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PrimeJunta

Situational utility of combat skills and equipment

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There's a fair bit of discussion here about game balance and various subsystems, such as armor, weapons, dual-wielding etc. Josh Sawyer in particular has discussed the utility of skills a fair bit. Magic has been discussed a bit too.

 

One thing that hasn't been done well in any cRPG I've played, though, is situational utility of combat skills (and equipment). I think it would be a great way to add variety to the gameplay and encourage creativity in character and party builds.

 

By situational utility I mean making different types of combat skills be more or less effective in different situations, or against different opponents.

 

I think this sort of thing would be relatively easy to model in a game system, and it would be pretty easy to have them contribute to the verisimilitude of the game as well. A few examples off the top of my head.

 

Large weapons with lots of reach would work better against large creatures and beasts but be significantly hampered in confined spaces. Heavy armor gives a great deal of protection against damage but would take time to equip and would fatigue you more quickly, which means you would only be able to use it if you had time to prepare for combat, and you'd have to find a way to conserve or restore your stamina during combat if it dragged on. A character would need to be physically very strong and fit to be able to manage this, but would not need to be acrobatically nimble.

 

On the other hand, dual-wielding two light weapons gives an advantage to feinting and parrying. This means it's more effective against human(oid)s, but less effective against beasts and suchlike. Dual-wielding requires higher dexterity, which means trading off something else, resulting in a particular type of fighter. His blows are light but precise, and his skills are honed for one-on-one duels with humans.

 

Piercing weapons would be useless against unliving enemies, but perhaps more effective at getting through magical protection; firearms could be a more powerful version of the same, but with slow reload rates. You'd have a better chance against a battlemage with a gun and a rapier than with a longsword or a sling, but you'd be advised to bludgeon a skeleton or a golem into submission rather than trying to ineffectively poke holes into it.

 

If the game system had these types of complexities, and a variety of combat challenges to match them, it would make party and character-building very interesting. One party could be a collection of specialists, with the one with the right skills taking point in each encounter and the others moving to support her; another could go for a set of well-rounded characters able to perform at their best in most situations, and would use that tactically to their advantage. Both would be viable strategies for victory, but would require very different tactics.

 

Additionally, no build would be objectively better in all circumstances. Our nimble dual-wielding Scaramouche might be able to best heavily-armored Sir George of Joustalot in a duel, with a skilful stab in a vulnerable spot -- but Sir George would run a raging magic giant wild boar right through with his lance where Scaramouche's best bet for survival would be to climb a tree.

 

N.b.: I'm not arguing for any of these mechanics specifically; rather, I would like to see a system of mechanics balanced out to function differently in different circumstances. I don't really care about the details.

 

Thoughts?

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I have a project. It's a tabletop RPG. It's free. It's a work in progress. Find it here: www.brikoleur.com

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Yeeeeesssssssss *wrings hands diabolically*...

 

I'd like to explore the possibilities of combat utility with all types of combat skills, if possible. It's part of the reason I advocate some kind of spell customization with magic. With weapon-skills, you might get Dual-Strike that gets adjusted based on which weapons you're using (sword axe, axe mace, etc.). So, with Fireball, what if you could sacrifice damage for impact force? That way, if I needed to help someone in combat, I could toss a Fireball specifically to strategically knockdown/knockback an opponent to help an ally out of a sticky situation. Because my spell is tailored to impact force, though, that means I lack the damage (or perhaps extra burning?) with it that I WOULD'VE had had I spent the points on sheer spell intensity or burn duration.

 

PrimeJunta pretty much hit the nail on the head with "a system of mechanics balanced out to function differently in different circumstances." My example really just factored in customization to that. But, I hope we'll see a system that has various distinctive scenarios playing out for different players, even with the same classes of party members, even with the same skills or equipment to an extent. This, as opposed to "I did 50 damage with a COMPLETELY different animation than you did!," or from a different range, or to a different radius, or as a slightly different type of damage. There's definitely far more untapped depth available that's just waiting to fuel RPG combat.

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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On the subject of dual wielding, there's no reason that would be less effective against some manner of beast. A bear, for example, is not a nimble creature.

 

At any rate, the idea general is nice and all, but veers too far into the ream of simulation rather than RPG. P:E simply isn't going to be realistic like the guys who want armor limited to chainmail and steel plate want it to be.

 

 

Yeeeeesssssssss *wrings hands diabolically*...

