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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Badass Kung Fu Demigods, development journal part 3

Been a while but not dead. Just a busy time. I'm still working on baking Christmas presents for family members. That's how behind I am on things.

Part 3: The Actual Rules


Characters in BAKFDG are built on a small set of player-defined Traits, with NPCs built in much the same way. A Trait basically establishes something about the character and gives it a rating, starting at 1d6 and reaching 1d12. Some example Traits are things like "Massive Brute", "Killer Ninja Warrior" and "World's Strongest President". There were a few basic ideas about Traits:

A) There are no weaknesses or negative traits. That is not to say that you can't come up with a character who has flaws or disadvantages...these are just roleplaying elements with no mechanical backing. This is a game about playing crazy and wild superhumans. Who cares if you don't have arms, just grab a sword between your teeth. It doesn't matter if you're ugly, because no one is thinking about your battered face when you throw a manhole cover through an orbital weapons platform.

B) Traits do not "Stack" (with limited exceptions, see below). The highest Trait is the only one that matters in a given situation. Characters don't get a huge number of Traits and this way there's no need to "dogpile" traits and encourages characters to be a bit more diverse. A swordmaster doesn't have to also be massively muscled or hopping about like a bunny rabbit. Instead they can use their other Traits to flesh out other areas.

C) Traits are meant to be broad and focus is provided with Knacks, which are specializations of Traits allowing them to pick small areas which give cumulative bonuses (+2 per knack).

D) The one exception to stacking Traits are "External Traits", special Traits which represent powerful items, special connections or status in society. Unlike Internal Trait, External Traits can be taken away, denied or simply inaccessible. However, in exchange they provide a powerful boost when using a synergistic Internal Trait.

Originally, the intent was that when faced with a challenge, everyone rolls their Trait. Have a Trait like "World's Strongest President [1d10]" and you need to break something or lift something to impress congress? Roll 1d10 (and if the roll comes up 10 keep rolling and keep adding up the rolls) and see if you succeed. However, it quickly became apparent that this was just too random. It's no good being the World's Strongest President (and yes, I think I will use this guy as my example character from now on) if you keep tossing a bunch of 1's and 3's in a row.

In order to decreases the whiff factor and push number higher I switched to rolling two dice and taking the highest result. So far, this has smoothed things out pretty well.

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Next came how to handle accomplishing tasks. Honestly, I had a little bit of trouble here because I couldn't figure out a good way to calculate target numbers is a smooth, elegant way. Fortunately, I eventually came to a better way, instead of set target numbers any task is simply assigned a die-type and the GM rolls off with the player and sees who gets the higher result. The term I came up with for this was "Opposing Forces" which could cover anything from obstacles, complexity or even a time limit.

Now, this does mean that even the lowest-ranked  Opposing Force is capable (if not necessarily likely) to overcome a character with a d10 or d12. But on reflection, I'm fine with this. First, unlike Opposing Forces, characters have access to Powers which can dramatically tilt their odds if they're willing to spend the Energy. Secondly, anything that counts as an Opposing Force against a Badass Kung Fu Demigod should be pretty impressive to begin with. The World's Strongest President doesn't need to roll to break a window or snap a baseball bat over his knee...he should be rolling for ripping chains from walls or (at higher Power Levels), toppling the Washington monument.

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Then there's fighting each other!

Clashes are BAKFDG's term for general conflicts. They largely include fighting, but it'll also include social, mental or physical challenges outside of combat. Clashes are resolved by taking turns rolling off using whatever appropriate Trait's you're using for attacks or defenses. If the attacker wins they inflict a point of damage, if the beat the opponent by 5 or more then you inflict an additional point of damage (which continues for each 5 additional points of damage). Taking a total of 5 damage takes you out of the fight.

This is one area where I compromised in a way that I feel made things very slightly worse. The original rules were that each "doubling" of your opponent's result adds an extra point of damage. So if the World's Strongest President punches an alien tripod and the alien rolls a 6 then the President would inflict a point of damage if he rolls a 7 or higher. A 12 or higher would get him two points of damage, a 24 would get him 3 and so on.

Now, this met my goals in some very specific ways. I wanted to avoid the two extremes that seem endemic to high-powered RPGs: "rocket tag" fights or "cherry tapping". The first is when you have enemies with such a high offensive ability that most fights end with the first hit (or the first hit cripples the opponent so badly that the second will surely end them). The second is when characters have so many hit points or such a strong defense that fights drag on forever as you slowly chip away at each other's health.

