Friday, July 13, 2012

Resolve, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways...

Resolve has become the great equalizer of the core game system, solving pretty much every problem I’ve ever had in any game I’ve written in terms of game balance. It’s such a simple concept, but the myriad ways it can be applied makes Resolve such a game changer (please forgive the pun- I couldn’t help myself).

To whit, you can use a Resolve point to perform a special deed, such as disarming a foe, re-using an ability, or exceeding your mortal limitations. However, you can also use Resolve to take a quick extra turn, quickly recover a few wounds, or attempt to push a foe off of a balcony. You can re-cast a spell you’ve already used, cast a spell you don’t have prepared from your spellbook, increase the power of a spell you know, or prevent someone else from casting a spell at you.

In my previous games, each of these was possible (or at least, most of them were - all options have appeared at some point), but each brought its own sub-system of rules to drive it. Want to foil a caster’s spell? Fine... here are three paragraphs for how you do it. Want to disarm a foe? Okay, but it’s a little tricky... You can up the power of your spell, but we’re going to have to look up the rule for that, because I think it depends on how much health you have left... give me a minute...

Resolve does it all, and it does it all in the same fundamental way. Once you know how to use Resolve, you know how to do all of these things.

In terms of game balance, Resolve becomes self-limiting and self-balancing, because to get this opportunity to do things, you have to purchase Resolve as an ability... and purchasing Resolve forces you to give up other things you’d want too. You can have great attack/damage ratings in your primary weapons, or you can have tremendous Resolve to do a variety of cool things. Most players will strive for a balance, but the definition of balance is going to be a highly subjective thing. Is Resolve +2 enough? Do you need +4? Are you willing to give up what you’d need to give up to get to Resolve +6? Will it be worth it for you?

Refining and clarifying how and when Resolve works has been the linchpin that has formed a dynamic core game engine providing tremendous variety in play with a simple, single rule to govern it.


  1. This sounds like a few other games I know of that have stuff like fate points, luck, corruption points, etc. that all give a few of the benefits listed above. Putting them all in seems like a great idea, but as you say, balance seems to be key here. Are the costs comparable for resolve and other skills?

  2. Yes, Resolve is an ability that you purchase as any other. If you have 10 Character Points remaining and you want both Might and Resolve, you have some choices to make... +1 and +2 increase at 1 CP each, +3 and +4 at 2 CPs each, +5 and +6 at 3 CPs each, etc... for 10 CPs, you can get a +3 and a +4 ability, or a +2 and a +4 ability (with some leftover points) or a +1 and +5 ability... so how you divvy this up really depends on your approach to the hero. No matter how you split it, you have to give up something to get something else.

    Previous versions of the game have given the hero points at specific thresholds or as part of the XP system. Tying it to your fundamental character design has proven to be much more balanced.