Fine-tuning ZeroSpace combat

While adding some notes and ponderings to the Starships chapter of ZeroSpace, I thought of something. At the moment, the way weapons work is that the character’s attack value (AV) is equal to the attack rating (AR) of the weapon or their [relevant attribute] + 1, whichever is greater. Which works out like this:

Novice Marksman (Agility 3)…

  • using a target rifle (AR 3) = AV 4 (Agility + 1)
  • using a sporting rifle (AR 4) = AV 4 (from rifle AR, or Agility + 1, same value)
  • using a sniper rifle (AR 5) = AV 5 (from rifle AR)

Expert Marksman (Agility 5)…

  • using a target rifle (AR 3) = AV 6 (Agility + 1)
  • using a sporting rifle (AR 4) = AV 6 (Agility + 1)
  • using a sniper rifle (AR 5) = AV 6 (Agility + 1)

Note: The “Expert Marksman” character would have expertise with rifles (+3 bonus), but that would apply regardless of whether the attack value is based on the weapon or the character’s Agility, so it was easier to just leave it out of this comparison.

The point being that under the current system, the weapon really doesn’t matter unless the character has really low attributes.

I was thinking of changing it so that the character’s attack value (AV) is equal to the attack rating (AR) of the weapon or their [relevant attribute]+1, whichever is lower. Which works out like this:

Novice Marksman (Agility 3)…

  • using a target rifle (AR 3) = AV 3 (from rifle AR)
  • using a sporting rifle (AR 4) = AV 4 (from rifle AR, or Agility + 1,
    same value)
  • using a sniper rifle (AR 5) = AV 4 (Agility + 1)

Expert Marksman (Agility 5)…

  • using a target rifle (AR 3) = AV 3 (from rifle AR)
  • using a sporting rifle (AR 4) = AV 4 (from rifle AR)
  • using a sniper rifle (AR 5) = AV 5 (from rifle AR)

This has the opposite problem, in that it would make the character’s attributes (mostly) meaningless, which is even worse (if something has to be meaningless, it shouldn’t be the character).

So how do I make everything meaningful? I could add the attack rating of the weapon to the character’s [relevant attribute], and drop the +1:

Novice Marksman (Agility 3)…

  • using a target rifle (AR 3) = AV 6 (Agility + rifle AR)
  • using a sporting rifle (AR 4) = AV 7 (Agility + rifle AR)
  • using a sniper rifle (AR 5) = AV 8 (Agility + rifle AR)

Expert Marksman (Agility 5)…

  • using a target rifle (AR 3) = AV 8 (Agility + rifle AR)
  • using a sporting rifle (AR 4) = AV 9 (Agility + rifle AR)
  • using a sniper rifle (AR 5) = AV 10 (Agility + rifle AR)

This is actually closer to how combat worked before I simplified it.

One consequence of this is that I would need to revise the attack rating of attack powers (such as Blast). Essentially, they would act like weapons, and the attack rating would add to the character’s relevant attribute. This might not be a bad thing.

Another consequence is that defenses would need to be adjusted in order to keep parity, but that’s a minor issue.

P.S. Following up on this, I would need to add a new attribute to indicate the “power level” of things like alien’s claws or an esoteric order’s blast power — basically, any power that acts like a weapon or a defense. That would be needed to make those powers/abilities work the same way as ordinary weapons and defenses do.

I am thinking of going the easy route and calling that attribute “Power”.

ZeroSpace update

Thanks to some great feedback here and elsewhere, we have finished the most recent revision of ZeroSpace (an open licensed science fiction/space fantasy).

The combat system was made approximately 50% simpler, and I think the way skill rolls and combat rolls are explained is also much clearer.

A couple of new advantages were added, and Underwater Combat and Zero-G combat are now advantages rather than areas of expertise.

The damage inflicted by fire and explosions were adjusted, and the way their damage is resolved was made simpler.

Over all, we think this is a huge improvement.

We have not completed the revised character sheets yet, but here’s a quick conversion for existing characters:

  • If your Prowess is higher than your Brawn, make your Brawn equal to your Prowess, and then cross out your Prowess.
  • If your Accuracy is higher than your Agility, make your Agility equal to your Accuracy, and then cross out your Accuracy.
  • If you have any exploding weapons, take a look at their equipment entries and note the changes.
  • If you regularly use any special maneuvers in combat, take a look at their entries in the Action chapter and note the changes.

Thanks for the suggestions!

