Thursday, December 31, 2009

Classic Class Design Doc

This character class design doc is for a traditional MMO RPG (WoW, FFXI, Lineage II, Ragnarok I/II, ect) set in a medieval Asian fantasy world. A war has started where Earth is the target of both Heaven and Hell. Hell wants to take over the Earth and Heaven wants to “help” a little too aggressively. The vast kingdom the players are a part of (modeled after China circa 1900) has decided they don’t want help from any divine powers. This was inspired by the climate that leads to the “Boxer Rebellion” in history. The game is entirely PvE. Each class is FANTASTIC at what they do (To the point that other classes are not even second rate). This design doc is more of a mash-up of class concepts and mechanics I have always wanted to see in a game of this sort. (See “Design Notes” for more on this.)

General Notes:
It should be noted that when one gets a skill they get it in the order listed on their skill lists no matter what skill they choose.

Every time it completes a mission it gets stronger (no exp)
1 Completed mission means 1 move of 1 piece.
You get the skill you end your movement on.
After you move- your “opponent” (AI) moves.

Skill Chart
If you try to kill a piece or the “opponent” tries to kill yours you must complete a “Political Mission” before you can do any other missions.
Success in a political mission means you kill your opponent’s piece (regardless if they where attacking you or you where attacking them). If you fail you loose your piece.
If you loose your king (placed in checkmate) then the board re-sets. (However you retain your skills)
Once you checkmate (or kill all the other pieces) you advance to the next board and receive a new skill. (Called a Reward Skill)

This represents your climb in power from a son of a low ranking noble house to a full-on lord. Your pieces are subjects, lackeys, minions, allies, and other such politically useful people. Your opponent controls his own. The chess board represents the political intrigue of your attempt to gain the station of the person above you and his/her attempts to keep you down. Missions are formatted in this sense:
Action: “Black Bishop attacks” “White Knight.”
“A bishop with close personal ties to [Lord Lionheart] has been covertly ordered to defame…”
“…your faithful confidant and Guardian”
“You must convince this [Bishop] to change his mind before it’s too late!”

A Noble is a support class, though it does not directly impact statistics in combat. They can detect powerful “Spirit” enemies who are very challenging but give higher than their challenge in loot and experience. (A normal mob has a 1:1 challenge rating to loot drop/exp gain while a Spirit enemy has a 2:1 or 2 exp for every 1 challenge rating) They get progressively better at detecting them. They gain the ability to tack them an eventually even summon them. (It should also be noted that all boss mob are spirit enemies.

Nobles also gain after battle boosts to a party. If the noble survives the party gains additional EXP and higher gold drops. Eventually the Nobles can even duplicate items dropped from an enemy! Combat wise they are average- no truly excelling any area. They can provide a suitable amount of damage, though not more than a Guardian. They can take a fair amount of damage, though not more than any other classes.

For the purposes of comparing levels/level requirements for gear the game would have to record the number of moves the Noble has made. That divided by 4 (for the 4 “ranks”) would be their assumed level. This may take some tweaking in play testing but it would be somewhere around there. (4 missions = 1 level? Sound about right)

-Imperial Bounty: The amount of gold gained from a mob killed is multiplied by 1.5 if the Noble survives combat.

-Imperial Scrutiny: The amount of EXP gained from a mob killed is multiplied by 1.5 if the Noble survives combat.

-Majestic Persona: Attacking a Noble reduces threat on the Noble. Only one persona may be active at a time.

-Regal Persona: Attacking a Noble stacks damage reduction on the Noble for each attack. This has a cap and each iteration attack has a short timer. Only one persona may be active at a time.

-Imposing Persona: Attacking a Noble causes .25% of the damage to be dealt back to the attacker. Only one persona may be active at a time.

-Imperial Vault: One item dropped from an enemy can be duplicated. Once an item has been duplicated it may not be duplicated again by another Noble.

Reward Skills
-Detect Spirit: You can view spirits if you physically find them. Once you hit them, they become able to be targeted by everyone else.

-Track Spirit: You can view the location of spirits on your mini-map.

-Sense: You can view the location of spirits on your world map or area map.

-Summon Spirit: You automatically summon the nearest spirit to you (within a given range).

Design Notes:
I ALWAYS wanted to see a class that has no intrinsic value while in combat but you want to bring along anyway! They basically NEED to have other people (Guardians normally) with them or the missions are VERY hard. Without EXP gain it forces them to rely on others to help them progress (like a politician!). I also loved the idea of a chess game to progress. It just makes it all the more fun, adding another aspect the hinder/expedite the leveling process. It reflects the political intrigue aspect. Another little interesting bit is that you can go after skills rather than focus on the missions- but no one will want you (no spirit detection). It’s a trade off.

A guardian has a standard exp progression system with a level cap of 64. Once you fill up your exp bar once (by killing enemies and completing missions) you can select one square adjacent to one you previously inhabited and gain the benefit from that square.

Skill Chart
When you select a square you gain a large bonus in that area. (+12 attack for example compared to if +12 was the normal gain) Squares adjacent to that skill gain a smaller bonus (+6 in our example) and squares adjacent to those gain a small bonus (+3 if our scale was accurate). This makes Guardians immensely powerful, particularly in melee. It should be noted here that skills and weapon proficiencies are not boosted by this.

This represents your martial training. You might be focused on learning how to use a sword better but you also happen to get stronger by the physical demands of the training.

Guardians are melee specialists geared to the hardcore gamer demographic. They are a progression based class (rather than an option based class) and attack in a linear one target fashion. The are vastly stronger than other classes in melee, however they are reliant on other classes for support. This game does not support PvP (except duels between Guardians) so this class is a requirement for combat in general. A combat that consists ONLY of guardians however will generally fail.

-Focus Fire: You mark a target for the entire party. Any allies attacking that target gain a bonus to damage. You can use this to designate additional targets as well (with icons) but only the “focus fire” icon gets a damage boost.

-Guard: You automatically take hits for a target within several inches of you. Your defensive stat is dropped. You auto-follow your charge like glue.

-March: All allies within a radius auto-follow you until you stop moving. You all gain a significant movement-speed increase. An ally can cancel the effect at will.
-Duel: You can only see your selected target and a small area around him and yourself. However all damage is multiplied times two and damage you take from your opponent is reduced significantly. You auto-follow the target at increased movement speed. This lasts until the target is dead or out of range (as defined by the skill, probably about 20 feet to avoid kiting the Guardian)

-Shock: You stun an opponent for a brief second. (Canceling active channels, ect)

-Battle Cry: You loose control of your character and attack the nearest target (or whoever builds threat on you as you are AI controlled). Your HP is replaced by a “Rage” bar that continuously drains. Dealing damage or taking damage replenishes this bar. Healing “damages” your Rage bar. When it drains to zero your HP bar comes back, at the same level as it was before you started your rage. Rage bar size is equivalent in scale to your HP bar.

Design Notes:
With Guardian I wanted an indisputable king of all melee. Like if you saw one running at you, the only thought in your brain is “Jesus Christ I’m fucked”. Fighting it would just be stupid. I also wanted to highlight the progression/option concept. Basically they gain a SHIT TON of stat progression that makes them statistically unbelievably strong. However, they don’t have options. They attack in a linear, one target fashion. They just kinda beat on you and laugh about it. They don’t have effects, they don’t have multi target, and they don’t have crazy alternatives to their standard pattern- they just beat things REALLY hard until they stop moving.

I incorporated a few really fun skills I toyed with in a few design concepts prior to this. The “Duel” skill was inspired by Ragnarok’s “Taekwon Boy/Girl” skill concept where they could permanently limit their sight range but gain a higher attack stat (Called “Solar, Lunar and Stellar Shadow”). I didn’t like the way they did it so I tweaked it to my liking. Wouldn’t it be fun to beat on someone then suddenly get the living crap kicked out of you by a foe unseen only to realize its some stupid ranged enemy like 5 feet away? It’s a trade off.

The “Battle Cry” skill was actually an entire class concept when I challenged myself to re-design the standard “Bezerker” concept. It morphed into a temporary invincibility based on combat prowess. Running from target to target in hopes of keeping that rage bar going would be a major part of their concept!

“Shock”, “Focus Fire”, and “Guard” where pulled directly from my experience end game raiding in a few games. “Shock” is the required “interrupt” which every class that is raid worthy seems to have and “Focus Fire” is an organizational skill that makes targeting a single target actually worth something. “Guard” basically makes you a tank and allows you to party with members who generate a lot of threat.

The Gang class has a standard exp progression system with a level cap of 8. Gaining a level requires 8 times the amount of EXP as normal (example: Guardian) Once you fill up your exp bar once (by killing enemies and completing missions) you progress one level.

