Oct 26, 2014

Let me Tell you About my Kickstarter

Well, it is happening at last. I'm not even sure what to say anymore, other than that the past two months have been interesting to say the least, seeing as I'm typing this on my second-and-half week of sleeping 3-4 hours a day. I'll try to be brief and keep myself from rambling incoherently, so let's get to the meat of things.

As you might be able to tell if you have the most rudimentary reading comprehension skills, I'm running one of those. In case you don't know what that is, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform for creative projects for creators who want to involve their audience in the creative process. Which is a really fancy way of saying that it is a way for people like me to get money from people like you to fuel our mutual dreams of playing games of pretend with giant robots, but don't let my ironic cynicism get in the way of that.

Anyhow, you can find out more if you click the linked widget to the right. For the most part I want to take this moment to explain a few things that have changed since I started sharing my plans a while ago. You can read this first then go check out the other page, or go there first and then come back here for the differences, it doesn't really matter that much. Honestly they're barely noticeable changes for the most part, but I'm trying to be open about the process so I might as well explain why I've changed my mind about those things.

First, the release date is pushed to May 2015. As you are probably aware if you've been following any of what I've been doing, I'm something of a perfectionist. I wanted to have this finished before the end of the year, but the past 1-2 months were pretty bad in terms of getting things done, and it is much harder to keep to a schedule during the holiday season. I could instead offer a closer date like February or March, but just this once I'm going to play it safe. If I can get it out earlier, that's awesome and I will be happier than anyone else, but life always finds a way to complicate things and this time I'm prepared.

Second, every physical copy of the game is going to be delivered through print-on-demand self-service. That means you have it printed and shipped from DriveThruRPG (Go make an account if you don't have one) and not through me. This saves time and money for me and you, because I can focus more on game design and less on roleplaying a FedEx manager, and you have everything handled by professionals at a cheaper rate than usual. I once said I thought I could charge more with each pledge and handle those myself - after doing more research I realize that was naive of me, and I apologize for that.

Third, we're running from today until November 23. I wish we weren't finishing so close to Black Friday, but I'd rather finish before it than run through the Holiday Season. If I could have launched last week, I would have. We work with what we've got.

Fourth, Gurren Lagann chat is on hold temporarily. It will probably stay that way until the end of November. With the campaign behind us I will be able to talk more freely about I could actually add to the game as a whole from it, though.

If I sound exhausted, that's because it is a pretty good way to sum up my current state, but I am also really energized by having finally gotten here. There's much work left to do, and a lot of it is not going to be fun, but having crossed this checkpoint at last I can now finally move forward. And it feels good.

Now let's make some games happen.

Oct 19, 2014

Pause and Resume.

Not a lot of words about robots today as I will be away and with family. But I do have some good news.

My favorite color is Green. Which just so happens to start with G.

See this? For the longest time the Account tab had a big red X because of reasons that can be summed up quite succinctly as "Please let me talk to a human and not a machine". As of this weekend, everything is in order.

Next weekend's gonna be a fun one.

Oct 12, 2014

Battle Century G Gundam: Round 3.

Let's wrap up this three-part series about G Gundam by talking about Operations Gundam Fights in a tournament game. In theory tournament arcs present a series of matches in which both sides have a fair shot at victory and the best side will win. In practice one or more participants have an advantage over the others. A close combat Mecha is at a disadvantage against a flying sniper type and an aquatic Mecha will have an easier time in a battle at sea, though these are arguably still "fair" advantages for one side to have. But sometimes there are external factors interfering in the battle, someone's Mecha runs could be running out of parts for maintenance and thus start in worse condition, or perhaps someone is playing dirty and taking hostages demanding that victory be theirs.

Chapman's heinous plan: Bringing a gun to a Gundam fight. THE HONORLESS CUR.

Point is that there should always be something to make each battle both unique and challenging without making them gimmicky or frustrating. I'm going to write down some ideas below for inspiration, but first there's something else to address: Solo matches or Team matches?

