Apr 27, 2014

Let's Talk Attributes

When I first approached the idea of a true "point-buy" system where you may customize a PC to your liking, I thought it was either nearly impossible or waaaaay over my head to do it without the resulting game being super easy to break over your knee. A year and change later I'd start to think I could do that, but only if I could find a "Focus Point" for PCs. A Focus Point would be something for the various special abilities of Characters and Mecha to draw power from, power up, and be costed around.

Attributes are that Focus Point. They're the core of all Characters and Mecha, and therefore the core of the rules themselves. Might is what you use to attack other Mecha and Weapons are conditional bonuses to Might Tests, and nearly every Mecha wants to have some Might as a consequence. Energy does not do anything on its own, but it conditionally boosts all the other Attributes to make them all perform above average for a fraction of what it would normally cost. Systems protects you from Extreme Terrain and extends the Range of your guns, but is also directly tied to the power of Restoration and Support abilities.

Everything revolves around your Attributes and is balanced around them. Like with any design paradigms that you decide over others, this has its pros and cons.

Three Reasons it Works

It is simpler to create PCs with. Instead of forcing you to compare various premade classes to find out the one that does what you want for your PC best, you can just pick whatever you want from the start. If you want to be the strongest and fastest hitter on the battlefield then you know you need Might and Speed. If you want to be a walking fortress that's Guard and Threshold. If you want to have a flamethrower, forcefields, or the ability to fly you can just grab those without much trouble. Easy peasy.

It is simpler to play with. You don't have to worry about weapon damage tables, armor resistance types, hit location spreads, tracking ammo and fuel, radar systems or acceleration speeds and types of movement. The most complex and possibly finicky of the six are Energy and Systems, but at the base level they still are "Energy is how much juice I have per Turn and a point of Systems is a point of Range" and Systems only gets more complicated if you choose to build around using it as your primary or secondary Attribute.

It is easier to design and balance. This one comes with a caveat, but generally speaking it is so much easier to work with than any class-based or level-based system I've modified for my use or worked with as staff member. You have no idea, seriously. The caveat is that a pure class and level based system is easier on its own, but when you let people customize said classes and levels from a common pool of Skills/Talents/Feats/Whatever the balance almost inevitably tips greatly towards one or more classes.

Attributes are the primary reason the game works as intended, because it was engineered around them working the way they do. But with that said, it does have a few complications.

Three Complications it Creates

All PCs need a ton of XP. If we want the average PC to be reasonably competent, they will need a lot of points for said character. Not only do they need to have enough to get some Attributes, but they also need to have enough left for everything else afterwards. Finding the right balance between "just enough" and "too much" is difficult, and I'm glad that I have Power Levels to help with that. The consequence there is that low end PCs are a little lacking and top of the line ones have absurd amounts of XP, with the sweet spot being somewhere in the middle. Since you can use whatever Power Level you wish, that's not a big issue.

Attributes are often more efficient than abilities. Attribute purchases scale and abilities have a static price, but Attributes can't be too expensive or else we make the issue with the previous paragraph worse. This means that, for the first few raises, Attributes have to be cheaper than most abilities that revolve around them. Special abilities would be used to specialize and perform above average, but not before then. This means you'll be essentially purchasing Attributes for the most part with your first few points, and it tends to make low Power Level characters look a bit samey. Like with above, being able to choose your Power Level goes a long way.

Advancement is not all that exciting. Roughly half of your total XP (maybe a little more, maybe a little less) will be spent on Attributes. I think that increasing your Attributes is a good way to show that your PC is growing or powering up, but it is not as flashy as getting a new gun or learning a new robo-kenjutsu technique every other session. On the other hand that is more in line with how anime character progression works, and it does make each new ability you get feel more rewarding instead of being the powerup of the week.

We at Gimmick Labs are always looking for ways to improve the experience of our end users. I feel dirty having typed that out, but the point is that even if these quirks will always be there, I can always make them feel more like features than bugs. Thus the revamp to the Attribute advancement, XP, and Power Level system in our first Experimental Mechanics issue.

Enhancing the Game

There was quite a bit of talk about said revamp, and most of the disagreements with it seemed to come from the XP per Power Level, saying it was not enough to work as intended. My mistake came from keeping Attribute costs slightly lower and decreasing the total experience earned per Power Level to compensate, when it should have been equal or perhaps higher.

