Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Health, Damage and LORE

 … so the UK distributor for The Green Knight has just pulled the film from release. No word on when it’s delayed to, or if it’s coming out here at all. This is of course after it was initially pushed back from May last year…


As I said last week, I was going to use the Green Knight RPG to round out my new combat minigame, but I’ve already decided to save that game until I’ve seen the movie.

Bit distraught tbh. But! Let’s crack on with what we have.

From the RPG box art!

Next piece of the puzzle is how health and damage works here. We can make attacks, the timing system and enemy turns are there, but we don’t yet know what either player or enemy attacks *do*.

Here’s what I’m leaning towards at the moment:

Enemy attacks/player HP: The Overkill idea still seems good to me. I toyed with the notion of OK equaling damage, 3 over “midnight” and you lose 3 “hp” or whatever.

This makes sense in that the more you fuck up the better a hit the enemy can land on you, but it’s a bit bland and 100% of that info is coming from player actions. Which is not necessarily bad, it’s where the system trends in general, but I can see it leaving enemies feeling a bit same-y. What could you do with that number - a base attack bonus stat for enemies, so they all do OK+Stat damage? Fine, but there’s barely any granularity there and now literally all that differentiates baddies is whether they’re a +1, +2, etc. Up to like maybe +5 max before it gets silly. Or, is this “rating” the max damage a baddie can do? As in, no matter how much OK they rack up a “level 1” guy does 1 damage?

Regardless of if I use the OK number straight or not, there clearly needs to be another layer to bad guy attacks. I don’t mind them being defined by their attacks, like the attack is the whole statblock, but that’s even more of a reason for things to be interesting. And variable! They should do different things, maybe at different times or stages of a fight.

Anyway, that’s where that is. Enemy attacks should be cooler and do more, but I don’t know what “more” can look like just yet, other things need to be clearer first.

Player attacks/Enemy HP: current thought: a successful attack deals a Hit. To kill a foe, roll 2d6 under the number of Hits you’ve scored on them.

So like a killing blow. The dolorous stroke that fells the beast! Adds another layer of push-your-luck - do you potentially waste your turn trying to kill an enemy with low hits to save yourself more battle damage? Or do you keep fighting until the kill is a sure thing, all the while getting closer to death yourself? (Again… how that works is as yet ambiguous but bear with me.)

I quite like this so far - but to answer questions about where to go from here we need to know some bigger picture stuff. So it’s time to zoom out a bit.

Micah Ulrich

In my post way back when about the mood board I mentioned how nailing your aesthetic first helps you creatively later. If you have a range of viable options, or just aren’t sure what the next step in your design process is, having a solid idea of what the theoretical final thing looks like, feels like, all that, will really help.

So here, I’m not sure what direction to take health and damage. Should the game feel gritty, on a knife edge? Are these heroic battles, duels, hunts, fights to the death or ritual slaughter? Who is the player character and what kinds of things do they fight  - what should it look like in the mind’s eye when they take or land a hit?

Once we know these things, the right mechanical choice will reveal itself. Is the idea.

So here’s where I’m at with the game’s aesthetic - yes, it’s a “game” now. Might as well be. (And of course this is all subject to change, the point is to have a general idea of where we’re going so as not to wander aimlessly, rather than to set anything in stone this early on.)

Influences: The Green Knight (*sniff*). Other Arthurian legends, leaning towards pre-Christian Celtic and some medieval tales more than later romantic revivals but it’s all fair game. Adjacent Celtic legends, chiefly Welsh/Cornish/Breton. Dark Souls. Bits of Berserk. Dark Cloud and Dragon’s Crown. Nature as inexorable, humanity as bright, callow, feeble and dead. The Otherworld - Annwn, faerie, the liminal. Dingy castles, daring knights. A melancholic contemplation of one’s duty. Lush forests and quiet ruins. Rain.

