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RPG: Skills & Weapon Traits

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Looking at RPGs from Diablo to Final Fantasy, they all utilize a two-tiered system of improving your characters: leveling and weapon traits. Both systems date back to good old tabletop RPGs, but Im more curious about where the balance should be struck. Should weapons possess traits that are mirrored by skills? Should they be kept separate? What do you feel the guidelines should/could be?

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I'd like to see an absolute branching item hierarchy and a corollary skill hierarchy, with some paper-rock-scissors type of stuff in there.

Use categories, like "Thrusting", "Slashing", "Polearm", etc.

Each weapon is a constellation of these properties. A spear is a thrusting polearm, a cutlass is a slashing one-handed weapon, and on and on (Fallout, with more refinement in weapon types).

Skills modify the bonuses and penalties for each category. "Slashing" will give you a general bonus for sabers, naninatas, scimitars and any other weapon that includes "slashing" among its properties. "Precision Point Control" will give a bonus to hit precision with all thrusting weapons, from rapiers to lances to dirks.

This system can be extended to armor, certain athletic properties, stealth, and any other facet of the game.

How you structure the training is up to you, but I recommend a "practice makes perfect" system that gives you skills based on what you do, rather than allowing you to arbitrarily assign skillpoints. I also recommend a system by which massacre is not a prerequisite. Sparring with "trainer" NPCs, shooting a bow at fruit hanging on a tree or just hitting a rock with a stick could count as training. Formal training, which might become more important at higher levels, would be a good money sink for late-game players who won't be buying a lot of new gear.

Add weapon class skills as well. "Spear" skill will be influenced by other thrusting and polearm skills, but a skilled rapier fencer and halberd wielder will not be magically able to use a spear well. He'll learn very quickly, and be able to apply his existing knowledge and skill to it.

As for weapons themselves, don't have a silver sword be better than a steel one, and a glass or ruby sword trump that. It's retarded. Use other properties, like weight, balance and quality of materials, to make each weapon unique. If you have great slashing skills and use single strikes to do your damage, then a stout, single-bladed weapon like a katana of scimitar might be right up your alley. If you have some blunt weapons kills on the side, then a heavier, viking-type sword might better express your style.

Ultimately, you could pay a great deal or do a quest or something to have a skilled craftsman make a perfect-quality sword that ideally matches your end-game stats, taking maximum advantage of all your bonuses and letting you kick the greatest possible amount of ass.

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One of the significantly most important things to consider in a game is that each element must actively contribute to the game's entertainment value. Every time a character gains a level, the player should feel the surge of power through his veigns. Each new weapon a character acquires should make him go "OMGWTF thats so powerful!!11!!1!one!"

This is incredibly difficult to do when the player is getting a new, gradually more powerful weapon every three seconds.

The balance that gives players an equal incentive to level-up and to acquire new, spiffier toys does not necessarily need to come from mechanics. It can come equally as much from the game-world circumstances such as _availability._ Acquiring the next level of power-destructo-weapon may consist of the player going far out of his way to acquire it -- perhaps just cost an exorbidant amount of money to purchase.

It is incredibly important to recognize the impact scaling in your game world. Adding bigger, badder, bashier weapons to the players arsenal may actually completely devalue the virtues of leveling up in the first place. Games like Diablo attempted to correct this problem by putting raw level restrictions on whether you could wield a weapon --- but rather than solve the problem, that only complicated the existing one and turned weapons into yet another formality that you can satisfy after doing what you were already doing. It did not introduce a new dynamic.

I've always been fond of the idea of having very few, very rare weapons of ultra-spiffiness and make their discovery and acquisition challenging and make the effort comensurate to the reward.

The other option has been explored in this thread already: Game-mechanical features that help differentiate weapons and their abilities from the killy-talents already posessed by the character. Considerations such as. . . One kind of weapon is capable of ignoring the protective qualities of armor at the cost of slightly less damage. . . or one weapon allows you more rapid rates of attack at the cost of accuracy or something.

Another mechanical balance between charcters' death-inducing prowess and their tools could be done like Legend of the Five Rings does damage. In that game, each weapon has damage ratings annotated as "XkY" where X is equal to the number of dice you roll to determine damage but Y is the number of those dice you are allowed to keep (the "k" is meant to separate the numbers and annotate the the latter of the numeric values is the number of dice "Kept"). X is usually augmented by the players Strength so both the character's own stats plus the stats of the weapons themselves cooperate with each other rather than redundantly obviate one another.

