Thursday, February 14, 2008

Not-quite-an-update Update: More things I'm working on

While I haven't been able to come up with any new, definite information in the last week, I have been working on, in more detail, just what things I still have to work on.

Necromancy and Biomancy: I want to work out a system where necromancers and biomancers, and possibly elemancers in general can create their own artifacts without using runecrafting, similar to how the animancers do it. For instance, a biomancer might have a mostly-inert creature he fits over his own arm, in order to launch acid or tangle an enemy in tentacles. A necromancer should be able to graft pieces of undead creatures to himself, to permanently increase his own strength.

Balancing this out will be complicated, if only because there are situations where it would be justified for the biomancer to require using one of his "currently dominated creatures" slots - like the tentacles - but others where it wouldn't, like a creature that's nothing more than an over glorified super-soaker-with-acid. At least, because necromantic creations aren't alive, such constructs -will- require actual domination regardless, since it wouldn't be able to move or function otherwise.

Another one of the niggling issues about this is that life and death channelers could plausibly have the same abilities, especially where grafting is concerned. It's going to be difficult to determine what exactly requires the wizardry, what requires the channeling, what can only be done by elemancers, and what can be done by both elemancers and channelers.

System Mechanics: I've decided to take a step back from my previous mechanics plans. I'm likely going to still use action points, but I'm probably going to "dumb down" the system a bit to streamline it. I've also decided what direction game balance is going to take - actual combat is going to be very quick and very brutal.

However, unlike most "gritty brutal" games, death will not come easily. Creatures will become incapacitated quite easily - they can be finished off afterwards with a good deathblow or two, but it will usually take several minutes for any creature, PC or enemy, to die without such a blow. Anyone who is familiar with turn-based combat knows that "several minutes" can be an eternity.

With luck, this design choice will allow me to capture the speedy and exciting combat of gritty games, while keeping it light hearted and character death to a minimum. Most enemies won't bother giving a death blow while the rest of the party is kicking around.

I'm also considering including a "dead man walking" combat mechanic. There are many wounds that are fatal (or at least would be without magic) where the body can still function for those several minutes. In real life, for instance, a sword blow through the lung is a death sentence, but not incapacitating. Without magical treatment that lung-stabbed person -will- die, but can still fight for a few minutes at least. As far as I know, there are no mainstream systems that try to capture this kind of realism.

Because the system is so high magic, and because not only is wizardry common, but can be learned without much effort, healing magic will also be common enough to heal such "dead men walking."

And then, I'm going to have to decide once and for all how the dice are handled. I'm currently considering using a "plot dice" mechanic to give PCs extra power or ability in plot-relevant fights - this would allow them to do epic deeds, like taking down giant constructs, goliaths or other huge, powerful and intimidating foes - while still forcing them to give caution towards the lowly giant rat over there, which is how I want it. Light-hearted or not, I don't want the PCs to get too complacent if they're fighting a significantly "weaker" foe than the one they last killed.

History and Politics: This is one of the subjects intimidating me the most. I've studied enough history to know just how little about it I know, and how daunting trying to write the history for a whole world is. I've put a great deal of research, philosophical, psychological, cultural, into designing everything else, so it just seems wrong to pull the world history out of my ass. Nevertheless, it seems like that's what I may have to do.

Not only do I have to write out detailed histories, cultures, and an interconnecting time-line for all the countries and regions I went over in the last post, there are a large number of "blank spots" on the world map that I've barely fleshed out, at all, and some of them seem quite promising. Maybe I'll leave them blank for now and possibly use them later in an expansion.

And then there's the wars and deciding who hates who, and why. And possibly developing kingdoms and settlements for godtouched -other- than human ... mmmn, lots to do, there really is, and I'm not sure where to start.

Dungeons: And of course, I can't forget designing maps for players to use in actual dungeons, including traps and non-creature encounters. Some of these dungeons will be wizard and elemancer laboratories and towers, others will be ancient temples and tombs from earlier human civilizations, and others may even include "impossible" constructs that still function all this time - remnants from before wizardry was limited by Jennin and Kennerin.

Magic: And even then, there's designing the magic system more fully, fleshing out the rules and spells - and something I find almost as daunting as developing political world history - figuring out what spell schools wizards will be dealing with, without cribbing off of Wizards of the Coast. A wizard's not a wizard without specialization, after all, and of course because my setting treats wizardry as a branch of science, that makes choosing the spell schools even more complicated.

Well, we'll see. If nothing else, I can use this post and the previous one as an outline to help me decide what's best to tackle next. Man, this is more stuff than I thought it was...

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