PDA

View Full Version : Things that behave like hitpoints but aren't hitpoints



NichG
2019-05-24, 10:51 AM
It's about that time of the campaign cycle where I have to start thinking about the next system/campaign I'm going to write, and I'm trying to collect my thoughts on function and dysfunction in other games I've run or played in to come up with the next experiment.

This time, I'm thinking about the way that forces external to a character can impose involuntary shifts. One mechanic which I've used extensively in the last few campaigns is the idea of making all externally proposed shifts in a character's state voluntary, but where refusal has a cost. So e.g. 'you can dodge any attack, but it costs stamina points proportional to the effectiveness of the attacker versus your defense' and things like that. One consequence of a system like that is that until the bidding resource starts to gets scarce, interactions tend to be very samey, at which point things suddenly get lethal (or serious) fast. To put it another way, the bidding system increases the strategic depth for the defender at the cost of decreasing the strategic depth for the attacker. As the defender, you can find yourself in situations where you have to think deeply about whether you would rather be slowed down for the rest of the fight or suffer a long-term wound for example; but as the attacker, there are scarce reasons to use the 'slow down' power when you might as well just use the lethal one and force them to spend points unless action economy shenanigans are in play (which is what I did in some of those systems).

This was a long-winded way of getting to the point that generally, players want to feel like their character has a proactive defense against effects like being mind-controlled, knocked out, disabled, etc (even if it's only something like rolling a saving throw), but with something like hitpoint damage there's a range of damage values where it's easy for players to shrug off if it happens more or less involuntarily. If you're fighting a dozen kobolds and a few land blows to the tune of 10% of your hitpoints without you engaging in that process, that's okay. For the current idea I'm rolling around, the thought is to use that kind of hitpoint-like response but rather than tying it to a life-or-death question, I want to tie it to other parts of a character's mechanics or role in the scene. For example, take the game Long Live the Queen, where managing mood bars determines the rate at which you improve at different skills. Another analogy would be the distance between people in a chase scene - you can run to increase/decrease the distance in an additive way, but so can they; the interaction doesn't center around no-selling the ability of the other person to move, but rather centers on out-moving them.

I'm thinking of something in which character abilities are tied to particular sweet spots on a kind of mood bar. I'm not sure whether that mood bar should belong to each character or the scene as a whole. Actions taken by other characters, enemies, or the character themselves could (either directly or as a byproduct) shift the mood involuntarily - no way for a character to no-sell the effect, it's an involuntary shift that can be imposed by things happening around you. However, by investing resources, a character can do things like increase the windows over which their abilities can be used, invest in abilities that let them move their own mood more strongly, etc.

I don't have a fully formed question to ask the forum, but I'd be interested in discussing things in this space of concepts to see if it leads to interesting ideas of directions to develop these ideas in.

DevilMcam
2019-05-24, 11:10 AM
What in the concept of hitpoints bother you ?

Actually hitpoints do not need to be tied life or death.
All you need is gentleman agreement with the player.
When you are down to 0 it means you've lost the fight and something bad Will happen, but not death. Now if you want to push the limit, you could still fight, but you have chances of dying, loosing limbs, etc

Arbane
2019-05-24, 11:11 AM
If you haven't seen them already, you might want to take a look at how Fate uses Stress and Consquences, and Tenra Bansho Zero's wound-levels, which sound a bit like what you want.

NichG
2019-05-24, 11:13 AM
It's not that the concept of hitpoints bothers me, it's that I want to borrow aspects of the concept of hitpoints and attach them to other things in order to increase strategic depth.

Edit: will check out Tenra Bansho Zero. Fate's consequences aren't quite the direction I meant though. The effects don't have to be strictly negative.

DevilMcam
2019-05-24, 11:17 AM
If 5e succes told us something, It's keep it simple and it Will work wonderfully

Vogie
2019-05-24, 12:34 PM
You could have a portion of your hit points divvy'd up between the various stats in your game.

For example, in 5e/PF2 there are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma as character stats. Whenever a character is dealt damage after a certain period (after half-hp, for example), you could state that further damage also impacts one of their stats. Using 5e/PF2 as an example:

Charisma damage messes up their face, ego, or both. This may give the target a nasty-looking scar, make them feel worthless, and the like
Wisdom Damage impacts their field of view, insight, or both. This causes them to miss something - they may keep attacking things already dead, run off in the wrong direction, or misinterpret directions & social queues.
Intelligence Damage screws with their reasoning or memory. They may temporarily forget a skill, misidentify friends as foes (or vice versa), or be easily distracted as their mind literally wanders
Strength Damage messes with the effectiveness of the body in an active sense - making melee blows weaker, causing exhaustion, chance to disarm or grapple, shortening jump distances or ability to dash
Constitution Damage, on the other hand, messes with the effectiveness of the body in a passive sense - reducing healing received, chance to blind, deafen or outright stun the creature
Dexterity Damage impacts the reflexive nature of the body - making them easier to hit, sending them reeling backwards in initiative order, or cause their hands or body to shake, screwing up stealth or ranged weapon attacks.

