Thursday, March 7, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #10: Status Attacks

  Dealing with status attacks has actually been one of the most difficult aspects of the new rules set. Status attacks are sort of a weird in between in the game. They're attacks that like damage effects are targeted at the body, but work more like mental attacks as far as how they cause the player to react. The hybrid combination of effect and target really places them in the middle of nowhere as far as the rules go.


  Resisting status is done with Resilience, which for 2 energy you can resist the attack in whole. This makes resilience not only a great power, but a must have power. Being hit with paralyze is an assured way to drop any target without resilience. There's a couple ways to become immune to status attacks such as form of war and form of vapor, and you can also pick up an additional resist with the merit Hardy. Even if you do have one of these, you probably still need resilience to avoid getting chumped.


  The problem we found was both that Resilience was too good, and status attacks were too good. Not having Resilience was basically a death sentence. Having resilience basically made all status attacks useless. This led to people either ignoring status as an attack method all together or making a single status attack to see if their opponent had a defense and then being disappointed with the result. If it was resisted, status was ignored and people moved on. If it stuck, they probably won the fight.
  Another problem was with the tiered nature of status attacks. For the most part it made no sense to use any other attack than paralyze if you had it because it basically equated a win in a fight. Other status attacks simply didn't measure up. This meant that they didn't have utility, they simply had superiority by getting the best power and ignoring the rest.

Trials and Tribulations

  I want to give some idea of the number of different things we tried for status resist to give a picture of the experience we went through. We tried lots of stuff.

1. Resist with health - We tried what it looked like if you resist status by paying 1 health.
  The thought here was that we could differentiate it from damage and mentals by making the pool it drains from separate. Unfortunately, this didn't work. It did make people more likely to take low level mental attacks but it was still an auto resist for paralyze. Basically status attacks ended up just being throwing a packet for 1, which wasn't much fun for either side.

2. Break with Resilience - We tried to see what it would look like if you broke a status for 2 energy much like our current rules for breaking a mental.
  The though was that people would at least take the effects initially then break out once it really mattered. In reality, every status got broken all the time. Status became less useful than it currently is because everyone could afford to break it and it really didn't feel right for status.

3. Free resist for people without resilience - The idea here was to make it so people could pay a lot (5 health) to resist a status attack without needing a power.
  This was also pretty lame. It did succeed in giving people without resilience an out but it didn't feel good for either side. Both the attackers and defenders were nonplused by this scenario.

4. Free status attacks - We added some status attacks that didn't cost energy.
  This worked surprisingly well. Having some weak, level one status attacks that didn't cost energy helped make the auto resist mantra die out. If someone can just pepper you repeatedly with a status attack, you're likely to stop and take it rather than fighting against it. It still makes Paralyze an auto resist but it does help the spread of powers where there's times you'd throw the freebie rather than spending the energy on big attacks.

5. Side effect on resist - We looked at having resilience ding you somehow.
  The big question here was how. I creasing the cost was one way to add more ding, but that's not really helpful. We found -1 damage to actually be a decent counterbalance to resisting. It made aggressors weakened even if they were able to resist status attacks. It also made the new avoidance rules slightly more powerful as an attacker that was swinging 2 could be dropped to 1 with a status attack. That significantly decreases the damage they're capable of putting out.

Combined Approach

  In the end combining 4 and 5 seemed workable. Having variable cost powers means that people can push in with status attacks and still see some results even if their attack is resisted. What it ended up doing was making it so that if you have a status attack it is definitely worth throwing one at a target in combat. If they resisted you still got some bang for your buck. We basically made it so that if you use resilience you take a status effect that decreases your attack damage by one. We also made this a free status attack replacing wither.

WITHER (Status)
Cost: None
Call: “Wither”
The target's maximum damage with boffer attacks is reduced by one.  Umbrabound creatures in the umbra may use this power across the Gauntlet by saying “Breach” before the sig call.

