12
May

Games from Scratch – Gamma StarCraft, Part II

   Posted by: Patrick   in Gaming

Games from Scratch is a new article series, and we hope that it’s something you can find useful, either as a game to run, an interesting mod of a game or setting you like, or an experiment in game design. We’ll examine a wide range of worlds and rule sets as we go along, but we want Games from Scratch to be more than a bin for homebrew odds and ends, and even more than assorted rules hacks. When one of us sets out to create a Game from Scratch, the goal is just that: an examination of the whole play experience, hoping to adapt some kind of already-existing RPG to make something you could at least get a few hours’ enjoyment out of in a new way.

In Part I, I talked about some of the big-picture considerations I went through when I was trying to decide how to render StarCraft in Gamma World. Wisely, I made a few of those wide-reaching decisions up-front, before I had time to get ahead of myself. For example, I decided that ammunition would work slightly differently than in Gamma World. I like that it’s tracked abstractly, while preserving the possibility that characters will run out of bullets. But, I want to make some changes so that players aren’t quite as stingy with their guns as they are in a post-apocalyptic survival game like Gamma World.

Designing Origins

An RPG is all about characters, so it makes sense to start this article series off with some origins. In Gamma World, each character has two origins that, together, describe his or her background and powers. You can think of them as an amalgam of D&D’s race and class. At level 1, you get the Novice powers from each origin, then as you level up you pick new powers from between your two origins. In Gamma StarCraft, I decided not to have players randomly select origins, like you do in Gamma World. Things are a big more serious and a bit less wacky in the Koprulu Sector than on Gamma Terra (okay, a lot less wacky), but if you want some unpredictability, you’re welcome to randomize origins.

Origins also present a nice, predictable structure to build on. You get an at-will attack, then a utility power a few levels later, then an encounter power after that. For the base traits, you just pick a primary ability score, a skill bonus, a defense bonus, a minor benefit that triggers off critical hits, and one other miscellaneous trait. Some origins can break this mold, but it’s an excellent starting point.

Marine Origin

It’s hard to find a more iconic piece of StarCraft lore than the terran marine and his trusty gauss rifle. For most marines, this origin is the result of Confederate or Dominion combat training, though characters of any background can appreciate the benefits of better living through ferromagnetic ballistic acceleration. Naming the origins was something of a sticking point for me: if it obviously draws from a game unit like a Marine or a Reaper, does it make more sense to give the origin the same name, or should I avoid getting too specific with an origin that could apply to a wide variety of backgrounds? Marine or soldier? Reaper or raider? For now, I’m comfortable with the straightforward approach, but I’m prepared to be talked out of it.

Marine

Marine Traits

You want a piece of me, boy?

Character Type: Strength
Skill Bonus (Level 1): Gain a +4 bonus to Athletics checks.
Tough as Neosteel (Level 1): Gain a +2 bonus to Fortitude.
Lock and Load (Level 1): You can use Strength/Constitution to modify attacks you make with a light ranged weapons. You may use a two-handed ranged weapon in one hand, but you take a -2 penalty to attacks when you do so.
Marine Critical (Level 2 or 6): When you score a critical hit, the attack deals 1d10 extra damage and you gain a +2 bonus to all defenses until the end of your next turn.

Marine Powers

Burst Fire (Marine Novice)
Remember your training, and you’ll get out alive.
At-Will • Physical, Weapon
Standard Action Ranged weapon
Target: One or two creatures.
Attack: Strength + your level + weapon accuracy vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + your level physical damage.

Stay Frosty (Marine Utility – level 3 or 7)
When hostiles get close, you’re ready to retreat to a safer firing position.
Encounter
Immediate Reaction Personal
Trigger: An enemy enters an adjacent square.
Effect: You shift up to 3 squares.

Covering Fire (Marine Expert – level 5 or 9)
I can keep them pinned down, but they’ll be all the angrier after.
Encounter • Physical, Weapon
Standard Action Ranged weapon
Target: One creature.
Attack: Strength + your level + weapon accuracy vs. AC.
Hit: 1[W]+ Strength + twice your level physical damage, and the target is immobilized until the end of your next turn. While immobilized, the target cannot make opportunity attacks.

Firebat Origin

When I sat down to make some origins, the first ones I delved into were the easy ones: anything that already existed to some extent in Gamma World and just needed reskinning or gentle adaptation to work as a StarCraft origin. One example of this was the Pyrokinetic, which didn’t take much imagination to become the Firebat. As an armored space warrior, some of a firebat’s abilities come from his equipment rather than the pyrokinetic’s inherent Psi power. Also, how does a trait like Thermal Insulation get adjudicated in the case of a firebat who goes into a fight without his CMC-660 armor on? For a game meant to be fast and loose like Gamma StarCraft, this is acceptable to me at this point, but that’s tentative, so consider these powers to have a strong “beta” label on them.

In combat, the firebat is obviously crowd control, but also serves as a shock troop, with enough survivability to get into close range fast and enough firepower to punish enemies when he gets there. But that’s not really why you play a firebat, right? Flame on!

