Seeking the Form

June 22, 2017

So, we’ve already explored why magic in D&D, traditionally, is basically madness given form. The big reason for this is there’s no design format or structure for where spells go, what they do, and how powerful they are for each spell slot. In order to fix this, make my job easier as a designer, and empower players to make their own spells I’m giving each school Spell Forms rather than just spells directly, then building spells out of those rules. It’s like a video game designer first creating level creating tools or something similar then using those to build the elements of the game.

We’re going to start with the Universal school, things all Arcanists have access to intuitively. These are raw forms, things that are born out of feeling rather than direction, and are unrefined. When an Arcanist moves into their specialty, they start learning more structured forms that are informed by their schooling; Warlocks learn to shape their spells using the Forms granted by their patrons, Wizards learn to refine these basic forms into highly technical and specific forms, and even more esoteric spell casters learn even stranger systems.

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Systems in Systems

June 6, 2017

Tyr’s Hand, everyone, D&D’s magic is obnoxiously complex. There’s, like, nine systems in here and none of them are talking to each other.

We’re gonna have to break this down; first system is the spells themselves and how they’re designed, the second system is how they’re allocated between levels based on their power, the third is how they scale, and the fourth is how they interact with other systems (like damage resistance, AC, HP, saves, etc).

Today we’re gonna start at the bottom – what a spell level is and what it’s worth.

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While this is primarily aimed at Dungeons and Dragons, especially my focuses on my rewrite, a lot of what I’m going to say here applies to other games as well. Well, board and card games. Balance is a much more complex issue when you get into anything with visuals and dexterity-based mechanics. The principles are basically the same in video games and dexterity games (like those weird games that came out in the 90s that involve catching butterfly toys or tapping out fake ice cubes from a plastic frame) but there are far more variables and more assumptions that have to be made during design.

So, anyway, what is balance? And why does it matter?

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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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