Nov 20, 2016

BCG Retrospective XXX: Melee Weapons.

This isn't just Retrospective Update #30, it is also GimmickLabs Post #100! Yay for regular blogging! This series has been helpful for giving me ideas and I hope you find it as interesting to read as I do to write. Now, on to Update XXX's subject: Weapon porn for super robots - no drills edition.

Melee Weapons are the most dependent on good positioning (a Default range of 1 does that to you) but are also the ones that make best use of the Dueling mechanic. Most of them are designed with Duels in mind, which means that they're at their best when keeping an opponent locked down or doing as much Damage as possible making use of the extra Advantage from Dueling. The other Melee Weapons have to compensate for a Melee specialist's weaknesses: range and crowd control, which, well, they don't quite pull it off for the most part. Let's see how our ten core examples do:

Arm Guardian
We start with a Weapon that, I think, is a little on the weak side. Arm Guardian will make it harder for the enemy to hit you once you manage to hit them. On paper, it is a decent fit for duelists that want to be more on the tanky than the DPS side of their melee specialization. The problem is that it doesn't have any other attack bonuses, so it will miss against targets with a strong Active Defense, thus failing to grant its Defense bonus to the user. Its other problem is that the Defense bonus makes the enemy want to target your allies rather than you, which goes against the idea of playing a tanky duelist in the first place. A higher Defense boost (Maybe 4? Or perhaps even 5?) or an in-built attack advantage with a drawback to compensate (Like Slow or Unreliable) would have made this a more attractive weapon, I believe. It is not bad, mind. It is just okay, because it grants a minimally decent upside and has no significant drawbacks, but you generally want more than "okay" for your PCs.

Boosted Lance
One of the most interesting and powerful Weapons in the game. It starts out strong, then synergistic movement bonuses from Powers and Upgrades make it devastating. You have to build for mobility and most  debuffs in the game will hit you there, but you can also build to counter said debuffs with Antigravity, Slippery Chassis and Mind Over Matter. Boosted Lance's real weakness is that it doesn't actually play well with Duels, because being stuck in place hurts you more than it will hurt your opponent, so you need Slippery Chassis ASAP. It all adds up to a build that needs tons of Powers, Upgrades and Weapons (like the Rocket Sword) not just to synergize with it it but also to cover its weaknesses. I think it is a little too strong at high levels when all the pieces come together, but at that point nearly all optimized specialist builds are sort of busted in their own way and need hard counters to keep them in check, so I don't think it is that bad. I really like it.

Chainblade
Chainblade is a strong Weapon with a drawback that gives it a random chance of doing less Damage than CQC, making it somewhat hard to use properly. The primary reason to use it is the synergy with Tension bonuses. Assuming you can keep the Unreliable ability from screwing you over, Chainblade is a repeatable Technique, and that's very powerful. An extra advantage, from Duelist Model or Versatile Model, plus an occassional use of Try Again should be enough to maximize your odds of rolling evens. I really like how this one turned out too.

Stun Rod
Works well for debuff and tank builds, sacrificing attack power to weaken the target. But it doesn't really shine until you use it with Support Fire, Formation G or Fight Smarter. The Crippling buff allows Stun Rod to do its full Damage while applying a rather strong debuff. This "Crippling Rod" has also great synergy with the Duel mechanic, locking down an Enemy and debuffing them until they defeat you or somehow pull away, which is not easy because Crippling hurts attack and mobility both. It's a solid Weapon and I think having designs like it, unassuming but really nasty when buffed, is good for the game.

Dueling Blade
It's a 1v1 Melee Weapon that pretty much has a free Advantage to most of its Tests. Yeah, it is good. The big problem is that sometimes things die too quick for it to be of use. The rest of the time? You initiate with something else (like say, a Hook Launcher or Boosted Lance) and then ride the free drawbackless Advantage to victory. For specialists, it has a lower Damage ceiling than Chainblade but it also needs less setup and doesn't melt down into a puddle when you take a debuff to Tension. For generalists, it is probably the most reliable Melee Weapon there is - just let the Grunts and Rivals be the ones to Engage then make a pincushion out of them.

