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Ideas wanted: RPG Spell combination system

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I'm working on an RPG with stances instead of classes.
There are 4 categories of spells requiring different resources. Think of it as mana.
So while you are in the red stance, you produce red mana which is required for red spells,
you switch to blue stance where you stop producing red mana (which is not lost by switching) and you get blue mana...

My current system shows the spells of the stance your are in, so when you switch to blue stance, you
get the spells of the blue category displayed in the action bar.

I am looking for a system allowing to combine spells or combine resources of different colors to get
a new spell, so there would be a lot of diversity and choice for the player to play their individual
Think of it like in Magic: the Gathering where you have multicolored spells costing mana of 2 or more
different colors.

If we take the classical fireball as an example, i want to give the player the option to use whatever
fireball he likes at any time in combat, be it a frostball slowing the taget and costing 1 blue mana
in addition to the red one or be it the meteor causing area of effect damage and costing 1 green mana

The main question is how to get a lot of spells and combinations into an action bar of maybe 6 slots.

Some of my ideas are

  1. something like the rune system in Diablo 3
    where you are limited to the combinations you chose before combat.
    contra: less variability and very limited choice during combat.
  2. a hidden tree system
    where you switch to red stance, press 1 for fireball, press 2 for frostball.
    contra: too many keystrokes until you get a spell out.
  3. a context-sensitive action bar,
    showing only the spells you can afford with your actual resources.
    contras: chaos! you never know where the skill you want to use is in the action bar.
    You press the key for fireball at the same time you get another resource, so the action bar changes at the
    wrong moment, causing you to cast the wrong spell, and if you have a lot of all resources, the action
    bar is full while not showing all spells you could cast.
  4. a spell crafting system
    where you throw spells and/or mana into a pot, combining them to new spells which could be quite interesting.
    contra: see @ #1, everything must be done before combat.
  5. automatically adapting spells,
    if you get blue mana in addition to the red mana already in your pool, the fireball spell in slot #1 changes to the
    frostball spell.
    contra: what if i want to produce the additional blue mana for something else and what if i want to cast a fireball NOW?
    Or what if i have the resources for 4 different variations of fireball available ?
    Which one will it change to and how can i cast the one not shown ?
  6. creation of new spells by combining base spells
    this would only work with summoning spells as far as i can think of it. so you summon a zombie and you cast a ghost spell on
    it, creating a transparent ghost zombie which takes less damage or something like that.
    contra: no fireball variations ;)
  7. altering the base spell according to the stance you are in,
    this requires showing all base spells in the action bar independant from your actual stance, so the
    contra is obvious: chaos again. when using only 6 base spells in each category, the action bar must contain 24 slots,
    which would require you to buy an additional keyboard ;)

None of these ideas is really great, but maybe you know the optimal solution ?

Wall of text, i know, but the topic is too complex to describe it in 10 words ;)
Thanks for reading and thinking about it.

Dee Edited by Deeee

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I made something along those lines for my rpg where you can acquire 4 runestones of fire, water, air, earth and put forth combinations to create up to 15 spells from 4 runes.

I thought about the same thing for a survival game where you pick up items in game which can be put forth in different combinations to form an attack.

You can then use the staff/weapon as a modifier, so having a wooden staff + 4 ingredients can make 15 spells, while having a metal staff and the same combinations triggers15 different spells.

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Have you played Magicka? They have a similar system where 6 (I think) elements are combined to create different spells. Look into that game for ideas.

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Wow, I'm liking this system...

ok, let's think of something...

maybe you could use the instance system that you already have and adapt it to a spell instance system.

Let's say, when you are in "Red Instance" and "Blast Spell Instance", you get 6 blast spells of the red type. when you switch to the "Blue Instance", you have the same 6 blast spells, but in it's blue variation.

you can get the player to build their own "Spell Instances", making infinity combinations of spells at any given time!

i must admit that i was thinking of a magic style skill system for my game, but i wasn't thinking in multicolor, well, at least not in this way. in my concept, it's the terrain that generate mana, the player only absorbs that mana, so he "can't" choose what mana they get. it's up to him to manage his mana to be able to cast spells at any given point.

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Read comment #29 here:


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One idea that came to mind whilst reading your post..probably resulting from the use of the word "stance" rather than necessarily defining a spell persay -- Have stance/dance/gesture switching system which might only contain as little as 3 elements and possibly as many as 5-6 elements.

