20 August 2016

OGRE DUST: Violence

I've got a calender over my computer desk, and every day, I mark it off with a slash. It's never a set time, it's always when I think about it. Since I like being on my computer when I'm home, it's usually about an hour into my free time that I mark it off.

I haven't marked off a single day in two weeks. That's how it's been around here.


Anyways, I wrote a sort of skirmish minigame that functions as the core of a bigger roleplaying system I'm working out in my very limited free time. (1)

It's pretty simple. Each player has a single character they've made beforehand. Player and GM roles are basically standard D&D stuff. Your characters have four attributes- Meat, Bone, Spirit, and Resolve. Meat plays the role of hit points- you lose them in fairly standard D&D ways, and gain them back after a night's rest. Bone points are long-term health- you only take bone damage when you're out of meat points (usually) and they recover at a rate of one/week. When you're out of Meat points you're on your last legs, and when you're out of Bone points, you're dead.

Spirit and Resolve function similarly, except they're for mental health. You lose Spirit by taking physical damage, plus by some special spirit-only attacks. Fear is modeled with Spirit, and so is exhaustion. When you're out of Spirit, you can start to lose Resolve. When you're out of Resolve, you can die very easily. You can skirt along on low (or negative) Resolve for as long as you want, but you're very vulnerable.

Anyways, you don't have "skills" or anything. You roll tests to do things. You roll Meat to use your strength, vitality, or speed. Bone is endurance, stamina, lasting through things. Spirit is for when you need an active mind, a quick idea, a sharp comeback. Resolve is for standing your ground, and your will to live.

The attributes are all base ten, in that every ten points of an attribute gives you +1 dice to that attribute's pool. If you had 60 Meat, you'd roll 6 dice in any meat test. Roll all the dice at once and get the sum. Higher sum wins the test, getting some sort of benefit. When you lose some of an attribute, the dice you roll isn't affected- as long as your maximum Bone is 50 you're getting to roll 5 dice, even if you're currently down to 10 or so.

In a cue from Apocalypse World, there are "hooks" written into a lot of things that are supposed to happen. "When you do X, Y happens." As an example: "When you take damage in combat from an enemy, test Spirit against your attacker's level. If you score lower, lose 10 Spirit." If you had 30 Spirit and your attacker was level 2, you'd roll 3 dice against their two.

Characters also have a strike bonus and protection, to represent skill and accuracy in general. This comes from classes, or in the case of monsters, is arbitrarily assigned. Strike bonuses are usually dice, and protection bonuses are usually flat bonuses.

Characters have classes, although they probably won't be in the pared-down skirmish much, if at all. Classes for player characters grant attribute bonuses and a basic power or two that helps them do something interesting. They also gain powers each and every level, from a pre-defined list. Powers should let a character do something new with themselves. Dynamism is central, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how a new power option goes along with the features that a class already has, as well as its overall goal.

Anyways, when you get in a conflict, both sides determine how to proceed. To use a typical D&D conceit, imagine a party of looters traveling through monster-filled ruins. The looters stumble upon a gang of lesser beastmen in neutral territory. The looters and the beastmen now decide how to approach the situation.

If either side decides to escalate to physical violence, then physical combat immediately begins. If both sides decide to engage socially, then the social interaction system kicks in. If one side decides to flee, then the other side can choose to pursue. If both sides decide to flee (or either side decides to flee and the other decides not to pursue) then the encounter is over without interaction on either side.

In physical combat, you have some sort of terrain laid out in front of you. You note which areas are special. There are a couple of types of special terrain- impassible, obscuring, and blocking. You can't move through impassible terrain. You can't see through obscuring terrain. You can't see or move through blocking terrain. Sometimes, terrain temporarily becomes one type or the other for some reason.

Characters are placed according to the logic of the moment. Sometimes characters will have had time to find good positions to start combat, and sometimes they won't. I can't write rules for that. Initiative is "popcorn" style after an initial randomization. There are no initiative scores, so both sides roll a single d6 with small bonuses or penalties on either side. (2) A single character on the winning side goes first. When that character has finished their action for the phase, they pick the next character they want to move. No character can (normally) act twice in a single phase, and every character in a phase must act (or pass) before the next phase can begin.