Skill Chart
You play as 8 individuals in a gang. Every time you gain a level every one of those characters level up. They gain the next skill vertically above them. The gang class has a unique “?” icon. This allows you to customize your gang members. (For example- if you make one or two defensive/HP primarily they can serve as your gangs tank when playing alone)

This represents your gang’s continuous improvement, though informal. You will never reach the mythic level of a Guardian’s martial prowess with an individual gang member’s skill- however you CAN collectively drop one if you work together!

Gangs are for the RTS fans. They are strategic and difficult to play- but offer some of the highest rewards. Unlike the Guardian who is hell-bent on linear one on one attacks, Gangs can deal with large volumes of enemies with ease and have little problem dispatching large foes when they work together. One has to be smart when playing a gang- it’s a downward spiral if you mess up! (Loosing 1 makes you weaker and more likely to loose another!) Gangs come with “Orders” that replace their distinct lack of skills. Only 1 order can be active at a time. (They have 5 orders + 1 skill per member) Gang members can select the same skill. (Some times it’s beneficial to do so)

In order to control this class the player can cycle through the view of the units. It can issue orders from any unit. When not directly control they utilized predefined AI modes. (Attack, Flee, Stay, Patrol)

Equipment needs to be bought in eights and everyone gets equipped with the same thing. In this respect equipping them with rare items is not a viable strategy until you have enough for everyone. It also makes equipping them rather pricy. It should be noted here that their collective level satisfies level requirements for gear. (So a level 8 Gang would count as a level 64 character if level requirements are added in the game)

-Wolf-Pack Tactics: All gang members attack the same target. Damage is multiplied by .5x the number of gang members attacking it. (So if 4 are hitting it then each gang members gets x2 damage. With all 8 they get x4 each!)

-Scramble: All gang members run off in a large circle, attempting to kite an enemy or just disperse the field of battle.

-Line Fighting: The gang stands shoulder to shoulder attacking anyone who comes close or attempts to pass the line. This has increased threat generation.

-Protect: The gang takes up a defensive perimeter on a target attacking anyone who comes close. This has increased threat generation. They can target a gang member.

-Trap: This gang member sets a small trap that will damage and slow a target.

-Instigate: This gang member has increased threat generation. (Able to be toggled on/off)

-First Aid: This gang member can resurrect a gang member at 10% HP after 20 seconds of healing.

-Sharp: This gang member detects invisible/cloaked enemies in a small radius around them.

-Vicious: This gang member gains a temporary damage buff equal to the % of the targets remaining HP it deals on its next attack.

-Scout: This gang member has +20% movement speed. If “Protected” the entire group gets this.

-Shady: This gang member can move invisibly at 25% of its normal movement speed.

-Leader: This gang member gives a +2% damage buff to all gang members in a small aura for each gang member (including itself) within the aura. (So with 3 gang members including itself they would all gain a +6% damage buff. With all 8 that’s +16%.)

-Sticky Fingers: This gang member causes 10% more money to drop from enemies and raises the % drop chance for items.

Design Notes:
O man how fun! I ALWAYS wanted to play like 10 characters in an MMO where everyone else has 1 character! Imagine the chaos that would cause! Mobs can be in swarms so why can’t we? The gang class kinda serves as a “tank”. I always thought it was poor design to make a game where one poor s.o.b takes ALL the hits from a demi god while the other 49 people in a group sit there and wale on it. That person must be some sort of FANTASTIC masochist to want to get stabbed repeatedly only to have that slashed liver repaired magically… or maybe it’s just an addiction to magic healing? Anyway, I thought that the “fodder” would be the perfect replacement for that. Sure the big dumb brute you’re fighting guts a handful of peons before it goes down! It makes it all the more epic! This was also kinda inspired by playing a little DOTA (or HON if hip to that sort of thing…) when you suddenly got to control a few units with illusions (or certain characters).

The Shaper gains 1 exp for every kill of a “General” of equivalent level or lower.

Skill Chart
Nothing unique- every time a Shaper kills a general (after a series of 1-4 set up missions depending on how hard the boss is) they gain a level. The missions force it to kill enemies’ equivalent in challenge to that required of other classes (using Guardian’s progression as a measuring stick).

The Shaper advanced by absorbing demonic/angelic souls to further boost its divine power. They want to use the power against themselves. They progress through missions, up the chain of command to stronger and stronger angels and demons in order the satisfy their requirements for power. They have a sort of “story” they develop.

The Shaper has the ability to change its spell as its main ability. It is useful in ANY situation. It is an option based class that shuns progression in favor of situational superiority. (In contrast to the progression of the Guardian)

The different effects of the spell are hot-keyed to keyboard locations. Pressing shift allows a Shaper to change their spell on the fly. (Example: Shift + 1 [Fire] + A [AOE] + C [Channeled] then releasing Shift would cast a sustained area of effect fire spell) Casting the same spell again will cast the last spell cast. A Shaper can save several predefined spells as skills.

-Magic Bolt: Damage equal to Magic stat x2. Normal a magic damage single target spell with a 1 second cast time then fire. There is a 10 sec Cooldown between casts.

-Elemental Manipulation: This ability gives the Shaper the ability to add an element on its spell. (Fire, Water, Ice, Wind, Earth, Poison, Lightning, Physical, Knockback, Healing, Drain, Magic)

-Spell Slot #1: This allows the Shaper to save one of their spells for later. (Allow a saved spell)

-Shape Manipulation: This ability allows the Shaper to define a spell’s range. It can be the standard direct damage on a single target (no repercussions), an aura focused on you that hits all enemies in about a 3 foot circle (damage/number of enemies it hits). The spell can be cast AOE but the damage is divided by the number of enemies it hits. The final option is to cast it “Melee” where the spells effect is added to your physical attack.

-Spell Slot #2: This allows the Shaper to save one of their spells for later. (Allow a saved spell)
-Style Manipulation: This ability allows the Shaper to define the style the spell is cast in. The spell can be sustained as a channeled spell for 5 seconds but the damage is divided by 5. It can be instant cast to be cast while the duration of the cooldown is still active. (However it procs the cooldown) Damage is reduced by the % left on the cooldown. (90% is left, but it deals 90% less damage!) This makes is “spamable” but very low damage. The final method of casting is to charge the spell. A spell can be held in charge, multiplying the damage time the number of seconds held. (Up to 15 seconds)

-Spell Slot #3: This allows the Shaper to save one of their spells for later. (Allow a saved spell)

-Spell Seal: This adds the “Sealed” spell style to the Style Manipulations a Shaper can cast. The Shaper can cast a spell into an invisible seal on the ground. It triggers when its boundaries are violated by something it can effect. It can’t be cast “Melee” and focuses on the center of the seal for the “Aura” shape. A shaper can have 3 of these active at once.

*It should be noted that when the description lists “damage” as being reduced or increased it similarly reduces or boosts for “effects” if the damage would be substitute for an effect.

Design Notes
Total option whore. Progression is for pussies. While they have very high magic stat (24 squares on the grid out of 64) their real strength comes in that stupid number of combinations they can dish out with their Spell. I feel like adding like 10 different things to each to make them a truly vast number of options but then I thought better of it and figured I would start to get sloppy if I forced it and add something that would be inherently broken. I don’t like having redundant classes, but this own is the yin the Guardian’s yang so I decided to add it. The fill different roles, though not entirely different ones; the Shaper is more of a crowd controller while the Guardian is more focused on dropping the big mobs and taking a beating. The shaper also has the ability to heal, something that it uniquely possesses. At first I wanted to add some sort of “high-low” damage range but then I figured that would kill the careful planning it required.

I left some spots on the Shaper's skill board to represent its dedication to options over progression. You literally have to ignore your skills to get the progression of the melee stats (or come back for them later) because the majority of the skills are in the center column while the defense and attack are located on the right and left sides of the board.

Stylistically I imagined them to be able to go after either the angels or the demons. They could gain a slightly more “angelic” or “demonic” appearance depending on the route they take.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Alternative to Tradational Role Playing Format

As I sit here bored to tears over break I decided to work on a concept I thought up a while back but never really explored.

Normally a game focuses on players playing their own characters and one poor s.o.a.b maliciously GMing a game- trying perhaps to capture the amusement of his players with some novel gag or new challenge. I proposes that everyone makes a character and then everyone take turns controlling the group.

A system for this would be unique at best and abstract (and quite alienating to veteran gamers) at worst. The perspective is new at least.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

We are the sum of the collective human experience

(This was an elaboration on the last concept I posted except it was in a more formalized single player RPG format (could be swung to become an MMO though as well). Players are given a set of life choices to make and the results grant them different skills.)

