent and free, so there's that) then you'll be good.

For the record, I do use a PDF editor in JPDFBookmarks, but just to add bookmarks and leave it at that. It saves the bookmarks as its own .txt file you can import later to another version of the same document and modify from there. InDesign can do bookmarks but I don't like the way they are arranged automatically, and if I'm going to touch them up then might as well do them manually and keep them in a .txt for later use.

Unless you want a document that looks good in, say, a tablet. Then you are super boned because .epub and .mobi files are unruly children and you need to pretty much write up files entirely around them from the ground up. You can't approach them like you would any other manual, because they behave somewhat like a webpage in a browser and thus much of the end result depends on the end user's settings. They are not a very popular format for RPGs, understandably so, but that is a shame because they are much more useful as a reference document when you're gaming in meatspace.

If you really want to use them though, here's a few tips:
  • Stick to the basic fonts that everyone should have. Even if you embed your own fonts into the document they might not look good.
  • Don't divide things by pages because what fits on a page depend on the user. Divide things by sections or chapters instead
  • Don't work in layers because foreground elements will be pushed below the objects behind them. Basically don't have background objects.
  • Tables tend to lose their formatting so be careful with them. You might need to apply some HTML.
  • You really, really need that Table of Contents. Automatically generated ToC's work pretty well here.

If you're going full-digital there are other options worth considering, like using a wiki or cloud-shared documents, that might be worth sticking with instead of dealing with all this stuff. I use them to run my games, for example.

This was a pretty nuts and bolts post type post, I stuck to the key points and didn't really want to lengthen it with images because either you're interested in this stuff enough to keep reading or you don't care. If this was interesting I might do more in the future with more detail to them.

Next Week: Things Happen.

Aug 10, 2014

In Which I Totally Sell Out, Man

Next week or the next after that (I swear it will be this month) I am going to launch a crowdfunding campaign. My intent is to raise three thousand dollars, which is a lot less than it sounds, and basically spend all of it betting on horse racing on artwork. It would not just be for the core book but also for the expansion in one fell swoop. It will be through IndieGoGo because that's basically the best option I have available, since Kickstarter is not open to residents of my corner of the world (Argentina).

Not much of a choice when one of them just isn't available, is it?

Let's have a quick FAQ.

Is the game going to continue being free?
Yes. Well, mostly. I spent a lot of time debating how exactly to go about this. I like to say "Games are meant to be played." which, in this case, means that I think people deserve to play a good game first and I deserve recognition for a job well done after the fact. Also piracy exists and that's not a battle I can win by conventional means. The current System Reference Document is a good example of what I will give to everyone who wants to give BCG a try. 

Why should I pay money for a free game?
Because you want it to look good and art is not cheap. Because you want the game to be better and if we overfund I can spend more hours on it. Because you want a limited edition hardcover that won't be accessible otherwise. Because you want to have one of your own ideas in the expansion. Because you want to show the industry they should be making more games with a focus on good rules. Because you just want to help me pretty please with a cherry on top?

What is this about an expansion?
BCG is cool and all but I want to use it as a base from which I can build other, more flavorful and genre-specific stuff on top. Battle Century Z, the innovatively named sequel, is going to feature around a hundred pages of supplementary material, of which the most prominent are a series of 'hacks' or alternative rules to, for example, set your BCG games on fantasy worlds with magic-powered robots. Of course, it will also feature an expanded armory of powers, weapons and other goodies to spice up your non-hack games.

What kind of rewards will you be offering?
There won't be any T-shirts, custom dice or other paraphernalia that doesn't really add anything to the game. Instead I'm going to offer, in addition to getting things at a discount of their retail value, limited edition hardcover versions of the manual and a few limited slots to let you commission abilities for the expansion. You think of a Miracle, an Upgrade, or any other cool thing you want in that doesn't exist yet, I handle the rules, and you get your name in the description to show everyone what a totally radical person you are.

How much is it going to cost?
Exact prices are subject to change but I want to keep them around the following tiers (all prices in US dollars): 10 for both digital pdfs, 30 for both softcover manuals, 40 for both hardcovers and 60 for two hardcovers and two softcovers. These costs don't include shipping, but I'll be delivering via the awesome folks at Drivethru who have experience in sending stuff all over the world at decent prices so there shouldn't be any surprises there. Because printing won't happen immediately, anyone who gets physical product pays half when the campaign ends and the other half when it is time to start printing things out (next year). I'll go more into detail on this later, but it is a pretty cool thing and it is all thanks to Drivethru.