Finger Net
With a very short range, a meh area of effect and lack of synergy with anything else that Duelists are supposed to be good at, this Weapon's saving grace is its single shot debuff... And what a debuff it is! It doesn't just halve Guard and Speed (a fairly strong effect before you add the Damage from the attack roll on top), it does so until the end of your next Turn. This can be exploited with the Delay Action to make your next Turn end after everyone else's, thus making the debuff last essentially two full Rounds. This is not an intended rules interaction, but the exploit wasn't noticed before going to print, probably because it is the only debuff in the game to work this way. So why doesn't this effect last one Round like nearly every other effect in the game does? Because new players were always disappointed they couldn't take advantage of the debuff in a 1v1 scenario. When something you design is always being misinterpreted, maybe you should change the way it works. With that said, I don't dislike the change in a vacuum. If not for the aforementioned exploit, I'd consider the "Until the end of your next Turn" wording an upgrade to use in the future in place of "for one Round". Anyway, this is the only Weapon available to PCs that halves two Attributes, so it's an okay 3rd or 4th pick for debuff-oriented or Artillery Frame builds. Exploitability aside, I think it is good.

Jackhammer Stake
This one is... Okay, much like Guardian Arm. It is fairly strong if you can replenish it constantly with Supply Delivery. The problem is that you could also be adding Aim or Crippling bonuses to your attacks for the same cost which are generally stronger. You could also just Supply Delivery a Weapon with a more useful secondary effect, like Bombardment. The idea of a Weapon that can be 'spent' for an useful buff to the attack roll is cool but this probably needed to have a different buff than just Damage for a single target attack. Barrier Piercing would have probably been a good idea.

Rocket Punch
Compared to Shooting Weapons, Rocket Punch has a base +2 to maximum range helps, but that's not enough to compensate for the higher base range that real guns get. Thus, as a ranged option, Rocket Punch is exclusively for Duelist Model users who want range without spending any Energy for it. It's okay as is, but I don't like that one of the most iconic super robot weapons is a weak and niche option. If I were to redo it, Rocket Punch would have Slow (because it takes a while for the fists to come back) and have an innate Advantage to the Test or something like that to give it an edge.

Whirlwind Attack
Whirlwind Attack is a very, very strong crowd control option. It's like an area of effect Assassin Blade with Slow. That alone makes it great for duelists and generalists alike. But it also shines as an excellent short range option for Artillery Frame builds, which usually would rather stay far away from the enemy but might need to clear a mob invading their personal space every now and then. That's kind of really good and shows how strong all the Burst Weapons are.

Zweihander
Oh man, poor Zweihander. Zweihander suffers from me overestimating Tension modifiers and underestimating how bad it is when you fail to kill the enemy with it. The game sped up a lot during its development months and both Zweihander & Missile Massacre failed to keep up with the other Weapons that kept getting faster. As is, it is underpowered. The Technician Upgrades in BCZ make it a solid, near-unbeatable 1v1 option. It needs the setup, but the payoff is powerful.

Melee Weapons in core BCG are strong and offer some interesting build options. They lack in utility value until BCZ however, so there's just not that many ways to build a pure Duelist without any other gimmicks. Still a strong, interesting and fun build though! The added Upgrades and Weapons help but I think core BCG Melee specialists are playable as is.

Also, new poll! Which Melee Weapons do you give your robots? Have any favorites? I'm leaving the Melee Beam ones for a later poll, obviously.

Next: Shooting Weapons

Gimmick Out.

17 comments:


  1. ... I tried using weapons with the Unreliable and Overheating keywords... but after testing it out, I found that, a LOT of the time, I had to use a lot of advantages as extra dice, instead of converting them to flat +2, like the others at the table were doing. In the end, I felt that it wasn't worth it, because my friend throws 2 dice + 4, and I meanwhile throw 4 dice + 0. Why do I throw 4 dice not 3 dice? Because all too often, when I throw 3 dice, I end up with 9, 7 and 2, or something. ... actually, the math is simple. If only evens are acceptable and odds are not, in order to have a simliar roll to my friend, I need to throw twice as many dice as him. If he throws 2, I throw 4. If he throws 3, I throw 6. ... ... ... anyhow... yeah, after a while, I decided that forget overheating and unreliable, they're too painful to deal with.

