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Wizards, Wolves and Winds of Fortune

United Kingdom
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Context: Divergent Thought

Experimenting with more powerful, more aggressive wizards has been interesting. The most fun part of playing them was Malkars "beam" ability, that allowed you to position two wizards and hit anything on the line inbetween with an attack that had the powers of both characters. Today's first test was expanding that ability to all wizards and making it their collective schtick.

I like the result. The group is initially weak as they're all deployed together and can't get good attacks out of it, then as you surround the monster you become capable of dishing out exceptional damage and staying off its line of attack and as it catches and kills wizards the force becomes increasingly less dangerous as the battle goes on and the number of potential combinations diminishes.

However I don't know if that lead to good games. Against the Dragon the wizards fared better than last week, but in three games still never did better than piercing its hide and cutting off its wings. Against the less mobile demon they dispatched it relatively effortlessly. I don't know if any of these would've been fun/interesting games outside of the context of game development.

The Dragon represents a general case problem in the development of groups that have special attacks rather than special defences - it has a pretty dangerous breath weapon that goes off three times a round and starts with 6/8ths of the opposing group in area. In a way it doesn't matter how powerful the wizard's attack gets if a bad initiative draw can get half of them killed before they take their first action.

A few thoughts compete for how to deal with this:
* Smaller AoE for the breath weapon
* Less dice for the breath weapon * Less uses per turn for the breath weapon
* Start the dragon closer to the characters
(counter intuitive but would limit the # of targets it could get on turn one)
* Start the dragon facing the wrong way
* Start the dragon asleep
* Don't fix it - ultimately the game will have a campaign mode and that will require enemies that remain threatening once the group has xp and bonuses.

Making the breath worse feels wrong. It's a dragon, it breathing fire (or lighting or whatever) should be scary. Starting closer seems odd. The notion that it's sleeping on its pile of gold and wakes up as the battle goes on is kind of tempting. So it is treating it as a campaign level boss.

Thinking about the game in terms of a campaign, in which your group of hunters gains experience, gear and long term crippling injuries, it could do with something a bit more entry-level. Presently the balance of power favours the monster winning more games than not, which feels appropriate for a solo game and for something taking inspiration from the likes of Shadows, Dark Souls and Monster Hunter. However if I am looking at a campaign version at some point there does need to be something for a new group to cut its teeth on.

With that in mind I've statted a Dire Wolf. The design goal is to create something that's less dangerous than the existing beasts, but that still poses a threat and - of course - offers something unique as an opponent.

I decided that what I was going for was "hit and run". The system already contains an ability for moving then attacking and an ability for attacking then moving. While it wouldn't have the huge number of dice a dragon or demon has, it felt like there was something to say for a wolf that was darting in and out of combat taking attacks of opportunity.

After trying a few things the beast has these options:
1) Charge an opponent directly ahead, gaining bonuses for distance covered
2) Slice an opponent in melee and back off two spaces in any direction
3) Bite an adjacent opponent for a big hit, if no opponent is available this is delayed until the end of the turn.

This has quite a nice effect of it darting in and out and leaving the group hesitant to follow up because once 2 or 3 bites have been delayed it seems like a horrible idea to end the turn in reach and get them all at once. I also threw in a rage mechanic that makes its attacks start weak, but get more dangerous as it gets wounded.

The pic at the start of the post is how a fight with it ended - ultimately the hunters are obliged to push it back into a corner so it has to stop with the hit and run stuff - and cut its legs off. That it has lower numbers makes it more vulnerable than the other megabeasts, but it was satisfying to fight and the balance of power definitely favours a hunter victory at this point.

I think I'll keep it.

Finally, because it has less toughness and armour than the other beasts I gave it some luck instead and over a few tests it became apparent just how bad luck is as a defence. Presently an attack works like this:

Roll your attack in dice, if any dice comes up a 4+ your attack hits.

The defences stack up like this:

Toughness X - you have to be hit X times to die
Agility X - your opponent needs X dice to come up 4+ rather than just one
Armour X - your opponent needs to roll (4+X) on each dice rather than just 4
Luck X - if an attack hits reroll it, up to X times per game

It should be apparent that luck is presently just a strictly worse version of toughness that leads to more busywork and more record keeping. It's also a defence that is often rendered completely useless, because of the probability bell curve on dice pool systems, if the attack was decent luck isn't likely to help.

Two options present themselves

1) Luck works "per attack", forcing the attacker to roll X times and take the worst result. That'd mean limiting it to 2 or maybe 3 on really luck things, but would make in independently useful and cut down on record keeping

2) Luck rerolls only the successful dice. That means it'll very often negate an attack (though not every time like toughness) but also gives it utility against special attacks. Some special abilities (Knockback, Stun, Pull and Holy Fire) trigger when an attack rolls one success but doesn't kill due to a defence, rerolling the entire attack is unlikely to make these abilities fail to trigger, but rerolling only the successful dice might.

I'm always aiming for differences in kind that make emergent strategies more interesting so option two suits that goal best, but it would still mean tracking a luck pool throughout the game so it doesn't cut down on the tracking. I'm not sure which to go for yet - needs more testing.

The final thing that needs some thought this week is the name of the game. It's getting to the point that I'm starting to recruit a few testers and tell them about the game, so I have to call it something! Divergent Thought no longer really fits, given that the AI angle has gone. So what do I call it?

Extradimensional Monster Hunters
How to Bring Down a Titan
The Wild Hunt


I'm not sure. I should throw around a bunch of ideas and see what sticks.

That's it for this week's update, hope that you're having a good time following the game
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