Looking for Opinions on Combat Redundancy

Something that I feel is very prevalent in the CoG/HG I’ve played are the doomed, non-“choices” in any sort of combat situations, and I’ve been wondering what other people’s thoughts are about it.

I’m talking specifically about us building characters around one or two abilities, and when combat rolls around, you suddenly have access to everything—but if you pick anything other than what you’re good at, it’s an auto-fail. For instance, I’ve been using a bow and dagger this whole time, so why do I even have the choice to try to cast a spell? I don’t know magic! Just because I have this two-handed mace in my bag doesn’t mean I’m strong enough to even hold it, but ayy why not, I guess! Whoops, I died!

I don’t really feel like they’re choices, meaningful or no. I’ve been trying to find creative ways to get around them by focusing more on character stats, what various people might do in certain situations other than fight, etc. What about you? How do you feel about them? Do you like having them? What would you like to see instead?

I want to be clear in saying that I’m not talking about skill checks! :slight_smile: Those are fine and dandy, obviously.


I really dislike that kind of choices.

They can be used, however, if you craft choices and situations where your lack of skill is compared to a situational advantage for example. If you are a dagger/melee build and you have to attack a distant target. Will you be better off using your mediocre bow skill or try to sprint close enough to use your dagger? That’s a tough choice, and a way to use abilities like that in an interesting way.

I have been trying to get around it in Fallen Hero by using a combination of hardcoded stats (you either have or have not upgraded your armor for speed, for example, so there you can only pick the choice if you are qualified for it.) and very general abilities (like how daring you are). I try to have a variety of choices in a fight, for different tactics, and above all, I try to have the failures be as interesting as the successes.

I think ‘combat’ in *if (deliberate CS asterisk) works poorly in general, unless its highly statistics based (think D&D). I don’t really like getting ‘game-over’ because I stabbed left, not right or used the wrong weapon! It doesn’t fit the medium (in my (possibly controversial) opinion!).


@malinryden Your first example is very interesting, and I realize that I have played a few games that have had such choices presented before! And it sounds like you’ve made an effort to avoid what this thread was created for in Fallen Hero and it sounds great!

So far with what I’ve done, there’s always a certain number of tasks that need to be completed within the time frame of combat. I give a list of plausible things MC could do, and also check for any special things that they may be qualified for, like helping an NPC in danger or figuring out how a mechanism works.

@CJW I think you’re absolutely right! :smile: I’m just trying to get a bead on what other people think of the current system and what we can do to improve it and make it more interesting and engaging!

It’s basically a “Live/Die/Die/Die” choice, which isn’t really a choice at all. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Of course, it’s still better than when you haven’t trained your stat enough, and it’s a “Die/Die/Die/Die” choice…

Combat can work in these games, but generally with more prose-based choices than stat-based choices (i.e. “Run in close to attack/Stay back to protect your allies” rather than “Fight/Magic/Shoot/Die”), which is how I have (mostly) done it in my WiP. (I do have a single fight that’s explicitly stat-based, but that’s only for an achievement – you won’t die if you fail – and it requires two different stats to have been raised rather than just the one.)


I’m having a hard time thinking about it too.

Hmm… the problem with a stats-building game is that your game should have a stat-check to “evaluate” your players. If you don’t have the stat-checks, then what are those numbers doing?

Hrmm… what will you do with once you know if the reader’s/player’s stat is high or low?
Risk, reward, stakes. Hmph…

Pardon my rambling. Sometimes, I have to write whatever crosses my mind :sweat_smile:

I’m yet to encounter this issue in my writing, but if I’m faced with one, I think I’ll set the value ranges for bad/normal/good stats. If you get too many badsies, I think I’ll give you something like a super-boring-bad-ending.

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We have a term for this. It’s called the four-point trap, and it doesn’t show up just in fighting (although that’s a very common one).


I doubt I could put it in better words than I did here:

Game-overs are fine, dying is fine, but when it’s down to a choice of weapon or choosing the wrong attack (arguably one you shouldn’t have been given!) it just seems more cheesy than anything. I guess I’d go and play [insert favourite RPG video game here] if I wanted to be tested on my stats and combat abilities.

@Szaal Value ranges are how I was going to do stat-checking while trying to avoid this in the exact manner that you described! Code in bad/normal/good with just a bit of dialogue changes based on what the character was trying to do in a given situation. The ending thing sounds very interesting!

@RETowers Oooh, interesting! I didn’t know that it had a name. I can think of plenty of other examples that this fits under, too, but I guess that’s easier for me to dismiss as roleplaying, if that makes sense?

@CJW Thank you for your insight! Still totally agree with you!

