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Title: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on March 18, 2008, 09:13:12 PM
Hi! I've had an idea buzzing about my brain for some time now, but unable to see how to proceed with it. I couldn't get my head above the fiddly level of "what stats and which dice and target number system, and how are skills/traits gonna work, and. . ."

This is me trying to come up for air and get a handle on overall design goals related to the theme of my game and the desired play experience. To wit:

I want to write a game of Epic Mecha Sagas, along the lines of the Gundam series (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gundam), most notably 1995's Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_Suit_Gundam_Wing). (For anyone who doesn't know, "Mecha" refers to the Japanese anime and manga genre of giant fighting robot stories.) Gundam Wing is about a future where wars are fought with giant Mobile Suits and numerous space colonies within the solar system are encroached upon by an Earth-based hegemony. Independent operators send five young pilots in godlike super-mobile suits to Earth to wage a guerrilla war against the Alliance. The series is characterized by vibrant, sweepingly defined protagonist personalities, a sweeping political backdrop, sympathetic and noble adversaries, and themes of the purpose and nature of war, the dichotomy of order vs. self-determination, and the justification of achieving peace through bloodshed.

What I'm proposing is not "Gundam Wing: the RPG" per se, but a game that can create the same kind of story. It's be an epic Space Opera kind of tale, most likely a war story, with a grand scale of action and protagonists who enact decisive and cataclysmic change on their universe.

The themes and tropes that I've singled out as essential are:

  • Grandly, decisively effective protagonists as I've said)--no grunts in the trenches here, these are virtual demigods who lesser warriors can't even approach, much less equal;
  • An epic scale to the conflict in the first place--no less than the nation, the planet, the Solar System, the Galaxy! is at stake;
  • Mecha as extensions of the pilot's will and force of personality--no mere tools these;
  • Fights aren't just fights, or military objectives--the stakes are personally,  thematically charged;
  • and most important, I think, is the concept of striving--pushing to the limit and beyond, overcoming weakness, pouring heart and soul into the battle!

Systemically, it seems to me that I need something like:

  • First and foremost a specialized resolution method for the Duel. Most conflict should be resolved swiftly and simply (say, a single roll), but the Duel is different. It needs a sub-system that's more zoomed-in to the tense back-and-forth, more crunchy and strategic with advantage jockeying and sudden reversals, and especially more decisive. It's how real change is enacted in the Mechaverse.
  • However, there will be significant non-Duelist characters who have a decisive impact as well, within the context of a Duel. They can't win a Duel themselves; they're noncombatants. But they need to be able to exert some kind of "conflict-tipping" (or even conflict-halting) by their purely social and personal interference.
  • I need to tie the Passions of Protagonists/Antagonists into the resolution system, or else make the Conflict Resolution revolve around Passions in a fruitful Void kinda way.
  • Duels need to capture that Striving element, as Duelists push themselves to their physical and spiritual limit to achieve victory. I need rules for gaining victory at a great cost or toll to oneself, and for using a suffered defeat to rebound back for a subsequent win.
  • I also need to work out how to handle (rigidly or loosely) the creation of an overall dramatic arc, the structure and pacing of progress toward a climax. These stories do tend to progress toward a final confrontation, conclusion of the war, whatever. Ideally the thematic issues of the main cast would resolve in synchronization with that.

I've a few ideas for some of these: Non-dueling conflicts could be simple vs. rolls or could even be pure Karma resolution, so that to win against a higher-rated opponent you'd have to Duel for it. A non-Duelist could add their influence to the rating/roll/whatever for one side or the other, or perhaps tweak with both to create a draw. Passions could add to ratings or rolls or be the Stats you roll on in the first place. For striving, the most obvious route seems to have spendable points to increase rolls, but you could also have a system of risking or sacrificing something to increase results. And some kind of "defeat points" that you could spend on future conflicts seems like a natural.

What I'm looking for:

Some way to make sense of all this. I know I want complex resolution for Duels, but what sort? I can think of a few existing examples: Dogs' Raise-and-See, TSoY's Bringing Down the Pain, and Heroquest's Extended Contest. The latter two have promising elements: BDtP, like the name says, lets you struggle tooth-and-nail for victory, but you take more and more punishment the longer it drags on (which Dogs does too, now I think of it). And the HQ method of bidding action points on each roll (with the chance to win more points, lose your points, double your money, etc) could create an exciting dynamic for an over-the-top Mecha duel. A stickier problem is making the Duel more decisive. Setting grander stakes? Making results more permanent? In the abstract the concept sounds good but I'm stuck on implementation. And I want to make the Mechs all cool and individual (personality extensions, remember!) without getting into weapon damages and MPH of flight and all that statty type stuff. I wanna keep everything broadly and dramatically descriptive.

I'm also looking for folks to tell me if I'm off base or looking at things from the wrong end or anything. If there are any carts before any horses, please point them out so I can approach this from a more fruitful angle. And feel free to tell me if it looks like I'm reinventing any wheels: for instance Riddle of Steel with its brutal combat + Spiritual Attributes, or Contenders with its designated scene types + furious Boxing system, both sound like they're covering similar territory, but I've sadly not managed to read or pay either so I can't tell how big the overlap is. If I'm designing something that could really be played with an existing game, by all means let me know.

There y'all go--I hope I've been specific and focussed enough to elicit some good feedback. Thanks in advance!