What will be the format of the books?
BCG will hover around the 200 page range, BCZ will be around 100. Both books will have softcovers with black & white interiors to keep things cheap for me and accessible for you. Games are meant to be played, after all. This is not going to be a book you keep in your library to show off, but the one you want to actually play with. The limited edition hardcovers exclusive for backers will also offer to have a softcover companion copy so you don't have to damage your collector's piece. Overfunding means more art and me adding things to the books, so they could go for up to 20 or 30 pages more each.

How is the money going to be spent?
Carefully. I'll post a full breakdown later, but a quality color cover or splash page (the kind you see in works with a real budget) is going to be around 200-300 dollars. Smaller illustrations range from 50 to 200, and surprise surprise, anything involving giant robots requires a skillset that is more expensive than anything that doesn't! BCG has about 75% of the art it would need (40 individual pieces), but that's still only about half of what a 200 page book would need in a best case scenario to space out the walls of text better. BCZ obviously has none yet.

Do you have an expected delivery date?
If things go well: You'd be receiving a finalized BCG pdf around the start of next year and the physical versions would deliver one or two weeks after that. BCZ would be a year from then. These are my estimations based on the assumption that no plan survives contact with the enemy. I'd like to finish things before the new year but there's no way I won't run into unexpected inconveniences. If things don't go well BCG would deliver around the same time and BCZ... Well, let's just say it'll have to wait.

How we got Here

Roleplaying is special because any GM is part-time game designer, and the more effort they place in crafting an experience for their group, the more likely they are to end writing up their own custom rules and whatnot. I like games. Or at least, I like games in the broad sense, because I tend to find most games lacking. After enough goofing around homebrewing various systems to make a Super Robot Wars-esque experience, I realized I might as well write the game I always wanted to play myself. Clearly no one else was going to do it for me. That was Giant Guardian Generation.

I admit I miss the overwhelmingly ridiculous name. Dearly.

Quick aside for those not in the know: Super Robot Wars is a turn-based tactics RPG, often featuring pilots and mecha from various anime, manga and videogames. It combines all these wildly different series together by not even pretending to care about realism and carrying its pretty basic gameplay with a lot of style. End aside.

GGG was as much of a fangame as it could be without outright calling itself a fangame, because I really wasn't aiming any higher than 'fangame' at the time.The concept of maybe publishing my own thing was there from the start, to be honest, but as the kind of thing that would be cool if it happened. Like world peace, a solution to global warming, and getting to see Rebuild of Evangelion 4.0 in my lifetime.

The movie is just going to be two hours of Anno laughing in a pit of money and figurines.

That was around three years ago. Time may not fly but it sure rides the shinkansen. I've been doing this long enough in my spare time that I figure I have a shot at this as a second job. Still, my priority is to make a good game, and get more people to play it. As I stated earlier in the year, the part of the process that is not just my own work has been going well but not fantastic. I mentioned before that you can do things cheap, fast or well and you can only have two options of the three, and I ended up choosing well and cheap (in that order).

This entire year so far I've basically not even tried to get the word out, because I've invested all my effort on the design side of the game and going back and forth with artists, editors, and of course you, my intelligent readers of refined taste. More eyes on the game is obviously a good thing, so that's what I'll be doing next. And if I can trade 'cheap' for 'fast', that would also be really, really nice. Over the course of the year I've been debating exactly whether crowdfunding from Argentina is a remotely viable idea for something like BCG. There are many hurdles in the way, but ultimately I lose nothing by trying.

If we don't go next week then I might actually treat this like a normal blog and discuss some other stuff related to the game that has been going on. I eagerly anticipate good news rather than shaking my fist angrily at the sky, but I'm prepared for you, sky. Give me your worst.*

*Please don't give me your worst.

Aug 3, 2014

It is good to be back.

They say no plan survives contact with the enemy, and I was prepared for one week of delays, but not three. I am still getting ready all the elements of ~=|The Plan|=~, but the manual has been locked in and ready to upload for a few weeks. I don't think it is worth delaying it any more, I'll just execute ~=|The Plan|=~ in stages instead of all at once.

So! For you today I have the a v2 Beta. The v2 numbering is because it is a noticeable jump in quality from the previous one but also the last beta there will be. Way back in early June I was going to do this with a v1.3 that implemented the experimental mechanics and called it a day. But in between then and now was when ~=|The Plan|=~ ran into the most complications... Yet that also gave me more than enough time to try out actual gameplay tweaks.

I could have made another experimental pdf, but that would have added another week (or more) to the delays and it would have been really awkward to cross reference with all this stuff. I'm not happy about changing the rules twice mid-beta, but the wait was supposed to be six months instead of twelve. As a whole, it looks like my work rate is at its best with one year test periods rather than six anyway, so I will plan for that in the future. Everything is a learning opportunity.