Paths of Combat


Path of South Brook

You are from the small rural community of South Brook. You learn how to Track.

Path of the Northaven

Your life starts in the industrial city of Northaven. You learn how to Craft.

Path of Eastwick

Your life started in the imperial court. You picked up Diplomacy.

Learning (Tutorial)

Path of the Crocodile: Observe everything. Be patient, the reward comes later. You learn how to Parry your weapon.

Path of the Monkey: Skip the tutorial! You like to jump the gun. Just play! You learn how to execute a Feint.

First Blood

Path of the Martyr: You take more damage than you deal. You learn to use the Shield as a result.

Path of the Slaughterer: You kill every enemy before the time runs out. You learn to use Great Weapons as a result.

Path of the Hunter: You must use your sling exclusively. You learn to use Bows.

Path of the Skirmisher: You don’t take a single hit and kill at least half of the enemies. You learn to use Twin Weapons.

Path of the Saint: You don’t hit a single enemy. You are assigned to Standard duty.

Conflicting Orders

Path of the Soldier: You won’t refuse a direct order. You kill all of them. You unlock the ability to use Heavy Armor because of your induction into the army.

Path of the Opportunist: The bandits are paying you better. You attack your teammates. After seeing your prowess you gain the ability to Hire.

Path of the Beast: You refuse to fight an animal. You need to deal zero damage to the wolves but kill the bandits. Seeing your kind soul the wolves befriend you. You gain the ability to Train.

Path of the Legend: You need to punish evil! You kill everyone before the combat ends. After starting your legend you gain the ability to Recruit.

Battle Lines

Path of the Kingdom: You decide to defend your homeland. As such you complete quests for the Kingdom exclusively. You are rewarded by learning how to Duel.

Path of the Rebel: You decide to overthrow your corrupt government. You decide to do only the dirty work of the rebels. In order to properly serve the Rebellion you need to learn how to Assassinate.

Path of the Profiteer: Who cares who wins so long as you can turn a buck? You accumulate over a certain amount of money doing quests for either side. You pick up how to Pay Off the right people.

Path of the Pacifist: You don’t want bloodshed. You work exclusively for the Priesthood. You learn how to Abstain.

Path of the Mercenary: You don’t care who wins. You work for either side. You learn how to “Mercenary”.

Path of the Pirate: Money? Women? Sounds good right? You mostly do Pirate quests. You learn how to Raid.


Path of Order: You decide to stop the pillaging. You flee on a horse to warn the town ahead of time. You are taught how to Ride.

Path of Chaos: You join right the fuck in! You take a few pointers and learn how to Pillage.

Path of the Unspoken: You decide to do nothing. That seems to work. If no one notices you, you’re ok with that. You learn how to be Incognito.

Path of Bloodshed: You decide to stop the pillaging with your weapon in their skulls. You kill them all and learn the true nature of Bloodshed.


Track- A character or NPC occasionally leaves behind “track” every so many steps. By locating this track you are then pointed in the direction of the next track.

Craft- A crafting system allows you to make useful items and repair gear. It requires the appropriate regents.

Diplomacy- By executing a quick-time event you can smooth talk NPCs. This has a wide range of implications. From getting a lower price to getting into a secure area. This is a gamble however because you only have one chance and failure if worse than not trying.

Parry- You jerk you weapon sideways to parry an attack.

Feint- You have to hold down your mouse button to attack. If at any point you release it you immediately stop your attack and re-execute the same strike.

Shields- You learn to use full shields. By holding down your right mouse button you can move your shield out of your way and attack. (This can be changed in a setting) You can still use normal off hand weapons.

Great Weapons- You learn to use two-handed weapons. These have the advantage of range but lack in speed. Common weapon types include spears, great swords, staves, and great maces.

Bows- You can notch a bow with the best of them. While difficult to wield (your aim is an “area” not a “point”) you gain the advantage of range.

Twin Weapons- Skirmishers are some of the most feared combatants on the battlefield. They attack the flanks with rapid strikes. Using twin weapons (equipped as a single weapon) you can use weapons like, short swords, daggers, sai, clubs, foil and parrying dagger.

Standard- A simple non-violent weapon. You can still use your main weapon but your other hand hold a standard. This is a rallying point. People heading towards it gain different benefits depending on your standard. They are normally stat dependant.

Heavy Armor- Full armor is hard to move in and slows down your movement speed by 50%. However, it prevents all but the most brutal blows. Piercing weapons need to do more damage than the damage cap or deal 75% less damage. Blunt weapons are jut reduced by 10%.

Hire- You can pay an unsavory lot to fight with you. They are normally few in number but very strong. They act on their own but generally have good AI.

Tame- You can tame animals. Animals have a “focus” gauge that dwindles. The more you train your animal the longer its focus gauge is. You can issue commands to it with the number pad. The higher its focus gauge the more likely it is to follow that command. You can raise its focus gauge by issuing commands (it “levels up”) If an animal dies you have to tame and train a new one.

Recruit- You attract a few followers. They are normally very numerous but lack in strength. (An army of farmers is still an army right?) They act on their own but generally have poor AI.

Duel- You can challenge anyone to a duel. During combat that person can only attack you and you can only attack them until one of your is dead.

Assassinate- You can enter the combat state whenever you want by toggling this.

Pay-Off- You can avoid an encounter by offering an amount of money. If it is accepted the enemy can not attack you for 1 hour. (Or whatever it is you decide on)

Abstain- You can toggle Abstain. When you do so you can’t attack for 1 hour but you can’t be attacked as well.

Mercenary- You can offer your services with a “mercenary” offer when combat begins in an area near you. The first one to hire you gets you on their side.

Raid- You can enter into combat on either side.

Ride- You can ride a horse. This alleviates any movement penalties, however you can be knocked off.

Pillage- When you kill an enemy you can occasionally loot a piece of equipment from them. (Even players)

Incognito- Unless someone is looking at you they can’t see you.

Bloodshed- By clicking the middle mouse button over someone you target them and gain tunnel vision. Everyone outside them disappears but your strength goes WAY up while targeting them.

A man is the sum of his experiences...

(The concept behind this little write up was a concept for a MUD that allowed players to progress through character creation over their entire span of their character. Age was somewhat akin to level. Possibly base level on time spent in game?)

Premise: My goal it to create an environment where “evil” is punished but more powerful. The obviously “right” path is good or neutral.

Offensive Stats

Defensive Stats

Other Stats
Luck (die size)
Experience (Based on level- static bonus)
Stamina (Used for travel & skill use)
Wounds (Soak up negative effects wounds before you have to suffer them)

Attack (Basic Physical) = Strength + Weapon Damage + Experience + Luck
Defense (Basic Physical) = Agility or Toughness + Armor Bonus + Experience + Luck

Attack (Magic Bolt) = Magic + Intelligence + Experience + Luck
Defense (Basic Physical) = Agility or Magic + Armor Bonus + Experience + Luck

Wound Chart (100%)
(1-25) Move at Half Speed (+5% to Wound Chart)
(26-50) Cut your Strength by 25% (+5% to Wound Chart)
(51-75) Cut your Toughness by 25% (+5% to Wound Chart)
(76-90) -50% of your max energy (+10% to Wound Chart)
(91-100) Death (Reset wounds chart)

Level 1: Race (Tutorial)
-Human (+ Experience)
-Half-Elf (+ Agility)
-Half-Dwarf (Toughness & + Wounds)

Level 2: Genetics (Youth)
-Brawny (+Strength & More Wounds)
-Thinker (+Intelligence x2)

Level 3: Deity (Preteen)
-God of the Land (Gain minor buffs on Land)
-Goddess of the Sea (Gain major buffs on Water)
-God of the Sun (Gain minor buffs during the day)
-Goddess of the Moon (Gain minor buffs during the night)
-Goddess of Twilight (Gain minor debuffs during twilight) [Tome required]

Level 4: Profession- Novice (Teen)
-Acolyte (Buffs from deity are increased) [Need tome of deity]
-Soldier (Access to better gear)
-Hopeful (Access to basic general magic spells)
-Gang Member (Access to stealing ability)
-Merchant (Discount at shops, bonus when selling)

