There are really two issues here, and I should probably make two posts, but they are related, so here goes...
This is an RPG style game, with emphasis on story and ease of play. The gameplay is co-op and revolves around overcoming various enemy encounters.
There has been a process of changing and refining the combat system, attempting to simplify and streamline.
Here is how it has progressed:
1) First we had a relatively straight-forward, weapons do varying damage, armor absorbs damage. Custom die determines hit and possible bonus damage. Vary similar to the die listed in this thread: http://www.bgdf.com/node/6334
The downfall here was in the number of calculations the players had to make. Damage + special ability effects + die roll - armor. Blah.
2) So we tried to reduce the amount of damage and the addition and subtraction required. Instead of weapons mostly being differentiated by different damage, they got an 'attack class'. This was compared to the defenders 'armor class'. It had to equal or beat it in order for the attack to do full damage. If not, then the total attack was reduced to 1 damage (from, say, 2-4 damage). So armor could protect from attacks, but not make one invulnerable.
The problem here is that it was pretty unsatisfying and not very intuitive. And if still felt like to much calculations going on.
For seasoned RPGers, most of the calculations and conventions were manageable, but for new players the complexity was still too daunting. And we would like to be able to attract some casual players unfamiliar with RPGs.
Another part of the problem is with attack abilities.
We want to reflect that abilities get more powerful as the characters advance, and keep the calculations to a minimum.
The first idea was to give abilities a formula that says what the attack does. What it targets, range, damage, effects, etc.
In some cases a variable was included, and this variable was called 'skill power'. It was a number that came from skill advancement and magic equipment.
But the whole idea a of a variable (even with trying to use a friendly symbol based representation) is still pretty daunting to new players, and even veterans still have to mentally plug in the number when deciding what to do.
So I'm looking for more combat system ideas, and new ways to represent abilities what vary with skill.
Varying abilities might be represented by simply printing the different skill versions on the card? Is this good, or too much info at once?
Here's what I've been considering for combat:
A new die system. A variation from above that combines armor effects. Like this:
2) Miss - Accuracy (Miss unless attacker has Accuracy, then it is a hit)
3) Hit - Dodge (Hit unless defender has Dodge, then miss)
4) Hit - Leather (Hit, if target has leather/mail/plate armor, attack reduced to 1 damage)
5) Hit - Mail (Hit, if target has mail/plate armor, attack reduced to 1)
6) Crit - Plate (Hit with critical effect, if target has plate armor, attack reduced to 1)
Weapons do varying damage again (It's a fairly satisfying mechanic, who doesn't want a new weapon that does more damage?) But here the die roll is attempting to combine a hit roll with armor defense all rolled into one. Armor absorbs hits on the proper die roll and better armor has more chances to absorb. So the only calculations the player needs to know is their weapon damage + any special ability effects. Then they roll the die, and any armor symbol that matches the the target gets reduced to 1 damage.
Initialy, having a shield was going to absorb damage, but it could be combined onto the die as well. If the target has a shield the attack is absorbed, but can only use it vs one frontal attack per round. It would appear with the Accuracy and Dodge trait faces. (It would make dodge + shield fairly redundant in most cases, but then again, this isn't really all that bad. And also makes Plate + Shield characters pretty dang tough, but again, this isn't really that bad either)