Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rex Does Kongai: Gangsters Five - Gear Two

Alright. Let's get back into this. Missed a day yesterday (Sorry about that but my brain was fried. Couldn't wrangle enough neurons together to write.), so we're even more behind the gun than we were the day before. Not much time left before the month ends and the crazy journey begins. And my time figures to be scarce for a while yet.

But, while I do have some free, let's tie up at least one loose end and deal with the Gangster items. When last we left them I had a vague list of names and another of potential functions. In the intervening space of days, I've managed to put the two together and come up with a batch that's not too bad.

They're not quite done yet but, honestly, items are an after-thought. Something I toss off when I have nothing better to do. I'd rather have a well-made card with awful items than a mediocre card and excellent equipment. I need to work these ideas up a little more and will before I'm done but, for now, they'll do.

And the reason I'm not treating them with the normal disdain I reserve for finished products is that I think I've hit upon a good structural hook for these items. A theme of twinned effects that spreads throughout the line, giving them a unique character and, perhaps, an individual flair. The effects, the balance, might be off but, as a line, they work. That means a lot to me, since it's the systemic design in which my true intrest lies.

Here, the general structure is that Gangster items have two effects. Two functions, two abilities, two procs, and any other way of saying that each adds two elements to your character. And what this does is allow me to pair effects onto a card that becomes more than the sum of its part. I can pin a powerful yet highly conditional ability onto an item because it can also have an ongoing, passive effect. Something weak but that's always there, always providing a benefit so that you haven't wasted an item slot. Or, I can take two random chances and put them together, confident that at least one will see play. The results are items that should be within an acceptable power level but that also pass the usefulness test with a ready answer for "what have you done for me this round?"

It also plays into the central themes of the Gangster group. The ones, at least, that have to do with them being flexible characters. Just as their characters are flexed ranged and dual-field capable so, too, do their items function in several ways. Taken together, then, the items reinforce that the Gangsters are an adaptable bunch without a single focus.

Here, then, are those items:

  1. Bullet-Proof Vest: Gain slight resistance (+2All?). Reflected skills heal rather than harm (100proc).
  2. Hitter's Contract: When you kill an opponent, you gain low health (+15HP) and moderate energy (+30en).
  3. Money Clip: When your opponent buffs, you have a chance (50%?) to gain that buff for your own use. When you buff, you have a chance (25%?) to cast that buff for free.
  4. Switchblade. Low (20%) chance to Bleed (2for4). If you are interrupted while attacking, your opponent takes 25 damage (100proc).
  5. White Powder. Multi-hit attacks gain +1 multiplier (AxB -> AxB+1). Single-hits and other skills are 1 faster.

Let's do this alphabetically and start with the Bulletproof Vest. A good place since this item is where the mad idea of coupling functions first came to me.

Originally, I wanted an item that would protect the Gangsters from reflection attacks. Trust me, when we get to the Psychos, you'll see why. But the problem is that even if I gave them the biggest, baddest item in the world geared to completely shut down reflection it still wouldn't be a good card. Reflects are rare, limited by their very natures, constrained by mechanics such as cooldowns, and found only on a few cards (If I had my ways, we'd have about seven or eight reflecting characters - not including the Psychos - already in the game. It's an ability I've ridden into the ground in my past sets. So, in Rex's version of Kongai an item like this is much better than it might seem to all the poor folk who've only been playing the actual game.). Two, in the original set. Constantine's Hypnotic and Yoshi's Chi Reflect which wouldn't even bother the Gangsters since they don't have much in the way of Light magic attacks. Even if each and every Psycho packed an effective Reflect, that's still a very small sample of the overall pool of cards. The chances, then, that a Gangster would run into a reflect are minimal.

And you don't slot an item for what might happen. You slot it for what you want to happen.

It would depend on the meta, of course, and in any potential meta for this set, reflects might play a big part. But even if they were all over the place and used in every deck, this item might still be useless. Because if it was effective reflect shutdown then to get around it opponents could choose not to reflect. Slotting an item like this means you're waving a big sign that says "I Do Not Want You To Reflect, Please Find Another Way To Beat Me".

It might be, then, an item that a character equipped and hardly got any benefit out of at all. That a player might use and never see its effect. And that, I think, is bad design. It's alright to have rare effects and uncertain ones, too, but effects that never see the light of day just aren't worth it. You can argue that influing actions and affecting the pace of play are worthwhile and, you know, you're right but that's of small comfort to that player looking to play a nice game and see something cool. Although it might add some complexity on the high end of play it just doesn't pass the fun test. Not as much, at least, as something else.

So, with this item, I decided that an anti-reflect might be alright if only I could pair it with a constant effect. An always on benefit that might not be the greatest but it would provide a user with another reason to pick up this card. That secondary effect, then, would buoy the card's fortunes by providing a baseline. In the rare instances its primary function came into play it would leap past that baseline into a source of pure, unbridled power, but, at least, in those many circumstances where it didn't, it would still have a reason to be played.

