snacktime

Rpg magic alternatives

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So thought I'd throw this out here.

The game is multiplayer, kind of an mmo/moba hybrid.  The setting is low fantasy and I'm trying to keep magic subdued.  There is a strong emphasis on vehicles and siege type weapons, and naval combat is a large part of the game.

Right now I'm focusing on naval combat, that's where most of the functionality has been fleshed out.  Currently I have the equivalent of ballistas and catapults, I call them bolt thowers and lobbers right now.  Probably also worth mentioning that you build your own ships.  You get a choice of hulls that are premade, and then you can place weapons/armor, etc..  All of it crafted.

SO anyways current naval combat is lobbers do damage to the ship itself primarily, plus some small splash damage to weapons.  Bolt throwers do high damage vs mounted weapons, low damage to the ship structure itself.  

But what I want is to have more support type effects.  Something similar to Eve online logistics.  Right now the best idea I have is crystals.  I've started to run with it as it's the best I have, but it's in the early stages.  So now ships have sails and a crystal drive for power.  You can be using one or the other not both.  Crystals drives move slower but can go backwards (solves a practical issue). 

On the combat side I'm starting to try and flesh out the idea of a crystal 'turret'.  Since I want magic subdued, these turrets for the most part just provide buffs/debuffs.  I'm also thinking that I need classes for combat ships, to constrain ships to either having the normal weapons or the crystal turret, support vs damage dealer concept.

I also started to kind of run with some other ideas around crystals.  The game is made up of regions/zones, and I'm thinking of having the origin of crystals being they fall from the sky,  maybe some neighbor planets collided resulting in all these crystal fragments that occasionally fall.  So if I create a shower of valuable crystals in an area, that should be a good way to get pvp action going. This also feeds into doing more with the treasure hunting mechanic I wanted, so oceans over time would build up more and more crystals.  And when a new region is discovered, it could have a lot of them. 

In any case I'm not entirely certain about the crystal idea so was looking for some more feedback.  I am certain about a lot of the underlying mechanics and abilities, so I'm pushing forward using crystals.  If I change gears it won't effect much of the implementation. 

I think the biggest part of what I'm not certain about is can I subdue the magical feeling of crystals.  Like if I can come up with some science behind why they work like they do.   For instance maybe the core of the planet is made of some material that gives power to the crystals.  Or if the crystals drop from the sky, their power could come from how close to the sun they got (if they originated from say another broken planet on the other side of the sun).  Anything to avoid the whole idea of 'magic crystal'.

 

Edited by snacktime

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37 minutes ago, Dramolion said:

If you want to remove the magic part of crystals you have to limit their energy in one of two ways:

1) they convert some kind of fuel into energy to fuel the drive.

2)They are used up as energy after a while

 

Ya I forget to mention, I'm using #2.  I think it fits better into how the larger economy works, where there is a lot of item destruction, items don't stay around forever.

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17 hours ago, snacktime said:

Like if I can come up with some science behind why they work like they do.

In 1880, it was discovered that certain crystals when put under pressure generate small amounts of electricity as well as under go a small size change when subjected to electricity. Add in that passing electricity through other chemical agents can result in predictable and measurable flows of electricity and build a mathematically based understanding of how that flow can be used to represent meaningful information and you have the (very simplified) basics of quite a bit of our modern technology.

What if the effect wasn't so small? What if instead of electricity it was some other natural force?

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On 10/19/2017 at 12:04 AM, snacktime said:

So now ships have sails and a crystal drive for power.  You can be using one or the other not both.  Crystals drives move slower but can go backwards (solves a practical issue). 

  • There's no reason not to use sails in addition to thrust from crystal-powered magic. You might work out some excuse to make the two incompatible, but there has to be a good game design reason; ad-hoc constraints on wizards and attack spells seem a more important use of your arbitrary excuse budget.
  • How does going backwards benefit the tactical depth of sea battles? With long range ballistic weapons, if relative velocity points away from the target, weapon range is reduced accordingly; you usually want to charge at maximum speed, with weapon range, damage and passive defense making the difference.
  • How does the crystal drive work? Water jets? Propellers? Artificially blowing wind into the sails? A direct push out of nowhere on the whole ship frame or on some kind of "core"?

