Thursday, 19 June 2008

Attributes, skills, magical items, cake

Attributes and skills are a tricky bunch, of which I've waffled before.

Nontheless, I need some kind of framework to start thinking about these things, so here's the seed. I'm trying for the usual balance between flavour, mechanical clarity and balance, and separation between the attributes tied closely to the host body and those inherant to the servitor.

I think it's quite important that the mind of the host has some influence on the final attributes. After all, the inhabiting spirit is not good at thinking in meatspace. Any actions with a physical component, even casting spells, need to be processed by the physical brain and body. Any accrued memories - less those burned out by the process of possession - will also be vitally useful to the emissary.

Physical attributes
  • Brawn - strength, endurance, explosive muscular power and general burliness. Contributes to melee damage, especially with heavy weapons, damage reduction (natural and from armour/shields), health and fatigue pool size.

  • Grace - agility, dexterity, speed and accuracy of movement, stamina. Contributes to hit checks with melee and ranged weapons, dodge and block/parry checks, stealth skills, attack speed, fatigue regeneration rate.

Mental attributes
  • Wit - Speed of thought, depth of perception. Contributes to reaction speed, ranged hit checks, casting speed, damage with ranged and light melee weapons, resistance to mental attack.

  • Lore - Accrued memories, ability to apply knowledge. Contributes to all crafting-type checks, casting checks, all identification checks (including things like combat styles, spells being cast, and all the usual stuff).

Spiritual attributes
  • Empathy - how well the spirit meshes with the host flesh. Affects how much magic can be safely channeled through the body, resistance to mental attacks, health regeneration rate, speed of recovery from debilitating effects on the body (poison, nausea etc.).

  • Comprehension - sensitivity to the flows of the spiritual/arcane. Affects perception and identification of magic, and creatures of spirit (whether possessing a mortal body or not), as well as casting checks and speed of recovery from debilitating effects on the mind and spirit (curses, magical debuffs).

Creatures without attendent emissary spirit will have zero in the last two scores, which should make generating them somewhat easier. These are only rough ideas of course, things will be moved around, renamed and generally made to work. The split of abilities and bonuses, assuming everything else is balanced and, erm, implemented, looks like a reasonable start.

On the subject of magic items

Was pondering magic items whilst walking home from work. I think I'm going to rip off Talislanta because it is awesome and win.

You can have seven active magic items on your person at a once, any more than that and they all stop working. Most items will be considered active if you're wearing or using them, so having stuff in your backpack doesn't count. Likewise consumable or items only used briefly don't affect the total (in most RLs, these would be potions, scrolls, wands etc). The reason for this is simply that active magic flows through the mortal plane, and interacts... oddly. Having too many active items would have nasty side effects in addition to rendering them all useless, but those wouldn't be exposed immediately.

To make things more interesting, certain items will be active all the time, even if you're just lugging them about. Diable II (and possibly the original) had these, although I can't remember what they're called. In said game(s) they took up lots of inventory space, but were otherwise just passive, stacking bonuses exactly as if you'd found an extra inventory slot somewhere. Artifacts or items of similar crazy power will act like this, although depending on the nature of the item you may get no benefit from not using it, it'll still count towards your total, and possibly count as multiple lesser items. This should make 'retrieve the all-powerful maguffin!' quests a lot more... interesting. Anyone up for a naked Amulet of Yendor run?

There may be certain ways to get around these restrictions, with side-effects. For example, items with identical effects might be worn and count less towards the total, although any bonuses do not stack perfectly and there will be nasty things happening if this is done for any length of time. Sure, you can wear three rings or regeneration for a few weeks, but how are you going to go to parties with that atrophied spare arm dangling from the small of your back?


tormodh said...

I'm making a note here:

I really like your ideas on magic items here. And by the way; the Diablo II items were "Charms", and they were introduced in the Lords of Destruction expansion pack.

Came by the way of Ascii Dreams, by the way.

Snut said...

Ahh, Charms! Thank you, those were indeed the puppies I was thinking of. Now I have to go buy LoD yet again... my other copies being in storage, I only have vanilla D2 to hand.

I really can't claim the magic item ideas as my own, lifted as they are essentially intact from Talislanta. I've not seen it used in a CRPG though, so could be interesting.

JohnH said...

Ah hey, new reader here....

One thing I'd suggest, and this might seem a bit counter to the direction that gaming has been going for over two decades now, is to not balance it too much, but also be careful about making magic items too common.
Here is an obvious fact: If there are lots of magic items in a game, it makes each a bit less special.

I tend to think that Blizzard's RPGs have accelerated this deterioration of the awesomeness of magic items. So I'd caution about getting too many ideas from there.

Snut said...

Hi there, thanks for the comment. That's exactly what I'm trying for, in actual fact; the only idea I want to lift from Blizzard is the always-active-item concept, and that only because it adds additional pressure to an already scarce resource.

I want magic items to be relatively rare, somewhat unique objects. None of this Badgerly Club of the Wrangler tomfoolery, where every rat and goblin seems to drop something which glows in the dark.

That said, randomly generated items are quite deeply ingrained in the RL genre. As long as a given item or effect isn't ever assumed as part of the act of balancing the game (Angband, I'm looking at you...), assembling a mismatched collection of gear and trying to make the best of it can be fun.

To sum up, the idea so far is to make magic items tend to have negative as well as positive effects, limit the number of 'active' magic items severely, and make them rare and precious. I'm also thinking that given the setting's technology level most magic items will be jewellery, fetishes and gewgaws which can be equipped essentially without restriction, so if the RNG were so inclined you may end up wearing seven magic rings and a heap of mundane items. Enchanted weapons will be much more scarce, and magical armour/shields practically unknown.