Jun 1, 2014

Two Routes to Attributes

Today will be quick and to the point. Testing has been progressing fairly well and I now have a poll for you concerning the future of Attributes. But first, a recap of what brought us to where we are.

Once upon a time, I thought that Starting XP should be split between Attribute XP and Ability XP. You would have a considerably high number of points to assign your Attributes and a considerably lower number of points to get your Skills, Weapons etc. The logic behind it was that this way you couldn't accidentally make a character with Attributes too low or too high.

The problem was that you would often end up with leftover Attribute XP, so if you didn't want to risk forgetting that you have spare points (that don't count towards your Power Level XP and can only be spent on Attributes) later down the line, you had to do some extra math to get them sorted out. There were various templates you could use or easily modify to bypass this, but it was still somewhat annoying for Players who wanted to do everything by hand.

So I tried to think of a way to fix this without requiring drastic changes to the rest of the game, and came up with the idea of Dual Rank Advancement, which is to say that you could enhance Attributes by 2 Ranks apiece instead of 1. This way each Enhancement would cost a multiple of 5 and would completely eliminate any math complications. It had a noticeable downside in that it took away from your freedom to assign stats however you wanted to, so it wasn't quite a strict upgrade to the previous system.

Well I have been trying out another alternative, one that goes by the name of "Just free up starting XP so you can spend it on whatever you want." which I'll call Single Rank Advancement for the sake of simplicity. You still have leftover points sometimes, but having 1-4 extra XP that you can spend on anything (and the book would clearly state you can spend those points later but they don't count towards your Power Level) is much better than the original method.

Both systems have their ups and downs compared to the other, and I can't really call any of them a superior choice from where I stand.

Some say this thing is overdesigned and others say it is perfect for a fully decked out suit.
This may or may not be relevant to our poll between more options and simplicity.

Single Rank Advancement

It offers more freedom in Attribute distribution: This one is obvious. For some builds (like those dependent on Energy and Systems) a difference of one point can be a pretty big deal, and being able to eke out a 5 instead of having to purchase a 6 can make or break their functionality at a Power Level. It also means you can represent better specific concepts, for example a 3 in Fitness puts you at the lower end of average while a 4 is the higher end, it might not seem like much but sometimes the little details make the difference when it comes to flavor.

It is less punitive towards dump stats: This one is important for optimizers and specialists. Single Rank Advancement lets you have an Attribute at 1 or 3 to save up points for something else, which Dual Rank Advancement can't do. Both let you have an Attribute at 2, but for Dual Rank Advancement that costs 5 while it only costs 3 points with Single Rank Advancement, so this one is a pretty big strike in favor.

It lets us have more diverse Energy costs: It should go without saying that having a bunch of Upgrades and Weapons that cost 5 Energy to use when you can have 4 or 6 Energy but not 5 is kind of irritating. With Single Rank Advancement we can have stuff that costs 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Energy. With Dual Rank Advancement we'd have to stick to costs of 2 and 4 (rebalancing things around that if necessary) plus the occassional ability that you can choose to activate for 1 or 2.  

One point can be what separates the prototype and mass production versions.

Dual Rank Advancement:

It makes creating NPCs faster: When I first gave this a try by creating a whole lot of NPCs it took me half as long as it usually does. That is a lot of time saved that can be better spent elsewhere. The extra simplicity is especially relevant for high Power Level Bosses, because you can take their Attributes over 10 for just 30 points and that essentially covers a whole Power Level apiece. When advancing a Rank above 10 costs 11, 12, and 13 the math gets more complicated and bothersome to work with.

It eliminates leftover points: To go with the simplification and ease of creating characters, you have the benefit of never having to worry about whether you'll end up with one or two (or three or four) points you can't do anything with. Letting Players spend those points later is a workable alternative, but it still feels slightly bad when it happens and you have to remember that those points don't count towards your Power Level.

It lets us round up halved numbers: The entire reason that BCG rounds down numbers with fractions is because of all the stat halving in the game. Rounding up would skew the math in favor of odd-numbered stats which are cheaper and just as good when halved. If Attributes are even numbers by default we won't run into this problem though because they will almost never give us fractions (well a 6 getting halved into a 3 and then into a 2 would, but it is far less of a problem there) and once we can start rounding up again the game will speed up slightly. Not in a particularly significant way, but it will be a factor. And besides, rounding up feels better than rounding down doesn't it?


Statting this guy goes from "only technically possible" to "actually quite easy".

Choose your own Attributeventure

So there you have it. Both tested decently in different ways and I'm honestly not sure if I genuinely prefer one over the other. Both systems uphold different values that are very important to the game, so I don't have a favorite, though I think I know which one will be more liked in general. Like always, but now more than ever, I'd love to hear your opinions on this.

