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Magic system for an action RPG

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This is an idea (not exactly original - I seem to recall something similar being used in the book Eragon) for the way magic could work within an action RPG in which there would probably be no levels, maybe skills though. Combat would be heavily player skill based, and similar to something like Age of Chivalry mixed with Mount and Blade. The way magic would work is: You learn more spells as you improve your magical ability, probably just through a magic skill which may be split into different types of magic similar to Oblivion. But instead of having a mana pool like other games, each time you cast a spell, a chunk of your health will be taken away, proportional to how good the spell is. Therefore casting spells carries with it the risk of accidentally killing yourself by using a spell you're not ready or healthy enough to use. Also, you wouldn't know exactly how much damage to your character the spell will cause, just a general idea based on how good of a spell it is. This system seems like it would enable some incredibly powerful spells to be used, but at the same time to keep the game balanced by adding in risk. For example, someone could completely annihilate another character using a strong spell, but then they would be completely vulnerable to the next person to come along (the damage would be visible in some way). See my earlier post about a completely open ended MMO to see the setting this system would ideally be applied to, IMO.

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It's not a bad form of doing things, but the usual problem with this concept is that in most systems magic wielding character's are already on the low end of the health and physical damage spectrum.

The better way of doing something of this form is to allow a resistance against the drain of the spell.
If the spell is too large for you to resist the drain of, then your health is taxed; otherwise, you were able to cast at no loss to your health.

Drain over time can be designed to increase in difficulty mildly with immediate repetition of the same family of spells, but if this is applied you have to be careful to make sure that the increase is not out of proportion to the average combat time itself. You don't want to leave magic wielder's left for dead because it's impossible to cast.

But yes, this concept has surfaced in many forms over the years.
The earliest form I can think of is circa the late 1980's.

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That's a great idea!

Like Kemp said though, they are already pretty low on the spectrum of health and damage mitigation.
Also, many players could just cheat the system by casting the most devastating spell, killing opponent, then taking potions and moving on. Combat would be extremely simple.

But yeah, that could be worked in nicely.
PS: Eragon is a good place to be reading about fantasy :P

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Quote:
Original post by JasRonq
What happens when you cast a hugely powerful heal spell?


Zombie mode, I guess.

But yeah, the main problem there is that barbarians wind up being able to cast the most magic, since they've got all the HP.

How about if your INT and WIS attribute modify the % of health you lose when you cast? So a big dumb guy with 5000 HP casting a simple Detect Evil spell will lose 2000 HP when he does it, but a weedy little mage with 1000 HP will only lose 10 to the spell, and could cast a lightning bolt, which would kill the brute for trying it, for just 50 HP.

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I really like this idea. In response to JasRonq my suggestion would be, just don't have heal spells. And there is no guideline that says magic users must have lower health points. It is just kind of an assumed thing in so many games, I guess because the stereotypical concept of someone that is into magic reads books all day and is fragile because of it? If in your world magic users are taxed in terms of health whenever you use magic then it makes sense to me that magic users would be as physically strong if not more so than the normal person.

My idea immediately went to introducing fatigue, where as you cast spells its weakens you (maybe movement/attack speed, hp/regen, physically aging the character??, whatever fits for your game), and after a certain level of fatigue it starts draining your health. Kinda sounds like a mana bar is being replaced with a fatigue bar, but just an idea.

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I think this kind of system sounds good on paper but it probably won't be good in practice. This is because the player can die through a random event (that the spell they try to cast drains them too much due to a high random roll). IF you had a set amount of life drained for a given spell level, but the player had to use their own skill to set the spell level.

As an example imagine a bar with a slider moving up and down it. If the slider is at the bottom of the bar, then the spell will be weak, and so will the amount of health drained from the character. However, if the slider is at the top of the bar then the spell will be powerful, but so will the drain to the character's health.

The player presses a button to stop the slider and determine the power of the spell and hence the drain they receive.

At first the speed that the bar moves up and down will be fast, but if the player leaves it for a while then it will slow down some what. This means that a player trying to get a spell off quickly runs a greater risk of mucking up the timing and getting the wrong power level of the spell (it might be too weak, or it might give them too much drain than they can handle). But, as the rate of movement slows down over time, if the player take their time they have a better chance of getting the desired level of spell they want.