I previously said that Team matches are easier to work with and I stand by that. As written, BCG gives you a lot more to work with if you work with if there are multiple robots on each side. But if you can handle having to homebrew in more upgrades and weapons to make up for the ones that no longer work properly, you also stand to win something from the shonen-esque gameplay.

During 1v1 matches whoever has the most tricks and counters up their sleeve has the better shot at victory. If I have I Cannot be Defeated and you don't have a Technique or a way to do more than one instance of damage per round, I can easily outlast you. If you have Electronic Cloaking System and I don't have a single area weapon (why would I do that in a 1v1 tournament?) then I'm boned unless I built around The Beast or a multitude of Signature Weapons. It is a big change in gameplay.

These changes are not unintentional, though, they are meant to evoke shonen-style battles where the antagonists have the upper hand until the protagonists figure out the trick to beating them. It is a more strategic kind of gameplay where the humble Knowledge is Power rings true to its name. It is also a lot easier for PCs to get totally chumped by accident because they didn't figure it out until it was too late and they had no Genre Points left to even Mid-Scene Upgrade a counter. If that sounds awesome to you, then by all means go for it.

The ideas below were written with both solo and team matches in mind. Some will work much better in a solo match tournament, others would be employed better in team matches. Remember that what matters when coming up with enemy teams is their combined Power Rating, because they can have individually different power levels.

And they Fight, and they Fight, and they Keep on Fighting!

Death from Above
This operation takes the idea of kiting to its most extreme form. It consists of enemies with Antigravity that run away upwards, thus making it impossible for anyone without Antigravity to pursue, while bombarding the PCs with Airstrikes, Surprise Minefields or long range weapons using Reversible Thrusters. Victory will ask for a combination of flight and very long range weapons. A well-timed Ensnaring Trap will also ruin their day, possibly causing one of them to die immediately from the fall damage. Works best as a solo match or at low power levels to ensure at least one or more PCs are caught off guard.

The Colossus and his Shadows
There is only one enemy who matters in this team: The Colossus superboss who carries the others to victory. Really, you can have them as L0 Grunts or just don't even stat them up and have them destroyed as a free action. What matters is that, in place of what would be a normal team match, you have a huge single target like a Mobile Armor. Bullet Hell and Tentacle Lash are a good combo to let it cover even more of the battlefield at once.

I mean, just look at that. Those things are huge. The Devil Gundam itself is just 23m!

The Dark Devil Rangers
Obvious, but still worth mentioning. You should have an enemy team that mimics the PCs, either as actual copies with a dark twist to them, or just as enemies with an uncanny likeness in their equipment and strategies. This is a good excuse to have either a mirror match or to have the PCs pretend to beat up each other.

This is not a Game, it is War
The enemies for this operation play dirty. Individually, each member is weak, but before a match they hide various remote-controlled drones around the battlefield. This is represented by having tactically placed Level 0 Grunts around the edges of the combat area equipped with long range weapons like the Sniper and Powered Rifles. For flavor reasons, the Grunts should be disabled once the real baddies are all defeated, but you can compensate for that by building them defensively - just remember that every 2 Grunts is one less Power Level for them. If you've seen Build Fighters, the Bloodhounds episode is a great example of how to pull off something like this without having to tip off your hand (thus ruining the surprise of the encounter) first.

Seriously. Bloodhounds is a study on how to write rival-of-the-week episodes.

The Flesh is Weak
This one is even nastier than the above. The enemies use modified weaponry to attack pilots directly, possibly through some kind of psychic assault. An Invasive enemy with very high offensive power (8 Might and Duelist Model/Sniper Model/Experimental Reactor is fine) and Invincible Alloy plus I Cannot be Defeated and every other defensive Genre Power they can get. The idea is simple: Deal as much damage as possible ASAP to defeat the pilot through a failed Systems Tests before the activations of I Cannot be Defeated run out. Multiple enemies using area weapons this way will defeat anyone who dumped Systems.