To be honest, more XP per Power Level is a change I can work with, and that I doubt anyone will mind. Would you like to have more toys or less? I am fairly certain the answer would be yes more often than not, I'm not even sure it is worth polling. What might be worth polling are the costs of each individual +2, though, but that's for later.

What I am more interested in keeping is Enhancing Attributes by 2 per advancement. I've stated above that you're going to do a lot of Attribute purchases, and while I provided a multitude of templates to make using them at various Power Levels easier, the actual purchases are more complex to work with. If you don't use any of the templates and want to customize your starting array, arranging your starting Attributes is kind of annoying. That is the primary reason behind this change. But it does have some nice side effects.

To continue our streak of explaining things by threes, here are three more beneficial side effects. Some of these are from last week, but one is new.

It does not alter the balance of the game. I can keep most XP costs as they are, and only would have to make some Upgrades and Weapons cost slightly less or more in terms of Energy, not all of them though, but for example most of the Upgrades that cost 5 Energy to use would cost 4 instead. I don't have to rewrite the rules significantly, except possibly those for NPCs. That means no builds are changing significantly other than by getting an XP boost.

We can start rounding things up. The primary reason that anything rounds down in this game is because a lot of Attributes are getting halved here and there, and causing those to round up would encourage you to have everything as odds rather than evens, making a 10 never worth it when you could get a 9. If Attributes are always even there is no rounding up or down to be done with them, so we can afford to make halved instances of Damage round up and speed up the game just an inch more.

We can break the Attribute cap of 10. More XP to go around and lower total XP costs means characters at PL 5 are effectively as Godly as the name of their tier implies. At that point they start to look the same again, not because they don't have enough to diversify, but because they've had enough to get everything. I think letting PCs achieve Legendary status with their Attributes is fair, it lets hyper-focused specialists remain the best at their fields and gives Bosses something to do beyond getting 10's in everything. I don't know how much it should cost, it could be 20, 25 or even 30. But the exact value can be settled later. The one thing I do know is that Grunts won't ever be touching this.

I really, really want to make this change work. If it doesn't, that kind of blows but we'll move on. But if it does, it'd be a pretty good improvement. My internet service has been terrible for the entire weekend so excuse the lack of images in between sections, just getting this posted was an ordeal in itself.

31 comments:

  1. I remain leery of allowing capbreakers in any way, shape or form, because pointbuys are a zero-sum system: If I can raise my MIght to 12, I MUST raise it to 12, because Boss enemies and possibly Rivals will jump up to Guard 12 ASAP and make my attacks that much less powerful. It's why every heavy attacker eventually ends with Might 10, Weapon Master (even though it's inefficient, since it helps you punch through barriers costlessly), and ranged attackers pick up Assisted Targeting to a man because hey, +4 bonus to attack rolls and no other choices. There's just no other options to remain competitive. If you allow cap-breakers, they should all be different from each other instead of flatly comparable boosts that keep Might and Guard locked into the same boring arms race (that Guard tends to end up winning because it gets the assist from Threshold). I think it might be a good idea to go back to the well here and look at SRW's Ace Bonuses and Unique Skills. Stuff like increasing your damage by 30% if your personal Tension is high enough (so you could get there for a quick burst by using the tension-boosting GP, then ride out the rest of the turns, for instance), SEED Mode's stat upping at high enough Tension, Abnormal Survivor's mega stat boosts when on last legs, or increasing every ally's Speed by 3 on the first turn, yourself included. These could be fair ways of giving the PCs who are at high levels capstone options that aren't necessarily Genre Powers.

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  2. PC Capstones could be more interesting than breaking the Attribute cap, though having some unique ability that is only unlockable at the very top of the PL scale does go against the idea of a point buy system.

    The idea is that they would be expensive enough only the most dedicated of specialists would get another bonus, especially considering you can negate it for a fraction of the cost. But the idea behind the arms race is that everyone assumes absolute specialization is a necessity, so I do agree there is room for concern there. If it does not work, it does not work.

    The thing is that Bosses NEED to be able to break that cap if we're going to have more XP. It doesn't have to be cheap, but it has to exist. Otherwise all PL 5 Bosses have exactly 10's in everything, and just lowering the amount of XP they get is not really an answer because they have to stand up to PCs that are even stronger now.