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: dindenver on March 19, 2008, 05:50:17 AM
Joel,
  I think the trick is to have each char be an "Avatar." in other words, when Char A is passionate about peace in the middle east, then the faction he represents becomes passionate about that too. When the players succeed, whatever faction that believes in them grows and when they are defeated, people abandon hope and leave that faction disillusioned, you know?
  To me, that is the only way to really capture the grand scale of the conflict and still have it kept to a personal level.
  Maybe the same thing with the Mech, the Mech doesn't have its own stats. The stats are just a reflection of the character's virtues or ideals. A righteous char has a mech that is rigid and heavily armored with a weapon that is all or nothing, a passionate char might have a mech whose power waxes and wanes with the moon, etc.
  I don't know, these are just ideas I came up with off the top of my head, if you like them, maybe we can explore them further, good luck man!


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on March 22, 2008, 01:22:25 PM
Wow, David--I think you're on to something! In fact, I'll go one better and suggest that the Duelists should be Avatars of anything--a particular cause or ideal, an abstract virtue, mission, vendetta, ambition, what have you. Any victories that Duelist achieves would be reflected in the ascendancy of that ideal or goal. Victories for an Avatar of Peace would cause a reduction of hostilities, disarmament, etc; victories for Order would cause stability, hegemony, the crushing of rebellion, etc. . .and victories for a more personal goal like Revenge or an unrequited love would result in strides made toward that goal's completion.

Faction support could of course be a possible goal, but it needs to be broader than that-in Gundam Wing for example there aren't really a multiplicity of factions--though they clash on occasion, the Gundam pilots are more or less on the same side, with the same goal and common enemy. Only Quatre has a faction to lead, and they pretty much just play supporting role in the story--not much of a source of contention or anything. But all the Duelists (including Zechs as the Noble Adversary) definitely represent diverse ideals and goals, many of which change as the story progresses. (Hmm, perhaps this is the crux of the Non-Duellists' influence on the story: effecting change of heart in a Duellist, pushing them toward a different Ideal. Like: "Heero Yuy is all about The Mission--until he meets Releena, the strange and passionate girl who changes his life. . .")

This all reminds me of elements in a few different games. First of all Capes, the Thesis of which ("Power is fun. . .but do you deserve it?") plays out in conflicts, where heroes and villains strive to prove their ideals and way of life. If you win a conflict, your way of life is symbolically and experientially vindicated, but if you lose your doubts are redoubled (literally, in terms of the system's Currency) and you've got to stake everything on more and more desperate conflicts for your Ideals to win through. And second, The Shadow of Yesterday's Keys seem like a natural fit for the different ideals and goals I'm talking about. Hell, most of the Keys you'd want are already in there (Esp. the Mission, the Coward, or Revenge). And finally, I don't know much about it, but Josh BishopRoby's Full Light, Full Steam has Thematic Batteries that "charge up" from a character's failures related to the Theme in question, until they're full and can be discharged to make a comeback and achieve final victory. Seems like a good fit since we are talking about a genre where the protagonists generally are expected to finally win the day after suffering severe setbacks. Look at Gundam Wing; the fore all their godlike invincibility the Gundam pilots fail pretty miserably at their true goals for much of the series.

So, how to implement this Avatar-ship? I'm thinking something like a pool that points gained from Duelling victories would dump into, achieving the goal when filled, with incremental change all the way. Example: Zechs Marquise exploits his position in OZ to execute his vendetta against the conquerors of the Sanc Kingdom. Having achieved that (rather hollow) victory, he throws himself into his obsession of an honorable duel with Heero. Or you could abandon a goal (under possible influence/manipulation from a non-duelist? Not sure how that'd work) and take up a new one. Example: Heero single-mindedly pursues his dedication to his Mission and following orders, until in the face of the utter failure of that methodology he champions the cause of Releena and the Sanc Kingdom, becoming her protector.

I dunno, I'm seeing a lot of possibilities for playing this kind of game with any of the systems I just mentioned. Capes is a total natural; you've got Powered and Unpowered characters which map to Mech and Non-Mech characters perfectly; you've got the Debt economy and the very Striving-oriented conflict system. or you could play TSoY where you can only Bring Down the Pain in a Mecha fight, or something. And I haven't read FLFS, but the failure-to-triumph cycle of the Thematic Batteries seems to fit well enough.

So I'm back to: why even design a new game? Do I have anything unique to offer the play experience that can't be accomplished with existing rulesets?

Of course the answer could very well turn out to be "no." In which case I'll come away with some cool insight on how to run/play a Capes Mecha or Shadow of Gundam campaign. But if the answer is "yes". . .hmm, I suspect it lies somewhere in the question of how to make Mecha battle fundamentally different from other means of solving problems.

peace,
-Joel



Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: opsneakie on March 22, 2008, 03:55:02 PM
Well, they're all flying super powered robotic death machines, right? These must be expensive. And assuming that they have the money to build these, people would build the biggest, baddest mechs possible, righty? I'm not sure anyone's mech has to be any stronger than anyone elses, it's all about how you use it. Maybe you could rate the character's connection with their machine instead, who familiar and intuitive it is. Someone who's just learning to control this huge machine won't have the ability to fight against someone for whom the machine is like an extension of their body.

Maybe the system should be based on the character's ability to bond with their machine?

just an idea.

opsneakie.


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Mike Sugarbaker on March 23, 2008, 08:11:42 PM
Hey Joel - now I'm trying to remember the stuff you mentioned about this at the last Go Play SE.

For some reason, I want to direct you to a dice game I barely remember, namely Button Men - I think it had some good sauce for the back-and-forth of Dogs but with a very different feel. It might be worth stealing from.


