Tag Archives: Thrash

Thrash 2.0: Home Stretch (of Lap 1)

The other day I realized something about Thrash. Something about the game inspires people to form strong and at times divided opinions on things. Maybe it’s got the cumulative opinionation (I think I just invented a word) of both RPGs and video games. I really do genuinely appreciate getting feedback on my games–Filip in particular has been tremendously helpful of late–but thinking back to all the discussions on the Thrash mailing list I can’t help but think that as fun as all of that was, at times there were problems with the signal to noise ratio there. I’d say “I’m thinking of switching from 1d10 to 2d6” and a big argument would follow. Certainly, trying to get the community to collectively figure out where to take the game was an abject failure. I really wonder how the FFRPG guys did it.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful or anything like that. If the above has slowed me down any, the majority of the 5-year delay still falls squarely at my own feet. When doing creative stuff, I have to take my own twisted personality into account, and remember that a lot of the time I work best in isolation.

So, right now I think I need to just hunker down and finish up the rest of the current draft. Barring any sudden amazing blasts of inspiration, I pretty much just need to finish filling out the less interesting bits of what I’ve already got laid out. The base character creation rules are done, maneuvers are pretty much complete (I’ll be needing people to look to see if any need to be added), the combat rules are complete, the Destiny rules need the wording cleaned up at most, etc. The weapon rules are still a little sketchy, and there’s a decent amount left to write in the GM section (though that’s mostly fluff and advice). From there I’ll have my local friends look at it (especially fighting game fanatic Suichiro), and then put a version up on the web for all to see.

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.

Thrash 2.0: The Maneuvers

It hadn’t occurred to me before, but it’s been a while since I played much in the way of fighting games. If my collection of old PlayStation, Saturn, and Dreamcast games is any indication I was really into those back in the day, and I have a good number of both import and domestic releases (Sega Saturn represent and all that). The point of all this is to get into the nitty-gritty of the special moves for Thrash 2.0, since I was getting a nagging feeling that there were some important moves I was missing. There were, though it was primarily the kind of stuff most people would overlook.

I played some of Touki Denshou: Angel Eyes, an obscure all-girl fighting game that Tecmo put out in 1999, with some of my favorite and most blatant fighting game characters (like Mysterious Power, a retro superheroine with bouncy breasts and a ray gun, or Chibiko, a loli P.E.-themed girl in bloomers), and an array of dashing and jumping moves that make for insane, kinetic fights (a homing jump!). I also finally actually played the copy of Asuka 120% Burning Fest. Final that I picked up for cheap during my trip to Japan like 3 years ago. That game is also a schoolgirl fighter, with each character using moves based on what club she belongs to (Asuka, the main character, is in the chemisty club, and has a special move where she tosses out a flask that explodes). The fighting in that isn’t as aerial as in Angel Eyes, but it’s still pretty insane. And I haven’t even gotten into the doujin fighters like Queen of Heart and Eternal Fighter Zero, which let you do off-the-ground attacks that most 2D fighting games studiously avoid. Unfortunately, my Saturn has seen better days (I think I need to try another RAM cartridge), so I didn’t get around to playing Vampire Savior or Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter. And I ought to go borrow a few games from my friends too. I got plenty of Street Fighter in too. I still need to play:

  • DarkStalkers
  • King of Fighters
  • Capcom Vs. SNK
  • SVC Chaos
  • Waku Waku 7
  • Samurai Shodown
  • Last Blade
  • What else?

The maneuvers in Thrash are getting a bit broader out of necessity, and certain kinds of moves have become recurring. I’m starting to be able to look at most fighting game characters and define their special moves in Thrash terms, which is a Good Thing. There’s a definite need for the maneuvers in Thrash to not correspond to the number of “hits” in a fighting game (not that they ever did in the first place…). This isn’t just for stuff like the Tiger Uppercut doing 7+ hits (to say nothing of the triple-digit weirdness in MvC2); in Asuka 120% there’s a character whose rising uppercut has a slapdown hit at the end, and it occurs to me that this could easily be treated as a “special effect” rather than making life needlessly complicated with a superfluous modifier or mucking around with combo maneuvers.

