Friday, April 17, 2020

Game Design Notes - We tinker to learn and exercise on fun problems - which is what games really are - fun problems.

150428 GITB Gaming Ideas Repository
200410 GITB Combat System Only


During this Lockdown, I finally had time to check all the books I bought for Christmas which was the D&D Starter Set (Mines of Phandelver), Dungeon Fantasy Boxed Set, and The Fantasy Trip (TFT) Legacy Edition.

I had mixed feelings about TFT and DF. It was what I wanted in some aspects: it was the right level of detail and metrics (hexes, armor, etc...) especially the 3d6 Bell-Curve RNG, which I'll tend to call Bell-Curve RNG (BCRNG), but it was clunky and inelegant. My problem is I could already predict what my players or fellow boardgame people are going to say. So I went about trying to make an easier Guide.

Lately, I've been playing Darkest Dungeon and it's been SUCKING my time. I love the simplicity of play which sparked making a basic relative position diagram but of course I want to really run this game - which made me recheck my 191202 Lost Mine of Phandelver GM notes and considered something like a theme of Party Management where there is a constant stream of Adventurers who get slaughtered - like the Premise of darkest dungeon.

Anyway that led to some game design thinking. I had to stop playing Darkest Dungeon and reviewing TFT. So I made a diagram of TFT here. This led to thinking about the problem, let's name the system "One-Side Rolls Mechanic"(OSR), I don't want a lot of Rolls or a lot of Interruptions or a lot of bonus actions - I want if its that Players TURN then we shine all that spotlight on that player.

I discovered the OSR in Dungeon World, it worked by simply giving a Costly Failure and Framing the Roll as a Conflicting within Two factors: Adversary and Proponent/Protagonist. We have the Advesary's factors and the Proponent's factors. Lets remove those "i need to roll Dice Too" biases, lets resolve it here in OSR.

Its here I had reviewed the simplicity of: Dice + Limited Modifiers (DLM) of D&D5E. That there is Proficiency + Stat Modifier and that's it. There is a way to add a bit more modifiers by giving situational changes to either Proficiency or Stat Modifiers 

Dice + Limited Modifiers + One-Side-Rolls Concepts. Why cant TFT do that. I mean imagining TFT simplifying it means taking away the armor penalties. One key concept of DLM was Advantage-Disadvantage all or none nature, let's call it Simplified Advantage (SA). Imagine instead of going through the Litany of What grants a Bonus or Penalty the Two parties discuss what this boils down to. So I added SA but using an additional d6 since we're using a BCRNG.

Now we're getting somewhere and this has gotten really interesting. BCRNG + OSR + DLM + SA : What does this mean to a combat system? (I dont know and Tinkering is how I will find out).

Now I subscribe to the Working Memory limit of Juggling 2-3 things. I can't find a good source in Working-Memory-Limits right now for it but The TED on making powerpoint particularly the demo on how quickly working memory processes A lot of Modifiers and Combat Factors vs a Few. So let's keep modifiers 3. So the third is Condition. I want Death Spiral (DS)!

Death Spiral: heightens Stakes, Tension, and Relevance of Each roll. One of my main complaints in D&D5E is - why no death spiral, but death spiral is problematic to the entire game design since it affects the Encounter System of the Game. Since we only see as far as combat in a combat only game then let's have death spiral. 


How do I add DS? I can have this if I have Wound condition. Now DLM is Proficiency + Stat and Character Condition (which I call Cod for short). Keeping it Simple let's use Strength as the Threshold per level. Arbitrarily it's 0, -1, -3, -7, and -10.  Threshold works like this: if Str 10 x level is the threshold, I suffer no penalties (0) in 0-9, (-1) 10-19, (-3) 20-29, (-7) 30-39, (-10) 40-49.

Let's use Con Stat negating Cod penalties. A Con +1 negates level 2 of penalties, a Con +2 negates some penalties in level 2. So a Dwarf or Orc can take more punishment.

This is where I had another Eureka and Fun. What if Fatigue and Encumbrance was Damage and they ALL add up with regular damage. So I dont have to TRACK multiple things - what if there is a Concept of "Burden" wounds, fatigue, stress, etc... that all Add up to a Cod Threshold.

What I haven't figured out is how Encumbrance and Carrying works Alongside Fatigue. But I've accepted that Fatigue is Like Damage - it pushes the character's Cod to more difficult levels. I don't want Strength to be Linear Carrying Capacity (like in D&D) I like it Compounding. An old favorite formula of Strength progression is Carrying Capacity is 10kg * 1.2^(Strenght Modifier).