  However, we still had the problem with some of the bigger status attacks. Paralyze was an auto resist but it left the downside, but we had just made tossing the first status attack into combat more worthwhile. If you didn't have resilience, you were more likely to be chumped. This meant we had to tone down some of the bigger status attacks so that they weren't an immediate win/lose power. Instead we wanted to make them powers to control the flow of the fight, not simply dominate it. The big powers that needed to be clarified were Paralyze, Body Wrack, and Venom Blood. We wanted these to impose significant restrictions, but not be an auto-win for a fight. Because even if your opponent resists the attack, you're still getting some effect.
  Pay some special attention to how each of these powers works and think about when you'd use each one. There's some very subtle changes that makes each of these powers very unique.

Cost: 1 energy
Call: “Body wrack”
The target must take a knee while screaming out in pain. The target may not make status, mental, touch, counted touch, or packet damage attacks.  Umbrabound creatures in the umbra may use this power across the Gauntlet by saying “Breach” before the sig call.

Cost: 1 Energy
Call: “Paralyze”
The target is held in total paralysis unable to do anything other than regenerate. This power ends immediately if the target is attacked or damaged.

VENOM (Status)
Cost: 1 energy
Call: “Venom”
The target must roleplay being ill and may not make any attacks.

DISABLE (Status)
Cost: 2 energy
Call: “Disable”
For the duration of this power the target may not expend energy for any reason.

Now for the teacher part in me. I'm curious to see how people are putting all of the rules we've shown so far together. You'll notice we increased the cost of disable to two energy. There's a very specific reason we did this based on previous posts. Can anyone tell me why?


  1. Answer: Because Disable is a pretty big trump card as powers go. Possibly because it also trumps Resilience by cutting off Energy expenditures?

    So to sum up and make sure I understand things:

    Resilience will cost X Energy and a the loss of One Damage.

    I also assume with the above changes, that the absolute minimum damage a character can deal is One and it cannot be reduced to Zero.

    Wither just became a free trump power that whether you resist it or not, you lose one damage level.

    I can't think of any alternate suggestions, but this sounds significantly worse than the current Status rules.

    Again it also seems the You or The Rules Team is assuming every character power levels into having both Resilience and and Avoidance.

  2. I wanted to throw on a couple of hints. First off, our change to Disable was to make it more Shadow Lordish.

    The change to paralyze was to make it less of an I kill you now power when you get it off. The change to venom blood and body wrack were specifically intended to give these two a very clear different IG flavor and have rules that supported them.

    With Body Wrack it made more sense for someone being in pain to lash out but not be able to concentrate enough to make packet or mental attacks.

    With venom the poison would make someone unable to attack but where it made no sense to run with body wrack, people who have just been poisoned are likely to run for help.


    To answer James' questions.
    The minimum is not one. The minimum is zero. Though the experience that people have shared is that swinging one often times feels like swinging nothing.

    Wither is sort of a trump power, it's just something you won't resist. I mean, you can spend 2 energy but it won't do anything.

    As you stated I do believe that eventually elder characters will want resilience and avoidance. I also feel that this is canon where elder vampires will eventually pick up some celerity and fortitude to insure their survivability. Potence isn't necessarily as expected in canon but elder vampires that crumple when punched are not very common.

  3. Holy Hell - that's a tricky issue to try to tackle.
    Dealing with 'shut-down' powers as a within-group test is tricky at best; this looks like a reasonable way to deal with it.

    That was well iterated - well done. Looks like you managed to pull off a RITE test (Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation. I mention this as it is my favorite kind of test, and pretty damn rare in the industry because it requires Devs and folk doing the testing to be firing on the same cylinders.

    Anywho -

    I particularly like the 'Body Wrack allows physical thrashing' bit - which made me smile and realize 'I saw what you did there' as soon as I read it.

    A couple of things to consider on Body Wrack:
    Do Black Furies still get Element? If so, yeesh - pretty brutal combo, as it appears that Body Wrack effectively pins someone, and then they get to burn them down.
    Then again, if that's intentional - that's also ok. Black Furies are sorta known for being a mostly humorless, no-nonsense tribe.

