He’s a Magic Man

May 15, 2017

Oof, magic. The biggest elephant in any Dungeons and Dragons shaped 10×10 room with an orc in it.

The problems with D&D’s traditional magic system are both numerous and arcane (hah!) and there’s no silver bullet to them. The answer, I think, is both complicated and difficult but it starts very simply – we need to make each style of magic mechanically different. The two biggest ones, the ones I’m going to talk about here, are Divine and Arcane magic – the focus of the Accolyte and Arcanist classes and all the classes that spawn from them – clerics, wizards, warlocks, paladins, etc.

The first change, I think, goes into how the spells manifest. Arcane spells in this system are going to be mutable, modifiable, and customizable – a reflection of the experimentation and examination that goes into making Arcane magic work. Divine magic, though, is more rooted in the powers they come from. There is no changing the prayers that summon them, and there is no adjusting the expression of that power.

So, details wise, what does this mean?

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No, not Super Smash Brothers, but those are good games. Yes, even Brawl. Melee is only a better game because it’s literally broken. Some of us, also, don’t have weird monster fingers that can move at half the speed of light over face buttons.

This is going to be about a game idea I’ve been kicking around for a while; a cheap, easy miniatures game that is oriented around relatively fast games (think 30 to 60 minutes) between two people who are piloting a small group of fighters who get into a fight in a confined space. This could be an alleyway in Prague, the main thoroughfair of Shanghai, a valley in Arizona, or the deck of a ship anchored in London. Each team is composed of 4 to 6 fighters who primarily use melee weapons and tactics, with the occasional slow or limited ranged weapon (bows, black-powder era guns, or a possible sawed off shotgun with limited ammo).

Each team will have points printed with them so that they can be mixed and matched but the initial experience design will be on the teams printed as they are.

So, what kind of teams am I thinking?

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The Form is Formless

April 14, 2017

Brawlers, unlike the Rogues and Fighters, do not rely on Tricks or Strategems going into combat. Instead, they have practiced combat from every angle, in so many situations, that they rely intently on their natural responses. They do not think, they have trained their body beyond thinking. They do not plan, they have honed their minds into the moment where plans are not needed. They do not hesitate, they have trained themselves to trust their body’s actions and follow through. They use Forms to plan their actions in the grandest sense, placing their bodies in positions to take advantage of their extensive experience.

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The Rogue’s Surprise

April 12, 2017

Fighters might use Stratagem to outsmart and outwit their opponents with planning and quick action, but Rogues try to outsmart their opponents before their opponents even have a chance to act. Rogues use these Tricks to demoralize, undermine, and break their opponents using only their own guile.

These techniques are easy to see, and perhaps even replicate, but only someone who has a true insight into the body, into the weapon, and into the understanding of their foes can understand the Trick behind them.

Rogues, whether the practiced assassin or the intrepid dungeon-delving adventurer, are all possessed of this unique insight.

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Fighting Strategically

April 10, 2017

So we have a bit of a basis for understanding the Combat Economy. We know the limitations of a single character in the abstract (Move, Act, Fast Act, Say Something), and we have a way to discuss the outcomes of a character (Damage Per Round, Healing Per Round, Action Efficiency). So we can now start talking about actual abilities that characters have because they use this framework…and sometimes exploit it.

Exploitation, in fact, is the theme of the Fighter’s abilities. We’re calling them Stratagems, the kinds of combat strategy that lets Fighters exploit their enemies’ actions, placement, and decisions in the thick of combat.

So what is a Stratagem?

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Tactical Goal Strategy

March 17, 2017

This isn’t a new anime, I promise. It’s our design philosophy for combat mechanics. We’ve got one more important concept to talk about, and it’s the goal of well designed combat mechanics; Flow. Flow is the pace of combat and how fast a turn can be completed so the next person in line can go. When it takes a long time to make the decisions that go into a turn, the whole combat gets bogged down. This is also true for anything that requires hard steps (like 3.x’s Move then Act priority system). When you have people waiting to go, it’s best to have a system that’s flexible, easy to work with, and keeps everyone engaged.

Flow, by far, is the thing that suffers the most from having an unbalanced combat system, as well. It’s always a tragedy when one player just sits around not engaged during part of the game. This goes double for a segment so important to the design, like combat in D&D’s many incarnations and variants.

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So, we’ve got to talk about combat, the wading into and the rivers of blood. The gritty crush of metal and wood, flesh and bone, rage and focus. Powerful mages firing spells into a melee of warriors and rogues deftly avoiding arrows fired from the rangers and snipers hiding on the edges. The rush of the cleric’s healing saving a brawler’s life before they throw a barbarian into the enemy’s paladin. The fast, brutal way combat must be portrayed.

It’s time to talk about combat economics.

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