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  3. I can split my response here in two parts. One, I don't agree that we need more top-end XP. What we need is a combination of reasonable enough costs that you can run any *singular* character archetype right out of the gate (i .e. 'I want to be a heavy support AND attacker' does not fly, but 'I want to be a heavy support!' and 'I want to be a heavy attacker!' does) and enough XP that you can get your core and still apply a distinct touch to your machine. To me, the concept of high-levels needing more XP is a nebulous, theoretical thing, because right now the earlygame is wonky and that needs to be addressed since it's what newbies are gonna play, not PL5 battles for the universe.

    Two, are PL-unlockable abilities really against the spirit of pointbuys? I don't think it's a bad idea to try them out, really. I think BCG wouldn't be hurt by stealing the concept of Boss Abilities in all forms (AKA 'every PL you get a really neat special toy') and applying it to PCs, as it would allow a bit of true stratification and actual *meaning* to Power Levels beyond 'you have a couple more pointless toys besides your already maxed out core and perhaps some more HP'. I'm not joking, here: My character in my newest BCG game started with Might 7 (you might remember him, the sniper from a while back?) and he's going to hit MIght 10 before his first PL is done, then his attack ability will stay capped where it is for a good 60% of his career because EN 10 is probably a worthier buy than Weapon Master for a while (and if not, he will actually hit peak like 30% into his career). For a long, long time, all he'll do is accumulate number buffs that he cannot even really use and nothing more, which is *dull*. They won't even do anything! I cannot afford to spend points on such things as Active Defenses for a long time because of the budget constraints, which means I'm going to have a lot of overkill EN for a really long time in exchange for hitting a small but necessary payoff down the line. It's not something I'm really happy about, because the system is *functional*, but it feels fundamentally wrong to have all characters be like rock bands that peak with their second album and then spend eternity pumping out pleasant but mediocre albums afterward. I think giving players One Unique Thing per PL would actually give them something to look forward to in a much more tangible and visceral way than any amount of XP you could award.

    Summarizing the above post, because I know I am too wordy:

    Priorities, in order:
    A) Up starting XP by 20 or 30 (possibly for PCs/Rivals/Bosses only so Grunts don't get crazy?). Keep final XP totals the same.
    B) Cut down costs if needed until every build (jack of all trades, heavy glassy deepser in both melee and ranged versions, Berserker, heavy support, support attacker, pure tank, tank support...am I forgetting any?) can get off the ground at PL1.

    Potential Things To Do, in priority order:

    A) Test the possibility of more visceral, satisfactory upgrades per-PL, which do not necessarily involve number buffs to effectiveness.
    B) Test ultra-high XP endgame scenarios, as a counterpart to the Unique Upgrades model.

    PS: Speaking of 'unique upgrades', have you considered adding something that lets you be in two spaces at once without giving you more actions? Like some sort of remote drone you split actions with? I had a talk with my GM and in correcting him about some things realized the combat medic archetype is not viable because medics get shot first and they MUST cap both EN and Systems ASAP to be useful, leaving their Guard and Threshold shitty and unable to cope with the focus fire they'll receive. Jury-Riggers could really use some love I think, even if it's in the form of a point tax.

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  4. "Capstones" need not necessarily be a PL5-only deal. They could instead have much lower build requirements with something else the player will want to keep track of as it builds towards what they hope for. It could be as low as PL2+ or "just not with any of the MP you started with".

    Number of Kills, for example, would be more appropriate to unlock things that enhance mook-killing or general multitargeting. You don't want it to suddenly just turn your AoE guy into a premier boss-killer after all.

    Things (with different values to attain the ace unlock) that might get tracked;
    >Number of in-combat Threshold-up heals
    >Number of in-combat Threshold Loss
    >Number of 'boss' kills (or threshold downs)
    >Number of 'mook' kills
    >Number of attacks entirely tanked by a specific active defense (obviously you can't give the ace bonus to a different defense than the one you achieved here)
    >Number of kill assists
    and so on.


    Regarding unique upgrades, 'two places at once' could also be stuff like wormholes. Something that lets you, for of course a cost, aim something like a line-affecting shot from one zone away (lets you fire a "wall" across the zone right in front of you, or blast forward through your own square?).

    It's true that right now long range all ends up being pretty much the same, though.