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On 10/19/2017 at 12:04 AM, snacktime said:

I think the biggest part of what I'm not certain about is can I subdue the magical feeling of crystals.  Like if I can come up with some science behind why they work like they do.   For instance maybe the core of the planet is made of some material that gives power to the crystals.  Or if the crystals drop from the sky, their power could come from how close to the sun they got (if they originated from say another broken planet on the other side of the sun).  Anything to avoid the whole idea of 'magic crystal'.

There's no way a fantastic fuel, driving large sectors of economy and technology, can be "low fantasy", all you can get with a good backstory for these crystals is steering a magic-intensive setting towards desired tones, themes and storylines.

  • Teasing the core of the planet could unearth something bad, like the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Solar power could fail because of volcanic eruptions, man-made nuclear winter, astronomical situations, etc.
  • A special planet might bring aliens into the picture
  • A naturally occurring mineral could lead, as you note, to vicious wars to acquire it (as opposed to the peaceful efforts to make crystals allowed by other options)

For a tragic and somewhat philosophical take on magical crystals, I suggest Fullmetal Alchemist.

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The sail vs crystal drive is I think history.  For some of the reasons you noted. 

Going backwards was just an issue when navigating like around docks.  But I'm ok with a sailing ship going backwards at low speed even if it makes no sense in the real world.  I don't really want to put a ton of time into solving that, it's just not that important.

Right now I'm thinking you have to apply energy to the crystals for them to release energy.  How to do that exactly I've hit a few roadblocks.

Applying pressure as a way to release crystal energy is an approach that gives me something I needed, which is explosives.  So a projectile rich in crystal ore could have an explosive effect on impact.

Solar power driving them I don't really like.  Using say a mechanical device on ships driven by movement, like from water or something, to apply pressure to the crystal turrets.  Don't really like that idea but it's an example of what's floating around in my head.

The main thing though is most of this is driven by the combat that I want.  If I have to go a bit higher fantasy that's ok.  Low fantasy games that make heavy use of ships in combat are usually not that fun.  I've found a lot more fun mechanics in space combat games like Eve online.  So I'm copying a good amount of design elements from those games, and so far it's working fairly well.  Like the crystal turrets are actually quite fun.  Right now I have them buffing resistances and speed/accuracy.  Debuffs are next on my list to play around with.

 

 

 

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I think it's hard to mix low fantasy and explanations, it ends up in the kind of worldbuilding and system-building of high fantasy.  Especially with the crystal theme.

Maybe to keep it low, give it overtones of religion instead?  Like they're fragments of bones from something giant and dead and possibly divine, that fall from the sky or float up from the deep.  There are conflicting expectations about what they really are and how they manage to influence the world, but some nations revere them as holy relics and others exploit them for more practical purposes.  (In some ways that's more "magical", but it at least avoids "stock videogame high magic" with crystals, elemental energy types, mana and spells, etc.)

For where the energy/activation/drive comes from, maybe go the other way around: maybe you don't have to work to release the energy, but work to contain it.  Say the crystals are constantly radiating energy unless prevented by doing so by (say) a circle of chanting monk/engineers, a circle of crystals of the opposite "polarity", some holy symbols that contain the evil in the crystal, whatever.  In order to drive the ship, the monks/anticrystals shift positions to leave gaps, releasing energy in particular directions. 

However, if too much of the containing circle is destroyed (too many monks dead in combat, too many anticrystals shattered, etc.), there's nothing to contain the energy, resulting in a catastrophic detonation.  That gives an important tactical difference between ship types: when in close combat with a crystal ship, you want to go for precision strikes or boarding, lest you damage the containment circle and take out your own ship(s) in the process.

 

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Do you really need to move into fantasy just to add variety of damage types?

Even in antiquity they had figured out how to lob flaming oil at one another. Fire is a pretty good elemental attack type :)

Ballistae can throw harpoons as well, providing a debuff to enemy mobility. Ships can have a reinforced prow to allow ramming attacks.

A little later in history you get cannons firing chain and bar-shot at masts and rigging to slow and/or disable the enemy ship. Grape-shot deals little damage to the ship itself, but kills the crew very efficiently.

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