Here, I've decided to work off of the abilities of Gangster #7's Skill #3, and turn potential harm into a net positive. Wearing this item, any skill that's reflected won't damage its target, it'll, instead, heal. So, if you try and hit something with your first, say, for 26 damage and they manage to bounce it back, normally you'd be the one to lose those 26 points. But, with the BPV on, you'd gain 26 health. Simple enough and powerful enough to make reflecting worthless. But not completely since the reflector will still manage to avoid an attack - they don't get hit for that damage, either. That's enough to put reflects out of normal play but still leave them on the table in case of an emergency. Maybe your opponent only has enough energy left to use that massive hit once or they only have a turn left before Touch of Doom goes off. Whatever it is, if you've got a reflect you can still put it to good use.

The passive effect here is a slight increase to resistance. I'd go for an across the board uptick, giving +2 to all resists. That's enough to blunt a little bit of damage and push some attacks below their breakpoints. It's not much but it's enough, especially coupled with something else.

Adding resistance, though, does create a bit of dissonance on an item called the Bullet-Proof Vest. The key feature of Gun attacks, at least as they've been made, is that they ignore resistance completely. So, wearing the BPV doesn't protect you from a gun shot at all, which is more than a little odd. And, possibly, can't be handwaved away. So, maybe it needs to be renamed but the functions, I think, are solid enough.

The Contract is a bit of an exception here, although it does have something of a dual pronged nature both aspects are tied to the same proc. Based, somewhat, on Gangster #4's key skills, with this item equiped, when a character makes a kill they gain some health and some energy. Giving them, basically, a variation on Zina's innate (I'm thinking that a toned down version might be nice for the generic item set. Cut out the health gain, maybe, and call it the Victor's Cup.). It fuels them up for their next opponent. Restoring some of the health they might have lost and making them harder for that next card to kill. And, by giving them energy, it also ensures that they'll actually be able to land some hits in that fight. They can press and drain their energy away to kill a card off because of that bonus and the certainty that, at worst, they'll probably have enough for one more hit.

With the Money Clip we're itemizing Gangster #5's innate a bit. The Stoolie gets to mirror his opponent's buffs, potentially a powerful effect considering the rest of this set. And this item lets other Gangsters get a taste of that power as well. But only a taste since while #5 gains a buff automatically, this item will have a procced chance instead.

That does make it, frankly, useless for Gangster #5 but he's a lousy card so I don't really care. But in keeping with the dual purpose theme, it doesn't stop there. It also gives a slight chance for Gangsters to cast their buffs energy cost free. Meaning, with end of turn regeneration, their bars go up by 20. Here, I'm thinking of pure buffs, the Skill #4s, like those on Gangsters #1&6. The ones that do nothing but buff. Skills that can proc a buff wouldn't be included - those are attacks. Neither would anything that's considered a debuff, either. It's a bit of a weak effect. Simply lowering buff costs might be more strictly useful because of the random factor here but it should be a nice pick up for characters that are looking for a buff. Just not for those relying on it.

With Switchblade, I wanted to give the Gangsters a bit of protection against interrupts. And the more I thought about it, the more making it a nasty counter-attack when a skill fizzled made sense than simply giving them a Girdle of Iron Will like prohibition. The Gangsters are a vicious lot, after all, a scrappy bunch that wants to be delivering a lot of hits. And the effect of a skill that dealt damage on an interrupt would be, practically, to make up for the damage that missed attack wasn't dealing. That attack might deal more damage but, first, there are very few Gangster attacks that deal fantastic amounts of damage. And, second, it still gives interrupters a reason to disrupt away. They'll take some damage but they might take less so it doesn't completely lock out that portion of gameplay - just make it more risky to put into play.

But as much as I liked that payback effect I hesitated to itemize it. Because as well-done as it might be it wasn't going to be doing a character any good when their weren't any interrupts to go around. And although they're frequent enough in this set, as we'll see when we get to the Psychos, it's not like everyone has one on their bar. And when up against an opponent without an interrupt, this interrupt stopper would be only so much deadweight. Its narrow focus would relegate it to the bottom of the deck, just like the Vest.

So, I threw in a minior Bleeding effect here, giving a character with the Switchblade a minor chance to cause some DOT. That alone probably isn't much - you get much better damage out of the next item on the list - but it's at least more than nothing. That chance to slice open a vein might not get the Switchblade put on any characters but it might help it stay there when the metas aren't so interrupt heavy.

The name and art for White Powder would surely get me into trouble with any censors, of course. But I can't resist sticking it into a line with a Scarface hommage (I just have to resist calling it "Nose Candy") and, fortunately, it's my blog and I can be as crass as I want.

This item is the Gangster's go to damage enhancer, giving them value added for their attacking dollars. It adds a multiplier to multi-hits, turning a 12x2 into a 12x3 or a 6x6 into a 6x7. That might get me into trouble since Gangster #1 has a buff that does the same. With this item, he gets to get a +2 boost and, potentially, crank out some scary damage. It takes him a turn, though (An all important turn that he can eliminate by slotting this.), and I think I've gotten his skills to the point where that's just a nice bonus instead of a critical difference. I've also tried to sprinkle multi-hits throughout the Gangster line, especially with their Gun shots, but not every attack has that multiplier to boost.

Like the General's Insignia only affects single hits, this item only increases the damage on multi-hits. But other skills benefit, too, thanks to its secondary function. A speed boost that turns it into a weak Valk Charm for single-hits and any other skills on the bar - like buffs and debuffs. An extra point of priority might not sound like a lot but it could turn out to be an extremely important boost that gives cards like Gangster #2, Ox, or Gangster #7, Vamp, a good reason to pick up this item.

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