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Alternate RPG Concepts

An RPG-style battle system would be a needed component of a jRPG-style game. If all I want is a conventional RPG, I could use RPGMaker. What follows are ideas for extending the RPG conventions .

Combat Logic

Positional Combat

Win with crits

Imagine a battle system where regular attacks do little HP damage but can adjust the likelihood of giving or receiving a far more damaging critical hit.

A fighter could change combat stance to manage crit chance.

  • Dodge - Step aside, both fighters recover stance, success depends on dexterity
  • Defensive - recover stance, reduce damage
  • Offensive - trade stance for increased damage and crit hit chance

Critical hit chance may be based on relative combat level.

Multiple aspects

Conventional battles are very simple: reduce enemy HP to zero. Complex battles can involve buffing and debuffing different stats to change the variables of battle.

Some games have multiple hit point counters.

  • I Miss The Sunrise and The Reconstruction have three HP bars, Heart, Mind, and Soul. Most attacks reduce one of them.
  • The Warrior of Ras series had a separate hit point counter for your abdomen, chest, head, neck, and each arm and leg, along with a core hit point counter. You died if any of the counters hit zero.

Imagine a battle system where the exposed targets of attack are functions of multiple core stats. The increased complexity might make it more interesting, but it also makes the game more vulnerable to minmaxing and will require a careful design.

Party Selection

Game considerations for larger parties

In a game where party size is not given a hard limit, there must be a disadvantage to creating a huge army. The disadvantage may include:

  • Mercenaries will require payment over time and may take a share of dropped loot.
  • Inn fees are increased.
  • You may need to get extra wagons, horses, etc to carry extra people, and there may be maintenance costs to simply have a large party.
  • Movement on the world map may be slowed down to annoy the player.

Characters with non-combat skills

Battle is the critical part of most RPGs. You cannot beat the game without fighting, the fighting is designed to be challenging, so you are encouraged to create the strongest possible fighting force.

Given the option to choose different types of characters and a limit to the number of characters allowed in the party, players will minmax the best combat party. If the player is to have a reason to choose a non-optimal combat character, the player must be given a counterbalancing advantage that provides some value outside of combat.

Mechanisms seen in some games:

  • Plot device or keycard characters. You need to bring X to Y to open a new area, advance the plot, acquire a new item, etc.
  • Environmental advantages. The enemies in some dungeons are designed to be vulnerable to some characters and resistant to others.
  • Terrain that only certain characters can cross.
  • Increased treasure likelihood and value. A naturalist may increase the likelihood of antidotes and other drops. DQ3's Merchant increases gold gain.
  • Limit skills. Don't give everyone the same skills!

A game could take powers away from the player.

  • Take away the game's dungeon map and only show it if you have the right character. The scholar can draw a dungeon map. The barbarian cannot.
  • Items may be unidentified like in Nethack, and only one character can identify them.
  • Only one character might have Exit Dungeon, Return to City, and other convenience spells.
  • If item carries are limited, a pack rat can increase your maximum item count.
  • Restricting dashing to one character would be aggravating. Don't do it.

A character's presence may adjust game parameters outside of battle.

  • A tutor may increase the XP gain rate of lower level characters.
  • A scout may reduce the likelihood of an enemy ambush.
  • A tactician may increase the likelihood of ambushing an enemy or implicitly raise everyone's attack power
  • A hunter may turn on a “hunting mode” to give you an increased likelihood of encounters and an increased likelihood of meeting rare enemies with high exp and good drops.

Reserve Forces


  1. Dragon Warrior 4 introduced the concept of an active fighting party and a reserve force.
  2. Some RPGs have you take on plot characters who never fight even if the game's official art shows them with a weapon.
  3. Gamers hate the bard class for doing little damage, but this is largely because he takes up a slot that a stronger character could be placed in. If the bard were available as an extra character in addition to the existing party members, the party as a fighting unit would be stronger.
  4. Some games allow you to hire mercenaries who are generally weaker than the plot characters and have no storyline attached to them.

Merging the concepts….

  • You may take on weaker characters in your party. They will fight if necessary but will generally be ineffective.
  • A team can be split into lead and reserve forces.
    • Fighters can be swapped between forces at the cost of a combat turn for the moving fighters.
    • The lead force will take on the strongest or largest group of enemies.
    • A smaller number of enemies, less than half, may split off to attack the reserve force
      • Enemy agility affects the likelihood of doing this.
    • If the party is surprised, the reserve force may be attacked or the party may be in disarray with the forces randomized.

