I really enjoy RPGs and they way they handle combat. It’s a fun system with some excellent abstractions. Unfortunately, so very many iterations of it are the same. That’s all well and good, but how about we look at some ideas for how things could be different?
Basic Attack Variety:
Choosing “Attack” in an RPG is generally painfully boring. Unfortunately, it’s also the fastest, the least resource consuming, and often a reasonably efficient way to take care of a battle. So, rather than introduce more skills and spells that won’t get used, why not make basic attacks more interesting? There’s a few different ways we can do that. With attack targeting, power scaling, and typing options.
Targeting is a basic part of attacking in any RPG – you have to tell the game which enemy you are attacking. It doesn’t have to just let the enemy be chosen, though – it could let you target specific parts of each enemy. Different sections would be affected by both size (smaller sections are harder to hit, giving the attacker an accuracy penalty) and armor (better armored sections take less damage, but armor also imposes restrictions on other abilities). Sections could also have localized status effects – an arm damaged past 50% is 50% as effective at attacking/blocking, damaged all the way and it no longer functions, sufficiently injured legs could restrict a character to ranged attacks only, since they can’t move into melee range. In this manner, multiple considerations come into effect with every single “basic” attack, since you now have to think about damage versus accuracy and potential to cause negative status.
Power split is by no means a new idea, but it’s one that is incredibly easy to implement yet is rarely used. Rather than every attack having a default power and hit percentage, the basic attack could come in three varieties – light and highly accurate, medium and fairly accurate, and powerful but wild. Alternatively, you could have a power inversely tied to speed, and give the character a number of speed points to spend on attacks each turn (1 point per fast and weak, 2 per average, 3 for slow power strikes). There’s really not a whole lot to it other than that. Make three fast attacks on various enemies (or focus them all on one that’s skilled at dodging to up your chances of hitting) or one power attack to dish out some real damage. At least it’s more than just clicking “Attack.”
Typing option is also incredibly simple. For ease of explanation, we’ll say everyone is a wizard and every basic attack is a spell. All spells having typing (or elements), so you have to choose your typing with every basic attack. This means that you have to weigh your odds of typing effectiveness (and other potential benefits, since there could be a chance to cause a status effect like burning or freezing) even with your basic attack. To make this viable, it’s as easy as avoiding massive resistances to elements. Instead of 50% damage reduction, 100% damage reduction, and absorption/healing, stick with 10%, 20%, and 50% reduction.
There are so many possibilities for expanding basic attack options. With a little effort, the boredom of traditional attacks in RPGs can be eliminated, and all sorts of fun options presented instead.
Okay, I think that’s plenty of ideas for now. I’ll have more at another time, so please look forward to them (I know I am, these ideas are getting me excited to work on all sorts of stuff).