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: dindenver on March 24, 2008, 11:42:01 AM
Joel,
  Well, I dunno about having all mechs being "balls out" That has always been a theme in gundam (especially Wing), the idea that some foes including foes with Mechs are just attrition units that, even if they concentrated their fire, it would have no effect. Think of a Sherman against a Panzer, where the shells would literally bounce off of the Panzer's armor.
  As to using existing systems, have you heard/seen Bliss Stage. This is an Indie RPG where the Mechs are powered by emotions. I don't know how good/bad it is, but the people I know who have played it, loved it.
  If you want a more crunchy game Mekton (and to a lesser extent Mekton Z) are good mech combat simulators with the least amount of crunch for that genre.
  As to TSoY, I dunno if it does EPIC well, and Wing is all about the Epic.
  Of course there is BESM, that is a game where the anime stylen is there and the mech rules are light, might have what you want, if you pair out the perks and bonuses that are not genre appropriate...
  Good luck man!


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on March 24, 2008, 03:03:08 PM
Hi, Dave! Thanks for gettin' back to me.

Well, I dunno about having all mechs being "balls out" That has always been a theme in gundam (especially Wing), the idea that some foes including foes with Mechs are just attrition units that, even if they concentrated their fire, it would have no effect. Think of a Sherman against a Panzer, where the shells would literally bounce off of the Panzer's armor.
Oh, for sure, man. This is a core concept to my plans. That's why I've been talking about Duelists vs. Non-duelists, not just Pilot or non-pilot. In GW there are certainly plenty of "Mook" Mobile Suit troops, who get mowed down like grass, but if a "Special" Pilot like Zechs hops into even an ordinary Leo, he's a force to be reckoned with. One thing that I've been noting in my rewatching of Gundam Wing (about 1/3 through so far) is that the GndamPilots are given pause by two things: another "named " Pilot (Duelist), or being overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers and firepower. So a ton of Mooks could gang up on the heroes, but it takes a lot.

Hmm, perhaps a Mobile Suit is only as good as its pilot at the core. . .but suits of differing power would grant a different multiplier to base ability?

Regarding existing systems:

  • Bliss Stage: I have heard of it, haven't gotten to play it yet. My understanding was that it's got more of an Evangelion-inspired, fucked-up emotional psychodrama slant to it. But I'm definitely wanting to learn more.
  • Mekton: Honestly, I'm not interested in a "Mech Combat Simulator" at all. There are plenty of games that could give me that. I'm looking for a more narrative-driven approach without a lot of detail on the "hardware specs" or "roll attack and damage" side of things.
  • TSoY: I tend to think TSoY could handle "Epic" just fine. The TSoY system is an engine for characters pursuing passions, and includes a progression of characters from "Competent" to "Grand Master" in their chosen specialties, followed by "Transcendence" (the dramatic climax of a character's story arc) upon the character's achievement of their ultimate, epic feat. "Epic" is definitely a core concept of my design, hence my attention to TSoY.
  • Big Eyes Small Mouth: Actually, I've been playing BESM fr years. As I said regarding Mekton, my design goals lie in an entirely different area of focus.

Like I've been saying I want the mechanics directly driven by character passions, and I want Mecha Dueling to operate functionally differently than other ways of getting things done. Still have a lot of unknowns in my mind about those, but I'll keep pondering and checking out related designs.

Peace,
-joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on March 24, 2008, 03:07:44 PM
Hey Joel - now I'm trying to remember the stuff you mentioned about this at the last Go Play SE.

For some reason, I want to direct you to a dice game I barely remember, namely Button Men - I think it had some good sauce for the back-and-forth of Dogs but with a very different feel. It might be worth stealing from.
Hmm, Mike, I'm not entirely sure what I said about it then myself--not much as I recall. I know I mentioned that I wanted it to be the RPG you could play Gundam Wing in, but that's about it.

Anyhoo, I just might check out Button Menthe Paizo store is having a clearance and I can pick up some for cheap. The Cheapass/James Earnest crop of games have a lot of innovative mechanics, and no reason some couldn't be applicable to RPGs. Thanks!

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on March 24, 2008, 03:13:02 PM
Hi, Opsneakie!

Well, they're all flying super powered robotic death machines, right? These must be expensive. And assuming that they have the money to build these, people would build the biggest, baddest mechs possible, righty? I'm not sure anyone's mech has to be any stronger than anyone elses, it's all about how you use it. Maybe you could rate the character's connection with their machine instead, who familiar and intuitive it is. Someone who's just learning to control this huge machine won't have the ability to fight against someone for whom the machine is like an extension of their body.

Maybe the system should be based on the character's ability to bond with their machine?
Hmm, I already covered some of this in my reply to Dave, but I do think there's avery real difference in power between Mechs-it's just secondary to the ability of the Pilot. I'm liking the idea of ability magnification more and more.

But your idea of bonding/synchronization with a Mech has a lot going for it too. I'd like to incorporate that somehow. There are definitely strong themes in GW about struggling to harness/control a particularly powerful suit (which in my mind is really just more of the metaphor of mastering yourself--your passions and potential--that's at the base of much of the mecha genre. But I digress).

Thanks for the thoughts!

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: dindenver on March 24, 2008, 03:35:42 PM
Ha!
  Yeah that is pretty much how Bliss Stage was resented to me as well. But, the "core" of it is almost identical too where you are going. The mech and pilot represent a "concept" (in this case love, but in your case some sort of inspiration) and they are powered/feed on/are fed by a 3rd party to the battle (In Bliss their lover, in yours their faction),
  So, maybe it is fodder for stealing, or it might just take a mod to play your game, I dunno...
  Yeah, I don't get the feeling that large number can beat a wing Gundam. Those kinds of defeats (numbers vs quality) seem to come from superior strategy on the part of some general or a fundamental failure to live up to their ideals on the part of the pilot...
  Happy hunting man!


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Ben Lehman on March 24, 2008, 03:44:20 PM
Hey, Joel: Dave is kinda right about Bliss Stage. It's more of the Gunbuster RPG than it is the Evangelion RPG. For some reason, the "Evangelion RPG" meme has spread around a lot, I think it's because people aren't familiar with the other entries in the genre.

