Dec 25, 2016

BCG Retrospective XXXV: Boss Traits

This post and next week's might end up being on the short side, for reasons I hope are obvious. Hint: Look at the calendar.

Boss Traits are probably the least used of all the custom enemy abilities, because there's just not much reason to use Bosses in Intermissions. When they do show up, it tends to be so they can fight the PCs, and their selection of Traits reflects that: Most of them involve the Match rules in some way.

Combat Profiling
We start with the obligatory 'I can predict all of your moves' enemy ability. This presents PCs with a choice: Act in the 'predicted' way and let the enemy counter them accordingly plus giving them a Tension bonus or 'break character' and lose a Genre Point to act freely. It's a very cool take on the idea, but has some problems. To start with, there's not that many things to do in Matches, so the prediction half of the ability is most likely going to always yield 'I attack' without much room for creative pre-emptive countering. The other problem is that the text is fairly vague and only asks for 'what their PC will be doing next Turn' which... Leaves a lot of room for half-truths that reduce this ability to a double Tension bonus to attacks. I'll touch more on these issues in the future when we get to the 'I Can Read Your Every Move' Genre Power. It's a shame it doesn't work better, because it is a very simple and flavorful way to adapt a fighting anime staple.

Elusive Form
Elusive Form is more of a storytelling enabler than a combat ability. It allows the antagonist to show up at the worst possible time or to escape from any complication safely, as long as it is an Intermission Scene. The limitations also make it more interesting than a pure GM Fiat ability. You can use this one in a myriad ways to mess with PCs and instill a sense of fear in them, because they're never safe as long as a baddie with this is around. The way it works, the NPC has to be strong enough that it won't need to use the escape ability or it needs to set itself up for an ambush the old fashioned way and know when to use the Run command - because it takes an Action. I'm a fan.

Giant Slayer
So the Boss Mecha has been defeated and the PCs sigh in relief after a long, arudous battle... Only for the NPC pilot to break out of the cockpit and dismantle their mechs with a flurry of punches. Giant Slayer NPCs are not the kind of thing that you want to do more than once or twice, but they sure are effective when that does happen. It makes for a nice final surprise round to a battle, or for an unconventional beginning to one. Even with the Defense bonus this Trait grants, Characters are unlikely to last more than one Round against Mecha, but it also shouldn't be too hard to take down an already-damaged PC with the Forbidden Secret Art Deathblow.

Homunculus Vessel
This is a combination of Comrade and Backup Bodies, with a more sinister touch fitting for antagonists. Technically a GM doesn't need this, because defeat doesn't necessarily mean death and it is not like they need rules to tell them when and how to create new NPCs... But it's such great inspiration, isn't it? A friendly NPC is revealed to have been a plant for the big bad all along. A giant monster dies only to invade the body of a hapless bystander gone MIA who will now haunt the PCs. A rogue AI is destroyed but not before it spreads to a friendly mech that will soon become parts for the AI's grandiose next boss monster form. It's cool storytelling and gives the GM an out for those times when the NPC could not possibly have survived but somehow needs to come back. You can even take advantage of that, allowing the PCs to disintegrate the Boss or to shoot it into the sun or whatever other ridiculous death you can think of, knowing that was just part of the plan all along.

Living Weapon
This is basically Giant Slayer's sidekick/flunkie/younger sibling, used to spam Forbidden Secret Art as long as the Giant Slayer's puny Character body holds on. And without Giant Slayer? I have said before that Deathblows are very underpowered, and while this does a little to help them, it is probably better to just plain take Skill Master (Combat) and not waste CP on them. If you already have that, though, then sure, this is an okay extra.

Mundanity Field
Miracles meant for combat use are already some of the weakest... And this just plain disables them from short range use. On one hand, I do like that this Trait makes for a big 'oh no' moment, but from a gameplay balance perspective I think this is a mistake. Also, because Miracles have a line-of-sight range, this will do absolutely nothing just as often as it completely shuts down some builds. All in all, I think I could have done better.