You could do the same thing with whatever stats you base your character sheet on.

NichG
2019-05-24, 09:06 PM
I probably need to clarify this - I'm not looking to make a damage track. The thing about hitpoints I want to use is that small changes can be involuntary without too much impact, but many small changes can accumulate into big effects if the source isn't somehow dealt with or mitigated.

So for example, a temperature bar for the scene that starts at 25, and gets pushed up or down as characters throw around fire spells, ice spells, break down walls, etc. If fire magic gets enhanced in the 50+ range and ice in the 0- range, then fire mages want to keep it hot (without it being so hot that they take damage) and ice mages want to keep it cold (without it being so cold that they take damage) and others want it to stay in the center - so there's a potential extra layer of strategy associated with managing the scene temperature to be favorable to your side.

Or in a romantic comedy system, there could be a bar determining how seriously the events are being taken with respect to relationship progression (a comedy/seriousness rating), where if a romantic rival is about to have a deep moment, another character can take silly actions to try to make it count for less.

The reason I'm relating this to hitpoints is that HP are an attrition mechanic, in contrast to e.g. someone having an ability that lets them outright tag the scene with 'on fire' unless someone else uses a hard counter.

Dimers
2019-05-24, 09:50 PM
The concept you're thinking of, how does it compare to games about bidding?

Medici's main resources are money and cargo space. Money is also victory points in the game but (basically) you have to spend if you want to earn. The game's bidding is in small, discrete packets, so you're unlikely to spend so much $$/VP in one bout that you "knock yourself out". But it's possible to spend enough that the other players can take advantage of your "damaged" state by bidding more than you can match. And everyone gets "knocked out" over the course of the bidding day by the limitations of cargo space and card availability.

Another board game with maybe-relevant mechanics is Pillars of the Earth. There are a lot more resources to manage in that one, but again money makes a good hit point equivalent. You can't spend so much money that you stop being able to act, but you'll face a wide variety of problems. Money buys resources, tools, sometimes VP, calamity resistance, and most importantly, initiative. Yet having the most money won't win you the game -- you need to transform it into VP somehow.

How fine-grained do you want your HP-alike resource to be?
Should the players be able to spend it to gain something? How incentivized should they be, if so?
Do you want the consequence of losing the HP-alike to be only a passive opportunity cost and threat state, or should it be actively harmful?
What breadth of in-game resources should interact with the HP-alike?
Do you want loss of the resource to accelerate? slow down? act with inertia either way? not change?
Will the players have different ways from each other to interact with the resource?

Spore
2019-05-24, 09:54 PM
A small indie (well, the company is actually just graphic design and does this as a fun side activity) RPG called Degenesis did this acceptable imho and very simply:

You have a Body+Will attributes that determine your Trauma, your ACTUAL hit points. Each point lost constitutes in a dice less in your dice pool (which is significant in a game where you have 1-6 dice regularly, going up to 10). Normal people have about 4 such points (keep in mind you are hospitalized for a week for EACH point).

Then you have Toughness (BOD) as a skill that determines your "flesh wounds". Yes, cue Monty Python. These do not affect your combat prowess. (Normal people have about 8-10 of those).

A normal game goes like the following: A sword does do 7+[Melee(BOD)]/2 damage, you have like 2-4 armor and the enemy has to hit. With a decent armor you take 3-4 damage a turn (rifles and ranged weapons actually deal more but ammo is scarce).

I tend to rule injuries after the same ratio and principle. 2/3 to 3/4s of HP are fleshwounds, fatigue and whatnot. The last part is actual injuries.

NichG
2019-05-24, 10:32 PM
The concept you're thinking of, how does it compare to games about bidding?

Medici's main resources are money and cargo space. Money is also victory points in the game but (basically) you have to spend if you want to earn. The game's bidding is in small, discrete packets, so you're unlikely to spend so much $$/VP in one bout that you "knock yourself out". But it's possible to spend enough that the other players can take advantage of your "damaged" state by bidding more than you can match. And everyone gets "knocked out" over the course of the bidding day by the limitations of cargo space and card availability.

Another board game with maybe-relevant mechanics is Pillars of the Earth. There are a lot more resources to manage in that one, but again money makes a good hit point equivalent. You can't spend so much money that you stop being able to act, but you'll face a wide variety of problems. Money buys resources, tools, sometimes VP, calamity resistance, and most importantly, initiative. Yet having the most money won't win you the game -- you need to transform it into VP somehow.

How fine-grained do you want your HP-alike resource to be?
Should the players be able to spend it to gain something? How incentivized should they be, if so?
Do you want the consequence of losing the HP-alike to be only a passive opportunity cost and threat state, or should it be actively harmful?
What breadth of in-game resources should interact with the HP-alike?
Do you want loss of the resource to accelerate? slow down? act with inertia either way? not change?
Will the players have different ways from each other to interact with the resource?

