Combat Systems in Text-based games--Yea or Nay?

Hi there, I was wondering if could get your opinion on something.

I’m working on redoing my game Sovereign Reality {WIP post (closed)} from last year. The game has a pretty complicated combat system, in which the player’s stats (standard 6 D&D stats) modify weapon damage, which subtracts from Enemy HP. There are other modifiers, such as player speed, player health, etc. There are also spells, which are modified by intelligence/wisdom modifiers, etc.

I’m pretty familiar with combat systems and it’s part of my favorite things about video games and RPGs in general; I like having lots of rules.

That said, should I be doing such a complicated system in my story? Or should I just focus on the story and implement stat bonuses in more clever, less “numbers mashing” combat scenes?

All (or perhaps most) of the combat scenes are avoidable through quick thinking or dialogue choices, but if the player wants to take risks and participate in the combat system, they are free to do so. By doing combat scenes, the player gets a chance to receive better items as loot drops, something they wouldn’t get by “playing it safe” (though using clever options can also be lucrative!) I think that’s a clever way to implement combat, but it is more work for me.


  • Rewarding combat scenes
  • A cool and varied combat system
  • Player can choose between fighting through the game or using wit to win


  • More complex, possibly becoming unbalanced
  • More work for me
  • Very hard to “randomtest”
  • Bad for player experience?

So, what do you think? Also, should I unlock that old thread, or start a new one once my new WIP comes to beta?



I don’t like combat systems. I play these games because I’m interested in the story. I don’t like dying. I don’t like grinding.

Even in mainstream games, with combat, I’ll always play on the lowest difficulty and use cheatcodes if possible. Combat just feels like boring filler to me that gets in the way of the story.

However, if it’s your favourite thing, you should do something you enjoy, since other people will enjoy it too. There are text based games with combat systems that people enjoy.


Numbers mashing works badly in pure text games like CoGs, I think; I’d have thought it wasn’t the ideal interface for combat-heavy games.

But it’s really a matter of taste. Like FG said, write what you like, and there’s likely to be some audience for it.

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From other combat system I saw here, I must admit they usualy end up being pretty repetitive. I dont think it would be a bad experience as long that the actions dont alway come up to a slash across the chest or something like that. Otherwise it just make weird scenes where you make the same action 10 times and then the enemy just die.

I love combat but in a text based game like CoG, I think it would be more trouble than it’s worth. Personally, I don’t check combat stats all that much unless it’s like Heroes Rise where there was really only Defensive vs Offensive and I needed to pick a choice regarding which ever one was greater.

But indeed, like the others have said, if you feel like you could really implement it then go for it.

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Haha, YES, I agree completely! I actually have the combats pretty scripted; they are unique to each enemy, and the enemy will do different things each turn. It’s also pretty balanced so that the fight will end within 2-3 turns. Here, combat serves as a threatening situation and just another point in the game where the player can lose some HP, but one combat situation is rarely fatal.

There’s no “hit chance” so you’re not going to miss unless it’s scripted, and the only time that would happen is for story purposes (fighting an unbeatable opponent, for example).


Haha yes, I’ve read some of your comments on the matter :slight_smile: Still, I think the option to avoid combat at all costs is a valid one, you can play as a “pacifist” or a “trickster.” It might not lead to a traditional victory but you will complete the game/story.

I see your point though if combat is prohibiting you from experiencing the story and all its outcomes! It’s something I’m thinking about…making the combat more decision based and all the weapons/armors more description than anything else…

Yes, it isn’t ideal. It’s hard to display HP and MP after ever turn, health bars are strange, etc. I’ve been working on optimizing it for fastest play and less player attention. Still, if you’re playing a fantasy RPG, I feel like you’d want to spend some time choosing equipment, weapons, and armor, so it seems a waste to not have stats for those :slight_smile:


Why must combat be the risky choice? Why must choosing to avoid combat be considered playing it safe? Surely avoiding combat can be a risk on it’s own, and far more complex, than just drawing a weapon and resorting to hurting people.

I’d love to see games where the tension lies in trying to avoid combat, at all costs. Where you’ve a tricky diplomatic situation, and one wrong move could mean war, and bloodshed, but instead of drawing your weapons you must resort to talking about things. Or scheming! But for me, it’s about choice, so certainly the choice to fight is good.

I like playing charismatic characters, that talk their way out of situations, whose strength lies in ensuring that combat never happens, or if it does, well they’ve got enough friends and allies so that their friends will fight for them.

But why is fighting with weapons an indepth system of hit points and stats, and a whole bunch of rules, and fighting with words isn’t? Although there are some games where it is, and for me, well I still don’t like complex fighting systems.


If done to their fullest potential, complex systems can be fun, engaging and complimentary to the game you are making. @Lucid has such in his Heir series.

Most of us (including myself here) have to be careful not to push it and make it too complicated. As you no doubt experienced, choicescript is powerful but sometimes complicated when dealing with so many variables and formulas. There is another thread talking about how many stats are too many and many of the concerns there are mirrored here as well.

In general, the more choice you have in your game the better but in practice this is limited by both your personal ability and the limitations of choicscripting.

As long as you have a non-combat system path included in the game and both make it viable and worthwhile to pursue, then I think people like @FairyGodfeather will be able to enjoy your game. There is definitely a large group of people who love combat systems, so those people will make you their own hero if you pull a deep and fulfilling system off.

