21 August 2010

Fatigue, a Bidding Mechanic for Combat

Since the horrible people outside are power washing the wood directly outside my window and jack-hammering concrete (?), my efforts to sleep in have been for naught. Alas, alas, my kingdom for a lass, right?
Pictured: Your author
...anyways, something that's been going through my head recently is tied into the only fighting game I've plated recently, the very fun UFC Undisputed 2010. If you're not into the sport, it's a real-life mixed martial arts event where two young men are in a very lightly regulated cage match, where the goal is to either knock out or put your opponent in a hold where he must submit, typically by nearly breaking his arm. The video game is pretty good, and can be a lot of fun with your buddies, or with people who've never played before, heh.

One of the things that makes the game a pretty serious mind game is that nearly every move has either a counter or a way to block or nullify any move. If you try and punch somebody, he can weave and counter-punch. Or he can grab your arm and try and throw you, judo-style. Or he can get you in a Muay-Thai clinch and put his knee in your face.
The point is that the game punishes you for making mistakes, provided that your opponent chooses to capitalize on them, or you've made yourself obvious enough. And it makes the game more cerebral, or at least as cerebral as a game about two dudes punching and kicking each other to death can get, anyways. It's a cat-and-mouse game of trying to land punches while not getting countered, of preventing your opponent's actions while getting your own through.

And then it dawned on me: That'd make a pretty good combat minigame. Now, there's absolutely no way that it'll fit into standard Dungeons and Dragons or Labyrinth Lord or even most other games, although it could probably be bolted on. The problem is that in D&D, combat is abstracted somewhat. An attack either hits or it doesn't, and the reasons why are absolutely up to you and your DM. If it misses because the guy blocks with his shield, or because he knocks your sword away with his gauntlet, or because he parries, or because he simply weaves a little and your sword goes whizzing by, it's irrelevant.

But it could possibly work in a different game, assuming it's not already. See, the rough draft goes something like this:

Fatigue = Opposed Bidding

Can be used to stop enemy actions, i.e. you are in Close range with an enemy (grappling, more or less), and he attempts to draw his dagger. You spend one fatigue to stop his hand, but he spends one fatigue to keep going. Do you try and spend more fatigue and risk tiring yourself out, or do you let him draw his dagger and possibly kill you?
One of the theoretical results I'm fairly happy with is that at some point, both combatants will inevitably do what we always see done on TV, when real people fight each other- both of them will be tired, and their attacks and motions will get weaker, and slower, and easier to dodge or avoid. Tell me you wouldn't be tired after getting in a grudge match with this guy.

Pff. I could take him with my eyes closed.
I know it's a variation on a bidding mechanic and that some people don't really enjoy them, but it's one that should honestly be explored more, especially since it's because that's more or less the way fights are ended. People aren't fighting at full capacity for very long, if at all- we're always tired or hurt from previous days and from the simple act of exerting ourselves. This is in direct opposition to all sorts of games, obviously, and we could easily go into why copying D&D while changing what made the game make sense (such as abstracted combat, a focus on exploration, and gold for experience) is a horrible idea, but that's neither here nor there.

The point is: Fatigue is a currency for player actions, and, importantly, can be used to stop other player's actions. Are there any other (free, or reviewed, preferably) games that use a similar idea, and how did it work? Did it encourage the desired in-game behavior, or was it abused and meta-gamed?

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