Greg's Design Blog

A collection of posts by game designer Gregory Carslaw, including mirrors of all of his blogs maintained for particular projects. A complete index of posts can be found here:
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Context: Dauntless Hunters

I've been implementing the changes I talked about last week, I'd like to talk about them briefly and discuss a few game design issues surrounding them.
The biggest change to the sheet is to the monster side, with the addition of a universal "rage" mechanic. It works like this:

Whenever you cut a piece off the monster, the monster player (or AI) ticks a few of the rage stars. These give the remaining parts extra actions, extra abilities or upgrade its existing ones. This puts the peak of the beast's power in the midgame and should help to halt the runaway effect. If the hunters do well at the beginning of the game they still make progress and are rewarded for that, but now face an upgraded monster so don't get to compound that progress into a guaranteed victory.

This means that the monster can start in a weaker state (with lower numbers etc) which should mean that a runaway in the other direction is unlikely. The second factor impacting that is that each hunter leader now has an ultimate ability that works in the following way:

Only half of the hunters begin in play, with more arriving each turn. If the hunter leader is killed they're rescued by their side and are fully revived and added to the end of the reinforcement queue. However, if that doesn't happen, when the last of the reinforcements arrive the leader ticks their upgrade star and gains a powerful ultimate ability that fully expresses the nature of their faction.

The most common runaway for the beast was taking down a critical opponent early in the game - this rule means that the most powerful piece cannot be completely eliminated by a few lucky rolls in the early game. However finding a way to take them down is still rewarded by preventing the use of a potentially devastating ability.

Taken together these factors mean that both sides aren't applying their full power until later in the game. This is an attempt to create some rubber-banding that means that players aren't stuck in a game where their decisions are no longer interesting or meaningful (because the game has become one sided) but without eliminating the rewards for clever decisions or good plays early on.

I'm looking forward to trying the new rules and seeing how they play.

I've also made some smaller changes - that are perhaps of less interest to players and more to fellow game designers - in line with feedback that I've received. Most of this is in troubleshooting bits and pieces or even something so simple as setup advice (Print two copies of the section detailing what each special ability does, because each player needs one!) but one had some pretty interesting theme-mechanics impact.

The change is simple on the surface of it - having active defences apply to every attack and having lots of them to look up is a pain and gums up the game. Cutting it down to three defences and printing them on every character (even if they have them at a value that doesn't matter) should make it much easier to play and for new players to get an "at a glance" impression of how hard something is to kill.

So far so good, nothing exceptional there.

However making the change made me look much more closely at the impact that those defences were having and how that felt thematically.

Some things *feel* right. Making an attack with a chainsaw and rollings LOADS of dice, but needing high numbers somehow feels more appropriate to that weapon than rolling a few dice needing lower numbers. Saying "I've got heavy armour so you need '6' on each dice" also felt right, it could make something feel really tanky when an opponent rolled a load of dice with no apparent effect.

The thing is that the interaction between these factors could feel wrong.

If 'damaging but innacurate' is "Roll lots of dice at a penalty" and 'armour' is penalise all rolled dice, then that makes armour particularly good against a damaging but innacurate attack. Conversely 'dodging' being represented as "You need lots of hits to get me" means that the theoretically wild attack is better against a dodging unarmoured opponent than a weak but accurate one.

Nobody really commented on it, but it's apparent from watching players that this sometimes *felt* wrong in play.

Reworking the defences has allowed me to take steps to make these elements of the game more consistent. Accurate/Inaccurate weapons affect the target number on the dice, so a character's dodge value now affects that too. Big weapons roll more dice, so armour now requires more hits to be taken down. I think this will make things more intuitive.

From a design standpoint this wouldn't have been different to changing damaging weapons to getting bonuses on the dice and accurate ones to rolling more dice. However looking at the reactions to players on seeing their opponent reaching for a big pile of dice when the dragon was about the breathe fire convinced me that this change wouldn't have made the game as fun to play.

So from a designer's standpoint the lesson is twofold. Firstly, always put thematically similar factors in direct mechanic opposition to each other (even if this doesn't model them as accurately). Secondly, while it's worth crunching the numbers to find mathematically interesting implementations, don't lose sight of how choices affect how the game feels to play.

Oh and I changed the name of the game to "Dauntless Hunters". I don't think "Divergent Thought" makes any sense having lost the AI theming. I'd like to have just called it Dauntless, but that's already a game Dauntless Hunters has a nice right to it too though
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Subscribe sub options Fri Jun 24, 2016 6:26 pm
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