Is there a way that I can facilitate you coming into contact with Bliss Stage? I'd love to be able to talk with you about your game, but to some degree I can't do that without talking about mine (since they're so close in contact.)

yrs--
--Ben


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on March 24, 2008, 04:14:18 PM
Go for the Top!! :)

Hi, Ben. The Gunbuster influence makes sense now you mention it. Hmm. My first thought when I heard about Bliss Stage was "Damn! someone designed my game already!" Then I heard the Evangelion buzz and my second thought was "Hrm, it's more of an Eva thing, maybe there's room for my game after all." And here we are.

I'd love lovitty love to play Bliss Stage. Almost got my shot at the last Go Play PDX gathering but Jake had to cancel. He's promised to run it at a monthly gathering soon, so I might get the chance then. Or if the scheduling works out (it'd have to be Sunday afternoon) maybe I'll get to play it directly with you at Gamestorm this weekend! Which would rock.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Ben Lehman on March 24, 2008, 04:17:53 PM
Go for the Top!! :)

Hi, Ben. The Gunbuster influence makes sense now you mention it. Hmm. My first thought when I heard about Bliss Stage was "Damn! someone designed my game already!" Then I heard the Evangelion buzz and my second thought was "Hrm, it's more of an Eva thing, maybe there's room for my game after all." And here we are.

I'd love lovitty love to play Bliss Stage. Almost got my shot at the last Go Play PDX gathering but Jake had to cancel. He's promised to run it at a monthly gathering soon, so I might get the chance then. Or if the scheduling works out (it'd have to be Sunday afternoon) maybe I'll get to play it directly with you at Gamestorm this weekend! Which would rock.

Peace,
-Joel

Let's talk at Gamestorm. At the very least I can give you the 15 minute demo.


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on March 24, 2008, 04:23:05 PM
Yeah, I don't get the feeling that large number can beat a wing Gundam. Those kinds of defeats (numbers vs quality) seem to come from superior strategy on the part of some general or a fundamental failure to live up to their ideals on the part of the pilot...
I think you're on to something there. It's definitely failure of ideals, loss of faith, faltering in purpose, etc. that puts the Gundams in the frying pan. And all the overwhelming hordes of Leos and Aries pelting them with gunfire never do more than pin them down and stagger them. But the pressure on the Gundams isn't just cosmetic; it even forced Quatre to detonate Sandrock so everyone could escape off-planet. . .

I wonder if there's some way to represent that strength of faith and idealism (and more importantly, it's failure) in a way that's not heavyhanded.

Hrm. Now I'm back to Capes again. Goddammit.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on March 24, 2008, 04:23:37 PM
Let's talk at Gamestorm. At the very least I can give you the 15 minute demo.

Sweet.


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: dindenver on March 24, 2008, 04:43:32 PM
Hi!
  I hate to say this, but have you thought about ditv? I think unlike some other suggestions, it might fit. The dice and narration is closely tied. The characters are willing to die for their cause and relationships are a good mechanic for their followers/leaders/factions...
  And for the gunfam, maybe insted of wing gundam 2d10, i could be verniers 1d8, gundam cannon 1d6, flash armor 1d4, Gundam remotes 2d8, etc. And these can be alongside Daring 1d8, reckless 1d4, etc.
  I dunno, just spitballing.
  Thanks Ben, I did not know if Eva was on target or no. I did preface it that I never played it. The one person I know who played it LOVED! So, there's that...
  Good luck Joel!


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on March 24, 2008, 04:47:26 PM
Weird, I was just starting to think about Dogs as you were typing that.

Man, with all the great Indie designs around it's starting to feel like there's no new games ideas left!

Could be room in the gaming world for a horrible frankenstein cobbled together from a bunch of disparate games, though. . .


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on March 24, 2008, 06:50:33 PM
Hmm. . .just had a flash of an idea, which could at least get me pointed in the right direction for how to handle Dueling. Instead of attack, damage, hitpoints, etc I could use a Struggle track, which would function like a sort of reverse tug-of-war: When one Duelist scores a succes, it pushes the Duel's position on the Struggle track closer to the far edge and victory; when the opposing Duelist succeeds, he pushes the track in the opposite direction, toward his victory. An attempt to gain advantage would probably be fraught with risk; a sort of gamble, so that the greater you push to win, the greater the chance of losing ground dramatically when you fail. That could account for all kinds of back-and-forth, sudden reversals, and so forth, and provide a robust scaffolding on which to hang all the stuff about passions and ideals and world-changing.

peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Creatures of Destiny on March 25, 2008, 01:47:20 AM
Joel, that idea's great!

Another thing is having the mech reflect the pilot in a direct way - this could be physical - the big tough guy has a big tough mech and the agile spry guy has an agile spry mech - or personal - the girl with fury has a plasma cannon that burns like her own rage, the guy with a sense of honour has a force sword that cuts like a knife (you know the idea of samurai swords and honour and all). The longer pilots keep a mech, the more it reflects them. They could have a Reaction time based on a) the characater's reactions and b) the attunement with the Mech.

Maybe the Struggle track could be on several levels:

Blast (as in shooting):
Maneover (as in dodging, getting behind):
Close (as in grappling):
Passion (Drawing on an emotional reserve or affecting the other duelist in some way - provoking or pleading or whatever):
Mission (Moving towards some goal other than attacking the opponent - say sttitng up a communication link if that's the mission while under fire, or actively trying to prevent the opponent from achieving mission by say attacking the communication link or attempting to block the signal):
Honour (Playing on a sense of honour either by forcing a challenge, or for the dishonourable by playing some sneaky tactic):

or whatever. Characters can push on any track they want, perhaps having different amounts of push available in each track, and the opponent can counter push. Both players decide in secret and players win by pushing where the opponent is weak. Every time a player succesfully pushes the opponent they gain that many resources for the next attack.

