Thursday, March 28, 2013

[Design Journal: Heroes of Legend RPG] Combat Grid and Action Points

In my previous Design Journal entries for Heroes of Legend I’ve mostly focused on the setting. Now I’m going to share a few thoughts about the way combat will work. Combat is typically one of the most detailed aspects of a tabletop RPG, a trait that extends from the genre’s roots in tabletop war games. As a fantasy adventure game, Heroes of Legend will put a fair amount of emphasis on combat as well.

A lot of tabletop RPGs make use of tactical combat. What I mean is that they use some kind of battle map with a square- or hexagon-based grid to establish the exact locations of participants in a skirmish and to measure distances for movement and attacks. I’m thinking that HoL will use a somewhat abstracted version of this. The game will use a grid with squares that represent an area with about twenty-five feet on a side. Thus, each square could easily represent a small room, and could possibly contain a dozen or more people. A battle that takes place outside or in a large chamber might use a battlefield with a 2x2 or a 3x3 grid. Characters in the same square would be considered adjacent and could target each other with melee attacks. Characters in different squares would have to use ranged attacks against each other. Area attacks would target each creature in a single square. Terrain could be specified for each square and would effect all creatures in that square.

Another thing that a lot of tabletop RPGs have is an allotment of actions to each character on each round of combat. In D&D each character gets a standard action, a move action, and a minor action. In Legend of the Five Rings each character can perform one complex action or two simple actions. In the Serenity RPG you only get a single action by default but you can take multiple actions with a penalty to each one. In HoL I’m thinking of using an “action point” system. The way this will work is that you’ll get five action points each turn. You can then spend those action points to perform different actions, and every action in the game will cost a certain number of points. For example, performing a basic attack will cost three action points, meaning you could only do that once per turn. But then, you would have two action points left to do other things. Moving from one square to another might cost two action points. Drawing a weapon or drinking a potion might cost one action point. So, you can mix and match actions as you like, so long as you have the action points to spend. Action points that you don’t spend on your turn are lost, but you start each new turn with five more action points.

I like this idea for two reasons. First, I think it is pretty intuitive. New players don’t have to learn how many actions, and of what types, they can take each turn. They just have to learn how many action points certain basic actions cost. From there, spending action points to do different things is pretty intuitive. Second, it allows for greater flexibility, especially when you start introducing special abilities that let you do different things with your action points or perform certain actions at a lower cost. For example, I could easily see some kind of “rapid strike” ability that allows you to perform a slightly less damaging attack for two action points instead of three. Or, I can imagine a “swift footed” ability that allows you to move from one square to another for a single action point instead of two.

So, what do you think of the more abstracted grid and the action point system? I’d love to get your feedback on this project. Share your thoughts in the comments.

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