In games where fighters may be split into separate forces, there must be a disadvantage to merging everyone together in one single huge force.

  • Perhaps limit the number of fighters in one force, but allow multiple forces.
  • Perhaps limit the number of fighters that can target one enemy.
  • In a grid-model battle with line-of-sight maluses, fighters can get in each others' way.

There must be an additional disadvantage to putting all of your weak characters in one undefended task force and letting them lose their 1 hp in every fight so your main fighters don't suffer these hits.

  • Enemies who defeat one task force might get a free round of attacks on any task force that is currently engaged, since the other task force will be surprised
  • Being defeated may carry a chance of causing permanent damage to one of the physical stats.

There must be an advantage to keeping characters out of the fight.

  • They don't take damage.
  • They may rest and regain HP and MP; but this will raise the question of why they do not automatically rest when traveling.
  • They may gain experience from watching the fight, but it should be less than the experience gained from participation.

There must be an advantage for the enemy to split its forces rather than concentrating everything on the more powerful lead force.

  • Perhaps the enemy is also limited to the number of fighters that can attack a single enemy or participate in a single force.
  • The split-away force will avoid area effect spells cast on the main force.

Battle Action Components

Generic gameplay patterns seen in turn-based games:

  • You get one attack during your turn.
  • You get X (variable) attacks during your turn.
  • Speed meters allow faster fighters to get more turns.

The generic battle action could be broken into three components:

  • Preparation - Beginning the action
  • Action - doing something.
  • Recovery - Returning to a stance from which further action could be taken.


Every battle action (attack, magic, etc) is a series of components.

Every component includes:

  • Time - all else being equal, how long this takes
  • Classification - allows a different player stat to modify the time
  • Function (optional) - deal damage or don't
  • Effects - Make player more or less vulnerable to certain attacks while this action is in effect.
  • Interruption rules - If it is possible to interrupt this action, what types of attacks could do it.

Branching: The “Function” for a component conceivably be another battle action routine. The “double attack” skill may be two attacks chained together.


A “wild lunge” skill would require a long recovery time during which the fighter will be vulnerable.

Non-Free Attacks

Attack is a free move. It costs nothing. Spells cost MP.

Let us consider the cost/benefit analysis of whether to cast a spell or use a normal attack. We assume that spells do more damage than normal attacks, as otherwise this is a moot issue.

The benefit is that you defeat the enemy sooner and take less HP damage. As for the cost, MP is usually expensive to restore. A less direct cost that weighs heavily on players' minds is that you may not have enough MP left at the end of the dungeon to defeat the boss. Players do not know how long a dungeon will be until they reach the end of it, so they do not know how much they should keep in reserve. Besides,

How would it be if normal attacks also had a cost? Let's say it cost you 2%-5% of HP every time you do a normal attack because your arm is going to get tired from swinging that sword. That may change a player's calculations.

Time dependant missions

RPG missions tend to be flag based. The mission is either available or it is not. Anything else in the game world can happen, and you can get to the mission whenever you feel like it.

Where this becomes a problem: When the storyline behind the mission should be time based and the mission is not, this can cause a disconnect from the player's immersion in the story.

Example: The heroes need to save a villager's son from a bear that is going to eat him. The heroes hit the store to stock up on supplies, sleep the night at the inn, run around leveling up, sleep another night at the inn, sail around the world, read the Game of Thrones novels, and then go into the cave to save the kid from the bear.


  • The game keeps track of time. Events cause game time to elapse.
  • Missions may have different outcomes depending on how much game time it takes for you to complete them.


  • More realistic consequences in-story.
  • Rewards for finishing missions quickly.


  • The Writers have to write extra story for the different branches.
  • Players will be pushed into missions without adequate preparation.
  • The player has less control over the game.

Possible mechanisms:

  • A table of outcomes and a time limit that makes that outcome unavailable. This may be the external representation.
  • Chain the outcomes so that a mission's outcome on timeout is another mission. This may be the internal representation.

Time dependant missions, again

So let's say that we implement time-dependant missions. You can walk up to the questgiver and get your emergency quest that must be finished in the next two hours, or you can grind up a few levels, sail around the world, etc, and then get the same quest from the same questgiver.