 If any of the tracks are reduced to zero then the player loses. If mission goes to zero, then the mission has failed - if blast or close are at zero then the mech is FUBAR, if maneovuer is at zero then the mech is stuck in a mountainside or whatever, if  Passion is at zero then the pilot is psychologically defeated/crushed and if honour is defated then that could either be that the pilot's honour led to a foolish tactical decision or that the pilot's lack of honour led to cowardly flight (depending on the character).
Just some ideas of the top of my head.
Daniel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on March 26, 2008, 11:53:25 AM
Maybe the Struggle track could be on several levels:

[SNIP]

or whatever. Characters can push on any track they want, perhaps having different amounts of push available in each track, and the opponent can counter push. Both players decide in secret and players win by pushing where the opponent is weak. Every time a player succesfully pushes the opponent they gain that many resources for the next attack.

Thanks, Daniel! You've got some intriguing ideas there. I think I'd want to keep "smash-up-mech" down to one track, with Blast, Maneuver and Fight being simply two different ways to push along it. But separating out Battle and Mission at the very least seems like a good way to go, giving a nice matrix of Duel outcomes: Victorious-and-whole, Defeated-and-broken, Victorious-but-broken, and Defeated-but-whole. I like that.

Passion or Honour I think I'd like to keep out of the mechanical arena and more within the realm of narrative choice (well, I do want a Duelist's passions to aid him in combat, but that's a matter of Passion points or whatever fueling progress along the other tracks). Still, the stuff you describe, like swaying an opponent's emotions or a duelist experiencing dishonor/disgrace, are things I'd like to see facilitated. Maybe there's a way to encourage those outcomes in a more fruitful void kind of way.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Creatures of Destiny on March 26, 2008, 03:04:49 PM
Hi Joel,

Yeah I think I went for two many tracks. I think three would be a good number - has a good vibe, goes with the rock, paper, scissors seems intuitively right.
Maybe:
Battle
Mission

so 3? Integrity, or simply - Human Factor - non duelists could contribute to this (and the mission pool).
?

Basically this third would cover anything where you defeat the pilot rather than the mech. So then you have possibilities like - Defeated and spiritually crushed

Passion points could be fun. Maybe they narrate how they come in - Mayumi fights for the honour of her family and maybe teh mech is a family relic (newly outfitted of course, but with a force-blade degned by her grandfather and honed by each generation or whatever). You could even play an opponents passion against them - Jiri places his opponents wife in jeopardy - forcing him to leave the mission to save her (or whatever gets narratesd).

Maybe players could get points from different sources that can be spent on some taracks but not all.
E.G. Red - Weapon systems, Mech Systems, Software, Interface - can be used for battle or Mission,
 Green - Pride, Vengeance, Love, Rage, Family can be used for Battle and Integrity,
Blue  Duty, Loyalty, Spirit can be spent on Mission and Integrity etc...
 Basically it's not just important how many points you've got, but which kind. An imbalnce (having lots of Red points and few others, means that you have one badass Mobile Suit but there's a gaping whole in your defence - you as a pilot, as a human being are the "weak link" - maybe cowardly or dishonourable or whatever). Lots of Green points and you can kick ass but may let the mission slide. Lots of Blue only and your a great pilot and can focus on missions but maybe don't have the best mech or that "killer instinct". So players will want to be balanced. But maybe the reward system makes it easier to get more of what you have lots of - so if you have lots of Greens from Pirde, it's easier to win Greens and it's hard to build up your weaknesses. But players working together can cover all three well (maybe pooling on the tracks).

Not played Truthful Void so I'm not sure what you mean exactly.

Daniel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on March 26, 2008, 04:33:16 PM
"Fruitful Void" is a concept, coined by Vincent Baker as I recall--basically, it's the principle of designing around a central concept, but leaving it alone mechanically, so that the mechanics point toward it and facilitate addressing it, but not in such a way that they "answer the question" for you. Hence, in Dogs in the Vineyard, the game's all about moral judgments, but there's no "moral judgment" score, or "do I shoot him or not?" roll, 'cuz that would take the  question of whether or not to shoot him out of the hands of the players as surely as a GM citing a Paladin's code of conduct would.

So in my case, I think behaving honorably and so forth is definitely Fruitful Void territory--I don't want a rule telling a player "Your Pilot must now act in a cowardly or treacherous manner." I do think there's fertile ground to explore in setting up a situation where the player has a hard choice to make: "Does Yoshi act honorably even if it means losing the battle or letting her nemesis escape?" however that choice is facilitated.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Creatures of Destiny on March 27, 2008, 12:30:53 AM
Ah I get you.

So what if the third factor was simply "Cool" (or maybe something else? Being reduced to zero Cool means some kind of psychological defeat (but the player decides what this actually means - an NPC might simply flee, while the PC could flee, go berserk, make a stupid mistake or whatever). Another posssibility, and further from the fruitful void of this game is "Bond" - as in the bond between the pilot and the Mech. At zero bond the pilot has no control over the mech - whether because the physical neural connectors are fried, or whether because the pilot has been taken out of the pychological state necessary to bond with a 30ft high metal death machine.

Coming back to the Red, Green and Blue power points - the idea was that these are abstract, but players/te GM choose how to narrate them - so I decide that I have Red power points because I'm a brash, daring kind of guy, another because he's got a big ass gun, another because she's a deadeye shot and cool as ice. The only thing where this could affect duels is in the known/unknown factor. If your mech has a big gun, then you have points on battle and everybody knows it (if you have have a big concealed gun then maybe they don't, but once used they know). Other stuff might be outside this known factor. Basically duelists start a duel with all the known points placed in the appropriate collums and a certain number of points in hand to represent things the opponent doesn't know about. players secretly assign these then compare - the higher pushes the opponnent along the Struggle track (it's possible that both could win and lose on different tracks - Yoshi's mech takes massive damage (losing on the battle track as he flies the civilians to safety (winning on the Mission track).

