Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How to Mook

Mooks, if you aren't familiar with Robin Laws' term from Feng Shui, are nameless combatants who have a bare minimum number of stats - an attack score, a damage amount, a defense score and maybe one or two skills like drive or spot - who are cannon fodder for the PCs to work their way through on their way to the main villains. The big thing about them is they have no Hit Points: if you hit them well enough they fall over and stay down; if you hit them normally they fall over and get back up. This is very common in the Hong Kong cinema world of Feng Shui but it's a useful mechanic anywhere, as Jim and I learned in the Girl Genius game.

The BtVS rules that made up the spine of my original rules set had something like this in that NPCs have only three stats - Brawn, Combat and Mind - that the players roll against but they also have other qualities that need to be tracked (some have Vampire, with comes with other qualities inside it) so it's not as simple as not could be, and they also have full blocks of health points and drama points to boot. In BtVS where part of the games charm is the detailed martial arts fights and whittling down of opposition prior to the coup de grace this makes perfect sense. In Girl Genius, well....

See, in the source material there are some fights that go on and on, and Heroes can suck up a lot of damage. But there's always something else going on in the fights to move the story forward - people talk a lot in their fights - and the actual fighting isn't usually what's holding your attention. And a lot of the time combat is really quick. And BtVS combat usually isn't quick. And tracking health points for multiple opponents when those points run to the 50s and 70s is irritating

I'm still trying (and failing) to get answers from the players as to how they want combat to work at the table: are they avoiding fights because they're afraid combat will be really deadly? because they don't know how badass they are? because they're just not interested in fights? But what I know as the GM is that the current stats for NPCs are too complicated for what I need. Now, the new rules for qualities will help a lot, as I can reduce NPCs to the Brawn, Combat and Mind stats with an additive quality or two as notes and not worry abut the current precisely defined qualities, but I still need a way around the masses of life points.

I'm already dividing all life point and damage numbers by 4 to make the numbers more manageable. I'm acknowledging that weapons can do a lot of damage so combat is more about not getting hit than soaking down an abstract number of hit points, even as the PCs have enough life points to reliably take at least one big hit and still get away. But will that be enough? Can I just reduce the life points for NPCs so they have minimal life points, or do I have to develop Mook rules to reduce bookkeeping even further?

One problem with Mook rules as they exist in Feng Shui is they privilege skill over damage - the Old Master has a lot of skill but (some versions) do little damage per hit, while the Big Bruiser has a low skill but does a ton of damage per hit. By removing damage from the equation the Big Bruiser is at a huge disadvantage over mooks. As my PC is one of the big bruisers in this campaign, and it's also a world of very strong and tough constructs, I don't want that to happen. so for now I think we can just reduce life points, but we'll have to see what happens.