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Stealth game mechanic: Pay to succeed

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larienna
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I always wanted to make a stealth ninja game but never actually found the core mechanics. I looked at other stealth or ninja board games and it did not inspired me either. A common mechanic would be to restrict player actions by drawing a random hand of action cards, or rolling dice that determined what the player can do. But I am kind of tired of those game design where you must find ways to restrict the player, I want to give the player freedom.

A simple way to implement this is with skill rolls, but I found it somewhat annoying to roll all the time while moving on the board, and even with low odds, you could get easily discovered at every step you make if you are unlucky.

This moning, I came up with an idea that I used for a Dungeon Quest variant: pay to succeed. In this case you would roll and if you fail, you can pay the difference in "time" resource to automatically succeed.

By pushing the idea further, when guards are discovered, a die will be rolled and used as a guard pawn, the value indicates it's vigilence. Your skill level must exceed/equal the vigilence of the guard to succeed, else you pay the difference in time. The advantage is that events could increase or decrease the vigilence of the guards.

If a guard is too much vigilent, then you could use special items to make success easier or attempt to kill the guard which would be a die roll, but now if you fail, you are discovered.

I also want the player to use their environment which would give them various kind of bonus according to various situations, from hiding places, to distractions for the guards.

What do you think?

TwentyPercent
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Hey Larienna I'm a big fan of

Hey Larienna

I'm a big fan of resource management mechanics, as they allow the player to make a choice. So combining a skill check with the option for the player to influence the check by using a valuable resource sounds like a neat idea.

I cna picture an assassin keeping an eye on the guards, and depending on how the guard is keeping am eye out, the assassin has to be more or less careful and/or reroute himself.

Anyways, good idea. I'm in favor of it. Can't wait to hear more.

larienna
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It's true that in this case,

It's true that in this case, it will be a game mostly based on resource management since also many items and equipment could be limited use, so again resource management.

larienna
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I my Dungeon Quest variant,

I my Dungeon Quest variant, the process was similar, if you failed a roll, you could pay the difference in determination token to succeed, or accept the failure and gain 1 determination token ( a form of experience). In that case you wasted time, but if gave you more tokens when you failed that could be used later. So you had to determine if it was worth paying the cost now or lose time.

Zag24
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Are you suggesting that the

Are you suggesting that the players don't even have rolls, just the guards? That's an interesting idea that is worth exploring.

That is, say my stealth is 3. I come up on a guard position, so I roll for the guard and place the die in his position. If the guard 1-3, I could move at my normal speed and I know that the lazy, unobservant guard will not see me. However, if the guard rolls a 4, I have to reduce my speed by 1 to remain unobserved. If he rolls 5 or 6, I have to reduce my speed by 2 or 3, respectively. Is that what you meant?

If you could balance this with other skills being equally as important, it could be an interesting and nicely streamlined game.

larienna
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Quote:Are you suggesting that

Quote:
Are you suggesting that the players don't even have rolls, just the guards? That's an interesting idea that is worth exploring.

Yes and no, here is how it work, if your stealth is 3 and the guard has 4, then you pay 1 extra time resource to pass into the location. So yes there is no extra cost for guards of 3 or less.

Now the reason you do not roll again is to prevent rolling each time you moved. Once a guard is revealed, you know the cost to move there. So I thought it would be more convenient this way. It's the same result but the other way around. Else for sure, I could roll on every move, passing twice at the same place will yield different results.

To prevent luck imbalance, I can put the starting value of the die on the guard's token. When you reveal a guard, you flip the token and it says "this guard is at value X". This way, you cannot have a lucky or unlucky game, all guards will have a average vigilence every game.

Some events, items, spells could increase, lower or reroll the vigilence of the guard.

Willem Verheij
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Maybe stamina could be the

Maybe stamina could be the resource? Something players can recover over time.

So they COULD use stealth, but if they use it too long they wouldnt have stamina left for other special actions once they get out of stealth.

larienna
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Hmm! I like your idea of

Hmm! I like your idea of stamina, it could be use for things that requires more exhaustion like climbing walls, fighting, etc.

