Continuing the epic saga… some notes on how active (reactive) defenses work, some descriptions of “secondary” techniques, a little bit on missile combat…

Active Defenses

The question of how best to implement “reactive” defenses such as parries and dodges has been something I’ve puzzled over for a long time.  Given the vagaries of net traffic and various sources of latency, asking a player to reactively select an appropriate defense for their character just seemed too unwieldy, so I decided to see if a proactive mechanism that still enabled some real decision-making could be implemented instead.

What I have so far is rather difficult to explain (meaning it still needs some work), but here’s the basics…

Each of these defense actions is tied to a status score: parries are tied to the corresponding Readiness status, Dodges are tied to Balance status.  The player is given a few decisions to make related to each of these items, beyond the obvious decision of which defensive technique to assign for reactive activation.

Each of the bars representing these status scores also has two sliders attached to it.  The leftmost/lowest slider represents the score below which the associated defense is to be ignored entirely (probably because applying the cost of the action at that score would be likely to cause more problems than it would avoid).

If the current score for that status is between the 2 sliders, the associated defense is to be considered only as a last resort… i.e. no other defense is in a better situation.

Finally, if the current score of the status is above the right-most/highest slider, that defense is to be considered first when an incoming attack is detected.  If more than one defense is available for consideration, the one with the highest skill rating (best chance of successful activation) will be fired, even though it might not be the actual best selection in relation to the specifics of the attack.

The player is also allowed to mark one specific defensive reaction as “favored”.  In that case, if that defense is in consideration after the basic sorting above, it will be selected for firing regardless of whether it has the best chance of success or not.

The other setting the player can alter at will with relation to reactive defenses is whether or not any specific defense should be used if the character is not sure the attack will hit.  Every attack is rated with two Awareness threshhold values: an Attack Detection score and a (higher) Hit Detection score.  If the character’s Awareness is between these two values, the attack has been noticed but the character is uncertain at that crucial instant whether it will actually hit.  The player can control which defenses, if any, will be used in such situations, as opposed to reserved for situations where the impending impact is obvious.

More techniques

Taunt, Intimidate: these are techniques somewhat peripheral to combat, but that can have an impact if used at the proper time.  These are basically attacks against an opponent’s Spirit, with the intent to inhibit their self-control by generating anger/rage (Taunt) or indecision/fear (Intimidate) reactions and conditions.  Obviously, these should be pretty subtle in terms of impact: calling someone a nasty name shouldn’t quite rank up there with major enchantments or psionic mind control… however, as part of a sequence of actions, especially used at a moment of exhaustion or weakness, these techniques could still potentially be quite effective.

In mechanical terms, these work somewhat like any physical attack would: the skill check for the technique determines the amount of stress applied (no AE/FF/DV submechanism here though… at least, not yet).  This is divided by the target’s Spirit Resistance (based on the Empathy and Willpower attributes, in this case) and the dividend is compared to the target’s current Spirit.  If the impact exceeds the basic critical threshholds (20%+), a Rage or Fear critical is calculated and applied.  Typically, these techniques will be pretty low cost, low cooldown affairs: it really doesn’t take all much time or effort to creatively insult someone’s ancestry…

Adjustments: this includes a rather wide array of techniques under multiple skills that simply provide short-term or instantaneous advantages at a small cost in Stamina, Sanity, or Spirit.  The effect might be a quick add to a Readiness score, or elevated rate of Balance recovery for 10-15 seconds, or a 5 pt AE bonus to all attacks for a few seconds: all these types of effects, and many more, are possible.  These represent mindset and positioning, all the potential subtle adjustments a person might make during combat.

Missile Combat

Missile combat is a subsystem I really want to put some time and thought into, and experiment with heavily.  I’d like a system which takes cover and line of fire into consideration, for example.  I also want a system where the “feel” of such combat is significantly different than that of melee/hand-to-hand… the open question is, how do we get there in what is otherwise a fairly typical, numbers-and-buttons driven system?

I think some distinction is already created simply through the implementation of the reactive defense concepts.  To me, most missile weapons (of the medieval type) will be very high AE, relatively low FF affairs.  That largely excludes the use of parries: deflections won’t reduce the AE by significant percentages, and most blocks will be bypassed by the elevated AE score.  Dodging and Evading, on the other hand, will still be somewhat effective against such attacks, as they should be.

Armor and shields are problematic.  Setting the values such that they are properly balanced for missile combat, yet not overwhelming for melee, is something I’m still struggling with.  At the moment, my thought is simply to give melee attacks that focus on bypassing armor a special AE score which is used in lieu of the general one to determine the effectiveness for bypassing armor.  In teh case of shields, as long as they are assigned sets of techniques distinct from those used with “normal” weapons, I think I’ll have the tools to give them some effectiveness parrying missiles without throwing everything off kilter.

More later…