Combat goes through two phases- just called first and second phase. These phases are identical in most ways. There's also a third sub-phase where individuals can enter or exit combat. (3)

In a given phase, you can take an action. There are a couple types of action- movement, or combat. Movement actions are best taken when no enemies are adjacent, and combat actions require you to have line of sight somewhere. Combat actions are also best taken when no enemies are adjacent (except melee actions, which require an adjacent enemy in some fashion.) There are free actions that characters can take when it's their turn in either phase, that don't take up their action. You can only use one free action per phase, generally speaking.

There are some status effects that can happen from attacks or terrain or just bad luck. These take their effects at the start of a character's turn (not phase), and then usually reduce themselves. For example, Bleed deals 1 damage per grade of bleed, and then reduces itself by 1 grade. Status effects can stack with themselves, so monsters that can deal a lot of status effects very quickly are deadly. Don't mess around with the Gorgon! Fear the Basilisk!

There's some stuff about social combat, but it's not very well done at the moment, so I've been trying to focus on the physical content so that it's in a state to be shared outside of the few people that read this blog. I'd like to be able to have at least a neat skirmish minigame set up, before I really delve into the social project that would make the game complete.

To that end, I've been writing up a couple of basic monsters- mostly orcs, because orcs are a flexible, interesting race that has a good bit of design space. I'm just going to put a single monster here, as an example, with more to follow later on.

Orc Brave
Level 1
40M, 30B, 40S, 40R
Protection: +3
Strike Bonus: +2
Movement: 6
Orc Blade: melee, +1 SB, 10M damage +1M per stack of bleeding on target
Ragged Shot: ranged, 12M damage, Bleed 3.
Orc Braves want to protect Orcs that are higher level than them. Some of them will hang back and use their ranged weapons in disorganized volleys, and some will run in to mop up once a few stacks of Bleed have been applied.

You can see that Orc Braves work well together with themselves in groups. The archers mark targets, and then the melee Braves are more dangerous. Getting to the archers who are making life difficult means that you have to get past the ones with their swords out, but because each Brave has the ability to use a bow, that means that the band is dangerous as a group. The more of them there are, the more dangerous they are.

That's the way that combat is sort of supposed to play out, in general. Each character should be dangerous in one basic way, with a couple of preferred approaches and styles. Monsters are a little easier to design than character classes, since monsters are part of a broad GM toolkit and don't have to be really used unless there's a good situation for it. Orc Braves don't need to have a way to deal with evasive opponents or heavy obscuring terrain, but player characters might want to have that option.

Here's another example of an Orc, designed to work well with the Orc Brave:

Orc Cultist
Level 2
30M, 30B, 50S, 40R
Protection: +3
Strike Bonus: +1
Staff Thump: melee, 8M damage
Malign Blast: ranged, 12M damage, Bleed 2.
Spirit Shackle: If an Orc Cultist is not already animating a Zombie when a creature within line of sight of the Orc Cultist is dying, it can choose to summon a Zombie from that creature's corpse and animate it. The affected creature is immediately slain by this process. A zombie will attack any adjacent creature during its turn, or else move towards the nearest creature that's hostile to its creator.
This Orc prefers to hang in the back and blast its foes. It wants to stay in line of sight of its friends and foes, so that it can have a zombie. Its zombies are going to be weak (when I design them), mostly useful to get in the way. If an enemy doesn't die, a friend will do- letting an Orc Cultist hang around the backside of a battle is a great way to have to fight every enemy twice. Luckily, they're not very tough, and not very good at fighting.

So you can sort of see where I'm going with this, at any rate. I hope to have a little more development of this idea done by the end of the month, with some sort of crude PDF finished in the meantime!

If it wasn't obvious, I'm calling this game Ogre Dust. It's not quite serious, it doesn't mean anything, and it's fairly distinctive. Thanks for reading!

(1) I'm working on a social system and stuff for environments, too. It all sort of feeds from the same system, which is the whole point.

(2) The side that engages gets a bonus, basically. This part is under heavy construction, but the idea is that the active side always has the advantage.

(3) "Exiting" combat in this case means either fleeing or surrendering in some fashion. It can also mean "dropping your weapons" or "hiding somewhere and hoping nobody notices you." Entering combat means latecomers can join in, if they wanted to fight but couldn't last round for some reason.

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