Thrash 2.0: Agility

More Fighting Games
I’ve gotten over the crazy obsessive playing of fighting games (which is good, since my carpal tunnel syndrome will start creeping up on me otherwise), but still, I’ve been playing a lot of them. I even borrowed my friend’s copy of Tekken 3, despite the fact that I don’t really go in for the series (though it does have some of the coolest extras of any fighting game). I also keep forgetting just how many King of Fighters games there are now; the first one was in ’94, and the main series alone has had one game for every year since, not to mention a zillion spin-off games like Maximum Impact (3D for PS2), Neowave (for Atomiswave, ported to PS2 and Xbox), EX (GBA), Kyo (quasi-CRPG thing for PSX). Plus the epic storyline that kicked off in KoF ’95 has so far been the first of three. I kind of need to get caught up on all of that. I also went and ordered a copy of Cyberbots (does anyone else remember this game?) for Sega Saturn off of eBay, along with the Samurai Shodown CRPG. I’ve mainly been concentrating on the hand-to-hand stuff, but at some point I’ll need to mess around with the more weapon-based fighting games to try and figure out what I need to include for the weapon maneuvers.

As For Thrash 2.0…
When I got back into Thrash 2.0 last month, it felt like I mostly just had a big morass of maneuvers to write. Fortunately, I was wrong about that. The design process is proving to be interesting and creative, which it needs to be both for producing a better game and for keeping me interested.

Thrash is noticably more complex than any other game I’m designing right now, and I don’t necessarily think it’s playing to my strengths even, but I’m having fun doing it all the same. (And if I wasn’t, I have more than enough other things to distract me). An important part of what I’ve been doing is trying to make sure all the pieces fit together nicely, which means answering questions like, “What happens if you want a Mega-Attack version of a Multi-Kick?” (I haven’t got a good answer to that one yet, but I know roughly what I want to do). A good example is the rule for variant maneuvers; if you want to buy multiple versions of a maneuver with different modifiers, you get a discount on the base cost. This is 1 point off for each version after the first, to a minimum of 2. For balance reasons, I wound up having to create a special rule that modified Basic Maneuvers have to go off of a starting cost listed in a table in the Modifiers section.

I think I may have come up with a workable solution to the “Agility as god-stat” problem. In a nutshell, since originally Agility was added to every combat-related roll, mechanically there was no particular reason not to have Agility be as high as the game allows. And yet, in the source material Zangief is about the opposite of what people think of when they hear the word “agility,” but he doesn’t have much trouble hitting things. My idea is sort of a mashup between BESM and WWE: Know Your Role, where different attributes are averaged to get a set of three new stats, which I’m calling “Combat Proficiencies,” to represent the character’s accuracy with different kinds of moves. Right now they’re called Force (for big moves that overwhelm the opponent), Finesse (for technical moves that are effective because they’re skillfully executed), and Aim (for moves that are effective because they’re accurately hitting the target, or a part thereof). Each would be an average of two (three?) attributes. Going through the maneuvers and replacing Agility with one of the three for each turned out to be easier than I expected. There are a few where the player gets to choose between Power or Finesse (including the basic Punch and Kick), and Aim is a little underused, but since they’re not traits the player has to invest points into directly, I think it’ll be okay.

3 thoughts on “Thrash 2.0: Agility

  1. Aim? How about Accuracy? Or better yet, Precision? And while I’m at it, how about changing Finesse to Speed?

    I may have a solution to your dilemma that both opens up the system for wider variety, and yet conversely simplifies things.

    Force, Speed and Precision. Three ways of getting an attack through. Force simply tries to power through a defence. Speed tries to strike before the defence can act. And Precision aims to avoid the defence altogether.

    Yet why tie maneuvers to only one of them? Or even two? A punch or kick can easily be any of those. So can a Block for that matter. SOME maneuvers won’t work (how do you forcefully dodge?), but a great many can and, IMO, should.

    If you genericize the maneuvers a bit, you could make any of them work with most any maneuver.

    But here’s the key idea I had.

    Rock-Paper-Scissors. It’s as simple as that. When comparing attack and defence, it all comes down to RPS.

    Force beats Speed. Speed beats Precision. Precision beats Force.

    I execute a haymaker (Force Punch). If you throw your arms up in a basic block and brace for impact (Force Block), it works well enough and stops the hit (Neutral effect). If you quickly whip your arms up (Speed Block), you don’t have as much strength behind it, and so my punch plows through (block fails or is very weak). But if I use a circle block to deflect your fist away (Precision Block), your punch goes wide and I’m unharmed (attack fails or block is extra effective).

    Meanwhile, a Vital Point strike (Precision strike) will strike around a basic (Force) block, but a quick (Speed) sweep with the wrists will knock the strike off target.

    And so on and so forth. This keeps the game very tactical, as you have to balance your maneuvers (especially your defences) among all three styles to be effective against any foe. Specializing in one style has it’s advantages (cheaper because you buy less maneuvers, still effective against 2 out of 3 styles), but it renders you very vulnerable to certain foes.

    One thing I learned from Scott Lynch (the original DNW author) is that every character that seems super effective or unbalanced in some way has a glaring weak spot, and you should make foils for them right in the system. My early argument was that mages did far more damage than anyone else with Fireball/Lightning Bolt, especially for the PP cost. His response was elegantly simple. “I have a wrestler with super speed and a roll of duct tape. You lose.”