Overwhelming Pressure
The big bad shows up and the first thing they do is K.O all the NPCs and wound all the PCs. Bam! Talk about a big entrance. It's cool, but it can lead to an instant party wipe if the Boss is higher level than the PCs, which... Is kind of bullshit! Some kind of mental attack that makes the PCs lose their minds or flee in fear is a preferable alternative to physical wounds here. Keep in mind that it takes an Action, so if the PCs are of the same PL as the Boss and take no Damage, then that's one Round in which the Boss will be a sitting duck. Making the Boss one Level above the PCs, perhaps two for a particularly scary and hopeless encounter, is the best way to use this.

Skill Master
The least superhuman of all the Boss Traits. Ideal for matchless warriors, mad scientists and sneaky assassins alike. It can be taken multiple times, making an NPC who never has to roll dice except for Miracles or the rare Attribute Test. What's not to like?

Spectral Body
This is like a more versatile Elusive Form with the drawback that it is less absolute and thus less reliable. Three rounds is enough to pass through enough walls to break in or out of most Scenes, after all. It is also good for straight-up brawlers who want three free Turns to do whatever they want, forcing the PCs to either run away or come up with a solution more creative than 'beat down the enemy'. Combines very well with Overwhelming Pressure, Living Weapon and the aforementioned Elusive Form.

Viral Touch
Infecting PCs and NPCs with an illness can only be cured by slaying the Boss, Viral Touch pretty much writes the plot of your next Episode Arc for you. Note that this is EXTREMELY unfun to be on the receiving end of, leaving PCs out of Intermission and Operation Scenes alike anytime they fail a DN 15 Willpower Test. It is best to use this either on NPCs that the PCs have a personal attachment to or to make the Boss a short lived one that lasts one or two Episodes so that PCs get back to the game quick.

In Conclusion
I think that Combat Profiling, Living Weapon and Mundanity Field have enough issues that I can't quite call them successes. The rest I would say all get passing grades, though three of them have some caveats: Giant Slayer isn't too strong but it also shouldn't be, considering it makes Operations harder rather than affecting Intermissions themselves. Overwhelming Pressure and Viral Touch are potentially very unfun to deal with and need a careful application in order to keep things fun.

It might seem like I'm hard on them but I really like how they turned out, all things considered. The combat-based Boss Traits throw a neat twist or two into the usual Match formula and keep things fresh. The other Boss Traits are good little nuggets of storytelling that blur the line between hard rules and GM fiat, plus they give inspiration for future plots. I think that's the best way to do NPC-only abilities.

Next: Boss Powers.

Gimmick Out.

Dec 18, 2016

BCG Retrospective XXXIV: Enemy Features

Enemy Features offer options that are, usually, more fit for Enemies for flavor reasons but not forbidden to PCs. Likewise, regular Features aren't forbidden to NPCs and they're often crucial to making some Grunt and Boss designs work. Grunts have very low MP Totals, especially early on, while Bosses don't have any normal Upgrades unless you sacrifice Boss Upgrades to grab them, which is probably a bad idea. Among Enemies, Flyer and Terrain Specialist are the most popular PC Features, but Extreme Fortification works great for some builds too. Without access to Features, Grunts would be slightly weaker but Bosses would lose too much flexibility and much weaker.

But enough about PC Features, let's have a look at the NPC ones:

Biological transforms extra Energy into Threshold, but at a very slow rate. Combat is usually too quick for it to amount to much of value so a lot of the time this is mostly a downside. Grunts don't have an use for this and would only take it for flavor reasons and Rivals have better options for self healing. For Bosses, this makes them actually give a crap about Maims, which is a pretty big downside... But there are some Bosses which have enough spare Energy and ways to buy time for themselves that this Feature makes a decent option for them. Two Capstones, Energy Drain and Hypersonic Striker, work particularly well to make Biological work the downside. What is more, This is a very flavorful drawback for Bosses that makes choosing Areas to Maim relevant. It can even be a nice way to compensate for Oldtype for GMs that feel bad when giving that to their Bosses. Overall, Biological is kind of bleh mechanically, though it has neat flavor.

