Thursday, May 5, 2016

Iteration 3 Playtest Notes

By and large, I'm quite pleased with the results of that playtest.  Some of the highlights:

Iteration 3: My lord, that took me forever.  I probably had the least fun with this iteration, and I clearly see now, looking back on previous sci-fi games, that this is where I get stuck.  I've also noticed quite a response from my audience, and in retrospect that's not a big surprise: it's probably where you get stuck too.  Spaceships were probably the hardest bit, but cycling through every little detail, making sure nothing got lost was also very difficult, and the worst part, honestly, was working out that playtest and all the signature characters.  I think this will be the last time I go into that much detail.

I also probably condensed too much.  I'm writing this post in about the middle of March.  Iteration 1 took me about a week.  Iteration 2 took me about 3 weeks.  Iteration 3 took me about 6 weeks.  I could have easily stretched my posts out into 3 months (as you can see from all the data dumps), but instead I chose to condense them down into two months.  I learned a lot about my own motivation and attentiveness during this iteration.

Armor: The trooper armor was more than sufficiently tough to deal with most attacks.  The Heavy stood up to a barrage of Kendra's fire without being virtually invincible, and Kendra's heavy blaster pistols are close in strength to a full carbine.  While nobody actually hit dear Ferdinand in the armor, I suspect the higher DR would have certainly been noticeable.

I lack goggles!  That cannot stand!

Weapons: So, uh, it turns out that there are two sides to attacking a jedi in melee: You need to be able to parry without having your weapon destroyed, but you also need to attack without your weapon being destroyed.  The Neurolash Field Parry is a nice concept (though the Assault Trooper favored dodge over it), but it needs to be expanded and made even more effective:

Neurolash Field Mastery: You have learned to use the magnetic field charge (or whatever technobabble nonsense) of a neurolash weapon that you may both attack and parry a force sword without fearing its destruction.  A force sword wielder can still deliberately attack your weapon as normal.

Shields: Okay, I liked that they could block blasters.  It felt fine, it didn't feel like it needed any special Precognitive Block to make it work, or that it was "unfair."  I'm also not convinced it should apply a -2 to attacks, as you can see through it just fine (one of the perks of the Riot Shield, specifically mentioned in Ultra-Tech).  Still not clear on how "reflecting" the attack should work.  Can a sniper from a mile away hit you and then you hit him back with a basic DX roll?  And if the shield can just block a beam weapon attack and reflect it without precognitive block and doesn't penalize your attack, wouldn't everyone become a sword-and-board wielder?  I'm going to leave this for now: the next iteration will be martial arts and powers, which seems a perfect time to look into it.

Robots: The robots seemed to fit quite nicely.  The battle-bots were somewhat pathetic... but they allowed the troopers to shine a bit more in comparison, and how they fought had sufficient contrast with how the troopers fought (in particular, their lack of surprise or fear: Heartless Machine, a late addition in the iteration, was a good idea).  DD-6 was absolutely destructive and highlighted how powerful a non-mook robot can be.  She actually worked better than I thought she would.  Berserker on a robot, in particular, is terrifying.  I dread what a full-on Combat Android would be like.  It might be worth playtesting, because it might be too powerful for a Psi-Wars game.

Economics: I still feel like the typical character has too much money.  Even Leylana just ditched most of it into a robot.  What will PCs do with all that money?  On the other hand, I find modern games have a similar feeling.  After you've picked up your pistol, your clothes, your cell phone and perhaps a bullet-proof vest, the average city-based investigator or thief is basically done and doesn't know what to do with the rest of their $20,000 starting budget.  Psi-Wars feels the same, so I'll leave it.  The ships feel right too (I had originally given them $20 million, then dropped it to $10 million, then went back to $20 million).  Some of the penalty options don't work (Bad Smell?)  so looking over them often felt a little frustrating, as what you want should give character and offer a potentially interesting element, but some of them feel too steep, or the sort of thing I would disallow as a GM.

Ships: Ships feel fine, of course, as they got a ton of work.  But I'm not sure about Hyperspace yet.  See, you always need to make a Navigation roll or you get lost.  That means the average Joe Spacetrucker with his Navigation of 10 or so is running into Stars half the time, even on the easiest hyperlanes!  The typical GURPS GM is saying "That's nonsense, he gets a +4 for doing something that's particularly easy," and I think we should codify that.  Certain hyperjumps have been so thoroughly charted that even a child could navigate them.  Your ship carries standard charts that grant a +4 to navigate those areas.  I also feel like 30 minutes is too long.  The "Five minutes to escape" rule is pretty nice, but it only applies for charging the hyperdrive.  It should apply to navigation as well: It takes 5 minutes to come up with a navigation course.  You can increase the time: 10 minutes for a +1, 20 minutes for a +2, 40 minutes for a +3 and more than an hour for +4, and you generally cannot do better than that.  We might allow something like Mathematics (Pure) rolls to allow even longer rolls as someone works out the precise math and model of how navigation should work, blah blah, but then this starts to sound like Star Trek rather than Star Wars.  If you're having that much trouble getting somewhere, get an NPC guide, or find a lost starchart.

Mooks: I need pilot mooks, and unique ways for them to fight, but I need to figure out how to differentiate wild and wooly pilots from by-the-book pilots and what have you.

Electronics: I liked how they played out.  The scenario played like a typical Action scenario, in that characters with the right tools/skills for the job made their skillsets work, and those without had to find alternate solutions.  Security and Surveillance seem to be king, but I expected as much.  Electronic Warfare is similarly powerful in a variety of wars, though it didn't come up.  Communications strikes me as less valuable, though Hacking is probably quite useful.  It's probably worth mentioning that Hacking might allow you to hack open doors or gain access to security feeds, etc.

The tracer hasn't worked out as well as I would have expected.  I don't mind tracers as tracers, but tracers doubling as bugs seems a bit odd.  You noticed in the playtest when I pointed out that a tracer could have been attacked to the camera feed to read it, and that seems counter-intuitive, not the sort of tactic a player would use, and that defeat the "simplicity" of the device.  Instead, it may be better to have tracers and sort of "omni-bugs" that act record both IO, video and audio (I think most players will grasp the difference between "bug" and "tracer" without finding it arcane)

Other Stuff: I'm sure there's more that I could look at, or haven't really checked, but I don't have the time to go through each nuance and detail yet.  By and large, though, it feels like I have the basis to a pretty good setting/campaign.  The templates begin to come together, to feel sufficiently broad and also sufficiently competent
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