26 comments:

  1. Personally, I think eliminating the weird edge cases of single rank advancement is worthwhile, but I wish dual ranking had a bit more granularity (and also that it didn't hose ranged attackers, Weapon Mastery alternate when? GIMMICKMAN PLS). My vote goes to dual ranking, with the proviso that the problems it causes are taken into account.

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  2. I'm told that comments are being swallowed by the void and that the poll accepts votes technically but doesn't actually count them. These both seem to be things that sometimes happen with blogger every now and then.

    Random bugs shouldn't have this uncanny sense of timing. I made a new poll to no change, I'll see if I can find a solution later.

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  3. Both systems should be the book anyway. One in normal rules and the other as a sidebar. The question is which should be the basic one. They are mostly interchangeable.

    There is also a hybrid system that allows for single rank advancement but has costs increments in multiples of 5

    So the costs are

    2=5
    4=10
    5=15
    6=20
    7=30
    8=35
    9=45
    10=55

    It is straight upgrade from two rank mechanically but is less intuitive and more complex. 6->7 being more expensive than 7->8 is especially jarring if you don't know how the table was calculated. You can probably swap them around so it makes more sense without upsetting balance very much. Overall it solves the problem of leftover points and allows better granularity than straight double rank advancement.

    I'd use this system as a house rule if I was running a game personally.

    The balancing difference in the systems is very minor. I would let players choose what system they want to use. Hybrid or old single rank.
    Single rank allows dump stats and more optimization but hybrid system is cheaper by 1 point when taking 6 or 8. It is more expensive on 7 or 9 though so it balances out.

    Having things cost 5 energy when using double rank syste is a very minor issue. You could take exactly 5 energy for 15 XP as a house rule if you really need it. Most of the time you want to use energy other flexible things anyway so you end up with 8 or so energy.


    Also. Nightgale seems like a sleek and simple design after seeing Neo Zeong.

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    1. I dig this. It lacks the ease of memorization that dual ranks have but it would be a very nice complement to single rank as an alternative system.

      Other people have also spoken in favor of even-numbered energy costs, but for some reason have had their opinions devoured by blogger. It blows that this thing still doesn't work properly.

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  4. Personally, I don't think Dual Rank needs any further tweaks beyond what is in the Experimental Rulebook right now, unless you want to fundamentally redesign the pricing scheme of Energy Weapons. The ease with which you can get an 8 and the difficulty you have in upgrading to a 10 is key to how those work, and pretty much determines whether you can successfully play a shooty mech or not. Little would be more irksome than building a snipermech that has to Mid-Scene Upgrade vital pieces of his build like Integrated Weapons at the start of his first fight, because the things he needs (EN 8, Commander Type, Powered Rifle, Integrated Weapons) don't all fit into the 120 MP budget. If the costs are getting touch-ups where appropriate (Powered Rifle costing the same as the Energy Rifle, Commander Type costing 4 EN, Reactor Overdrive being comboable with Commander Type, if only as a capstone effect, everything fitting under budget except the clear endgame combos) then go right ahead, but else I'd refrain.

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    1. You should assume 6->8 will cost 15 XP. There is no reason to discount it to 10 like it is in the book now.

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  5. Besides 'ensure a smoother game experience for certain archetypes', you mean? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Let characters have the points they need to start with a full basic kit.

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  6. Commander type + target assist + might 8 + sniper is not a basic kit. It was already discused before.

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  7. Then the Extending Blade has to eat a nerf. Simple as that. So long as Melee has no need to actually gapclose, Might 8 is required for ranged because it can't score enough shots to balance things out.

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  8. I don't have it in me to type 2k words today but I can at least share some goodies. But first, clarifications:

    1) Going 6->8 will cost 15 barring exceptional circumstances. 35 for 8 is fair, 30 makes it so cheap there's almost no reason not to get it.
    2) Starting XP will be 100 + Power Level. That's 10 more points to work with.

    With that said I've also got a couple of replacements for Weapon Master in line.

    Duelist Model
    Internal Upgrade (15)
    Effect: When an Enemy uses the Disengage Action to get away from you, you get a free Offensive Action against that Enemy. Your Melee Weapons gain an Advantage to Might Tests made when getting a free Offensive Action with Enemies Disengaging from a Duel or attacking someone else.

    This is pretty simple once you get what it is going for. You get in someone's face and they are essentially forced to stay there and can't ignore you. If you went for a more tankish build, this synergizes well with that and also makes up for your (likely) lower Might stat.

    Sniper Model
    Internal Upgrade (15)
    Effect: Increase the Maximum Range of your Shooting Weapons by 5 and grant them an Advantage to Might Tests against targets at Range 10 or less.

    This one seems simpler but is a bit more complex. It boosts your reach, but doesn't have an overwhelming lead against melee or midrange opponents. It was originally only going to grant an Advantage when attacking targets 10 Zones or farther, but that made it too much of an all or nothing deal - either you always stay at least 10 Zones away and the battle is yours or you can't do that and this doesn't help much.

