Codebreakers v1.1

In what may be my quickest turnaround from uploading a new game to uploading a new version, I've just posted a significant update to Codebreakers (just released late last night). This version reworks the exploit rules, and nearly doubles the number of exploits to choose from. 

Why the original approach, and why the update? Here are a few reasons that only really became clear after I started seeing how GMs (who aren't me) might approach it.

The odds: Luck rolls with larger dice would give better odds than skill rolls with fairly low skills, encouraging players to use superpowers. The flaw in this reasoning, however, is that there's no guarantee GMs will use bigger dice. There was some wordy guidance to help GMs pick a die size, but that felt off even as I was writing it. In 2400, the GM has a hard enough job, trying to think through logical and interesting risks and consequences rooted in the fiction. Picking difficulty numbers was never supposed to be their job in this game. And there are already built-in methods for adjusting the odds on skill rolls, by letting you roll an extra help die, or hindering you by knocking down the skill die to a d4.

The roll itself: In 2400, the apex of ability is being so good you don't even have to roll. I thought putting the roll in the GM's hands might preserve that feeling. Upon closer inspection, I'm pretty sure it doesn't. It just gives the GM one more job, and disappoints players who actually like rolling funny-shaped dice, at least sometimes. (Which, let's be honest, is probably most of us.)

Avoiding superskills: I didn't want to have a single "magic" skill that every player felt like they had to invest in just to use the superpowers at the heart of the game. Decoupling from skill rolls to make it a GM-facing luck roll seemed a fine way to do that. This concern is probably more valid, however, when there's no comparably interesting competition to "the magic skill," like in games with freeform magic that let you do practically any effect you can imagine. But there is a compelling competitive element to advance, in this game: exploits themselves. 

Avoiding "double rolls": One of the design maxims for this game is to never use two rolls where one roll could do. In cases where a character might be attempting a risky action and an exploit (like making superhuman leaps between rooftops), I didn't want them to have to roll separately for both risks (alerting daemons and plummeting to your doom). I passed one of those rolls to the GM. But I also implied the exploit obviated the need for a roll at all on the player's side, so I accidentally took all the rolls out of the hands of the people at the table normally in charge of rolls. Oops.

So, let's walk through the changes, and the reasoning for them.

Simulation: Now every codebreaker can make use of the Simulation skill, even at the default d6. (They all realize they're in a simulation, but manipulating it takes practice and insight.) As you advance, in addition to the usual choice of increasing mundane skills, you can instead choose to have a wider range of powers at your disposal, or to be better at avoiding risk from using superpowers. 

Replaced risk: When you're using an exploit and doing something risky at the same time, you roll your Simulation skill to improve your odds, but also replace the action's original risk with "alerting daemons" — unless you're already being pursued by daemons. This means if you use your powers to jump between buildings, you will make that jump — unless there's someone with even greater superhuman speed hot on your heels. 

Tweaked character options: The above changes meant revisiting the characters to rethink what they started with. It's mostly the same as before, though I did catch one error (Investigator was supposed to start with 3 skills, oops), and there are now some options in there to help you start with a higher Simulation skill if you're so inclined. Also, every character now starts with an exploit, because come on, everybody wants superpowers. But hey, GMs, if you ever have a player who really wants to forego that starting exploit, I recommend just giving them another skill increase.

More exploits: Simplifying the rules meant I didn't need to include so much GM advice anymore. That meant more space on the page for exploits. So now you can delete things with a touch, if you are so inclined.

Unbalanced characters: Normally, I try to break 2400 characters into two halves, like a "career" and an "origin," each with 3ish benefits. And that means that if you start with a superpower (like powers in Project Ikaros or species benefits in Eos), that's one of those 3ish things. Not so here. Every codebreaker realized that reality is broken, and that earth-shattering revelation unlocked access to an exploit on top of all the usual 6ish benefits you start with. Why? Because everybody loves superpowers — and unless it turns out in your game that all of reality is an illusion, the superpowers in this game only work in VR. I figure that makes them pretty limited in utility if you try to combine this with other 2400 games.

I hope that goes some way toward explaining the thinking that went into the design. Apologies to any early downloaders who might be feeling a little dizzy right now, and thanks to everybody who grabbed it already and has been talking it up online!


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