The idea is as follows:

You begin to cast the spell: 1st stance
You add a new element: 1st stance shifts visually into second stance (or repeats first stance if same element)
You add another element: second stance shifts into third stance (or repeats if same stance is used)
You complete with the closing element: A final stance indicating spell's end and casting. This stance would reflect a terminator to the spell chain and depending on the type of spell casts could be several different visuals etc.

The ability to literally weave your spell (would cost time persay but you) could end up crafting some interesting visual character animation effects effects. esp. if the same element stance used at different points in the chain had slightly differing animations depending on their placement in the chain or as you add a new stance the magic forces being produced takes on new coulours or effect alterations.

One aspect of "classical" wizardry/magic use was the idea that you spent time learning your spells etc. In one sense not naming your spells at all but rather having the player to slowly incorporate combinations which produce effects might be a barrier to some but could be an exceptionally good tool for involving players into feeling direct control over their casting of spells and that they have worked on them to learn to use them easily in a game. Edited by Stormynature

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Made me think of doing it like this...

1 - fire
2 - ice
3 - propel
4 - focus/concentrate

Heh. K, so I wanna' cast a fire BOLT:

1, 3

Basic fire attack. Caster begins by creating some fire then propelling it (towards mouse cursor).

Now I wanna' make a ball of fire:

1, 4, 3

I create some fire, focus/concentrate it, then propel it.

When it hits it automatically expands into an AOE.

Same thing with ice bolts and ice balls (e.g., 2->3 and 2->4->3).

Already with just these 4 we can do some interesting things. The mechanics would work by allowing a certain amount of time to pass before executing each part of the spell. Say hypothetically it's 1 second...

So again our fire bolt would be 1 (create fire), 3 (propel). We press 1, a timer starts ticking and if we press 3 within one second after pressing 1 we get our Propel Fire (fire bolt) spell. But what if we didn't press 3 in time? Heh. We just dropped some fire at our feet. Oops! Or not...easy way to make pools of [damaging] fire.

But what if we could press 1 more than once? Say press 1 to create some fire, then before the one second timer elapses we press 1 again (resetting the timer) and again, and again (4x total). Now we've got some fire that is 4x more powerful than just pressing 1 once. THEN we propel it with 3. So: 1, 1, 1, 1, 3. We've got a 4x damage fire bolt. Easy enough to make each press take more mana. Funny if you weren't paying attention and made enough fire to toast a forest but ran out of mana to propel it. Hee hee.

K so I want a fireball that does 3x damage and expands to 3x normal AOE. Oh, and I want it to shoot towards the target 2x faster:

1, 1, 1, 4, 4, 4, 3, 3

3 fires, 3 focuses, and 2 propels. You could theoretically push all those keys in a little more than a second (or less). I just tried it. But the spell doesn't go off till 1 second after the last keypress making the total casting time around 2 seconds.

Propel by itself could be a kind of Jedi/Force Push. If we added:

5 - Delay

We could do some cool things like:

1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 4, 5, 5

Which would create a x5 damage fireball that goes off at the cast spot XXX * 2 seconds later (where XXX = whatever we define as a standard delay).

6 - Repeat

1, 1, 3, 6, 6, 6

Which fires off three x2 damage fire bolts. I.e., you press 113666 and then 1 second later 3 bolts fire off at 1 second intervals even though you are free to go do something else. Or maybe it makes all three bolts fire off instantly.

Just some really cool combinations possible with just a couple different keys.

Adding some keys to switch to different stances (sets of spells) would be cool too. You could stance dance over to a healing set where instead of fire and ice you could have life. Create some life, only affects you. Create some life and propel it to heal people at range. Create some life, focus it, then propel it to create a ranged AOE heal. Add a repeat for a heal over time. Etc., etc.

Then stance over to a summons type set. The possibilities are almost endless. Really cool idea, Deeee.

Take care. Edited by Heaven

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Hello all!

I'm seeing some cool ideas here but also a lot of convoluted solutions. Things that would be pretty sweet but involve a lot of clicking and careful mouse movement that would interupt combat.

I am assuming this is real time combat. If it is turnbased I'd suggest a system of crafting all aspects of the spell during your turn, each and every turn.

Now, if it is real time, you want a fast exciting fight, right?