    These replace thematically the Powers for Melee and Shooting Weapons (Got you Where I Wanted, Sniping the Targets) and the loss of Weapon Master also means it is harder to pierce Active Defenses. To make up for that there is this new thing here:

    I’m Breaking Through
    Reaction Power
    Effect: Your current Offensive Action is immune to the effects of Active Defenses.

    This Power is repeatable and does not have to be called out in advance, unlike Signature Weapon, and can do things that its older brother can't. You can go through barriers with any of your weapons on demand, putting pressure on the enemy from turn 1. It also lets maims with even damage stick when they would have been turned to odd damage through a barrier.

    Now if you excuse me I need to lie down.

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    1. Duelist model is good. Cheap Slippery made dueling too easy to get away from. Make it cost 20 though. It's on par with weapon mastery.

      Sniper Model is too good. You can dump systems to 0 to get much better benefits than systems 5. It should cost 20. The bonus advantage should be against targets at ranges 10 or MORE.

      If it is ranges 10 or less you can dump systems to 0 and take non long range weapon that will have 10 range and +1 advantage always making you deadly mid range fighter. It's basically +2 might and making non long-range weapon long-range. Making it ranges 10 or more means you need a long-range weapon to utilize it making it work as intended. It should be a specialist ability. +5 range is incredibly valuable.

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  9. 'Makes you a deadly midrange fighter' is sort of the point of Sniper Model, yes. As it is now, midrange shooters just get shredded because anything with an Extending Blade does their job better than them, for a lower energy cost and the ability to hit harder at point blank range and deny actions or movement. That's a lot of potent advantages for an archetype that really should not be as good at the midrange game as they are at the moment. The increased range at least gives midrange shooters a bit of kite and numbers parity, even if they're worse at engaging and surviving, and it combines with the Powered Rifle (and possibly Assisted Targeting) to allow for a true 'Sniper Mech' that has the appropriate 'can I stay out of range?' tension.

    I should also point out that a big chunk of the shooty Mecha can ignore Systems already. If you're using a Double Blaster, you don't care for Systems in any way, shape or form, as your tertiary stat becomes Threshold. The only use Systems has in that case is protecting you from Extreme Terrain which will otherwise get you roasted. The same goes for sniper-y kitemechs, who can't actually just up and max Systems because they need Speed for Reversible Thrusters as well. There's nothing wrong with reducing the multiple attribute dependency of ranged weapons when they have to face so many setbacks already.

    As for the models themselves, I quite like them. They're good as it is, I think. Duelist is in a better place, but only because Sniper is a tax until the Extending Blade is tweaked so it's not an autopick and a 'fuck you, get bent' for ranged fighters. That aside, it does its job very well. Breaking Through, though, is worthless. I'm just gonna repeat myself from a few updates back: When you want pierces, you just buy Assistants with multiple Signature Weapons, you don't waste a valuable Genre Power on barrier breaking. Genre Powers should be unique and act as 'BE AWESOME' buttons. This is what I'd do for it instead:


    I’m Breaking Through
    Reaction Power
    Effect: Your current Offensive Action is immune to the effects of Active Defenses. Additionally, it attacks all enemies in a line if Ranged, or all enemies in the same zone or adjacent if Melee.

    Now this has a niche that isn't obsoleted by Signature Assistants. It makes the Riot Weapon and Whirlwind a bit less, shiny, but that's a small price to pay for a good Genre Power.

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    1. You can't ignore systems if you want to have range higher than 5. (or 10 with aim). You can get away with aimed slow weapon for effective range 10 but if you want to have truly long range you will need systems.

      Sniper model will mean that nobody takes systems above 0 except for support mechs.

      Extending blade is not that good. It eats a ton of energy for little benefit. As a melee guy you need that energy on overbooster to close in. It's better to get another ranged weapon for 5 XP and save the energy wasted on extending the blade. Extending blade saves you only 5 XP and you end up with mediocre melee and bad range. Having a versatile weapon is pointless if it performs below average in both roles. With weapons costing 5 XP it's just more effective to get a good beam melee and good ranged weapon for backup.

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  10. I also forgot that, having more range increases like those of Powered Rifle and Sniper Model, the recommended battlefield size ups its maximum to 20x20. Which is about as large as it can get in real/virtual table terms before it gets bothersome.

    The most important thing about Breaking Through is that it is repeatable, if it did more than that, it would need to be usable only once per Operation. With Assistant getting bumped to 15 MP it'll take you one or two Power Levels to get that many extra Signature Weapons, too.