Simplifying combat in ZeroSpace (and beyond)

I have been thinking about fine-tuning the game system we’re using in ZeroSpace. ZeroSpace is space opera (or space fantasy), but the game mechanics are intended to be general enough to adaptable to most genres, and I would eventually like to write variations for sword & sorcery, and perhaps one or two more genres.

Specifically, I think combat resolution is cumbersome, but I have not thought of a way to simplify it that I like any better. The gist of it is this:

“to hit”: attacker rolls 2d6 + attacker’s attribute (+/– 3**) vs. 8 + defender’s attribute (+/– 3**)

“damage”: defender rolls 2d6 + protection attribute (typically Brawn) + protection rating (typically armor) vs. 8 + damage rating of attacker’s weapon

** A bonus is always +3. A penalty is always -3. Only one bonus or one penalty applies to a single roll. If the character has both a bonus and a penalty, they cancel out and are disregarded.

See, just typing that out gives me a headache. So let’s go through this step by step and see if we can get somewhere interesting….

“to hit”: attacker rolls 2d6 + attacker’s attribute (Prowess or Accuracy) (+/– 3**) vs. 8 + defender’s attribute (Prowess or Agility) (+/– 3**)

“damage”: defender rolls 2d6 + protection attribute (typically Brawn) + protection rating (typically armor) vs. 8 + damage rating of attacker’s weapon

Thinking of this algebraically… if we treat “vs” as “minus” (because >= is a success), we get…

“to hit”: ( attacker rolls 2d6 + attacker’s attribute (Prowess or Accuracy) (+/– 3**) ) – ( 8 + defender’s attribute (Prowess or Agility) (+/– 3**) )

“damage”: ( defender rolls 2d6 + protection attribute (typically Brawn) + protection rating (typically armor) ) – ( 8 + damage rating of attacker’s weapon )

To make this simpler to read, making these replacements:

attacker’s “+/-3” >> “+ modA”
defender’s “+/-3” >> “+ modD”
“damage rating of attacker’s weapon” >> “DR”
etc.

attacker roll: ( 2d6 + (ProwessA or AccuracyA) + modA ) – ( 8 + (ProwessD or AgilityD) + modD )

defender roll: ( 2d6 + BrawnD + armor ) – ( 8 + DR )

Moving things around so that the attacker’s roll can be compared to the defender’s roll…

attacker roll: ( 2d6 + (ProwessA or AccuracyA) + modA ) + ( 8 + DR )

defender roll: ( 2d6 + BrawnD + armor ) + ( 8 + (ProwessD or AgilityD) + modD )

Simplifying…

attacker roll: ( 2d6 + (ProwessA or AccuracyA) + modA + 8 + DR )

defender roll: ( 2d6 + BrawnD + armor ) + 8 + (ProwessD or AgilityD) + modD )

Simplifying…

attacker roll: ( 2d6 + (ProwessA or AccuracyA) + modA + DR )

defender roll: ( 2d6 + BrawnD + armor ) + (ProwessD or AgilityD) + modD )

Simplifying…

attacker roll: ( 2d6 + (ProwessA or AccuracyA) + modA + DR )

defender roll: ( 2d6 + (ProwessD or AgilityD) + modD + BrawnD + armor ) )

Currently, the damage rating of ranged weaons is fixed, while the damage rating of hand-to-hand weapons is equal to the rank of the weapon or the character’s Brawn rank + 1, whichever is greater. Perhaps the protection rating (PR) of armor should work the same way.

attacker roll: ( 2d6 + (ProwessA or AccuracyA) + modA + DR )

defender roll: ( 2d6 + (ProwessD or AgilityD) + modD + PR )

Because opposed rolls exaggerate the extremes and flatten the median, we will replace the defender’s 2d6 with 8…

attacker roll: ( 2d6 + (ProwessA or AccuracyA) + modA + DR )

defender: ( 8 + (ProwessD or AgilityD) + modD + PR ) )

Which gives us…

The attacker rolls 2d6 + (their Prowess or Accuracy) + the damage rating of the attack [+3 if the attacker has a bonus, or or -3 if the attacker has a penalty]

The attacker compares this roll to the attack difficulty, which is…

8 + (the defender’s Prowess or Agility) + the defender’s protection rating [+3 if the defender has a bonus, or or -3 if the defender has a penalty]

If the attacker’s roll equals or exceeds the attack difficulty, the attack hits. How much the attack roll exceeded the attack difficulty determines the damage inflicted.

