Saturday, March 17, 2012

Stay Classy: Off the beaten path... (3)

Stay Classy is a series of articles covering the immense topic of classes, backgrounds, professions, etc, both in and out of "sneak". You should start with (1) and (2).

In the previous Stay Classy article, I mentioned how the follow-up article would discuss classes in "sneak". I lied: today I'm going to talk about the skill system.

Weapon Skills

These skills are all pretty similar in application. Each weapon skill gives a small bonus to accuracy and damage and also reduces attack delay while wielding the relevant weapon. Stabbing is the exception here: higher levels of Stabbing increases the bonus damage dealt to an "exposed" opponent and also increases accuracy (both of these only apply while wielding a dagger).

Archery improves the character's ability to use weapons like bows and crossbows.

One-Handed skill improves the character's ability to use weapons like long swords and whips.

Two-Handed skill improves the character's ability to use weapons like great swords and halberds.

Stabbing improves the character's ability to exploit weaknesses and use daggers.

Throwing improves the character's ability to use weapons like slings and javelins. 

Unarmed Combat improves the character's ability to fight unarmed.

Defensive Skills

These skills, as implied, are defensive by design. One (or more) of these skills should be considered for any character that needs extra defense and longevity. These skills have natural partners in the weapon skills category. One-Handed weapons are the go-to weapon for any shield user, while heavy armor is not a serious burden for the strong Two-Handed weapon character. Stealth is great paired with Stabbing, but can find other partners (such as Archery or magical skills). Evasion is useful for any character, but especially ones who are not going to rely on heavy armor, magic, and/or shields.

Armor skill reduces the average damage dealt to the character, especially so with heavier armor.

Evasion improves the character's saving throws, which are fortitude, reflex, and willpower.

Shield skill increases the amount of damage blocked when the character is wearing a shield.

Stealth improves the character's ability to move around undetected. 

Magical Skills

These three skills are meant to represent the three separate schools and styles of magic in "sneak". I plan on doing an entire article or perhaps series of articles on these very skills, so I won't go into too much detail here. Hopefully the descriptions provided gets the general idea across.

Pyromancy dictates the character's ability to successfully use spells that focus largely on damage.

Sorcery dictates the character's ability to successfully use spells that offer both utility and damage.

Invocation dictates the character's ability to successfully use spells that offer mostly utility and some damage.

I'm going to go over each category of skills and point out some changes I've made (mentally) to them, as I think this will help explain my design process.

Originally the weapon skills category was much, much larger. Essentially each skill was representative of a class of weapon, such as "Swords" or "Axes". This sounds cool and has been done to great effect in some other games (Dwarf Fortress, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup) but I found it often ended up being needlessly complex in "sneak" since each skill basically does the same thing for the relevant weapons. There's still a lot of weapon skills and they still do mostly the same things, but it's quite a bit better now than it used to be and I'm happier overall. As a final note on this topic, I'd like to mention that seperate weapon types governed by the same skill will still have different stats (e.g. a great sword and halberd might deal similar damage, but have completely different values for accuracy and bonus damage).

Defensive skills is quite likely the category I'm most comfortable with right now, but it too has gone through a number of changes. Perhaps the biggest change is how Armor was going to work. The Armor skill was originally going to reduce the penalty for wearing heavy armor, but this basically just made it another evasion skill, which is not what it's supposed to be. For reference, in the current system, a character with very high Armor skill will have roughly twice as much "average damage reduction" as normal. Similarly a character with very high Shield skill will block roughly twice as much damage as normal. Evasion and Stealth don't have any solid numbers behind them yet, but they will have a significant effect.

Magical skills is probably the category that's proven to be the biggest headache for me. Magic systems in RPGs like to go overboard and offer the players hundreds of different spells, many with similar (if not exactly the same) effects. The three school system is inspired (both in name and design) by Dark Souls. The goal of the three skills is to provide three unique spell casting avenues. Elemental schools can be pretty cool but tend to inspire lazy design. For example, it is not all that uncommon to see four variations of the same spell in an "elemental" spell system (Ice Ball, Fire Ball, Earth Ball, Wind Ball!). Again, this is a pretty big topic and will receive its own article in the future.

In the future I should have more details on what each "point" of a skill will be worth, how players will be able to improve their characters's skills, and how experience will be utilized in the skill system. As you might expect, the skill system is still pretty deep in the design process, so there's a fair chance of major changes happening to it between now and the first public release.


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