    My major issue is the 'take a knee'
    Two things:
    1) A pin spell in Alliance allows for some dodging, but, taking a knee makes someone a sitting duck, especially for packet attacks.
    2) Taking a knee in combat, in the dark, when no-one else is doing so... Is just a little too dangerous.
    So I offer this instead:

    BODY WRACK (Status)
    Cost: 1 energy
    Call: “Body wrack”
    The target must scream out in pain, and act out being in pain. The target may not make status, mental, touch, counted touch, packet damage attacks, or move faster than a walk. Umbrabound creatures in the umbra may use this power across the Gauntlet by saying “Breach” before the sig call.


    Also - I think a minimum of 1 is a good idea.
    While swinging 1 does often feel like swinging 0, it's the difference between: "you can stay in the fight" vs. "time to hide in a corner."
    It should serve as a Debuff for things that are silly-strong...
    ...but shouldn't serve as a 'win the fight against a human' - else a person with this free power could take on an infinity-billion number of human soldiers that can't resist it - and win.


    ~ Conor

  4. There's a specific thing you did there with body wrack that probably isn't for game. What you proposed specifically makes it worse than Venom. What it actually does is make it "LOUD VENOM" only worse because you can still boffer while under it. These two powers are much cooler when each has a unique feel to them.

    The point about the issues of taking a knee is valid though. Fighting from a knee isn't really a great idea. I'll put that one back up to look at. It does make a pretty beastly combo for black furies, but I'm Ok with that. We don't want it to just be a root because we have powers that do that. Perhaps allowing a slow walk is really the best option.

  5. I realized I misread and misunderstood a key part of this concept.

    I'm now on board with this change.

  6. I'm glad it was cleared up. I suppose I didn't ever clearly state that resisting basically gave you the "Wither" (status).

    Though the question of Disable is actually bigger than just that it's a really good power. There's something very specific it does in the new rules set that it didn't do before.

  7. I know, but I had to cheat by asking Chuck at lunch. :)

  8. Disable will keep the target from regenerating?

  9. As Ryan mentioned. Disable can be used on a target that is taken down, which will prevent them from using their innate regeneration at the 1 minute period. It's cheaper than spending 10+ energy to agg them out, but they're lying there for 10 minutes.
    Shadow Lord catches you alone, you could be in for some bad times.

  10. Badass Black Fury Combo, iknowrite? :P But it feels fitting for the tribe, doesn't it?

    Anyway -
    As there was mention before of a power that let someone convert agg to regular damage at the cost of energy... seems that disable would stop that, too.

    Then for someone who intends to - you know - kill their foes...
    ...That's a must-have power. Or at least, it's a 'must have in my Pack / Coterie' power.
    It not-only gives you a huge combat advantage, but also gives a huge post-combat advantage.

    Is it *too* must-have, or do you feel it's just about right?

    Previously, there was mention that 'rampant killing of whatever is limited by amount of energy it cost to do so; people will have to evaluate if it's really worth 10 energy to kill that Formori or PC or whatever' - this looks like it'll cost 2 to kill someone, regardless of if they have the +4 Health power or not (effectively negating one of it's more important uses: makes it more costly to perma-kill you).

    While Disable is meant as a 'Negate Your Cool Stuff' power, and also meant to be brutal... might it be negating too much, in that it negates the cost of killing?
    My suggestion would be to consider Disable if it *only* had an effect on active targets, and, went away when someone goes to 0 health like other powers do (presumably, other powers do?)

    I get the feeling like I might be missing something here, so I yield the floor to let Marc explain the piece or pieces I might be missing...
    ...or - could it just be really badass but deliberate exception to the costly nature of whackin' someone?

    ~ Conor

  11. I'm not entirely sure I'd put Disable into the must have category. It's good, don't get me wrong, but throwing it for 2 energy isn't going to be worth it most of the time. Occasionally it might, but currently at 1 energy I hardly ever see it used.

    When I compare it to a power like venom or body wrack, these are actually more powerful combat powers. Venom means no attacks, if your pack is there, you can beat the hell out of someone while they've been venomed. Compared to body wrack, well, body wrack is louder, but with disable they can still hit you and activate powers that don't cost energy (like wither). So in combat disable is easily outshined by other powers.

