Feb 21, 2016

BCZ Previews. Chapter 2: Part III.

It is time for the last batch of rules Modules! Like the other ones, they're divided into three sections.

Insanity and Mental Trauma

This Module includes rules and examples for charactes getting more and more messed up in the head with the passage of time. The PCs are heroes, they can face the worst the world has to offer and hold themselves together. Well, for the most part, anyway. When a wound cuts deep, it leaves a permanent scar. That’s when trauma gets to them, forcing the characters to readjust their beliefs and way of life in the face of things greater than themselves.

Essentially, as PCs are exposed to harm or undergo traumatic experiences, they gain Insanity Ranks, a seventh Attribute of sorts. Insanity Ranks start at 0 and usually don’t go higher than 10, measuring just how well your character is holding up to all they’ve gone through. An Insanity Rank of 1 leaves you just a tad more unhinged than you used to be, but at Rank 10 you’re visibly out of touch with reality. If your PC ever gets to Rank 10 or above, they’re so far gone that they must be retired. This retirement is either permanent or until the character heals back to Rank 9 - preferably less than that. Insanity decreases naturally over time at the end of each Episode Arc.

Your Character does not start with any Genre Themes, instead they pick up Trauma Themes in their place at Insanity Ranks 1, 4 and 7. Trauma Themes can give you Genre Points like any other Theme, but the GM may also make them come up when they think it is a good time to make your PC act like a crazy person. Once per Episode the GM may say you have to roleplay the Trauma’s effects, and you can choose to either ride it out or fight it. If you choose to ride it, your character must roleplay the Trauma as appropriate, but you gain one Genre Point out of it - even if you already gained one Genre Point from this Theme in the same Episode. If you choose to fight it, then you must make a Contested Test of Willpower against the GM Testing your Insanity, should you win then you compose and maintain control of yourself for the time being... But should the GM win, you lose control of yourself to the Trauma Theme and play it out without gaining any Genre Points for it.

The Jaded Trait becomes an Anomaly with this Module. Jaded makes it so your character hardens pretty quickly to traumatic experiences. It is powerful enough that you are extremely unlikely to ever stay over Rank 10 after an Episode ends. But there is a catch: You will no longer heal naturally over time. Once you have been hardened - once you have desensitized yourself - you will keep those last few Insanity Ranks for the rest of your life.

The rest of the Module consists of example Willpower Tests that would put the PCs at risk of gaining Insanity Ranks and a list of Trauma Themes ready to use.  Below is one of them.

Haunted

  • Rank 1-3 (Mild): You suffer occassional hallucinations in the form of people that should be dead. The ghost or ghosts remind you of your flaws and often give you advice that you probably shouldn’t follow. The people who show up are usually those you’ve hurt - directly or indirectly - though a dejected old friend or disappointed mentor from your past are also applicable. You can tell these illusions are not real, but they’re really hard to ignore.
  • Rank 4-6 (Moderate): Now there’s one or more new ghosts that have joined up with the old ones to harass you. Your ability to recognize what is and isn’t real decreases as the hallucinations happen more often, giving even harsher criticism or goading you to even worse courses of action.
  • Rank 7-9 (Severe): Your mind now creates new people for you to interact with. This means you’re often seen talking to yourself or, worse, arguing in a heated way and yelling at nobody in particular. Even if you unmask these phantoms as figments of your imagination, they will still follow you around.
  • Rank 10+ (Extreme): Your hallucinatory episodes now involve living friends and acquaintances. You have considerable difficulty telling apart dreams from reality now, always waking up without being sure if what happened was just your imagination or if you passed out in the middle of an episode. This makes it basically impossible for you to live as you once did.


Attrition and Energizing Terrain

The next two Rules Modules add a grittier flavor to the game, focusing on long term resource management and short term territorial control. The former half comes from a houserule in BCG to make it so Mecha aren't automatically repaired to full between Operations. The latter half involves PCs fighting enemies over Zones of Terrain, called Energizing Terrain. These Zones can be used to repair and resupply Mecha without spending Restorations, mitigating the difficulties of long term resource management.

Energizing Terrain is charged with one Restoration that any Unit standing on it can use with its own Restoration Upgrades. After any Unit uses up this Restoration charge, the instance of Energizing Terrain is now Plain Terrain. The Module includes new Design Flaws and Support Upgrades that work with Energizing Terrain. For example:

Improvised Fortification
Separate Upgrade (10)
Effect: A single Zone turns into Energizing and Defensive Terrain. When the Restoration charge is used up, the Defensive Terrain also fades into Plain terrain.
You deploy a few energy barrier projectors along with some supplies for an ally’s benefit.

Circumstances of War

Lastly, we have 25 events under the title of "Circumstances of War". If your game features a large war fought on many fronts, only one of which the PCs can cover at a time, then the table below is for you. The table itself is fairly setting-agnostic as long as the war is between humans, or humanlike enough, factions. Each of these 25 circumstances is an event that affects the PCs and their next Operation. Most of them make things more difficult (like supply shortages or clever enemy plans) while others are just plot developments that may (or may not) change the course of the war. A few of them are even helpful to the PC Squad!

Here are four example Circumstances:

Times are Tough
It has been a while since the last time you resupplied, and the exhaustion is evident. There’s shortages of fuel, parts and food. You don’t even remember when was the last time you had a full night’s sleep. All PCs start the Episode with one less Genre Point.

Took a Wrong Turn
The PCs made some errors in navigation and let the enemy commander corner them into a nearly undefensible position. Now it is raining after a dry spell and they’re going to have to fight uphill their way out of there. All Terrain during this Episode is Difficult, Sliding, or both.

Supply Grab
A supply convoy or vehicle was ambushed and wrecked in the middle of No-Man’s Land. During the next combat encounter, designate one Zone as the location of the wreck. The PCs must attempt to secure this wreckage, either by taking an Action to do so while being on top of the corresponding Zone, or by starting and ending a whole Turn on it. When the PCs secure this wreckage, an instant morale boost grants every PC Squad Unit one Genre Point each.

Merry Christmas
Through some unclear methods, the belligerent factions have all decided to a two-week truce to coincide with a major shared holiday. Give the Players some time for self-reflection, interaction, opening letters from home, and, just perhaps, talking with the enemy.

Lastly, because much of these Modules is about the GM making the lives of the PCs harder, there's a short section with GM advice to use them properly.

Wrapping Up

There's one major difference between this section as it was previewed today and how I introduced it before the end of December. If you recall, there was going to be a Module including rules for giant enemies, and for characters too. What happened? Well, what happened was that those rules weren't very good. They were functional, yes, but they had like two viable builds and were kind of a mess that didn't fully mesh with the rest of the game. In lieu of that, we have Circumstances of War to help setting the right tone and mood for a Hardcore Difficulty game.

That's all for Chapter 2. Updates resume sometime in March with Chapter 3's content.

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