Overlord – Update #002

What Character is?

Character is players alter ego in a table top role-playing game. In essence, player plays with a character who is a sum of her statistics shown in paper.

What should these numbers then be? Character has typically attributes (could also be named ”stats”) and skills:
Attributes typically represent some kind of inner ability or inherit ability in some area.
Skills represent ability in one particular area.

Thus character with good ability core should have easier time learning (and possibly using) some skill in related area. For instance it would seem logical that quick and highly dexterous character would be good in many athletic sports.

From game design standpoint two important questions are the number of attributes and their importance to main activity in the game.

A) Small number of abilities mean that each of them have higher effect than large number of abilities.
Ideally every ability should have roughly similar usefulness for related skills.

B) Main activity of the game determines which attributes are most relevant in the game.

For instance, if there is a game where large amount of time is spent in combat, the relevant attributes become very important. In many games high Strength and Dexterity are important in a physical combat so they are highly valued by players who play in a historical setting. However, if the time is spent in sipping wine and trading barbs disguised as pleasantries the Charisma and Personal Appearance become suddenly very important.

Attribute system can include several concepts that complicate system design even further:
A) Some special attributes may be added to characters with special backgrounds, skills, abilities or talents. For instance, there could be a Magical Power attribute open only to people who are trained to comprehend and use magic in settings where fantastic elements are used.

B) Some attributes may have additional special rules that persons with very high or very low attributes must employ. For example exceedingly fast person may have additional effect vis a vis person with much lower abilities. Similarly character with very low attribute may have additional penalties. For instance, in a historic game there could be rules that person must be of certain strength to be able to use heavy Zweihänder sword.

All of these issues must be given thought in thinking of the final set of attributes.

In my own thoughts I have been imaging a system where attributes are divided to two different sets. First set is used to describe character’s short term abilities such as giving out a good first impression or ability to react fast. These would be skills used during perilous adventures where action is fast and furious. Second set would be character’s long term abilities that describe characters ability to do long term activities such as daily work between adventures and long term effort during adventure such as a cross-country travel or ability to keep one’s mental balance in a high-stress work.

Within these two fields there would be actual attributes:
Physical statistics are:
Strength/Endurance – This would describe physical strength and related field of carrying it on.
Dexterity/Agility – This would describe agility and quickness of character.
Psychological characteristics are:
Willpower/Stability – Will is the strength of will to carry out in stressful situation.
Perception/Knowledge – This is the ability to reason and know/find out things fast.
Social characteristics are:
Charisma/Empathy – This is the ability to deal with people.

Will there be new abilities and will these pairing change? Probably but we’ll see that in future as game starts to get into a shape.

Overlord – Update #001

Jim Dunnigan (of old and now sadly defunct SPI company) pointed out that Combat Resolution Table (CRT) is simply the first (and most important) design part of table top game. This is particularly true in strategy games where CRT referred combat and its results but it really stands for and game where there is an element of chance in results.

Prospective game designer has to make game’s outputs match it’s inputs in such a way that results are ”realistic” or at least believable/plausible within game’s premise. This all requires a lot of testing. Furthermore, these tests must be redone whenever rules are changed because it is unrealistic to assume that rules turn out well at the first time.

Thus I believe that having a computer is the most important tool available for a prospective game designer. It allows one to test out game mechanics and see that outputs match inputs for rules.

There are different ways to do computer tests. Some open up the complex dice propabilities and fill up the numbers in their formula. I use brute force approach. I write a simple C# (or Java) code of actions that player does (in step by step fashion). Then I run this simulation to see that output matches what I am looking for.

Number of iterations necessary to do a good run depends on complexity of matter. I have noticed that 10 to 1000 is too little to have consistent results and 100000 takes too long time to me. Thus I usually do 10000 iterations. This number should not be taken as a gospel but as something that works to me. This number may have to rise if system gets more complex.

Overlord – A Game of Ambition

I have wanted to create a table top role-playing for a long time (probably most of my life that I hae been gaming). However, these endeavours have all into nothing.

Why? The answer is simple. I have always put in scales two things: dreams and reality. Reality (read money) has always won. I simply make more money working in real job than taking monetary risk and facing possibility of failing commercially.

This time, howeer, I have decided to do game design more or less as a hobby so long breaks of doing nothing do not count. It is, after all, only a hobby.

To make long story short: I’ll be doing work for a tabletop game I have decided to call ”Overlord – A Game of Ambition”.