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

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.

Sorry so many wips on the board which one is yours?

The one I’m I’m talking about I haven’t officially announced yet.

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Any way I can help? Any reason it’s taking so long to code? Lots of items?

Last I read he had over 9000! items. seriously :dolphin:


I do have part of the battle system so you can check out my approach.

The battle system has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the development of the game, I now have a working model and busy working on the code. It is up for testing as I build it.

Here is the spreadsheet for the battel system command list

Both of those links pulls up a page not found message.


Yikes thanks looking into it.

*EditLol when I copy and pasted the links it added the numer of times it had been clicked. Fixed now.

**Edit to get to the battle system click I am done shopping,

***Edit seems I need to do a lot of clean up on the files as it is a mess to read and dont use mods I forgot add a choice for to leave the mods. I may try to clean that up in a few days. But you should get the jist of the system.