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  5. There's two reasons I'd prefer 'capstones' to be MP-buyable (and possibly buyable from the get-go, one per PL) is because it tends to shaft support characters, and having to track 'achievements' can be a pain in the ass and generate party strife. Imagine a party heavy with deepsers that's all trying to get the Boss Kills Ace Bonus. Either the GM starts throwing out bosses by the boatload or people get sad, and neither is ideal.

    The second is that they could open up lots of fun plays by not being as limited as standard upgrades. Take the ideas pitched of a 'line AoE wall', or enabling medic play from early on. That's stuff that adds a valuable new dimension to the game (an attack that causes forced movement! An Impassable Terrain generator! The ability to play outlast-and-overcome strategies!), and I've always been a proponent that players should always start cool and get cooler, not wait for their coolness until they're halfway through a game, of any sort. I think we've made our point, though. I'm curious to see what GimmickMan thinks of the idea.

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  6. I've been toying with the 'drone as range amplifier' concept as part of the Monster Summoner hack, where it makes the most sense (you and your summon splitting up briefly). It might work here as a Support.

    Or I could just plain give Restorations a flat range increase. It can't be a huge range increase, but it can be something like 5 or so, just enough to heal someone being dragged away by the opposition without walking to your death by enemy fire.

    "Achievements" as a way for character growth are great in a videogame, but don't work that well when you have to track the Ten Duels Won award yourself. Simpler one-shot goals like "Win a battle with exactly 1 Threshold left" are better, but still warp roleplaying and end up with characters hitting themselves for no reason just to unlock them. One of BCG's tenets is that character efficiency should not get in the way of the narrative you want.

    I tried things like Ace Bonuses a loooong time ago with GGG, and I agree that having one unique thing that is badass and character-defining is cool. The problem with adapting that to a Tabletop RPG is twofold:

    1) In a Tabletop RPG all abilities are badass and cool by default, or should aim to be. In a videogame with 100 units that are pretty similar, a character who gets stronger when surrounded by NPCs of the opposite sex and hits enemies of the same sex for more damage stands out. In an RPG where everyone is very different from each other, that boils down to the Teamwork (Opposite Sex) and Slayer (Same Sex) Traits/Feats/Talents. It does not feel as awesome in this context because the standards are so much higher. The grand majority of unique bonuses in SRW are things we can do here by default, but because this is the default you don't really notice.

    2) The really, really memorable unique abilities that make some characters super stand out are tailor made and don't work as well when you let people cherrypick them. Things like Abnormal Survivor, autoparrying anything that can be parried, or extra 50% damage against Gundams are either obscenely overpowered or they are balance mechanisms to make units that are simply okay much better in the proper context. Give Abnormal Survivor to the guy in the AT and it is pretty nice, give it to the guy in the Mazinger and you get a dramatically different result.

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  7. The tl;dr is that Genre Powers are supposed to be the really unique things that makes you stand out. Grunts don't have them, and Bosses have their own pool. Adding more Powers is second in priority only to adding more Weapons, with more distinctive uses than the current set.

    One more thing: XP is a currency of your character's power and power is tied to pacing. PL 1 characters don't need to have a lot of XP, they need to have enough to get by. The point is that as they grow in terms of character, they also do in terms of power. The starting amount should make them above average, but not much more than that. That's instrumental to the game and, in my opinion, to RPGs as a whole.

    If you want to start out as Batman and not have to radically alter your PC while the episodes progress, that's what higher Power Levels are for. Start at PL 3 and end there.

    I put forward the idea of breaking the Attribute Caps because it serves as a quick and dirty 'XP sink' when you know you start with 300 points because you are playing a game of walking demigods and have no idea what to do with the remaining 100, so you raise something to 16 and call it a day. It also makes sense and feels good as a fluff thing - now your stats are legendary tier.

    It doesn't have to happen though, as long as there are plenty of things to buy with that XP, I'm good. 250-300 is a lot. You can get every weapon, the whole NPC crew as subpilots a la TTGL, or raise all stats to 8. There is not a lack of things to get with all that XP, I just thought there could be more.

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  8. ...Damn you, now I want to see Koji swap his Mazinpower for Abnormal Survivor. The carnage would be off the scale!