Anyway, here’s the new maneuvers I’ve come up with so far:

  • Blast Knuckle: A heavy standing punch that sends the opponent flying backwards.
  • Death From Above: The character leaps high into the air and comes down on the opponent. Popular with ninjas.
  • Forward Leap Kick: The character somehow jumps/flips/whatevers forward to clock the opponent with one or both feet. Not the most widely recognized maneuver, but actually pretty common.
  • Intercept Counter: Not 100% sure what to call it, but basically the special counter maneuvers, Geese Howard’s being the most notable.
  • Justice Fist: A powerful standing punch that knocks the opponent down. Named (for better or for worse) for Allen’s move from SFEX, but Karin (SFA3) has what amounts to an open-palm version of the same thing.
  • Leaping Power Throw: The fighter jumps at the opponent, and grabs them while airborne to do a throw. Alex (SF3) has this maneuver a couple times over.
  • Stepping Power Kick: A powerful thrusting kick done with a short hop. As seen in Cody’s Ruffian Kick, amongst others.
  • Through Strike: The fighter whisks past the opponent, and delivers a lightning-fast attack whose effects are felt a moment later. A very anime-esque move, and Gen (SFA2) has a super version of this.

I’ve also found myself poking at the Thrash Companion a little bit, which’ll be the first sourcebook for the game, and a general collection of neat stuff. Weird Powers wound up divided into the categories of Freaks (cyborgs, robots, mutant animals, aliens, guys like Blanka and Dhalsim, etc.) and “Metapowers” (espers, magic, gadgets, “otherworld power” — like Dizzy and Jedah — and so on). Freaks will mostly just be a set of themed character traits (should you want stretchy limbs, or claws, or whatever), and I’m not sure how to handle metapowers just yet. It’s also going to be a repository for wackier maneuvers and other character traits. Whatever crazy rules options I come up with will also go in here; I have a vague notion of a universal Thrash variant and an FPS-themed variant. Plus I have this idea for a thing called The Fighter’s Soul which would bring in a sort of narrativist “layer” to the game, and replace the game’s boring character advancement mechanics in the process.

So yeah, I’m definitely in the thick of things with Thrash, and enjoying it. ^_^

Hello, Old Friend (Thrash 2.0)

I haven’t had a chance to do any testing with Halo: The Covenant War, but over at the Fudge Forum a fellow who goes by CmdrCody posted saying that he gave it a spin with his friends and they had a blast. I mostly design games because (1) I wanna play them with my friends, and (2) designing games is fun, but being able to share them is definitely nice. That third one is part of why my next big thing is to get back into working on Thrash 2.0, something that, if my old notes are any indication, I’ve been failing to do since 2002. Of course, I’ve mentioned here and elsewhere that this partly has to do with me getting so much more experience with RPGs, from every angle (designer, player, GM, reader, theory, etc.).

Thrash 2.0 has a lot of major changes, but compared to some of the things I could be doing with it in terms of creating a fighting game system (like going all Narrativist all of a sudden) it’s still true to the earlier versions. And it’s still doing a genre that no one else is really bothering with right now. There are some new martial arts related RPGs (like Weapons of the Gods and Final Stand), but they’ve tended more towards the kung fu movie end of things. Living Room Games had announced their Capcom World Tournament thing a while back (and I was very interested, even if I wasn’t hellbent on playing it), but a few months ago they announced on their forums that it was going on “indefinite haitus.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard that from an RPG publisher before, but I think it’s safe to say that CWT is kaput. The LRG guy was scant on details, and no doubt had to be for contractual reasons, but the combined weight of printing and licensing costs were apparently the main problem. This kind of thing is part of why I don’t particularly aspire to run my own company. The indie approach I think would work much better for me.

While I’ve been a fan of Street Fighter for ages (and of KoF, DarkStalkers, Samurai Shodown, etc.), I’m planning to concentrate primarily if not exclusively on original content for Thrash 2.0. I already have a laundry list of things I want to add to the game (and Weird Powers is at the top), though I’m going to be putting out Thrash 2.0 under a Creative Commons license, so everyone will be free to make whatever they want for it anyway. I also want to try to be more active on the mailing list, and having a version of the game I can stand to look at will help make that happen. ^_^; I’m also thinking of putting together an inexpensive POD version, so that those who are so inclined will be able to order a nice printed book, but that’ll wait until I’ve gotten through plenty of playtesting, feedback, and editing, and added some artwork.

