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About valrus

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  1. Terrain changes are most interesting when players are frequently moving around; otherwise it's kind of just another way of saying "buff/debuff". But I can see why you want to keep battles short; I can still play the SNES-era RPGs because battles are over so quickly. What about a tug-of-war mechanic, where the battle line moves left and right across the battlefield depending on player/enemy advantage, and running the opponent off the screen is a win? Like the Chocobo Eater battle in Final Fantasy X? That combined with manipulable terrain is an interesting combination, because the characters/enemies are being pushed/pulled on and off buffed/debuffed terrain, and that sets up interesting decisions. But it's still compatible with having quite fast battles; it's not like you have the freedom of movement and action that makes a SRPG tactical battle so much slower.
  2. Another thing that Sid Meier has talked about, relevant to this, is the personification of "Leaders" in Civilization. He talked about two reasons for having other leaders being personified in the game, (1) as a salient historical thing that a non-historian player will likely have heard of but also (2) because it helps with the role-playing aspect, like "What would make a player feel like they're a world leader?""To interact with the great leaders of history as an equal". (Same goes for building Wonders. Like even someone whose grasp of history isn't great has heard of the Pyramids, and also building the Pyramids makes you feel like a powerful leader.) Sid Meier's games usually have you being the most interesting and most-full-of-agency person in the situation. You're not a spectator, or a random person watching something bigger than you, you're not the Chancellor while someone else is the emperor, etc. That's on purpose, it's a part of his design philosophy, and also on-purpose are the role-playing elements (in the literal sense, I don't mean RPG-elements) that reinforce "you're the emperor", "you're the swashbuckling pirate", etc. Also related: his insistence that the player is the one who gets to have the fun, not the programmer or the simulation. The neat, cool stuff shouldn't be happening behind the scenes with the player reacting to it. (Like it's hard to imagine a Sid Meier studio making Crusader Kings II, with the player reacting to the wild swings of history generated by a largely opaque simulation; in many ways that's the opposite of his play philosophy.)
  3. valrus

    Rpg magic alternatives

    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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