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  11. Now for Systems talk:

    Range is only one of the many things that Systems does. My goal is not to make every stat obligatory for -everyone- but to ensure that there is more than one way to play a given character. I'm fine with Sniper Model users that choose to eschew Systems, it means they won't be able to cross-class into a support role effectively and won't have over 10 Range.

    A generalist still has a good reason to take a few points of Systems. It stops Sapper Pods from dealing +8 bonus damage on hit. Or Extreme + Difficult Terrain from doing the same.

    I'll grant that the stat as a whole could be better, but it is a secondary one. Given its utility role, I think this merits trying it out.

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  12. Benefits of systems for non-support mechs are pretty small right now.

    Benefits of systems 5 (15 XP)
    + 5 range on LONG-RANGE weapons
    + resistance to electro sapper
    + resistance to that one boss power
    + ability to branch out into support role

    Benefits of sniper model (15XP?)
    + 5 range on RANGED weapons
    + 2 might below range 10 (every shot after the first?)

    Electro sapper pods need to actually hit you to deal extra damage. Support mech will have big problems with that unless they are hybrid attack/support in which case they will have damage comparable to pure attackers.

    Resistance to extreme terrain is negligible after change that it takes higher of speed/systems. Your speed will always be higher than systems as it is much more useful.

    Branching into support role is not really viable. You'll suck at both your primary role and supporting. Either you take might 0 and go full support or dump systems to 0 and do usual stuff.

    +5 range on ALL RANGED WEAPONS is super good. Think about +5 range on riot weapon or superheavy machinegun. It increases the power of those weapons by much more than adding 5 range to a sniper rifle or something else with long-range. Riot weapon aside from ability to hit at longer range gains the ability to affect more targets. Superheavy machinegun disadvantage of standing still is suddenly much less problematic if you have twice the old range and can cover over half of the map.

    And that's just the range increase. You also get +2 might pretty much always since you use those weapons at mid range.

    The choice here is completely lopsided.

    Also if you recommend map grids to be 20x20 size then anything longer than 10 range is overkill. If you start on opposite sides of the map it means the distance between you and enemy is 19. After aiming your range is 15. Enough to reach enemy from other edge of the map with move 4.

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  13. The biggest factor is, yes, the +5 range to any shooting weapon. Most current guns can handle it but when I think about it makes it tougher to design other guns. It might need to be only for long range weapons.

    The advantage could have another condition, like having to stay still, but making it easy to get is kind of the point so it can't be anything restrictive.

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    1. Also map size is variable. I'm just upping the recommended maximum, so that missions with entrenched artillery enemy forces can get one or two turns to bombard PCs from afar.

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  14. Systems attribute already increases range on long range weapons. Why do you need a module for that? The current module is vastly better so it will be taken instead of systems. After you have the module investing in systems to further increase your range even more is not worth it.

    Range 10 is all you need. Some maps will be bigger than 20x20 yes. But a lot will be exactly that. Any range over 10 will be wasted on most of the maps.

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  15. How about something like that?

    Sniper Model
    Internal Upgrade (15)
    Effect: Increase the Maximum Range of your Long-Range Shooting Weapons by your systems (for a total of 2x systems). Increase the Maximum Range of your non-Long-Range Shooting Weapons by half your systems. You get an Advantage to Might Tests against targets at Range 10 or more.

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  16. Doubling the range boost from systems is a pretty cool approach. The more I think about the range increase to all guns the more I realize it is going to make designing future weapons harder. Riot Weapon and Superheavy Machinegun don't break anything, but a cone-shaped aoe blast or auto-suppressing shooter would be a lot more dangerous.

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    1. Riot weapon is not that bad but superheavy machinegun with +5 range would be broken. Suppression is very strong and it's AoE too. It has a big disadvantage of stopping your movement but with +5 range it becomes much less of an issue.

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  17. Isn't that sort of already a problem for both of them, since Commander Type + Assisted Targeting already exists? I'm not really seeing how adding yet more range is gonna make them broken. Heck, the Riot Weapon actually runs into a huge issue because you want no more than Range 10 on it, and any more is just wasted since at least part of the attack won't benefit from the bonus advantage. If you want to do shotgun snipez, you can do it already.

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  18. Commander type + target costs 25 XP and 5 energy compared to 15 XP and 0 energy for very similiar benefits.

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  19. 'Very similar benefits' being double the math bonus to killmans, of course. And it's missing the point, which is that this is something that can happen already. If it can be done without Sniper Model, it's not gonna break with it.

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  20. Commander Type requires considerable more effort and resources spend setting up the Aim bonus. The offensive benefit is better, yes, but it is a hoop you have to jump through. Sniper Model costs less MP -and- requires no setup.

    SHMG already has the benefits of a passive even better than SM's though: Artillery Frame. Blasts already extend Range by 3 virtually, and AF makes it 5. The key difference with a passive Range increase is that you wouldn't even have to position yourself before using it, so it wouldn't even have a drawback.

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