Wednesday 17 January 2024

Freebie: Mook Abilities

Mook adversaries are understandably easy to overlook. In many cases they are relegated to just being opponents for low ranking characters or accessories for a more powerful adversary. In addition, the fact that the only variation in their numerical statistics will come from traits means it's easy to write off these sorts of entities and use them exclusively as distractions or background elements. In fact, you could run a perfectly fine BREAK!! Saga that way.

However, I don't think this has to be the case. Mooks can be relevant for a long time with a few tricks. This boils down to the two aspects you have total control over in their design: their gear and abilities.

Gear Considerations

You have to be careful with how you outfit Mooks - depending on the situation, anything they carry might quickly become property of the player characters (which can be a positive or negative, depending on your plans) and if you outfit them too well, they may overwhelm lower ranked individuals. That said, it is a straightforward and easy way to make sure people can't ignore the small fries.
  • Mooks with ranged weaponry can harass player characters from the sidelines and may even have a good chance at hitting well armored characters by assisting each other or simply peppering them with lots of attacks. Grenades also work quite well, as it forces players to mind their position and doesn't depend on rolls from the mook themselves to work. Both these options can be a bit of a hassle though, given you need to keep track of ammunition and rate of fire, so its best left to smaller groups of enemies if you can.
  • Outfitting mooks with heavier armor obviously makes them harder to hit, and forces players to think of some other way to take them out of a fight or risk whiffing depending on how well armored they are. Shields can also increase their chance of survival, though their parrying potential might be a bit annoying to keep track in large groups. In the case of either, you still need to make sure the mooks have a more active reason to draw the attention of the party in the first place.
  • Mooks with other special gear, like explosives to blow open a hole in the wall of a structure the party is defending, ancient devices that might interfere with magic use, or taming gear they are using to direct some great beast around can also create fun encounters and reasons to take note of the minions and not just the main threats.

Ability Considerations

When it comes to unique Abilities for Mooks, its a good idea to keep a few things in mind:
  • Mooks are never going to have very high Aptitudes, so when giving them offensive or status afflicting abilities, it's better to have these force a Check from the target rather than a contest.
  • Support Abilities, like having the power to restore lost hearts or increase the defense of a specific individual are a pretty straightforward way to make dealing with mooks a priority.
  • Abilities that require several of the same sort of mooks to work in tandem are fun and emphasize that they more of a collective threat than an individual one. It's also a good excuse if you want to justify an Ability that's more powerful than normal for them.
  • While this is good advice for any Adversary's ability, it's especially important to remember not to make these too complex. Remember, given the nature of these sorts of entities you'll have to keep track of multiple instances of anything you give them!

With the brief advice out of the way, here's some sample Mook Abilities. These are stripped down to their basic mechanics so you can apply them to your own creations and re-work them to fit any themes or fiction you like.

Mana Fence
This mook can create a troublesome barrier when paired with their fellows.
  • If 2 or more mooks of this type are in the same Area, they are able to erect some sort of barrier between them - usually a screen made of crackling mana - that grants the Area the Isolated Battlefield Condition. Naturally the condition is removed if said mooks are defeated.
  • More dangerous variants of this Ability might have a barrier that also adds the Harmful Battlefield Condition to the Area.
  • Examples: Floating Shield Link Drones, arcane homunculi that can work together to cast a shield spell, elemental creatures who generate fields of fire or electricity.
Power Assist 
When assisting an ally, this mook can add to their damage potential rather than their ability to hit.
  • When this Mook Assists an ally, they may decide to add the normal +2 bonus to hit or replace that with an additional heart of damage instead. The additional heart of damage can only be applied once - if additional individuals with this Ability want to assist the target, they must provide the to hit bonus instead.
  • Examples: Well drilled Old Iron infantry, magical puppets made to look like ancient soldiers, animated melee weapons.
Boom Buddy
This mook has the unnerving tendency to explode when troubled.
  • This Mook combusts when reduced to 0 Hearts, going off with the same effect as a grenade. They may also activate this effect at will, though that reduces them to 0 Hearts immediately.
  • Variants of this might leave behind a sort of toxic cloud, granting the Hazardous battlefield condition to the area they were in. 
  • Very dangerous ones might go off like a bomb instead of a grenade, though if this version is used it's suggested they take a turn to do so and provide some sort of warning, like heating up or making an ominous sizzling noise.
  • Examples: Living flames, giant spore clouds, walking wind-up bombs
 Hothian Topple
These little mooks often pair up to trip larger foes.
  • 2 of these mooks can initiate a maneuver that forces a single target that is large sized or medium sized to make a successful Deftness Check or become Toppled. If 3 of them work together, this Check incurs a Minor (-2) Penalty, and if 4 do so than they incur a Major (-4) Penalty.
  • This Ability is used exclusively by Small or Tiny mooks.
  • Examples: chib and goblin commandos from New Ore with a rope, wire drones, microverse dimensional strays with appropriately sized hover vehicles