Extra range won't compensate for lack of mobility unless the user is very well protected by Terrain. Thus, this is a Feature used for Operations designed around Enemies bunkering up with PCs who often have to cross various kinds of harmful Terrain in order to reach them. Fortress Grunts are immobile turrets that emphasise their glass cannon-ness being extra vulnerable. Rivals don't really have much use for this outside of Guardian of Steel gimmicks where the whole of the team can't be moved. Bosses lose out on some great defensive abilities based on Movement and their aura-type effects are a lot less useful... But the extra Range makes many Weapons, particularly the Bursts, extremely brutal. Useful and flavorful, I like.

Invasive Enemies are a cheap trick. PCs without an investment in Systems are reduced to 10 Threshold total while PCs with an investment in Systems can have up to 20 or 30 depending on their luck. It's nasty stuff, to the point BCZ includes a new Genre Power just to counter them, because they're not just powerful - they're random. Invasive Enemies work best if they happen, say, once every 4-5 Operations or every 2-3 if there's one or two PCs with the Hang in There! Power. Grunts will often fail to do enough Damage for the Invasive trigger, because their strength is in making many weak attacks instead of a few strong ones. Rivals have enough attack power and abilities that deal automatic Damage to make it interesting. Bosses are like Rivals but they also have Crush the Insect to push PCs into the fourth Layer that automatically defeats them, making them the best and most obvious Invasive build. All that being said, Invasive Enemies can be very frustrating and unfun, so I'll give them a passing grade but just barely and add 'use with care' to their report card.

Squadron is my favorite Enemy Feature. It is how BCG represents swarm-type Enemies, a very important job for any heroic action RPG, and pulls it off in just two short sentences. In terms of optimization, Grunts use this as a cheap Antimaim that emphasises their natural weakness to area-of-effect Weapons. Rivals can use this to represent the ability to split into separate components and can be combined with anti-AoE abilities for a fairly optimized Enemy. Bosses gain the least from Squadron, since they're already mostly immune to Maims, unless they use this to compensate for the upside of Biological or using regular Upgrades and Weapons... In which case you have a really interesting Enemy in your hands. It is the Feature that does the most with the least text and a home run in my book.

So, in conclusion, I think Enemy Features are a pretty good set of abilities. Biological or Invasive need a bit of tweaking in the mechanics area, but all of them do good job of conveying the flavor of fighting enemies that are fundamentally different from the PCs. Squadron, in particular, is the kind of thing that could be the basis of a new NPC tier, for waves of Enemies weaker than Grunts.

Next: Boss Traits

Gimmick Out

Dec 11, 2016

BCG Retrospective XXXIII: NPC Tiers.

I already wrote a lot about the three NPC tiers in BCG and BCZ both. I wrote about how to build them, how to combine them, how to make NPC combatants relevant in Intermissions, how to improvise the Attributes and Skills of combatants, etc. So what I'll do is focus on what worked about them, what didn't, and how they could be different.

So why are there three NPC tiers? The idea was to have one tier equal to PCs, one lower powered than PCs, and another higher powered than PCs. Nicely enough, one Grunt is half a PC while one Boss is two PCs, keeping things simple should you want to mix and match the tiers for NPC Squads. From a design standpoint, I was trying to keep the number of rules to a minimum here (as I usually do) and it seemed like three tiers of NPCs should be all a game could need. If a GM needs very weak trash mobs or very strong superbosses, the rules do support them, even if they don't have their own tier.