My goal was to create a system where actually inflicting damage against an opponent isn't too tough and most fights will end within about 3-5 hits, which I felt was not so short as to be unsatisfying and not so long it stops feeling intense. Enough times for tables to turn, allies to show up or a bit of banter to be traded.

However, at the same time I wanted the ability for a really powerful or lucky hit to potentially take out an opponent in a single blow. Not a likely event, but something that would be possible (especially when a stronger foe faces a weaker one).

That was the intent behind the doubling mechanic, it ensured that the odds of inflicting extra damage increased non-linearly, requiring more and more luck to get a really strong hit in. I felt it was an elegant damage system that met my needs but unfortunately it didn't quite work out.

I went to the 1 damage per 5 points of difference system because the doubling system, while useful, seemed to cause some calculation issues in play, and more significantly was awkward to explain in the text. Although I still don't feel too content with the change I think it'll turn out to be the right decision and did allow me to create the Deadly Weapons rule.

You see, I realized something working on several of the "micro-settings" for BAKFDGs. Specifically a setting called "Against The Darkness", kind of a hybrid of Highlander and Men In Black where players take the role of immortal enforcers who defend humanity from the hordes of secret monsters that lurk in the night. It was very much intended to be in the Katana-and-Trenchcoat style of Highlander and WoD games like Vampire. But I realized that since I didn't include any rules for weapons outside of External Traits I was actively discouraging players from using them. After all, in a modern setting where players are trying to avoid notice it's quite a pain to lug around guns or katanas and avoid suspicion. And that's not what I wanted, I wanted to encourage rooftop swordfights, or mowing down hordes of were-vampires with twin Uzis firing silver bullets, in addition to unarmed high flying combat.

So I needed a solution and that was the (optional) Deadly Weapons rule. I felt like just adding a flat bonus to your roll was bonus uninteresting and it was difficult to define the line between a piddly bonus not worth bothering with or a bonus that became too big and made the weapon indispensable and rendered unarmed combat worthless. Basically the Deadly Weapons rule lowered the threshold for additional damage from an attack to 1 Damage/5 points to 1 Damage/4 points. This meant that both unarmed fighters and swordsmen have the same minimum damage and largely operate the same, but the weapon gives just enough of an edge to make it worthwhile to carry around. It also only works in the new damage system so I feel it kind of evens out with the original rules.

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I didn't want BAKFDGs to be nothing more than trading blows back and forth and I was hoping to give it a little bit of tactical oomph, so I also came up with a few other rules that I think are interesting...but may or may not be good. Time (and playtesting) will tell.

*Combat Forms: As I mentioned, BAKFDG was born from Battle Royale and one thing that Battle Royale had that the first drafts of BAKFDG didn't was a good way to distinguish between different "flavors" of fighting. In Battle Royale a big brute had a different style from a judo master or an acrobatic knife-fighter. In BAKFDG, different Traits may or may not apply in certain circumstances, but largely one combat-suitable Trait is much like any other. Combat Forms were my attempts to remedy it and to play around with the 2dX mechanic. For instance, the Brute Form was meant to have the ability to hit really hard with a lucky blow, so if both of your Trait dice come out higher than your opponent's highest die result then you can add them both together to get the final total (and thus do more damage). The inverse was the Speedy fighter who doesn't do more damage, but is more likely to hurt the opponent: if you fail an attack but your lowest die result was higher than your opponents lowest dice result you still inflict 1 point of damage anyway.

*Seizing Control: When fighting an opponent and you inflict damage you can choose to reduce the damage by one point in exchange for declaring some kind of advantage you've got over your foe: knocking them off something, disarming them or catching them in a grapple. Essentially meant to prevent them from using one or more of their Traits (such as pinning down a fast or agile opponent, disarming a powerful sword-fighter, etc).

*Chewing the Scenery: basically meant to encourage mass destruction and chaos. By destroying a large part of the environment in a suitably dramatic way (knocking someone into a propane tanker, collapsing a building on them, etc) you can use the Scene as a kind of one-shot External Trait, adding 1d4 to your roll total.

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That more or less does it for rambling about the rules, at least the general rules. Next (hopefully not in a month's time!) we'll tackle the main draw of being a BAKFDG: Powering Up!


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