    But more seriously, I do think Ace Bonuses as a Cool Upgrade/Gun/Genre Power you get per PL you have is a really workable thing that addresses a few issues you're having right now that make you want to up XP values:

    A) Characters start off a bit underpowered. Some archetypes have a much higher buy-in cost than others (see: The medic even if he can heal from range. He needs to max out EN ASAP to heal well, but he also needs Systems to heal for as long as he needs to, and alright Speed to get where he needs to be in time, plus some Threshold to soak up stray enemy fire. Stats don't come cheap!), which leads to major disparities early on. Others can get where they need to be, but only by making noticeable sacrifices. Some archetypes (the sniper that shoots from range) just don't function because the cheaper archetypes can start with answers to them. Introducing Unique Things that are considerably stronger than non-tier-limited upgrades helps alleviate the burden of the slow-burning archetypes while not leaving the stronger ones out in the cold.

    B) Advancement is unexciting: By definition, any successful implemenetation of Unique Upgrades would solve that, since they have to be things that make you go "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!" when you see them if they jive with your concept. This way you can have your cake and eat it too, by providing both small, incremental upgrades through MP and big powerups through the PL system. As a bonus, this makes it much easier to run games where PC abilities stay relatively constant: Just give them XP without raising their power level, and their upgrades will be small, incremental, yet still useful.

    C) Pre-planning is heavily rewarded: right now, the payoff for knowing when to hold off on buying stuff and preparing a build that will go to PL5 (or whatever the campaign cap is) is very big and real. Buying Might 10 is more boring than buying two weapons, and yet the benefits it provides tend to be much bigger and widely applicable. You're rewarded for spreadsheeting, and while to a degree this is expected, it's daunting to newbies. Unique Upgrades, by contrast, are things you don't really need to spreadsheet. Because they're big, powerful, and very noticeable, each player will instantly gravitate to the ones that fit his concept best. Like for instance, you COULD pick up Abnormal Survivor (Increases Guard, Speed and Systems by 4 when on your last threshold), and it will at the same time be really obvious to anyone who takes it that The Beast will be a good upgrade to pick to go with it (since now he can enjoy maximum benefits without fearing getting blown up) and it will also allow creative players to make builds that don't use The Beast and yet can and do want to hang by a thread in fights. Intuitive design is always a positive.

    This isn't necessarily the only solution to the problem of 'not enough XP' and 'characters are a bit samey at points', but I think it's a very elegant one, and well worth giving some thought to. Introducing self-contained elements that help concepts become fully realized is an excellent way to make each Gear more unique.

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  9. Whoops, turns out I started writing my comment just as the GP one went up and didn't refresh until later. My bad!

    But anyways...I disagree with your take on things. If you want Genre Powers to be the PCs' "Thing", they are not doing it right now, and probably never will consistently. Tell me which one you think is cooler: "I can add an advantage and 10 range to one attack per round!", vs. "I can spend 2 EN to move a copy of my mech that shares all equipment using my actions and be in two places at once!". One of these does what the other does, but in much cooler fashion. Or compare Impregnable Defense with the Abnormal Survivor idea above. Which one screams 'we're up against the ropes, TIME TO KICK ASS' more? Hell, compare it to The Beast, even - it's still less fun than 'you've got a bajillion Advantages so your next few blows before you explode are going to wreck everything. Make them count!'. There's a couple that work as Unique Things, like This Is My Battlefield, but for the most part GPs are so watered down that they're not something most players care for. It's all about the Techniques, the Commander Types, The Beast or the Absolute Fields. These things are much more a character's 'Thing' than any GPs they can take. Don't add new powers if you want them to be the Cool Things that define the PCs (unless you're going to chuck like 80% of the current roster out). Take the current list, buff it heavily, and make every single power unique instead of being interchangeable. There is no excuse for two effects as similar as 'once per operation raise Tension by 4' and 'once per operation gain +4 to an attack roll and pierce defenses' to exist in the same game if they're meant to be The Cool Things of it. One of them has to go or change and the survivor needs to hulk the hell out.

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    1. Something that feels cool is not the same thing as something that plays well. Unique and Cool Things already exist: They're called "Stuff you buy with XP". They also stop being Unique and Cool the moment someone else takes them, which you cannot really prevent from happening unless you want to arbitrarily tell Bob that no, he cannot do that one build he had in mind because Ted already grabbed one of the components for his PC. You already have them, you just don't look at them that way.

