Third Edition?

I’m trying out a new sprite recoloring method for GearHead Caramel. In the original version (left), colors are defined by a midtone which gets scaled up or down to a particular value. In the new version (right), the brightest and darkest colors are defined and the color gets scaled within that range. This means that color warmth and saturation can change with value, which should make everything look better. The new method seems to make the colors brighter, but also less flat.
The next thing I have to decide is how characters are going to work in GearHead Caramel. The system in GH1/GH2 is an unholy amalgamation of the Mekton Zeta and Earthdawn rules. Many players have complained about the skill specialization limit, wishing it were possible to take all skills. At the same time, the sheer size of the skill list left many players confused. Never mind the fact that it also left me confused- adding enough content so that every skill would be worth taking was a neverending job. Balancing them was pretty much impossible.

Here are some thoughts about GH3e:

How can I allow each character build to be unique without the players feeling boxed in? If the player could count on finding lancemates with any required skills, that would take off the pressure to make the PC good at everything. I think the Harebrained Schemes Shadowrun games did a good job with this.

What’s the difference between skills and stats? How many skills do I need to have? Initially, I was planning to use a stripped down skill list, with each skill representing a career path. This skill would combine with different stats for different uses. For example, a Thief skill might combine with Speed to allow stealth, and combine with Craft to allow code breaking. After playing through GearHead2, though, I’m not sure this is the way to go. The GH2 skill list is smaller than the GH1 list, and you get fewer specialties. This means that from the midgame onward you spend most of your time hoarding XP and have fewer chances to spend it. This is No Fun.

The Shadowrun games largely avoid this problem by having multiple skill tiers. You need to improve Reflexes so you can improve Ranged Combat so you can improve Shotguns. The progression for a single ability is split across three skills, meaning that at any time you will probably have something that doesn’t require an obscene amount of experience to improve.

Before I move on, another thing I should mention about the Shadowrun CRPGs is that they dropped all non-combat skills. This largely solves the skill-specific content problem because whatever skills the player chooses, they should be applicable to just about every mission.

One way to keep different characters different might be to use key skills, as in Fallout. At character creation you choose the PC’s specialties. These skills may be improved cheaply. Other skills can be learned, but those will be more expensive.

It may be possible to move many of the noncombat skills to binary proficiencies- something the PC either knows or doesn’t. Most of these proficiencies would have a negligible effect upon the game, but allow different dialogue options or provide additional background information.

After reading the Rogue Trader rulebooks, I would be interested in expanding the character creation lifepath. The player chooses the PC’s life story, each step altering the character’s abilities. This seems like a good way to set the PC’s initial key skills, if I choose to use key skills.

In GHC, Stamina will be used to power passive abilities (mostly the extra defense rolls like shield block and antimissile) while Mental will be used to power active abilities. I am planning to add talents that act like the spirit commands in Super Robot Wars, allowing the player to boost abilities at the cost of MP.

What do you think?

1 comment

    • ssfsx17 on July 15, 2017 at 7:30 pm
    • Reply

    I’m one of those crazy people who actually liked the massive GH1 skill list.

    One of the things that made the Shadowrun Returns skill system work for non-combat checks is that it was threshold based. As long as you had enough of a stat or skill, you got access to additional options. The game also often showed you the options you didn’t qualify for, so that you were always shown why you should replay the game multiple times.

    Lifepaths would be neat if they had a stronger effect on your character’s starting situation, and if it was clear how they affected your stats and skills. For example, if your mother was a Combat Pilot, then the game clearly told you that you had bonuses to Mecha Piloting and the like. Or if you were raised in an orphanage, then you had a bonus lancemate from the same orphanage.

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