So, I came across a really interesting thread about combat and how it should work, and after a bit of accidental thread necromancy (sorry about that!) I decided to start a new topic on how an author can make combat or other “stat check” situations more engaging for the player instead of just “pick option that corresponds to highest stat.”
For Seas of Malice, when making decisions during combat or other “stat check” situations, I allow the player a few options (usually 3 different stat checks out of 6 total stats, with a few other options depending on other things they’ve done). The player always “wins;” the associated stat always increases, though if the stat is not high enough the player may gain injuries (like wounds or insanity) and lose out on other rewards. If wounds or insanity rise too high, (to ten), they’ll be hit with a pretty big stat drop around the board. It adds a risk/reward factor to the game.
I’ve had a possibly overambitious idea. Basically it consists of rolling mostly. Similar to old text RPGs, you hit someone and do damage and vice versa. Instead of “inflicted X damage” it can be done in a way that the narrative is more thrilling.
If you fall behind by a few points in order to have had hit the opponent:
“Your blade smashes against your enemy, whose arm distends with rapid speed, flooring you instantly.”
If you overpower your opponent.
“A fluid movement of your arm proves enough to deflect your opponent’s weapon. Disoriented, you use his own weight to eclipse his strength, striking your sword against his chainmail shirt.”
Might be dumb but looks cool imo.
Generally I’d say you’re thinking too narrowly. What’s compelling about making a decision about combat? Why not give more options, sneaking, diplomacy, going out of your way to avoid the problem?
OP’s question seems to touch more generally on “how to avoid the 4 point trap”
I happened to just read the Taxonomy of Choice blog posts earlier, and the sense I got from it was to intersect skills, personality, and (sometimes) objectives in stat checks.
Well, it seems I’m still awake so might as well chirp in.
CCG turn based combat!
Takes 4 months to code (and still in development), but I’m having fun with it. Hopefully it’ll be worth it?
Yes, there are three blog posts which may help. Specifically any choice you’re setting up as a simple combat choice should generally be at least a (Motivated) Testing Choice, (notice in how in the blog post even just the Testing Choice different options are differentiated by what exactly each means if you fail.)
I have enjoyed playing games that force you to pick a stat early on and to consistently choose that stat over and over again but the straight jacket of it chafes heavily by the time I got for a 2nd playthrough.
Specialization is for insects. Stories not so much.
I found a way around it by having lots and lots of stats and making it impossible to specialize and repetitively re select. For example there’s a Guns skill in my WIP but there isn’t a Gun option in every conflict. And sometimes when Guns are an option it’s not always the best option even if you have a high skill.
Combing stats is another good way. Have a choice that hinges on two stats. Both need to be high, or one of them does or one needs to be higher than X and the second needs to be lower than Y.
Not every choice needs to be a skill test. Sometimes you can use your goal progress variables as “skills” to overcome problems. Likewise with relations stats. Mix things up as much as possible to avoid repitition and keep players on their toes.
For climactic moments I create a temp variable for that chapter.
*temp bossbattle10 40
*if blablabla is true
*set bossbattle10 %+20
I then add a dozen more if statements like this. Then going into the battle I already have single variable telling me how well the player is positioned for the battle/conflict so I can foreshadow that in the description before the fight (warning you’re about to get creamed/ actually you’re feeling very confident)
Then I have two fake choices that will modify the temp variable upwards and downwards. Then a third choice which is highly determinative/branchy.