I will probably have a parallel bidding system for consequences. Maybe a good way to think about it is more like poker, where there's both bidding (well, betting) but also an external factor that individually changes whether it's advantageous for each player to bid deeply or shallowly. Except, unlike poker, I want characters to be able to intentionally try to maneuver their own odds and the odds of their opposition.

The bidding systems I've used in recent systems basically work like this: you've got pools of resources to spend, that are used both to try to pin a consequence on a target and to no-sell consequences being pinned on you. Steeper consequences cost more up front to initiate, but are the same cost to block. In theory that means the optimal strategy is to push the minimal consequences that are still bad enough that the opponent will block. However, gameplay-wise this tends to be very flat for the first few rounds - until points get low, all the game state changes are only taking place in the resource pools. So there's no sense of maneuvering beyond just trying to spend less per round than the enemy. It gets interesting when long-term consequences can be accepted in exchange for victory, but that's usually very end- loaded. Alternately, if they can assemble the mechanics for it, the other thing that happens is the party immediately going all-in on an all or nothing alpha strike.

The underlying conceit that these bidding systems preserve is the idea that narratively dangerous things are dangerous, but not inherently risky by virtue of their danger. So sparring on a tightrope above lava is fine and no one will just fall in by accident, but if someone allows themselves to fall then they'll die. The danger is valuable in enforcing the need to bid, not because it overwhelms the target's ability to block. So in a system like this, there are no save-or-dies, but a defeated character might be mind-controlled rather than killed for example.

Anyhow, to fix the stagnant early part/alpha strike dichotomy, I want things that play the role of ablative maneuvering. Create weakness first, so your points are worth more in the bidding when it matters. Also, if there's a tug of war over game state, I think that helps create sub goals, secondary objectives, and a more diverse set of ways for characters to interact with the conflict.

With that in mind, I don't see the players spending this ablative resource, but I do see it acting as a gate limiting which abilities or bonuses can be brought to bear in the more central bidding mechanic. Characters should interact with it differently and benefit from it differently. The tug of war aspect seems promising, so I think it would be good for changes to accelerate naturally, but even an attacker doesn't want to let that go uncontrolled.

Here's a sort of mockup system/setting for this. Everyone in the setting is associated with an 'upper' soul that is cold and rational and a 'lower' soul that is passionate and emotional. At +100 they transform into an avatar of their upper soul and get corresponding powerful bonuses. At -100 they transform into an avatar of their lower soul and get powerful but different bonuses. At -25 .. 25 they can use powerful skills associated with maintaining balance.

If you can hold an enemy at -50, say, then they lose the balance skills but don't gain the demon transformation bonuses. But if it's easier to decrease the bar if you're already deeply negative or increase if you're deeply positive, there will be some point at which the enemy says 'fine, you put me at -50? I'll make the run for -100!'

If that's the basic setup, characters could have individual abilities that e.g. change the step size, move the transformation points, create new skill windows (I don't get balance skills at -50, but I gain access to demon fire!), let them manipulate their own values (rational angel power - moral outrage: convert +mood to -mood if above 70), etc.

Telok
2019-05-24, 10:41 PM
Dungeons the Dragoning 40k has a split between wounds and critical wounds. Wounds work like hit points and everyone will have 5 to 20 (really, max 20 without serious stat & feat investments, serious serious investments). There are spells and drugs and abilities to give temporary wounds and to heal wounds. Once you run out of wounds you take crits.

Crits care what part of the body they hit. Characters can lose limbs, eyes, ears, break bones, start bleeding to death, be stunned, fatigued, or knocked out. Crits always require actual rest and medical care. They heal at one point per week per body part. The only option to speed that up is replacing lost limbs and organs with cyberware or a week long regeneration spell.

lefty2shoes
2019-05-24, 11:29 PM
Neat ideas. There are a lot of game systems out there that do similar things. Of course the more you track, the slower things get. Even HP get glossed over a bit in game. I once adapter the magic system to use speel points and casters could go into negatives but ran the risk of causing damage to themselves.

Kadzar
2019-05-25, 02:36 PM
The bidding systems I've used in recent systems basically work like this: you've got pools of resources to spend, that are used both to try to pin a consequence on a target and to no-sell consequences being pinned on you. Steeper consequences cost more up front to initiate, but are the same cost to block. In theory that means the optimal strategy is to push the minimal consequences that are still bad enough that the opponent will block. However, gameplay-wise this tends to be very flat for the first few rounds - until points get low, all the game state changes are only taking place in the resource pools. So there's no sense of maneuvering beyond just trying to spend less per round than the enemy. It gets interesting when long-term consequences can be accepted in exchange for victory, but that's usually very end- loaded. Alternately, if they can assemble the mechanics for it, the other thing that happens is the party immediately going all-in on an all or nothing alpha strike.