We have the same problem.

Potential solutions:

  • Rewrite the story to cause these quests to be triggered by something the player did.
  • Trigger certain missions at the beginning of the game and give the player plenty of time to complete them. The town might have an impending disaster that the hero will solve but it won't be problem for a few months.
  • Don't be so aggressive at making missions timed.

Stat Reservoirs

Fighters have an HP meter and can go forever as long as they have healing potions. There must be caffeine in those. In real life, fighting all day makes people tired and less effective.


A player has multiple HP reservoirs.

  • Immediate HP - currently known as “HP”.
  • Reserve HP - Drained into immediate HP between battles. Refilled by sleeping.

The same can be done for MP.


  • HP/MP are refilled between fights… to a point. This point can be relative to the percent of reserve remaining.
  • The rate at which HP/MP is restored can be gamed.


Stealth versus grinding

Many games show enemies on the map and you can choose whether or not to fight them. Then you run into a boss and wish you had fought all the enemies. The problem? You get XP and gold from killing enemies. You never get XP from dodging an enemy.

Possible resolutions:

  • Upon clearing a map for the first time, you get XP for every enemy on the map regardless of whether you engaged the enemy or not. This is a one-time bonus and you can still go back and kill the enemies for XP and gold.
  • The game keeps track of enemies you have fought versus those you have skipped. When leveling up, you get an agility bonus if you have been skipping enemies.

Reduce low-level enemy encounters

When you are at Level 1, a slime gives you some trouble. At level 3, you can beat them handily. At level 5, you can beat a slime in one hit. At level 10, you wonder why slimes are dumb enough to fight you. At level 50, running into slimes is an annoying waste of your time.

New rules. Enemies have a level target that affects how hostile they are. Let us say that on the average, a slime will target you until you are level 5. Once you are level 5 the slime starts to have second thoughts, and as your level goes up there is an increasing likelihood that the monster might not bother with you and the encounter will be skipped, or they might bring a friend to keep the battle more even.

This presumes that you are simply traveling. If you are going hunting, you are attacking the slime and the logic is different.

Dwindling encounters in closed environments

“How many guards are in this dungeon?” The encounter rate in any dungeon map should go down as you defeat enemies.


Items with many attributes

Some games let you level up your weapons and spells by using them often. Let's take this to an extreme.

Weapons, items, and spells can have many attributes. When you use them, you increase XP in all of the attributes. When you switch to another weapon, the XP gained in similar attributes carries over.

Let's say that your axe is an 8lb bladed iron chopping melee weapon. If you switch to a sword that is an ice-enchanted 5lb bladed iron slashing melee weapon, you keep your levels for bladed iron melee weapons but have to build the other skills from zero as you get more familiar with the new weapon.

Each weapon and armor may have a uniqueness skill that shows how comfortable you are with using that specific weapon or armor.

Items with flawed components

Considering that:

  • Some games let weapons and armor take damage until they break.
  • Some games have ”-1” or ”+1” variants of common weapons and items.
  • Some games allow crafting items from components.

Let us make these assumptions:

  • Weapons and armor are crafted from multiple components.
  • The components are sub-optimal. (under 100%)
  • The crafter's tools are sub-optimal. (under 100%)
  • The crafter's skill is sub-optimal. (under 100%)

The strength of anything you craft will be relative to components * tools * skill.

85% pure ore * 60% imprecise tools * 65% journeyman crafter = 33% sword

Flaws can be reflected in reduced stat values: damage, number of hits before breaking, any other stat effects.

The game can have many enemies drop worthless items.

Ambient combat effects

Spells may produce ambient effects that increase the capability of future spells. Wind spells cause an increase in wind, which… does something. Fire spells increase ambient heat, which… does something.

Generally, increasing an environmental effect could lead to: * Reduced casting cost and time due to the environment being prepared * Greater damage or other effect * Reduced damage from spells of opposite alignment * Modified combat stats for someone sensitive to the alignment

Casting a spell could consume part of the environmental effect to increase its strength. There may be different spells to prepare the effect and then to use it.

A wind effect can reduce the hit rate of projectile weapons.


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rpgalternateconcepts.txt · Last modified: 2016/12/10 18:20 by deltatango