    Anyhow, that's why I'm not gonna be using Chainblade or Whirlwind attack... :(

    Duelling Blade makes the Beam Saber look bad... sure beam saber gets that once extra round of advantage, but it's upkeep costs... :(

    Stun Rods, by themselves, are fairly balanced, since in a 1v1, suppressing someone with Arm Guardian is actually stronger than suppressing them with stun rod. ... the fact that (which I didn't realize til you told me) those disadvantages stack though, means that mass stun rods are sort of the Boss killing weapons of choice... which just makes the GM groan, when everyone is just wailing on the boss with stun rods non stop, doing half damage, but not caring cause the boss has been nerfed to uselessness.

    you mentioned Arm Guardian making the enemy decide to attack someone else? ... well, that's why you'd want to engage someone in a duel when you arm guardian them... attack of opportunity FTW! ;)

    ...

    The duelling mechanic is pretty integral to the balance between melee and shooting, I notice... if people aren't engaging in duels, shooting just seems WAY better? ;(

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    1. Generally speaking, 3 dice with a Try Again every now and then should be enough. The loss of power is just a -2, since you should always be rolling at least two dice. Forced rerolls like Not so Fast and You're Too Slow do hurt you A LOT though.

      If your luck gets to the point where you're rolling 4 dice then... Yeah, the damage is just not worth it.

      It's good to keep in mind that, without the mass suppression, the Bosses with tons of attack buffs would be impossible to tank... But yes, when the whole party can do this, it's probably time to start relying on secondary effects like Die For Me/Bullet Hell/Overfreeze. Not all of them at once, but one or two (preferably with some Tension-based abilities) to keep them from trying to stonewall it.

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    2. that's what I thought, but, trying it out, I found that when throwing 3 dice, I ended up spending that Try Again far too often... I'd need to consult a statistics expert to figure out how the effect truly is... but... as I said, in terms of getting consistency in your dice rolls, non-unreliable with 2 dice = unreliable with 4 dice... you can go with 3 I suppose but you're worse off than the normal weapon with 2 dice.

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  2. You're not throwing the beam melee weapons into the mix? ... cause frankly, I started off wanting a melee specialist, then I noticed those beam melees fall into almost the same category...


    You haven't reached here yet, but Magneburst is rather ridiculous. Especially when used en masse. Like one of scenarios you describe where PCs go up against a squad of these things. Or if the PCs equip these things. Basically, it turns into "use AOE weapons or don't bother even fighting". If multiple PCs have these things, the GM is faced with the hard choice of having enemies with non-AOE weapons, which is just a waste of MP, or the enemies exclusively use AOE weapons, which makes the players purchases a waste of MP. There's not much middle ground. ... the worst part is if you allow the PCs to attack empty tiles, in which case, a block of 4 PCs turns into a mobile block of 4x stacked interference terrain, meaning non-AOE weapons are pretty useless...

    I am a bit sad with how techniques turned out too... I can see that a lot of the techniques are meant to fit in with Anime conventions, where the battle rages on for a bit, then the hero pulls out his trump card, his finisher... BOOM!!!

    ... then stuff like old type and internal fortification come into play, and battles ending before tension can get really high, and balancing techniques with all the other weapons...

    So, after all that, techniques sort of turned into "not significantly better than the standard attacks". Except in exceptional circumstances... in fact, unless tension is really high, there are several attacks that hit HARDER than techniques, while still being repeatable. ... and old school and internal fortification make techniques really sad, since you end up needing to use several medium sized attacks instead of one big finishing move. And GM's will TEND to put old school on the bosses. ... BUT... Bosses are, by Super Robot convention, the enemies that you WANT to be finished off with the big finishers!

    Master Technician helps balance wise, but not flavourwise. Since it doesn't make techniques better at doing what they're meant to do, aka being finishing moves. Instead, it turns them into spammable attacks. Which is a bit sad, cause now what you have is Domon spamming Shining Finger over and over and over every round. And it's a bit sad when Domon Shining Fingers a nameless grunt, it doesn't die, and he has to do another before it falls over...

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    1. Magneburst is a lot like Bombardment in that regard, but it doesn't have the downside of being Oneshot to keep it from happening. Perhaps it should've had Slow (plus an attack bonus of some kind) just to keep the spam in check. That way it would remain tactically useful without being too repetitive.

      To be fair to Techniques, they also get to bypass effects that let you survive with 1 point of Threshold. The debuffs to rollover Damage are rough, but without them you could make a build that uses Techniques to hit for 30+ Damage without much trouble... Every turn.

      Technicians tend to be more about GP and self-harm management. In this case, Domon wouldn't be using the Shining Finger every attack. He'd start with God Finger, buff his second attack with GP into Sekiha Tenkyoken, then apply even more GP buffs to make it the Sekiha Tenkyoken God Finger.

