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Skill system help

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I've been working on this game for a little while and I need some help with the skill system, because no matter how I try I come to some barrade. Basic idea so far is a fantasy gladiator kinda game. Its going to be really simple, mostly text with a basic map so you know where you are in relation to your enemy. The game is soley PvP (basically something I want to make to have some fun with friends). You get fame and gold for killing and can get a house with whores and scholars and squires that give you bonuses to certain things and you can buy/make weapons and all this stuff. Leveling will be fairly fast. I say all this for context for what I actually need help on: the skill system. I want something thats freeform with no classes, like open trees you can pick and choose from (which some disadvantages for spreading too thin, like it costing more to raise the later trees youve gotten). Think like...the older MMO Asheron's Call skill system, maybe even Ultima Online (except the experience use ala AC), but the ability to choose individual skills within those, like Diablo II, but each individual skill doesn't have a value, the tree does (which is raised with experience ala AC). I think theres more I've fleshed out but its all fairly loose right now. Some other details that might help: 5 main stats (where most secondary come from): Strength Dexterity Agility Constitution Intuition(casting stat but helps more than stereotypical "intelligence" does) Pools: Health, Mana, Stamina. Every action (movement, casting a spell, attacking) costs a base stamina amount, and its a set amount of 100 (only HIGH level things can increase this, and no more than 10-15 more). You choose your actions until your down to 0 stamina or choose not to do anymore. This is where the turn system breaks down, I'm not sure whether to rotate actions choosen or what...but I want something loosely based on this idea. Secondary: Armor(doesn't reduce chance to hit but is damage reduction, like WoW, as opposed to DnD), % chance to dodge, to hit (% is deteremined based on this value and your level, perhaps it should be a "weapon skill" which determines your %), chance to crit, crit multiplier(normal dmg * this number = dmg if you crit), Speed(basically effects the base value of each action), bonus damage. Resistances to the elemental types: Cold,Fire,Energy,Entropy (formerly called "Decay", and the physical: Bashing, Piercing, Slashing. My original skill design had the following trees: *edit* forgot the original trees I had: Ninjitsu (sneaky combat stuff) Healing Evocation (Direct Damage) Augmention(Buff and Debuff) Smiting (combination of healing and discipline...was taken out) Discipline(general combat arts) Illusion (DoTs and mez/stuns) Dirty Fighting(shady combat arts) Prime (converting hp to mana, stamina to mana, hp to mana, some mana drains and such) Decay (DoTs, lifetaps and various procs) The problem with this was that the skills kinda 'bled' into others and even though some had some uniqueness, it would be not only hard to balance but could be abused. It would also be hard to decide what would count as a tree, because the Smiting tree had far too many similarities to Healing and Discipline. My friend made a good suggestion which I still like right now and that is too really simplify it: You have a Physical and Magic tree for Offense, Defense, and Enhancement (we later changed this to Support, for various reasons of which I need help on), which gives 6 trees. At higher levels, the tree bleeds into the others, maybe 2 for each one. So in the Magic Offense tree at higher levels there would be 2 spells for Magic Offense+Magic Defense, M.O+Magic Enhancement, M.O. + Physical Offence, etc, for 5+ extras (if there are 2 of each that would be 5*2 = 10). And then maybe there would be a few ones that combined all of them. Now these wouldn't be completely broken super powerful ones, just more versatile because they combine a few things. I like this idea because it simplifies it and lays it out clearly. But does it remove the feeling of "Oooh, I just combined the Healing and Discipline tree to make my Paladin!" or "sweet, finally got my low line buffs and direct damage for my fighter (Thane class from Dark Age of Camelot)"? Also: the simplicity is a facade, because after trying to think of some skills, I got stuck. Some problems: -How do the magic version differ from the physical version? Perhaps magic does more damage, but has higher costs (more stamina, mana, perhaps hp or gold/component costs?) Maybe physical is stronger until magic uses buffs and such, which take time and resources? -Where do you draw the line between Offensive, Defensive, or Enhancement/Support . This is why I changed Enhancement to Support, but it still raises some questions...would a Strength buff fall under Offensive because it increases damage, or Enhancement/Support because its a buff spell? What about a dodge buff->Defense or Enhance/Support? I'm sure there were some other ones, I'll fill in more details as the need arises.

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I see a few layers when designing a battle system.