Of course there will be health which will also be a resource that you pay to match die rolls. More info on that in my next post.

larienna
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I have been thinking about

I have been thinking about the dice rolls when walking back home. I want to standardise the skill roll mechanics throught the game. So here is what I though so far.

There will be guard tokens on the board with 2 stats: Vigilence and Thoughness. Players will have skill levels of various kind including stealth and combat. A skill roll is first by rolling 1D + Skill, the result must equal or exceed the TN.

Movement: When moving you can pay the difference in time between the TN and your skill roll to auto succeed. OR you can spend only 1 time and roll 1D + skill, if you fail you get discovered. Or maybe you can chose the amount to spend and roll a die. But if you want auto success, you can. (again, to prevent rolling for each movement step)

Stealth Kills: You can try to kill a guard, in that case you roll 1D + skill against the thoughness of the target. You cannot simply pay the difference to auto succeed. But maybe you could pay time to reduce the difficulty. But maybe rolling a 6 will always make you fail.

Combat: Same thing, you roll 1D + skill vs thoughness, for each point rolled under the TN, you lose 1 health. So here you pay in health to compensate for the failed die roll. But you cannot spend more time to increase you chance of success since you are in battle.

Zag24
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Toughness

That sounds workable. I'd definitely like to try it out.

BTW, remember this: English is hard; it can be mastered, though, through tough, thorough thought.

(You've been spelling "Toughness" incorrectly.)

larienna
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Thanks for the tip, but

Thanks for the tip, but considering I never mastered french grammar, my native language, I don't have better expectations for mastering my English grammar. I can always try but I am not sure I will actually make progress.

If I have to make efforts to improve my English, it should be trying to be more fluent while speaking. Talk faster and have better reflex.

larienna
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Right now I am trying to work

Right now I am trying to work on a map. Not really sure what should be the scale of a "space". In "Ninja: Legend of the scorpion clan" a moving space cover a large amount of space. A whole house can fit on 1 or 3 space.

Since I want a modular map, I need a way to make it tilable. I might have found some way. You would tile the whole area map first and then you can overlay another tile for inner keeps if necessary.

The other additions, is that since house space are more "dense" they have a second inner sublocation that connects to other adjacent house sub location. So movement inside buildings is slower then outside.

larienna
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For those interested, I made

For those interested, I made a mini proto and playtest:

Picture here
http://bgd.lariennalibrary.com/uploads/Mainsite/GameIdea/GameIdea2010050...

The project page is here:

http://bgd.lariennalibrary.com/index.php?n=GameIdea.GameIdea201005030517AM

Results of the playtests:

- There is an issue with time and the AI's turn. If the player can spend additional time, when does the AI act? I think each turn will be composed of 4-6 time slice of 5 minutes. When a player spent all his slice or more slice than a full turn, the AI act.

- I will have to define actions for AI, like alerted guards could search for the player, while environment like bushes could give bonus to hiding. But when facing alerted guards, time cannot be spent. Unless I allow player to spend time improving hiding places or other stuff before they actually need it. Same thing for hidden bodies, the quality of the cache will be the difficulty of the guard to find it. Players could spend more time to improve the quality of the cache.

- I am thinking about having an AI reaction table for alerted guards or when patrols discover areas with missing guards. They could simply ignore it or try searching. But the alert level will give a bonus to the reaction roll making them more likely to search and be on their guard when the alert level is high.

- I was also thinking about a consequence table. Like for example, if you fail a sneak kill by 1 point, then maybe you do the kill, but he scream loudly and attract attention of other guards in the location. While if you fail miserably, the guard counter attack and makes you lose health. Reaction table seems to improve the story telling of the game.

- Movement difficulty is a bit complex, because I am not sure if to consider the guards in the target square, and or the guards in the starting square. I might need to use the difficulty of both as the player could be in a very bad position, he should not be able to get out that easily. Or use worst of both, or roll/spent time for both.

I am currently playing "Invisible Inc", I could get some ideas from there too.

larienna
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The main issues I have is

The main issues I have is with time and multiple guards in the same area. For time I have 2 option so far. Each turn will be 30 minute where a time point will be 5 minute (6 points per turn).

