Thursday, March 06, 2008

[IF-RPG] Cost of Skills

The basic idea in combat is that the player has a couple of standard actions--attack, concentrate, defend, retreat, perhaps others--and a lot of other actions that are made available as he learns more skills. (Currently, there are skills like "Smashing Blow", "Anger", "Sacrifice", "Burning Hands", "Summon Imps", "Curse".) Using skills costs Zeal, and Zeal is regained by (a) winning difficult fights, and (b) doing other things that make the Gods of War happy.

But what we want is the following:
  • We want the player to be using skills often. It is boring if the player types "attack" 90% of the time, and is saving his skills for a few desperate situations.
  • We want the player to use all his skills, because that is more fun than just using the same skill again and again. Now all skills are unique tactical options; and if some options are better, or more generally useful, than others, the player will use these options more often. This means that each skills must be the best available tactical option in a fair number of situations.
Let each skill have an intrinsic cost of n Zeal. Let m be the number of times the skill has already been used in this specific encounter. Calculate the real cost of using the skill as follows: cost = n * (m - 1).

That is right, all skills are free the first time you use them during a fight. So you can do everything for free once; and for easier fights, this will be enough. If you need to use a skill more than once, the cost keeps increasing.

This will reward players who use all their skills; it will also reward players who use their skills in every encounter. I think this will lead to diverse tactics, where people weigh the pro's and con's of paying Zeal for re-using a particular skill or using another skill that is still free.


  1. The Zeal cost formula sounds cool, but is there something that justifies this in the fiction? I feel like that's an important element of any combat system, perhaps especially in an IF combat system.

    For example, it's too tiring to attack repeatedly; you can only defend for so long before you slip up; you can't just become enraged with a flip of the switch; it takes too much focus to execute repeated powerful attacks; etc.

  2. The formula does not hold for the standard combat moves: attack, defend, parry, dodge, retreat, concentrate, or for using items you have collected. It only holds for the special skills granted to you by the Gods--who can damn well choose what kind of requirements they put upon their use. (There will repeatedly be situations in the game where the gods increase or decrease the Zeal cost of actions because you are involved in a fight they want you to win or lose, I think.)

  3. OK, that makes much more sense, and going back to the post I see that's what you really said in the first place ;).

    When I first read that post the first thing I thought of was the FATE system, which I've been working on putting into an IF game.

    It has to be trimmed quite a bit of course, but the basic mechanic of fate points, invoking aspects, and compelling aspects, could make for an interesting single-player game.

    In Spirit of the Century for example, you have aspects, skills, and stunts, many of which require fate points to use. You also can tag other aspects of NPCs or the environment to gain bonuses, using fate points the while. I'm not sure if you've played that game but it might offer up some further mechanical inspiration.