I think I figured out what was ultimately missing from the twinned concepts of cover and concealment. I mean, they have definitions and everything but how are they used. You design a game mechanic to create an effect, right? One of the things that makes that difficult is that creating the right effect sometimes requires circuitous design.
You want concealment to be reflect what it really is: you have a hard time seeing the target. What happens when you can’t get a “clean” shot on the target? Any attack is going to be less successful. But not just any attack, pinpoint attacks. What we would call “direct damage” in Magic: the Gathering. Those are melee and ranged attacks.
Bursts and blasts, close or area attacks, those don’t suffer the same problems. Not from concealment. You might say that’s the very disadvantage of relying solely on concealment. Not to mention the effort it takes to set up the right circumstances to procure concealment. But protection from direct damage? That’s still awesome.
Now it seems to me that cover is a bit more useful in actual damage prevention department, when it comes to figuring out whether an attack is successful or not. Cover is important higher up the “ladder,” when it comes to determining the hit/miss part of an attack. Damage is farther down the ladder (but not much).
So, when my players and I are discussing “visibility” when it comes to things like say, an “overwatch” ability, what does it really mean? We’re honestly getting into undiscovered territory even at this point, when all we’ve done is separate what concealment and cover mean in terms of the advantages they provide.
Here’s perhaps a better question: “What do your senses even do for you?”
What’s the advantage to being a sight-based creature as opposed to a sound-based creature, or an electromagnetic spectrum-based creature? How can these things be made into inclusive effects rather than exclusive effects, as they all-too-often are?
Visibility has to be an advantage. It has to grant a specific advantage, and it can’t just be about cancelling out someone else’s bonuses. That’s a very boring way of handling inclusive design. You don’t want to give someone a perk that cancels out someone else’s perk. It’s boring, it’s mean, and it’s lazy. What does vision afford us?
Vision is a long-view kind of ability. Vision allows us to take in our surroundings, and “see” into the future. We need experience and processing power to make those calculations, but that’s something else. Does one “smell” the terrain the same way another “sees” it? That’s a very good question. Senses provide information.
Maybe the answer is somewhere in that – information. It isn’t just about going from point A to point B, because this is an effects-based game. You don’t place half-finished weapons in the players’ hands, you work them out to their logical conclusions. You do the math. You solve the problem for them, and then you give it a name.
The players explore the effects, and what it means to use them. It’s your job as a designer to connect the dots, and then let them figure out what the picture is.