The underlying conceit that these bidding systems preserve is the idea that narratively dangerous things are dangerous, but not inherently risky by virtue of their danger. So sparring on a tightrope above lava is fine and no one will just fall in by accident, but if someone allows themselves to fall then they'll die. The danger is valuable in enforcing the need to bid, not because it overwhelms the target's ability to block. So in a system like this, there are no save-or-dies, but a defeated character might be mind-controlled rather than killed for example.

If encounters are flat in the beginning because everyone always no-sells everything, maybe consider removing the ability to completely no-sell or at least make it more expensive. You could make it so that you can only downgrade consequences to a lesser, likely more temporary form, and/or allow them to take on a different kind of consequence instead.

So, for example, someone sparring on a tightrope over lava might dodge out of the way of an attack, and they wouldn't be knocked into the lava, but they might be temporarily knocked off balance so that they're easier to hit or maybe need to take an action to rebalance before they can make an attack of their own.

Telok
2019-05-25, 02:56 PM
Thought: introduce a measure of success to the bidding. Just barely out-bidding only gets a bare minimum (blocked the attack but there's a cost beyond just the resource spent, an action, reaction, or fatigue point?). Out-bidding the by more gets you free of that minimum cost. More and you get an opportunity to spend an action or something to make a ripost. Enormously out-bid the attack and it's a free ripost attack.

NichG
2019-05-25, 08:27 PM
Thought: introduce a measure of success to the bidding. Just barely out-bidding only gets a bare minimum (blocked the attack but there's a cost beyond just the resource spent, an action, reaction, or fatigue point?). Out-bidding the by more gets you free of that minimum cost. More and you get an opportunity to spend an action or something to make a ripost. Enormously out-bid the attack and it's a free ripost attack.

There's already something like this in the system. Poison for example has to be fully Dodged or it has a secondary effect. But it doesn't really make things any more richly stateful, which is the underlying issue. The combat state can still be summarized by asking 'are they low enough in resources that effects start landing?'

geppetto
2019-05-25, 11:17 PM
Some pro wrestling video games I can think of did something like this. Theres a momentum bar that you build up by pummelling the other guy and whene its high enough you can hit your special moves and win the match. Getting hit or going too long without hitting lowered your momentum.

Different characters had different charisma scores that build up momentum faster or slower.

You could do something like that, combat would be easy, just use HP damage that builds up momentum in addition to doing damage. Other sorts of scenes might build in different ways, by casting spells for instance or making a relevant social check.

Do caster level, or CHR ability mod as "damage" for each success to build up the bar. Things like that.

The only real hassle would be that you would wind up probably needing to make a lot of ad hoc rulings for different situations as they came up and what would happen at the different thresholds. But thats not really all that bad.

DCraw
2019-05-26, 12:16 AM
Some pro wrestling video games I can think of did something like this. Theres a momentum bar that you build up by pummelling the other guy and whene its high enough you can hit your special moves and win the match. Getting hit or going too long without hitting lowered your momentum.

Different characters had different charisma scores that build up momentum faster or slower.

You could do something like that, combat would be easy, just use HP damage that builds up momentum in addition to doing damage. Other sorts of scenes might build in different ways, by casting spells for instance or making a relevant social check.

Do caster level, or CHR ability mod as "damage" for each success to build up the bar. Things like that.

The only real hassle would be that you would wind up probably needing to make a lot of ad hoc rulings for different situations as they came up and what would happen at the different thresholds. But thats not really all that bad.

Exalted 3E does something similar.

They have two types of abstract attacks, withering attacks and decisive attacks. Withering attacks are attacks that miss or graze the opponent, but push them off balance as they dodge or parry, or deliberate feints trying to force an opening. They don't do any damage directly, but they shift the momentum of the battle (confusingly called Initiative), granting Initiative to one combatant and taking it from the other. Once a combatant has feels they have enough Initiative, they may choose to attempt a decisive attack. Decisive attacks are attacks that directly hurt the enemy, running them through, breaking bones, decapitation, etc. If a decisive attack hits, the Initiative is cashed in and used as a dicepool to roll damage.

Telok
2019-05-26, 04:45 AM
There's already something like this in the system. Poison for example has to be fully Dodged or it has a secondary effect. But it doesn't really make things any more richly stateful, which is the underlying issue. The combat state can still be summarized by asking 'are they low enough in resources that effects start landing?'

Hmm. Not quite what I was thinking perhaps. I was on my phone when the thought hit and couldn't remember the phrase 'degrees of success', so I don;t think I explained it well.

Say you've got a set up where two evenly matched opponents have 50 stamina and there's some sort of meaningful secondary resource, it could be a fatigue counter, a 'reaction' for an off-turn action, narrative power bennies, initiative on the fight, whatever. It just matters that people care about that second resource, that it's useful and interacts with combat in some way.

Your standard pattern, the one you don't want, currently looks like both combatants spending 5 points of stamina to attack and 5 points of stamina to defend. So it's five rounds of yawning before someone suddenly dies or gets maimed or something.