Level 5: Profession- Journeyman (Young Adult)
-Priest (Buffs from deity are increased & Minor Divine Spells) [Acolyte Only]
-Cavalry (+Weapon damage with spears & + Move speed on horse) [Soldier Only]
-Duelist (+Weapon damage with swords & + Chance to avoid) [Soldier Only]
-Archer (+Weapon damage with bows & + chance to hit) [Soldier Only]
-Skirmisher (+Weapon damage with 2 weapons & + luck) [Soldier Only]
-Jr. Officer (+Experience & Passive Abilities ) [Soldier Only]
-Journeyman (Access to more general magic spells) [Hopeful Only]
-Forsaken (+Luck & + Magic) [Requires forbidden tomb, Hopeful Only]
-Gang Leader (Access to cronies) [Gang Member Only]
-Inventor (Access to recipes & a Lab)
-Trainer (Access to beast taming)

Level 6: Profession- Commission (Adult)
-Noble (Access to best gear & body guards) [Requires money]
Priest (Buffs from deity are increased & Minor Divine Spells) [Priest Only]
-Crusader (Buffs from deity are increased) [Priest or any Soldier Derived Class]
-Veteran (+Experience & Access to best gear) [Any soldier derived class except for Jr. Officer]
-Guardsmen (Access to best gear & town guard abilities) [Any soldier derived profession]
-Officer (+Experience & Aura Passive Abilities) [Jr. Officer Only]
-Pyromancer (Access to fire spells) [Journeyman Only]
-Aeromancy (Access to weather changing effects) [Journeyman Only]
-Gastromancy (Access to food based magic) [Journeyman Only]
-Conjurer (Access to summoning) [Journeyman Only]
-Chaos Mage (Access to powerful chaos magics) [Forsaken or Journeyman Only]
-Phagen (Access to powerful necrotic magics) [Forsaken or Journeyman Only, Requires Book of the Dead]
-Heretic (Access to powerful heretical demon summoning magics) [Priest, Journeymen, or Forsaken Only- Requires Demon Pact]

Level 6: Profession- Master (Older)
-Lord (Access to best body guards & Able to “Own” towns) [Noble Only)
-Knight (+Experience & +Movement Speed on Horse) [Noble, Crusader, Veteran, or Officer only]
-Chosen (Able to enter an avatar state) [High Priest & Crusader Only]
-Man-At-Arms (+ Weapon Damage, + Experience, & Access to best Gear) [Any soldier derived profession]
-Warlord (+Experience & Passive) [Officer Only]
-Master Mage (+ Experience & + Magic) [Pyromancer, Aeromancy Conjurer, and Gastromancer only]
-Lich (+ Experience & + Magic) [Phagen Only]
-Demon (Regeneration & + Magic) [Heretic Only]

I AM the law

(This was just a few quick notes I had in my head a while back when examining less lethal alternatives for crowd control. The result was a prototype class for a traditional RPG. It lacks polish... or a game behind it ^^; )

Premise: An concept where the option exists to subdue instead of kill. Subduing has a different result.

Officer (Class)
The officer gains its ability over time, making it a great DPS if the situation calls for it.

-Command Presence (Influences target with your Command Presence. Aggressive targets gain Will and more passive targets loose Will via a LOS aura. Rate of gain/loss will be based on )
-Orders (Direct Will damaging effects)
-Soft Hands (If a person is low enough of Will then you can restrain them.)
-Takedown (A stun that provides Will-damage over time. The time is based on the difference be the target and the officer’s strength)
-Hard Hands (Increasing damage based on number of hits)
-Use of Force (Sudden DPS spike)
-Threat (Automatic warning. If the target is at low Will it damage their Will.)
-Deadly Force (High Burst damage every 30 sec)

(Time used in the following scenario is hypothetical)
-Command Presence (When combat starts)
-Order (On user use. 10 sec CD after that until the end of fight.)
-Soft Hands (30 sec later. 10 sec CD after that until end of fight.)
-Takedown (1 min into the fight.

Equipment (Example)
Telescopic Baton (No Command Presence gain)
Solid Baton (+Command Presence)
Badge (+Command Presence)
Uniform (+Command Presence)
Riot Gear (+ Defense, +Command Presence)
Civilian Clothing (No Command Presence Gain)

Epic Skill Grid

(This was a advancement system for either a single player or MMO style RPG. It contained a extensive image with it that detailed the entire "Epic Skill Grid". I will not upload this image as it would take a good deal of space and I am not entirely interested in having it stolen. This was obviously inspired by FF10's sphere grid. I just thought I could do it better. This also includes my "Talent" system you will see pop up from time to time. I think obscurity and uncertainty are the spice of good gameplay.)

Epic Skill Grid

A skill system that exists on a “Cube”. It is divided into hemispheres and again into subsections called “Class Regions”.

The Region which you possess the most skills in awards you their title.

Each hemisphere has 100 possible placement nodes for skill pips
Each hemisphere has 4 regions (25 possible placement nodes) for skill pips
Each class region has 15 skill pips

HP: Health (This stat is multiplied by 10 for total HP)
Energy: Resource to use skills (This stat is multiplied by 10 for total Energy)
Speed: Turn Order
Strength: Physical Damage
Magic: Magic Damage
Agility: Hit/Miss Chance
Defense: Damage Reduction

Derived Stats
Healing: Amount of HP regenerated per turn (HP + Energy + Strength/6 with a cap = half damage taken before defense last turn)
Recovery: Amount of Energy regenerated per turn (Energy + Magic/4 with a cap = level)
Physical Critical: % Chance of getting a critical hit with a melee attack. (Speed + Strength + Agility/12 cap 50%)
Magical Critical: % Chance of getting a critical hit with a magic attack. (Speed + Magic + Agility/12 cap 50%)
Luck: % chance added to finding rare items (HP + Energy + Speed + Strength + Magic + Agility + Defense/35) *Note: If you end a battle with lower HP/Energy it lowers your luck.

Talent System
A player is not aware of their stats, however upon character creation they order the importance of said stats. They range from 5-15 however their total is set at 70.

Moving on the Grid
You start in one of the 4 center squares on the skill grid. Every level you can move to an adjacent square (“pip”).

Depending on which class region you have taken the most pips in you gain that class as your title. Titles grant a special passive ability. Once you have 100% completion in a given class region you can select that title at any point. You may also select any other titles you have 100% in. If you have titles at 100%, you may alternately pick your second highest title instead.
Example: Let’s say you have both Knight and Noble at 100% completion. You are working on Fencer but it is only at 80%. You had to step into Samurai for a pip or two you wanted so you have 5%. You could use either the Knight, Noble, or Fencer titles.

Title Effects
Knight- You allies gain +25% defense from the person you attacked last turn.
Monk- You can not equip weapons or armor; however you double your Healing and Recovery.
Samurai- You have to kill an opponent once you start to attack them, however you get +50% damage (after defense) when attacking them.
Ninja- You can wield two weapons.
Inquisitor- You are immune to black magic.
Paladin- You take damage to your energy before your HP.
Healer- Any amount healed by you also heals the nearest ally.
Shaman- When you are healed you also heal the nearest ally.
Beast Master- You do 200% damage to non-humans.
Alchemist- Any items you use are doubled in effectiveness.
Blood Mage- Your spells use your HP as resource inset of your Energy.
Bard- Your single target magic spells have a small range aoe on them.
Summoner- You do not need to equip the proper sigil when summoning.
Mage- Cut your magic stat in half, however the cost of your spells are cut in half as well.
Dark Wizard- Double your magic stat, however the cost of your spells is doubled as well.
Necromancer- You get healed 25% of the damage you do. However you loose 3% HP per turn.
Gunner- You can equip guns.
Assassin- You do 150% damage to humans.
Barbarian- You character occasionally won’t listen to your commands if they aren’t attacking someone. However you get +25% strength.
Hunter- You have no penalty for range.

Title Effects
Knight- You allies gain +25% defense from the person you attacked last turn.
Monk- You can not equip weapons or armor; however you double your Healing and Recovery.
Samurai- You have to kill an opponent once you start to attack them, however you get +50% damage (after defense) when attacking them.
Ninja- You can wield two weapons.
Inquisitor- You are immune to black magic.
Paladin- You take damage to your energy before your HP.
Healer- Any amount healed by you also heals the nearest ally.
Shaman- When you are healed you also heal the nearest ally.
Beast Master- You do 200% damage to non-humans.
Alchemist- Any items you use are doubled in effectiveness.
Blood Mage- Your spells use your HP as resource inset of your Energy.
Bard- Your single target magic spells have a small range aoe on them.
Summoner- You do not need to equip the proper sigil when summoning.
Mage- Cut your magic stat in half, however the cost of your spells are cut in half as well.
Dark Wizard- Double your magic stat, however the cost of your spells is doubled as well.
Necromancer- You get healed 25% of the damage you do. However you loose 3% HP per turn.
Gunner- You can equip guns.
Assassin- You do 150% damage to humans.
Barbarian- You character occasionally won’t listen to your commands if they aren’t attacking someone. However you get +25% strength.
Hunter- You have no penalty for range.

