Cinemechanix: I Fixed It! (Twice)

Category: Cussin' In Tongues
Created on Friday, 19 July 2019 Written by Steve

GenCon is just a couple weeks away, so last weekend I went through and updated the rules and handouts with the combat changes I’d come up with after DieCon. Here’s a quick refresher on how combat originally worked:

  1. Attacker and Defender Roll. If either has negative Fu, they take a penalty. Players with positive Fu can spend some of it to improve their roll. 
  2. Subtract the losing roll from the winning roll to get the Margin. If the Margin exceeds a certain number, Consequences (extra wounds and instant kills, mostly) happen. 
  3. The loser loses Fu equal to the Effect (ones digit of Margin) of the roll.
  4. The winner gets to spend Raises (10s digit of Margin) for additional effects: extra wounds, special effects (like disarm), etc. 

This mostly worked, but led to a few problems, so I came up with some improvements. On my first pass, these consisted of: 

Fu Always Modifies Combat Rolls 

The “spend positive Fu, add negative Fu” rule was just a little weird, so for the last game I ran at DieCon, I changed it so you always add Fu to the roll (which makes negative Fu a penalty). It’s a little more consistent and simpler, there’s less chance of forgetting to add it if you’re adding it to every roll (and players are going to remember it when it’s a bonus, which increases the chance that honest players will remember it as a penalty as well). The main possible problem with this change was that it could be a big modifier, but in the early parts of a fight scene everyone gets it, so it kind of evens out. The bonus only gives the character a big advantage if the player rolls well enough to lose less Fu than his opponent over several rounds (in which case he should have a big advantage). 

Fu Always Affects the Defender

Having Fu loss affect the loser of the roll sometimes got weird. Even though Fu is an abstract representation of a lot of things: (dis)advantageous positioning, distraction, exhaustion, shock, pain, etc, it was sometimes hard to figure out exactly what the Fu loss meant in narrative terms. This was especially true of ranged combat. If the defender lost Fu, you could write it off to him dodging into a position with worse cover, being shaken from a bullet whizzing right past his head, scraping his knee while diving for cover, etc. It’s not so easy to describe why the shooter would lose Fu. I decided to solve that problem by making the Defender lose Fu if he lost the roll and gain Fu if he won the roll. This almost works, but because I forgot another issue (which I’ll get to), it had to be changed in the second pass. 

Changed Consequences 

Initially the Consequences for a high Margin were the same for Attacker and Defender, but were 5 points higher for Defender. The Consequences were: 5/10: Winner Adds Effect to Fu; 10/15: Loser takes 1 Wound; 15/20: Loser Knocked Out; 20/25: Killshot on Loser; 25/30: Instant Kill on Loser. If the Defender won, he could inflict the Damage on the Attacker or an ally of the Attacker. The thinking behind the “Attacker takes Damage” results was that you could explain it as the Defender counter-attacking or the attacker fumbling and hurting himself or an Ally. Again, this led to some weird results, especially in ranged combat. It was also a little repetitive, since the Defender could also counter-attack by spending a Raise. 

The Knockout result also led to some weird results, since the DN of the “wake up” roll is the number of Wounds the character has taken (which means a character who’s only take 1 Wound immediately wakes up the next round). Part of the problem was that the characters were too nerfed and didn’t take many wounds. Also, since a character can also become Unconscious from Fu loss, it meant either two versions of unconsciousness or implied massive Fu loss from a knockout attack. In playtest, the Knockout rules led to characters frequently being knocked out for 1 round. 

In the new version, I created separate Consequences for attacker and defender. The Attacker’s consequences are all damage-based: 5: Defender takes 1 Wound; 10: Defender takes 2 Wounds; 15: 4 Wounds; 20: Killshot; 25: Instant Kill. This reduces the Nerfing and avoids the Knockout problems. It also means a one-punch knockout is hard to accomplish (you’d need a good enough roll and Hero Factor to cause (20 + Defender’s Fu) damage between the Effect and using Raises to cause additional Fu damage (using the “Hinder” Raise effect, which causes the Defender to lose Fu equal to the Attacker’s HF). If you need characters to regularly Mike Tyson one another, you can always make a Knockout Special Effect available. 

Since I wanted to leave the Counterattack as a separate, thing coming up with good Defender consequences was difficult, so I ultimately decided to basically give the Defender bonus Raises, but at lower levels they had to be used for specific things: 5: Steal Initiative for Free; 10: Free Hinder/Gain Advantage (subtract HF from opponent’s Fu or add it to yours); 15: Free Counterattack; 20: Bonus Raise, 25: 2 Bonus Raises. 

Both attacker and Defender get an additional Bonus Raise for every 5 points over 25. I also explicitly specified in the rules that players can choose a lower Consequence if they want. So the Defender with a Margin of 15 could choose to Steal the Initiative instead of taking the free Counterattack, or an attacker with a 20 Margin could pull his punch and cause 4 Wounds instead of a Killshot. 

Eliminated the “Raise Consequences” Raise Effect

Initially players could spend a Raise to increase the Consequences of a roll (for example, raising a Knockout to a Killshot). This lead to way more Killshots and Instant Kills than is reasonable for an RPG, and when Leighton brought out his Giant Gorilla boss monster, he had to basically pretend the rule didn’t exist to avoid a TPK. I got rid of that option. 

But I Forgot Something 

I forgot one thing, which led to another revision of the rules and the worksheets. Since the Defender can counterattack if he wins the roll, attacking a significantly more powerful character (like Leighton’s gorilla) can basically have the effect of giving them a free attack. Since a counterattack costs 1 Raise, all the defender needs is a margin of 10 on each roll to keep punching.This makes perfect sense in a “Captain America fighting Nazis” scenario, but isn’t as much fun when the PCs are on the receiving end. The “Fu affects Defender” rule actually makes this worse. Initially, the plan was to make characters spend Fu each time they defended. The main problem was coming up with a number that worked. It would need to be high enough for multiple attacks to wear him down but not so high that a character had no chance of survival after a few attacks. Also, if you have to spend Fu to defend, shouldn’t you also have to spend Fu to attack? That would just add to the record-keeping overhead, so I decided to try to come up with another option.

Ultimately, I decided to remove the Counterattack option from the Defender list of ways to spend a Raise. Instead, a Defender who wins a roll has two options: (1) He can add the Margin to his Fu; or (2) He can spend Fu equal to the attacker’s Hero Factor in order to counterattack. If he chooses the latter, you just treat the Defender as if he were the Attacker. Since counter-attacks (rather than defending in general) were the problem, you only spend Fu to counterattack. Using the attacker’s Hero Factor still lets Captain America basically get a free attack whenever a (HF 1) Nazi tries to punch him, but avoids situations where attacking the Boss Monster is a bad strategy. 

Since the “Free Counterattack” now meant “No Fu Cost” instead of “No Raise Cost,” it seemed less of a bonus, so I swapped it and the Hinder/Gain Effect on the Consequences table. I just realized, however, that including the “Free Counterattack” option as a Defense consequence raises the question of how to deal with Consequences for a counterattack. If the Defender with a Margin of 20 decides to Counterattack, is the Consequence a Bonus Raise or a Killshot? If it’s the latter, the “Free Counterattack” option is meaningless (since once the defender decides to counterattack, he uses the Attacker consequences, not the Defender ones). For now, I’m going to go with “Defender chooses whether to take Attacker or Defender consequences.” So if a Defender with a Margin of 10 decides to counterattack, he can either cause 2 extra Wounds or he can counterattack without spending Fu. 

In a couple of weeks, I’ll try these rules out at GenCon and see what else needs to be fixed. 

 

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