Jul 10, 2016

BCG Retrospective XI: Equipment

I've never been fond of long equipment lists and inventory/treasure management minigames in RPGs. It just feels too much like a chore and kills off any momentum during character creation. If I had to design, say, a D&D clone, I would most likely end up making equipment just another way to flavor your special abilities.

Maybe you know how to cast fireballs, or maybe you have a legendary sword or magic familiar that casts the spell for you. Point is, I'm not fond of detailed equipment systems, so the streamlined Equipment system in BCG is strictly an improvement as far as I am concerned. But that's just the system. What about the items themselves? Are they well designed and balanced? Let's take a look:

Body Suit
We start off with probably the most narrow and least useful item of the whole bunch. Body Suit primarily exists to enable adventuring in space outside of your robot, which is a thing that happens in the BCG's base setting (as the flavor text implies), but even then it only occurs in one of the three scenarios. The most interesting thing about it is that you can combine it with a Superior Proxy (Combat) to make yourself near invincible at character-scale combat. It does what it needs to do but, honestly, this is going to be borrowed temporarily whenever absolutely necessary and be ignored the rest of the time. I guess it is okay as that, but the Equipment section really should start with something cooler.

Ether Drive
Clarke's Third Law of science fiction states "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." and that is what this item is about. Ether Drives allow superpowers in high-tech games that don't quite want to cross the line of having magic or psychic talents. This was a very tricky design, because the thing keeping Miracles balanced is that they damage the user, which Ether Drives couldn't do. After going through a bunch of versions, the one that seemed to work best was to limit their versatility but keep them cheap to compensate for making them very narrow. In case you're wondering, the name "Ether Drive" comes from from the Xenosaga series, where nanomachines are essentially magic and several characters yell "Ether Drive!" when shooting beams or healing others.

Masterwork Tool
This is the most basic Equipment Trait and the one that all others are balanced around. It gives the primary benefit of a Skill for half the cost, but doesn't qualify as actual training in Skills for the Traits that care about that. Also, Equipment Advantages to the same skill do not stack, so you will often want a Superior Proxy or Personal Facility instead of this. Still, this is really powerful for its cost and another reason I should have included more Traits that need Skill Training in the core book.

Backup Bodies
There was one point during the game's design phase that it had plenty of Equipment Traits that granted Advantages, but it needed some Equipment that felt like cool science fiction material. This Trait is the direct result of tackling that issue, and possibly the coolest item in the game. I really like how the mechanics tell you the important part is that it wipes all Damage from your PC, while the flavor text entry is the one that handles all the minutiae. It is directly inspired by the clone vats seen in Evangelion.

Flight Pack
Jetpacks are a science fiction staple and this Trait lets you have one. From a designer standpoint, it provides rules for flight that can be used as a base for other homebrew material. Arguably better than buying a Specialization in Force for the same CP cost, and much better than that if you have a build heavy on Resources. Decent enough.

Miniature Chemical Weapon
This thing does from 1 to 20 damage, which is a lot when it comes out of nowhere, allowing Resources builds to put up a fight once per Episode. It also provides a baseline for custom content like anti-personnel mines and other surprise weapons. I got the idea from an episode of Zeta Gundam, in which Haman Karn breaks an earring filled with poison gas in the middle of an audience with one of her enemies and flees the scene. They don't make backstabbers of her caliber anymore.

Personal Facility
To call this 'strong' would be an understatement. This gives two Advantages to two Skills, and for each Skill that wouldn't benefit much from this (Stealth, Survival) there's another that hardly minds the condition (Craftsmanship, Electronics). If you're using the Expanded Miracles and Rituals from the Expansion, all of a sudden it is not too hard to reach DN 20+ by yourself and usurp the BBEG as the most dangerous person around. I think it is cool that this makes for a viable alternative to Masterwork Tool (with a location-based penalty), but at two Advantage to two Skills for 5 CP it would be a bit more balanced.

Range Booster
This didn't exist in version 0.1 of the rules, because Characters didn't get a free move with each of their Actions during Intermissions. Once Matches got updated to be more like Operations, this seemed like a logical piece of equipment to add to the game. There are no rules to stop kiting in Intermissions, by the way, so if you can ambush a lone unprepared target they're pretty much guaranteed to lose. Which, you know, makes sense what with the whole surprise attack thing.

Superior Proxy
Proxies are something that PCs can get access to for free in many scenarios, so this grants not one but two bonuses for PCs who want a custom ride better than most. Still, 10 points might be a bit much for just a proxy, perhaps this could have given an Advantage to two Skills like Personal Facility does. That way your armor boosts Athletics and Combat, or your car boosts Stealth and Vehicles or your drone boosts Investigation and Electronics. That would have been cool.

And that's all of them. I think the worst thing you can say about Equipment is that there's not enough of it, because most of it is fairly good. That's a direct result of removing shopping minigames, but I'll take it if it means I don't need ten pages of items nearly identical to each other. The expansion doubles the number of Equipment Traits available anyway.

Next: Deathblows. Oh boy do I have things to say about Deathblows.

Gimmick Out.

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