 

I'd like to explore the possibilities of combat utility with all types of combat skills, if possible. It's part of the reason I advocate some kind of spell customization with magic. With weapon-skills, you might get Dual-Strike that gets adjusted based on which weapons you're using (sword axe, axe mace, etc.). So, with Fireball, what if you could sacrifice damage for impact force? That way, if I needed to help someone in combat, I could toss a Fireball specifically to strategically knockdown/knockback an opponent to help an ally out of a sticky situation. Because my spell is tailored to impact force, though, that means I lack the damage (or perhaps extra burning?) with it that I WOULD'VE had had I spent the points on sheer spell intensity or burn duration.

 

PrimeJunta pretty much hit the nail on the head with "a system of mechanics balanced out to function differently in different circumstances." My example really just factored in customization to that. But, I hope we'll see a system that has various distinctive scenarios playing out for different players, even with the same classes of party members, even with the same skills or equipment to an extent. This, as opposed to "I did 50 damage with a COMPLETELY different animation than you did!," or from a different range, or to a different radius, or as a slightly different type of damage. There's definitely far more untapped depth available that's just waiting to fuel RPG combat.

 

Aren't you the guy who said P:E should follow the rules of the Dragonball Z universe in another thread?

Edited by AGX-17

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Aren't you the guy who said P:E should follow the rules of the Dragonball Z universe in another thread?

 

Well, technically I said "DragonBall universe," I think. Plus it was a joke. But, yes.

 

In all honesty, I'm not sure if that comment is supposed to apply directly to that big quoted portion, or if you were simply curious. o_o


Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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Yes! That is balance! The only difference between a waeapon or peice of armor should not be the amount of damage they do, or the amount of AC they give.

 

I'm just wondering how their gonna be able to implement it in a isometric combat type game like this. I mean, Darksouls had all those ideas you mentioned, but thats because the weapons were put in realistically, and you controlled every little bit of motion, and every attack you made, were you had to judge the distance, range, and timing for everything.

 

We can't really implement that in an isometric game without adding in triggers like "-3 to hit in confined quarters" or "+2 AC against Humonoids".

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Then again it's really easy to tune the system with modifiers like that. If you have the time to add in a few extra animations, so much the better. The biggest challenge I think would be transparency; communicating to the player what the effects are. But then that's no different from spell combination effects or other such creative nonsense.


I have a project. It's a tabletop RPG. It's free. It's a work in progress. Find it here: www.brikoleur.com

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Y'know, I vaguely recall seeing something relevant to the topic at hand not too long ago...

 

The goal is not to make everyone "happy" because a) it's impossible and b) some people are only happy when their niche is excessively rewarded. E.g. sUpAh SnYpA fans in F:NV were very sad when the x5 crit chance bonus was removed from the Sniper Rifle and Gobi Campaign Rifle even though those weapons were still extremely good in their intended role. It didn't matter to some people. They wanted them to be good in all roles. Well, too bad.

EDIT: Man, crossposting someone's words from another website feels really... weird? Off? I dunno.

Edited by Tamerlane

jcod0.png

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On the subject of dual wielding, there's no reason that would be less effective against some manner of beast. A bear, for example, is not a nimble creature.

 

Wel-l-ll... actually I was arguing more from cRPG rather than simulationist premises (i.e., verisimilitude is nice but of secondary importance compared to stuff like character differentiation and strategic/tactical depth), but since you brought it up...

 

The simulationist argument for making two-weapon wielding comparatively more effective against human(oid)s is that it relies on more effective feinting. Feinting exploits the training of your opponent. For example, I understand that in fencing it's generally a good idea to keep an eye on where the point of the other guy's weapon is and what it's doing. A feint by a two weapon fighter would involve making like he's attacking with the main weapon, causing the defender to move to block or parry that, but really attacking with the secondary one in a spot now exposed by the blocking or parrying move. A bear wouldn't care about such niceties, it would just rush you.

 

To pile on more simulationist arguments, a bear would have thick fur, thick skin, and, towards the end of summer, a thick layer of fat. It would be a good deal more difficult to get through that to a vital organ with a light weapon than, say, a spear.

 

This applies to pretty much anything that doesn't fight like a human. (It would probably even apply to an untrained but really angry human, but such a human wouldn't pose much of a challenge for a trained fighter anyway, so that's kind of moot.)

 

Also, a bear is able to catch a moving salmon with its bare bear paws. That counts as pretty nimble in my book.

 

Let me emphasize, though, that this wasn't really the direction in which I was thinking; in a game like P:E, if simulation and interesting gameplay collide, I believe simulation should step aside. That said, I think this type of collision is rarer than you might think and quite often verisimilitude and interesting gameplay are congruent goals.


