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This is a long post! Forgive the somewhat idiotic thread title, but the irony was too great to ignore. I'm currently planning on spending a few weeks developing (the code, not the art) a multiplayer online role-playing game. The name of the game is not chosen yet (so suggestions are welcome) but expect it to be along the lines of "Sword and Sorcery". First, a few audience-and-technology details:
  • The game will run as a Java applet, possibly as part of an user-made Facebook application.
  • The audience is the Facebook crowd. The application distribution mode seems ideal for distributing a game.
  • The game will be free, possibly even open source (BSD license), but I keep in mind the possibility to write paying expansions (such as offline play).
Now, the core of the game:
  • Two or more players face off in an arena over several rounds. Each player controls three characters in a top-down tactical RPG fashion. The three characters are a Wizard (weak and slow magic-user), a Knight (strong and sturdy fighter) and an Assassin (quick and stealthy fighter). A player wins by killing all opposing characters.
  • The game rounds happen in turns. Every turn, each player gives each of its characters two orders: a movement order, and an action order. When all the players have given their orders (or have run out of order-giving time), all orders are executed simultaneously, and the next turn begins.
  • After each round, each character gains a level. The player chooses how this affects the character by adding a point to one of three "careers" for that character. For instance, a Wizard would have Destruction, Creation and Alteration careers, each new level in a career providing a new spell. Levels don't increase the health of the characters (the Wizard stays at 100, the Assassin at 300 and the Knight at 500) but their armor may change. The first round characters are always the same (but the players can name them). The game should last 8 rounds, and each career has 5 possible levels.
  • The game is low-lethality: ideally, no amount of violence should be able to kill a full-health character in less than two turns. In practice, the characters should even stay alive longer than that. Killing on the second turn is fair game, though. A character's maximum movement speed is influenced by their health, possibly using a rule like 2/3: can't run, 1/3: can't move. Note that everyone can see the health of any character.
  • Fighting happens on pre-generated maps made up of tiles (in the old Dungeons & Dragons tabletop dungeon map fashion) even though character movement is by no means restricted to tiles (it's basically a "point-and-click" movement system).
The give orders, execute orders system allows a much simpler networking system (one only needs to transmit the orders and simulate the result on both sides, with fully deterministic rules for determining final state). While giving orders, players may also chat with each other publically. Games are designed so that there is one clear winner (most rounds won) along with runner-up awards (most suicides, most damage in one hit, most murderous, most sneaky, and so on), in order to keep the game fun for everyone. Now, the orders. A turn incorporates a move order, where the character may stay in place, walk or run. When walking or running, the character can move to a spot, staying close to one or more characters and away from one or more characters. This is done by having clicking on the floor anywhere (option 1°) or on a character (with a drop-down menu proposing option 2° as "→x" or 3° as "←x")—option 1° may be chosen zero or one times, the other two options any number of times. Of course, battlefields being what they are, you are not guaranteed to reach your destination; what if, for instance, a Knight charges you and kicks you away? A turn also incorporates an action order—each character has their own set of possible actions, which also depends on their level. Actions can have a geographic target (shoot fireball at this spot), a character target (shoot homing flame arrow at this guy) or no target at all (cast mass healing), and this depends on the specific action. An action is always performed as soon as possible (target is in range with a clear line of sight), which means it may happen right away, some time during the turn, or never (such as "shoot homing flame arrow at the Assassin", and the Assassin stays behind cover all turn). Note that characters may also perform other actions automatically during the turn without the player specifying it (an Assassin with enough levels in Brawl automatically deals damage to any character that moves away from him in melee). Some actions work less well (or not at all) if the player moves while accomplishing them. Characters may be hasted or slowed (using spells or abilities): when this happen, they get access to a second use of the ability after a certain cooldown time (the same for all abilities) when hasted, or they get a warmup time before their action (the same for all abilities)— in addition to having their movement speed increased. There is no limit to how many times a given action may be used (such as mana points or something similar), the idea being that if you use the same action over and over again someone will use a counter for it. A quick overview of the characters follows: The Wizard: pointy hat, long robes, a staff of power. Low armor but an excellent resistance to spells, no melee attack. The first-level wizard has a simple offensive spell called Magic Strike with a moderate range and reasonable damage. The wizard has access to three careers: Destruction, Creation and Alteration.
  • The Destruction school is about blowing stuff up. It provides five powers , the first four are actions and the last is a latent power.
    1. Static Bolt: instant-hit shock that targets a character at medium range and gets more painful as target armor increases.
    2. Dispel: removes the effect of all magic in a targeted area immediately, and none may be used for the rest of the turn in that area. Also extinguishes flames.
    3. Napalm Wave: Lights up on fire a targeted area for a few turns. Characters caught inside (or those who walk inside) take on fire and receive damage over a few turns.
    4. Flame Arrow: a homing arrow shoots at a target character and lights them on fire for a few turns.
    5. Detonate: when killed, the wizard detonates, inflicting massive damage in an area centered on them.
  • The Creation school is about creating or restoring things. It provides five actions.