By our Powers Combined
The enemies are technically five but they their hearts beat as one! Truly they are the ultimate manifestation of love and courage. Except that they are on the wrong side of the battlefield, and will thus get their butts thoroughly kicked. The lead focuses on Energy and Threshold, keeping all other Attributes at 0, while each of the other Elements Components takes one of the other stats and also some Upgrades/Weapons. The lead attacks, one subpilot Maneuvers, another uses Jury-Rig or Resupply, the fourth uses Supports, and the final member can help keep positioning superiority them with Boosts, Disengages, and the like.  

 It may be a joke boss but it is still the best scene in the game. 

Flying in the Sky is the Limit

These are just using the rules of the game, some in more creative interpretations than others, to throw PCs for a loop during a tournament series. You can do more than this of course, like in the aforementioned scenario where the protagonists must fight with damaged Mecha, you could have them start the battle with one or more Threshold levels down instead of throwing supernasty baddies at them. Those things are just harder to eyeball and might end up being too strong or too weak as far as difficulty adjustments go.

And that's the end of this G Gundam series. Coming up next... We finally we get to Gurren Lagann.

Oct 5, 2014

Its Loud Roar Tells me to Grasp Victory

Continuing from where we left off last week, we are drawing inspiration from G Gundam to run a BCG game. Today is about ~=|+New Rules+|=~. What kind of rules? Nothing all too fancy, but just different enough to sustain some of the themes brought up last week. And when I say themes I also mean to say Themes.

Our Spirits are Aflame.

Whenever I run a game or help someone set up a game, I like to tweak the Genre Theme rules a little to give them more flavor. They are the most malleable part of the game and are the first thing I change when I want to encourage a specific style of Roleplaying. In our case, we want Themes that make our Player Characters do the following:

  • Have feelings so intense that they can power up giant swords, tornadoes with human faces, or giant monarchs riding a ki blast. 
  • Forge deep friendships in the battlefield by sharing said intense feelings through their fists. This could happen between allies or enemies.
  • Conquer and control the intensity of their own passions instead of letting themselves be controlled by them. As a long term goal they should become the masters of the emotions that power their attacks.
You could also include a bunch of this stuff too I guess.

Here is what I came up with:

Genre Themes - Serene Mind, Burning Palm Edition

Genre Themes work as normal but with a few differences.

All three Themes should be centered about an emotion the character feels very strongly. For example, Love, Anger, and all of their Sorrow. You can also replace common feelings with more abstract concepts such as Honor, Faith and Greed if you can justify them as being so intense that they make you glow and become even stronger. You can make as many of them positive or negative as you wish, and you may or may not tie them to other PCs or NPCs if you want. So a Genre Theme trio of Fame, Family and Blindness would be perfectly fine in an usual game but they don't work as catalysts for hyper mode.

Any Theme can be Mastered once for a burst of three Genre Points, then it is no longer a Theme. These Themes work as normal until you are done developing them, then you are granted with three Genre Points for roleplaying that instead of one. A Theme that has been Mastered no longer grants points for roleplaying during future Episodes and cannot be replaced with a new Theme either. Basically you want to Master them before or during a big battle, possibly saving one of them until the very final Episode.

And no, "Hilariously Racist" is not an acceptable Theme.

It is not a big change in rules terms but it should be much more effective at conveying a tone like that of G Gundam. Not only do the Themes encourage PCs to act in extreme ways, but it also gives the Themes a direction - Mastering them. As a nice bonus, PCs can engage some Emergency Character Development in the middle of a battle to steal a victory from the jaws of defeat. I will say that I think I like these rules more than the standard Theme rules, but I am a self-admitted G Gundam fanboy so take it with a grain of salt.

That's not all though. I also wrote a little add-on to the Power Level rules.

The School of the Undefeated of the Genre

Every Power Level, a PC gains one of the following five bonuses. These are on top of the usual benefits of entering a new Power Level (Another Genre Point and another Genre Power). With this, everyone will be about as strong as Domon or Master Asia.