Method A: Act on threash hold: The first method consist that doing action spent time points. You can of course spend points to increase success level. When you exceed the 6 points per turn. The AI will act at the end of your action.

Method B: Musical chair or Clock: The AI act on fixed interval of 30 minutes. During your turn, you can spend up to 6 time points. If you do not spend everything, the points are lost, or transfered in experience (not sure). Then the AI act. If your next action cost more than the time left, you lose it.

The impact is that for example, you might want to find a hiding place before AI act. So with method A, if your last action is not a hide action, you might expose yourself.

With method B, you could have a situation where doing action that would cost more than 3 points can only be done once per turn. So any excess points is lost, and if you have do to many expansive actions each turn, you can lose a lot of time this way.

Still, I could make sure that action will never cost more than 3 time. Maybe spending 1 additional time gives you a +2 per point to your rolls, So that there is no reason to spend more than 2 points for a +4 bonus for a single action.


Then there is the multiple guard issue.

If in a area, you have a guard with an alertness of 5 and a guard with an alertness of 3, how do you resolve that.

The first solution is roll 1 die for each guards equal above it's value. That can make a lot of die roll, but also makes the game much more tougher because only 1 of 2 guards needs to be alerted. Still the outcome of alertness could be variable, so it might not be as dramatic, maybe the guard just heard a sound and the ninja already moved into the next tile, so it will have no effect.

The second solution: Take the highest value and add +1 per additional guard. But that would conflict with maiden that would have little alertness but acted as a distraction. So the maiden would give +1 and -1 which does nothing.

The third solution is roll 1 die for the whole group, multiple guards does not give bonus. But if you roll badly, you would alert multiple guards. But the difficulty is the same as a single guard.


Finally it becomes even more complicated when moving between 2 square that both has guards. Logically the check to move out and move in could be combined together like if all the guards on both space were part of the same tile. So moving from a crowded space to another crowded space would be pretty though as you can easily add up 4 guards. Else I would need a check to move out and a check to move in which is a lot of dice rolls.

Yes can could pay time to auto success, but even that starts to be expensive, because you somehow have to pay twice for each movement. Another idea could be that guards are placed on an edge of the tile, when when moving from a space to another, only the edge guards are encountered.

Any suggestion for the issues above are welcomed.

Tedthebug
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Re the AI

Perhaps the player can spend time once so the player gets a double turn but then the AI gets a turn. If the AI detects the player then the player can't spend anymore time units until they escape or the AI fails a detection roll which means they have convinced themselves that they imaged it. Or maybe the AI is heightened each time they make a consecutive detection roll so that it swings the other way & the AI gets 2 moves to the players 1?

larienna
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I did some test this morning

I did some test this morning and it went pretty well, I also got ideas for multiple guards resolution.

You place 2 guards in each square on one of the 4 edge. The results are interesting because almost all edges have 1 or 2 guards, and each square will have of course up to 2 guards. So that makes certain edge more difficult to pass than others. And in all cases, you cannot encounter more than 2 guards at a time what ever the action. The only exception is for patrols, and you generally want to be elsewhere, or at least hidden when it passes.

Since building square have an inner square, there will be additional guards there. When moving inside or outside the building, I will use only the inner guards. When moving between squares, I will use the edge guards, and when doing stuff inside the square, I will use the square guards.

So for the rolling system, I found this new variation, you roll a die for each guard, but you assign the die to the guard. So the odd to get detected are much less dramatic if only 1 of your roll is bad. You would need to have 2 bad rolls to get detected.

--------------------------------------------

The only issue I have right now is space. If I want to fit a 3x3 square grid on a 8"x8" tile it gives a square of the size 2.625"x2.625". Now for non building square, it's not so bad as I would need to put at most 3 to 5 location or tokens on the square. Now if tokens are layout as a 3x3 grid inside the square, I can easily use 5/8" or 3/4" tokens to fit 9 of them.

But for squares where there are inner areas like house, dungeons, etc. I just do not have enough space to fit the interior and the exterior. Solutions I found so far:

A. Make the interior on an off board tile, You jump from the board to the off board area.

B. There is no interior sub space, but use different rules to reflect the increase in density. The advantage of that, is that digital implementation is easier since there is less exception in map design. I would personally try this route. Thinkinng of using an interior/exterior status marker to interact with Interior or Exterior Guards.