      This is why Pacing is important and why one of the first things I wanted to establish about BCG was its pacing, with a clear defined rate of XP per PL and what it means in terms of special abilities and stats. You have XP to define your character and you have Power Levels to clearly divide the weak from the intermediate from the strong. Genre Powers are a pacing mechanism in terms of character growth and in terms of gameplay, because their limited nature lets them be a strong one-turn boost that changes the flow of the battle. They turn failure into success, disrupt enemy plans, and find the right tool you need to get the job done in case none of you have it.

      I feel like I am spoiling you if you are taking all those things for granted. That's a good thing though, it means you've got the right mindset to play the game. Going up in Power Level means having more ways to control the pacing, more twists and turns you can add to each battle, and in this genre the one with more tricks up their sleeve tends to win.

      I disagree with them being underpowered. I also don't think there is a lot of redundancy in the list, because they all play differently and suit different PC concepts better. I don't intend to add "more of the same", but I do intend to have more tools meant for similar purposes. That means more offensive powers, but less attack bonuses, for instance.

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    2. But let me go on more about this whole 'feels cool and unique' vs 'play well' thing. The earliest concept drafts of GGG did not have XP, it had 'slots' for skills, upgrades, powers, etc. You started with (I think) 3 slots for each and got one more per episode arc you advanced (a Power Level) with each. It made each effect feel precious instead of a commmodity, and was much easier for me to design and balance because they all were comparable to each other and restricted PCs from getting too many powerful combos because they had a limited amount of everything. Limiting choice that way blocked several concepts from existing (like a pure support PC) and was also not too good at actually representing existing genre mecha, so if you wanted to play a knockoff of your favorite not-gundam you had to make some pretty weird concessions.

      Pretty much every step of the way from GGG to BCG has been me moving from what traditional design would call good in marketing terms (because it stands out and feels unique) to what is actually good in terms of gameplay (with depth and balance of the choices presented). You can see it in mechanics being more and more unified with each installment, the elimination of obligatory templates-as-sorta-classes, and in letting you choose how strong you want to be from the get go. Among other things.

      Treating everything as if it were buyable with XP makes it feel less unique, yes, but it gives you more freedom to use the options there however you like them best and lets you pace advancement at a rate you are comfortable with. Restricting special abilities would make them stand out more, but we'd lose that freedom. The first thing that happens when you make a game with all those restrictions is that everyone will try to circumvent them. You made your own custom weapon point buy system, for example. Might as well be honest with ourselves and admit we'd rather have options than uniqueness.

      (The irony here is that I'm still not sure if I want to do a custom weapon system. If there is a lot of clamor then I'll try, but simply adding more guns to fill niches has lower chances of accidentally making the game explode into matches of rocket tag.)

      That's the tradeoff of BCG. I want a game that is actually fun to play in a sustained way, even if it means being less attention grabbing because the things that draw your eye are not as interesting in terms of game mechanics. It won't be a huge hit, but it will be a better GAME for it and I will sleep better at night knowing that.

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    3. One other thing concerning 'free stuff' and also XP per PL:

      Early on I thought of giving out a number of Attribute Points at startup and a number of them each Power Level, but not making them buyable with XP normally. This would reserve XP exclusively for flashy stuff.

      As you can probably imagine from the posts above, I didn't like the way it worked. I'd rather let people choose for themselves what to do and how to advance their character.

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  10. I don't see why the upgrade from 6 to 8 is 10 XP not 15 on the attribute table. Why is there a reason to discount it? You can get to 8 too easily with that.

    It means you can easily get might 8 on a starting character and then be stuck on it for a long ass time until you finally get that bump to 10 on like PL 3 or 4.

    I don't see any problem with lifting attribute cap. 12 can cost 25 XP and 14 can cost 30 XP. The rising costs will quickly make the higher attributes unviable.

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  11. XP per power level balance is very tricky.

    Differences are very big between lower power levels and almost insignificant with high PL.

    Let's look at basic PL1 grunt PCs will face at start.
    60 XP for all 4s in attributes
    10 XP for weapons
    10 XP for anti-maiming module
    10 XP for a way to use the base 4 energy

    That's the very basic generic core build that almost every mech uses. After base attributes the xp is used on essentials that allow you to do basic stuff.

    After you have the core stuff you can increase our attributes.
    The next 30 XP buys you 3x 10XP upgrades. So you can increase might from 4 to 8 and guard from 3 to 6.

