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How to make resource transmutation thematically logical

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larienna
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I am working on a 4x game where player can acquire special resources, and each resources will have another associated resource it can transmute itself to.

For example, you could have silver that is transmutable to mithril which is transmutable back to silver.

There is 4 categories of special resources:

  • Minerals (gems or metals
  • Plants (Herbs, mushrooms, etc)
  • Animals (Fur, Scales, antlers)
  • Sea ( Salts, shells, pearls, corals, etc)

Now the example above make sense because silver and Mithril are both metals, so transforming from one to another is thematically logical.

But when you end up with resources from other categories, it's hard to come up with transmutable counter part. For example, If sea shells are a resources, well it could only make sense to transmute them to another kind of shells. I cannot convert sea shells to corals for example. Or sea shells to mushrooms. That is way too much illogical.

So I wanted to know if you had any ideas to make resource transmutation more logical. What I have found so far:

  • Transmutations becomes only variants of the original resource. For example, sea shell could transmute to ebony shells. So the resource transmuted to is very very similar. Forcing me to create pairs of almost identical resources.
  • Remove resource transmutation from the game. (not an interesting solution)
  • It does not matter if it not logical, everything get teared down to powder and liquid. So sea shell power transmuting to dragon scales powder is not that much illogical.
let-off studios
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One-Way Transmutation

Not sure what the theme is you're working with, but you could allow the player to engage in a magical or chemical process that achieves a one-way transmutation of a resource to another. You mention metals, powders, etc. And typically - and this is something a player can understand - there's a labor-intensive process used to create/smelt alloys and mix powders together, and it becomes more difficult to separate or even "un-refine" materials once they've been through a certain process. So, permitting a one-way direction of resource alteration is a possibility that came to mind.

What this may require is a resource hierarchy, or scarcity model: certain resources are more rare than others. This might already be done in your system, but I don't know. The good news is that a player can likely wrap their head around the basic concept - which is similar to resource management in other games and even in real life. For example:

20A -> 10B -> 5C -> 1D

Each letter represents a new tier of refinement to the previous resource. You need a lot of the basic level of resource to be refined into a smaller quantity of another resource within that hierarchy.

"When I have a bunch of cotton, I can refine that into cloth. When I have a bunch of cloth, I can make that into linen. When I have a bunch of linen, I can make sails. But until I can turn cotton into cloth, then I can't make sails."

terzamossa
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I agree, one way :)

I overall agree with let-off :)
Additionally, although you cannot go back to the primary resource "physically" you could do it as some kind of trade:
e.g.
Sea shells can become mother of pearl through crafting and then be sold at the market for the same value as the amount of sea shells you used.
I said same amount to make it more similar to what you described, as A becomes B which might become A again.
But if there is significant consumption of time and resources to do these steps you might balance all of this out (e.g. mother of pearl has greater monetary value than the shells needed to make it)

Alternatively, but I really don't know what your game is about...the system would work as you described with no logical flaw, if all resources were more abstract (you consume anger and get peace etc), so if you really care about these mechanics you might bend the theme to connect it more logically.

larienna
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The goal of these special

The goal of these special resources is to forge them into equipments, and artifacts or "sell" them for gold or mana. The game is basically a 4X civilization kind of game.

Transmutation would be a spell and a special ability that would allow you to get the counter part resource or get both resource.

1 way transmutation is not exactly what I had in mind, I wanted the special ability to give you access to more variety, not resourced unchachivable in any other way. Still, I could keep some thought about it. It could be something that can be more easily implemented.

X3M
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In chemistry

There are reactions that go both ways.

There are also reactions that have it easy going one way. But you need to change the proces entirely to go into the other way.

The best example would be turning water into hydrogen and oxygen.

You need electricity for this, and a proper model.
Once you got the hydrogen and oxygen. You can use these to make other products.

But hydrogen can easily be mixed with the oxygen. And then set on fireBOOOMMM!!! Ok, that proces went very fast. And you have water again.

So.... the special resources are hydrogen and oxygen. Since they are harder to create. There is a whole set of levels in how special a resource can be. It is called refining. And reverting a refining proces might either be easier or harder than the original proces.

I think that the most logical thing for you would be. What is needed to revert the refining proces?
Perhaps you need more energy of some sort. Or resources are lost (like dissasembling a shield)

OR

Why do players want to revert the resource in the first place?

Often, the same refined resource can be used for multiple end products.

larienna
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The how to transmute is not

The how to transmute is not really a problem. Its the "to what to" a resource can transform itself that is the issue.

terzamossa
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Joined: 09/24/2020
What about adding abstract qualities to resources?

For example you might have Dark Seashells and Seashells of light and they can both be found while exploring (or whatever your system uses).
Usually you have specific recipes for what to do, e.g. for a dark arrow (which have different characteristics from arrows of light) you need dark wood and some dark metal/stone or feather...which means that if you cannot transmutate light resources to dark ones you have to find exactly what you are looking for, while transmutation might speed up the process a lot.
Beside this being quite a random example, is this something closer to what you were thinking, mechanically speaking?
I would maybe be cautious with how to implement this in a game according to its length. If the game has to be played in one night, if it has a complex crafting system I would want crafting to be the main part of the game, instead of something you only do to boost your attack and performances. Of course if it is a campaign that's a whole different story.

X3M
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So...

What are your transmutations so far at this point?

larienna
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I'll first need to do more

I'll first need to do more reasearch to find pool and ideas of special resources and see if I could make a match that thematically fit. Maybe I could find a more interesting 5th category and drop the animal category.

Else having something like the "light/dark" idea could be a solution. For example: Antlers and spirit antlers. That means I must have 2 type of deer.

Else unidirectional transmutation could be a possibility, it's a kind of resources upgrade. It could give an edge for trading, since you have something other players do not have.

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