Tuesday 2 January 2024

Assists as Combo Moves and other thoughts

Chatting in our discord the other week got me thinking of things like Chrono Trigger's Dual and Triple Techniques and the Fastball Special in the X-men comic books. For those unfamiliar, these are essentially attacks and maneuvers where multiple characters will team up and combine their abilities to make a single strike. This sort of thing is all over the media that inspired BREAK!! and after talking a bit with people about how I would implement them in our game, I thought it would be fun to write about here.

I will admit up front that I am cheating a little bit with this entry. Rather than post about a new system or procedure, I instead want to talk about how existing rules can be used to justify these things in-fiction, and tie it to a broader point as well.

In this case, I think BREAK!!'s mechanics for Assists in combat already represent these sort of combo attacks pretty well. To show what I mean, below are a few examples of combining these rules with your character's existing Abilities in a way that personalizes them and makes it seem like they were something the party came up with while they were socializing during downtime.

Attack Assists
It can be easy to underestimate Attack Assists, but sometimes if you want to make sure that a particularly important attack hits an enemy with a high defense, it can be a great way for you to contribute to that. Sometimes it can really be the thing that turns the tide.

While these just provide a pretty straightforward bonus to an allies attack, there is no reason you can't have a bit of fun describing them using skills you already have. Doing so may even open up other opportunities later on in the same conflict. 

Some Example Combo Techniques using Attack Assists
  • Startling Reveal: A Factotum or Sneak taking their affinity for staying unseen and using it to get a chance to startle a target and getting them to drop their defenses.
  • Dweomer Diversion: A Sage using a non-combat magic ability (such as Glowing Ink) to create a flashy distraction to catch the target's attention.
  • Harrowing Gesture: Heretics utilizing their Dreadful Ability to do something uniquely tailored to upset or unnerve a target and leave them open to an attack.

Tactical Assists
Unlike their more concrete cousins, Tactical Assists have this sort of fun fiction built in as you have to describe what you are doing to use them at all. It's even easier to think of them as well practiced maneuvers between allies.

Some Example Combo Techniques using Tactical Assists
  • Icarus Shot: One strong character with Supernatural Leaping grabbing another with a missile weapon of some kind and bounding into the air with them in tow so they can take a shot they wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
  • Cannon Brawl: Having one character use an Ability to Balloon or Petrify someone, then having another perform an Attack Stunt or Trick to bounce or hurl them into an enemy and topple them.
  • Stone Path Strike: A Dwarf using Stone Song to create a ramp or wall for a Raider with Free Runner to dash along it and attack a difficult to reach target, like a colossal creature's strike point.

Ultimately these are just a few simple examples, but my hope is that they might inspire you to come up with your own, or at least give you a chance to show how cool and fun your character is during actions you might normally let fade into the background.

The larger point I want to leave off on is this: 

BREAK!! has a few layers to it, but its a pretty simple game at its core with rules that I think can be stretched and squeezed quite a bit without messing things up. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need very specefic rules to emulate certain things. This works very well for many games but generally I don't think it's the best fit for BREAK!! a lot of the time. 

It's certainly good (and fun) to homebrew and customize, but sometimes what you need is built into the game already if you're willing to change up your angle here and again. When you think of something you want to add in, consider the existing options before jumping headlong into it. If you re-skin or re-flavor something to work for you, you'll save yourself a lot of time that you can use to come up with your next adventure, adversary, or even other house-rule instead.