The first layer, which is locked (the same for all games), consists of basic battle modifiers:
• offensive buffs = increases target damage capabilities
• defensive buffs = increases target surviving capabilities
• direct damage = deals instant or over-time damage to some targets

All buffs can be conditional. I.e. Air armor is active only for ranged attacks.

Considering their effects the buffs are:
• beneficial
• destructive

Buff target area:
• self
• others
• area

Buff targets allowed (these target classes are somehow specific to your game but you can consider them general concepts):
• self
• ally
• enemy

The second layer refers to character stats that buffs can modify. This is specific to your game mechanics. I call them character gameplay variables. Indirectly, they act as offensive or defensive buffs.

In your case those are:
• strength
• agility
• dexterity
• constitution
• intuition
• damage
• armor
• attack speed
• movement speed

Here you can take a first step to prevent uber-combinations by limiting maximum buffs you can apply on a target. Also consider secondary effects, how much an effect can multiply (make this intended). Also clearly describe tactics in your game as some abilities can offer advantages in this area (like movement speed effects).

Try now define tree-classes by defining their goals. In this process, take into consideration those two layers.

I.e. Battle Command tree has 80% area of effect buffs and 20% ally single target buffs, 75% beneficial buffs and 25% destructive buffs, no direct damage.

Playing with those percentages (or choice posibilities in the same tree) you can make a tree (or a "build") suitable more for a Tactician (more about manuevering through the combat) or more for a Battle Leader (directly increasing damage).

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I created a system once that used psudoclasses, these I called Affinities. These Affinities were essentially skill groups that a particualr class would have. Each Affinity had special skill (and it is not realy a skill but it was mechanicaly similar from the player's point of view) that reduced the cost of selecting skills from a particular affinity.

Also in each affinity, the skills were further grouped into schools. These schools also had the special skill that reduced the costs of selecting skills from that school.

There was a Common affinity that had the cost reducing skill automatically maxed out (but not the schools in that affinity).

For example ther was Mage, Rogue, Priest, Warrior and Common affinities. In the Warrior affinity ther was several schools some of these were Swords, Daggers and Spears. In the Spears school there were the specific skill that you could use when weilding a spear as well as special effects that could effect all the actions you could do with the spear (like speed and damage bounuses).

this allowed for psudoclasses without the restrictions of classes, but also had a slight penalty for people who tried to be generalists but did allow for it.

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Codman: Its only going to be 1v1 PvP, there would be no "ally" buffs (there are no pets/summoning and its only 1v1 cause I'm coding this all myself and I'm trying to be realistic) and same applies for area effect spells. With that in mind, I still like your way of plotting things out, although I'd like to have abilties such as mesmorization and stuns (mez = cannot move or attack until target takes damage, stun is the same except target can take damage, but the effect generally lasts a much shorter time). Also, how many trees do you think is a good number, and how many skills per tree? I think 6-10 trees with 7-15 skills each (depends on the total number of trees).

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Enchantments and Crafting = skills from this tree imbue you equipment with various buffs or abilities. They are all physical related, no magic. Poisonous buffs belongs here. Also you may have skills for re-defining your sword blade. You may introduce some “degradation” to weapons and specific oil treatments (from this tree) will improve upon this aspect. Active abilities, need reagents.

Magic = here belongs all incantations and magic related abilities. Elemental direct damage spells belongs here. All should be active abilities.

Fighting Arts = skill from this tree are about different fighting styles and movements (with bare hands or equipment). Rages type abilities go here. Mostly active abilities.

Deception = combat tricks and science of illusions belong to this tree.

Weapon Masteries = improves damage, range, precision, cooldown, chance to block and so on of different weapon types. Mostly passive abilities.

Concentration, Meditation and Resistances = non-magic healing and improved resistance abilities, powerful buffs which improve specific areas. Mostly passive or channeling. You may start the game with an incantation or a meditation which lasts for a pretty long time or until you make another (only one is active). For example increased movement speed or mana regeneration.

I suggest keeping a comprehensive number of skills in each tree. From intuition I feel like each tree should have between 5 to 9 skills.

• I suggest you to write all skills that come to your mind on the paper, then refine them to fit to a tree.
• Also add subtle nuances like almost same effect skills but with another purpose (you may have invisibility in Magic and Deception but find a way to different them).
• From that point cut some skills out to avoid redundancy and here you have a new set of good skills.
• After that, arrange them to create strategies (you may think about new gameplay rules).
• Some new ideas appear here so you will have to reiterate the process and reconsider some skills while adding new ones.

Always remember to give “strategic choices” or the skill choices will become without purpose.

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