    The 2 energy to kill someone is a thing, a big thing, and a serious thing. The points I'd note is that disable isn't super common, but the effect of it is the same as hitting someone with fire 1 once their down today. They can't regenerate. How often is this actually the cause of death. It does allow people to kill someone for cheaper, but it takes the full 10 minutes before they're dead. If I want you dead, I'll pay the 10 energy to fire 1 you to death rather than spending 2 energy and waiting for 10 minutes. Compared to today's rules all we've really done is increased the cost of hitting someone with fire 1 when they're down.

    All in all this makes disable a not very great status attack, or a cheap way to make sure someone who you've got pinned down stay's dead. It's an alternative to burning someone out, you're paying in time instead of energy. Those two make it a decent power, but not an amazing one.

  12. While I like most of the changes I see here (adding flavor and variety to anything is always good), I'm not sure I'm entirely onboard with the change to Wither. Not the side effect of resisting a Status or even exactly that it will be a zero cost power, but the fact that if you us Wither itself, and it is resisted, it still takes effect. For a zero cost power, doesn't that seem a bit too...powerful?

    It sounds odd to say, but think about it. It's essentially a freebie. You can throw it and regardless it's going to work. There really is no reason not to. And the implications of that can be quite immense. Let's look at the examples below (these examples also assume that a character has NO means of resisting damage attacks):

    Character who normally swings for 5 now takes 3 hits to down a target instead of 2.

    Character who normally swings for 4 now takes 4 hits to down a target instead of 3.

    Character who normally swings for 3 now takes 5 hits to down a target instead of 4.

    Character who normally swings for 2 now takes 10 hits to down a target instead of 5.

    Character who normally swings for 1 now takes...well...hope you can still run.

    Now, the above isn't necessarily bad, but when you're talking about a power that costs you NOTHING to use, you as the user can only benefit from this, regardless of whether someone has the ability to resist this or not. That seems a bit unbalanced to me.

    If it is going to be a zero cost, why not then be able to resist it and the side effects are...well, there are none. You've successfully resisted it, no harm, no foul. And the person using the power, while not weakening their target, has also not used anything up in the process, and has even caused their target to expend some amount of energy in the process.

    Maybe that just made sense to me, but I personally think that is a fairer system.

  13. While wither is a freeibe, the majority of other statuses will significantly effect the flow of combat. If it's your only status, you'll make significant use of it and it's a pretty cool power. But if it's all you've got the guy who wants to kill you that swings 4 is going to kill you swinging 3s.

    Meanwhile, if I have another status attack (let's say Venom) and I spend the 1 energy to throw this, I may seriously debilitate my opponent, but if not, I get the Wither effect anyway. In this case, the wither effect is essentially free. If I have the option to chance tying my opponent up significantly with failure meaning the wither effect, I'll still probably throw the bigger status instead. That's what our testers favored when given multiple status attacks. If wither is your only status attack, it's a decent power, but on its own it's not going to win you a fight like paralyze could.

    I'd also note that with the changes in Avoidance (1 energy per point of damage) the value of attempting a status attack is much more significant because with 20 energy I can take 10 hits of someone swinging 3, but I can take 15 hits of someone swinging 2. This means stacking damage is more important if you're trying to deal damage as you are likely to end up swinging 1 less point of damage in a number of fights.

  14. "the effect of it is the same as hitting someone with fire 1 once their down today. They can't regenerate. How often is this actually the cause of death."

    They can't use standard regeneration, true, but they can still use the Regenerate power - which is why it doesn't always work in the current system as a way to kill a character. I think that Regenerate is the more common escape-from-death than 'buddies find me in time' - but that's total speculation on my part.

    So... maybe my question should be:
    "After being dropped to 0 and hit with Disable, is there anything a character can do to prevent their death without the intervention of an outside party?"

    Additionally, if you get dropped to 0, can you still resist Disable like any other status, or, is your being at 0 mean you can no longer activate your resists?


    ~ Conor
    (Who is admittedly somewhat concerned about Shadow Lord Ahroun having more direct and efficient killing power than other things)
    (Also wonders if there are any changes to Augment planned, if there is a damage cap, and if there will be no-cost-to-use +1 weapons).

  15. To answer your question. No, if you're down and no help is coming and you get disabled you're going to die. While unconscious you can't activate powers.

    People today can still use the Regenerate, which is part of the problem. It's currently the escape from death that shouldn't be there. There's no way for a Shadow Lord to actually kill someone.

