Nov 6, 2016

BCG Retrospective XXVIII: Features

There are some genre conventions that, when converted to abilities, only make sense having a downside to go with their upside. The most obvious example are aquatic Mecha, which should outperform others in the water but underperform while on land. Features and their ilk could have costed MP and they could have had a stronger upside, but I think they're best this way. Not costing MP means they are easier to work into a build at low Power Levels, which is ideal for L0 Grunts. It also means the upsides and downsides have to be on equal footing, which is more a matter of aesthetics than one of pure rules, but it is nice all the same.

One thing that jumps at me from the description of Features is that the description for which ones should and should not be combined are very vague. The book takes for granted everyone will be aware that Flyer and Terrain Specialist (Land) is a combination that makes no sense and should not be allowed, but I've been asked by GMs how to challenge super-optimized PCs with this combination of Features. If I'd known, I would have made a sidebar on the subject.

Base Unit
Base units can represent either mobile battleships like those seen in Gundam, Nadesico or Yamato or stationary fortresses like those in... Nearly every super robot show there is. Special mention goes to Evangelion, which had the whole city of Neo Tokyo-3 contributing to the battles with tons of support structures. Base Units can harbor PCs inside, protecting them from harm and allowing them to switch Frames. The downside to having one of them around is that their destruction is a mission failure condition. I think this is a decent execution of the concept: You have a VIP Unit that is just as capable as everyone else's and provides some utility value, but can be overwhelmed like any other PC and thus must be protected.

The utility value of Docking can be a good way for PCs to avoid taking Damage for the first few Rounds while Tension builds up. Docked Units can even contribute to the battle and attack by exposing themselves to area attacks. Obviously, this needs the Base Unit to be bulky enough to withstand enough fire for at least 2 PCs and preferably mobile enough to avoid unfavorable Terrain conditions. The payoff is that when 2 or more PCs come out at full power they will make short work of the enemy while the Base Unit licks its wounds. It's risky, but when it works it does so very well.

The consequences of having your base unit destroyed are sidebar suggestions instead of having any concrete rules effect other than "you lose". On one hand that's kind of lazy, but one the other hand the rules effect being "You lost, now deal with the consequences." is much more effective than any kind of rules-based penalty. The combat is a vehicle for cool storytelling, after all. I suppose the sidebar could have been one or more pages of detailed suggestions but, at the time, that effort was better spent elsewhere.

Extreme Fortification
This is the Feature with the most impact. Halving all non-Might Test Damage is HUGE, but so is losing half your Energy. Some of the most dangerous Grunts will now be half as effective as they usually would be, Rivals will have several abilities be made near-useless and the most powerful Boss builds will be rendered to flailing helplessly this way. You're just as vulnerable to raw Might Tests as anyone else and having 2-4 less Energy to play with will make enduring super attacks much harder.

It's honestly kind of OP. You can combine it with Internal Fortification to cover your weakness to Might Tests and you're super durable at the cost of having a 2-3 Energy build. You can also make it part of a Transformation, using up all your energy at the beginning of your Turn, then switching to your Extreme Fortification form. Next Turn you'll be forced to start with half your Energy before you can do any tricks, but if you switch to another form you can repeat the energy trick your next Turn. It's kind of silly and tells me that maybe the drawback should have been something else, but I'm not sure what it could have been.

Flyer and Terrain Specialist
These are the two most common Features. I just spoke about them two weeks ago when talking about Alternate Forms so I won't repeat myself. The other benefit about them is that they let the GM create non-mech enemies like planes/submarines/tanks which will behave differently from mechs at no MP Cost. This is very important for Bosses, who can technically be given regular Upgrades in place of Boss Upgrades, but you really shouldn't do that.

Power Suit
Power Suit is an alternative Antimaim. It costs no MP (obviously) but makes it so that, instead of losing Upgrades and Weapons, you lose stats when Maimed. Whether the effect is easier or harsher on the user depends on the build. Personally, I like these as a 'cleaner' implementation of the Maim rules, though they do loses some of the flavorful touch that the standard rules have to them.

While we're on the subject of Maiming, I'm glad you guys also like the mechanic! I'm still a bit conflicted over the rules, but I'm relieved that sticking with them was the right call. The poll between deep combat and streamlined narrative is much closer, but it didn't start that way. At the beginning, deep combat was winning by a landslide. Later on, streamlined narrative and neither/unsure got a lot more votes, which I found an interesting twist.