The only way truly and completely around this would be to give more choice per stats. Like three magic choices if your magic is high and so that you always have a real choice.

Needless to say this can quickly balloon into a mess for the writer.

Else I can only parrot both malinryden and parrotwatcher, and say that you essentially have to write around those situations, but again that is not always doable.

Generally, I try two always have at least two choices that always sort of work mixed, in with the stat choices, but I also need that, because if you lack the stat you can’t even pick the choice - so I need two default or I might end up with no choice.

Then again, the majority of my choices will properly be investigating choices. I think. So no much combat for me.

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I think what people forget, and I believe CoG do actually point out in one of their tutorial/documents (correct me if I’m wrong @RETowers), is that stats are a tool, a method of keeping track of ‘decisions’ in a non-linear way. You are a 75% ‘good guy’ is much easier to note and act on than it is to check: you made exactly choices a, b, and d (but not c), in terms of mechanics. They aren’t numbers for numbers sake :slight_smile:


There are gray areas. Example- in Lucid’s Lost Heir series the Magic checks vary and are 0 in some situations. You can kill the final boss of Lost Heir 1 with 0 Magic, you just need to distract him or disable his Plot Coupon somehow first. Game players should know what I’m talking about. So having the Magic Option works there. It is also good to have to remember to use the skills in which you have points for character building- or use the ones that fail if you want to find out you may not have enough skill for replay research or comedy purposes etc.

Also sometimes there’s a situation where one Skill helps another succeed- in Lost Heir 2 less than 45 Strength ain’t enough to bust open a jail door before the Guards notice you busting it down. But if you have 30 Magic and can cast a Silence spell first… that’s one example.


I’d say there are two big differences between RPGs and CoGs/HGs. The first, and most obvious, is the lack of any save system in most released games, meaning that, instead of a quick reload, a bad decision can cost you several hours of reading.

The second, less obvious one, is that RPGs have very well-defined rules (or at least they should have), and the player will have a lot of experience with fights, which is something that really doesn’t happen in CoG/HGs. (And for good reason; I can imagine a game would not be well received if it took you ten battles to get to the first town, where you get no plot progression, but do get the chance to find an old lady’s medicine… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: )


I have trouble with this one… how do you avoid having ‘always pick your best stat’, while still making the player’s stats mean something? Does it lessen the experience if they can always choose and succeed at any choice?

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What if we think of the issue less in terms of “succeed at any choice” (which suggests the combat is just a dumb obstacle to get over as a speed bump) and more in terms of a hub where interesting choices can be made to propel the narrative in different directions?

So in that sense, failing a combat can be a viable choice, narratively. Maybe you get captured or have an out of body experience or suffer a terrible bleeding wound or lose a friend. But more interestingly, what if there’s a reason to not pick your best stat? You have to talk down the goblin instead of shooting it because your friend asks you to?

Otherwise, I don’t think you even need the choice of whether to swing your sword or throw a knife other than as a quick fake choice for a little local color.


So it’s ok as long as failing still leads to something different and interesting? Rather than being a game over?


Part of the issue here is a lack of understanding mechanics and the (in)ability to execute a mechanical structure when writing/developing a game.

CoG terms it a four-point trap. Here is a concise definition of a four-point trap:

There is also what CoG calla the Trouble:

Where GoG’s model breaks down in understanding is that many authors/developers think to counter these issues that stats need to be immediately balanced out at the time they are utilized. What one hand gives, the other must take away right away or you get caught in the Trouble or the four-point trap.

Another way of looking at this is that the mechanical structure of your game is more like plumbing it has faucets, that add to stats, sinks that pool stats together, often for checks, and drains to subtract those stats.

Here I’m going to quote myself:

Here is where the answer to @Scribblesome’s question comes into place:

and my words once more:

If you always balance out (or zero out) stat increases/decreases then you invariably end up with the player ending up with stats in the middle. By varying your results and thus mixing your options up, even if they seem the same, you’ll allow people to play a specialized game or play a generalized game - however, they wish.


@Gower @Eiwynn

These are both excellent ways to get around the exact problem that I was speaking of! I’m gonna read through more of that thread now, as I was unable to find anything about this after some searching before I made this thread.

More insight is always appreciated!


What if options combine multiple stats? Or is that still just a mutant version of the 4PT?


It’s a mutant form - if I understand your circumstances because the complexity is more of an illusion then a true modifier of the equation.

Edit: In my contest entry (that was just turned in) I tried to utilize a CS mechanic called *multiple choice - and I tried to use it for a stack of 6 different stats. In theory, this mechanic should help address this problem but as it works right now, it is very clumsy and becomes very inefficient beyond a stack of two. It took me a lot more code to use this function then it should have.

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