Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Sometimes when building a game you have to add in extra complexity to make things easier to learn.  Generally of course you want to cut out anything that adds to the learning curve but which doesn't really improve the game, but on occasion you can bulk up the document while simultaneously making the game simpler to grasp for new players.

Right now I am doing just that while altering some Powers in Heroes By Trade.  Initially the game had two different ways to alter enemy movement - you could Slow them or Immobilize them.  When a ranged person like a Wizard Immobilizes an enemy it is obvious what the point of that is - you are trying to pin them in place while you run away!  However, melee classes also had Immobilize effects and people seemed to struggle to figure out how to use those.  Because ranged attacks have disadvantage if the attacker is threatened by a melee fighter there are two good reasons for melee to Immobilize someone.  Firstly it means the someone can't get away, and second it means the someone can't use ranged attacks effectively.

All of that made sense, but sometimes new players couldn't figure out why they would use an Immobilize attack.  The issue was in part caused by trying to figure out what was happening when such an attack occurred.  It is easy to see how a frostbolt from a Wizard freezes people to the ground, Immobilizing them, but what exactly is a brawler with a club *doing* when they Immobilize an enemy?  This was especially true since the brawler with a club could Immobilize a melee opponent, walk away, and the opponent would have no way of striking back because they were still pinned in place... by what, we don't know.

My solution to this was to add more rules.  First off I needed two classes of things that prevent movement - Immobilize, which is iconically a frostbolt freezing you to the ground, and Grab, which is a brawler grabbing you and pinning you.  Grab has the disadvantage that you can't walk away from the target and maintain it - if you leave, the target is now free to move.  However, Grab has the advantage that you can drag the target around with you if you want.  It feels a lot more like what a brawler would do to an enemy, and doesn't encourage melee people to pin each other in place and dance around.  Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that, but such tactics felt bizarre given the descriptions and titles of the powers and I want the mechanics to line up with the flavour.

That doesn't mean that a melee class can't have an Immobilize... but it means that when I use that I can make sure that the feel of the Power in question really makes it clear what is happening and why it is that way.

While this means there are more rules to learn it also means that if anyone just starts reading Powers they will have a much clearer idea of what those Powers do and how they work.  In fact for Grab and Immobilize people would probably be able to guess what the effects of the Powers are quite regularly without even needing the rules text, which is obviously the ideal.

It isn't often that I feel good about adding extra rules to the game.  Extra content is great, extra rules, usually not.  But in this case I think the extra rules actually make the game simpler to learn, rather than more complex, which means I can include a steeper learning curve elsewhere when I feel I really need it.

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