Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Playtesting Mark 1

With some excruciating work I've managed to finalize the level 1 abilities for 4 of the starting classes.  I've also managed to narrow down what stats I wanted to include and how I would use them and set values for them.  On top of that I had a rudimentary combat system and I was itching to test the new Stamina mechanic, Class features as well as the smoothness of combat.  So a playtesting we go.

In previous posts I've talked about Hit Points, Wounds, Armor and Defense.  Since then I've reevaluated and revised these to make them more elegant.  Since many people's gripe with armor as damage reduction is that it slows down the game and adds unnecessary rolling.  So my solution was to originally have armor affect only your Wounds ignoring HP altogether as hit points represent your ability to not be hit.  This meant that there would be an extra die roll but it would only come up at certain and important times.  Since armor had become slightly marginalized I decided to swap from differing dice sizes to different amounts of dice, adopting a 1d6/2d6/3d6 spread for light, medium and heavy armor respectively.

Of course things didn't stop there, I started thinking about people who had little in the ways of Defense (the first of three lines of defense before imminent death) who would prefer to wear heavy armor.  In this case their HP would quickly be chewed through before reaching Wounds at which point their armor would kick in.  To this I proposed two solutions.  The first was that you could voluntarily have faith in your armor and allow an attack to go straight to wounds bypassing HP entirely.  This set up a sort of gamble in that the character could probably guess which attack his armor could absorb entirely but of course some attacks may be more than meets the eye.  It's risky and I like it, and it's why I've decided to keep it.  The other solution..not so much.

The second proposal was that armor would provide a flat damage reduction for HP, a 1/2/3 spread for the light/med/heavy armor categories.  This eliminated the need for extra rolling and provided a benefit to people wearing heavy armor even if their defenses were extremely poor.  It sounds nice but in actual playtesting it's far from it.  For a player (and DM's armored NPCs) it's one more thing to remember for every time he takes damage.  Mathematically there is a snafu when damage exceeds HP and goes straight to wounds.  As an example if the player is wearing medium armor and has 4 hit points left and the DMs monster deals 7 damage to him there are a few mental gymnastics you need to do before you can resolve this.  First the 7 damage is reduced by 2, down to 5, this 5 is deducted from hit points leaving 1 damage remaining which carries over to wounds.  The wounds then have an armor rating of 2d6 nullifying the damage.  You can see how that can be confusing and the opposite of rapid combat.  You could create rules and caveats that could manuever around this problem but that would make much less elegant and one more aspect of combat the DM keep stored in his working memory.  So out the door it went.

Aside from that the rest of things went fairly smoothly.  The basic premise of the spell/shaping and mana system turned out fine but as for the actual execution it still needs some work and an eye for balancing it out at higher levels.  The importance of speed was not recognized until actual play and it gave me an elegant idea of what bonus to give people that are unarmored (+1 speed).  Stamina was interesting but partially forgettable due to it's overlap with speed and because the player was getting used to other abilities.  Class features and weapon qualities were all distinct and gave each character their own combat flair.  All in all it was a pretty good playtest and I'm psyched for the future.  Now if only editing and publishing tools weren't so irritatingly inefficient.