    I'm more concerned about Shadow Lord's not having a way to actually kill someone than finally giving them a power to make it happen. They have a cost efficient way to kill someone, but it is significantly less direct, and requires much more time. If you're going to go through the trouble of assassinating someone, find a way to spend the 10+ energy and make sure they actually die instantly. Otherwise you're stuck with a body for 20 minutes that you have to hope no one finds.

  16. Ok, well on a more selfish note, since Wither itself is a status attack, and at this point an irresistible status attack, does this also mean that if you get hit with another status attack and resist, that the lingering side effect of Wither still counts as being hit by a status?

    I ask this because while it may only effect a small number of character types, but if the above question is correct, then Ananasi really have no way to defend against their particular weakness other than by simply avoiding getting hit by status attacks (which during any given event, no matter how hard you try might not always work).

    Now I am assuming that other character types still will have powers to help them avoid/mitigate the harmful effects of their weaknesses, even if only for a time, this change to the rules would take that away completely from one character type, if I am not mistaken.

  17. Adding a side effect to any Status attack if resisted is going to make a huge change in SA combat. Everyone is going to want at least one status attack to open up a combat with. As proposed, it means basic humans and anyone without Might will likely get stuck being useless in battle. It also means there will need to be more dynamic calculation of your damage sig call in the middle of combat. That's going to likely increase 'flubs' and require more focus on the interface of the game (which I never like).

    I have a few comments on the specific powers mentioned:

    Wither - I think the effect is too powerful for a free ability (or as a side effect). As it is, since your combat rules propose that someone can attack a given person once per second, this would allow someone with wither to hit each person in a group in the same second as long as they don't hit the same person twice. That can be done for free and it can't be resisted regardless of defensive abilities. That's just not balanced if you're trying to de-buff status attacks. If the effect were to step 5' backward or just the next melee attack made swung for 0, that might be more appropriate and be easier to implement in combat.

    Resilience - Adding a side effect to status attacks if they are resisted makes this power seem almost worthless. Keep in mind you're limiting energy access by modifying the economy itself, which will mean that people will conserve their energy more and use it sparingly. De-buffing status attacks also means that Resilience isn't going to be as necessary to survive. Throw in the break out mechanic, and more people will take status more often once they lose the current stigma of their lethal nature. From my experience, a defensive power should trump an offensive power - especially if it costs twice as much to use and is only useful if you're hit with the attack.

    Disable - I don't understand your current logic that it prevents regeneration passed the normal status duration of 60 seconds. Does a status attack now persist on an unconscious person as long as they are unconscious?

    Overall, I feel there's a slight irony behind something you mentioned here. You said "elder vampires will eventually pick up some celerity and fortitude to insure their survivability," yet most of the rules changes proposed are aimed to reduce these things that allow a character to be survivable. Do you not want PCs to ever become elders then? Based on the amount of time and commitment to this game required to get there, I would think there are very few candidates as it is.

  18. Ananasi - This is an interesting point that we encountered and considered. We couldn't find ANY good canon backing for their status issues. They had some weird things if they fed on bad blood, and some poison type stuff effected them weird, but they could easily spend blood to clear up any strange aliments. By canon it would probably make more sense to allow ananasi to break out of a status by spending energy than making them specifically weak to it. Therefore, with no canon basis, we got rid of at weakness.

    Wither - The intent of the changes was not actually trying to debuff status attacks, it was to make them effect the flow of combat rather than decide it. Against a group of weaker opponents, wither is a pretty good power. If you're up against a mad BSD swinging 5s, it's not bad, but it's not going to rule the day.

    Resilience - If you don't feel that resilience is a worthwhile power, you're free not to take it. Part of the intent is that it isn't an absolute must have power but instead a solid useful power. However, I know that I'm going to want it. I'd rather be swinging 1 less damage than not be able to attack at all. That's still pretty cool.

    Disable - The regeneration ability triggers when you have been incapacitated for 60 seconds, and not again unless you get up. If you get disabled then dropped, you're fine because you can still use regeneration. However, if you're dropped then hit with disable, you better hope you have some friends that can find you in the next 10 minutes.

