1. The relationship between the GM and players seems extremely adversarial, especially with the mechanic of DSP's (which, by the way, make me think of Dark Side Points each time). The party needs to think about its actions in terms of how much they help or hinder the GM and his stable of bad guys, not in terms of how the players' actions affect the overall mission. The GM can burn DSP's to hinder the players' actions or for GM-controlled characters to go before them in combat.
My opinion is that I dislike this arrangement for the game. I would say the GM should be a facilitator or moderator in creating a story/sandbox for the players to interact within; it's a cooperative relationship. Unfortunately the mechanics I mentioned above turn the GM into the opponent the players are working against and it subverts the overall adventure. The goal shifts from the overall story goal of the adventure towards focusing on the GM. While I recognize that symbolically the GM can represent the Dark Symmetry that you're working against I would say even that association disrupts the necessarily cooperative relationship you need to have with a GM for a smooth-running game.
2. Combat MUST have some kind of objective system for distance, especially in terms of relative distances between characters, objects of cover, zone boundaries, etc. The "zones" mechanic ends up requiring far more thought and energy to function and ends up being very imprecise, especially in terms of making sure an accurate concept of the overall situation is maintained by all parties in a combat. When compared to a simple grid of squares or hexes the zones system is less efficient and takes more resources to execute, thus making it more of a hindrance than an aid to smooth gameplay. The current system's lack of specificity makes it extremely difficult to describe a situation in reality-based language or to achieve a coherent mental concept of a combat scenario. As a result the GM must spend extra effort to impart their vision of the situation to players, players find it very difficult to decide on actions in combat, and confusion abounds.
For instance, let's say you have a combat in a small office building of three floors. Each floor has two zones side-by-side, for a total of six zones. To keep them straight let's say the zones on each floor are divided into East and West zones; well name them based on floor as well, so we have zone 1E and 1W, zone 2E and 2W, zone 3E and 3W. The book indicates zones are defined by notable features within. We'll say zone 1E has a reception desk, zone 1W has elevators, zone 2E is cubicle-land, zone 2W is offices, 3E is executive offices and 3W is conference rooms. The elevators go all the way up through the West zones while the East side has a fire escape on the outside of the building, at the very edge of those zones.
I've just defined a number of zones based on their position relative to each other and with major features. However as a player interacting within this space in a fight there are some critical details I need to make decisions and to properly determine the relationship of objects relative to each other as well as to determine implications of my choices. By requiring the GM to "fill in the blanks" on demand it puts a huge burden on him to not only carry the mental "image" of this battlefield and to impart that concept to players on demand but also to keep it all consistent throughout the fight. Why not map it all out in the beginning using an objective measurement scale like meters or feet and delineated by squares or hexes? That relieves the burden on the GM and, based on the map, allows players to evaluate the situation and make decisions for themselves without having to bug the GM for information repeatedly to figure out their own actions. Based on the above description I have no idea if this is a big building (say, 400ft per side) or a small one (maybe 50ft). How dense is cubicle-land and what are the sight lines like? Can I move from cover-to-cover without being detected? Are the offices on 2 big enough to hide in and is their furniture arranged to support that? How much of the west side do the elevators take up? Can I hide to one side of them near the edge of the corner, and what are the other sight lines to that corner? How accurate will my pistol shot be if I fire across this zone? Is it it too far for an accurate shot?
I think such an abstract combat system makes it very difficult for players to conceive of a situation in rational terms and in terms of reality-based language. According to rules a move action can be to any position within your current zone or to go into the next zone, assuming no difficult terrain. That's without regard to how large a zone is. So my character can, effectively, move within our hypothetical office building above to any point on the same floor with a move action or can move between floors within the same vertical "stack" of zones. Regardless of where another character is on the floor they can do the same. They could be standing right at the edge of the adjacent zone or they could be at the far corner of it; it doesn't matter. Furthermore it doesn't really matter where I stand in relation to that target; I could be right on the borderline between zones and it's the same as if I was at the complete opposite corner of my zone, with relation to the other guy I just mentioned. That's also the same if I'm a Nepharite hopped-up on Dark Symmetry juice or if I'm a Lunan detective who's had too many doughnuts.
It's even more problematic with weapon ranges. Am I D1, D2, D3, D4, etc. if I'm in the middle of the zone as compared to the far end of it? Can I get into the next range band with a Change Stance action? Where precisely on the floor do I have to move to in order to get to the next range band if I want to make it a hard shot for the bad guy? However I guess it doesn't matter where I move as I can go anywhere within the zone with my movement action and so can the bad guy...yet for some reason it may matter for weapon ranges? At this point we're definitely talking in terms of objective range measurements, yet the combat system still relies upon a relational non-defined system to describe distance. Confusion abounds!
The only exception would be if I use the "change stance" action to make a short movement (2m in the current rules...wow an objective measurement to give a sense of what effect the power has!!!). Why would I not be able to use that free action to move between zones if I were positioned right at the border of the two zones? That's a situation where a precise definition of location is extremely valuable to a player. Or, say I'm within a Change Stance movement of an enemy. Wouldn't I want to know that to make sure they couldn't use a free action to step up to me and bash my brains in? Wouldn't I then want to maybe use my own free action to step back and prevent that, thus placing us at a distance of two Change Stance actions, whatever that distance may be (be it 2m or some other undefined length)?
Overall I think some aspects of the combat system show promise. However it seems that significant effort has been put into making combat "cinematic" and smoother by removing absolutes like distances, movement rates and weapon ranges. I feel the unfortunate outcome is an extremely heavy burden on the GM, confusion on the part of players and far more effort as compared to using a system of squares, hexes, or even just plain-old distance measurements.
[Last edited Feb 10, 2016 00:19:03]
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