Wednesday, 28 August 2019

a "REACH" fangame - brainstorm

I did something like this once before.

Basically, if an artist I like posts something cool, and I think it would work great as a premise for a game, and I'm inspired enough that my game design notions turn into game design notes, I do a "fanart" game. I can't draw, so this is my way of engaging with that inspiration and creating something.

This time, my thoughts are still v fresh, so you're getting my raw notes/brainstorming. I wondered whether this would be worth a post - last time I posted a finished game, and even when I designed a game from scratch on this blog I'd already done the brainstorming work and got basically right into mechanics.

But i think demystifying the process is good! A while ago I watched Adam Koebel livestream himself designing an RPG from scratch and it was heartening to see that a Professional Game Designer's first draft was a word document of random notes, same as mine. Now that I'm kind of a Professional Game Designer myself, maybe someone will find these notes useful too.

by Jack McGee

This time round, my inspiration is this badass concept by Jack McGee (@Drooling_Demon on Twitter). Eldritch horrors from a dimension beyond our own latch onto hosts who use them for cool fights, summoning parts of their Behemoth through surfaces like walls and floors. The different body parts and abilities each Behemoth has influences their partner's fighting style, and the partner also gains some aspect of the Behemoth's power permanently.

I suggested a name for the thing on twitter: REACH

Yes, it's very cool and very anime. You should check out Jack's webcomic Star Impact too, it's awesome.

My initial idea for a tabletop RPG wasn't one I could make work. Reliance on 3D space isn't something tabletop games do especially well, at least not to the relatively granular degree I think this concept necessitates, and certainly not through theatre of the mind which is the realm of spatial abstraction I generally prefer designing in. Video games do "space" really well, but I, uh, can't do computer.

The tabletop idea that stuck with me though, was a card game.

look how cool!
you should for sure check out more of their stuff on Twitter
TCGs are prohibitively expensive, so it'd be a self-contained thing. 1v1 competitive play, with each player using a character card and a corresponding Behemoth deck.

The character card remains out at all times. I'm taking a lot of inspiration from Yu-Gi-Oh (which btw is very D&D and has great monsters for your games). I feel like the battle shonen vibe is appropriate here. The character cards face off, with a certain amount of HP, and attacks or abilities they can use on each player's turn. First player to defeat their opponent wins.

Meanwhile, each player is drawing cards from their deck to summon Behemoth cards and play them in (5? 3?) spaces in front of their character. These spaces are that abstraction of physical space we were after - there would be just enough that the board feels a little cramped.

Might do it like Yu-Gi-Oh, where you can't directly attack the opponent (in this case their character) without clearing the field of obstacles or using an ability to do "piercing" damage.

These cards represent aspects of their Behemoth (Eye of Beholder, Left Arm of Seraph, etc.) and have effects - bonus to attack; this card attacks on its own; disable enemy effects; get more cards... Other things that augment their character's specific abilities. There are decades of TCG mechanics to draw on here. Behemoth cards would all have their own HP, and can be targeted for attacks and destroyed.

Then, another mechanic taken from Yu-Gi-Oh, but also used in things like Pokemon. You can play weaker Behemoth cards straight from your hand, then remove them from play to swap in a stronger card from your deck (or a sub-deck, to prevent dead draws). Two Eyes of Beholder are worth a Beholder's Maw, or three for a Beholder's Many Eyes. Bigger cards with better effects.

Or: Can you open up more spaces? And maybe better cards take up more spaces? That's a better literal reflection of the premise, but I'm not sure it's a better game mechanic.

Here is cool-ass fanart of an original Behemoth by Dragon Princess Green on Twitter.

I'd keep things slow, with relatively small numbers. A strategic, thinky game, working on getting your own engine up and running while making sacrifices and setting traps for your opponent as they try to clear vital parts of your game plan off the board.

For more variance, and to bring in more of the concept of physical space, there could be a third, "neutral" deck representing the fields of battle. "Downtown City" cards, or "Ancient Labyrinth". The place our characters are fighting in. A roster would be drawn into the middle of the field, and players could take cards from it as opposed to their deck in order to change up their strategy based on the various benefits the terrain might offer them.

(Not sure about that bit. Seems like a lot of work. Would make battles more thematic and cool tho... Each game with a new combination of opponents and location would be like a new episode of an anime.)

... Anyway, those are my thoughts so far!

This would require a lot of balancing and work, so if I do any more with it it'll just be now and then in my spare time.

In any case it feels good to just do a full-on rambling, idea-splurge post again.

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