    Overall - The point is to tone down the survivability game. Currently survivability significantly outweighs every other form of power. Characters that want to be offensive buy the defensive powers because it's the only way to stay in a fight. I expect to see some characters be able to build a more pure offensive build and still be pretty effective. One goal of the changes is to make it so that if a group of people wants to kill a character, there's a number of clear pathways that are available. It still needs to be managed well, but the target doesn't get 3 hours of get our of jail free.

  19. I'm still fairly new to the game so apologies if I am misinterpreting any of these descriptions, but I have some concerns/questions:

    1) The idea that Whither is a freebie and can make someone only capable of hitting for 1 completely ineffective in combat seems highly problematic. I agree that many characters start out with 2 or in extreme cases 3, I don't feel like an automatic power/side-effect should force people to design there characters with this in mind.

    This goes back to one of the original tenets in the first post that no one should be invulnerable, that any peasant should be capable of picking up a rock and doing damage to someone. This "free" status effectively makes an opponent invulnerable to a weaker or "peasant" character.

    2) From the comments above it sounds like we're looking at eliminating the regen after 10 minutes, that if no one finds you, then your dead. Again, going back to the original tenets, the intent was to prevent people from just jumping up and escaping unexpectedly or taking hours to kill. The elimination of the auto-regen has no impact on this problem and only serves to punish new players or simply unlucky players.

    Death is a real danger of SA and needs to be there. But the idea that someone could simply be waylayed on a side trail and robbed by someone and that they will die, even when there was no actual intent to kill the character seems wrong on every level.

    Further, if murder was not the intent, I have to go out of my way to heal the person, who would then wake up, making for a very unrealistic and awkward role play moment.

    We treat the idea of 10 minutes as an opportunity for blind luck to save someone from death. However, it's real purpose should be an opportunity for the victor to execute the role play intent that they were seeking. This may be confirming death, but there are so many other role play choices which may be more appropriate at the time, kidnapping, applying some long term effect the character otherwise may have resisted, robbing, manipulating, torturing, etc.

    I would much rather see the idea proposed in one of the earlier blog posts that all players get the 10 min regen ability, and don't consider it regen, but clawing your way back from unconsciousness or the brink of death.

    This is an area that I'm extremely passionate about, so if I'm not clearly communicating or if I have the rules confused, please let me know.


  20. …continuation from before
    3) While we're talking regen, I'm a little confused about where we're at with the full Regenerate power.

    As referenced in an earlier post, regenerate simply adds +4 health. This seems horribly flawed. As written in the response immediately above (under the Disable) description, it feels more like what I imagined.

    Just to be clear on my thinking...Regenerate within monsters (which we are) is a very terrifying power and an incredible role play opportunity. The idea that the troll, werewolf, whatever is going stand back up at any moment is very powerful. However, with the exception of truly "self healing" systems, regenerate is always represented in the same way. After falling, the body begins to heal itself and after a period of time, this healing is enough that the monster can once again stand up. It is during this cycle that players run around looking for fire or silver, or run, or whatever.

    If we go with the "roleplayable" version of Regenerate. If the player goes down, then there body will "automatically" expend energy to heal itself. After a 60 second count, the player has one hit point. I believe at this point they should be able to play dead and now consciously expend energy to heal 1 point every 60 seconds.

    Disable could interfere with this whether before or after falling, delaying the expending of energy and regen by the duration of the Disable, or for as long as Disable is re-cast. However, I don't feel like Disable has to be the "paired" power to deal with Regenerate. It could be just as effective to hit the player and continue doing damage. Perhaps "Awaken" has to be done as a 1 second beat, so that players have a chance to realize you've become conscious and might try to use a power. Or better overall, just focus additional rules work on insuring that fallen characters are not invulnerable and allow players a reasonable opportunity to overcome other powers, resistances, etc. in a proportionally appropriate manner.

    Regardless, per my earlier item (#2), if the players fail to do anything practical to kill or disrupt the fallen character then after 10 minutes they should become conscious.

    Again, huge apologies if I have missed some key clarification of the rules. I'm just going based on what I'm reading above, in previous posts, and my own interpretation.