The grand majority of tweaks are simple buffs anyway, which is a pretty easy thing to adapt to. There's a couple of buffs-as-rewrites, nerfs, or things outright removed/replaced... Though the number is higher if we count the experimental mechanics like Beams. Ultimately it should open the playing field to more varied PCs and NPCs, and that's a good thing.

Anyway on to the actual game stuff. Below are the customary pdf files with a simplified epub/mobi System Reference Document that has only rules and no images whatsoever. I have spent way too much time trying to get those to look passable, and the formatting is still weird in places, but they will do.

And now, a summary of changes: Behold the walls of text! For the sake of simplicity these assume you never bothered to look at the experimental mechanics handbook, thus they list anything from that file as well.

General Changes:
  • Redid the layout to improve readability in digital and printed formats.
  • Prettier. Art still TBD.
  • Altered the wording of several abilities to make some interactions more clear. For example, most abilities that boosted or lowered Guard now alter Defense directly instead to simplify the math involved in recalculating Defense.

Playing the Game:
  • Reworked Matches with more Action types and more mobility for Characters.
  • When Maneuvering (as Character or Mecha) you gain a flat Defense bonus. You no longer get a chance to escape through Maneuvering, however.
  • Simpliied Terrain. Defensive Terrain is a flat Disadvantage to all attacks. Extreme Terrain Tests Systems or Speed instead of both as a Mixed Test. Difficult Terrain halves Speed.

Character Creation
  • All Player Characters now have 100 starting CP to use without restrictions. The four teamplates are full Level 0 PCs.
  • New Miracle: Phasing. Lets you pass through solid objects while active, including attacks from Characters and even Mecha.
  • Replaced Snipe Shot and Aerial with Range Booster and Flight Pack Equipment respectively. They are pretty self explanatory.
  • Multiple pieces of Equipment associated to the same skill can all be made into one single item.
  • New Deathblow: Called Shot. It inflicts a Disadvantage to all Tests for a Round.
  • Removed Got You Where I Wanted, Sniping the Targets and Cool your Jets.
  • Three new Powers. I'm Breaking Through makes your current attack bypass Active Defenses at Reaction speed. I Cannot be Defeated lets you survive lethal hits a la Invincible Alloy but only once per Round. This is my Battlefield creates a four-Zone square of a Terrain type of your choice that lasts three Rounds.
  • Buffed Believe in Myself, The Tacticool Approach, You are Going Down and Don't Give Up.
  • Slight common-sense nerf to Take One for the Team and a more considerable one to Mind Over Matter.

Mecha Construction
  • All PC Mecha now have 100 starting MP to use without restrictions. The four teamplates are full Level 0 PC Mecha.
  • Replaced Weapon Master with Duelist Model and Sniper Model. Duelist Model is a free attack when Enemies Disengage and grants 1 Advantage to Melee attacks. Sniper Model grants twice your Systems to Long Range Weapons and 1 Advantage to Shooting attacks.
  • Two new General Upgrades: EWAC (Early Warning Aircraft Control) automatically resupplies Support Upgrades with a cost of 5 or less for 4 Energy without consuming Restorations. Guardian of Steel is the team-shielding function of the old Stealth Field.
  • Tweaked two General Upgrades: The Beast removes the innate Disadvantage to Default Weapons but now it costs 2 Energy to bypass Active Defenses. Experimental Reactor reduces Weapon Energy Costs by 1 and grants 1 Advantage to Beam attacks.
  • Buffed Comander Type, Stealth Field, Expansion Pack and both types of Combiners.
  • Slippery Chassis is now an Internal Upgrade that costs 10.
  • Integrated Weapons, Invincible Alloy and Assistant cost 15.
  • Removed Remote Hotfix and Flash Analysis.
  • Resupply and Jury-Rig both have a Range of 5 Zones and cost 10.
  • Antigrav costs 10.
  • Buffed/Tweaked Overcharger, Airstrike, Fire at Will, Electromagnetic Detonator, Ensnaring Trap and Interference Bomb.
  • New Upgrades: Surprise Minefield is a Support that creates 1 Zone of Extreme Terrain and costs 5. Secret Equipment grants 10 bonus MP when Tension is 5 or higher.
  • New Weapon ability: Crippling. Only technically new, grants the benfits of Suppression.
  • Tweaked Dueling Blade to grant an Advantage if you started the Turn in a Duel.
  • Buffed Finger Net, Zweihander and Missile Massacre.
  • Tweaked all Beam Weapons with reduced cost to 5 MP with optional Energy costs to Boost them for an Advantage and other possible bonuses.

