Jul 27, 2014

We are experiencing some technical difficulties.

Please stand by.

(This is already giving me flashbacks to January earlier this year. I swear we'll have something big next week if it is the last thing I do.)

Jul 20, 2014

I was going to make a big post this week

But then I realized I wasn't going to have everything ready in time.

I was going to make a post about the many unexpected issues you can run into while preparing a pdf.

But then I realized it would be a better idea to just fix those issues and make sure I have something for next week.

So that's that.

Jul 13, 2014

Spicing up the Appetizer

The game's focus and its biggest draw are the giant robot battles, so the rules for the rest of the game are rather simplistic and underdesigned to not distract from the things that matter. And yet the Character creation chapter is already longer than the Mecha construction one, even when I'm trying to deliberately keep it simpler. There's just too many things you could reasonably want your PCs to do during Intermissions for a 'universal' system to ignore. It would be a disservice to not have, say, Miracles or Deathblows just because they fit some but not all types of games.

It is tough to strike the balance between 'too much stuff' and 'not enough stuff' for Characters. A game revolving entirely around soldiers fighting in and out of giant robots then you'll want more Equipment and Deathblows, while a game about psychic monster hunters wants more Miracles and Anomalies. A PC that puts enough of a focus on combat can already defeat some Grunt Mecha without their own giant robot. I think that is cool and that it should continue to be possible, but if I were to give them even more tools to work with it might do more harm for the game than good.

Yes, this is a thing you can already do. And the world is a better place for it.
Well, okay, you can't summon mountains and skate in space... Yet.

My approach is to have just enough of everything that a GM who wants more of something can have an idea of how to write it themselves, without risking overcomplicating things for everyone else. But that does not mean I'm not always on the look for things I can add or tweak without going too far.

For example, Matches were tweaked to be more like Operations. There's more Actions to choose from, and moving 1 Zone is a thing that comes with anything else instead of taking a whole Action on its own - there's also a 'Run' Action to move 2 Zones instead of one. I figure humans can have the equivalent of 1 Speed for free. They won't be outrunning Mecha anytime soon, but making it easier to move around means you can do more things with Zones and could even downsize the Operation Terrain rules.

I tweaked some combat-oriented Traits to work better this way too. And wrote a little something that was long overdue:

Range Booster (Specialist)
Equipment Trait (10)
Effect: Choose a Skill you can use to make Offensive Tests when you take this Trait. You can now make Offensive Tests against targets up to two Zones away from you. If you have another piece of Equipment to boost the corresponding Skill, both are combined into a single item.
Bringing a gun to a knifefight might tarnish your reputation but it might also save your life.  
Possible Specializations: Sniper Scope (Combat), Drone Control System (Vehicles),Psychowave Amplifier (Miracles)

Originally all PCs were supposed to have to be in the same Zone to engage each other, but the idea of attacking enemies from longer range kept coming up. I wrote a Deathblow for it, to keep it as a rare thing, but if I'm going to allow for free attacks like this I might as well make it a passive item that is 'always on' and leave it at that. This also makes it easier to be on equal terms with Grunt Mecha, but won't outgun them.

Don't be Yoko. Get your own Mecha before the final battle. Also get clothes too.
There's a few other tweaks like this one, but there's also brand new abilities as well. This includes at least one Miracle that treads ground previously only available to Bosses. A few simple additions here and there can spice things up while leaving the meat of the game unchanged, and that's what I'm going for here.

Jul 6, 2014

An Appetizer

I'm touching up the manual with more general advice to make games run smoother and to answer some recurring questions that seem to come up often. The biggest problem I always run into is that I could always do more, but the pagecount is already over 200 pages of intimidating content, so I have to be very selective with anything that isn't absolutely indispensable.

The other thing I've been doing is integrating the Experimental pdf into the game after all these months of testing it out. It was a good experiment and showing what was on my workbench unfiltered worked pretty well and I'd love to repeat it in the future. I'm pressed for time at the moment and can only make one pdf in the near future, so I'll add the two or three new ideas I had in the meantime to the core and we'll see how it goes.

By far the most important of these changes (albeit one of the least exciting) is the one concerning starting XP and Attributes. Starting PCs have 100 XP to use in whatever they want and we're keeping the current Attribute progression rules. The Houseruling section also has an alternative method to Attribute XP Costs, keeping all costs to multiples of 5. It takes a bit more effort to memorize but works very well.

A slightly less important (and far more interesting) change is what happened to the weapon specialization line.

Melee Specialization.

Duels are a cool thing. You single out a baddie (or a baddie singles you out!) and you both are now in your own little war that other people can't easily butt into until only one of you is left standing. You can also use it as a way to draw the attention of key targets and force them to fight you instead of someone else. Well, you can't force them to attack you, but you can make trying to ignore you a really bad idea.

Like this.

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 them. Your Melee Weapons gain an Advantage to Might Tests.
Your Mecha was engineered to corner foes and force them to face you, punishing all that dare turn their backs on you with extreme prejudice.

Notice that the free attack works with any kind of Weapon, in case you have a gun you'd rather use in that situation. The attack happens before your opponent moves away, so you can whack them with your sword or equivalent of choice. Slippery Chassis will still get around this though, but that one is getting more expensive to compensate for being much better now.