    1. Heal: instant-hit close-range effect on anyone, rejuvenates health points.
    2. Shield: creates a barrier around the character, which lasts one turn and greatly reduces any damage received.
    3. Enchanted Weapon: creates a magic weapon which improves damage (dealt by Knights and Assassins) greatly. Lasts several turns.
    4. Mass Shield: creates a barrier around all characters, which lasts one turn and reduces any damage received.
    5. Mass Heal: instant-hit effect on all the team, rejuvenates health points.
  • The Alteration school is about modifying things. It provides three actions and two latent abilities.
    1. Slow: reduces the speed of a target character for several turns.
    2. Iron Skin: increases the armor of the character.
    3. Ignite Poison: transforms poison into fire, increasing the damage dealt.
    4. Ethereal Magic: the line of sight of spells is not blocked by walls.
    5. Haste: increases the speed of a target character for several turns.
The Knight: heavy armor, large sword, big shield, a bow on the back. Excellent for taking and dealing physical damage. The first-level knight can Attack in melee. Can improve careers in Protection, Fencing and Tactics.
  • Protection is about being safe from harm, and keeping others safe from harm. This provides three actions and two latent abilities.
    1. Guard: action, performs two consecutive melee attacks on anyone who gets close to the character (if the knight is standing still) or one attack (if the knight is moving). If the knigt is standing still, then the offender is stopped in its tracks by the attacks.
    2. Improved Armor: increases the resistance to physical harm.
    3. Protect: action, targets an adjacent character. When the adjacent character is attacked, they swap places with the knight—the knight takes damage and retaliates.
    4. Magic Armor: increases the resistance to physical and magical harm.
    5. Parry: when attacked in Melee, the Knight has a 75% chance of blocking the attack (nullifying the result), and retaliates.
  • Fencing is about being good with a sword. This improves the Knight's ability to attack, by teaching him new forms with the sword. No actions here, merely modifies what the "attack" action (or any other melee attack) does.
    1. Two-strike: every melee attack hits twice.
    2. Bash: starts with a shield bash (no damage, may lower enemy armor) and follows up with a Two-Strike.
    3. Off-Hand: bashes with an elbow shield, follows up with a two-strike, finishes with a stab from an off-hand dagger.
    4. Cleave: the Two-Strike hits also deal damage to any adjacent opponents.
    5. Final Kick: performs the attacks above, finishes with a kick that throws the opponent back.
  • Tactics is about hitting the right targets. It provides five actions.
    1. Charge: increases running speed towards a target and performs an attack when in range.
    2. Archery: shoots an arrow at a target.
    3. Expect: expects a melee attack and moves back the moment it happens, then follows up with an attack. Does nothing if the attack never comes, and only dodges one if several happen.
    4. Improved Archery: shoots three arrows at a target in quick succession (so that's six arrows with haste!)
    5. Find Weaknesses: a single very damaging strike that ignores armor, not usable more than once per round.
The Assassin: shady cloak, long stabby dagger, sneaky moves. Excellent damage and good evasion, but pretty weak when caught in the fireworks of the other two characters. Can follows careers in Stealth, Brawl and Daggers. Has a dagger-based melee attack and a throwing-dagger-based ranged attack.
  • Stealth is about moving unseen. Provides no actual actions, only latent abilities. Every level increases the probability that a character which the Assassin attacks (in any way) and which is not attacking the Assassin loses any armor bonus and receives additional damage from the attack. Conversely, each adds a small probability that the assassin will dodge the opponent's attack altogether.
    1. Works only when standing still.
    2. Also works when walking away from target.
    3. Also works when walking in any direction.
    4. Also works when running.
    5. Has a small chance of preventing the characters to target the assassin (they vanish without a trace)
  • Brawl is about fighting in melee with twin daggers. Provides three actions and two latent abilities.
    1. Backstab: a targeted attack with increased damage even more as long as the target is surprised (by using stealth).
    2. Poison: any attack (melee or ranged) deals damage over time.
    3. Opportunity: performs a standard melee attack whenever a character moves away from the Assassin, with surprise effect.
    4. Cripple: an attack with reduced damage, but slows the target for a short while.
    5. Feint: an attack with minimal damage, but with a 100% chance of surprising the target on the next attack.
  • Dagger is about throwing sharp bits of metal. Provides three actions and two latent abilities.
    1. Snipe: throws a single dagger at a very long distance. Deals minimum damage, but may poison.
    2. Steel Rain: throws ten daggers at an area, possibly hitting several targets.
    3. Opportunity: throws a dagger whenever a character (not within melee range) moves away from the character.
    4. Bounce: the sniper may have knives bounce on walls to reach the target, even when there is no line of sight.
    5. Trap: throws a dagger as a standard attack, but hides a trap at the same time. The trap explodes when any character moves near it, including the assassin, and activates as soon as the assassin leaves.
Thank you for reading, and for providing any comments you may see useful.

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