I have a project. It's a tabletop RPG. It's free. It's a work in progress. Find it here: www.brikoleur.com

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Bears are fast and agile creatures. They are also not particularly aggressive creatures, though there are a lot of factors that can play in to that. "Realistically" speaking, they would make terrible enemies in party-based RPGs, as they are terrified of large groups of humans and 99% of them would run away long before you ever knew they were there. The slow, lumbering monster bear is a videogame thing.

Edited by Tamerlane
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Large weapons with lots of reach would work better against large creatures and beasts but be significantly hampered in confined spaces. Heavy armor gives a great deal of protection against damage but would take time to equip and would fatigue you more quickly, which means you would only be able to use it if you had time to prepare for combat, and you'd have to find a way to conserve or restore your stamina during combat if it dragged on. A character would need to be physically very strong and fit to be able to manage this, but would not need to be acrobatically nimble.

 

Making large weapons impractical in cramped spaces is a nice idea but would probably not be feasible in P:E (real time, isometric), I think it would be far too easy to navigate your characters into disadvantaged positions unintentionally. Heavy armor/ weapons draining stamina was something I'd hoped it would be in P:E (loved that in Wizardry 8 ) but we know now that's not going to happen.

 

On the other hand, dual-wielding two light weapons gives an advantage to feinting and parrying. This means it's more effective against human(oid)s, but less effective against beasts and suchlike. Dual-wielding requires higher dexterity, which means trading off something else, resulting in a particular type of fighter. His blows are light but precise, and his skills are honed for one-on-one duels with humans.

 

While I'm not fond of dual-wielding, I think making it a bit more rational like this would be good. I'm actually very curious about this too; will dual-wielders be dextrous and lightly armored? Will barbarians just become stronger while raging or will they do more damage in general, so a barbarian could be more dextrous (since elves are likely to be barbarians in P:E)?

 

Piercing weapons would be useless against unliving enemies, but perhaps more effective at getting through magical protection; firearms could be a more powerful version of the same, but with slow reload rates. You'd have a better chance against a battlemage with a gun and a rapier than with a longsword or a sling, but you'd be advised to bludgeon a skeleton or a golem into submission rather than trying to ineffectively poke holes into it.

 

The 'maces against skeletons' cliché is getting quite a bit of stick, but I personally have always liked it. I just hope weapon specialization (if it exists in this form in PE) will be narrow so it will be non-trivial to just pull out the right weapon at the right time.

 

We already know that guns will be slow and good against mages.

Edited by Sacred_Path

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I tend to be a timmy. I build my strategies on what I can know, which is myself, not on what might happen (the enemy) that means that I tend to pick few situational skills or abiities. Hell, if I can pick a passive ability over an activated one, that's what I usually go for.

 

If you have situational skills, I'd best be getting plenty of opportunities to benefit from them for me to consider them worthwhile to take along.


Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
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Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

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The 'maces against skeletons' cliché is getting quite a bit of stick, but I personally have always liked it.

 

Going along with PrimeJunta's "when realism and interesting gameplay collide" comment, I think the best way to handle something like that is to allow maces to trump every other weapon versus skeletons, rather than making every other weapon less effective than it already is when using it against skeletons. Relatively, the goal is achieved (even though it isn't perfectly realistic), but regular swords won't be doing 2 damage against a 500HP skeleton and making you feel like a frustrated idiot. "It was doing 49 damage a minute ago! I swear this never happens!"

 

:). I know it might seem silly, but the goal is actually to have a distinction between which weapon you use on a skeleton, and that goal can be accomplished by a single advantage, rather than introducing both an advantage AND a detriment. Or, you at least don't want to introduce a huge detriment, like in some games (suggested in the situation above). Otherwise, it just feels like a penalty, and all you're getting for going out of your way (i.e. carrying around maces all day and equipping them every time you fight a skeleton) is the negation of the penalty.

 

Exactly how it's done is up in the air. You could even, say, prevent non-blunt weaponry from producing any criticals, while giving the blunt weapons extra criticals against skeletons. Or, maybe sharp things deal 10% less damage (something not TOO bad, but noticeable when applied across the board), while blunt things deal regular damage AND have a 20% chance to shatter skeletal limbs. That becomes a more strategic advantage (weapon arm shatters so weapon is dropped, legs smashed so movement reduced to crawling, etc.) rather than a simple matter of damage only.

 

I mean, fully "realistically," skeletons don't really have "health," anyway. They're just understood to be reanimated by some unseen force (it's obviously not muscle tissue and ligaments), and you're sure as hell not telling me that maces do extra damage against magical reanimatory forces than swords. You're simply destroying the skeleton to the point where, apparently, the unseen force is too weak to keep all the numerous pieces together. Otherwise, all the bone fragments would would simply puzzle themselves back together, and you'd be fighting a skeleton for eternity, or until you hunted down and killed the person who reanimated it.