Part of strategy could be finding out about your opponent - Yotsumi San has a concealed plasma cannon but he's a coward- if I know that, then I can maybe guess that Yotsumi's going to have points a plenty on battle and few on Bond - so that gives me an edge in the duel. You know losts of gundam stories I seem to remember had a big build up to the duel - this build up in play, could all gain knowledge that makes the actual duel resolution less random (because you know more stuff), hopefully you've kept your secrets concealed, and there'll still be a few surprises in the fog of war.

Non-duelists can all provide points to be used on the various tracks (a mechanic could provide Red points that can boost a pilot on the mission or battle track (making guns/modifications/hotwiring power sources whatever), while a mentor might provide Blue points or whatever.

Is that more what you want? You know saying - your pilot has lost control of the mech and the player going either - "Yeah, he's just so damn pissed at Yoshi's death that he can't hold the bond- he's just out of control" or "The neural board is toast - shit how am I gonna deal with this". Obviously the flavour players give to it will affect the solution (the second a mechanical solution, the first some kind of personal solution) but mechanically they're the same  -the character needs Green or Blue points that enable them to boost/repair the mech/pilot bond.


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: dindenver on March 27, 2008, 09:05:43 AM
Hi!
  I think we can take a page from Point of Collapse and make the bars two sided and user customizable.
  For instance, one player might have:
MegaCannon <-> Armor
Honor <-> Freedom
Bravery <-> Survival
  While another player might have
Flechette array <-> Verniers
Love <-> Independence
Compassion <-> Ambition

  Define each bar as a Mech Bar, Personality Bar and a Passion Bar.
  Then, when players go to do something, they pick one end of one bar as their as their drive for this scene. They get a bonus (or penalty depending on where they are on the bar) to all actions in that scene. And when the scene is over, it goes one notch towards the drive they chose. Maybe something like that.


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 12, 2008, 01:01:05 PM
OK, so this is the rough scaffolding that I'm working with t the moment:

Mecha Battle will utilize two or more Struggle Tracks: A Battle Track and any number of Goal Tracks.

They'll look something like this:

-10 -9 -8 -7 -6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
*----------------------------------O-------------------------------*

The number scale is somewhat arbitrary, I can adjust it as I develop the idea. The basic concept is: to accomplish something, you push the marker along the track. Your opponent pushes back, creating a furious CLASH! in which the winner pushes the loser back. The track would probably be placed between the players, so that one end pointed at each physical person.

When you push the bead to the opposite end of the track, something happens! For the Battle Track, you damage the opposing Mech, both bringing it closer to defeat and possibly incapacitating specific weapons/systems. For lowly grunt machines, they can't take any punishment-one "hit" and they're toast (though we could also treat large numbers of grunts as a single mass unit, as well). For the heroic machines, they could take two, three, or whatever hits before going down. And even if they're taken out, that can mean disabling or capturing, it wouldn't have to be total destruction.

For Goal tracks, pushing to the end means you make progress toward your goal--for a concrete mission, there could be a series of objectives, one completed each time you push through, or for more abstract goals. . .well, I dunno just yet. But there'll be some significant progress, progress that you couldn't make without climbing in the suit. And if your opponent pushes you back all the way, your goal is damaged somehow. An objective could be prevented or stonewalled; like if you're trying to penetrate a base, a push back means you're pinned down by defensive fire, and you have to overcome that before you can even attempt the penetration goal. And if your goal is "protect so-and-so" for instance, a defeat there would be disastrous: your charge is killed, wounded or captured.

So here's the rough system I've worked out for Clashing:

Each player has a certain number of dice to assign to any of the tracks on the table. The dice can be different sizes based on Pilot ability or Mech size or whatever. Say a heroic pilot is battling an inferior but talented foe: D10 vs. D8. So they've each got five dice to assign in this case (never mind the source, we'll work that out later, like Traits and whatnot). There's one Goal on the table (let's say it's a Mission with three stages, Penetrate base, Rescue Prisoner, Destroy Base). Both players assign between Battle and Goal: Hero Pilot assigns Battle 3, Goal 2, and Enemy Pilot assigns Battle 1, Goal 3, leaving 1 unassigned. They roll and compare highest dice. Hero got 10 in Battle, 3 in Goal; Enemy got 5 In Battle, 5 in Goal. Now: the victor pushes the loser back a number of spaces equal to the difference in the roll--times the number of dice the loser rolled. So Hero pushes Enemy back 5X1 spaces in Battle (narrating a furious assault against Enemy's cautious and stalwart resistance), and Enemy pushes Hero back 2X2 spaces in Goal (narrating how his staunch defense keeps Hero at bay, blocking him from the main gate). the tracks now look like this:

Battle:
-10 -9 -8 -7 -6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
*-------------------------------------------------O----------------*

Goal:
-10 -9 -8 -7 -6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10
*---------------------O--------------------------------------------*

the number of dice assigned represent effort and risk: the more recklessly, furiously you push to win, the better your chances-but the greater your defeat when you lose. If they keep this assignment up, Hero will continue to push Enemy bit by bit along the track (multiplier X1), but if he ever does roll shitty, he'll suffer a stunning reversal (X3!). With lots of dice and wide margins of victory, the results can be quite dramatic.