Shooting Specialization

Sniping is also cool. In the context of interactive fiction it is problematic to handle because good snipers will assassinate their target before they even know the sniper is out there. The closest we can give to snipers is a ton of bonus range with their guns, so that they get one or two free attacks before they're in the sights of midrange or close range opponents.

Preferably without ironically turning them into sitting ducks.
Sniper Model
Internal Upgrade (15)
Effect: Increase the Maximum Range of your Long Range Weapons by twice your Systems instead of just your Systems. All your Shooting Weapons gain an Advantage to Might Tests.
Equipped with very expensive and sensitive targeting systems, your Mecha could hit a moving target beyond the horizon with enough force to be considered a weapon of mass destruction.

Well that certainly helps in making that free shot not just happen, but also in making it count. The bonus range needs an investment in Systems, but boy that's a lot of range. There's not a lot that you'll need to hit from 20 Zones away, but just the fact that you can do it could be a world of difference when it comes up. The bonus range applies to Melee Weapons too, basically in case you want to use Finger Net with it.

Beam Specialization

The thought of having to remove the beam spammer archetype from the game due to not knowing how to balance it always bothered me. But energy weapons are already stronger than their equivalents and being able to make them extra stronger ran the risk of turning combat into a game of rocket tag. If they were going to get another Advantage to their Tests, it had to be expensive to preempt low-level instakill megacannons, but that also meant they'd need a nice something extra on top. It was a complicated scenario and for the longest time I thought it would be best to leave it for later.

Replicating Zeorymer is not necessarily a good thing.

Experimental Reactor
Internal Upgrade (20)
Effect: Your Beam Weapons cost 1 less Energy to Boost and gain an additional Advantage to the Might Test.
Your Mecha has a greater energy output, maximizing the efficiency of Element G for maximum destructive power.

This is essentially a +2 bonus to Might and a +1 to Energy, though they are immune to stat halving. It won't do much for you if your stats are below average, but if they're around 6 this is cheaper than getting flat Attribute bonuses. It is not the build-defining monster that it once was, but just by existing again it helps bring some diversity to the game.

Blast Specialization

Artillery Frame stays as is. It is kind of a hard sell between the high cost, the drawbacks to most Blasts, and the necessity of Expert Support to stop it from blowing up your allies, but it is also crazy strong and annihilates Grunts like nobody's business. Moving on!

Default Specialization

Lastly you have the weapons that you are not supposed to use unless you have no other choice. Who needs fancy schmancy swords and guns when you have the raw power of kung fu and throwing buildings at enemies?

Not this guy.
The Beast
Internal Upgrade (20)
Effect: Your Default Weapons don’t suffer an innate Disadvantage to their use and gain an Advantage to Might Tests for each Level of Threshold you are missing. After attacking with a Default Weapon, you might spend 2 Energy to make your attack immune to the effects of Active Defenses.
In place of giant robots, some organizations chose to tame giant monsters. They eschew most equipment, relying on their natural weapons instead, and are at their fiercest when cornered.

It remains more or less as you know it, yes. It offers a very different playstyle compared to most other options and saves you a ton of points in Weapons and protection from Maims. The feeling of playing a miniboss is pretty cool and this works pretty well even if it requires getting beat up a little.

Two New Powers

This is nice and all but now we're missing a way to punch through the barriers of tank builds. I've made a Power to fill that niche, but because I don't want said tanks to completely get the shaft they also get a little something else:

I’m Breaking Through
Reaction Power
Effect: Your current Offensive Action is immune to the effects of Active Defenses.
Mahzun thrust his G-Lance one more time against the giant monster’s Gravagne Field. Just like last time, his strike was stopped cold against a wall of repulsive force, but now he was prepared. “Take this!  Mahzun Special!” he overloaded the weapon, redirecting more power to it than it was made to hold. The tip of the weapon exploded inside the field, scorching the face of the Cryptid with green flames.

I Cannot be Defeated
Reaction Power
Effect: The next time that you would be destroyed during this Operation, you remain functional with a Threshold of 1 instead. You can use this Power once per Round.
The Sunbuster got hit by several kilotons worth in missiles, but mere seconds after the blast, the Gear was walking through the flames like nothing happened. “I told you, you cannot touch the sun!” Sunbuster was engulfed in fire once again, but this time by its own power creating a blazing pillar reaching all the way to the clouds. “My burning flames of justice shall purge the world of your evil!”

"Pierce the Heavens" and "Who the Hell do you Think I Am?" 
were strong contenders for names.

The first is not as powerful as Signature Weapon, but can be used in response to seeing the result of a roll and that makes it more useful than you'd think. Plus, it can be repeated. The second on the other hand is just plain super strong and makes the user invincible 1v1 provided the opponent does not have weapons that do bonus Damage on hit, cause Extreme Terrain, or another similar ability. Of course, you're still three Levels down so you're going to need a way to be effective with most of your stuff gone.

I've been really busy these days (and still am!) but I'll have some good news this month. Stay tuned for the main course!