Grunts are PCs with less total XP, no Genre Points or Powers, and the Paired Attack Action. They didn't always have Paired Attack though, and they had major balance problems back then. Without Paired Attack, low PL Grunts were weaker than half a PC. You know how PL 0 PCs are terribly, terribly weak? Well, Grunts have stats lower than that and lack the Genre to compensate for their low rolls. They get a lot better at PL 3 and above, being very close with the XP totals of PCs and having their numerical superiority compensate for the lack of GP. With the Paired Attack Action, they got a lot better at low PLs, especially for the glass cannons. Paired Attack can only be used when Grunts are bunched up, this keeps them more vulnerable to area attacks and makes the game flow faster by reducing the number of turns that the NPCs take. Overall, I would say that the Paired Attack Action is my favorite thing about them as a designer, it does a lot to make them play better.

Grunts naturally lean more towards elite mooks than trash mobs, but they can represent hordes of weak enemies with the Squadron Feature and a glass cannon build, preferably with a Threshold of 0. They're still powerful though, they can down PCs easily with Support debuffs, Paired Attack, and autodamage from Bombardment. Generally speaking, PCs want to destroy the Grunt forces as fast as possible and leave the Rivals/Bosses for later, because the glass cannon nature of most Grunt builds makes them extremely dangerous. This makes me think that perhaps there is room for a tier of NPC below Grunts for dedicated swarm/mob/minion Enemies. They could have less attack power and just hand out buffs for the higher tier NPCs while debuffing PCs, then they would still contribute to combat but wouldn't be a larger threat than the Rivals and Bosses.

What about their Intermission performance? Grunts provide standardized Attributes to use as DNs when dealing with NPCs, and that's really all they need to do. If you use them in combat, the superfast and extremely lethal nature of Character-scale battles means that numbers give two Grunts a large advantage over a single PC. While this is good in that it gives Intermission combat PC builds a much needed time in the spotlight, it's perhaps a bit too extreme.

Rivals are the middle ground between Grunts and Bosses, but they take the most effort to build and play because PCs are more complex than non-Rival NPCs. Thus, the number of Rivals per Operation should be kept to a minimum, they just have too many Powers and secondary abilities to manage. Rivals have so much variety in Upgrades and Weapons that they're the most fun type of Enemy to fight. Throwing Transformers, Combiners, Guardians of Steel and Technicians to the PCs does a great job of keeping things fresh.

Rivals built around exploiting the weaknesses of PCs can be comparable to a Boss in difficulty, especially if given abilities like Oldtype or Unstable Reactor to cheat the Power Ratings in their favor even more.

Rivals during Intermissions are basically doubles of the PCs and set adequate DNs for challenges as generalists or stonewall PCs with great challenges as specialists. If you have to beat a specialist in, say, Diplomacy through a Contested Test then all the advantage in numbers in the world isn't going to save you. Likewise, a single combat specialist Rival can take out an entire PC Squad if none of them are prepared for the occasion.. Or they could roll a low Initiative Test and fall to a single turn's worth of 10's. It's unlikely, but... Well, Intermissions aren't as balanced as the Operations. They're still better balanced than Grunts here, though.

Bosses have very high Attributes, repetitive Powers/Weapons and extremely powerful Upgrades. They're not very versatile, but they're strong and set the rules of the battle, forcing the PCs to come up with a counterplan or suffer the consequences. Having two Weapons/Powers keeps them from doing the same thing turn after turn, but it is the Upgrades and Capstones that make Bosses truly shine. At PLs 1, 4 and 5 they are at their strongest, and at PLs 0, 2 and 3 they are slightly underpowered for their Power Rating.

There's a considerable amount of advice in both books to help you make your Bosses into Superbosses meant to match more than 2 PCs in power. The essentials for this are either Component Rivals orthe Oldtype Feature... Probably both, if we're being honest. You can make them go beyond PL 5 with a bonus 30 XP and a Capstone per PL, but that doesn't give them the increased survivability they need to weather 3+ attacks per Round when they're only supposed to endure 2 of them. Combine all three techniques and you end up with some very, very scary baddies. It does take a bit of system mastery to figure out how to build and use them, though, so I figure maybe the game could have had a proper Superboss NPC Tier that incorporates bonus Utility Actions and extra passive defenses to their core rules.

