Game Design: The Five-Power Chassis
Last night, I think I worked out the last character power I needed to complete the concept of the character chassis. Time will tell of course, but the power I think I was missing was “Engage.” Since I came wrote it up, I’ve had to reshuffle things a bit, rename some powers and such. It’s all change for the better.
There was a shakeup a couple days, maybe a week or more, which I think I might have failed to mention here, if only because it led to a string of changes, and that can be difficult to document. I realized that the powers I was developing were forming the core of a combat system which could be independent of other the other systems.
That might seem obvious, but the point was perhaps that I discovered I finally had enough game rules to start dividing them into separate compartments. Instead of being a conflation of different rules to cover a spectrum of play options, I had enough concentrated in one area to create a subsystem. That’s an exciting discovery.
Anyway, the five-power chassis covers the combat subsystem, and can be used to define every single creature and character in the game. It’s fairly straightforward, and should be easily recognizable to most people who have passing familiarity with roleplaying games, either on a console or tabletop.
The powers are Attack, Guard, Engage, Cheer, and Block.
Attack and Guard are both Standard actions. The former is self-explanatory and used to deal damage to an opponent. The latter bears a resemblance to the Second Wind power from Dungeons & Dragons, but is inspired by The Legend of Dragoon, which precedes Fourth Edition by about eight years. Just sayin’.
Engage is a Sudden action, and used to select a target for the character’s next attack. There is hidden utility in this power, as without it, your attack has a lower priority than your allies. You choose your target last, effectively “delaying” until all other blocking/engaging has been resolved.
Cheer is a Swift action, and is a cooperative power that enables an ally to gain the benefits of Guard without taking an action to do so. Finally, Block is a more proactive form of defense, allowing a creature or character to mitigate the damage from a single attack as a Readied action. Together, these five powers form the chassis.
Everything else in the game is in addition to these five powers. Which is to say, every other part of the combat subsystem takes these powers into account.