Firebat

Firebat Traits

Character type: Constitution
Skill Bonus (Level 1): Gain a +4 bonus to Intimidate checks.
Thermal Insulation (Level 1): Gain resist 10 fire.
Need a Light? (Level 1): Whenever an enemy ends its turn adjacent to you, it takes 5 fire damage.
Firebat Critical (Level 2 or 6): When you score a critical hit, the attack deals 1d10 extra damage. If the attack dealt fire damage, the creature instead gains ongoing 10 fire damage (save ends).

Fire Sweep (Firebat Novice)
I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
At-Will • Ammo, Fire
Standard Action                            Close blast 2
Target: Each creature in blast
Attack: Constitution + your level vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d6 + Constitution modifier + your level fire damage.

Flame on!

Line Breaker (Firebat Utility – level 3 or 7)
Nothing stands in your way.
Encounter
Move Action                            Personal
Effect: You move up to your speed. During this movement, you gain a +5 power bonus to all defenses against opportunity attacks.

Ashes to Ashes (Firebat Expert – level 5 or 9)
Fire washes the skin off the bone and the sin off the soul.
Encounter • Ammo, Fire
Standard Action                           Close burst 2
Target: Each enemy in burst
Attack: Constitution + your level vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d10 + Constitution modifier + your level fire damage, plus the target takes ongoing 5 fire damage (save ends).
Miss: Half damage, and no ongoing damage.

Reaper Origin
The Marauder that I promised last time isn’t done yet. This is due to a revision being made in how Gamma StarCraft handles ammunition. Instead, let’s look at the other side of that coin: the fast and agile Reaper. I wanted reapers to fight at close range, and have the mobility to stay alive. They can dual wield pistols like in StarCraft II, or (as you might notice their powers allow for melee) they could use combat knives for assassination missions. I see the reaper going a lot of directions, depending on their other origin.

Reaper

Reaper Traits

6 pooled, amirite?

Character Type: Dexterity
Skill Bonus (Level 1): You gain a +4 bonus to Acrobatics checks.
Stay Mobile (Level 1): You gain a +2 bonus to Reflex.
Twitchy (Level 1): You can shift as a minor action.
Reaper Critical (Level 2 or 6): When you score a critical hit, you gain a +2 bonus to speed until the end of your next turn.

Hail of Gunfire (Reaper Novice)
You’re always firing, even on the move.
At-Will • Weapon, Physical
Minor Action Melee or Ranged weapon
Target: One creature.
Attack: Dexterity + your level + weapon accuracy vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + your level physical damage.

Jumpjets (Reaper Utility – level 3 or 7)
I’m a rocket man.
Encounter
Move Action                         Personal
Effect: You shift up to 8 squares. During this movement, you can move up walls and vertical surfaces, but you must end the movement standing on a flat surface.

Fear the Reaper (Reaper Expert – level 5 or 9)
You fly past opponents to deliver death to an enemy who thought he was safe.
Encounter • Weapon, Physical
Standard Action Melee or Range weapon
Target: One creature.
Effect: You may shift up to your speed. You may shift through squares occupied by enemies, but must end your movement in an unoccupied square.
Attack: Dexterity + your level + weapon accuracy vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + Dexterity modifier + your level physical damage.

Squad Leader Origin

Very much drawing on the Warlord and the cigar-chomping Apone from Aliens, this guy leads from the front lines and enhances allies by barking out orders. He stands in contrast with the Tactician origin, who is inspired by the careful, chessmaster style of leader. The origin first arose from the need for a protoss leader origin that suits the more cerebral protoss, but if you want a cold and calculating terran leader in the style of Arcturus Mengsk or Matt Horner, here you are. The same goes for a fiery and hot-headed protoss leader. While there aren’t as many of these in the game, it’s not hard to imagine a stubborn and battle-hungry templar praetor.

Squad Leader

Squad Leader Traits

Character Type: Charisma;
Skill Bonus (Level 1): You gain a +4 bonus to Interaction checks.
Officer (Level 1): You gain a +2 bonus to Will.
Hold the Line (Level 1): Adjacent allies gain a +1 bonus to AC.
Squad Leader Critical (Level 2 or 6): When you score a critical hit, the attack deals an additional +1d10 damage, and allies within 5 squares of you gain a +2 to damage rolls until the end of your next turn.

Lead by Example (Squad Leader Novice)
I’ll show you how it’s done.
At-Will • Physical, Weapon
Standard Action Melee or Ranged weapon
Target: One creature
Attack: Charisma + your level + weapon accuracy vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + Charisma modifier physical damage, and you choose an ally within 5 squares of you. That ally makes a basic attack as a free action.

Ain’t Nothing (Squad Leader Utility – level 3 or 7)
Stay alive. That’s an order.
Encounter • Healing
Minor Action Close burst 5
Target: You or one ally
Effect: The target regains hit points equal to 5 + your level.

Superior Firepower (Squad Leader Expert – level 5 or 9)
This time, it’s war.
Encounter • Physical, Weapon
Standard Action                            Melee or Ranged weapon
Target: One creature.
Attack: Charisma + your level + weapon accuracy vs. AC
Hit: 1[W] + Charisma modifier + your level physical damage, and a number of allies adjacent to you equal to your Charisma modifier may each make a basic attack.

That’s all I have time for today. Next time, I’ll open up on some of the underlying mechanics of Gamma StarCraft: weapons, ammunition, and size.

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