Personally, as long as the story is strong, I enjoy all types of combat systems, complicated or simple. The one real issue I have, is if you focus the game on being exploitable if you maximize your MC. Both @Lucid (as I mentioned above) and @JimD in his Zombie series have very complicated systems. Both of them succeed because they don’t make it a necessity to min-max. This doesn’t mean you can’t put in surprises for those that do but don’t make it exclusive to that process.

Others, like @Cataphrak and @jeantown have deep but simple systems which work wonderfully as well. So, my suggestion would be to look at these four authors and see what they did.

Also, you can’t expect people to respect your 4th wall of combat system building because, looking at your script is something that will happen and which people will do immediately. So don’t get upset if people do look at your code.

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Yup, I agree, and I was trying to be brief before. So for example, if a player tries to trick another NPC, and it fails because their Charisma is low or something, then trying that was a risk too, and could result in combat. It’s not “playing it safe” so much as “playing it smart” or “playing it differently.”

It’s not, the story of my game is that it’s a contest/treasure hunt/race that the player must try to win, using any methods necessary. But then moral issues arise; SHOULD the player kill these “monsters?” Or do they deserve to live? Is winning the prize money really that important to you, or is it saving a world that is important? The choice to fight is just as important as choosing not to fight. I definitely am trying to put depth, ethics, and morality into this story.

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I’ve had this happen before :smiley: I am curious as to how they do it, though. I’d like to look at other people’s code…but I don’t know how!

Then it sounds like a combat system will fit perfectly in your game. That it’s going to be an important aspect of it.

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And having just skimmed your game, I’d say, first, it’s a good concept with good writing. :slight_smile: Second, all my sympathy, like 1000%, is with the ranger who has just discovered that he and his fellow AIs and their world was designed to be an outsider’s plaything. There’s no way I’d ever pick a combat path or “prize money” once I’d discovered that the inhabitants of the game were as self-aware as this ranger. Maybe there’ll be more ambiguity introduced later, but at the moment, the ethical choice seems pretty simple… and the choice will be even easier for me as a reader if the combat system is at all clunky or cumbersome, which combat systems of any complexity in CS usually are…


So far I haven’t found a combat system in a text-based game that I enjoyed, most of the time I felt they were just an annoyance I had to get through to continue the story.


:smiley: Thanks! I’ve actually come up with a few more really messed up ethical issues, which I want to introduce. You have got me thinking about coming up with some more moral alternatives that might make the issue less black and white, but maybe you have a point so far.

As far as not pursuing a combat path, you can still fight the other Alpha testers! And (slight spoiler) eventually enlist armies of AIs if they sympathize with you as well.

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If the prize money were going to save someone’s life in the “real world” – sick boyfriend or grandma or whatever – then you’ve got a bit more ethical heft. The tradeoff between recently-created AI life and real world life might be interesting enough to make it feel like more than just an exploitative cliche.

Or if the next AI you met after ranger-boy was a true monster that had been designed to kill the “innocent” AIs in horribly creative ways – a psychopathic predator – and there was any suggestion that you might be able to win the game by killing only “demonic” AIs like that while saving other AIs. (This apparent clarity could shade nicely into messed up ethical scenarios).

Finally, if there was any hint that dying in the game might mean death or a degree of brain damage in the real world, that might push a risk-averse player into combat with the AIs. (And would of course make fighting other Alphas pretty horrible.) If the only negative consequence were losing money/the game, my character would probably choose to die in-game very quickly and then be a real-world whistleblower, trying to get journalists and government interested in the fact that the game is inhabited by sentient AIs.


I personally favor having such a system in place, as I have something similar for the game that I’m making. It’s more work programming wise, sure, but it also affords more freedom, both for me as the author and for the player. One thing I’m doing is setting up a gosub_scene script for combat that, based on a for things like players choices (if applicable) area, etc. will generate a random encounter with an enemy. Of course, since it’s random, there’s a chance the script will decide that there’s not going to be a encounter at all, and the player will continue on their merry way, unaware that the script ran at all. It even includes a “talk your way out of combat” sub system, but depending on the enemy, say a goblin, that option may be weighted against the player, but it’s still an option.


I like those ideas. I do have a “came from poverty” option in character creation, perhaps I could expound more on that. You can also choose to be rich already, so the prize is no issue.

In the future of this series (working on a novel as well) death in the game has more serious consequences, but here, dying would send you back to the real world. You will be excited to know that I actually planned a parallel adventure where, if you lose the contest or are eliminated early, the game isn’t over; you participate from the other side, observing the other players and interacting with the creators. It would be interesting to implement a whistleblowing aspect; in the new version, I give the player the option of being a pro gamer, a reporter, or a video game creator, so the reporter aspect might be interesting to go with here.

I use gosub scenes too to recreate attribute bonuses before combat and before loading the stats screen. I haven’t really considered a random encounter generator, as I’d like the same actions in the game to yield the same results; I don’t want a player with low HP encountering a cave troll and ending the game when they could have not encountered that monster at all in another playthrough.

I thought about doing damage rolls but I feel like that’s just too clunky and unpredictable. Instead, damage is based on player strength and weapon stats, or similar for spells/ranged weapons. The hardest thing was to try and implement a ranged combat system! “The enemy is 10m away…” yeah, lol, I don’t think that would work.


For an rpg style story I an very in favor of a battle system. My game I struggled for years on a system I liked for texted based battles. I finally settled on a system but is going to take me many many months to code. Still worth it to me, will be interested to trade notes with you on a battle system I may possibly improve mine.

I’m in the same boat in terms of developing the system. Still working on mine, but it’s currently sitting at almost seven thousand words on it’s own, and it’s maybe half done.