Aug 3, 2014

It is good to be back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miraculously Untouchable

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

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

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

The True and Final form of Dueling Blade

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

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

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

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

Grunts and Teamwork

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

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

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

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

What's Next?

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

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

16 comments:

  1. Looks good at first glance.

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  2. ITS HAPPENING!!!!!!!!

    Seriously I love all the changes and I'm looking forward to seeing ~=|The Plan|=~ in action.

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  3. PRAISE THE SUN! IT'S HERE! \o/

    THE PLAN is a good plan. BCG's future is looking bright! Here's to hoping it's full of great stuff (like nice kickstarter and more and more better recognition. Speaking of which, isn't this a good time to launch some new threads for it and try and draw some new people in?)

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  4. What he said^
    I'm throwing money at the screen and nothing's happening. You get a kick starter going and I'll guarantee my entire gaming group will contribute.

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  5. Thanks folks, that means a lot. My goal is to get the game to be played, because as I like to say, games are meant to be played. I'm going to do my best to reach everyone who has always wanted to play a game like this and never had anything like it.

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  6. Would you be able to fire a Sniper Rifle every round if you had someone or you granted yourself Assisted Targeting?

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  7. Is Fire at Will static in it's DN? That's going to fall fast to rising tension.

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  8. Also does Supply Delivery function for the 10 point supports, or can it only resupply weapons specifically?

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  9. Yes to Fire at Will. No to Supply Delivery. Supports need Resupply, the Restoration Upgrade. Otherwise they could be used infinitely.

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  10. Hmm...just noticed something. Can you use My Style Is Impetuous in combination with Secret Equipment to pack a Technique and a damage increase inside and then get to use them before Round 5? Seems awesome and I'd allow it if a player asked me if he could do it (only for one offensive action of course), but I'm not sure it's how the rules are meant to work.

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    1. What damage increase would be part of the equipment pack? The only External Upgrades are the Active Defenses, Restoration and Mobility upgrades; everything else is "Separate" or internal, while Equipment Pack only allows weapons and externals?

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    2. Let me correct myself: The Technique thing works. Bombardment also works. Something else like Overbooster + Boosted Lance also would be fine.

      Internal Upgrades ARE off limits. I interpreted 'a damage increase' as something that can boost damage temporarily that is valid as Secret Equipment. Sorry about the confusion.

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  11. Boosted Lance is probably the best way to get out of a duel if you don't want to be there. The fact that Overbooster will give you the extra damage even as you run away is just a cherry on the sundae.

    Self-Assisted Targeting is pretty handy, but a command unit is pretty much untenable with beams. It's a good option for shooting weapons, however, as the aimed-range on all shooting is often a better improvement than a sniper model will offer - if nothing else because only a small handful of abilities get the bonus from Long Range. Firing an Artillery Frame's bombardment without Expert Support or aiming's range boost is suicide, as you're within the radius.

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  12. Remember that you do not attack yourself with your own blasts. You do suffer secondary autohit effects (like from finger net or bombardment) though, so expert support at least is still a good idea.

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