      ...The part where the God Gundam recklessly blows itself up to make itself go Super Saiyan even harder is a creative license.

      But yeah, most tanky abilities make Techniques sad and bosses tend to be tanky because, well, they often need it so they can handle a bunch of PCs. There are ways to make them tanky that don't do this, like the pure self-buffer builds. But in general it is the kind of tactic that should only be used with an optimized party that needs the counter and can play around it or counter it back in turn.

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    2. Well, yeah, techniques are ok in terms of balance. But, as I said, in terms of *flavor*, they've lost a lot of that old "finishing move" nostalgia. :(

      ***

      "The debuffs to rollover Damage are rough, but without them you could make a build that uses Techniques to hit for 30+ Damage without much trouble... Every turn."

      -> The trouble here is that, BCG is a game with plenty of lethality in it's damage outputs. In other words... if all you want are attacks that will kill most enemies in 2-3 hits, any "normal" attack will work fine. ... Techniques sort of are MEANT to be the "big moves" which hit much harder than normal weapons, right?

      I don't plan to mainline a technique in my next build... it's just very expensive and "niche" to put together a build that is focused on using techiniques at lower power levels. ... they turn out to be glass cannons, which are VERY glassy, and not much cannon. :( ... and if your build isn't totally dedicated to technique spam, adding a technique to your arsenal turns into an "afterthought"... one of those weapons you just toss in for 5 MP and if you get to use it good, if not, no big deal. sigh.

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    3. I think that's inevitable with a point-buy system. Optimizing in them is usually about going all-in on your chosen strategy, and the game needs to have some form of hard counter to keep things sane.

      It'd be more flavorful if everyone had to have a finishing move of some sort, technique or otherwise, and the super robot types got to make them stronger or had ways around their counters.

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    4. I also felt it's a problem with Super Robot and anime conventions, which tend to be inconsistent, broken, and imbalanced, with an RPG system, where you try and keep everything consistent, fair and balanced lolz!

      Anyhow, yeah, I wish techniques were more of a "finishing move" in BCG... might just be my games, but so far they aren't filling that role. ... and no one uses Synchro Attack, despite being touted in BCG as one of the best powers in the game, I just don't find the exchange worth it, since the person who actually does the attack will tend to have several advantages already, so you're in essence trading 1 turn + 1 genre point for each helper for +4 damage each. AND by itself, it uses up 1 genre point which doesn't gain an advantage of it's own. ... AGAIN, just like techniques, this was a very niche GP, which was supposed to fill in the role of "finishing move!" to kill Bosses? ... and to circumvent boss powers and abilities activated by boss getting maimed by blowing through several layers at once? ... Unfortunatly, Lensman War effect occured, and Oldtype and internal fortification often spoil this.

      "Optimizing in them is usually about going all-in on your chosen strategy, and the game needs to have some form of hard counter to keep things sane."

      -> This is unfortunatly, very frustrating, as it turns a lot of situations into Feast or Famine... either you are not hard countered and you are your party MVP, or you get hard countered and you feel useless. :(

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    5. Yeah, your first paragraph here is a good way to sum it up. The way fiction and games work isn't always compatible.

      Now, to be fair to the game, it is much easier to simulate mecha anime if you approach the game casually and don't optimize too much. It is when PC squads get super optimized that bosses and rivals get oldtype and the other ways to counter supermoves.

      The mutual arms race is just another way to play the game. You don't HAVE to escalate things, you can descalate them as well. If you don't like how it's turning out, why not ask everyone to try a little less hard at being super efficient murder machines?

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    6. Sadly, being new to BCG, it'd already difficult enough to make FUNCTIONAL builds lolz... making super optimized stuff is a bit out of reach. And making something intentionally unoptimized is possibly harder. :p

      Inital team loadout had mecha with Long Range melee weapons... and 0 systems (oops is that how the rules work?), beam users with not enough energy to boost their weapons/ use active defences/ etc, AOE specialists who sudddenly found that they couldn't attack most of the time without doing more damage to their own team than to the enemy, and mecha that couldn't even succeed on their basic might tests. ... all in all, we didn't so much optimize as correct glaring errors.

      Trouble is, a lot of DMs and GMs these days believe in "giving players a challenge". ... every 4e campaign I joined in, the GMs would look at recommended encounter ratings, and say, oh, too low, I'll just bump it up another 50%.