Magpie Lore (Aka Serendipiti )

In the universe of Magpie certain individuals who have committed grievous sins are given the ability to influence a cosmic good luck/bad luck energy known as the Fatestream with the help of a symbiotic creature. Organized into an autonomous but respected organization, older Serendipiti (those who can influence Serendipity, pronounced “Seren-dip-a-tie”) teach the hopefuls how to repent and accept their deeds as well as control their power. Their logo is a Magpie (So they have earned the nickname “Magpies”) due to its nature of searching for colorful things and brining it back to the nest. (“We are but Magpies searching the universe for redemption.”)

The Symbiode
A small creature about half the size of an adult human stomach with long tendrils is swallowed and allowed to take root. It extends a small fleshy appendage up threw the body and out of the mouth in order to respirate. It interlaces its own awareness of the Fatestream with that of the person it is bonded to. In order for a potential Magpie to join their ranks, they traditionally hunt in a sea on their Symbiode’s home planet. (It is VERY hard to do as they are bastions of luck) It is said that luck is responsible for the joining of a Magpie and its Symbiode. (Symbiodes are affectionately called “Fish”)

Song of the Magpie
One is for sorrow and Two's for mirth…
Three's a blessing and Four's a curse…
Five's a battle and Six is a birth...
Seven is heaven but Eight’s in hell…
Nine’s devil, dark and fell…

This song is the mantra of a Serendipiti. It originally was meant to teach prospective that luck is fickle. However, it has become used as a form of divination used by some Magpies. (However that goes against the teachings of the Magpies) Most Serendipiti use it as a guide to how not to fall to evil. (See “Death” below)

The Serendipiti Scroll
-Serendipity is chaos. It cannot be known. It can not be controlled, nor swayed.
-Fortune does not favor us. We favor fortune.
-You are a conduit of chaos and must conduct yourself like a patron of peace.
-The definition of good and evil is intent. Master this and your will shall be the law.
-Search long and hard before your journey arrives at a conclusion.
-All things are temporary. All things are void. All things exists somewhere between threes two states.
-A Serendipiti simply knows. A wise Serendipiti knows simply that he does not know.
-Evil is not cleansed from the body. It stains you forever.
- Humility is the mark of a good Serendipiti but selflessness is the mark of a great one.

There are those who are more interested in self gain than repenting. They are selfish and continue down the path of evil. They dance on the knife’s edge between life and death. A Serendipiti’s power is related to the cleanliness of their soul. A Magpie’s ability to influence good luck on the world weakens as they sin and get closer to evil but gain more control over the ability to enact bad luck on those around them. Only those who embrace the concept are called “Pandori”. Their ability to influence the negative is great and terrible, much greater than that of the Serendipiti. (The Serendipiti only loose their power but the Pandroi always increase their power)

The Fatestream
Luck is an ether-like stream with ups and downs. (looks like a randomly generated bump map overlaid onto the material plane in 2D) The deeper the pocket, the worse the luck and the more raised it becomes, the greater the chance for good luck. Serendipiti bump that map up in an area around them. Pandori depress it merely with their presence. It normally takes about 10 pretty major offences to be counted as “evil”. (Hence the number of verses in the Magpie Song) A malicious act is anything you consider wrong but do anyway. A major offence is something that hurts someone else grievously. (Killing a person in cold blood is about this level) These “sins” cannot be wiped. They cannot be counterbalanced with good deed. They are simply a stain you cannot remove.

In the universe of Magpie, only the truly evil die forever. People can suffer physical injuries; however they will not pass on if they are good people. Evil people can die and tend to rather quickly. Good people who have their bodies destroyed exist as spirits.

Phantom Limbs
A soul is a tangible, yet incorporeal thing. It’s not uncommon to see soldiers walking around with a ghostly red arm terminating in a stub. It takes a great deal of focus, but they can turn it caporal for a short time. They can sense real world feelings as a very dull ache or tingle and are ethereal. They do not provide much in the way of support for other body parts- however due to their unique interactions with the body they seem to be able to support it a little. Their feeling can be akin to a strong wind flowing and they appear as transparent red. Phantom limbs start to deteriorate and become harder to caporalize with the more stains you have on your soul. A Magpie’s soul is so connected with the Fatestream that they can see the very stream by looking into a phantom limb they have. (Most sacrificially maim themselves in the repenting process)

Slang Terms
Serendipity- The influence Serendipiti have on the Fatestream.
Magpie- A Serendipiti or Pandori. A slang, informal term. Normally used as a derogative term. (“Fuck’en Magpie!”)
Hook Lip- A derogatory term for Magpie.
Fish- The Symbiode of a Magpie.
The Devil’s Luck- The luck of a Magpie. (“See that! He’s got the devil’s luck!”)
Red Coat- A person who’s lost a good amount of their skin. (“Let’s give him a read coat?”)
Floss- Picofilimant. (Thin enough to cut threw the bonds of atoms, strong enough to support a full grown man)
Shade- A “bad” spirit. (“That shade-son-of-a-bitch!) Alternately it could just refer to a bad person with phantom limbs.
Walking Dead- A bad person. (“Your’s nothing but a walking dead! Next bullet between your eyes ends you bitch!”)
Thieves’ Fingers- A nickname for phantom fingers only. (“If you’re not a shade then why are you sporting thieves’ fingers?”)
Undead- A clone made for labor. They live and entire life in a simulator (up to 21) while they grow in the pods. They are made to run jobs for people and they LOVE it because it’s what they are made to love.

The Undead
The working part of the world is comprised entirely of clones. Undead live an entire life in a dream world while they grow that much resembles that of 20th century earth. Their lives make them perfect at one thing. There are 16 models (each referring to their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator).

(Composer | Crafter | Performer | Promoter)
(Inspector | Protector | Provider | Supervisor)
(Champion | Counselor | Healer | Teacher)
(Architect | Fieldmarshal | Inventor | Mastermind)

Soldier- Efficient killing machines. These brutes stand 6’6 with a grotesquely muscled body and a neck as thick as they come. Always perspiring they are dominating towers of pain. Not able to process thoughts not given to them beyond basic pre-programmed ones before the mission they are nicknames “Toy Soldiers”. They have no pain receptors and three hearts to handle the excessive amounts of drugs dumped into their bodies. Their life expectancy is only one mission due to the dangerous situations they are put into and the drugs they are fed. They are biologically created to run at the maximum levels a human form can reach for 24 hours only. After that they die. (If they do not do so prematurely) They have no “Pre-Life”- just conditional training. Soldiers can takes a full clip from a hand gun and keep moving with no concern for themselves.

The Fatestream & Karma
From a writing perspective the Fatestream is essentially karma. When you do good, good things happen. When you do evil, evil things happen. The Fatestream is not actually “randomly” created as the Serendipiti believe- it is pocked with good and bad discussion. It passes like a river throughout all existence and freezes any action taken into itself.

Chess Based MUD

(This was an unfinished concept. I am adding it as part of the "Post Semester Concept Dump". It was a work in progress on a Chess based MUD. Players waited in a lobby and had to fill up a team with the proper number of each class. They took turns and each time it was a different players turn. So every piece had to go. Players had to start as pawns but unlocked the ability to become other pieces threw earning points based on their performance.)

Pawn- “Gang” (Tank)
Knight- Teleporter (Tank)
Bishop- Fighter (Striker)
Castle- “Archer” (Striker)
Queen- Healer (Leader)
King- Revealer (Leader)

EXP Gain
King (Levels up by completion of goals.)
Queen (Gains EXP during combat at a steady rate. Looses EXP when King gets hurt.)
Castle (Gains EXP based on damage dealt)
Bishop (Gains EXP based on rank vs. other characters)
Knight (Gains exp based on how little damage it took. Exp = Level x1000 – amount damaged)
Pawn (Gains exp based on number of other surviving members)

-Order: Summon Ally (The selected pawn summons an ally adjacent to it. HP and status effects are shared. Max of 8) [OsN, OsS, OsE, OsW]
-Order: Attack (The selected pawn does a special attack at a diagonal)
-Order: Grapple (The selected pawn will shut down a pawn in front of it, skipping turns it’s next turn.)