There'll be a new poll next week when we talk about Weapons.

Next: Default Weapons & Weapon Keywords.

Gimmick Out.


  1. I don't understand the issue with Flyer + Terrain Specialist (Land)

    When flying, land specialist doesn't come into play. When grounded, the mecha might have defensive terrain and can shoot thru enemies, but it still can't move...

    "While you are in said environment you gain the benefit of Defensive Terrain, ignore the effects of Difficult Terrain, and may shoot through a Zone occupied by an Enemy to reach another behind it as if they weren’t there. Other environments count as Difficult Terrain for you."

    In BCZ, you mentioned that there are such things as "aerial" terrain types which only effect air, like extreme aerial terrain etc. Same for water. ... so, logically, this combo means that, when flying, the unit is counted as being in "flying difficult terrain" which means that it suffers from 1/2 movement.

    Doesn't sound too imbalanced to me, since the unit is trading in quite a lot of stuff in return for the bonuses it's getting?


    Flavourwise, I would just say "OK, this PILOT is a master of land based combat, trained in how to use cover to his advantage, how to move, etc.... and for some weird reason, he has been assigned an airplane. ... DOH!!!"

    ... or am I missing something/ misreading the rules? ... what are the players doing with these Flyer + Land Terrain Specialists?

    1. You're not missing anything. When someone who isn't trying to cheat reads both of them, they'd think the combination makes no sense and is honestly pretty bad. Both of these make a good reason to put a "do not combine these" sign somewhere.

      When someone who is trying to cheat reads them, though, they interpret that "being forced to land" is not the same as "choosing to move on land", which is super reasonable for them because they're land specialists, y'see. Also, the "other environments" clearly refer to water and space, they don't mean being airborne.

      As written, the rules can be interpreted this way, in spite of making no sense when doing so.

  2. For once, the flavour text explains the rules better than the SRD lolz. -> "You are capable of atmospheric flight, but it is the only way you can get around"

    I don't know about people "trying" to cheat... someone in my group seemed fully convinced that Pierce the Heavens is not a typo, and that it should ignore active defences anytime the might test is higher than 5. Which essentially means "always on". Which means it makes I'm breaking thru redundant. zzz.

    ... question about Not So Fast... if I use it, then my ally uses it, against the same attack, SHOULD IT STACK? ie 4 disadvantages?

    1. You can stack NsF on the same attack as long as it comes from multiple sources, yeah. Teamwork saves lives! It's a big part of what makes PL0 and PL1 crews playable against Bosses and the like.

      More on the features issue: The thing about Misinterpreting Pierce the Heavens is that it results in an ability that, while poorly balanced, still makes sense. It's just a combat buff, it isn't tied to any kind of in-world description. It's also a Power and you have to pay for it, it is not a free bonus. I can understand why that would happen.

      Misinterpreting Flyer/Land Specialist is plain old rules-lawyering. Let's say our hypothetical optimizer has a point and the rules are unclear. Okay, fine. Even in that case, they're still choosing to conveniently interpret the rules text in a way that goes against flavor text, makes the combination strictly better than Antigravity and gives the character a bunch of bonuses at no MP cost.

      So goes the saying: Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times and it's an enemy plan.

  3. now that I think about it, what *IS* the situation for movement in water and space? Water would be, mecha sinks until it hits ground? Space would be, mecha floats around helplessly? ... note that, using SRW, which BCG is sort of based on, SRW, all mecha can move in space just fine, just that they use 1 energy per square moved. ... The flyer misinterpretation... huh. Actually, now I think about it, even a fighter jet can drive around the runway with it's wheels, so come to think of it... ... lolz. Anyhow, you said some GM's aren't sure how to handle those rules lawyers, the answer is "the same as you handle rules lawyers in any other RPG/ game"... and that applies to real life sports as well. For instance, Mixed Martial Arts, we have the whole "no biting, no low blows, no eye gouging" rules... but we don't have idiot contestants SHOOTING opponents with a pistol and then telling the referee "oh, no, it's not covered in the rules!" ... ... ... lolz...

    ... *EVERY* game or sport or whatever thingy on earth has loopholes and things not covered in the rules... when guys like these pop up, do they ACTUALLY expect to get away with it... or are they just "testing out the GM" and seeing what they can and can't get away with? ... huhuhu...