The new pattern using degrees of success looks more like this: A bids 5 stamina to attack B. B can bid 5 stamina and use up his secondary resource for this round, that will negate the attack. But if B wants that resource for something else he can outbid by 5 to not use it when negating the attack. Thus B can bid 10 to retain the secondary resource. If B bids 15, over-bidding by 10 points, he can invoke a riposte attack by spending the resource. If B bids 20 stamina he gets the riposte without spending the resource.

Essentially you're giving people a reason to spend more stamina points faster because it can affect something else or force the other person to react to it by spending even more points. Lets say that the secondary resource is the ability to bid stamina to defend yourself at a 1-to-1 ratio. Call it 'reactions' and give everyone two of them every round. If you have to defend yourself when you're out of reactions then you bid stamina at a 3-to-1 ratio. So character A declares an attack on character B and spends the minimum 5 stamina. B uses one reaction to bid 20 stamina, getting that no-reaction-cost riposte, and bids 5 on the riposte. B has spent half of his 50 stamina. Now A has a choice to either use both his reactions and bid 5 stamina to block the riposte, use one reaction and bid 10 stamina to block, use both reactions and bid 15 to block and get his own riposte, or use one reaction and spend 20 stamina block and get a riposte. Whatever A chooses will have consequences in the next round.

Of course while typing this I've realized that I don't know what your round/action set up looks like. My idea was predicated on each actor getting a distinct action during a round, bidding it up, and others having a chance to bid to block them. If you're doing something where everyone declares and bids, then highest bidder wins then this might not work. Although with that set up there's an incentive to bid a lot of stamina at the beginning to drain the opponent's stamina in one shot and deny them actions. I dunno, devils in the details.

I think the base idea here is really a secondary resource of some sort that can be overcome by possibly spending enough stamina to start landing hits early. But that resource has to have some sort of enabling effect so that people don't just use it as a sort of secondary stamina pool.

NichG
2019-05-26, 05:36 AM
Hmm. Not quite what I was thinking perhaps. I was on my phone when the thought hit and couldn't remember the phrase 'degrees of success', so I don;t think I explained it well.

Say you've got a set up where two evenly matched opponents have 50 stamina and there's some sort of meaningful secondary resource, it could be a fatigue counter, a 'reaction' for an off-turn action, narrative power bennies, initiative on the fight, whatever. It just matters that people care about that second resource, that it's useful and interacts with combat in some way.

Your standard pattern, the one you don't want, currently looks like both combatants spending 5 points of stamina to attack and 5 points of stamina to defend. So it's five rounds of yawning before someone suddenly dies or gets maimed or something.

The new pattern using degrees of success looks more like this: A bids 5 stamina to attack B. B can bid 5 stamina and use up his secondary resource for this round, that will negate the attack. But if B wants that resource for something else he can outbid by 5 to not use it when negating the attack. Thus B can bid 10 to retain the secondary resource. If B bids 15, over-bidding by 10 points, he can invoke a riposte attack by spending the resource. If B bids 20 stamina he gets the riposte without spending the resource.

Essentially you're giving people a reason to spend more stamina points faster because it can affect something else or force the other person to react to it by spending even more points. Lets say that the secondary resource is the ability to bid stamina to defend yourself at a 1-to-1 ratio. Call it 'reactions' and give everyone two of them every round. If you have to defend yourself when you're out of reactions then you bid stamina at a 3-to-1 ratio. So character A declares an attack on character B and spends the minimum 5 stamina. B uses one reaction to bid 20 stamina, getting that no-reaction-cost riposte, and bids 5 on the riposte. B has spent half of his 50 stamina. Now A has a choice to either use both his reactions and bid 5 stamina to block the riposte, use one reaction and bid 10 stamina to block, use both reactions and bid 15 to block and get his own riposte, or use one reaction and spend 20 stamina block and get a riposte. Whatever A chooses will have consequences in the next round.

Of course while typing this I've realized that I don't know what your round/action set up looks like. My idea was predicated on each actor getting a distinct action during a round, bidding it up, and others having a chance to bid to block them. If you're doing something where everyone declares and bids, then highest bidder wins then this might not work. Although with that set up there's an incentive to bid a lot of stamina at the beginning to drain the opponent's stamina in one shot and deny them actions. I dunno, devils in the details.

I think the base idea here is really a secondary resource of some sort that can be overcome by possibly spending enough stamina to start landing hits early. But that resource has to have some sort of enabling effect so that people don't just use it as a sort of secondary stamina pool.

Well I'm not sure it makes sense to get too deep into the details of how I did it before since I'm going to be writing an updated system anyhow, but for sake of being explicit about things...


Characters have Body, Mind, and Spirit pools. Attacks can target Body, Mind, or Spirit and a given attack can have a Primary and Secondary consequence. Characters can spend 4 points base to Endure or 6 points base to Evade, with things like dice rolls, skill ratings, or special passives modifying those costs - generally up to three times the base cost at a maximum. If you Endure, you accept the Secondary and avoid the Primary. If you Evade, you avoid both. Special abilities cost points from a pool to activate - not necessarily the same pool that is being used to defend. Body points are fully restored by an hour's rest, Mind by a day's rest, and Spirit points are restored at a base rate of 1/game with some ways to speed it up.