      Not to mention the rampant houseruling that goes on in all RPGS. sigh. I still need to explain to my GM why it's unfair to just ask us to let him see our character sheets every time he gets a successful maim choice in... it's essentially giving the enemies a free genre point used for Scan. :(

      Adding Oldtype to bosses is just nasty. It's basically all upside no downside, since bosses won't really be using their default powers since they have such imba boss Genre Powers. :(

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    7. You have a very good grasp of the mechanics, better than that of many people with a year or more of experience, don't sell yourself short.

      If the difficulty has crossed from "challenging" to "frustrating" then I suggest you bring it up with the rest of the group.

      The book tells GMs to, in case of doubt, err on the difficult side of things. GMs usually ask how to challenge their PCs, not how to make things easy on them. Given that the draw of this game is the combat, it is usually more fun for groups when things are difficult than when they are easy. Hence things like Oldtype are essentially a free buff to Bosses.

      Buuuuuut there can be such a thing as going too far. There is no one true way to play and always being pushed to the limit is not necessarily a good thing. If you'd like the game to go a step or two lower on the difficulty settings, you should tell the GM. And everybody else, as well, but the GM first.

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    8. "Given that the draw of this game is the combat,"

      ... erm. For me, yeah, this is sort of the case. And also the free-form "build your own mecha" thing.

      But... I'm actually a bit perplexed here, since you did happen to have a poll about whether an RPG is better to be story driven or combat mechanics based, and you sort of voted on the side of story driven. ... but so far, all your blog posts here discuss combat mechanics, nothing about the intermissions for PCs out of mecha, or about how you felt about the "world" of BCG and the settings. (which, I confess, my GM chose not to use... no offence taken I hope!).

      And my GM also stated that he prefers to have a story driven campaign, with more emphasis on the plot than on combat... and yet, again, I felt like most of my poor GM's worries were concerning the combat encounters.

      Had a blast in season 1, the frustration was quite a lot caused by my not really functioning builds lolz... and our GM had a backup plan, for when our season finale boss fight looked like it was going south, we had a level 3 NPC come bail us out (we were all level 1). which has issues of it's own but... ... ...

      Anyhow, my point is... considering it's a game designed by a fan of story driven games... and run by a GM who prefers story driven games... for some reason, the emphasis seems to be on combat and combat mechanics. hmm. ... though, on the other hand, the RPG is based on mecha, so it makes sense to emphasize on the mecha, ie the combat? ... huh. ... well, I just find it curious how it turns out this way, anyhow! :p

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    9. I design and talk about combat mechanics because that's the part I find the most fun. I would say that the ideal split between story and combat for a BCG game is about 50/50, even though the system is all about the combat. BCG doesn't have much as far as narrative mechanics go because they wouldn't work well with a harder, crunchier combat system and the combat system is what I wanted to write.

      There is some advice on good storytelling for GMs in the book, and I actually really like the GM advice section as a whole, including the storytelling advice. The problem with a more in-depth discussion is that what makes a good story is fundamentally subjective. We can all most likely agree on some common ground, but when it comes to the fine details we all prefer different stories.

      Essentially, I don't discuss storytelling much because it's more art than science, while the rules talk is more science than art. This is a laboratory, after all :)

      If your GM is anything like me, they have a ton of fun tinkering with rules and providing a significant challenge. This doesn't mean they don't enjoy the storytelling part just as much, if not even more, it means liking the strategy and tactics of NPC Squad design.

      As for the setting? I wrote a setting because I was convinced I needed one. The very first alpha of the game only had advice to create your own setting. I don't dislike the setting (though I don't love it either) but I'd rather people let their imaginations take flight and write their own lore.

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  3. >And GM's will TEND to put old school on the bosses
    Literally only your shit GM does this. Fuck off, Nerd.

    Also, Mangeburst spam is great.

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    1. How do you know that your GM isn't "literally the only one" who doesn't? It's a legitimate (and intended) method to increase the game's difficulty without hard counters to PC builds.

      In the future try using arguments instead of insults. The edgy shittalking doesn't impress anyone.

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    2. ... lol, the fuck off bit was irritating, but as for calling me a nerd... hmm... this is a blog discussing the mechanics and balance issues of an RPG... about giant robots from anime... and I'm not signed in anonymously. ... haha, yeah, I must be really worried about being labelled a nerd, right? :p

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    3. RPGs are macho as fuck. Do you even d10, bro?

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