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wildhalcyon

Technology Skills in an RPG

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As I further the plot and technical aspects of my RPG, Im starting to deal with skill allocations. The game that I am making is a mix between the traditional 16-bit console Final Fantasy games (battle occurs with a menu-based implementation and a 4-5 person party), Final Fantasy Tactics (3D orthogonal projection, blocky maps, 2D sprites for characters, items, etc), and a smidge of The Legend of Zelda (acquiring various tools for gaining access to new areas). The way the skill system is currently implemented, the skills are taught by various trainers, teachers, or gurus throughout the game. These trainers are limited in which skills they can teach, so while you can find a trainer to improve your weapon skill in almost every town, the trainer to teach you the Ninja-Death-Sword Attack might only be found in a small, obscure hut on the western continent (much like the ultimate magic spells in typical games are found in a secret cave). A majority of these skills effect battle menu commands - such as adding new abilities to the menu or improvement of already existing abilities. A few might actually influence the game outside of battle as well. Now that the introduction is over, the crux of my question revolves around the fact that one of the conflicts in this game is technology v. magic (the idea for the game started from a scene in a rather obscure science fiction novel in which a battle was raging on the side of a mountain between a technological country and a magic country - tanks and jets were battling dragons, and infantry was going up against sorcerers). Creating medieval/magic skills is easy - magic is pretty much standard fare for these games. I want to make sure that technology isn't represented with just a couple "token skills" like being able to equip guns. What sort of technology skills should be implemented in this game? I've been pouring through some online resources for the steampunk and magitech genres, but there's not much there to be honest. I've been debating about trying to include some kind of body armor skill (anyone have a copy of GURPS Mecha! handy? I remember seeing some stuff about this in there), but Im not sure how to implement it well. Any thoughts? Thanks a bunch!!!

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Have you ever played Arcanum by Troika? (Computer RPG, Steampunk with Magic.) In that game technology skills included Firearms, Repair, Lock Picking and Disarm Traps. Also technologically inclined characters developed the ability to build items from schematics. Such as elephant guns from a hunting rifle and a large pipe.

Even if you don't want to go a full item combination method, you could have skills that make items with immediate use like grenades as skills. To make it feel different from magic it could cost money instead of magic points.

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Those aren't bad ideas. Actually, I have Arcanum... I got it on clearance at some store for about $5. Haven't played much of it, I got frustrated with it after dying twice within the first fifteen minutes. Maybe I should give it another go...

(note for the following portion of the post: I reference Final Fantasy games an awful lot in my posts because in my opinion, they represent the pinnacle of the era of the traditional RPG 2D tiled games. Rather than sculpt my game in the Squaresoft image, I hope to use their games as a benchmark for my own creation - sans the bad plots)


Some of the skill sets I've already got are:

Weapon Skills - Improves your damage and hit percentage with the weapon class. Rather than having just a 'front' and 'back' row, there are several rows to use in battle, and for ranged weapons, this would increase the hit percentage from further back.

Fighting styles - each weapon type (e.g. swords, staves, bow & arrow) has special attacks associated with it. Most extra attacks are taught by separate instructors.

"Magic" - Not entirely sure how to implement this, but this is the generic magic such as fireball and healing spells.

Witch/Warlock Curses - These are debilitating effects in battle. Rather than the typical status effects that you commonly see in fantasy games, curses have varying degrees of effectiveness and wear off after a number of turns.

Priest/Priestess Blessings - The opposite of curses, these beneficial status effects also have varying degrees of effectiveness and wear off after several turns.

Hunter/Ranger skills - sort of a catchall for woodland skills. These include skills which can increase and decrease random encounters, fashion totems (usable items that act as one-time summons of various monsters)

Rogue skills - right now, all I have is thievary, maybe lockpicking but I've always sort of seen lockpicking as a deus ex machina for placing annoying locks in plain sight.