In an action game, this gives the player a gameplay choice as to the risk vs skill they want to take.

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I'm not sure a setup like this would have a positive impact on the flow of combat. It favors just opening up with the big guns and getting the fight over asap, because if you start off small and get in trouble, your health will be too low to resort to the big guns without it killing you.

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Heal spells could cause your maximum health points to go down every time you use it. To restore those lost points you'd have to go to a special location (like a cleric or an inn).

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Or maybe you could set it up so that spells use mana, and once the mana is gone spells start to leech off your hit points at a specific conversion, say each HP is worth 3 mana, or something. Then you can pause in your spellcasting, let your mana recharge, and use it to heal yourself.

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I have long considered making a magic system similar to this as well. I think the way I would do it though, is more of a Star Wars Galaxies style approach. Have a health bar and a stamina bar. If either stamina or health get completely empty the character can not longer hold on and faints/dies.

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I like the usual GURP system: have a spellcasting attribute, which represents your aptitude. Every spell you cast, you make a save (some random chance which decreases the higher your aptitude). Should you succeed, the spell goes perfectly. Otherwise, you get taxed. Taxing temporarily lowers your aptitude, reducing the potency of all your spells, and deals damage to you. Aptitude is recovered over time, and through resting.

This way, you can use a super spell and not die, but you better win the battle, because otherwise the next spells you cast will be underpowered. It also means that you may want to start off with weaker spells, and use your most powerful only as a finisher (which will stop spellcasting classes from winning in the first round of combat)

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For everyone that has doubts how this system functions in an RPG combat environment, start digging around for some players of yester-year's versions of Shadowrun and ask them.

It works.
It is, however, best if all have the same equal levels of health and don't have sliding HP systems but instead sliding damage resistance systems; true.

In question to the heal: 2 possibilities:
1) Healer fails and hurts himself trying to heal (yes, I've seen it...it's funny every time...well..until death, and even then sometimes.)

2) Healer heals himself.


In question to super spells:
Hope you have the drain resistance to soak up that much of a spell charge.
This doesn't suggest that there is a level where doing so is comfortable.
Instead, it's never easy, you just get a slightly (emphasis on slightly) better probability of soaking.

---

However, that all being said; you need pretty strong death penalties to make this work (assuming one will choose the normal infinite lives concept for an online RPG) since it doesn't matter if I die if I can take out a five men in the process with a few spells.

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Quote:
Original post by Tesseract
Or maybe you could set it up so that spells use mana, and once the mana is gone spells start to leech off your hit points at a specific conversion, say each HP is worth 3 mana, or something. Then you can pause in your spellcasting, let your mana recharge, and use it to heal yourself.

Add in a golf swing power system for the casting strength instead of clicking icons and you have something I've built in the past. ;)

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Definitely some great ideas from you guys. The specific implementation of course has to depend on how exactly the rest of the game works, so that the game remains balanced.

In the application I'm thinking of, in terms of penalties for dying, yes, they would be either very severe or entirely permanent.

I'm liking the stamina idea - that way both warrior type players and mage type players would both be using the same resource (stamina), rather than mages using a separate type (mana).

And yeah, it would probably break the usual convention of having spellcasting characters be really weak and frail, in order to balance it out.

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Quote:
And yeah, it would probably break the usual convention of having spellcasting characters be really weak and frail, in order to balance it out.

Or, like I said, don't make health and stamina expandable meters.
Make them fixed permanently, (don't even offer 'buffs' to increase them) and instead make advanced characters better at resisting damage and fatigue.

In so doing, the magic wielders will be good at resisting damage from their spell casting, but not necessarily good at resisting damage from being physically hit.

Counter to this, a physical combatant will be better at resisting damage from being physically hit, but not from casting spells (if such a case is even possible in your system).

The key here is not to make the drain that occurs from casting spells capable of being resisted by normal methods like stamina drain resistance.
If you allow for this, instead of making a speperate drain skill for magic resistance, then magic wielders will all be marathon runners.

