May 26, 2016

BCG Retrospective IV: Genre Themes and Genre Points

In the previous post, I said Genre Themes and Power Levels were the least explored game mechanics in BCG. Few things in BCG interact with Power Levels, but even less things interact with Genre Themes - and they're all in the expansion as system hacks. The difference between them is that, while I never expected Power Levels to have potential in them as a game mechanic, Genre Themes are almost transparent by design. Honestly, they're more like guidelines or suggestions than proper rules! Roleplaying them should grant Genre Points, that's it, that's all the core BCG rules have to say about them. You could delete every reference to Genre Themes in the rules and very little would change in practical terms.

Primarily, this was done to make the system suit many, many different kinds of games. The rules in BCG encourage heroic characters and flashy combat, it is just as much about saving the world from giant monsters as it is about world wars with giant robots. It wants a certain kind of tone, but that tone fits something like 90% of mecha fiction. Even Gundam, as tragic and gritty as it can be at times, is about colorful pretty robots having super cool fights and saving the world from other people with their own cool robots. There's very few stories about giant robots that you can't approximate with BCG, but in order to be that way the game couldn't pull you in the direction of any kind of story too hard. Genre Themes are all about pulling the story (through its characters) in different directions, so they couldn't do much in terms of rules.

The other reason Genre Themes were so generic in BCG was to let BCZ explore Genre Themes more thoroughly. The Rules Modules introduced in BCZ use Themes in much more interesting ways, but they have multiple other new rules to support them. In fact, they make up the bulk of the pagecount for that chapter! Unlike with normal Genre Themes though, the game now revolves around roleplaying them. There is a lot less room for improvisation and it even takes away a little from the Mecha Combat focus that BCG usually has. I think they're great system modifications, but they're very much expansion material.

Anyway, the other half of the Genre Theme Rules are Genre Points. They're your reward for all that effort you put roleplaying, with the side benefit of allowing the GM to balance things between party members by giving some more out to the PC in most need of them. The book suggests handing out one or two per Episode to all PCs, allowing beginners of a low Power Level to use Try Again and Not so Fast a little more often. They're the one hard link between Intermissions and Operations in the rules, allowing the former to affect the latter, and they serve a purpose in making character development lead to cool action scenes in true anime fashion.

All things said, I would have liked to do more things with Genre Themes. The Insanity & Faction Themes were very fun to work on.

Next: We finally get to the conflict resolution mechanics.

Gimmick Out.


  1. I'm hoping this is an appropriate place to ask; no rules forums I know of:

    When you purchase the Assistant(Specialist) Internal Upgrade; do you get a subpilot that ONLY grants you a GP and Genre Power without anything else about subpilots?

    Or do you get a subpilot that ALSO grants you a GP and Genre Power in addition to its utility action?

    1. The former. Assistants are +1 Point and +1 Power. Only PCs can grant utility actions as subpilots.

    2. Thank you.
      One last one, then:
      When using Master Technician, does "treating it as if it hadn't been spent" mean it continuously gets double-tension? Or does it only get double tension the first time, with 2Energy protecting it from treating tension as 0 afterwards?

    3. Correct on the former. After activating it the Technique will get 2xTension again the next time you use it.