Intermission Bosses are pretty much always enemies to be fought on foot. Sure, some of their Traits have utility value that is useful for Bosses not meant to be Character-Scale combat powerhouses. But for the most part, most Intermission NPCs designated as Bosses have that title because they're going to fight the PCs... And hooo boy they're kind of super good at doing that. We'll talk about that when we discuss Boss Traits though. Other than that, they're basically Rivals but with crazier abilities, so there's not much else to say.

Balancing the NPC Tiers.
While the Power Ratings were always 2 Grunts = 1 PC and 1 Boss = 2 PCs, the numbers themselves changed a couple of times. I remember originally thinking that Power Rating should be equal to Level for Grunts, PR x2 for Rivals and PR x4 for Bosses. The numbers were very easy to remember and work with, but before the first playtest I realized that this made Level 0 enemies have no PR at all. I really liked how intuitive and elegant the mechanic was and tried to work around the Level 0 problem, but it just wasn't working. Thus, all the Power Ratings were bumped to start with 1, 2 or 4 points for Grunts, Rivals and Bosses, then add the Power Level multiplier from there. But those numbers still had balance issues, in particular when it came to Grunt swarms, and so the we ended up with the current PR table that has NPCs start at a Power Rating of 2, 4 and 8.

In the end, the PR mechanic wasn't as elegant or intuitive as I wanted it to be, but it works better than the old version. I suppose the moral of this story is to not underestimate the power of weak enemies in high numbers. That's probably the most important lesson I've learned in NPC design as a whole. Bosses need optimizing in order to keep up with multiple PCs, but optimized Grunts are brutal and almost unfair. Actions are the most important resource in a turn-based RPG, don't underestimate the power of extra Actions, no matter how weak the users might be.

The other big lesson here is that trying to work five NPC archetypes into three worked out quite decently, but only for GMs that get systems and know how to bend the rules to their will. For everyone else, it is difficult enough that having two additional tiers of NPCs (for Minigrunts and Superbosses) is something I should have at least tried out.

I care a lot about encounter and NPC design, it is one of the most fun parts of being a GM for me. This section may not be as long as some others in the book, but these are rules that I care for and think about how to improve a lot. Whatever I do next for an RPG, the NPCs are going to take a lot from the lessons learned with BCG.

Next: Enemy Features.

Gimmick Out.

Dec 4, 2016

BCG Retrospective XXXII: Beam Weapons

Melee and Shooting Weapons are direct counterparts to each other that synergize by being best at what the other lacks. Beam Weapons, meanwhile, are just subtypes of Melee and Shooting weapons with additional rules, they have the same strengths and weaknesses of their primary types, so they can't be pigeonholed as easy. They do have their own shtick, in a way, but it is not as gameplay-defining as that of other specialists. Melee specialists are good at controlling single targets and doing reliable Damage-per-Turn but bad at target selection and controlling mobs. Shooting Weapons are good at target selection, area-of-effect attacks and have a higher Damage ceiling but they need a sizable investment in MP to do those things well which usually makes them rather vulnerable. Even Beast and Artillery specialists have a very defined role, with Beast wanting to attract enemy attention to power itself up as the 'hard carry' build in the game and Artillery being absurd at striking multiple targets but lackluster against single bosses.

Beams are more about flexibility. Beam Weapons consume your Energy to Boost them, a considerable powerup that makes them hit harder than other Weapons by default. But you can forego the Energy spend and just use a version that is slightly weaker than average but has less drawbacks. When your Energy is being drained or paying Energy costs does you Damage, not Boosting your Weapons can be a good idea. Furthermore, some Beam Weapons gain the Slow ability when Boosted, while others become Overheating or gain some other form of recoil that harms the user. Thus, it's often a good idea to have some alternative ways to spend Energy (Active Defenses, Restorations, Supports) so you can still use the resource when you're not Boosting your Weapons. Beams are the easiest specialization to combine with others (except Beast, I guess, since there's no default Beam weapon), and they essentially play much like other specialists but doing more Damage at the expense of having just a handful of available Weapons to pick from.

