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Simple albeit complex RPG combat system?

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Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009

hi folks,
one of my designs is a RPG with a strong focus on combat, equipment and leveling. The game is also influenced by MMO's and console action RPGs (Please: no discussion if this fits a RPG or would be better a board game, just focus on the topic).

I tried to simplify the combat system as much as possible, while maintain as much freedom as I could. The system also has a strong board game or card game flair to it. Now, Im wondering if the system is really that simple or if the amount of mechanics slows it down unnecessarily (especially the interaction of Range and Aura, see below). Here is a short overview:

Only six-sided dice are used. When attacking you roll dice equal to your Attack statistic, 4+ counts as success. The defender rolls dice equal to it's Defense statistic. When the attacker scores more success results than the defender, the remainder is deducted from health. point.

there are a few modifiers, im not going too much into detail: 1 is a "fumble" result while 6 is a "perfect" or "critical" result. There are rolls that succeed on 3+ while others only succeed on 5+ and there is a re-roll mechanic as well. thats it.

The game uses a mat that symbolizes distance between monsters and heroes. The distances are like range bands (referred to as zones) and compromise: Vanguard, Center and Rearguard (I got that idea from games like Agon, Ancient Odysseys - Treasure Awaits! and Meikyuu Kingdom!!). Both monsters and heroes can be positioned at one of the three zones. See this example from Meikyuu Kingdom:

* While at Vanguard, you can only melee attack others that are also positioned at vanguard. If the opposing vanguard area is empty you can attack the zone behind it and so on.

* Attacking from the Center or even from the Rearguard zones is only possible with pole arms, missile weapons or magic spells.

Aura is one of the main statistics in the game and is actually composed of two numeric values (written as X/Y). Aura represents willpower and battlefield dominance and can be compared to the "Aggro" rating found in MMO's. The first Aura value is referred to as "Control" while the second is "Aggro".

The basic aura rule is like this: A character MUST attack the enemy within range with the highest Aggro rating, if there are several enemies with the same rating, he can choose one of them.

Only if the Control rating of a character is equal or higher than the highest Aggro rating among the enemies in the same zone, he may choose his target freely.

Many skills and magic spells manipulate the two aura values, this creates lots of interesting situations.

Four Heroes are fighting four Monsters. the numbers in brackets are the aura values, for simplicity we assume the heroes are attacking the monsters and only the heroes Control ratings are shown while the monsters only show a Aggro rating:

Hero side of the mat: Knight(3) and Rogue(4) at Vanguard. Cleric(1) at the Center and a Wizard(2) in the Rearguard zone.

Monster side of the mat: A goblin(1) and a minotaur(4) in the Vanguard zone and two goblin archers(1/1) at the Center zone.

Now the heroes plan their actions:

Knight. Being in Vanguard, he must choose either the goblin or the minotaur when attacking (or he decides to do something else). But the minotaur features the higher Aggro rating, so he MUST be chosen as target.

Rogue. Also in Vanguard, so only goblin and minotaur are legal targets. But, the rogue has a high control rating of 4, equal to the minotaur. this allows him to choose his target. he chooses the goblin and defeats it with a single, deadly blow.

Cleric. As the cleric chooses to make use of a healing prayer, he is not affected by the aura values of opponents.

Wizard. The wizard uses a magic spell targeted at one of the goblin archers in the center zone. He can choose freely as both have the same aura value.

Thats all. The main question is now if the combination of both, range and Aura is too complex and fiddly. Another point is that the Aura system might limit the players too much (but gives them a reason to boost their aura values or nerf the aura of opponents). Keep in mind that I have not talked about dice rolling in the example yet, so this would add some extra complexity to the system as well.

As you might have noticed from my previous posts, im always very careful about how fast and easy a game plays. Also i like to reduce book-keeping to a minimum.

Thanks for any thoughts and feedback!