So far the only reason I have for not assigning all your dice (as Enemy chose in the example) is that risk factor. Put more of yourself out there and you risk losing big. In practice, though, I wonder if anyone would actually chose this, especially since they're not running probabilities in their head moment by moment (and I don't want them to! I want this to be fast and furious with snap decisions). I'm thinking if dice held in reserve were good for something, like storing up power points or advancing side goals, or whatever, there'd be more appeal and strategic nuance to assignment.

So what do y'all think? I've also got some ideas for overall pacing to the story, including the advancement of the more abstract or long-term goals I mentioned, as well as what goes on in the game outside the Mecha, but that's probably best reserved for future posts.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: dindenver on April 12, 2008, 02:27:33 PM
Hi!
  I am a b ig fan of Win-Win Mechanics, such as ...In Spaaace! To implement something like that here, why not have it so that the pool of dice you have are all you have for the duration of the conflict. That motivates you to save dice for the next round. And follow it up with the fact that the winner loses the dice rolled, and the loser keeps them.

So,Think of it Hero vs Villain
Hero: 10 dice, Battle 0, Goal 0
Villain: 8 dice Battle 0, Goal 0

Round one
Hero throws down 3 dice for battle and 2 for Goal
Villain throws 3 for battle and 1 for goal

Hero: Wins the goal (8 vs 6) and loses the Battle (6 vs 5)

Round two
Hero: 7 dice Battle -3, Goal 4
Villain: 5 dice Battle 3, Goal -2

Hero throws down 4 dice on battle and 1 dice on Goal
Villain throws down 4 dice on battle and 1 dice on goal

Hero wins battle (10 vs 8) and loses goal (6 vs 4)

Round three
Hero: 3 dice Battle 5, Goal 2
Villain: 4 dice Battle -5, Goal 0

Hero throws 1 die on battle and 2 dice on Goal
Villain throws down 3 dice on battle and 1 on goal

Hero loses the battle (9 vs 7) and wins his goal (10 vs 6) and now has a 10 Goal!

And with this last round, his goal is complete and he leaves the battle.
  Does that make sense? Or, more important, does it seem cool to you?
  Either way, its food for thought, good luck man!


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 14, 2008, 09:16:40 PM
Hey, Dave!

  I am a b ig fan of Win-Win Mechanics, such as ...In Spaaace! To implement something like that here, why not have it so that the pool of dice you have are all you have for the duration of the conflict. That motivates you to save dice for the next round. And follow it up with the fact that the winner loses the dice rolled, and the loser keeps them.

Hmm, interesting. That last twist there is rather Pool-like, which is cool. I like the idea of a tradeoff between winning and losing-call it the "Consolation Prize" school of game design.

I was shying away from a fixed pool that had to last the battle, honestly, because I'm already drawing plenty from Panty Explosion/Classroom Deathmatch, and I wanted to explore a different direction--a system that was entirely risk management, without the resource management. But there's no point in being different for difference' sake (hell, when I met with PE/CD's Jake Richmond to discuss my design he practically begged me to steal his game ideas!). If something's workable I'll go with it.

I'm thinking maybe the pools do refresh every turn, but they start at totals that are a bit spare to divide between all the stuff you want. So if you hold back any dice, those dice go into a Charge pool that you can spend later, essentially increasing your pool size for later volleys in the conflict. Then again, if you gain Charge points one for one, there's no net gain--you're trading probability of success early on for greater probability later on. So while you're building up to win the fight, you're losing ground. That's no good.

Unless Charge points were spent differently. . .like you could roll them after you see the other die results. Or you roll them at the same time but assign them after you see the results, like the White Dice in Mechaton. Either one of those ideas appeals to me. It plays into the Heroic Mecha Pilots are Special! theme nicely, and makes those Charge dice something to fear.

One thing I want to explore is giving Duelists a reason to break off a fight before the bitter end-in essence, to Give. The consumable pool that dwindles throughout the fight would seem to provide that, but I don't know. . .in these stories pilots seldom retreat just 'cause they're losing--there's usually some other concern more important than the fight that forces them to disengage, or some interference that forces the abortion of the Duel. You hinted at something like this when you mentioned Hero Pilot disengaging once accomplishing his mission, but I'm looking for something even stronger than that. Hero could still press the fight and defeat Villain in addition to completing the Mission; I'm looking for something that'll sometimes force Hero to decide if waging the battle is more important than something else he cares about. I'm not sure how to address that, but maybe when I start examining the larger narrative structure (next post!) I can hash that out a bit.

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: dindenver on April 15, 2008, 06:07:09 AM
Joel,
  I think you might be overthinking it. Instead of a funky mechanic to encourage players to not go for the throat, try and figure out what happens in the follwing circumstances:
Hero wins both
Hero wins Battle, but Goal is inconclusive
Hero wins Battle, but loses Goal
Hero wins Goal, but Battle is inconclusive
Hero wins Goal, but loses Battle
Hero loses both
  There is room in here for most of the Gundam drama. Meaning the "I'll destory you, but wait, you are my one, true love's long, lost brother and I couldn't bear to make her sad" change of heart type action (could be winning the goal, but not the battle maybe?).
  I'm not sure, or you might just want to have all the stats drama related (Like a Love stat or whatever) and have different mech stats be modifiers to that. For instance, a Mech's heavy armor may give a bonus to willpower. I dunno, I guess it depends where you want to emphasize the action.


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 15, 2008, 03:49:05 PM
  I think you might be overthinking it. Instead of a funky mechanic to encourage players to not go for the throat, try and figure out what happens in the follwing circumstances:
Hero wins both
Hero wins Battle, but Goal is inconclusive
Hero wins Battle, but loses Goal
Hero wins Goal, but Battle is inconclusive
Hero wins Goal, but loses Battle
Hero loses both

Well, that is what I'm trying to figure out. Or rather, I'm trying to figure out what I can do to make that matrix of outcomes occur in the game. I think once those outcomes occur in play, it'll be fairly obvious to the group in question what they mean in terms of the narrative.