That last thing is important because, until BCZ, having a total of 10 Beam Weapons meant that two specialization Upgrades limited your options to pretty much just one possible build for each such archetype. Let's take a look at the Core Beam Weapons:

Beam Saber
I'm a fan of the vanilla Beam Saber and Beam Rifle. Two Energy for one Advantage without any special abilities is a pretty bad deal, I admit, but it becomes one Energy for one Advantage with Experimental Reactor and suddenly you have a pair of Beam Weapons that you almost always can afford to Boost for a tiny bit of extra Damage without any downsides. This is a very strong build at low Power Levels that gives you a powerful pair of fallback Weapons at high Power Levels, when you can opt to use other Beams as your primary ways to do Damage instead.

Beam Rifle
See above. I think these two work best when combined that way and are rather lackluster the rest of the time. Unlike other Beam Weapons, these don't have any other special abilities, so they lack the flexibility and power found in the rest of their subtype.

Beam Ripper
This is our first innately Crippling Weapon. The flavor of a huge beam tomahawk or scythe that is somehow more precise and unlikely to hurt allies in Duels is... Not something I'm a fan of, but I do like the part where it lets you choose which limbs to Maim and how it debuffs the Enemy when hit. In fact, this was originally just called "the Headtaker" and its only ability was to let you choose which Areas it Maimed. Turns out, that's just a really weak version of the Suppression ability, so the Weapon got Crippling + Slow for some more power and and tactical value. The flavor is questionable, but it's a really good Weapon so I don't mind much. Beam + Crippling makes for very good Damage with a considerable debuff, and it makes you want to alternate it with other Beams while the Slow ability is in effect, keeping people from doing one-trick pony builds... And having them do two-trick pony builds instead. Look, I never said it was a perfect solution. The options for a partner weapon were more limited in core, but Burnout Edge in BCZ is a very, very good secondary Weapon with similar control potential.

Powered Rifle
This little gun here has a lot of range and hits quite hard, for a lower Energy cost than that of self-buffing yourself with Assisted Targeting for your Sniper Rifle. It has a drawback, however, in itsminimum Range of 5 Zones. The lower investment required and the drawback mean that it isn't a primary weapon, but rather an utility gun for Beam specialists or generalists looking for a long range option with a very manageable drawback. Sniper Models with Experimental Reactor used to have this as their only Long Range non-Technique but that's no longer the case since the addition of Point Singularity Projector, Bits and Lux Cannon to the game. Those have more considerable downsides (They're ALL Slow when Boosted) so Powered Rifle is still a solid, if less impactful, pick. Yay for options!

Extending Blade
Extending Blade is probably the best ranged option for Duelist Models in the Core armory and the only viable Weapon with a Range higher than 1 if they're also a Beam Specialist. Maximum Range 10, no ifs or buts, is very good when all your other options require a sizable Systems investment and you'd rather spend those points in Speed or Energy instead. It doesn't have any drawbacks (it will pretty much never gain the Dueling bonus, but that's kind of a given with ranged Melee options) so there's not a lot to say. There's more ranged options for material Melee Weapons users now, but there's still not any real competition for it when it comes to its Melee Beam brothers and sisters, so it's just as good now for them as it was back then.

Charge Cannon
Charge Cannon is... An okay Blast option. The Blast area is the same as that of most other Blasts but the Boost is a little too expensive for what is essentially Rail Bazooka without the Long Range ability and one more Advantage. I consider this a rather underpowered gun and I believe it ended up this way because I was worried about the raw power of Experimental Reactor + Artillery Frame... But, thinking about it, this could have been a Blast (3) at least, just to make it more attractive compared to other options. With that said, it still has a niche, as it is an AoE Weapon for the Beam specialists who don't want to spend MP on Systems and want a bit more range than that of Magneburst.

