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encounter mechanics

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Shrike
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Joined: 08/26/2010

Hey there folks,
Been out of it for abit, real life getting in the way, but I had a question that I knew the board could help with. What are some of the ways designers have handled encounters in their games? I seem to fall back on rolling a set # of die against a fixed number or just comparing stats from a character to whatever they are coming up against. Are there some creative ways that folks have used to tackle this that are different from what I've tried? (not claiming that mine are creative mind you) =) Tried searching the board, but I didn't see much, might have used the wrong keywords though, you never know. Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom, see you on the other side.

Shrike

Kreitler
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: encounter mechanics

Shrike wrote:
Hey there folks,
Been out of it for abit, real life getting in the way, but I had a question that I knew the board could help with. What are some of the ways designers have handled encounters in their games? I seem to fall back on rolling a set # of die against a fixed number or just comparing stats from a character to whatever they are coming up against. Are there some creative ways that folks have used to tackle this that are different from what I've tried? (not claiming that mine are creative mind you) =) Tried searching the board, but I didn't see much, might have used the wrong keywords though, you never know. Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom, see you on the other side.

Shrike

Hey Shrike,

Glad you're back. Can you give us a little context, like what kind of game it's for and what kind of encounters you're generating? Also, are you talking about generating encounters or resolving them?

K.

Shrike
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Joined: 08/26/2010
encounter mechanics

Hey there, glad to be back. Right now I'm more worried about resolving encounters. The game I'm looking at is actually what I was putting in for Z-Man's monster game. So more of a board game with some cards. The encounters start when the player reaches a certain area of the path on the board.

The big thing that I was wondering how other designers approach this, whether it it's a card or board game. How many folks use dice, straight stats... that sort of thing.

Shrike

DSfan
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Joined: 12/31/1969
encounter mechanics

Shrike,

Sorry It might just be me but I still dont get what you mean by encounters. In my head I'm thinking battles between one person and another person, with one of the people possibly being game-controlled. If that's what you mean then I have an answer. If not, please describe, and possibly give examples on what you are referring too.

Thank You,
Justin

OutsideLime
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Joined: 12/31/1969
encounter mechanics

It seems like you are searching for a way to resolve encounters, rather than generate them....

On that note, I have lately been very concerned with making sure that the mechanism of resolving an encounter matches and heightens the context of the encounter.

For example, if I am trying to shoot a target with a sniper in my game, the mechanic should reflect the feeling of zeroing in on the target and firing at the right moment.

I could draw a card from a deck to see if it says "hit" or "miss" on it. Some notes on the card could even refine the system so that it becomes less of a total crapshoot and depends a bit more on stats, target, terrain, etc. It could work out to be satisfactory... but does it communicate the feel that it should?

How about this:

-There is a shuffled deck of target cards labelled 1 through 10, facedown.
-I declare my "bullseye", a number from 1 to 10.
Now, a certain number of Target cards are flipped over, one by one. The number of cards flipped could be determined by stats (my sniper's "skill"), or perhaps I could bid a certain number of "patience points", or some such resource, to increase the number of cards flipped.
-As each target card is flipped, I decide if I want to take the shot. (I only get one shot.)
Hitting the bullseye means maximum damage. Damage decreases incrementally for every number away from the bullseye I am when I choose to shoot. Too far away from the bullseye and it's a miss altogether. (Target numbers "wrap around" - 10 is considered next to 1, etc.)

Naturally, I want to hit the bullseye... but will it come up? If a close shot comes up, should I take it? If I let a decent opportunity pass, will I get another one, or might I have missed the boat? The better sniper I am (or the more "patience" I bid), the greater my window for decent shots...

Now, I don't know if this system works, it's just a quick example... but I think it communicates my point. The player is faced with a decision similar to that of the sniper he's representing... shoot now, or wait for a perhaps-unforthcoming better shot in a rapidly-closing window of opportunity. Tension. Much more theme-appropriate than simply drawing a card or rolling a die, I think.

~Josh

Shrike
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Joined: 08/26/2010
encounter mechanics

That is one example of what I mean (must write more specific from now on) As for the game that I'm working on right now it is the players 2 characters against monsters that they run across during the game. More in general I was looking for all kinds of ways to resolve "encounters" wether it be for combat, or "puzzles/challenges" that a player runs into during games. That kind of stuff, I was curious as to how folks work those out for resolution in their games. Hope that helps and thanks for any help....

Shrike

That's pretty cool Lime, thanks, you're right on the money, looking for interesting ways to resolve the encounters, I'm doing ok in the setting them up category.

OutsideLime
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Joined: 12/31/1969
encounter mechanics

Man, now that I reread my post, that's not too shabby.... with a little refinement that could be an excellent mechanic. Excuse me while I go invent a snipers game!

~Josh

PS - Shrike, if you are attempting to resolve a wide variety of encounters, then they will probably have to be annotated either on charts and tables, or on gamecards, or in a lengthy rulebook... Gamecards would seem to be the most "user-friendly" - that is, players draw a card that represents an encounter, then the card explains the mini-game that represents the encounter - nicely self-contained. If you want to PM me with an example or two of your encounter types, I'd be happy to write up some sample resolution options to try and kickstart you. Consistency in tone and complexity from minigame to minigame is important, but that doesn't rule out variety or experience.