 

Sorry... got a bit carried away with that singular example. It got me thinkin', and me thinkin' is never a good thing. o_o


Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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I mean, fully "realistically," skeletons don't really have "health," anyway. They're just understood to be reanimated by some unseen force (it's obviously not muscle tissue and ligaments), and you're sure as hell not telling me that maces do extra damage against magical reanimatory forces than swords. You're simply destroying the skeleton to the point where, apparently, the unseen force is too weak to keep all the numerous pieces together. Otherwise, all the bone fragments would would simply puzzle themselves back together, and you'd be fighting a skeleton for eternity, or until you hunted down and killed the person who reanimated it.

 

 

Or until you and the skeleton have a badass sword duel into the pits of hell, and you kick it into a pit of lava!

 

Err, sorry, played too much Prince of Persia as a kid.

Edited by Zenning
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Going along with PrimeJunta's "when realism and interesting gameplay collide" comment, I think the best way to handle something like that is to allow maces to trump every other weapon versus skeletons, rather than making every other weapon less effective than it already is when using it against skeletons. Relatively, the goal is achieved (even though it isn't perfectly realistic), but regular swords won't be doing 2 damage against a 500HP skeleton and making you feel like a frustrated idiot. "It was doing 49 damage a minute ago! I swear this never happens!"

 

I'd agree to making it a matter of gradually increased damaged rather than saying "maces do full damage! Swords do half damage! Daggers do no damage!". I'd also say it should be a real c&c to pick the weapon you want to specialize in. In the old 2E games like Icewind Dale you knew that it was required at some point to put points into mace skill, and you had plenty of those points so it was a no-brainer.

 

I mean, fully "realistically," skeletons don't really have "health," anyway. They're just understood to be reanimated by some unseen force (it's obviously not muscle tissue and ligaments), and you're sure as hell not telling me that maces do extra damage against magical reanimatory forces than swords. You're simply destroying the skeleton to the point where, apparently, the unseen force is too weak to keep all the numerous pieces together. Otherwise, all the bone fragments would would simply puzzle themselves back together, and you'd be fighting a skeleton for eternity, or until you hunted down and killed the person who reanimated it.

 

Ideally, I think against sort-of indestructible creations like skeletons and golems, if you encounter one the puppet master should never be far. So you can decide if it's better to hunt down that mage and use your shiny daggers on him rather than blunting them on the golem.

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Ideally, I think against sort-of indestructible creations like skeletons and golems, if you encounter one the puppet master should never be far. So you can decide if it's better to hunt down that mage and use your shiny daggers on him rather than blunting them on the golem.

 

Yeah. I just think it only make sense to be one way or the other (that those are the only two ways that make the most sense of handling skeletons... not that you can't implement both options at once). Either you have to sever the force animating the skeleton (kill the reasonably-available re-animator in question), OR you have to "kill" the skeleton. Which, since it's only kept "alive" by a mystical force, would basically be damaging the non-supernatural bones of the skeleton beyond the fore's ability to keep them animated in the form of a skeleton. Either it has has a limit, or the skeleton is immortal, haha.

 

But, yeah, a lot of games go overboard with this idea. Or... they oversimplify it, rather. The idea that things will be less effective against a skeleton. True, a 10-lb longsword has a sharp edge for slashing (and even a point for piercing, when thrusting), so obviously it would be incapable of causing tissue, organ, or bleeding damage. Any specifically piercing-based skills/abilities would be pretty moot. BUT, the fact remains that that longsword is fully capable of damaging human bones, assuming you aren't battling the skeleton of Wolverine from the X-men. Obviously, a mace would be even better at this, but a sword would not be rendered completely useless in the absence of flesh. A dagger... well, a dagger lacks the weight and would be a lot less useful. Perhaps it could be used to hook between limb bones and such and "disarm" the skeleton? (pun completely intended)

 

This also goes for some spells, though. Ice spells typically get rendered inert against skeletons, because the "chill" effect is typically the slowing of flesh and muscles due to lowered temperature. BUT, just because a skeleton has no muscle tissue to slow does not mean that bones do not become more brittle when frozen. So, again, a good combination of realism and gameplay-ability might be to allow ice-based spells to cause an increased chance of critical hits/bone-shattering hits. Again, the "best" way to handle this depends completely on what other factors exist in the design of the combat system.

 

Just my thoughts on something I've often thought could be handled better than we tend to see it handled.

Edited by Lephys

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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