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Looking for feedback on combat system

3 replies [Last post]
Joined: 03/02/2014

I'm trying to resurrect my interest in my Steampunk-themed co-op dungeon crawl game tentatively named London Underground. It has a couple of original ideas that I really want to get into a playable game. However, its combat system currently is terrible. I'm satisfied with the originality of other aspects of the game, so I'm not looking to do anything terribly innovative in the combat system. I'm just trying to make it streamlined and fun.

The characters each have one or two weapon bases, such as the longarm base for the musketeer, the greatsword base for the knight templar, and the weapon-thing base for the Gadgeteer. Each base has a base number of dice (initially just white dice) and several attachment points on which you can place the parts that you find as you go. For instance,

  • Longarm (base 3 dice): Stock, Trigger, Barrel, Bullets
  • Greatsword (base 4 dice): Counterweight, Hilt, Blade, Point
  • Pistol (base 3 dice): Trigger, Barrel, Bullets
  • Weapon-thing (base 2 dice as a ranged weapon, 3 dice as a melee weapon): Counterweight or Trigger; Stock or Hilt; Blade, Shaft, or Barrel; Point or Bullet.
  • etc.

There are other limitations on which weapon parts a player can use, as well. The idea is that some characters have more powerful base weapons but are more limited in the add-ons, whereas other characters have a less powerful base weapon but have a lot more flexibility to use any parts that are found during the adventure. Improvement of gear is the only leveling up that happens during the game, and it is vital to do so aggressively in order to beat the boss at the end.

The dice have different icons. White dice have 2 sides with a "hit," one side with a Flame, one with a Star, one with a Bolt, and one blank. Red dice have 2 sides with a hit, one with a hit and a flame, one with just a flame, and one with a star. There are also blue dice (bolts), and black dice (just lots of hits).

The different add-ons are like the following:

Holy Blade: Add one white die and all stars add a point of holy damage. Repeating Trigger: Remove one white die but attack twice.
Flaming Blade: Add one red die and all flames add a point of fire damage. Flaming Point: Convert one white die to red and all flames add a point of fire damage.

Part of the goal in collecting the add-ons is to make combos, such as having several parts adding red dice and each adding a point of damage for each flame, such that you have several dice with lots of flames available and each flame does 3 or 4 points of damage.

Ok. Still with me?

Question 1: What do you think, so far?

I originally had an plan for a very D&Dish combat, on a hex grid that represented the room -- the Tactical Map -- where position and range would matter. However, having the underground map that is growing as you play, and then the Tactical Map that was used during fighting, was just silly.

So I want to go for a simpler approach, something like Mage Knight, where there is a Ranged Attack Phase followed by a Melee Attack Phase, and you just count up hit points. However, unlike Mage Knight, I want to have the enemies using similar weapons that the players use, so they might attack in the Ranged Phase, the Melee phase, or both.

Question 2: Should I just say that they are simultaneous? Or should I introduce a concept of weapon speed? It would give me another aspect to add to the weapon parts, which allows me to give them more variety. But is it too complicated?

Question 3: For enemy attacks that are not Area of Effect, how should I say which player is attacked? I'm tempted to say that the smarter enemies would know to target the most wounded player, but that doesn't really make for a very fun game, if getting wounded means you're almost certainly going to be knocked out early. Also, I don't have a good randomizer, since the dice in the game are not numbered.

Any other thoughts would be very welcome. If you've read this far, thanks for your time.

Mark Simulacra
Joined: 05/21/2015
There's a lot to like.

So right off the bat, I find the core of your system very interesting (and I'm not the type of person to typically like dice-based combat resolution.)

One potential concern I have is with the idea of weapons that are better at different stages throughout the game. It seems like it might lead to negative experiences if not carefully implemented (as players with early game weapons seem to trivialize the game such that end game weapon characters feel useless... until the opposite happens.) Though I might be misunderstanding the problem / it might not even be a problem.

Question 1
I could see you resolving this problem by having enemies engage certain players (similar to Warhammer Quest? I think.) So enemies are either fighting one player or not yet fighting anyone. Ranged attacks allow you to attack enemies that aren't fighting you (so are either fighting an ally or not yet fighting anyone.) Melee attacks allow you to attack an enemy engaged with you. If you go this route, characters need way to engage and disengage enemies.

Question 2
There's a lot of ways to do this step. The simplest is a players phase followed by an enemy phase, with players resolving in the order of their choice. You could also have players choose the resolution order of enemies to simplify things on that end.

This doesn't allow for a lot of nuance, but for the overall game idea it seems your going with the flexibility is probably more of an advantage than not.

Question 3
This depends on how intricate you want to make the enemy 'AI'. Engaged enemies should probably generally try to fight who their engaged with, or, if they are ranged enemies, try to disengage. You could have different rules for different enemies as regards who they engage, who they attack, etc. based on enemy type and intended difficulty (easy ranged: attack least engaged player, brutal ranged: attack least health player.)

Hopefully I understand your idea correctly. It sounds really interesting. Here's hoping to hear more about it.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Interesting concept.

Sorry, no answer to question 1.

I'll answer question 2 with a semi-counter question.

If you are unsure about your combat system to be balanced or working correctly. Is question 2 a possible answer to this problem? Or is question 2 simply a next step in making the combat a bit more complex?

If it is an answer to the problem. Please do add, rework. Than repost what you got.
If it is a next step. Don't. Stay away from it for now. Get the basis done first.

Question 3:
I have had the same problem in my game. But then I introduced taking cover behind others. As unnatural as it sounds.
Now, this can be done in several ways. But I think that another player could simply take the hit for the weaker player. And as a reward, well, a small reward for every time that it happens.
Is it possible to apply this? Or are you making use of a grid of some sort? In that case, players are adviced to stick close together.
Players are not supposed to shoot each other, right?

Joined: 03/02/2014

Thanks to both of you for the replies and for the encouraging words!

Mark, I think I understand your point about weapons that are better at different stages. My expectation is that all players' weapons will improve as the game goes on. The more flexible weapons (the weapon-thing and the crossbow) will have slightly more opportunity to improve, but I expect this not to be a big difference.

I actually suspect that this would make more of a difference in the mid-game, when the players have only found two pieces that improve the Knight Templar's weapon (because he can only use holy and "all" weapons, but the gadgeteer, who can use nearly anything, has put in 3 minor upgrades that don't work together in combos, but still each improve it a bit. By the end game, everyone is putting combos together, and maybe the gadgeteer has a little more choice of which of the available combos work best, but the difference still is likely to be much less than the difference each player has experienced since starting.

But this is definitely the most I've thought about the issue, so I really appreciate you bringing it up. Now I know to pay attention to it.

Re Simultaneous vs. alternating: I think I will probably end up with a player phase / enemy phase approach, because simultaneous is just too hard unless everyone has his own dice. Since they are custom dice, I don't expect that. I can see certain monster that might be "fast" so, for those, the enemy phase is before the player phase, but they'll always be in a homogeneous group; no mixing of fast monsters with normal ones.

Re Enemies deciding whom to attack: I was trying to avoid any complicated engagement/disengagement rules, and definitely avoiding positioning of any sort. But I do like X3M's idea of using another player for cover. Perhaps if the player hoping for cover sacrifices one die of attack in order to take cover behind another, and then he gets the other's defense bonus. That would mean that he has to decide in his attack phase, and then it's up to him to remember when it is the enemy's attack phase, which shouldn't be too much of a burden.

to X3M, No, this is strictly co-op and players never shoot each other. Well, unless they get mind controlled, but they just become enemies when this happens.

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