Thursday, May 19, 2011

What can a power do?

I have been continuing to write up powers for my D&D 4th edition rewrite - SkyRPG.  (I am a genius with names, seriously)  The basic mechanics rewrites are done and now I am hacking away at writing new powers for all the classes.  The link to the basic document is *here*, and there are sublinks to the documents for the classes I have written powers for so far.  It is an interesting task, coming up with so many powers, because I want to actually make powers that are reasonably balanced against one another and also make sure the list is extremely varied and interesting.  As anyone with game design experience can tell you it is fairly easy to be interesting, easy to be balanced, hard to be both.

One of the things I most want to avoid is the mistake that 4th edition made when assigning secondary effects to powers.  For example, 4th seemed to be written with the idea in mind that knocking people down and pushing them around was extremely powerful.  Many powers do exactly that and yet when I played the game I found those effects quite weak in most cases because the enemies would just spend their next turn standing up and charging again and my battlefield manipulation would be entirely ineffective.  Most powers that pushed people around were very underpowered because so many of the enemies were so amazingly mobile that it hardly mattered.  On the other hand effects that did unavoidable damage were hilariously overpowered - to the point that it seemed like they simply didn't weight an attack that automatically hit any more than an attack that hit half the time.  This is doubly problematic because of minions.  Minions were a new concept where a lot of enemies that were moderately powerful would be given only one hit point.  This way they could be killed easily but still presented a threat... except that players had such huge access to AOE spells that hit everything automatically that minions were a complete joke.

I love the idea of minions.  Back in the old days when I was running games that involved huge battles it was always a ridiculous chore to keep track of all the hitpoints of the random chumps running around.  Having a simple "dead or not dead" switch instead means that tracking the battle is very simple and you can easily have a swarm of enemies that have reasonable attack and defense numbers but which die easily enough.  To manage this I have decided to completely remove the idea of automatic damage from powers - if you want to damage something you have to roll.  I kept in a good number of AOE attacks but they all require rolls and I eliminated all the ridiculous spells that hit the entire battlefield and damage only enemies but not allies.  AOE attacks should be there but there should be at least *some* positioning requirement to hit many enemies at once.  I also figured I should get rid of a lot of the 'wall' spells because they were so incredibly brutal.  On wide open maps they were often pretty fair but any time the terrain got restricted a wall spell would regularly remove half of the enemies from the battle on its own.  I like the idea of terrain mattering but I don't like the idea of players trivializing encounters by dividing them in half!

So far I have 1 class done and 1 half done of the 6 classes I built.  I wonder if it will get easier towards the end as I have more ideas and templates to draw on or if it will get harder as I exhaust the reservoir of ideas I have that meet the balance criteria I have in mind.  I guess the only way to find out is to write another 100 powers and see if the creative well runs dry or not!

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