So, instead, though the damage from casting a spell hits stamina and possibly health depending, this type of damage should not be capable of being resisted by physical damage resistance or fatigue resistance.

Fatigue recovery, however, would make sense for magic wielders to have as casting is a very taxing event on the body in this system, and as such, they will want to be capable of training their body to recover to full energy quickly so they are not defenseless; even if their health has already started to take hits.

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Maybe you could have a fairly common "two layered" health bar or "potential damage" system -


Taking physical damage permanently reduces your HP:

|============= |


Using spells doesn't actually reduce your HP, just one "layer" of the health bar.
Even if this "layer" is reduced to nothing, your character will not die:

|=========---- |


But if you subsequently get hit, this "magic damage" is permanently applied to your HP:

|========= |


If you manage to avoid being hit after casting, you quickly refill your bar:

|=========---- |

|==========--- |

|===========-- |

|============- |

|============= |

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I like the concept there as it is very elegant, but the only problem with it that I see is that since the casting damage only takes permanent tole on your HP if someone hits you while your casting damage is in effect, magic users will potentially cast-and-run at a very high rate of frequency, making them akin to mosquitoes, but sometimes mosquitoes with missile launchers..

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Quote:
Original post by Griffin_Kemp
I like the concept there as it is very elegant, but the only problem with it that I see is that since the casting damage only takes permanent tole on your HP if someone hits you while your casting damage is in effect, magic users will potentially cast-and-run at a very high rate of frequency, making them akin to mosquitoes, but sometimes mosquitoes with missile launchers..


True. I suppose this is more of a balancing issue though, and working around it might be as simple as tuning the recharge rate after casting or introducing a delay before recharging starts.

Also, I like the idea that a skilled player could potentially survive an encounter with no permanent damage (especially in a single player game).

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Well, if you use the drain resistance concept instead of a recharge meter, then you have that option as well, and you don't have to worry about the mosquito problem.

Drain resistance is a simple formula concept.
Skill in Drain Resistance: X
Power of Spell: Y

X vs. Y = result.

You can make X and Y many different kinds and forms of formulas as needed.
I state it as "vs." because you would mathematically contest X and Y differently depending on how the formulas are written.

This is essentially the same as receiving a hit to the body in physical damage and testing to see if your Body or AC (depending on which system you are more familiar with thinking in) can soak the damage.

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Before deciding on what resources are going to be used to cast spells you need to think about how often is magic going to be used. Who all can use magic? Does casting spells have any kind of casting time or are they all instant? If you're going to use a risk vs. reward system how often will the player actually have time to make that decision? Is he fighting individual or small groups of enemies or is it massive waves of enemies? Is quick reaction always necessary to survive encounters? Once you do find out what resources are going to be needed you'll need to ask how often can these resources be replenished?

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That's why, back when I worked on a system that taxed health, the idea was to use a casting power gauge not too unlike a golf swing power gauge in golf games.

You press down until the meter reached the power level that you wanted.
Your skill in a particular spell determined how easy the meter was to use; the better the skill, the less erratic the meter line (a line that moved up the meter when you pressed to cast) moved.

If you wanted a quick spell, they were less powerful and only required you to click.
If, however, you wanted a really put a punch in the spell's power, then you would press and hold until you reached the power level that you wanted.

If you needed more power, but did not have enough to make the spell powerful, it would bleed over into health and tax it (the meter started off on mana [in the system stamina was not an option because it had other uses which impacted in ways that made it not possible for taxing]).

There were also spells which came with preset power levels, but they were not as dynamic as your spells, as your spells were made by you for your needs with five components of your choice each (spells were divided into sub-spells, or smaller versions, and broken into families of spell types and functions).

This meant that your needed spells for doing what you specifically like to do were the spells that required the use of the meter, while the spells made by us, the developers, were just quick and easy spells to use if you did not exactly want to use a meter guided spell (this also helped for magic users that didn't want to use the meter at all).

I say all of this to show how all of those conditions Edge expressed concerned over can be addressed without knowing the full concept details of what magic will be like precisely by allowing a variable use system.

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