Basically, the general aesthetic of the non-gonzo fantasy stuff I’ve done here on the Graverobber’s Guide over the years. This is a project I’ve noodled with on an off for a long while without writing about it here, and it’s existed in some form or another since before I started blogging, so this vibe has made itself known in places before, I’m sure. BUTCHERY comes to mind, and a few choice posts.

So does this help us make design decisions?

Hmm, let’s see.

Zé Burnay

Well, I think our player character is a knight, that much is clear. And I reckon these fights are duels, they’ll be fighting other knights - monstrous and inhuman perhaps, but there’s a sad kind of chivalric code behind it all. Twisted ancient kings waiting in their crumbled castles, unable to deny a challenge.

Which leads me to think that you’re a kind of psychopomp? In a Dark Souls-y way, kind of. Maybe you’re Gwyn ap Nudd or the equivalent, on your Wild Hunt, claiming souls for the Otherworld. Wandering the realm of the living, taking out these knights who cling so hard to the old code that they just… don’t seem to die properly. The Empire has fallen, nature has reclaimed the land, and yet these relics persist. And they will answer only to the sword. So, with a kind of quiet dignity, you end their reigns one by one.

(I think “but you’re dead” is a decent enough twist on the basic English fantasy thing? My favourite is still “but you’re a mouse” but Mausritter went and perfected that so here we are)

Or something to that effect. Point is, I’ve figured out the “killing blow” - it’s a ritual to take the soul. Hence why they won’t die otherwise. (And didn’t I say last post that “colossal” rolls will probably end up being spells? It’s almost like I know what I’m doing. Almost.) Tie the spell to a key item like every other action, an amulet or summat. And you can use the 13-hour “clock” to track Hits, since there’ll be no need to go over 13 if you’re rolling 2d6 under em. So a second “hand” token can do that.

Player HP then? I reckon we need to use that dial again. Maybe yet another “hand” can start at 13 and track anti-clockwise as your foe’s spectral blows threaten to rend your tether to this realm before you do the same to them. Maybe if they get you to 0 you get 1 more turn as they prepare *their* killing blow? We’ll see.

(Also - clock it ain’t. We’re pre-clock. I’m thinking “zodiac”, or some wheel representing the seasons or the cycle of life. Like a tapestry. Oooh, on a cloth mat, or a wooden version with little engraved coins, and, custom dice and - wait. What am i saying. Things cost money.)

Enemy attacks are the biggest question. I’m picturing disproportionate FromSoftware knights swinging brutal and ornate weapons… Maybe one or two have a “fire” or “poison” effect but there needs to be a more basic form of differentiation and interest so that these relatively of-a-kind Big Metal Boys feel distinct. Since everything on the player’s side is so item/inventory based, maybe it’s keyed off different armour pieces that offer protections from certain damage “tags”? But then that just makes pre-battle a box-ticking exercise over a choice… It needs to come back to the clock, the timing. (Sorry, not the clock. The… dial? Let’s say dial for now. Shadows on a sundial.)

Hmm. Still needs some thought.

Well, I hope that was a vaguely entertaining ramble in lieu of something actually Green Knight related. I’m enjoying doing all my design thinking on this project in post form like this, so I hope it has some value for those of you reading, too!

Next, enemies I think. Then items, then something we can play.


Mufn said...

thought: treat OK similar to 4e Bloodied, and then give each enemy a few nasty attacks/effects/behaviors when OK procs and gove more options to more dangerous enemies

D. G. Chapman said...

I’m heading in a similar direction I think!

Archon said...

What I was thinking about enemy stats, based only on your first post, was that different attacks would be keyed to different amounts of overkill, and do special things: a dragon hits you with a claw, but at 4 OK they grab you in a bite, and at 8 they breathe fire. That kind of thing.

This way, even though all monsters can do is attack, they have different attacks that do different, particular things, instead of just being an increasing damage number.

D. G. Chapman said...

That was my initial idea and it could work - I’m thinking of something simpler for now, but will be keeping that as an option for more complex/dangerous foes down the road!