Against Units that can't fly, Incinerator is like a Technique with TRIPLE the Tension bonus instead of double. Not only that, but it provides a good AoE attack for Melee specialists who have a bit of trouble in that area. So it overheats, fine. That's a small price to pay for all it does against Enemies without Extreme Terrain protection and, unlike many other Overheating Weapons, you don't need to buff up your Tension to make it hit hard. See, Extreme Terrain uses the victim's Tension instead of yours, because they're the ones rolling the Test against the Terrain even though you created the Terrain in the first place. While this does mean that you can't power up Incinerator's secondary effect with Tension bonuses, it makes the Overheat kickback hurt less and has the benefit of being a very decent counter against Limit Engine users. While it is currently described as a flamethrower, the first version of the Incinerator was actually inspired by the chest beams of the Mazinger series that melted down the monsters of the week.

Double Blaster
This is one of my favorite Weapons on a conceptual level: Two strong attacks for the price of one! It's solid, but it is not an actual Blast (or Burst or Line) so it doesn't get the benefits of bypassing single-target defenses. On the other hand, it lacks the downsides often seen in such guns and all it does is Overheat when you Boost it. Speaking of the Overheating part, the Double Blaster is Wing Gundam Zero's Twin Buster Rifle. You can tell it is the Wing Zero Custom version from Endless Waltz because the mech melts down and collapses after firing all of three times. I guess Heero is one of those people who take the highest number even when it is odd.

Radiant Fist
This has three Advantages to its attack when Boosted and in a Duel, plus double Tension bonus. It doesn't have any particularly interesting abilities or factoids about it (other than being an obvious Shining Finger reference) but it does good Damage and sometimes that's all you really need. It is not as exploitable as the Burst and Line Techniques, because it only hits a single target, but it also doesn't hurt as badly when it fails. I think this could have afforded to only be a Technique when Boosted, losing the Tension penalty the rest of the time, because the other Techs are just more unique and lend themselves more to optimization. At the very least, that would have made Radiant Fist slightly more interesting.

Reactor Overdrive
What do you get when you combine Line and long range with double Tension bonus plus the Beam ability plus potentially Aiming bonuses? You get a recipe for wrecking face. It's not hard to catch three Enemies with it, and if they don't have countermeasures against burst Damage (which most Grunts don't), then they're going to take a very big hit. You can make the glassiest of all glass cannons taking this then casting bunch of Offensive Powers as your entire battle plan and there's a good chance that it'd be worth it even if you explode immediately afterwards from the counterattacks. This gun is one of the big reasons that things like Internal Fortification and Take Cover! exist. They're very, very hard counters, but without them the game would be in a worse place.

And that's Beams. The Core Melee armory has some duds in it and Shooting has one or two picks that are very niche, and I would say Beams are better designed than both of those. There's no real duds, the worst of the bunch is easily Charge Cannon and it has a niche. There isn't any one of them not worth taking, though there's a few that could certainly be better, at least they do solid Damage to compensate for it.

That's probably the main thing I've learned from Beams as a designer: If something hits hard enough, it is easier to forgive it for being subpar in other regards. The other thing I've learned is that attack buffs outside of those from the Weapon itself should affect just only one target, otherwise you end with a Reactor Overdrive scenario where you need very hard counters that borderline cripple the ability just to keep it in check.

As I mentioned when I discussed the Beam mechanic itself, these took a lot of work and were being tweaked until the last days of development, so I'm glad they're flavorful and fun to use on top of (mostly) being very powerful. It would have been a bummer if they ended up being all underpowered.

...But I could be wrong! What do you think? What are your favorite dealers of rainbow death and oversized immaterial implements of destruction? Yes, this is the last poll for a while, I'm not going to have fifty polls running at the same time.

Next: Now that we're done with PCs, we move on to NPCs! I've been looking forward to this section of the book. It's one of my favorites and probably the one subject I've most learned from.

Gimmick Out.