For an illustration of how this sort of works, you can play with my online L5R die roller.
http://www.ishpeck.net/roller.php

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I definitely don't plan on putting level restrictions on my equipment. My game is oriented more towards eastern RPGs, with some western tactical strategy-style mixed in. One of the more important aspects of the game is centered around picking your allies, since you can change your team members and hire new ones throughout the game. In that sense, I want to somewhat devalue the nature of purchasing new equipment all the time, since it feels like that might be needlessly complex ("Hmm, should I keep Frodo with the zwiehander or use Arthur with the Excalibur?"). Different characters can use different weapons with differing effectiveness. Different weapons do have different properties, and tend to cause different amounts of damage, even if they were used by someone who had the same "skill" with both (although the skill level between two differing things is a little like comparing apples and oranges - they're both fruit, but you eat both differently.

At the same time, I want a player to desire to obtain the Excalibur sword. It's mystical, foes should be laid down before it. Obviously, there's going to be some sort of balance needed between the supply and demand of newer, spiffier weapons. I have no interest in adding as many weapons as are littered throughout the game of Diablo (II). It's a fun game in its own right, but that's not how I want to design my game. I'm not about making the player hunt for two years for a special magical weapon that is only dropped in a 1:100,000 chance by the Dark Emperor UnSp'iff.

Magical weapons will never be sold in a town store in my game. The helpful blacksmith will make nice weapons for you to purchase, but they'll be as magical as my left shoe (which isn't very magical). The characters will be able to find magical weapons however - weapons which might be embued with fire damage, or might inflict poisonous wounds upon their enemies. A certain warrior (err, assassin) character might have a special ability that adds poisonous damage to their attack for a small price (most likely mana, and some sort of item). My concern is how much overlap should there be between magical weapon special abilities and character specific special abilities? Some? None? Lots?

The manner in which I differentiate between a character's strength/weapon deadliness and their skill has to do with the manner in which I calculate an attack. A character's skill effects their hit % as well as their chance to score a critical hit (and all a critical hit means is adding a random percentage from 0-100% to the damage). A character's strength changes the actual damage dealt. The enemy's skill at evading attacks and their armour defense also come into play with these factors.

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I feel that skills combined with free-wirlding weapons are what should be done.

Anybody can find a zweihander. ANd almost anybody can lift it. But it requires some stats to be handled normally. Plus, the fact of handling all day long, all year long, makes you better at handling a zweihander. But because you're getting better at handling a zweihander doesn't mean you're also getting better at handling a broadsword, or a battleaxe. Every weapon is wielded differently. So I guess each weapon could be a combination of different skills, like Ironore(I think) indicated earlier in this thread.

Let's just imagine that holding a Polearm requires both much strength and much agility (or swiftness, I'll leave you the choice of the stat name) Stats are prerequisite in order to get 100% chances to simply MASTER the weapon. With those prerequisite (let's say RqSTR and RqAGI are the required stats) you calculate a formula a modifier :
M1=(((RqSTR +STR)/2RqSTR)+((RqAGI + AGI)/2RqAGI))/2

This modifier simply determines your efficiency. You can max this modifier at 1.

And then, your polearm skil is equal to 30% of your THRUST skill, 20% of the SLASH skill and 50% of the HEAVY WEAPONS skill. You calculate the integrated number and get a way of calculating this. percentages, dice, what have you.

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Each character in the game is limited by what weapons they can employ. This is a design choice I made early on to give the players an additional resource to diversify in their party choice. Some characters can wield multiple weapon types, others may only wield a single type of weapon. Realistic? No, but that doesn't bother me.

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"Each character in the game is limited by what weapons they can employ."
If you had a limited pool of skill points that could be placed in weapons, then the players must choose how many point to place in each weapon skill. This will also encourage specialization as well as allowing for generalization.

The generalists will be better at using the most apropreate weapon at the right time, but will not be as good with them as a specilaist would be. This creates another role in the group for the generalists as they will be able to adapt their fighting to the situation.

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That's the way I would probably do it if I were employing a skill points system. Its a sound system, but its not what I'm employing. Each character has a set of skills that they will eventually learn over the course of X levels, and each character can only use certain weapons. In order to maintain a sense of character diversification, players will be able to recruit or hire additional characters that might be skilled with different weapons and/or possess different abilities.

My concern is whether the types of skills that the player might learn (such as "flame slash" or "venom stab" etc.) should be mimiced by certain weapon abilities (such as a firebrand or iceblade weapon).

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