Running the Show
  • Grunt NPCs start with 50 XP and gain 30 XP per Power Level. They cannot have more than 50 CP in Skills/Traits or 50 MP in Upgrades/Weapons though.
  • Grunts have the Storm Action. One Grunt may grant another identical unit right next to it a +4 Bonus to their next attack.
  • Bosses start with 100 XP plus their usual free stuff, but only gain 15 XP per Power Level and may only spend said XP on Attributes.
  • Boss Characters have their own unique progression. They get up to 110 CP for Skills and Traits and 3 Boss Traits.
  • Buffed/Tweaked Invasive and Elusive Form.
  • Combat Profiling and Spectral Body have a fixed 3 uses/Rounds.
  • Replaced Come forth my Minions and All Become One with I Accept your Offering and We Are Legion respectively.
  • Slight nerfs to Useless!, Constrict, Adaptive Morphology and Afterimages.
  • Tweaked It Keeps Coming Back, Phantom Predator, Merge, Suicide Swarm and Telekinetic Strike.
  • Nixed Graviton Wave.
  • New Boss Weapon: Tentacle Lash. Long Range Melee area of effect attack.
  • Renamed Biomechanical Leeches to Technoleeches.
  • Rewrote Allied Reinforcements.

Well, that was long. There's a lot to take in and you'll need to read the actual manual to see the details so here's some commentary to help digest it and discuss a few other things.

Miraculously Untouchable

The game's new Miracle (Phasing, turns you insubstantial) represents something of a personal achievement for me, because I have been trying to figure out how to get this kind of mechanic into the game for a while. The power to go through solid objects is not one of the first things that comes to mind when you think of action anime, let alone Mecha action anime. But it exists and, somewhat more importantly, it is a pretty cool option for PCs and NPCs.

The funny thing is that I had all but given up on the idea until, while designing Boss Traits, I came up with Spectral Body to represent monsters like the Gnosis from Xenosaga. I realized a while ago that a Miracle variant this would let me give this kind of power to PCs without making them genuinely invincible. The end product is a Miracle so powerful it naturally makes PCs immune to giant robots, and it would be completely bonkers if it didn't slowly drain their Plot Armor and use up their Actions while at it.

The GM's ideal "invincible monologuing asshat" enabler.
I was going to reserve this Miracle for an expansion but I wanted to make up for the loss of the Speed Miracle and also there was some free space in that section. I figured it would be a somewhat risky (IMMUNITY TO MECHA!!!) but worthwhile inclusion.

The True and Final form of Dueling Blade

When you have a Melee Weapon that is at its strongest when you do with it what all Melee Weapons want to do anyway, it tends to trump the competition. Dueling Blade's entire concept is that it Duels Gud, so making it somewhat comparable in power to all the others was tough. That I messed up the wording with the first iteration of the Weapon and it was even stronger didn't help.

I tried several variants to get the concept to stick. Having it grant the Advantage if you are already in a Duel by the start of your Turn is really powerful but deceptively conditional. If you Engage a Grunt and it explodes after that one attack then Dueling Blade does nothing for you, for example. It is fantastic for frontliners that draw the attention of Rivals and Bosses, particularly with Duelist Model.

This was originally going to grant the Advantage only if you won the Speed Test at the beginning of your Turn, but this plays faster and is already conditional enough in my opinion. For instance Slippery Chassis renders it useless.

It also makes a good backup for generalists with a primary ranged focus.

Grunts and Teamwork

Grunts now have a new Action available to them: Paired Attack. Pairing lets two identical Grunts within 1 Zone to make a single Offensive Action with two Advantages. Pairing bonuses do not stack, because that would kind of go against the whole point of the thing. It also feels like they are doing a Synchro Attack of sorts, which is cool. Paired Attacks are a lot more effective than stacking Assists in both terms of gameplay flow and raw power, and that is a good thing.

Q: How many attack rolls do you need for 24 Balls? 
A: Just 3 with Squadron and Paired Attack.

This is one of those things that might not seem like much but is a fantastic addition to the game. Individual Grunts are much more fearsome when they have a +4 to their first few attacks, but it also cuts down the amount of total attacks effectively in half, which also means they take less time to get through all those Turns. In one fell swoop Grunts are more threatening, play faster, and are easier to take out because they need to bunch up.

I put a lot of effort into getting Player options just right because that is what gets the most attention. I spend just a fraction of that time into Grunts and Bosses, even though those are just as important as PCs. One of my highest priorities is that the game should be easy to manage for the GM, so it is little improvements like this one that I'm often the most proud of.

What's Next?

My short term goal is to explain/commence ~=|The Plan|=~ next week. My long term goal is to have the finished product ready within 6-ish months. My midterm goal is to have one more pdf of experimental mechanics in 2-3 months, because I'm sure you awesome people will find something that can be improved. We can't aim for perfection but we can certainly land within the ballpark.

We are charging full speed ahead, ladies and gentlemen. This is going to be a good ride.