Now, I did say a while ago I was going to keep the Beta updates to editorial or artistic improvements rather than gameplay changes. What I did not consider back then was that maybe some of those editorial goofs would affect gameplay. Difficult Terrain was supposed to halve Guard and not just Speed. Grand Weapon and Lux Cannon boost your next attack but not the current one. In theory Dueling Blade would demand that you be the one to Engage the target but it actually says that it works against any Enemy that is in a Duel. If I'm going to be fixing that, I might as well be doing other minor balance changes.
What I do not want to do is subject anyone to three different Beta versions, each with vastly different gameplay, before the actual release. The balance changes that are more dramatic will get discussed here while I test them out though. The idea is that if I'm releasing any other Beta it has to be considerably better than what came before it. It should be a definitive step forward, rather than one step forward and one step back.
Unlike this kind of Beta.
A Faster Paced Game
The one thing that most of the things getting a boost have in common is that they were designed around Operations that last at least six Rounds and plan to make it higher than ten. This is in part because battlefields can be quite big, so it would not be out of place to assume you can spend one or two Rounds just advancing towards the opposition, and partly because there are some very solid ways to stall for time either by buffing up your defenses or just by maintaining your distance. What this means that I've been working on the assumption that effects that run on Tension were a bit on the underpowered side, because they would be used when you can absolutely make sure that they're better than other options. Time for a short aside!
Humans (and gamers in particular) are really good at optimizing systems. Wherever there is a set of rules, we will find a way to exploit it to the fullest. I embrace the idea that Players want their characters to be The Best and will naturally try to gain every edge they can get. Jumping past one or two hoops to make a Character who is better than the 'standard' feels very rewarding. You're smart, you figured out how things work, and now it is paying off. In most games this kind of thing is incidental and not what you're supposed to do, because when you combine a lot of abilities that work well together you get a Character who is invincible and the rest of the group just sighs as they tell you that no, you can't make a character whose stats are infinite.
While there are many things I like about BESM. The game balance is not one of them.
This brings us to the abilities in question. I was careful to make sure they weren't almost always better than other options, but I was probably way too careful. My general stance on conditional abilities (those that need a set up or are only effective in some circumstances) is that the Player will do everything in their power to minimize their downside and maximize their upside. This sometimes works well because said abilities are costed aggressively (like Techniques) but with some other effects (Chainblade, Electro-Sapper Pods) they just take too much effort or it is too easy to disrupt them.
It is fine to jump through a couple hoops to make your conditional Weapon the better one, but it also has to have a degree of general usefulness the rest of the time. Which is to say, it can't be either useless or fantastic, there has to be a middle ground. That's what I am going to be more careful with in the future, to not preemptively make abilities that are already conditional even harder to use.
The side effect of this is that the game will be faster paced in general, but if it does last much longer than 10 Rounds some of these abilities will be clear gamewinners. I might need to put a cap on the maximum Tension bonus, or make it count down afterwards until it gets to 0 and then it counts up again, or something to that effect. Enough chatter. Here is the quick and dirty version of these changes.
- Difficult Terrain halves Guard and Speed.
- Extreme Terrain adds Tension to the DN.
This is pretty simple. The first was a thing that was always supposed to happen, and I think the abilities with Difficult Terrain will make more sense now that it has been fixed. The second keeps Extreme Terrain dangerous at high Power Levels (when games last longer) and buffs abilities that cause the effects of Extreme Terrain without instantly winning the game. Against targets with bad luck or those that did not invest in Systems and Speed it basically deals twice the current Tension in Damage, making Extreme Terrain akin to a Technique.
- Providence renamed to Fortune. It is now an universal Resources Advantage that will not cause further Resources Tests during the same Episode to suffer Disadvantages.
- Sight is now a Willpower Help Test that boosts your next Awareness Test without using an Action.
- Somatics is now a Willpower Help Test that boosts your next Fitness Test without using an Action.
- Removed the Speed Miracle.
Miracles as universal Advantages to a single Attribute don't work very well when they cost more than just increasing said Attribute twice, but as a Help Test they grant you from two to four Advantages per activation, which is pretty good! Resources is an exception in that with high Resources you can get away with not needing other Attributes and Skills but you need time and access to your, well, resources to use it.
Somatics got a bit nerfed from it, but it was way too good at keeping everyone else up and running, and if I'm going to have one Miracle that buffs your Fitness Tests then Somatics makes more sense than Speed. I can redo Speed in the future though, when I come up with a better niche for it.