A round might look like -

A: I'm going to spend 3 Body to activate Whirling Blades and use it with my flaming sword. The sword threatens 5 damage to Vitality (it's a stat which generally goes from 2..6, KO if 0 or below) on hit as Primary, the flaming effect means they'll catch fire and lose a Body point a round until they put it out if they eat the secondary, and the special ability means that even though I made one attack, everyone around me has to defend. My skill/roll puts this at a 40.

Enemy 1: My passive defense is at 30, so I need to spend one unit worth of Evade, which I do (-6 Body).
Enemy 2: My passive defense is at 20, so I'd need to spend two units worth of Evade or Endure. It's not worth the extra 4 Body to Evade, so I'll Endure and eat the secondary.
Enemy 3: My passive defense is 45, so I'm fine.
Enemy 4: My passive defense is crap, but I've got 6 Vitality so I'll let the thing land.

B: I'm spending 1 Spirit to create an aura of valor. All allied attacks gain a Secondary of generating 5 points of leverage if they hit. (Leverage is a momentum resource that anyone on a given side can take to add to a roll that opposes the other side)

Enemy 1: I'm using petrifying gaze for 6 Mind. The Primary is that the target is turned to stone, instant KO. Targets Body. No other effects. Rolled a 30.

B: Endure (-4 Body).

Enemy 2: B really likes their spirit powers, so this'll cost me but it's worth it. Possession costs me 6 Spirit to activate, but if I pull it off then B's soul is in my body and vice versa as a Primary. Secondary is that the target's mental and spiritual powers cost +1 to activate for the rest of the combat. Rolled a 40.

B: Blarg. Ok, I have to double-Endure. Let's find a spirit fountain after this, okay?

Enemy 3: I'm going to take a potshot at A with my duel-wielded pistols. Primary is 3 Vitality, no Secondary, but because of the Rank 5 waza my attack procs twice. Rolled a 30.

A: Luckily, my passive defense covered the roll, so I avoid both with no cost.

Enemy 4: I spend 4 Mind to activate Rallying Cry. Add 6 Leverage to our pool.

C: #3 has an annoying physical defense, so lets go target Mind. I'm using Hall of Mirrors, an illusion effect that costs 3 Mind to activate, Primary is that the target loses their next two turns. Secondary is a -5 to things that require vision, and the leverage effect from the aura.

... and so on.


So, there can be some complexity in the choices you make, but things become rather compartmentalized into individual bidding decisions. I want it to be a bit more chess-like, where moves have knock-on effects that aren't immediately obvious and aren't necessarily easily categorized as 'good' or 'bad' for a particular side. Note that in this example, though there were lots of local optimization problems, globally everything could be summed up in how much Body/Mind/Spirit got spent. If you win all the individual hands in terms of resource balance, you'll probably win the encounter too. The Leverage effects are the thing in the current version of the system that's most like what this thread is about, though it's also kind of too straightforward for the sort of thing I want.

Cluedrew
2019-05-26, 08:36 AM
I have two ideas:
Accepting a consequence has a reward by returning some bidding points. This honestly sounds like a nightmare to balance but if you can get it to work you stop everyone from taking hits non-stop at the end because they will generate enough points to block things again. And it should amplify the effects of "I could block this but its not worth the points" because you have the points you would spend and the points you would regain.
Divide up the pools into sub-pools to repeat the process of running out of points multiple times. The simplest example is to add a rule that if you go below half your betting pool you take some ongoing consequence. Which should be bad enough that you can feel it but not so harsh you are out of the fight. So people will start accepting minor consequences more readily then but can still spend to not be put out of the fight. Divide the pool up more to repeat the effect more or calculate the size of each pool separately if you want a bit more room for character variance.

The other main variant I thought of for this is that it doesn't apply an ongoing consequence when a pool runs out, but rather a small temporary consequence every time you spend from a lower pool. This would mean that spending is always painful after a certain point instead of just crossing the thresholds. This might work better if you have fewer pools.

NichG
2019-05-26, 09:23 AM
So maybe it's useful to look at what the equivalent choices are to 'bid/no bid' in other systems. In something like D&D, a battlefield control effect creates a choice between 'do I move where I want to (but suffer the effects of the control zone) or do I move to avoid the zone'. I think as long as the choices can be reduced to bid/no bid (even if the consequences of that choice can be very involved), I won't really get the kind of richness I'm aiming for because there's only one kind of fork that can be created, and concluding the encounter necessarily involves pushing the decision about that fork in a given way - you can't win if you can't force the other side to spend.

Perhaps the better design is to keep the no-sell idea, but rather than having the trade-off be bidding from a resource pool, the trade-offs take the form of constraints on future actions. If the constraints are mandatory actions rather than forbidden actions, that could be more interesting. It creates a situation more like forcing moves in Go, where pressure is more about the ability to deny the opponent time to do what they want (because they're too busy putting out fires) than direct force or direct blocking.