C. Cramp up the space: In theory, I can have up to 9 token in a square, I could try to maximize the space as follow:

- 1 to 4 edge space for guards (depending on how the house is designed). But only 2 can be occupied unless inner guards can move out or vice versa.
- 2 space for interior guards
- 1 Inner space for player ( when outside, the player takes unused guard space.
- 1 Space for Higher grounds (Roof)
- 1 Space for other things: Hiding place, distraction area, Supplies, etc.

So as you can see, it can become pretty dense.

roger
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pay to succeed?

The whole pleasure of adventuring is the possibility to fail. Remove that by an artificial process like paying with your resources and you reduce the fun of play.

larienna
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I understand your point of

I understand your point of view. It's a kind of theme that requires low failure rates, which means using a more deterministic approach. With the mechanics above, it would be more a resource management, and the "failure" aspect will come from the inability to plan resources for the entire mission.

Else, randomness could come from unexpected events that adds complication which screw up planning, while still having the control of how to spend your resource. You see this all the time in espionage movies, things never go according to plan.

Else, failure can occur when taking risks, again, it's up to you to determine when it's worth taking the risks.

bottercot
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If you do use Time as a

If you do use Time as a resource, depending on how the game actually works, if it is based on reaching/completing an objective, there could be some sort of Time track that starts at it's maximum number, and the time tracker is moved down toward zero at the end of each turn, and every time the ninja has to pay to complete a skill roll.
This would lead to tension as the deadline to complete the mission gets closer and closer. Panic would rise as the ninja is pushed more and more to perform flawlessly and to not make any time-wasting mistakes.

larienna
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You somewhat summarized the

You somewhat summarized the idea. Time is the sun, when the sun rise, the ninja is screwed. So near the end of the night, he is more likely to rush his action allowing him to make mistakes. Because once the sun is up, all guards will be running at him.

The main issue so far is the map. I fyou look at my game idea page:

http://bgd.lariennalibrary.com/index.php?n=GameIdea.GameIdea201005030517AM

Near the end, I have illustrations with possible map layout. But it's does not really work out the way I want it. I think it feels too much puzzle-ish. Maybe more random events and complications is the key. Ex drawing a card when entering a new tile and maybe even edges ...

Hmm! reminds me of Arkham/Eldritch horror. There could be story based situation that would add more depth and flavor to the missing without having to place all the traps, hidden encounters, and other neat stuff on the board.

That is indeed an area that I have not explored. Could make sense because ninja is all about handling details. So each card could be like a paragraph in a reader is the hero book.

Also with more detail and depth, I can make the map smaller, since there are more thing to do on each space.

let-off studios
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Time Management

larienna wrote:
You somewhat summarized the idea. Time is the sun, when the sun rise, the ninja is screwed. So near the end of the night, he is more likely to rush his action allowing him to make mistakes. Because once the sun is up, all guards will be running at him.
This would be an interesting application of the timer mechanic in Red November. In that game you simply need to outlast the timer, repairing things on a faulty submarine through the entire game.

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/36946/red-november

One of the more interesting things about this mechanic is that players can ensure success by increasing the amount of time they spend on a particular task. For example, if there's a fire in a room, the player can spend 1 unit of time to extinguish it, and they'll have a 1 in 6 chance to do it (they roll 1d6). However, if they dedicate 4 units of time to it, they increase their chance to succeed to 1-4 on 1d6, but advance their position on the time tracker by that much more.

Additionally, another mechanic you may want to consider is the one-off "bullet" mechanic in Zombies!!!. When facing off against a zombie, the player can use ammo tokens to increase their attack rolls by 1 each. However, this is slightly different than with Red November because the player can choose to apply the ammo tokens after they see the initial result of their die roll.

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2471/zombies

Red November also has some one-off tokens that will increase players' ability either for one shot or for as long as they hold a particular item in their inventory.

You may be able to find ways to incorporate these into your time-management/resource-management mechanics, particularly with a ninja theme.

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