Power Level 1 - Mecha and Fighter are One: You gain the Giant Slayer Boss Trait. After using the Live Another Day Genre Power during an Intermission, may summon your Mecha to your current Zone and board it as an Action.

Power Level 2 - Ultimate Mode: You gain the Secret Equipment Upgrade. Choose two Attributes of Might, Guard, Systems or Speed, and once Tension is of 5 or higher you gain a +2 bonus to both Attributes.

Power Level 3 - Serenity at the Brink of Death: Whenever you lose a Level of Threshold you gain 2 Genre Points instead of 1.

Power Level 4 - Fists of Friendship: When you lead a Synchro Attack, you gain three Advantages instead of two per teammate involved. When you participate in a Synchro Attack, it does not use one of your Actions, just your Genre Points, but you may spend the Action anyway to grant yet another Advantage for a potential total of 4 Advantages per PC.

Power Level 5 - Bond of Winners: Choose three Reinforcement Powers. You gain those Powers and may activate them as if they were Genre Powers, spending Genre Points in place of Reinforcement Points. Each Reinforcement Power may be used once per Operation, and only on other Allies, not yourself.

Mecha and Fighter are One is arguably the most interesting, even if it likely has the least effectiveness in combat. Giant Slayer was written with Master Asia as the primary inspiration in mind, and as an added bonus you also have RIIIIIIIIIIIIIISE SHIIIIINIIIIING GUNDAAAAAAAM. Neither effect is all that strong in your average Operation but it sure does make the PCs stronger during Intermissions. Now you too can hide your Mecha within the statue of liberty and destroy a world wonder at the beginning of combat!

The name "Mecha and Fighter are One" is more literal than you think.
Ultimate Mode is, in case the name wasn't obvious, meant to represent Super Mode and Hyper Mode. You get new Weapons and Upgrades, then a deceptively powerful boost to two Attributes. A +4, even if it is distributed between two stats, is likely going to be worth around 30 MP. Do not underestimate it.

Serenity at the Brink of Death is my take on Meikyo Shisui. If you're going all the way from Power Level 1 to 5, this is your signal to Master at least one of your Themes around now. Level 3 is the game's sweet spot in terms of PC strength, making a good transition point between pre-Meikyo Shisui and post-Meikyo Shisui character development.

Fists of Friendship at Level 4 is when things start to go crazy in terms of mechanics. Depending on what the group needs, your friends can follow up the damage burst from Synchro Attack with their own actions or  everyone can evaporate the big bad boss in a single super hit. Fists of Friendship enables everything from Double God Finger to Shuffle Doumei Ken. There is very little else to say other than it is awesome.

Bond of Winners is just plain bananas, Reinforcement Powers are extremely powerful and basically turn the PCs into forces of nature - perfect for someone on the league of the Shuffle Alliance, who purified their successors and saved their lives with basically magic. Considering this is Level 5 and everybody already can take giant robots down with their fists, this is about one of the few remaining powerups that could feel meaningful.

Just don't be like this chump and make sure you get Live!

So all in all this is fairly powerful stuff that makes things much easier for the PCs to win. Does it mess with the balance of the game? Yes. Is it really cool? Also yes. I'm calling that a win. Still, a consideration for GMs: Because PCs with these bonuses are considerably stronger than those without, their Power Rating should be treated as of 3 + (3 * Power Level). After PL 3 everyone is so strong that you'll have to get very imaginative to challenge them anyway.

Holding the Wounded Dream

There is one thing that I did not touch on, and it is how enemies often bond through fighting. This is G Gundam's equivalent to Newtype Magic(tm) but with more Kung Fu. While it is a very important part of G Gundam, writing rules for this would require a much, much bigger framework that handles social combat rules. It is beyond the scope of what I want to do with these weekly writeups.

The one other important thing left is GM advice for actually running a game like this. Particularly if you're going to include these changes, which (true to the tone of the source material) tip the odds from 50/50 to around 75/25 in favor of the PCs. That's what I will be doing next week.

Until then, may you look at the East burning red.