What do you think? How does that sound?

I am thinking of perhaps simplifying it one step further, and combining Prowess and Accuracy into a single attribute. After all, weapon specialization is primarily a factor of buying expertise with a weapon type, so there’s not really a need to differentiate them with different attributes.

Evangelists Of Mars and Ruins Of Atlanta are now “pay what you want”

To celebrate the second anniversary of the completion of our Kickstarter, we have made the two “stretch goal” supplements that our Kickstarter paid for into “pay what you want” items on DriveThruRPG. If you have never read the remarkable “Ruins Of Atlanta” by Jason Tondro or the extraordinary “Evangelists Of Mars” by Steven S. Long, this is your chance to do it without spending a dime.

And remember: the art and text from both sourcebooks are released under a Creative Commons Attribute-ShareAlike license, so as long as you use the same license and abide by the terms, you can re-use anything in these supplements in your own game sourcebook.

Ruins Of Atlanta by Jason Tondro Evangelists Of Mars by Steven S. Long

Pay What You Want for Bulletproof Blues

During the “Super Sale” on DriveThruRPG (which just ended a few minutes ago), no one bought any copies Bulletproof Blues, nor of any of our supplements. While this isn’t great news, it’s not all bad. It means that the useful period of monetization of the game has ended.

For this reason, we have set Bulletproof Blues to “Pay What You Want“. If new folks want to try out the game, they can, at no cost. If they like it, and decide to help support future sourcebooks with their hard-earned money, they can. Everyone wins.

Happy gaming. 🙂

Bulletproof Blues Second Edition print cover

Bulletproof Blues Second Edition print cover

Black Orchid

This is a commission by artist John Zeleznik: “Black Orchid”. Black Orchid guards the Kalos Universe from threats some consider to be… unnatural. Folks who supported our Bulletproof Blues Second Edition Kickstarter will get a high-resolution copy of Black Orchid along with her write-up (look in your Backer Rewards vault!). This was not a stretch goal: it’s a bonus, to thank our supporters for their patience and generosity. Black Orchid is also available on DriveThruRPG as a special “One-Shot” Character Art Pack, with her character write-up using the Bulletproof Blues Character Sheet Helper.

Bulletproof Blues Character Pack 004.02.jpg

Thinking about BB3

We are contemplating possible simplifications in Bulletproof Blues. Here is one of the ideas we are playing with:

Rather than powers having individual ranks (e.g., Blast 7, Flight 4, Force Field 10), the character would simply have a list of powers (e.g., Blast, Flight, Force Field). The strength of these powers would be based on the character’s attributes, with different powers being based on different attributes:

  • Intelligence – sensory powers, many skills
  • Willpower – mental powers, social skills
  • Strength – “brute force” powers, some physical skills
  • Speed – travel powers, “speedster” powers, some physical skills, ability to avoid being hit at range
  • Power – non-mental powers
  • Defense – defensive powers
  • Combat – ability to hit opponents, ability to avoid being hit hand-to-hand

Here’s part of our thinking behind this:

On the one hand, most characters who have more than one attack power, or more than one mental power, etc., tend to have them at the same (or nearly the same) rank. So having to buy ranks in Telepathy separately from ranks in Mind Hold (for example) seems a needless complication. Why not have a base value for the character’s power level, and then have a list of their powers?

On the other hand, the current method, in which ranks in Flight, Super-swimming, and Super-jumping (for example) are all bought separately, makes a character with all three powers way more expensive than a character with just Flight (for example). But the character who has all three movement powers isn’t actually all that more powerful. So why make that character so much more expensive?

What do you think?

P.S.

Here’s a possible drawback of this model: it makes the strength of a power implicit rather than explicit. In most cases, this shouldn’t be a problem — Blast is obviously based on Power, Mind Control is obviously based on Willpower, and so on.

But what about something less obvious, like Stretching? Would that be based on Strength, or Power? Perhaps the attribute should be placed after the power name: “Stretching (POW)”? Or perhaps we should just default to powers always being based on Power unless it is really, really obviously something else (i.e., when in doubt, use Power).

P.P.S.

A second drawback is that this model would make it difficult or impossible to have a team of characters who have similar sets of powers, but at varying power levels. For example, a team of psychics, all of whom have Telekinesis, Telepathy, and Mind Control, with each being most powerful with a different power (one character has strong Telekinesis but weak Telepathy and Mind Control, another character has strong Mind Control but weak Telepathy and Telekinesis, etc.).