Emphyrio
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Joined: 02/10/2010
encounter mechanics

OutsideLime hit the nail on the head. The mechanic(s) you choose to resolve encounters should reflect or augment the theme of the game. It may also depend on how central the encounters are to the game -- is the game built around encounters (like most RPGs), or are they obstacles hindering you from accomplishing your goals, or are they just occasional random events? The more central the encounters are, the more detail you'll probably want to use to model them.

I was experimenting with a couple of encounter mechanisms for my entry for Z-Man's monster game. Initially I was envisioning a sort of RPG-like mechanic where the humans could choose to fight, hide, or run away from a monster, with corresponding stats (combat, stealth, speed) and die-roll resolution. I don't think there's anything wrong with this approach, but it started feeling a little too rule-heavy for the game.

Then I started down a path where much of the game was hidden from the other players, so the NPC encounters were downplayed (automatically resolved in favor of the player) and only player encounters were rolled. This didn't work out so well in playtesting, though I think with a different theme it might be feasible.

I finally settled on a system somewhat like Illuminati -- based on fixed stats, but without the die roll. Players secretly bid a certain number of action tokens and may play cards to augment their bid; other players can "interfere" to help one side or the other.

Kreitler
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Joined: 12/31/1969
encounter mechanics

OutsideLime wrote:
On that note, I have lately been very concerned with making sure that the mechanism of resolving an encounter matches and heightens the context of the encounter.

Hey Shrike,

Josh's example is excellent, as is his philosophical approach.

There is an alternative that may not be quite as flavorful, but may have advantages if your game includes large numbers of encounter types and/or character classes. That is to provide a single mechanic for resolving encounters, but modeling it such that it forces players to choose between strategies that approximate what they could actually do in the situation.

For example, I'm designing a small golf game where the mechanic is always the same:

1) Figure out where to you want the ball to end up.
2) Calculate the difficulty of the shot.
3) Select from a limited pool of dice.
4) Roll for success.
5) If the roll fails, roll a "failure die" to see where the ball lands.

The die rolling mechanic has little golf flavor, but the decisions in 1 and 3 simulate real choices in golf, such as:

-- Do you aim short, hit low and try to roll to your destination?
-- Do you risk landing near a hazard to position yourself better for the next shot?
-- Should you add one or two "risk dice", hoping for a better shot at the cost of possibly hitting a wild ball?

This system has the advantage of a shorter learning curve because there is only one mechanic to grasp. That's important for a golf game that needs to appeal to non tabletop gamers. It's much less important for a game targeted at the hardcore market.

It's also possible that a hybrid approach could work well. If your game is a dungeon crawler, for example, you could give each character class a particular combat mechanic, then model encounters in such a way as to force decisions suitable to the encounter.

For instance, you might have character cards with some simple stats like attack and defense. Players might use numbered cards with an elemental suit to power their abilities. Fighters ignore elements and just add card numbers to their attack/defense abilities, factoring in weapon and armor bonuses for final Attack and Defense scores each round. Magic users might have to play combinations of proper elements to cast various spells with differing Attack and Defense effects. When the player draws an encounter card, it shows a monster with certain Attack, Defense, and Hit Point totals. Players have to supply enough total Defense to withstand the monster's Attack each turn and do enough Attack to exceed the monster's Defense (extra damage blows through to monster Hit Points). Monsters could have special abilities like immunity to certain elemental spells.

This immediately forces players to balance their card play against the monster's strengths and weaknesses to assure success. At the same time, it gives each character class a unique feel, which in turn gives various 2-character teams their own strategic nuances.

However you resolve encounters, it's essential that the players have a meaningful role in their resolution. Automatic stat comparison and even simple die rolls don't give players much of a sense of control.

K.

Shrike
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Joined: 08/26/2010
encounter mechanics

Ok, wow guys, I def appreciate all of the responses, you've given me lots to think about. Here is a little more breakdown of how the game is supossed to work at the moment and where I think I'm going with resolving the conflicts.

Each player has 2 characters that they control during the game. (repersented by a single pawn) the characters are in card form off board and have 3 stats, brains, brawn, and speed. Right now the stats range from 3-5, and there are 8 total allowing four folks to play. The encounters come into play as the pawn is moved onto certain areas of the board, thus triggering said encounter with the monster(s) Originally the monsters would have had only one of the stats that the characters have and you would compare the total from the characters for that stat and the monsters, if the players was higher (after a 1d6 roll) you passed and were allowed to continue movement if you had any left after gaing your reward. Each player would start at a different path going towards a common goal and each path would have an equal number of encounters set along the way, so while it might take one player an extra turn or 2 to get to the goal, the number of encounters would be equal, winning encounters giving victory points of course.

Movement is a number of squares equal to the slowest character a player has, they have to stick together to survive.

Now though I think I'm going to give the monsters all three stats and let the player decide which stat he will use to try and beat the monster(s), also giving a different reward/penalty for each stat. I think for now I might try giving the monsters a fixed stat and for the players having them combine the two characters totals and adding the 1d6 roll. Of course I will have to find the right number ratios to make it all work right, but that is for another day.

Again, thanks for the input, I will be looking at some of your suggestions more in the next few days. If anyone has any ideas / comments about what I'm goign to try please give me a shout.

Shrike

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