-Fhizban (alias Tobias)

devaloki's picture
Joined: 01/15/2014
You may wish to check some of

You may wish to check some of my posts, I too am designing a game influenced by video game rpgs (although more of the turn based ones than the action ones; though Demon's Souls is definitely an influence too).
Range bands are good, though perhaps you may want to cut it down to just rear and front rows.
With the d6 thing you may want to make the default success 5+ instead of 4+.

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
hi, can you point me to your

can you point me to your post? im a bit lost searching all the boards.

well there is a modifier that makes ranging the success from 2+ (really rare) to 3+ (rare), 4+ (common) and 5+ as well as just 6. 4+ is the typical case when no modifiers apply, i think thats okay.

devaloki's picture
Joined: 01/15/2014
Fhizban wrote:hi, can you

Fhizban wrote:
can you point me to your post? im a bit lost searching all the boards.

well there is a modifier that makes ranging the success from 2+ (really rare) to 3+ (rare), 4+ (common) and 5+ as well as just 6. 4+ is the typical case when no modifiers apply, i think thats okay.

That does sound pretty good. I was considering doing something similar in my game too where you compare the dexterity/agility of attacking character to the agility of defending player in order to come up with how easy it is to hit (as in, a table that you look at and crossreference), though I probably will end up keeping it 2d6 based torward a target value rather than the system you mentioned (it's still a work in progress though so nothing's set in stone). The main reason I mentioned the 5+ as default is because that's how games like Eldritch Horror and Shadowrun RPG handle their systems when multiple dice are rolled with counting the # of successes/failures against opponent's.

Here are the threads I was talking about of mine:

Joined: 12/27/2013
Here's two cents of mine

I feel that the Aura system will generate some amount of book keeping in cases where it'll go up and down, and I imagine it could in many cases be switched to simple Defender and Assassin skills (high Aggro dudes receive a Defender skill, and high Control an Assassin skill) which works as a binary version of the Aura system. I don't say it'd be better, but it's a lot simpler if you want to go that way.

I also don't see the need for third row as what you have described so far of the game.
Historically I believe the vanguard was mostly for utility, scouts and pioneers and such. So what if you were to add an utility phase in combat also; scouts exposing enemy back row dudes, pioneers reducing enemy defenses or giving you higher, or maybe some spontaneous row swapping.

I'd also argue for static target number in dice rolls, or is there something particular you'd want to achieve with modifiers in both target number and the amount of dice rolled?
A static 4+ would stick better to the players minds, and be one less thing to think about.

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
thanks for your feedback

thanks for your feedback jared! i start with the easy stuff:

1. target number
the basic is 4+, thats easy to remember. there are just situations where the target can be 3+ or 5+, i just need this modifier to make buff/nerf spells (skills etc.) possible. but the easy to remember standard will be 4+.

2. rows
yes, devaloki also recommended this and one of my friends did argue the same way. im still thinking about it, one of my other games uses only 2 rows. the main reason for using 3 is the range of weapons, as it allows to differentiate between short and long range (this can also be done with 2 rows, but not that well). another point is, that no one really cares if there is an extra row or not. As this is a RPG (so a somewhat complex game at its base) i thought it would be a good idea not to limit the combat zones too much. on the other hand: if the third zone is proven to be completely redundant, i would remove it!

3. aura
you are right, this is the main reason why i started this thread. thanks for your feedback. I am also worried that it would be too fiddly to manage. it also keeps the players busy with stuff that is not directly related to combat.

but, your idea sounds nice. just simplifying it should work. this could be reduced down to two threat levels:

0 = normal
1 = threat

all characters (heroes and monsters alike) start with 0 and certain skills and/or situations can make it go up become a threat or back to normal again. this can be represented by one single token.

you must attack threats first, or choose one of the threatening enemies if there are more. otherwise you may choose among the normal enemies.

your abilities could also be incorporated, like someone who is allowed to ignore the threat token or whatever.

PS: almost forgot: Im thinking about removing the forced targeting. you should attack the threatening enemy, though you can also attack others. BUT, if you do - you gain a reasonable penalty (penalty still pending).

i like the idea, more feedback welcome!

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