At the moment, I’ve gotten the basic framework of the game all figured out. It was pretty simple overall, and what innovations and changes I’ve made were mostly either logical extensions of what was there before (like the more extensive rules for super bars) or stuff that should’ve been blindingly obvious (like getting rid of styles as a character trait). The bulk of the work I have to do right now is, unfortunately, the annoying grunt work of putting together the stats for all of the character traits, especially the maneuvers. Granted, I need to take care of writing the GM chapter too (which, like everything else, I’m rewriting from the ground up), but it’s the maneuvers and whatnot that will fill the system out to the point where I can run playtests. Just like with writing novels, everything I work on has gotten more time-consuming, but of better quality when it finally does arrive. :P

After so long writing/designing RPG material, I think I’m starting to get tired of writing descriptions of skills and other traits. To a certain extent it’s possible to design an RPG without these, or at least without too many of them, but apart from the annoyance it causes when I have to sit down and write descriptions–which inevitably becomes repetetive and boring–it’s not worth it to try to fit the whole game around that design concept. Risus has only player-defined traits for a specific reason, but other games rely on pre-defined ones for specific reasons. I just wish I could figure out a good way to write them without getting bored, especially considering that if I’m bored writing that part of the game, the reader can’t be all that enthralled either. The only time I ever manage to make that sort of thing remotely interesting is when I get sarcastic, but that only works for certain games (like with Mascot-tan).

Did you notice I’ve been trying to talk in terms of “designing RPGs” instead of “writing RPGs”? There was a blog post (and crap, I can’t remember whose it was) that pointed out that there is a difference, and an important one. I think it’s important to keep in mind that what I’m doing here is making games. There’s a side of it that’s similar to writing stories (but then, I do that separately), but I feel I need to try to give higher priority to the design aspect, and thereby make better games.

And once the beta version of Thrash 2.0 is done, I need to get back into Tokyo Heroes, my sentai/magical girl RPG (the combination makes sense if you read the game). All that one really needs is for me to finish up the rules for bad guys and write up some of the sample characters, and it’ll be ready to playtest. I really do come up with too many projects for myself.

Thrash 2.0

With a project like Thrash 2.0, I can’t help but get nostalgic and whatnot. On the one hand, I can’t help but kick myself for taking so long to get this far — it’s literally been about three years, mostly taken up by distractions and procrastination — but then I’ve learned a lot about RPGs and game design in that time. I’m barely even looking at Thrash 1.8 as I work on the new version because every time I do I see stuff that makes we wince. Plus I’ve changed enough core concepts that the utility of looking at the old version is kind of limited at this point. Still, even though the rules were really wonky at that point, my Karyuu Densetsu (“Legend of the Fire Dragon”) campaign was the first really long, memorable campaign my group had post-high school. It was big and melodramatic and cheesy and the player characters were kicking ass all the time, when they weren’t too busy bickering. There was a really fantastic mishmash of mythical stuff, from Thuggee assassins (one of whom had a Grab/Life Drain/Choke Slam combo move) to a village of hybrids of humans and the Four Sacred Animals, to bring sucked into a realm in the astral plane where dragons roam free, to redeeming one of the genetically engineered bunny-girl clones, not to mention the elemental ninja clans.

Every time I start thinking I’ve left Thrash behind for good, I find myself wanting to go back, both because of those memories and because the game had its fair share of fans. At its height I was getting emails from gamers all over the world, and there were a couple different translated versions in the works. After reading and playing dozens of new RPGs, I feel much better equipped to make Thrash into the kind of game I feel it deserves to be. To do that I wound up pretty much tossing out the old edition and starting from scratch; clinging to old (bad) ideas and having no real focus for new ones is a lot of what was bogging down previous attempts at putting together 2.0.

Styles as a character trait are completely gone. That approach was full of flaws to begin with, and none of the alternative approaches I came up with were making things better. Instead, I wound up using the “Techniques” from Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game, minus having styles determine a character’s available maneuvers. The end result is that I don’t have to worry nearly as much about styles being accurate or inaccurate, and you don’t have to create new character traits to have a character whose style isn’t in the book. While in SFII they went to the trouble of listing a style for every character (even if some of them were odd or just plain made up, a situation that wasn’t improved when the game was localized for our neck of the woods), many fighting games don’t bother. Most of the cast of Soul Calibur just fights with some European weapon, and there aren’t many cool style names for that kind of stuff. It’s much easier to say that if you want to make a video game Tae Kwon Do guy you need to give him lots of big kick moves.