Knight- Teleporter (Tank)
-Jump: You teleport an (“L) [Command: J then NU, ND, SU, SD, EU, ED, WU, WD]
-Parry: You can not move but return an attack when attacked [Command ParOn ParOff]
-Blood Oath: You can teleport back to your king at an adjacent square. [Command BoN BoS BoE BoW]

Bishop- Fighter (Striker)
Castle- “Archer” (Striker)
Queen- Healer (Leader)
King- Revealer (Leader)

Sale of Commission

An MMO based on the concept of “Sale of Commission”.
Experience is used only for skills and stat increases.
Money is everything. It buys gear and it buys commissions.
To enter into a different unit you must buy a commission from another person in that unit.
If you want to sell your commission you must offer it first for 1 day to the unit you are in. Then it goes up in the “Royal Officer’s Society” (an auction house) where it can last anywhere from 1 day to 7 days.
If you are buying a higher rank in the same post you only need to pay the difference.
NCOs are played by NPCs following orders. (Most of the time)

Officer Ranks
Ensign- In charge of a Unit (5 men*)
Lieutenant- In charge of a Squad aka 2 Units (10 men*)
Captain- In charge of a Platoon aka 3 Squads (30 men*)
Major- In charge of a Company (Infantry & Militia), a Troop (Cavalry), or a Battery (Artillery) which consists of 3 Platoons (90 men*)
Lt. Colonel- In charge of a Battalion which consists of 3 Companies (270 men*)
Colonel- In charge of a Regiment which consists of 3 Battalions. (810 men*)
*All counts do not include the Officers.

810 NCOs (NPCs)
162 Ensigns
81 Lieutenants
27 Captains
9 Majors
3 Lt. Colonels
1 Colonel
Total: 1,093 members of a Regiment

Militia (Does Home Missions. Low in number)

Ensign/Militia- 250 LBs
Ensign/Cavalry- 150 LBs
Ensign/Infantry- 100 LBs
Ensign/Artillery- 200 Lbs

Captain/Militia- 600 LBs
Captain/Cavalry- 400 LBs
Captain/Infantry- 300 LBs
Captain/Artillery- 500 LBs

Major/Militia- 1,300 LBs
Major/Cavalry- 900 LBs
Major/Infantry- 700 LBs
Major/Artillery- 1,100 LBs

Lt. Colonel/Militia- 2,700 LBs
Lt. Colonel/Cavalry- 1,900 LBs
Lt. Colonel/Infantry- 1,500 LBs
Lt. Colonel/Artillery- 2,300 LBs

Colonel/Militia- 5,500 LBs
Colonel/Cavalry- 3,900 LBs
Colonel/Infantry- 3,100 LBs
Colonel/Artillery- 4,700 LBs

A Regiment works like a guild. The Colonel is the Guild leader. The Lt. Colonels are Officers in the guild. Majors and Captains are like senior members. Lieutenants are average members while Ensigns are the newbies. A guild can have way more officers than it has spots.

A Colonel can authorize a Campaign. It is a series of battles fought to gain prestige points for the Regiment as well as pay and experience for his/her men. The Colonel organizes the army. (Puts people in the spots) If there are not enough people- NPC officers called “Mercenaries” take their spot. During a mission he/she can issue orders in a screen channel (overlays the text onto the screen), ping the map as well as give orders to any Unit with the highest priority. During each stage of the campaign the Colonel can join any one battle. Being a Colonel is a noble affair and should the occasion arise where a Colonel is required to lift a sword- the battle is already lost. They tend to leave the violence to the brutish underlings and command from a dignified distance.

A Lt. Colonel runs a Battle. Each campaign has 3 battles per stage. (Sometimes more options are open but the Colonel chooses which 3 to do.) After the Colonel organizes the army they can make changes and pre-battle the Colonel can approve the changes. (Or deny them) The Colonel has the final say. However, each battle has several objectives. The Lt. Colonel must decide which Company to assign to each objective. During a mission he/she can issue orders in a screen channel (overlays the text onto the screen), ping the map as well as give orders to any Unit with the second highest priority. It’s highly irregular for a Lt. Colonel to engage in such a vulgar affair as bloodshed. A Lt. Colonel requires a cool head rather than a warm musket.

A Major is responsible for an Objective. Completing or failing objectives determines how many prestige points the Regiment Gains at the end of a successful battle. (They loose prestige if they fail a battle) During a mission he/she can issue orders in a shout channel (visible for a good distance), ping the map as well as give orders to any Unit with the third highest priority. A Major rarely gets into combat- but it is not unheard of as he/she is on the front lines. A Major should prepare for the rain and hope for sunny skies.

A Captain is responsible for leading & outfitting troops. Before each match the Captains decide what type each Unit is. (Cavalry, Artillery, Heavy Infantry, or Light Infantry) During a mission he/she can issue orders in a say channel (visible only at a normally visible distance), ping the map as well as give orders to any Unit with the fourth highest priority. A Captain may find himself/herself in combat. It’s a good idea for Captains to have experience in man to man combat.

A Lieutenant is responsible for leading the troops in the heat of battle on a man to man level. During a mission he/she can issue orders in a say channel (visible only at a normally visible distance) as well as give orders to any Unit with the sixth highest priority. A Lieutenant is often in the down and dirty of combat himself/herself. A good Lieutenant is an expert soldier.

An Ensign is little more than a soldier with a badge. Responsible for a handful of men and their safety an Ensign is far divorced from the upper echelons of strategy and circumstance. During a mission he/she can issue orders in a say channel (visible only at a normally visible distance) as well as give orders to any Unit with the sixth highest priority. An Ensign should make a name for himself/herself with his/her weapon! The best Ensign is a living one.

NCOs are the grunts of the army. Trained to do one thing, they do it with a fair degree of competence. (When the Officers are looking…) Skilled and equipped to utilize either the thunderous cannons of the Artillery, the battle-hardened steeds of the cavalry, the explosives of

Alternative to Traditional Hit Point Systems Literature Review

Alternative to Traditional Hit Point Systems Literature Review

By Scott Gladstein
English 102, Section FA09222
Professor Lynn Gelfand

On the subject of alternatives to hit points in contemporary games today the girth of information is decidedly small. There are very few academic sources that discuss the matter in any great detail and those sources that that do are very rarely creditable. The majority of the information on the subject is hidden away in the design documents of the games themselves- the exclusive prevue of the designers and their teams. More often than not one will find themselves wading through the games themselves to ascertain the mechanics used do decide mortality.

There are a vide verity of role-playing games on the market today. They range from multi million dollar game titles developed by major studios and sold in stores across the world to home brewed alternative rules written by amateurs and distributed on the internet in a peer-to-peer fashion. To get at the “guts” of a game though, it is easiest to look at pen and paper role-playing games. Their main selling point is normally the creative game mechanics they showcase so they are prime source materials when examining alternative to hit points in contemporary games. Most notable is Dungeons and Dragons. Dungeons and Dragons has been a staple in the pen and paper gaming community since its earliest editions and some credit it with maintaining the genre as a whole. More recently they have moved from their third edition line of rules (Cook, Tweet, & Williams, 2000) to their four edition of rules (Heinsoo, Collins & Wyatt, 2008). Dungeons and Dragons is very reliant on a traditional hit point system and when one talks about an alternative to a traditional hit point system they are generally comparing it to Dungeons and Dragons. The most popular franchise that uses a hit point system that is outside the mainstream is Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 franchise which is now in its fifth edition (Priestley & Chambers 2008). They utilize a distinctive “wound” system in their table top rules and is generally considered to be an effective substitute especially when dealing with a lot of things getting attack simultaneously (such as in a war). Also of note was the Eldritch RPG (Cross & Petras 2008) system which uses a “defense pool” system that unfortunately does not receive a lot of attention in the market because of the small scale distribution of the game.

When looking into a subject like this, the sources are not always recent. Digging in the past presents a good deal of alternatives to contemporary games. Seeing where the mechanics came from is a great place to get ideas about where to go with them in the future. In particular there was an interview with one of the Dungeons and Dragons early mechanical designers, Dave Arneson, conducted by GameSpy (Rausch, 2004) which provided a historical context that framed the development of hit points very well. Likewise there was an RPGNet interview with Gary Gygax (Lynch, 2001) that shed a good deal of light on the subject matter as well. Even though a they didn’t directly address the topic of mechanics design directly, the context of which the design took place was enough to discern information about how they designed it and what they had in mind when they did.

While not on par with an interview with the father of role playing game, several other sources gave interesting viewpoints on the subject of traditional hit points and their alternatives. An article on TechRadar by game critic Luis Villazon (2009) highlighted hit points specifically and described them as “a weird leftover from 80s games”. He is a distinguished critic and has written in several different magazines so it was a rare treat to find a citable critique of contemporary hit points. Another critic, Ben Croshaw (who is made famous by the “Zero Punctuation” web show) constantly stands in opposition of the overuse of traditional mechanics. Particularly in his most recent review of the most recent Wolfenstein game (Croshaw, 2009) he discusses the overuse of the “regenerating health” mechanic that a lot of contemporary designers use in first person shooter games to retain the familiarity that traditional hit points have with their target demographic.