So I'm tinkering with an engine that'll spit out that range of results. The "Wins" or "loses" results are pretty straightforward: give up, or get beaten back to the end of your track (possibly, get beaten back to the end of your track a certain number of times). Where I'm still hung up is 1) what, besides imminent defeat, would make players give up? and 2) What would cause a result to be "inconclusive?"

I suppose any result where one or both Pilots break off the Duel would be "inconclusive," no matter how lopsided their status. After all, either could have possibly won, right? Id it certainly won't satisfy the Mecha Pilot obsessed with beating his rival to have the guy turn tail for whatever reason. So the contest is inconclusive and the obsessive pilot must continue to pursue closure. I like this.

But it brings me back to what makes a Pilot's player choose to back off? I'd like to leave this decision as open as possible, not deterministic--after all, in DitV a Dog can Give any time for any reason, even if they're winning the fight, or they can stick it out to the bitter end, no matter how grave the consequences. It's awareness of those consequences that makes the game sing and allows for informed moral choice. That's what I'm looking for here.

To some degree I've got that in the fact that you've only got so many dice to assign between different goals. it's kind of like Capes--everyone's got a certain amount of resources to compete in any number of arenas; victory is a combination of good fortune with the art of creating (and battling in) the right arenas to draw opponents' attention away from the arena you really want to win in. it may be that that's enough, here. It certainly needs some playtesting once I've got a sufficient rough draft of the mechanics. I'm just wondering if I shouldn't try to work out a direct way to challenge a goal such that a player might withdraw rather than face a consequence-like, "If you continue this battle with Zechs, Releena's in the way and she'll be killed." Maybe by linking goals? Like, success in one harms the other?

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: Joel P. Shempert on April 15, 2008, 04:11:36 PM
Also:

A few nuts and bolts I wanted to add and clarify; I'm thinking that any goals that a Pilot doesn't assign dice get something crappy like a single D4, or if the Pilot really doesn't care they can waive that and just take a zero (the minimum multiplier would still be one). Of course, this has all so far been considered from a perspective of dualistic conflict--there are two "sides," and each combatant picks a side of each goal. In reality I'd like to have goals free-floating, so that any and all players in a contest can throw in on whatever side they choose. The GM will likely have some amount of "default resistance" dice to assign even when there's no NPC duelist involved, so that goals the players are united on don't go entirely uncontested.

Another thing I'm pondering is a basic set of special abilities, representing special weapons, mech systems, and the like. Instead of a laundry list of equipment, I'd like to handle it with a basic, generic range of abilities that tweak conflict rolls in different ways, which can then represent any sort of specific weapon or system you want. Like: "Defense--one die the Pilot rolls for defense does not count toward the Defeat Multiplier; when using this ability, you must leave a die unassigned, which does not go to your Charge pool." I'm thinking every ability has a tradeoff like that; nothing's just purely good. So far I haven't thought of a lot of abilities; perhaps some abilities are good for certain kinds of goals? That would give some range of possibility, but how to categorize goals. . .?

And lastly, Ben Lehman, if you're still following: I've now read Bliss Stage (and fallen in love with it, as recorded elsewhere). In light of that, do you have anything about my design you'd like to discuss?

Peace,
-Joel


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: dindenver on April 15, 2008, 04:25:13 PM
Joel,
  I think that when one track is maxed, the conflict is over. So that is what will bring a inclusive result. The states I listed assumed that at least one track was maxed out. So, win/lose would be bars maxed out, while inconclusive would be bars in every other state.
  So, I imagine that most conflicts will end with only one bar maxed out of the four bars involved (hero's battle and goal as well as villains). That being the case, most narration will follow that paradigm, where one thing is done and another is left undone. You defeated him in battle, but the enemy took your girlfriend away while you were fighting and you couldn't rescue them. See what I mean?


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: dindenver on April 15, 2008, 04:42:14 PM
Joel,
  Also, I think that if the player doesn't have a clear goal, than there is no conflict, right? Isn't that the theme of gundam, why do we fight? And that the guy that is blinded by their lust for battle, they will never actually achieve their goals, isn't it?
  Just a thought.


Title: Re: Epic Fighty Robots game in the embryonic stage
Post by: wyrdlyng on April 29, 2008, 03:05:17 AM
Coming in late but throwing in my 2 cents, I really like some of the ideas you're whipping about (being a huge Gundam fan). I think a Duel track is a great idea. I do think though that Passions should play a very large role in the duel. All of the Gundam series have shown that in the end, it's not the machine it's the pilot's drive, and what they're willing to sacrifice, that determines the outcomes of these duels.

Gundam Wing has this all over the place but it's also clear in the other Gundam shows. [SPOILERS]

In Gundam SEED, Kira and Athrun fight like berzerkers in the Pacific with Athrun finally grappling Kira's machine and setting his own to self-destruct in order to make sure that Kira dies.

You could even relate Mu's final defense of the Archangel, also in SEED, as a duel between himself and the Dominion's Lohengrin blast. He succeeded in protecting the Archangel but at the cost of his life.

In Zeta Gundam, Kamille manages to kill Paptimus at the end but at the cost of letting Paptimus shred his mind, leaving him a vegetable.

In Char's Counter Attack, Amuro and Char's final battle came down to who was willing to sacrifice themselves in order to see their goal achieved.

Even the recent Gundam 00 has Patrick in a Flag defeat Setsuna's Gundam because his desire for revenge is enough to drive him to destroy himself in the process.

In the big duels that matter the most it comes down to who's passion is greater rather than machine specs or skill. And winning the big duel usually results in a massive sacrifice being required.