I was going to introduce an alchemist skill set which involved brewing potions that could be used in battle (both good and bad). This could be considered part of the "technology" skill classes since it's similar to chemistry. Also, this could be linked to a generic "make item" skill set that could include the grenades listed by SiCrane.

Also, after reviewing some material on some PC games (after looking at Arcanum again), I looked at Diablo II's Necromancer Iron Golem skill. Maybe a similar construct could be used for making Machine Golems. They would function like the Final Fantasy Legend II (classic gameboy game) robots that gained power by equiping more powerful items. In battle, the creator would "summon" their creation to fight in their stead.

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Hi wildhalcyon, a lot of what you are describing is similar to that used in Arcanum, you probably should try again with your copy.

On the technology side of things, Arcanum had a series of schematics that you either learnt (by spending experience points), or found. A technologist would make items by combining things together with these items; for example, a Molotov cocktail could be created from a rag and some petrol (I think). A mechanics expert could also create clockwork spiders to fight for them (one of the better technology disciplines, in my opinion).

Arcanum also had trainers that you could seek out to become more proficient in a skill; although you could spend experience points to gain proficiency, you gained special abilities by going up in rank (from No Rank to Beginner to Expert to Master, I think). The beginner trainers were easy to find, the expert trainers were harder, and the master trainers were difficult to find and required you to undertake a quest to get the training.

However, Arcanum had a lot of faults too that you should try and avoid with your design. The character stats systems was very clunky. Also, to me it seemed a lot more work to be a technologist than a mage, as mages only had to worry about casting spells, technologists had to find and lug around heaps of ingredients for their schematics. Plus a lot of the spells and technologies were not as useful as other ones. Balance is important with a complex system involving magic and technology.

Wish you the best with your RPG! Keep us posted on its development.

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Good point on balance Trapper Zoid, thanks for that advice. Now that you've described more skills, a lot of what Im looking at DOES sound like some of Arcanum's skill ability system.

As for balance, I definitely need some form of 'penalty' for spell casting. Perhaps a form of fatigue - the character gets tired after casting a spell, causing a small decrease in their speed and evasion, but after a very powerful spell, they wouuld have a large decrease to speed and evasion, leaving them more vulnerable.

The alchemist and engineer characters that I was describing in that post would have to carry around ingredients, but there's no encumberance limit planned in the game Im creating, so there won't be an issue with having enough space to carry your Gauge 0 Cog of Fire (or whatever ingredients I'll decide to implement). Those characters will also be able to pre-fabricate their creations prior to battle so that you don't need to spend a turn brewing a potion when you could quite easily have one handy and throw it at your opponent.

I'll try very hard to keep everything balanced, but more importantly, I want to try to make the skill sets uniquely useful for different scenarios. Whereas spell casting might be useful for many situations, maybe having a character who knows some technology skills would be more useful for beating certain types of enemies.

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You had mentioned a problem with problems with magic; depending on how you plan on implementing it, you could have your magic come from some sort of spirit world, and when you cast a spell, depending on its vulgarity and power , something bad could happen: I direct you to two highly recommended sources, Earthdawn, and of even more popularity and better for what your doing, Mage: the Ascension (a game from the World of Darkness, more notable for Vampire: the Masquerade), both of which are paper and pencil RPGs.

As far as technolgy is concerned, I recommend looking at the Eberron campaign setting book for Dungeons and Dragons. It features a class called "Artificer" which is very cool, you start out by scribing scrolls, and move up to brewing potions, creating rings/wands/armor/weapons and even creating constructs/homunculus (which you can "repair" and upgrade). Since you're not a magic user, you are required to make a Use Magic Device check (but being an artificer you get a bonus if you know how to make the specific item) whenever you want to use something like a scroll or wand. In order to make magic items, you have to fudge the spell that it is emulating by making more Use Magic Device checks and other related skill use.

Being able to scribe scrolls and brew potions gives your character much versatility, allowing many options, but they balance it by giving your character a "crafting reserve" that can be used to make the items.

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