Monday, January 24, 2011

Back to Basics

Ack! I’ve run into two core problems in this process, in terms of how abilities play out:

1. Fighting and weapon damage, as I discussed in the last blog
2. Evade as an ability.

I’ve written previously about how much I like the conceit that you learn how to fight and defend yourself; you learn how to cast spells and how to avoid being hit by spells. This is reasonable and balanced.


How do you get out of the way of a falling stone block? How do you maintain your balance on a ship that is rolling on its side in a storm? Fighting? Precision? Focus? Intuition? None of them fits.

Oh, crud. Yeah. That is my problem.

The more I think about setting your fighting as the baseline for weapons you can use, the more I like it. The more I think about fighting (and focus for that matter) as the way you avoid being hit, the less I like it. Let’s look at these two extreme examples:

The hulking stone colossus has tremendous fighting (say +10). He does not have any ability to get out of the way. If you want to hit him, you’re going to hit him; that doesn’t mean you’re going to do any damage (since his invulnerability is so high), but a leprechaun thief (relatively low fighting) is going to be very hard to hit (relatively high evade).

I know that I’ve designed dozens of monsters, but I need to backtrack here… the game has to have evade, if for nothing else than the non-combat situations where this is the only ability that reasonably applies. I think that evade should apply to all attacks: physical and magical. This balances out focus and stamina… in fact, now you can make invulnerability an application (linked to both stamina and focus) if you are going to have those abilities, or you can make invulnerability a unique ability (for creatures that don’t worry about stamina or focus- I’m thinking here of inanimate objects like animated statues, many unthinking undead, and even some superheroes). You can have lots of options that are all mutually exclusive: armor and warding as different applications linked to stamina and focus respectively; invulnerability as an application linked to both stamina and focus; invulnerability as an ability that soaks all non-mental damage.

Fighting sets the rating for weapons you can wield; focus sets the rating for wands/staffs you can wield.

Wow. This just caused a whole paradigm shift in my ability hierarchy.

I tell my students regularly that they can’t get married to their writing; just because you wrote something down and spent time on it doesn’t mean that you have to keep it. You can’t look at that time investment as wasted when you trash a good chunk of what you’ve been working on. I accept this as part of the process, and now I get to put my money where my mouth is.

I’m pretty sure I just scrapped several dozens of hours of work.

Hey, that’s life in game design.


  1. I know that's a huge pain in the 4th Point of Contact there, Mike, but I think you're making the right choice.

    Also, I just want you to know how much I appreciate this design's very interesting watching the next edition of one of my favorite RPGs coming together.

  2. Thanks for the feedback. Writing the blog is very helpful for me as well. It forces me to justify every decision, and I often end up thinking more thoroughly through decisions. I think the game will ultimately be stronger as a result.