So you'd have more things like 'if you don't move, you will be shot and seriously wounded; but if you move, you can guarantee that the shot will miss'. The resource pools/bidding could stick around, but rather than a generic 'Evade/Endure' thing, you'd have abilities that let you exchange one mandatory action for a mandatory action + a bit of leeway, if you spend the points. So an unskilled person can be pushed into a wall by leading fire, but a skilled person can use Roll to move in the opposite direction than where the gunner is trying to make them go.

If we're talking physical attacks and positioning, this kind of forcing move is obvious. I can also see what form it would take with social interactions. But I need to think if there's a general way of tying things together so it's not just a distinct system for each kind of activity.

Telok
2019-05-26, 01:24 PM
I think my idea could work depending on how leverage is handled and how usrful it is. Using the bare minimum to block costs leverage, over bidding a block gains leverage. That affects actions or outcomes further down the line right?

Or link it to movement and freedom? The minimum bid means the defender has to give ground or have their ability to move constrained into the next round, while an over bid lets them move into a better position off turn? It would be a bit like adding a third, automatic, effect to all attacks that's modified by the defender spending points. But it fits the goal of making things more chess/go like since they're all about advantageous positioning.

NichG
2019-05-26, 08:49 PM
The problem is, if it's still about the bidding then we don't really add the ability to vary the long term consequences to the attacker - everything still belongs to the defender's choice in the end.

So let's entirely drop the bidding system for a moment and think what the other direction might look like, while preserving the voluntary nature of defense against severe consequences.

Let's say that to land a given effect you need to have 0, 1, 2, or 3 'vulnerabilities' on the target aligned with your effect signature to exploit, depending on the effect severity. Influencing vulnerabilities can be done at 0. Debuffs at 1. Action loss/reduction at 2. KO/death/take over/etc at 3. Vulnerabilities need to be aligned with the signature of your intended move to be exploited, and rather than vulnerabilities being created or destroyed, they're primarily moved.

Let's say a default character has 5 vulnerabilities at all times, with a resting position placing one at each of 5 colors (white, black, green, blue, red for sake of concreteness). They might have a move that can change the color of one at will; another move that can change the color of two at once (but must be to the same color), or move three away from a particular color to others of their choice. Maybe they can also 'block' a vulnerability for a round at the cost of their movement, and a second if they sacrifice their entire round of actions to full defense.

Enemies could move 1, move 2 randomly, exploit a color to forbid a color, exploit, etc. Generally being a rainbow mage should be hard, so that a given character has at most two colors of KO moves.

Obviously action economy and focus fire become the most important things in a system like this. An enemy group that dedicates 4 characters to one target a round can guarantee taking out that target. So it's not a complete concept yet.

But if we consider 2 on 2 dynamics, I think the idea of 'too busy putting out fires to counterattack' starts to exist here. Let's say the enemy's big trick is that they can exploit a Green vulnerability to block vulnerabilities from being placed in Red. The defender is now going to have 2 of one color somewhere no matter what, and if that lands where an enemy can get at it then they're vulnerable to action denial attacks and a corresponding doom spiral. They might spend their round removing the effect, but if they can threaten a 3 on the enemy that their team member could attack, the enemy might be too busy blocking to exploit their 2.

This particular system doesn't stand on its own due to action economy issues, but maybe it describes the feel I'm aiming to add to the defender-focus of the bidding system.

geppetto
2019-05-26, 11:25 PM
The problem is, if it's still about the bidding then we don't really add the ability to vary the long term consequences to the attacker - everything still belongs to the defender's choice in the end.

So let's entirely drop the bidding system for a moment and think what the other direction might look like, while preserving the voluntary nature of defense against severe consequences.

Let's say that to land a given effect you need to have 0, 1, 2, or 3 'vulnerabilities' on the target aligned with your effect signature to exploit, depending on the effect severity. Influencing vulnerabilities can be done at 0. Debuffs at 1. Action loss/reduction at 2. KO/death/take over/etc at 3. Vulnerabilities need to be aligned with the signature of your intended move to be exploited, and rather than vulnerabilities being created or destroyed, they're primarily moved.

Let's say a default character has 5 vulnerabilities at all times, with a resting position placing one at each of 5 colors (white, black, green, blue, red for sake of concreteness). They might have a move that can change the color of one at will; another move that can change the color of two at once (but must be to the same color), or move three away from a particular color to others of their choice. Maybe they can also 'block' a vulnerability for a round at the cost of their movement, and a second if they sacrifice their entire round of actions to full defense.

Enemies could move 1, move 2 randomly, exploit a color to forbid a color, exploit, etc. Generally being a rainbow mage should be hard, so that a given character has at most two colors of KO moves.

Obviously action economy and focus fire become the most important things in a system like this. An enemy group that dedicates 4 characters to one target a round can guarantee taking out that target. So it's not a complete concept yet.