    That means that PCs have AT LEAST 6 points of might+guard advantage over the grunts at PL1.

    That's a HUGE power difference and it means that grunts pose almost no threat to PCs. It's 90 XP vs 120 XP but without base stats it's more like 30 vs 60.

    At PL2 The grunts get that +6 stats for 30 XP. PCs can get another +6 for 30 XP too but most of it will be other stuff than might and guard because they already have them at 8 so that +6 is worth a bit less. (let's say effectively +5)

    The difference is still big and grunts have hard time doing anything against PCs but it's not completely lopsided. It's 60 XP vs 90 XP.

    At PLs 3 and 4 PCs have Might, Guard and Threshold at 8 and need to invest in other stuff that has lower effectiveness so the power difference is not very high.

    At PL5 PCs have maxed a lot of stuff and possibly have Might and Guard at 10. The difference in power between them and grunts are minimal. It's 120 XP vs 150 XP. With recommended 2 grunts per PC the PCs are outmatched and have to fight for their lives to survive. The only thing that gives them a fighting chance are genre points which are powerful and give them a big edge but it's still hard to win 1vs2.

    The 6->8 attribute increase should definitely cost 15 XP to bridge the huge gap at low power levels.

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    1. Increasing the XP per PL excerbates the problems at low levels while decreasing it makes the difference between high PL negligible.

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    2. I kept the Grunt progression relatively similar for the experimental change, since it is basically working as intended, but with a difference of 50 XP instead of 30.

      At 20 XP per PL, they get plenty of stats but not too much. They're pretty strong at PL 5 but they don't have Genre, so they're still tough.

      This progression would not work as well with 30-40 XP per PL. You'd end up with Grunts that have multiple roles instead of one, or super Grunts with very high stats/a lot of subpilots. One of those doesn't sound like an elite grunt, and the other is overpowering.

      A possible solution would be to give half the XP that PCs get per PL, but make them start with 75 to the PC's 100 or something like that.

      I initially pushed 20 per PL because it is a number that is easier to work with. 40 is more exciting but, as noted every time I bring it up, does ~*Things*~ to NPCs.

      And the 6->8 enhancement will likely end up costing 15, especially if there is an increase in the XP per PL.

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    3. 30 XP per level is good. Not too much not too little.
      Give grunts base 90 XP like everybody but add 15 XP per PL instead of 30 XP.

      That way everybody has 90 XP base so they can have all 4 array and basic functionality.

      Grunts get 15 XP/PL
      Rivals and PCs get 30 XP/PL
      Bosses get 60 XP/PL

      You should only count the XP over 90 as meaningful power.

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    4. Also from page 115
      "Grunts keep up with the XP that the
      PCs earn, gaining the same amount as they do, but may
      only spend it on Attributes."

      This means grunts at high PL will end up with all their XP in Threshold,Guard and Might.

      No need for rule like that. Move it to advice part and recommend keeping grunts simple with only few weapons/modules.

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    5. Actually now that I looked at it more 15 XP/PL for grunts makes them very strong on PL1 but they get super weak later.

      Base 60 XP + 20XP/PL and counting PL0 seems better.

      So
      L0 Grunt = 60+20=80XP
      L1 = 100 XP
      L2 = 120 XP
      L3 = 140 XP
      L4 = 160 XP
      L5 = 180 XP

      It keeps the power difference mostly constant.

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    6. It makes L0 grunts too strong though.
      Maybe make L0 grunts have 50 XP but force their Threshold and Guard to 0. This would prevent them from being abused too.

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    7. And of course they would need a special clause where they can't benefit from invincible alloy extra life.

      Delete
    8. PC's having 30 per PL seems to be fine. It is the most similar to the current stable version, with technically only a 10 point increase. You can still spend everything however you wish though, so that helps.

      The biggest change here is that PL 0 is no longer the "Walking Coffin" stage of life for anyone, even 75 XP Grunts are not going to die to single strikes any longer. There really isn't an elegant solution other than giving them custom rules and force their Threshold to be 0.

      I think that 50 + 30 per PL will work better for them, since it gives them a lot of points to be genuine threats later on but also forces them to have exploitable weaknesses before PL 2.