You have this cool system of stances that change your color or element and its this color that dominates your mana production as well as the way your spell acts.

My suggestion is to let the play craft all the spells custom before the fight and customize 2 palletes of spells for each stance. You get 2 palletes of spells, and 2 spell slots, one for each mouse button. Each pallete would have an array of hot keys and use the keys to switch between the spells.

Left mouse button has a pallete with 9 spells keyed to 'q', 'w', 'e', 'a', 's', 'd', 'z', 'x', 'c' and the right mouse button gets a pallete with the number pad keys. The pallete of spells changes depending on what stance you are in but the keys do not. The player customized the spells and their placement in the pallete so should know which key in which stance accesses which spell. When he is in the chosen stance, he hits the hot key for the spell he wants and the left or right spell slot changes to that spell. this gives the player 18 spells per color and yet you only need 1 key press to choose the spell, 2 if you are changing stances first. its just a lot of memory work. Keep in mind this is actually fairly close to how skills were used in Diablo 2, though there were no stances to change between. Players used that system just fine.

Forgot to address the question of multicolored spells. Create an extra "prismatic" that looks neutral when idle. Only multicolored spells can go into its palletes. The character visually shifts between all required stances as he casts the spell and returns to the neutral stance when finished the spells. Edited by Burning Hand

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Hello again,

Thank you all for the great input.
I’m really excited about so many people being interested in this.

It is quite hard to stick to the technical aspect, because there are just too many cool possibilities to alter the whole system.

As Burning Hand said, we should concentrate on how to keep it simple to get a spell out, as it actually is real time.
We want a more or less fast paced combat, we want to be able to act and react and we do not want to press 10 key for one spell.
And we also do not want to have to remember a lot of key combinations. This is no beat-em-up game ;)

I like the ideas of Mito and Stormynation and my game already has these 4 classes/stances/colors specialized in AoE, Burst-damage, Control and Summoning which would make up for a great spellweaving concept where you pay additional blue mana to your purple “summon zombie” spell to make his attacks slow the enemy.
That sounds great, the possibilities are endless as is the player’s choice.
Things just get too complicated and time consuming if you have to work yourself through a recipe to cast 1 spell.
I think it is only possible to do all that stuff before combat, just like in MtG.
Being able to create your own individual deck or combinations of spells is wonderful and it is just what makes MtG so great.
But 90% of the game are already over before you start playing and that is what I dislike most about MtG.

I’m afraid there is no possibility to decently implement a simple system allowing to create your personal fireball spell with double damage and AoE slow component, costing 2 red, 1 green and 1 blue mana.
So I try to stick to the concept of up to 4 predefined variations for each spell, containing cheap weak spells and expensive strong spells.

I try to expand the list with some of your ideas combined with my thoughts:

8. reducing the number to 6 pre-combat chosen base spells
this is based on the idea of Imbarns. Here we could make some artifacts drop off the mobs, and you can equip the artefact into the action
bar slot.
We loot the legendary orb of cliché, equip it in action bar slot #1 where it transforms to a spell, dependant on your stance, when playing
the green AoE stance, you get the meteor dealing AoE dmg, when switching to the blue control stance, the orb in slot #1 changes to the
frost orb, slowing the enemy. This is quite nice, because it substantiates an item drop system. Everybody likes looting extraordinary items
contra: pre-combat decisions limit your choice in combat and if you equip the orb, you have to take all 4 versions of it.

9. switching/scrolling/tabbing
is basically Burning Hand’s concept with a few changes. It’s also the concept I like the most at the moment. Fireball is in slot #1 of the red
stance, the other stances have completely different spells in slot #1. So when you want to cast the fireball spell as a slowing frost orb that
costs 1 red and 1 blue mana, you have to be in the red stance, hold down a modifier key (maybe alt) and press 1 to browse through the
4 different versions until you got the one you want. Then you release the alt key and you press 1 again to cast the spell. After casting it,
the latest used version of the spell stays in the slot.
This system provides easy access to the version of the spell you use most of the time but it also enables you to choose between the
other versions of it with a manageable amount of effort.

But maybe I am already thinking way too complex and should just separate things.
Maybe it is enough to have your slowing glacier spell costing 1 blue mana and cast your damage causing fireball spell costing 1 red mana afterwards.
Only… we all want to summon a ghost zombie, an infecting zombie and a hard hitting melee zombie, don’t we ? ;)

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