Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Mechanics Spoilers: New Aspect Endowments

Hey, everyone! As we mentioned in our end-of-the-year update, the Aspect Endowment subsystems have metamorphosed a little bit, and I'm here to tell you about some of them today! Hunter's replacement system still hasn't made it off the drawing board, but for those of you looking forward to being Creators and/or Warriors, I have a glimpse into your future.

Creator: Empowerment

Empowerment, back in the original spoilers post, was the most vaguely explained, which was probably a clue that even then we were starting to see that it wasn't working super well. The concept of Empowerment hasn't changed - it's still about Creators using their burgeoning energies to do awesome things with their powers that others can't - but we had to work on how that was happening mechanically, and adjust for player problems that were cropping up in testing.

The initial version of Empowerment involved it granting Creators access to two "versions" of their Creator Blessings: one that was the normal one everybody can use, and one that had an additional cost but was a supercharged, better and fancier edition. This was definitely cool, and players liked the idea of having SuperSpellsTM in theory, but it had a lot of problems in actual execution. For one thing, it required us to write TWICE AS MANY Creator Blessings as we originally had to, with the additional bonus difficulty level of having to make them have the same base mechanics and theme as other Blessings, which was exactly as much of a bad, time-sucking idea as it sounds like, and we got really tired of that really quickly. And the problem wasn't just on our side - it also forced Creator players to have to memorize two Blessings for every one they bought, as opposed to other specialties, which caused a good amount of confusion in the ranks.

Really, what ended up happening in playtesting was that players weren't sure on the fly what powers they even had access to or what they did, and thus forgot to use Empowered Blessings all that much, and when they did there was too much time lost for everyone to go double-check on what was even supposed to be happening. Not exactly a pulse-pounding good time.

A second draft of Empowerment came around not long after the original post, in which we'd cut it down to only specific Blessings being able to be Empowered, instead of all Creator Blessings. This fixed the problem of players having trouble remembering all the possibilities, and it was less writing for us, but it added the new issue of Empowerment now only being useful to people who wanted those specific Blessings, and garbage for everyone else. We worked to spread the love around and make sure some core Blessings in different specialties were always included, but that couldn't fix the fundamental problem of this version of Empowerment being more useful to some players than others, which felt super bad.

So finally, we ended up with Empowerment Mk. III, now significantly improved, which stopped trying to be so specific and super-powery and instead focuses on flexibility and universal application. We decided to move away from the idea of Creators having additional powers inaccessible by others, and instead focus on the idea of Creators as the source of energies that they can control and focus better than anyone else. Instead of trying to have different versions of Blessings, with all the headaches that entails, Empowerment now allows Heroes to use Blessings that have a certain cost instantaneously, even though they would normally require an active turn. This means that, depending on their specialties and powers, Creators might be able to suddenly defend themselves with illusions and misdirections even when it isn't their turn, pull magically created items out of their pockets on the spur of the moment, manage to heal a flagging comrade in the nick of time who otherwise would have gone down, and so on.

This is admittedly less cool than "totally separate, extra superpower" was, but the majority of the test players responded with something along the lines of "oh thank god", so they seem to feel that the tradeoff is a good one so far.

Warrior: Innervation

The Warrior Endowment changed so much that it had to be actually renamed; now no longer about being more brawny and capable of feats of strength, it's about having the energy and will to go on Warrioring at key moments. Those of you who saw the original post might remember that the old Warrior Endowment, Overextension, allowed them to briefly become so strong that they could do things even other Warriors normally couldn't, reaching out to perform incredible acts of muscle and power beyond their normal level.

And this was all well and good, but there were valid criticisms about it, which eventually ended up outweighing its good points. For one thing, it was, for lack of a kinder word, boring; yeah, being able to lift even more weight than you could before is nice, but it's not exciting in the way that the other Endowments, each allowing you to do something you couldn't already do, were. For another thing, it was too narrowly focused to be relevant to all Warrior archetypes; while it was great for Warriors who wanted to be juggernauts of destruction, those aren't the only mythic warriors out there, and players who wanted to be, say, a hyper-athletic gymnast, or a wise old martial arts master, or a swashbuckling swordsmistress, were not excited about a subsystem that obviously wasn't designed for them.

In the end, several players in discussions pointed out that Overextension felt a lot more like a Blessing than it did a full Endowment, and they were right. So you'll see it again, over in Blessings-Land, and we went back to the drawing board on how to let Warriors of every type be more amazing thanks to their mad warriorly skills.

Innervation, which replaced Overextension, now allows Warriors who find themselves in a pinch to draw upon reserves of determination and physical power to do things that they should really be too exhausted to even attempt; in essence, it restores a big old dump of resources to them all at once, making them suddenly resurge in the middle of a long, hard fight, or be able to pull off an expensive combo move that might have been out of their reach. The catch is that these resources can only be used to do Warrior stuff, and vanish if they aren't used by the end of the Episode - so literally, Warriors that innervate themselves get to do that middle-of-the-fight sudden power-up that so many fighters in story and legend do, and bend all that energy toward whatever form of mayhem they wreak best.

Initial playtesting has so far achieved a consensus of "this is super cool, I'm gonna kill everything," "oh god I hate it when characters do that in shows, I hope to god the one we're fighting can't do that", and "so what you're saying is I can literally use seven instant-speed Blessings at once a few times per Saga", and everyone seems pretty pleased about it. Also, it strikes a nice balance where no matter what kind of Warrior you are or what powers you use, you can use it to apply to your particular character type directly.

We'll be continuing to keep an eye on these in playtesting as we work on finishing up other things, but so far they're testing well. Now if only Hunter would cooperate...!


  1. I think Creator has now safely edged out Sage for my favourite Aspect :) I just love the feeling of raw yet tamed power they give off!

    As for Warriors, let me see if I get this right...a Warrior can now go 'I'm going to use this blessing...oh wait, I don't have any labors left? I don't frigging care, I'm a Warrior' correct?

    This has me even more interested in the future of Hunters...btw, I also find it interesting that all three problem children of the Endowments were the, to use a term from your earlier post, 'personal powers' as opposed to the 'story powers' that at least seemed to have their heart in the right place.

    1. Yep, the Warrior can do that, provided the Blessing they want to use is a Warrior Blessing. (They can't decide to do that for, say, Sage, or Celestial. Their "I'm a warrior and I do what I want" button applies only to their most physical badassness powers.)

      Yeah, we've been talking about how it was the personal powers that didn't end up panning out! We think it's an issue of the story powers always having big results, even if they're not strictly good ones, while the personal ones could have moments where they did nothing or didn't apply. Story powers also have an easier time being one-size-fits-all for Aspects, since they have a set of possible outcomes instead of a single focused power.

      Hopefully these work better, and we'll see what new things the Hunters can bring to the table soon! :)

  2. The Hunter Endowment being uncooperative surprises me, since you called it the sleeper hit of the lot. Can't wait to see it, though, since it's my favorite Aspect so far

    1. I know, it surprised us, too! Its major problems aren't so much about it not being good as they are about it being hard to use effectively and not as exciting as we could hope. So we'll be working on those aspects. :)

    2. What happened was the people who werent hunters were very envious of it....and hunters didnt need it. It didnt make them feel empowered like the others did.