Here I put slashing and piercing count DOUBLE when calculating how much Damage the character qualify as Threshold (and noted the best way to track this is noting the damage type and a Parenthesis of the damage. Its so funny that I had problems in how different Game System noted damage, when you "SUBTRACT" hit points AND also added damage. it was so confusing. Lets just make it Condition is a Threshold and Damage and Adverse effects "Add up". When we rest we Remove (minus) Adverse Effects. this way the Character sheet is organized and makes sense to anyone.

BCRNG + OSR + DLM + SA + DS (Cod + Fatigue + Enc)
Difficulty Roll (the basic roll which needs to be Differentiated from the Effects roll)

Effects Die (EFD) and Effects Roll (EFR) is adding d20 to the roll. I love how a 3d6 and d20 are best buds in this system. the Effects Roll is basically the Same as the Difficulty Roll except that: 1) the Difficulty Roll has to succeed and that It defaults as using the Modifiers of the Difficulty Roll (Prof + Stat + Cod). I also love that D&D5E normalized rolling damage with your d20 - again with players having these biases that feel like they have less when they don't take the LONG RITUAL of rolling every die - which reduces the TIME to play for ALL PARTIES involved in the game.

This did a lot it Created a Distinct Critical Success and Failure Criteria separate from Automatic Success or Fail (which is 3 and 18 in BCRNG). I can have an Auto Succ/Fail but its not a Critical event.

BCRNG + OSR + DLM + SA + DS (Cod + Fatigue + Enc) + EfD/EfR

Difficulty Modifiers are SEPERATE. The difficulty is modified by Odds and what Option. Nested under Odds is Numbers Superiority (NS). Numbers superiority is a combination of Mob Mechanics in the D&D 5E and Numbers having superiority simply modifies the Roll. Number Superiority modifies the difficulty under a Modifier Table for Difficulty. The Character facing superior numbers have a Higher Difficulty to roll against, a character with more Numbers on His side (less likely and typically is in low odds advantage) have a lower Difficulty (ONLY if the allies AID or HELP the character if the Allies do their own thing then no modifier; again One-Side Rolls). The table goes from 1 vs 1.2, 1 vs 1.5, 1 vs 2, 1 vs 3-5, 1 vs 6-7 etc... 

Also note NPC and PC differentiation. so a Mob, Mook, or Etc... they don't get their own roll. But another Player gets a Roll. This can be easily abused but I'll just point that out and discuss ACTION CREEP and action economy. which conveniently leads to Detailing Effects and how it Affects Action Economy.

Detailing Effects - what Allows Turn-based mechanics to simulate Simultaneous action

The latest Discovery is that in a One-Side-Rolls System (OSR) I cannot "Interrupt" the Other Players Roll BUT I can create Effects that they have to Deal with. Damage is an Effect everyone has to deal with On Their Turn, stunning, immobilization, etc... are also Effects they have to deal with on their turn.

Also that How I design Effects Mechanics (EM) determines the success of this as a PvP - and GMless System.

BCRNG + OSR + DLM + SA + DS (Cod + Fatigue + Enc) + EfD/EfR + EM

What did I learn after all of this?

That old gamers like me like to be able to see the Optimum Strategy. That Design has to make the Doctrine or Best Practice visible - even be Predictable. What makes Predictable FUN is when we go into the NUANCE - we allow us to tweak and create Complexity in a Structure. 

Also that the Concepts I discussed BCRNG + OSR + DLM + SA + DS (Cod + Fatigue + Enc) + EfD/EfR  + EM all can be applied to different systems. I can redesign Dungeon Fantasy to be more like this or Easily Run my Mines of Phandelver to use these rules and Character Gen than the one in the book or Run TFT with these Lessons Learned.

Systems are Transferable to other Systems - if you are system literate and you think in Game Theory (think in game models) and how each action effect the actions of other parties.

Finally Opening it with my 3-year-old. the Xmass gift my wife let me buy for myself. this getting shipped to the Philippines with Dungeon Fantasy boxed set all cost about 300usd - thanks to the Xmass Sale.

I wish I can run this with the Tweaks (BCRNG + OSR + DLM + SA + DS (Cod + Fatigue + Enc) + EfD/EfR  + EM) and fit sessions into 3-4 hours and prep in 30mins. 

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