Expansion chat 3: Tyrants

Expansion chat 3: Tyrants

September 14, 2021
Game Design

Hi there!

Tyrants were the biggest reason I decided to fast-track this expansion over creating premade missions. If you’d been paying attention to v0.1.0, you might have noticed that Prime enemies got a downgrade between versions. This is because originally Prime enemies were supposed to fill the role that Tyrants currently fill. But as I playtested, I decided they needed to be their own thing.

A Tyrant is a serious enemy. They’re strongly recommended for only Crisis or Moonshot missions. Their presence is supposed to be similar to encountering an opposing Armored Core in…well, Armored Core - recurring/named enemies who generally evenly match or overpower the player(s). Given the nature of a game that expects several Aces in a given mission, however, they’re more powerful in some respects.

Why “Tyrant”? #

I went through a lot of names for these, especially Enemy Aces. I settled on Tyrant for a few reasons. Primarily, it’s because I want to emphasize the themes of APOCALYPSE FRAME - unlike Armored Core, they’re not Aces' equals. In most cases, one of them is a threat to an entire Strike Team, and in some cases The Collective as a whole. So they needed a name that differentiated them from an Ace.

I took the idea of the name from Xenoblade Chronicles X, which has been a consistent inspiration for a few very key things. In there, it’s used as a term for in-world minibosses. But here, it’s more connected to the theme - they’re personified oppressors, cruel faces to the otherwise mostly faceless and monolithic Republic. The Ace Program is an in-universe thing, and so is the Tyrant Program - it was developed as an intentionally cruel, oppressive, and overwhelming response to the successful Ace Program.

(And for the record, the other Factions have Tyrant-class enemies as well. Tyrant-class Claw Apexes are overwhelmingly powerful veteran hunters, Wildlife Tyrant-class enemies are mutant or alien threats that destroy ecosystems and food chains, and Independent Tyrants are usually ex-Republic Tyrants or ex-Collective Aces who decided to attach themselves to a settlement or become mercenaries. But as with many things, The Republic is the main antagonist, so the term is oriented towards them.)

But what separates them from Prime enemies, aside from bigger numbers?

Tyrant Restorations #

Prime enemies are already vicious when they take a Restoration upon being defeated. When they replenish their Vigor and become active again, they immediately act in addition to any other GM Turn actions, and if they have no Restorations left they can use Desperation Moves on the GM Turn. Since Tyrants are expanded Prime enemies, that all still happens, but something else happens as well.

A Tyrant Restoration also gives the Tyrant a bonus. This is a simple bonus, but usually related to survival: extra Vigor, extra Armor, etc. It especially means that the Tyrant’s Desperate status lasts longer and gives them more opportunities to punish Aces.

Tyrant Interrupts #

The nature of LUMEN games is that it’s pretty easy for PCs to focus down enemies unless you put some kind of limit on Power use. In testing, I found that that’s pretty much exactly what happened. Prime enemies were somewhat resistant to this in that you couldn’t focus them down entirely - they got to come back once, typically - but mostly that meant they got focused down over the course of 2 rounds instead of just one. So I wanted something that fundamentally changed that relationship. Thus, Tyrant Interrupts.

When a Tyrant takes Harm, they get a special Activation called a Tyrant Interrupt. It’s more restricted, but it happens after any instance of Harm - including ones that already provoke a response, like 3-4 roll results. This means that attacking them - or using Systems on them - always has consequences. This also ties into Tyrant Restorations, as increased durability means more chances for Interrupts.

Tyrants will put Aces on the defensive and force even the most careless Strike Team to take notice. Sparing but effective use can fully alter the tone of a mission, and repeated encounters with a Tyrant can lead to grudges and drama - which is exactly what you want out of encounters with a recurring, powerful enemy.

Until next time!

(Originally posted here)