      What I'm thinking I'll add are special Grunt Teamwork rules to let multiples of the same Grunt type take all their turns as one big Action. Something like Assist, except it skips your turn entirely to give the other NPC two Advantages. This would both speed up gameplay and improve the effectiveness of regular attacks while keeping their stats low. It would need a limit of 3 or 4 Units boosting the same one to keep it from being absurd when there's a dozen Grunts on the battlefield, but it is a start.

      Bosses might not need a change further from 30 XP on Attributes per PL instead of 20 as well.

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  12. For combining grunt attacks the math checks out for 2 grunts. They could get the same effect by aiming and firing every other turn.

    With more grunts it becomes unbalanced. With as little as 4 grunts you can combine individual strikes that would be useless normally into a punch that cripples a PC. Main reason is that the PC can apply active defenses only once. If a grunt has expected average damage just above 0 against you that means you can tank a lot of those shots (like 16) and be fine. But if they combine 4 of those useless shots suddenly it deals expected 12 damage.

    For a starting mech with 4 Threshold that's 3/4 HP. Add just one more grunt and it's OHKO.

    This option would mitigate the weak early game of grunts and make them strong both early and late in operation.

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  13. I actually meant 2 or 3 Grunts boosting one other, for a total of 3 or 4 per Mob/Team/Platoon Attack. I'm considering adding a prerequisite of some kind for it, like all Grunts having to be within 1 Zone of the 'lead' and make them easier to take out with one Blast or similar.

    That might or might not be enough to compensate for a fourth member, but perhaps it is best to play it safe and stick to three.

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    Replies
    1. Buuuut it does seem like just doing it by pairs might be the best at both granting a strongish boost without having to get creative with prerequisites that complicate things instead of speeding them up.

      Working in pairs doesn't really save a lot of time as far as enemy turns go but it is something, and is efficient while minimizing oneshot chances.

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    2. Making special rules for that is not necessary since aiming has basically the same effect. Just make a sidebar somewhere where it recommends it.

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  14. Would it be possible to keep character advancement but have some other advancement for mechs? For example, Armored Core like game where the mechs are more like tools to customize/rebuild/get better ones.

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    Replies
    1. PC Mecha in BCG are supposed to feel like unique characters rather than mass produced equipment. You can replicate the feeling of games with Mecha that are less special by limiting the options that PCs can take.

      For example you can make it so that starting PCs have to choose one of the four templates (Like Eagle and Destroyer from p.78) and one of the eight packages (Like Annihilator and Technician from p.79) as a basis.

      It gets trickier after that though, I'll admit. The best idea I can think of is this:

      1) Make more packages, including everything you want in terms of upgrades and weapons (read: not combinations and their ilk).
      2) Let PCs switch packages in between missions. Changing from, say, the Artillery loadout to the Stealth loadout or something like that.
      3) Take the Power Level 2 and 3 NPC templates from p.128
      4) Instead of using Power Levels divide Mecha into three Tiers: Starter, Advanced and Elite. Starter Mecha have the base template, one package, and can earn up to 30 MP to spend on anything they want but then must be replaced. Advanced Mecha have a PL 2 template and two packages, they can earn up to 30 MP as well before they need to be replaced. Elite Mecha have a PL 3 template and three packages and then they hit peak power when they earn 30 MP.

      That is about the best approximation I can think of.

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  15. Couldn't you also convert XP costs into like in-game money? So a 50xp weapon would cost something like 50000 credits if you can even find out. So you could technically switch out to it if you could afford to purchase it. Maybe have a set of hard limited stat advancements a mech can take? Better mechs would then have better gear, more gear, and souped up stats. I think that could work if there are some loose DM guidelines for it.

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  16. Yeah, this could be worth exploring further in a page or two of variant rules. Or three or four, if I do the packages myself.

    I don't think outright giving things a cost in credits is a good idea though, as it turns Resources into the Attribute that trumps all others, since it is the 'money' stat. I mean if you just want to treat MP as Credits and nerf Resources so that it only covers regular equipment and contacts it works. It would still mean that some PCs will be stronger than others just because they figured out how to earn more money though, which I would rather not do.

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  17. If you actually have repair jobs take cash... That would be really good motivation for earning the hard cash. Resources could be nerfed. A PC with huge resources is already far more powerful than one without since you can usually throw money at a problem rather than dealing with it.

    I hope you do get around to making a page or two for variant rules like this.

    ReplyDelete