Oct 16, 2016

BCG Retrospective XXV: Extra Areas.

Both of the Extra Areas in the game are antimaim-type upgrades, but there was always a third type of Extra Area that I kept trying to include in the game but never quite got it right: The "Armor Purge" ability. Purgeable armor parts are a common genre convention, but they don't make a lot of sense as abilities in a point buy system. You can already buy any upgrades and weapons with MP, so locking your cool stuff under your other cool stuff doesn't make a lot of sense. Similarly, AI-controlled powerups and ejectable equipment need some tweaking in order to work in a system like BCG. The latter two concepts got into the game as the Extra Areas, whereas Armor Purge always suffered from fun or balance issues, never making it to the game.

Expansion Pack
Expansion Pack protects a whooping 30 MP of stuff from Maim status. It does this without costing Energy and comes with a free use of I Cannot be Defeated attached as a bonus. It is kind of really, really powerful. Oh sure, you'll lose all the stuff installed there when you purge it, fair enough. You know what else disables your Upgrades and Weapons? Exploding, which is what would happen to your Mecha without the purge effect. You could build with a Plan B in mind, to let you continue fighting effectively after a purge - or you could just not bother, because it is a really good deal as it is. Expansion Pack only costs 5 more MP than an Assistant granting the aforementioned Genre Power, and only 5 more MP than Integrated Weapons... But it protects your Upgrades and not just your Weapons. Would it surprise you to know that it was nerfed like 3-4 times and this was the weakest version of them all?

Expansion Pack is an absurd upgrade and the only thing keeping it somewhat balanced is that it'll cost you almost two full power levels to fill it up with stuff, and by then you may want to buy some more External Upgrades and Weapons, only you don't have a way to keep them from getting disabled. Honestly, if deadlines didn't exist this probably would have been weaker. I'll give this an A on concept, because it represents a mecha trope faithfully and feels good to play with, but it gets a B on execution because the numbers it works with make it waaaaay stronger than intended.

Secret Equipment
This one is also very powerful, but less so than Expansion Pack. The idea is that your giant robot "awakens" after the fighting has been going for a while and that unlocks its most powerful Weapons and Upgrades. What balances this one is that battles are usually too chaotic for you to reliably control how long they will last. Sure, you can try to durdle and Maneuver for a few turns while Tension goes up, but that won't stop the pure damage from Extreme Terrain or Bombardment, and by the time you're done powering up it may be too late - it's just you vs all the enemies left while your team curses your ancestors and descendants both.

Secret Equipment could be free unmaimable MP (or a total waste of it) depending on your team composition and how willing the GM is to let you activate it in peace, so it is a gamble. BCG Operations tend to end quick when optimized PCs and NPCs are going at it, making this Upgrade very bad under those circumstances. That's why BCZ has Limit Engine to help you reach Tension 5 semi-reliably. The tradeoff is, of course, that you have to build around that and try to get the attention of enemy forces. Suddenly, you're not anymore a loner on cleanup duty, but a team player that tanks for the rest. I really like how that worked out.

If BCG wasn't a generic mecha system trying to adapt as many genre conventions as possible, I might have taken the easy way out and just skipped on doing these. Between the concepts being difficult to adapt and antimaims in general being difficult to balance, Extra Areas were pretty tough to work on. Fortunately, these two worked out and made it to print.

But they wouldn't be the hardest genre conventions to turn into Upgrades. Oh no, we've only just gotten started on headache-inducing content.

Next: Alternate Forms.

Gimmick Out.

9 comments:

  1. I dunno... I find Secret Equipment as a really good deal! Backpack, you pay 50 MP to get 30 MP worth of upgrades, and protection for it, and an "extra life". Secret Equipment, you pay 20 MP to get 30 MP worth of upgrades, protection for it, no extra life, and the 5 Tension condition. ... without Limit Engine, Secret Equipment is a bit iffy, but WITH limit engine, Secret Equipment is a really really good investment.

    Of course, as I said, these both depend a LOT on what power level you are playing at... 60MP for a level 0 or level 1 mecha is astronomical, as good as saying "don't bother". 60 MP for a level 5 makes this pretty solid though! ... similiarly, at power level 1, I find that paying 20 MP for Secret Equipment is WONDERFUL. ... Though, now my GM has realized my trick, all he has to do is just avoid shooting my mecha, and I resort to 4 rounds of relying on harsh language as my main attack. :( ... Confused the heck out of everyone though, as I got hit with 3 maims in first turn, and in round 2 I started massacring stuff. ... btw, I put a Ground Zero in my secret equipment, oh what fun. (and also master technician as internal!)