The new AP system is probably the most important and radically altered aspect of the system, and it seems to fix several of the combat system’s biggest problems in one fell swoop. All characters get 3 AP per turn, and unspent ones are actually saved up, to a maximum of 6 (taking a cue from Xenosaga). Combos, counters, and so on are all so much simpler this way. Improvised combos are just doing multiple moves in a turn, and combo maneuvers let you commit a certain amount of AP to do a set number of moves that would ordinarily use slightly more AP. Very few tabletop RPGs actually use any kind of Action Point system — the closest I know of is Shadowrun, and they may have changed that in the new edition — so I’m doubly curious to see how it works out in play. I’m definitely going to put those glass beads to use for tracking AP.

Maneuvers got a lot simpler too, just because I decided they should mostly be a character’s special moves (the ones that, in fighting games, take a controller motion). There was a lot of confusing and unnecessary variety in maneuvers, especially throws, and paring down that selection looks like it’ll benefit the game substantially. It’ll probably be a little harder to make a realistic martial artist, but then this is Thrash and that’s not a bad thing.

I also dropped the idea of doing a unified point-buy system. It was Mutants & Masterminds that convinced me to do this. I’ve heard good things about M&M and when I picked up the book and read it I was inclined to agree, but when creating a character it’s hard to get a good sense of point scale, and it’s just time-consuming. (Which is part of why we’re probably using T&J for our upcoming superhero campaign). For a superhero game it makes sense that you’d need to be able to divert points towards attributes if you feel inclined to make a super-strong guy, but starting Thrash characters have a narrower range anyway. Right now I have Thrash set up with three pools of points at character creation — Attributes, Techniques, and Everything Else (Edges, Flaws, Abilities/Skills, and Maneuvers).

Tokyo Heroes definitely has a bit more of an “indie” vibe to it than Thrash (insofar as you can when your game is based on a massively popular formulaic institution of Japanese television), but Thrash is where it needs to be. The thing that did the most to help me work on the basic mechanics was finally reading Unisystem (in the form of the Angel RPG). It actually uses a d10+Attribute+Skill mechanic just like Thrash’s Interlock system roots, and it even has maneuvers (though they’re a little different, more a quick-reference than a character trait). To the limited extent that I understand GNS theory, Thrash is basically Gamist. I’ve been trying to give the game a little more tactical depth (to the extent I can). I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it, but I did wind up dropping a “Fighter Nature” mechanic (where you pick an archetype of why your character fights and you get a minor special ability and a way to earn more Karma points) because it doesn’t fit with the general direction the rest of the mechanics are going. While I wonder what a more Narrativist anime martial arts game would be like, I think if I do another system I’d like it to not be about characters who fight constantly.

Just as I’ve been watching sentai and magical girl shows for Tokyo Heroes, for Thrash I need to get back into playing fighting games. Most of the time when I get inspired to work on Thrash it’s because I was playing some fighting game that I really enjoyed. Party’s Breaker and Eternal Fighter Zero helped with that in a big way at one point, and I really need to get around to playing Melty Blood at some point. Doujin games seem to be the last bastion of good 2-D fighting games these days; even SNK is trying to go 3-D. For whatever reason there aren’t a whole lot of fighting anime around though. King of Fighters: Another Day looks *really* cool, but it’s only sporadically released shorts, Fighting Beauty Wulong isn’t being subbed (I should watch the raws anyway, really), and people online act like I’m crazy for liking Air Master (and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha for that matter). I think my Dreamcast died though (and I never got very far in DiGi Charat Fantasy either…), so I’d have to borrow a friend’s or something.

It’s good but weird that now when I watch sentai and magical girl shows I find myself mapping things out in terms of the Tokyo Heroes game mechanics (though I’m still not sure how exactly the Dekarangers’ SWAT Mode is going to translate into game terms). Hopefully it’ll work that way for Thrash as well. ^_^