Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back to the Drawing Board (Again!)

I’m a game designer. Yeah, so what? Well, this means that I am happier than a pig in a pile of pig excrement when I’m actually designing. I like pulling apart my own games and tinkering with the underlying pieces. Either I need an intervention, or I need to embrace this and keep on keeping on… so the latter it is.

While working on a set of mecha and battle suits rules for Resolute the RPG, I realized a couple of things…

I wasn’t really happy with the existing rules for granting bonuses. My whole idea of a battle suit (like the Iron Man armor) is that it takes what you already do and enhances it considerably. If Spiderman takes the Iron Man armor and puts it on (I know, it’s hard-wired to Tony Stark and no one else can just put it on and there’s all sorts of good reasons he wouldn’t), he should get stronger than Tony Stark would- because he’s Spiderman, and he’s already much stronger than Tony. If the suit grants +5 to might, there’s a big difference between going from +1 to +6 and going from +5 to +10. The first takes you up to where Iron Man should be (roughly)- the latter takes you to Hulk-level strength. I don’t like this. The law of diminishing returns has to kick in somewhere…

The system already has a law of diminishing returns built right into the point-buy system. Going from +1 to +2 in an ability costs only 1 character point, but going from +9 to +10 costs 5. So, if my hypothetical suit grants +10 character points in might, this is going to take your +1 might hero to just shy of +6… but it’s going to take your +5 might hero to only +7 (but nearly +8). This is a much more reasonable way to look at upgrades of abilities.

Looking at ability progress this way, I went back to magic and other powers that can grant bonuses to abilities. Spells were limiting from granting bonuses, because these scale way too quickly for the system. If you have a casting ability +10 and you purchase a spell that allows you to increase the target’s might, you grant a character with +5 might a temporary might of +15, and this goes beyond the scope of the numbers of the game. It’s simply too much. However, approaching magic with the same bonus system as above, your +10 ability now allows you to grant a very weak target (might +0) considerable strength (might +5), and it allows you to increase the strength of a storm giant (might +10) a notable but not outrageous amount (to might +12). The spell gives a larger bonus to lower-ranked abilities, but grants a minor bonus at higher levels.

This changes the approach to character building for hybrid casters, and also for characters that will always team up. While you want to have high armor, you can maximize your points by taking lower armor as your standard setup, and then taking a spell that allows you to enhance your existing armor rating with a magical buff.

Finally, I’ve always been a little unhappy with the minor differences between the Supers and Fantasy systems- the big one being that Thor, god of thunder in one set of rules has a completely different build than Thor, god of thunder in another. This is a quirk of the fact that the supers system is designed around big, strong heroes who generally don’t carry weapons- while the fantasy system is designed around big, strong heroes who almost always carry weapons.

While I’m at it, I’ve also been a tad bit unhappy with the difference between how physical attacks work, and how spells work. Spells always hit, and the target just rolls to soak damage, whereas physical attacks require two rolls- one to hit, and one for damage.

So, I need to revise my rules for physical combat, magic, enhancements… and these things are going to have huge ripple effects on the fundamentals of character design… gah.

So, rather than go back and revise what I’ve got, I’ve decided to go back to the drawing board (hey, it’s only a 16-page game, right?) and see how I can re-develop some of the key ideas for the system. I’ll be posting results here (since I assume that much of this will be ‘actual play’ using dice and such). I have no idea when this will be done, or what the final package will end up being. Feel free to comment on the project as I go, or until I give up in a fit of frustration and walk away from the whole thing.