    I have to agree though, Expansion Pack makes Integrated Weapons obsolete. Invincible Alloy too, IMHO. But I guess that's why you introduced Superior Integrated Weapons in BCZ?
    ... no wait, I just realized you can get both invincible alloy AND expansion pack, for "2 extra lives"... hmm!

    ...
    ...
    ...

    Took another look at Restoration Upgrades, and I think they're reasonably balanced with each other, then BCZ, I felt that My Last Stand gives WAY more boni that I'll Patch You Up. ... I guess you felt that regenerative was way too weak compared to Jury Rig in BCG, so you made the related genre powers a way of rebalancing them?

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    1. You can also use the Loose Cannon GP to gain a Tension bonus immediately and hurt yourself for a lot. Much like other tricks with Secret Equipment, it sometimes works very well and sometimes doesn't. The average roll of 5.5 will probably take out at least one Level, likely two. When you do half the enemy's job for them, you are at a serious risk of being focus fired to death before you get another Turn.

      Superior Integrated Weapons is my way of giving IW users a worthwhile upgrade to it, yeah.

      And yes, the Powers are balanced not in a vacuum but in the context of their own Upgrades. Regenerative needed more of a boost than Jury Rig, so that's why Last Stand offers more than Patch You Up.

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  2. Oh!!! Forgot to mention!!! ... one thing that I found HILARIOUS about the Limit Engine + Secret Equipment combo:

    Scenario 1: Normal Mecha. Starts off with X equipment. The more you maim him, the less equipment he has available. Being maimed is bad.

    Scenario 2: Limit Engine + Secret Equipment. Starts off with X-30 equipment. NEEDS you to maim him a lot so that he gets his extra 30 equipment! ... totally hilarious, as the rest of your team is all "don't maim me, don't maim me" and you are going "MAIM ME, for goodness sakes maim meeeee!!!"
    -> Case in point, my team was asking me why I wasn't activating my active defences. I was explaining I didn't HAVE any at the moment... until I get to Tension 5, which would require a couple of maims. Funny!

    ...

    Or perhaps I'm just easily amused! ;)

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    1. The first time Secret Equipment activates is a badass moment. After that, at some point it will become a somewhat comedic thing, as you and the GM dance around making it happen.

      See the above comment for another fun step you can add to this minigame using I'm a Loose Cannon.

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    2. Yeah, Loose Cannon, or Stake My Life On It. ... OR BOTH?!?

      Same sort of issues as Limit Engine/ The Beast builds, really. :)

      Secret Equipment isn't palatable without LE, because you're likely to end up being blown to pieces before Round 5. ... at least with Limit Engine, either you usually either get enough maims for Tension 5, or other scenario is that you were more or less not shot at until Turn 5. ... Of course, there's the 3rd possibility, which almost happened to me, ie that you go directly from Tension 3 to KABOOM blown up!

      I'm not too certain about how Loose Cannon interacts with Secret Equipment. Same for Style is Impetous. Those things add Tension to the "next offensive action", right? So, would they count for Secret Equipment activation? ... as written, it doesn't sound like it would?

      One more thing about Secret Equipment, is that sometimes I wish it allowed you to put internal upgrades in. Not that good mechanics wise, but super robot trope wise, it'd be fun to put in Experimental Reactor or such, and represent stuff like in SRW: Mazin Power, Aggressive Beast, etc.

      I thought of Limit Engine + Secret Equipment + Beast, but then I wasn't sure what to put in the Secret Equipment lolz.

      >>> One thing I have to say, is that if you are already taking Limit Engine, Secret Equipment is a pretty attractive choice!

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    3. Impetuous Style and Loose Cannon both work with Secret Equipment but for only one attack. It's basically a "rule of cool" ruling. It's a very all-or-nothing build and loses to Tension debuffs hard, so it is fine.

      A Secret Equipment for abilities more like internal upgrades could be really cool. That's an idea to keep in mind for the future.

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    4. "That's an idea to keep in mind for the future."

      ->> THE FUTURE!!! WOOT!!! BC... what's after G and Z? ... X? ... hehe. ;)



      IS and LC with secret equipment... erm... ... that means, that they essentially would unlock a weapon in the SE for that one attack, eh. But it wouldn't really help enable any other types of external upgrades locked in the SE, so... yeah. Better than nothing I guess?

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    5. It's gonna be BCG ZZ, the wacky comedy that goes mostly unliked.

      More seriously though, if there's enough material to make another BCG book, I might do one. So far there isn't though.

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    6. RPG ja nai... RPG ja nai... Hontou no koto sa

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