Interestingly enough a lot of factual support for the success of traditional hit point systems comes from the financial records of some of the industry’s top companies. The best example was the financial success of SquareEnix in their first half financial results (Wada, 2009) when you compare it to the annual report by Games Workshop in 2009 (Games Workshop Group PLC, 2009). Despite the economic downturn in the United States Games Workshop has had increasing success across the board while SquareEnix has been impacted negatively over the last few years. Games Workshop is a company who’s mechanics tend to embrace alternative systems for hit points while SquareEnix is another company that is heavily reliant on traditional hit point systems (Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Dragon Quest, ect). While a game company’s choice of hit point mechanics is hardly a major factor in their financial situation, the focal point of Games Workshop (primarily a table top games company) is more reliant on good game mechanics than a company like SquareEnix (primary a merchandising and story based video game company). This is reflected not only in the future plans of the companies as described in the reports mentioned before but in their corporate profiles. (The Thomas International group does a great job showcasing this in their report on Games Workshop)

The best information was obtained through reading and learning different game systems. (Exploring design documents would probably yield similar results.) A lot of information on the subject is not creditable and one should be very careful in respect to that. A good deal of the information compiled could not be cited despite ascertaining that it was in fact true by checking more creditable sources. Using the information I collected, I created a quick, easy, reference guide for designers to utilize when considering using an alternative hit point system for their own game. Because of the prevalence of Dungeons and Dragons and how familiar the average designer is with their system, I framed the options as alternate rules for the Dungeons and Dragons v3.5 rulebook (as the 4th edition rules are still new). Utilizing the rules presented in the reference guide, designers can quickly test alternatives to hit points and start a dialogue about the possible implications of using alternatives to traditional hit point systems.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Traditional Hit Point Alternatives (The Paper)

Traditional Hit Point Alternatives

By Scott Gladstein
English 102, Section FA09222
Professor Lynn Gelfand
There are competitive alternatives to the traditional hit point systems in role playing games and should be considered for implementation on a large scale. In a video game, a traditionally accepted hit point (or “HP) system is a numerical value your character has that represents their mortality. The previously mentioned value decreases when you take damage from an enemy and when that value reaches zero you generally die. This antiquated system has its roots at the heart of the role-playing genre of video games, being featured in every popular franchises from World of Warcraft to Dungeons and Dragons, but it’s grown outdated and the stagnant. The motivational speaker Karen Kaiser Clark was quoted many times saying, “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” and I believe that change is essential to maintain a compelling game in this day and age. Games have been using the same system for the last twenty-five years and the gaming culture has grown accustomed to them. In an editorial on Luis Villazon (2009) asks us, “Why is it that after 25 years, the enduring mechanic for modelling player damage in computer games is the hit point? We have virtually photo-realistic graphics and animation now, but injury or lack of same is always represented as a single number. A homogeneous pool of life or health or hit points where any number greater than zero represents total combat effectiveness and zero means instant death.”Systems like the wound system used in the Warhammer tabletop franchises and the defense pool system from Eldritch RPG are novel concepts that improve gameplay by expedite gameplay and increasing user involvement.

Hit points have their origins tied closely to the history of the genre. The origins of role playing games dates back to at least 1913 when the famous author H. G Wells wrote rules for a game called Little Wars (Well 1913). (The rater satirical full title was, “Little Wars: A game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys' games and books”.) This game laid our rules for armies of toy soldiers to clash on the dressing room floors of gentlemen of the day and inadvertently started the “war-game” (or “table top army”) genre that is popular still to this day. Games like Axis and Allies (Milton Bradley, 1984), Memoir '44 (Days of Wonder, 2004), The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game (Games Workshop 2001) and in the various Warhammer franchises keep alive the genre started in 1913. Wargames developed quietly until the Gen Con gaming convention in 1971 after which Gary Gygax (along with Dave Arneson, Don Kaye, and Brian Blume) created the wargame Chainmail. They made rules for objective other than just straightforward engagements. Dave Arneson (one of the co-creators of Dungeons and Dragons) explained to GameSpy that they “started setting different objectives for the players. It wasn't just about fighting; we started stealing things: bombs, guns, food supplies, that sort of thing. Players could negotiate with each other for who captured the goal, and then had to figure out how they were going to slip the products past a blockade and sell them on the black market. Things like that.” (Dave Arneson 2004) Following along those lines, in an expansion of the rules called Blackmoor there where rules laid out for the use of single miniatures instead of entire armies. Transitioning it to a fantasy setting, the game Dungeons and Dragons was created. The process was described by one of the grandfathers of gaming and designer of both Chainmail and Dungeons and Dragons, Gary Gygax (2001), in an interview with and explained that he “… decided to add fantasy elements to the mix, such as a dragon that had a fire-breath weapon, a hero that was worth four normal warriors, a wizard who could cast fireballs, which had the range and hit diameter of a large catapult, and lightning bolts, which had the range and hit area of a cannon, and so forth.” Both Blackmoor and the earliest edition of Dungeons and Dragons used a system where when you where faced with a monster in a dungeon you would simply roll a six sided dice and if you did not roll high enough you would immediately die. While this would later be develop into the “d20” system used by many pen and paper games today it had a long way to go before the new found following would accept it. People running the games began seeing the attachments their players developed with their characters and requested that the designers gave players less severe penalties when they failed. They responded by adding chances to fail and still continue playing. This was described as representing a character’s heroic ability to soldier on even after suffering a wound that would cripple a normal person. That started the use of “hit points”.

There are many different alternatives to using Hit Points in game. Some, like the “Defense Pool” system, offer a new look at the traditional manner in which a character defends in. Used in games like Eldritch RPG (Cross & Pteras 2008), Defense Pools do not necessarily replace hit points entirely but instead augment and them to the point where they are no longer considered traditional. In a system that uses a Defense Pool, players have a certain finite number of opportunities to defend in several different fashions depending on how their character is made. (for example a dexterous fighter might have 3 dodges and only 1 opportunity to have his armor block the blow in a given fight) In system like this suffering an actual hit is represents a grievous and potentially fatal injury. This mechanic facilitates a degree of reality and gives players pause when taking unnecessary risks. In addition to the finality it provides, Defense Pool systems highlights the skill of resource management. When a player is limited in their defensive options they have to conceder who in the group of their friends is taking the brunt of the enemy’s attacks on a turn-to-turn basis. Additionally, this alleviates the need for the “tank” roll. A tank is a character in a game whose role in the party is to take all the damage while he or she is healed by a person who is skilled at doing so. The implementation of defensive resource management generally makes the party work more as a coherent group of equals. Finally, Defense Pools engage the player more by allowing them to control both their offensive actions and defensive actions.

Another popular alternative to traditional Hit Point systems is the “Wound” system. In this system when a player takes damage from an enemy they roll a dice to deterring on a chart (called a “Wound Chart”) what the negative effect is for getting hit. If a player has additional defenses or the blow is not necessarily that strong (called a “glancing blow”) the roll is lowered by a set value. (Alessio 2007) The lower the result, generally the less severe the penalty is. Systems like this generally employ a degree of chance when determining how severe the penalty is for suffering an injury. This has proven to be a very well-liked alternative to traditional hit point systems thanks to the Warhammer franchise. According to a case study done by Thomas International they cite that Games Workshop (the makers of the Warhammer franchise) “…is a global business with more than 250 stores in the Americas, Continental Europe and Asia Pacific but also trades with thousands of other independent retailers worldwide.” With a turnover in November 2000 of £42.7 million (Games Workshop Group PLC, 2000) it’s safe to say that relying on their cornerstone mechanic, wounds, as received a warm welcome by their customers. Growing sales in their 2009 interim report also support these numbers showing steady growth since 1991 (Games Workshop Group PLC, 2009). Wound systems generally have a very low learning curve due to their reliance on a comparatively smaller number or mechanics which allows younger players to enjoy games while still engaging the veteran demographic. Coupled together with the unpredictable nature of exactly when a character will die, it has proven a competitive alternative to hit points.

