One of the aspects of the game that took the longest to sort out was how combat will be handled. There’s a high degree of conflict in the game prototype, given that the basic idea is a PVP D&D — applying D&D mechanics to a more competitive style of game, rather than teamwork focused on overcoming obstacles created by the DM — which means that combat is one of the most significant mechanics and has to work smoothly.
Combat in D&D, as outlined at roll20, involves a die roll to determine whether an attack is successful, and then dice rolls to determine how much damage is dealt by it. While this is a good, structured method of combat, it’s also meant for single encounters with NPC enemies. In a PVP setting where the goal is to defeat the other players, there have to be multiple opportunities for combat, so that a player isn’t removed from the game too early, and it has to be short, so that it doesn’t become tedious.
Because I already knew that D&D combat mechanics wouldn’t work for what I wanted, I considered others, but many of them felt too randomised, to the point that they were essentially coinflips. What I eventually settled on was inspired by the class advantage triangle in the Fate/ franchise mobile game, Fate/Grand Order, which is used to streamline combat in the same way as Pokemon type advantage and similar element- or weapon-based combat mechanics.
Rather than use a triangle set-up for class interactions, I used it to determine the amount of damage dealt and taken in combat, like rock-paper-scissors. Each player has six actions in combat, and they choose their actions from a rock/paper/scissors triangle (attack/guard/break, in game) without knowing their opponent’s moves, and then the number of successful attacks is determined by how many of these match-ups they win. While there’s still an element of randomisation, it also involves a certain amount of pattern recognition and guesswork, similar to Battleship. Certain players might favour attack, or defence, and an opponent can take advantage of that.
Combat was mostly sorted out in last week’s playtest, and this week I was focused on sorting out the possibility of skill mechanics to add more strategy to the player’s options, as well as assistance for the DM position, which is notoriously difficult in any improvisational narrative game. For the DM position, the conclusion was to add story cards — prompts that could help the DM come up with complications to add to the game and directions to lead the narrative in. The skill mechanic is more complex than I could probably work out thoroughly in the minimal amount of prototyping, but it did add more interest and variety to the game, so I decided to keep it, even in its rudimentary form.