Sunday, June 12, 2016

Badass Kung Fu Demigods: The Importance of Playtesting

Been a few months there. Part of the reason for my pause in the discussion of the game is that I've had the chance to run a slow playtest for Badass Kung Fu Demigods. I say slow since it's a play-by-post on a forum so the pace can be glacial, which is not helped by my own problems keeping a steady posting habits due to general overwork and helping out NJ.

Despite the playtest only being the face-to-face equivalent of a few hours it's already obvious that playtesting is very, very important. When I got into the game I expected to find a few rough edges that needed polishing...I didn't expect that I'd find the need for a major rewrite.

But that's what playtesting is for. You can't always see the problems in your own work and it's amazing how much can fly under your radar, problems that seem really obvious in hindsight but go completely unnoticed no matter how many times you read and re-read your work.

The good news is the playtest didn't show that that the system was an utter garbage fire and with some more work there should be a workable game that just needs some extra polish and tinkering.

Despite the still-ongoing nature of the playtest I've already made some significant changes. The first thing I found out was that the Team-Up rules were broken all to hell. They were meant to support the occasional fastball special or power-ranger-esque team move but they turned out much more devastating than expected when a group of 3-4 characters one-shotted an Awakened-level enemy with a single team-up attack without having to Power Up at all. Then later a mere two people teamed up and utterly annihilated about 8 equal-ranked enemies with one attack.

This led to the second realization...additive bonuses in general were pretty broken. Things like External Traits or even basic Knacks and Styles provide a dramatic edge. With the right build it's easy to get massive quantities of bonuses and opponents who can't build up quite that level of bonus just don't stand a chance.

Those were the first, obvious problems. The rest were a little more subtle. Mainly that the combat dynamic needed some work. Fights between characters who can shift across multiple Power Levels could potentially take quite a while and it actually becomes quite difficult for characters to "break off" combat unless both characters involved mutually agree to end the fight...there's little to no official way to say "I want out". Likewise, even without the Team-Up mechanic outnumbered opponents just can't keep up...the relatively small number of EP available means that it quickly becomes very difficult for characters to pay for a solid defense against multiple opponents let alone having enough EP left over to even try and fight back.

So clearly work was needed. Here's the new draft:

A quick run-down of the major changes:

*No more additive bonuses. Instead its been replaced with a semi-dice-pool system. The default is a roll of 2dX (where X is your Trait Die) but bonuses and penalties add or subtract dice from that roll. No matter what you always keep the highest result and (normally) discard all other results. Knacks and Styles add a +1 die bonus and most special rules (like chewing the scenery, deadly weapons, and teamwork) now just add bonus dice.

*External Traits are not added but instead rolled separately (including bonuses) and the highest result is taken. Since bonus dice apply to both the biggest advantage of an External Trait is that it more or less doubles any bonus dice you receive.

*Normal range rules have been replaced with "Engagements" where characters are locked in battle with one another. To avoid the problems with ganging up I mentioned before I introduced a rule called "Fighting Spirit" where an outnumbered character gets a bonus die for each opponent they're currently Engaged with. Ranged attacks allow you to attack outside of Engagements and there are rules for Breaking Engagements which allows someone to try and break-and-run if fights are getting too intense.

*During character creation rather than buying Knacks, Styles and Signature Moves from the same "pool" of bonus points each characters gets couple of Knacks, a Style and a pair of Signature Moves. It was pointed out that while Signature Moves are a lot of fun Knacks and Styles are more practical but a bit duller and having to make a decision between the two was a bit lame at the start.

Oh, and I added a new micro-setting at the end of the book, which I quite enjoy, called "After J-Day" where players are angels who have rebelled against heaven to defend the people left behind after the rapture takes the chosen and the gates of hell open upon the earth. Post-apocalyptic archangels vs demonic wasteland bikers.