Today is not your day my precious. But soon... Soon.
- Jaded lets you turn a Failure into a Success.
- Superior Immune System lets you turn a Failure into a Success.
- Gumshoe is tied to Humanities, Investigation and Sciences.
- Attractive is tied to Deception, Diplomacy and Presence.
These are pretty simple buffs. There was a problem with Humanities and Sciences in that they are one of the few Skills that don't have any equipment you would need to use them, so if you are not trained in their use you can often get by just using a raw Intellect Test. You can still do that now, but getting those Skills and Gumshoe is very much worth their weight in gold. Attractive is the only nerf of the bunch, because it was a bit too vague and thus could potentially apply to everything.
- Synchro Attack grants two Advantages instead of a +5 to Might.
- My Style is Impetuous lets you treat Tension as if it were 4 higher for one Action instead of autohitting Enemies for the current Tension as Damage.
- You can do Better than That makes anyone's attack an autohit with Tension as Damage instead of granting two Advantages to the Test.
Notice that the effects of Impetuous Style and You can do Better got basically switched, with a slight tweak on top for the former too. Letting one of your friends turn a failure into a success is exactly what a support character wants, while a temporary Tension boost is brutal with Techniques and other similar abilities in the mix.
A Technique with Synchro Attack and Impetuous Style will reduce you to light.
- Berserker renamed to The Beast. It grants an Advantage to the use of Default Weapons per each Level of Threshold missing, but also lets them ignore Active Defenses.
- Regenerative gives Energy spent in Threshold but uses two Restorations instead of one.
- Airstrike uses the current Tension instead of halving it.
- Interference Bomb removes all benefit from Tension instead of halving it.
- Flyer lets you move around in space.
- Terrain Specialist is now like Anti-Gravity in that you ignore cover and all negative Terrain effects instead of granting Defensive Terrain.
Now we're getting to the important stuff! One of the things that was keeping Berserker from reaching its full potential was that it wanted to represent lots of Mecha that went out of control, and I had to keep it from being a Might boost that everyone would want. By tying it to Default Weapons it has a distinctive niche that you can either build around or grab in place of something that prevents Maims.
The Beast is a lot less subtle about its raw power. Much like its inspiration.
Regenerative and the various Tension-related buffs are a good example of why I'm saying the game is getting faster. What would take two Turns now takes one. That's also why I'm standardizing what the various Terrain abilities do by making them more like each other, and taking out Terrain Specialist's defensive boost. A team shield that gives everyone 10 Defense is a lot more dangerous in a game where things like Interference Bomb and Chainblade scale in power a lot faster. Stealth Field is still fantastic but less likely to make unbreakable stonewalls. This way Beam users can still compete with groups of characters who spend their Energy on special abilities like Stealth Field and Signature Weapon.
- Unreliable will lose the benefit of Tension to the Might Test instead of halving Damage dealt.
- Boosted Lance clearly states you can make use of the Duel Advantage .
- Chainblade is full Tension.
- Dueling Blade deals 1 bonus damage against the Enemy you are dueling with instead of the old 'gains an Advantage 90% of the time' ability.
- Rocket Punch increases its Range by 5 when you Aim with it.
- Whirlwind Attack is now Slow but gains an Advantage to its use.
- Assault Rifle is so accurate you can choose Areas Maimed with it.
- Bombardment uses the current Tension instead of halving it.
- Electrosapper Pods deal half your Systems in Damage as a bonus instead of the difference between your Systems and theirs.
- Missile Massacre is clarified to state that the debuff is only against the surviving Enemy.
- Grand Weapon now boosts the current Test instead of the 'next' one but also costs 1 more Energy.
- Radiant Fist grants 2 Advantages to the Might Test instead of one but also costs 4 Energy.
- Lux Cannon now boosts the current Test instead of the 'next' one but also costs 1 more Energy.
- Powered Rifle costs 3 Energy instead of 2.
- Reactor Overdrive increases its Range by 5 when you Aim with it.
That is a lot to process. Some of the weakest 'general use' Weapons were granted a small buff. Meanwhile those that had a very specific niche but weren't all that good at it just got better at their job. Some of the clearly 'better Weapons in the game' got a slight nerf but nothing too severe. Dueling Blade isn't getting a clarification as much as a slight rewrite, but this should work better.
Honestly most of these are pretty straightforward. Chainblade and the Pods are now considerably stronger, so much that they started out as Slow but they already are conditional Weapons with a tendency to miss when they don't hit for a lot, making them much worse against Active Defenses that aren't Absolute Barrier.
