Dec 10, 2017

BCZ Retrospective VI: Alternative Powers.

A long time ago I made a houserule for a game, in this game all PCs had three extra Genre Powers that costed a special resource unique to that game. I liked them enough that I made two more and considered making them general powers in the expansion. Then I realized they were very similar thematically to the default powers and figured they would make cool alternatives to them.

One common trend among them is that Default Powers lean towards handy narrative aids and common genre conventions while the Alternative Powers lean more towards raw power or represent more uncommon genre conventions.

Fight Smarter
Despite being the first in the book, this was the last of all the Alternative Powers to be created. I had Alternatives for all the Default Powers except Knowledge Is Power, so I tried to think of ways in which gaining enemy data could give you an edge. The problem here was that a lot of Genre Powers in BCG already use that flavor, Tactician Powers in particular. The power itself is a generic buff that involves a Systems Test to make it feel more unique. I do like this Power thematically but mechanically I think it is too generic and not interesting enough to be the corresponding Alternative to one of the most useful and memorable Default Powers. In hindsight, a more interesting mechanic (like predicting an NPC's next turn) would have been better in its place. It is my least favorite of these six. It is okay for the high systems combat builds though, so there is that.

I Don’t Think So
This was one of the first three Alternative Powers, back when they were just houseruled abilities. While Not so Fast is stronger, it only works for Squads in which characters want to (or can) protect each other. This is weaker but way more useful for selfish characters who don't care about their allies, such as most Rival NPCs. It is a hit mechanically and a good fit thematically. What more could you ask for?

It’s Over!
This was the fourth or fifth of the bunch to get created. It draws inspiration from the Try Again With Feeling houserule from the BCG core book, except that instead of adding +2 to a result it adds +5 but only if it would finish off an enemy. In being more narrow and stronger it loses 90% of what makes people use Try Again (to reroll low results) and that's a cool take for an Alternative.

Parting Shot
The second of the three houseruled abilities. Back then, you could could combine it with Live Another Day for a tremendous middle finger to your enemy. That was silly. As an Alternative Power that can't be used at the same time as its Default counterpart, it works a lot better. This is my favorite Alternative Power, because there's no more obvious way to signal that you're willing to let your PC die than taking this Power. There is no other Alternative Power that trades this much narrative power for pure combat power, making it the best example of what I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Additionally, it is one of those Powers that are amazing for Rival NPCs - assuming you don't care about letting them die, of course.

The Strong Adapt
This was the last of the original three houseruled abilities. The idea was to make a power that represented anime powerups in a different way from Mid-Scene Upgrade. With Mid-Scene Upgrade, you keep your powerup forever. With The Strong Adapt, you get your powerup once and then forget that it exists for the next dozen episodes. This is basically how every aquatic modular upgrade in Mecha works - you see it once and it helps beat the giant shark or whatever and then it ceases to be outside of plastic models. Other than that, I think this is very good. IIRC this Power originally lasted until end of Operation but that was very silly in terms of power level so it got changed. Much like most of its friends, NPC Rivals love it.

This Is For My Friend!
This was created alongside It's Over! as either the fourth or fifth of this bunch. It is a badass and strong but conditional Power. The problem with this it, from an optimization perspective, is that this Power only works when things have already gone wrong, as opposed to most Powers which you use to make sure things never go wrong in the first place. Still, entire groups shun Synchro Attack on principle, and for them this is a godsend. It is cool, powerful and simple. By the way, this isn't just good for Rival NPCs, it is incredibly silly if you go by the rules as written, as it refreshes when Grunts of the same PL blow up.

And that's Alternative Powers. The Default Powers are my way of giving every PC abilities that I think are necessary for a game like this, but by using Alternative Powers you can greatly change tone and mood. Instead of using Synchro Attacks to win as a unit, you are at your strongest when you're the last pilot standing. Instead of being harder to kill than a cockroach, any time your Mecha is defeated could be your PC's last dying breath. They're simple changes, but no less effective.

And, of course, they give you fun ways to tweak your PC. That's a big draw in a system like BCG.

Next: New General Powers.

Gimmick Out.

3 comments:

  1. I was the one guy in my game which took "I Don't Think So" and man, I loved it but my fellow players were not so keen on it for the longest time.

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    1. To be fair, this is a game where teamwork beats self-sufficiency. It is not something to get worked up about, but I can understand the position.

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    2. True and I was a team player (I was the mobile, jump into a battle kind of guy), but the power also fit with not just my playstyle, but the character.

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