But if we consider 2 on 2 dynamics, I think the idea of 'too busy putting out fires to counterattack' starts to exist here. Let's say the enemy's big trick is that they can exploit a Green vulnerability to block vulnerabilities from being placed in Red. The defender is now going to have 2 of one color somewhere no matter what, and if that lands where an enemy can get at it then they're vulnerable to action denial attacks and a corresponding doom spiral. They might spend their round removing the effect, but if they can threaten a 3 on the enemy that their team member could attack, the enemy might be too busy blocking to exploit their 2.

This particular system doesn't stand on its own due to action economy issues, but maybe it describes the feel I'm aiming to add to the defender-focus of the bidding system.

Personally i would like that better.

A. bidding systems overcomplicate round mechanics by adding yet another constantly varying resource to track.

B. Mentally adding up anything, but especially smaller numbers of important things like a vulnerability is much quicker and easier then subtracting large numbers of smaller things like bidding tokens.

Rakaydos
2019-05-29, 09:18 AM
The Cardinal ruleset (Ironclaw, Myriad Song, Urban Jungle, Vital Hearts) has two different takes on non HP damage tracking.

The Cardinal 2e games (Ironclaw, Myriad song) have weapons do damage and armor soak damage, but once you take damage, you get certain status effects based on how big the hit was, and then the actual damage number goes away, just leaving the statuses. If you get hit again, you have to take more damage to get additional statuses, though it can reapply statuses you healed.

If you get hit at all, you are reeling, with is a defensive penalty and takes one of your two actions each turn to remove.
The first point of damage inflicts Hurt, making further attacks do +1 damage to you, until the end of combat, someone does a first aid stunt, or you are successfully rallied by someone who knows white magic.
The second point of damage (from a single hit) inflicts the Fear status, which makes you unable to attack or rally until someone successfully Rallies you (Rally is something anyone can do, though some are better at it than others) or you spend a turn someplace where you are unaware of any hostiles to calm your self down/psych yourself up.
The third point of damage (again, from a single hit) inflicts Injured, which is like Hurt (you take +1 damage from now on) but it only goes away after weeks of natural healing or a major white magic spell that isn't on the default list.
Taking 4 points of damage from a single hit, if you don't have a Saving Gift that says otherwise (All PCs and major NPCs do, called Combat save, unofficially called Plot Armor, I'll get to that later) drops you. You are on the ground, unable to fight, for the rest of the fight, after which you need first aid or roll if you die from wounds.
Taking 5 points from a single hit, assuming no saving gift, means you're dead. Ressurection is an epic level white magic, and gets more difficult by the hour, so unless you have the Pope on speed dial you arnt getting back up.
Taking 6 or more damage from a single hit means that your death is so spectacular, others near the target get the Fear status as if they had takin a 2 damage hit (but not the 0 or 1 damage hit effects) just from witnessing it. Even saving gifts can only reduce this to dying.
Combat save is a once per session "use this to not die" that all PCs get, and any NPC can have at the GM's discression. Generally, once you've spent this, you want to hang back or run away- you already got your second chance, you don't get a third.

The 3rd edition cardinal games (Urban Jungle, Vital Hearts) thought that was too complicated, and too many people were missing the "from a single hit" aspect. So attacks do damage, you roll your armor, and then you spend 1-use rechargable soaks to reduce the damage to zero, or you go down. Soaks like "Panic Soak -2" which gives Fear (just like the earlier games) but reduces damage by 2, and recharges when you get rallied, or "Distress soak -4" which stops a single attack of up to 4 damage, any friendly who can hear you scream dramatically gets a free maneuver out of turn, but you only get to use once per session, or others.

NichG
2019-05-29, 10:02 AM
I've kind of figured out a skeleton of how I'll probably do it.

Characters have point pools, which can be used for abilities or to temporarily suppress status conditions ('slogging'). Abilities either add/remove/modify status conditions, or they exploit a specific prerequisite status condition to produce a particular narrative effect moving towards conclusion. Conditions have a rank based on cumulative number of successes invested in them, and characters can have passive defenses which lower the effective rank of a condition.

Example: A attacks B, rolls 3 successes, now B has Wounded(3). B has the merit Vitality 1, which provides one level of Wound resistance, so they're effectively Wounded(2). The condition subtracts 1 success from B's rolls (regardless of rank).

If B wants to negate the penalty, they must spend 1 Body point per rank every time they do so. If A has a deathblow vs Wounded, then they would have to spend 1 Body per rank every time A tried their deathblow in order to not die. B might use a healing ability, try to take out A, use options that aren't as dependent on number of successes, or just slog through (though BP will decrease quadratically if you just tank everything).

On top of this, big abilities will generally require setup in their preconditions above and beyond getting status conditions to stick to an enemy. Terrain- shaping effects might require an appropriate elemental charge in effect, etc. As long as those conditions have effects of their own, I think it does what I want. The ideas can also be applied to things other than combat.