    ... then again, it reminds me of Yu-Gi-Oh, the manga and anime... where LITERALLY, during the card games, which are MEANT to be card games, you have players pulling off weird things like "oh for this duel, when you lose HP, the player receives damage as well" and "if you lose you'll get blown up by this bomb". ... not to mention "heart of the cards" and "influencing dice rolls by inserting your feelings into them". And, boys and girls, that's what happens when you let these guys get away with rules bending/ lawyering willy nilly! ;)

  4. Water and space are covered in a sidebar in the 'Terrain' section. They have optional 3d movement rules and I believe submarine combat also penalizes Beams with a Disadvantage for flavor reasons, among other things I'm probably forgetting about.

    So organized sports have complex penalty systems for offenders (penalty cards, warnings, offense tiers, etc.) but that's because organized sports are "played" between strangers with prizes at stake. I don't think the same criteria applies to playing a game of pretend.

    RPGs don't have any prizes for winning and there's also no real way to "win" at them. This makes trying to get an unfair advantage pointless outside of doing it just because you can. It is a pretty dickish thing to do when you're playing with a bunch of people rather than by yourself.

    (The one exception are "tournament modules" for playing at cons, like the original Tomb of Horrors, which are far from the average tabletop RPG experience anyway.)

    Also the people who play RPGs are usually introverts, who will often let people get away with exploits because they're afraid of personal conflict. This is especially true if it is a close friend or significant other doing the exploiting. A good percentage of the time they do this precisely because they know they can get away with it. While obviously the GM is partly at fault for allowing such things, the problem wouldn't exist in the first place if people weren't trying to one-up others like jerks.

    Looking for loopholes and exploits is a good skill for a playtester and makes for fun moments when you share it with others and everybody has a laugh over how you can blow up cities with a mid-level spell. I don't have a problem with either of those uses.

  5. on the other hand, the reverse is no fun either.

    I must admit, that, BCG, is one of the systems where it seems that it is royally easy to mess up your build. As in, out of our group starting out, all of us messed up in some form or other and had to submit "corrected" mecha to our GM... and some of us had to redo the process several times... :( ...

    Bullying the GM is a huge problem yeah. I can imagine that these ultra-munchkins also took Mid-Scene Upgrade, and "convinced" the GM to let them get into hundreds of points of MP debt as well? ... zzz.

  6. Yeah, the book acknowledges it is more complicated than other games, so it just plain tells people that making changes to their builds is alright, within reason.

    The difficulty to pick up makes me think that perhaps this should have been a class/level based game.

  7. nah, it's fun too! ... just have to keep in mind that if your build messes up too much, don't be afraid to go to the GM and ask for some in between fights scene where your mecha goes to the workshops and is completely overhauled. ;)

    ... Actually, I wouldn't have minded something like a SRW "tutorial mission"... you know, where your team gets deployed in some generic Zakus or GNs or such, and given a vanilla combat, just to familiarize everyone with how everything works. Even after so many sessions, one of my group didn't understand how duelling and techniques work. (though I suspect that's cause he just doesn't bother to really take the effort to go read thru the rules thoroughly)

    1. Yeah, some kind of tutorial mission would have also helped a lot. I wanted to do some example missions but all I made were the custom operations with unique rules for BCZ which, while I like a lot, aren't exactly meant for beginners.

    2. I wouldn't waste too much time with a "real" custom mission... something extremely fast and stereotyped like "everyone jumps into the combat simulator, in a zaku, against a similiar number of zakus". ;)

  8. Extreme fortification is not that good. You get better benefits by putting half of the energy you lose into absolute barrier. You'd need to receive 12+ non-might damage per turn to outperform barrier and the barrier works against might damage too.

    Does extreme fortification work against damage you get from moving while (crippling) suppressed? It's kinda a result of might test.

    Does active defense pierce effect extend to secondary effects of weapons like chainblade and bombardment?

    1. Does extreme fortification halve damage from overheat and some genre power self-damage like I am a loose cannon?

      If you transform from extreme fortification form into one without it do you get back your full available energy or is it still half?

    2. Absolute barrier costs 10 and is an active defense. You can't use other active defenses while it is on. It can also be pierced through by some effects.

      Extreme fort costs 0 and is, well, not one of those.

      The barrier is generally more useful, yes, That's why it costs MP and prevents you from using other active defenses.

      When transforming back and forth from it, your energy is already halved. You can gain it back with a power like mind over matter, but not by transforming.

      The answer to all the other questions is yes.