Also the new Beam Techniques are downright obscene when combined with My Style is Impetuous. Like seriously. Interference Bomb is a lot better now too, so a dedicated Support Mecha can keep most of these buffed Weapons shut down, so it is not an unstoppable strategy.
Don't mind me, just trailblazing a path of death and destruction ahead.
On to the Experiment
So that's a whole bunch of stuff right there. But wait, there is more! There are some other things I am experimenting with and testing to see if they improve the game too.
- Removing Cool your Jets.
- New Power: This is my Battlefield - Choose a type of Terrain and activate the Power to create a block of 4 Zones of that Terrain type. The effect lasts until the Operation ends.
- Removing Experimental Reactor.
- Commander Type would cost 5 Energy to activate but would not spend the Support Upgrade on use.
- Splitting Stealth Field into two Upgrades: Stealth Field and Guardian of Steel.
- Stealth Field would cost 10 and keep the part that adds the Tension to Maneuvering Tests.
- Guardian of Steel would cost 20 and keep the part that shields your Allies for 5 Energy, but its reach is extended to half your Systems.
- Electromagnetic Detonator would affect a single target and apply the 'Energy Burn' effect of Cool your Jets.
- Dueling Blade would be rewritten so that it lets you make a Contested Speed Test against your opponent after use, even if you fail the Might Test. The Winner of the Speed Test gets to move the Duel in a direction of their choice a number of Zones equal to the lowest Speed of both participants.
- Slightly buffed versions of all the Boosted Beam Weapons discussed last week.
- Removing Come Forth, my Minions.
- Removing All Become One.
- New Power: I Accept your Offering - Sacrifices an Allied Grunt to restore their Power Level plus their Levels of Threshold intact in Threshold, and also to deal that much Damage.
- New Upgrade: We are Many - Spawns a Level 0 Grunt when you lose the first Level of Threshold, two Level 0 Grunts when you lose the second, and three Level 0 Grunts when you lose the third.
- Your Fate is Sealed denies all Tension and completely blocks healing for one Round.
Experiments may or may not be safe to try at home.
Okay that is a whole bunch of new stuff too, and is a lot more radical about the changes. That's why I'm being careful with what I actually publish, because I am trying out a lot of different tiny little things behind the scenes. Here is a quick summary of what they accomplish as a whole.
Dedicated Support users can lock down Enemies with debuffs indefinitely, to the point where they can defeat combat specialists who have no Plan B. It creates an interesting dynamic where Combat Specialists beat Generalists who beat Support Specialists who beat Combat Specialists. Whether this is actually fun to play against remains to be seen though. I've got my doubts, because at low Power Levels there is not much they can do once debuffed... But then again they are spending 5 Energy and considerable MP on those Supports, so you should be able to overpower them with one or two good blows if you can play around their abilities
This works pretty well with the new Electromagnetic Detonator and the buffed Boosted Beams. Boosted Beams either cost less or have less drawbacks than the versions previously posted, so the threat of facing a dedicated Energy-Burner is only fair.
You can now use Powers to create Terrain permanently. This is especially useful for Defensive Terrain, since it lets you set up shop with Stealth Field and Guardian of Steel. They are well worth the 30 points that they cost together.
Speaking of Terrain, with Dueling Blade you now have another tool to keep Enemies within Difficult or Extreme Terrain, or to move them out of the Defensive Terrain they've created for themselves. It is a lot more interesting than 1 bonus Damage, at the very least.
Your Fate is Sealed would be fine as a single Turn super debuff in light of PCs having their own repeatable debuffs. Lastly there is the switch between the Minion Spawn ability and the Minion Sacrifice one. I haven't gotten to try it out yet but it sounds like it should play much better for both sides: PCs can shoot down the Grunts before they get a Turn in and the Boss can sacrifice them for a better effect right out of the gate.
But I haven't tested these yet. No one gets to skip that step.
One Last Paragraph (or two)
This turned out quite long, but at least the purpos of the new poll should be clear. Battle Century G is coming along quite nicely, though there is still a lot of art in need to be done. In the meantime I can keep you up to date on things and also offer you a chance to try out changes to the rules as much as you want.
Again, I'm not going to make any big sweeping changes until I'm absolutely sure they're for better. I'm pretty sure the few first tweaks posted are pretty much either inoffensive improvements or worth the changes. The experimental stuff is more out there though, so if you are curious I can write it in its own errata pdf until it is either confirmed to work as intended or we discard it as a failed experiment.