Some alternatives are an amalgam of traditional ideas and new design concepts. Games like Shadowrun (Weisman, 2005) utilize hit points along with something called a “condition track”. As a character takes damage they drop down to a lower tier on a chart. Progressing to lower ranks on the condition track as gives a character penalties when they try to accomplish tasks, hindering them because of their injuries. A character can’t die until they reach zero hit points but if a character reaches some of the lowest tiers on the condition tract they are essentially useless. In other words the less hit points out of their maximum a character has the less effective they are. Normally, so long as a character has one single hit point they are as strong as they were at their maximum before they got injured at all. Of the systems mentioned this condition tract system most accurately reflects how the human body takes damage and doesn’t have the unfortunate side effect of instant death. The drawback of this system is the complexity. It adds another layer of mathematics for the players to do on a regular basis. That seems to alienate the younger demographics and dissuade them from playing a game using the system despite its attempt to make injuries more realistic.

Going back to the roots of hit points, even early editions of Dungeons and Dragons (Perren & Gygax 1971) provide an interesting alternative design mechanic to hit points. A more story driven game that utilizes instant death for a failure is an intriguing concept from a design perspective. Early video games used “lives” to denote how many chances a player had before a “game over” and they had to restart from the beginning though the mechanic has developed little since “Super Mario Brothers”. In an instant death system it is generally much more difficult to hit and injure an enemy, though when a blow is struck the result has a chance to be fatal. There is generally a percent chance to survive and this is lowered by the severity of the attack. This seems like a step backwards but in some respects it’s continuing with the original concept of hit points. Simple mechanics make the flow of game play unsophisticated but exceedingly manageable even by novice players and in games based on non-fictitious materials the systems used by early editions of Dungeons and Dragons (Arneson 1975) can be the keystone to bringing those realistic repercussions to life in a game. While systems like this trade off detail for ease of use, the trade off is an acceptable one when you conceder the expedience it grants the players in combat while still retaining the overall approach role playing game take. A system like this also highlights the cost of engaging in combat while still allowing the players choices to impact the fate of their characters. Many players consider this a very harsh system, which can be true depending on the mechanics employed. If the system puts the players on the same level statistically as the enemies, the players will die rather quicker than they are accustomed. The balances comes in finding a mechanical middle ground where the players are statistically superior to the average enemy while not reducing the threat the enemies post to the players.

There are two sides to every coin and this is no exception. Traditional hit point systems have their value and those should be recognized. They have stood the test of time, Villazon suggests at least twenty-five years. Why then should we conceder alternatives to something that has served us faithfully for so long? The nature of progress is change and when something remains unchanged in a rapidly progressing industry like the gaming industry it sticks out like a sore thumb. Players have become too familiar with Hit Points and designers have to reach to the extremes to find something fresh. A good example of this is “regenerative hit points”. When employed in first person shooter games like Halo or Modern Warfare, hit points tend to just not cut it. Players die rather quick to bullets, as very well a human should. Regenerative hit points are exactly what their name suggests. They are hit points that regenerate quickly when that character doesn’t take damage for a certain period of time. As the critic Ben Croshaw once said, “…you don’t need to worry about health, if you’re retarded and lousy at stealth, just get behind cover if you’re in a bother and it will all come back by itself!”While rather impolite, his words are not unwarranted. Many other prominent game critics have called out for the abolishment of this gimmick as they see it as a petty attempt to retain the traditional hit point systems in games it was not meant for. Players are simply not challenged anymore by the same comfortable crutch many games have relied on for decades.

What about franchise success? Games like Final Fantasy (SquareEnix) and Dungeons and Dragons (Wizards of the Coast) certainly have had their share of successes, in recent years their sales have been suffering. According to the “Consolidated Financial Result for the First half Period” of SquareEnix the company’s net income dropped down 55.7 per cent (Wada 2009), continuing a trend that has been happening for some time despite peaks when games are initially released. SquareEnix relies heavily on traditional hit point systems in their games while companies like Games Workshop who showed economic a growth instead rely on alternative systems which expedite game play. While SquareEnix actually made more money than Games Workshop the trend in momentum is slowing and swinging in the favor of the non-traditional supporter.

Traditional hit point systems are not without their value as a mechanic. They are a solid, simple, way to somewhat realistically represent a person sustaining an injury without interfering with gameplay or slowing down the game’s pacing. However there are still some glaring flaws that need to be addressed if we look at it as a game mechanic. A character who sustains an injury in a game with a traditional hit point system generally suffers no adverse effects for their wounds until they are reduced to zero hit points. When someone in the real world gets hurt the pain experienced by someone can be incapacitating if not a little distracting. Allowing a character continue on uninhibited by the injury he or she sustained is unrealistic. Early games could not cope with the inclusion of the mathematics required due to the limited capacity of the consoles of the time but we are under no such limitations in this day and age. Additionally, when it was first conceived hit points where made to give players additional chances to fail but the concept has been exaggerated. Instead of the values in early editions of dungeons and dragons that ranged relatively low (rarely more than one hundred) games today reach anywhere between three thousand and six thousand. This reduces hit points to mere numbers, meaningless except to show if your character is able to act or not. It reduces the impact of a character’s suffering quite significantly when to take five hundred injuries in a single turn only to be restored them by an ally is a walk in the park.

It is unlikely that hit points will ever entirely go away but there are competitive alternatives to the traditionally used hit point systems in role playing games and should be considered for use on a larger scale then they are currently implemented on. Alternatives like defense pools, wound systems, condition tracts, or even instant death can be equally effective mechanics to represent the mortality of a character in a game. While the traditional system has stood the test of time gamers have become too familiar with it. At the same time the financial success of companies who rely heavily upon franchises using traditional hit point systems is falling and giving rise to the financial success of companies who do not. It is true that hit points are a solid game mechanic the faults are equally apparent as it neglects the effects of an injury on the human body when deterring how well a character can perform. The alternatives to traditional hit point systems have the potential to change the way we game, why not explore them?

Rausch , Allen. (2004, August 19). Dave Arneson interview. Retrieved from

Lynch , Scott. (2001, May 1). Interview with Gary Gygax. Retrieved from

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Cavatore, Alessio. (2007). Warhammer Apocalypse Rulebook. 2007.

Chambers, Andy, Priestley, Rick, & Haines, Pete. (2004). Warhammer 40,000 rulebook. 2004-08-28.

Cross, D, & Petras, R. (2008). Eldritch role-playing system. Goodman Games.

Arneson, D. (1975). Dungeons & dragons blackmoore. TSR.

Wells, H.G. (1913 ). Little wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys' games and books. Frank Palmer.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Sometimes I love this School

So I am currently working on a research paper on "Competitive Alternatives to Hit Points". Along with it I have a project that needs to be tacked on to illustrate our research paper. I am writing variant rules to D&D 3.5-4.0/Pathfinder/d20 OGL utilizing these alternatives. This week I'll include these variant rules.

English 102 Project

Adventures in Competitive HP Alternatives

Standard (D&D 3.5-4.0/Pathfinder/d20 OGL)

AC= 10 + Armor Bonus + Dex + Size Bonus+ Natural Armor + Deflection Bonus + Misc Modifiers

Attack Roll= d20 + BAB vs AC

Result = HP - d6 + Str

Wound System

AC= 10 + Armor Bonus + Dex + Size Bonus+ Natural Armor + Deflection Bonus + Misc Modifiers

Attack Roll= d20 + BAB vs AC

Result =d20 Wound Roll + Con Modifier

Result Effect Description
> 0 Death Hope your friends are nice enough to pay for a resurrection.
1 to 10 Bleeding Out You are unconscious until stabilized. Roll on the wound chart every turn until you either die or stabilize. (20+)
11 to 15 Crippled You are knocked prone and can’t make attack of opportunity.
16 to 20 Unnerved No attacks of opportunity
21+ Just a Flesh Wound You suffered a minor wound but not enough to stop you. If this is a stabilization roll you stabilize.

Defense Pool Style #1 (“Kiddy Gloves”)

Attack Roll= Attack Roll= d20 + BAB (“I attack with a 22”)

Defensive Options=

Parry = vs AC If you successfully parry this attack, you get an immediate attack of opportunity.

Take It = Vs Ac + Con

Dodge = vs AC + Dex (again)

Move = vs Ac. Regardless of the result you make take a 5 foot step after the attack.

Result = d20 + Con vs. 10 or die.

Defense Pool Style #2 (“Iron Man”)

AC= 10 + Armor Bonus + Defense Modifier + Size Bonus+ Natural Armor + Deflection Bonus + Misc Modifiers

Attack Roll= d20 + BAB (“I attack with a 22”)

Defensive Options=

Parry = vs AC If you successfully parry this attack, you get an immediate attack of opportunity. (Defense Modifier = none)

Take It = Vs Ac (Defense Modifier = Con Modifier)

Dodge = vs AC (Defense Modifier = Dex Modifier)

Move = vs Ac. Regardless of the result you make take a 5 foot step after the attack. (Defense Modifier = none.)

Result = d20 + Con vs. 10 or die.