    An RPS style system leaves unbalanced characters very open to foils, and any competent GM would exploit those vulnerabilities, if only to encourage diversification. With all maneuvers open to being performed by any style (they should all have at least two choices, and there should be fair representation between all three options), the scope of maneuvers is opened a lot. You can bundle varying types of attack into one, with three styles. Jab Strong Fierce = Speed Precision Force. You could even make a few (RARE!) maneuvers as “Neutral”, which means they’re neutral against any style defence. This makes them very valuable, as they have a guaranteed level of effectiveness against all foes. “He’s too strong for me… he has no weaknesses!”

  2. That’s a *really* neat idea. A friend of mine was working on something similar (but more involved) with Mind/Body/Soul a long while back, but it never quite went anywhere. (Though I may resurrect it some day as a “mod” for Thrash). It brings in a couple of different things I got from that: notably having different ways of accomplishing more or less the same thing, and replacing “low vs. high” with significant choices

    I can only see one problem with what you’ve outlined here; as things stand right now, Dodge is the only way to defend against a grappling attack, which means that if you use a Force-based grapple attack, the opponent is guaranteed to be at a disadvantage for the only viable form of defense.

    Having thought about it a little more, I’m thinking maybe the trio could be Power/Grace/Speed (got the idea from Udon’s Street Fighter comic). It leaves room for more maneuvers to use multiple possible base traits; one of the tradeoffs between Dodge and Block would be having choices between Grace/Speed and Power/Grace.

    The other question is what the benefits of using an advantageous attack method would be, and whether to have it be the same for all three, or give each one different benefits (e.g., if you overwhelm the opponent with Power/Force you could get a bonus to damage and maybe cause a knock-down, while if you use Speed it becomes a bonus to the roll, etc.). Maybe just a flat +3 to accuracy and/or damage.

    With all of the above, it definitely needs a better name than “Combat Proficiencies.” And a little triangular diagram with arrows on the character sheet. ^_^;

    This in turn gets into something else I was already trying to tangle with: how does a fighter know what move is being used against him? There are limits to what you can figure out, but making Intelligence+Insight rolls all through combat would just bog things down too much. The guessing game is where this RPS concept needs to be looked at carefully, since that’s where it feeds into gameplay.

  3. Why is there no Grappling Defence maneuver then? Dodge is an evasion, Grap Def would be actively blocking or deflecting the opponent’s attempt to grab you. Knock the hand away (Precise), or pull yourself out of their grip (Force). Or use Dodge. Or just slug them in the face before they have a solid grip (akin to the attack of opportunity atthe start of a d20 grapple).

    That was my point behind balancing all the 3 options in various attacks and defences… if there’s a glaring hole (like you just identified), then make a new maneuver to plug it. You can also eliminate a number of minor maneuvers this way. Axe Kick? It’s Kick (Force).

    Your comment on benefits is a good one… and I’m seeing more fun possibilities resulting. Perhaps each maneuver has a special effect attached to it’s style. This could be as simple as +damage, or knockdown, or whatever. If you use Force Punch against a speed block, then you hit, do damage (reduced by the block as usual) AND inflict the knockdown. But if you use it against a force block, you simply hit and do damage (reduced by block). The most common effect would be +damage, but some maneuvers would have alternate effects instead. Knockdown, knockback, stun, reduced stats (vital points), lingering damage, etc. Not knowing the details, I can only make general suggestions.

    Conversely, if the attack is weak against the defence, then the special effect of the defence activates. Extra soak for a block, Reduced AP cost for a dodge, maybe a reversal for a Grapple Defence.

    I think the guessing aspect would be the best part, and should be left as guesswork. You make your Insight roll at the start of a fight, and that can tell you if your opponent favors a particular style over another. Gives you something of an edge, but nothing unbalancing.
    And then as the fight goes, it plays out like

    “I’m attacking with a kick”
    “I’ll do a Speed Block”
    “It was a Force Kick”

    This would require combat cards or the like for fairness. But the key point would be that you would learn your opponent’s TRUE style over the course of the fight and will become better at guessing his attacks. You may notice he only ever uses Force blocks, and guess that he doesn’t have Speed block at all. Thus you could shift your tactics in favor of using Precision attacks, to exploit an observed weakness.

    In any case, in “pure” circumstances, things would favor the attacker a third of the time, the defender a third of the time, and would be neutral the other third. The presence of “neutral” techniques would shift the balance towards neutral a bit more often.

    I’d say the true Basic maneuvers would be Neutral in style. Neutral Punch, Kick, Dodge and Block. This ensures that everyone is at least balanced against everyone. It also plugs the “What about Force Grapples?” hole as well, as you can use a Neutral Dodge.

    Using styled maneuvers is a risk-reward game, just like in fighting games. You tend to leave yourself open for a moment when you try a special maneuver, but if they don’t get you, you nail them. You can stick to regular, neutral maneuvers, but you won’t have the same overall effectiveness as someone who uses styled ones.

    Advanced maneuvers are flat out stronger and better than basics, but are never Neutral (except for maybe really expensive ones). This gives a strong incentive to use them instead of “Playing it safe”.

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