1 May, 2010
This is an advancement system I’ve worked up. I figured that since I bellyache about innovation and change, I might as well show off some of what I would like to see.
I present a design for advancement in a fantasy RPG based loosely on the four classical (Greek) elements. The goal is to give a simplified system that could be used in a typical fantasy RPG without having to deal with old standbys like armor class, etc.
I’ll go into some depth here, but don’t consider this a full design document. Use it as a springboard for your own ideas.
The inspiration for this system came from two sources. The first is Magic: the Gathering‘s mana system. For anyone who has never played Magic, there are five types of mana with themed effects: white (healing, protection), blue (illusions, rule breaking), black (sacrifice, speed), red (damage, damage, more damage), and green (creatures, buffs). (Note to pedants: the themes are a summary for the three people who have never heard about MtG.) You use mana to fuel spells; spells fueled by a certain mana color tend to have a flavor related to the color.
The second inspiration was a comment by Damion Schubert some years ago at a GDC. He mentioned how in one of the UO sequels the plan was to have “ankhs” that players would find to advance in power. He didn’t go into much detail, but the designer in me played with the system and imagined something interesting.
This system was originally developed to work in a party-based computer RPG. Instead of controlling one character, you’d have a party of four or so characters. Therefore, each character is a bit more simple than you might find in a game that focuses on a single character per player. You would probably want to modify it to work better in an MMORPG, for example.
Characters have four primary statistics:
- Offense – Allows use of better weapons.
- Defense – Allows use of heavier armors.
- Light Magic – Gives mana points for casting beneficial spells.
- Dark Magic – Gives mana points for casting harmful spells.
These are the basic stats a player has to worry about. These would be like “Strength” or “Agility” in other games. They range in value from 0 to 10 and are advanced with elemental shards (explained below).
Characters have eight basic statistics:
- Damage – Base amount of damage done when striking an opponent.
- Chance to Hit – Chance that a physical attack will connect and do damage.
- Critical Chance – Chance that a physical attack does additional damage.
- Attack Speed – How often a character can make a physical attack.
- Hit Points – The old standby, how long you can survive while being attacked.
- Dodge – Your chance to avoid being damage, subtracted from attacker’s chance to hit.
- Magic Resist – Chance to avoid the effects of a negative magic spell.
- Regeneration – How fast your hit points and mana regenerate.
These statistics have base values for each type of entity, player or monster. These stats cannot be modified directly by the player, but they can be modified by advancement or equipment. For example, melee weapons will increase damage and could adjust other statistics as well.
Elemental shards are the way that players advance their basic statistics. When players find an elemental shard, they can trade it or use it to advance one of their basic statistics. The elemental shards come in four types based on the classical elements: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water.
Using a shard to enhance a primary statistic has the following effects:
|Fire||increased crit chance||increased magic resist|
|Earth||increased damage||increased hit points|
|Air||increased attack speed||increased dodge|
|Water||increased chance to hit||increased regeneration|
Adding an elemental shard to a Light Magic or Dark Magic gives mana which fuels spells. Light Magic focuses on healing and buffing, whereas Dark Magic focuses on damage and negative effects on enemies. The benefits of each type of spells is as follows:
|Light Magic||Dark Magic|
|Fire||divination spells||damage over time (burning) spells|
|Earth||defense spells||debuffing effects|
|Air||power enhancement||disruption and interrupt effects|
|Water||healing spells||freeze effects|
These are basic guidelines, not every Dark Magic Fire spell has to have a burn effect, for example.
There are four types of equipment a player can use.
Weapons allow melee characters to do damage. Increasing levels require more Offense levels.
- Axes give an increasing chance to score a critical hit.
- Maces give an increasing chance to stun an opponent for a turn.
- Blades give an increasing bonus to attack speed.
- Staffs give a bonus to magic. A character’s highest magic level can be used instead of offensive level to determine the highest level staff that can be used
Shields reduce damage depending on level. The highest level of shield usable is determined by the Defense level. They can be used with any weapon except a staff. Using a weapon without a shield gives a bonus to damage.
Armor reduces damage as well. The highest level of armor usable is determined by the Defense level as well. Armor comes in three types:
- Light armor provides the least defense, but provides no penalties. A character’s highest magic level can be used instead of defensive level to determine the highest level light armor that can be used.
- Medium armor provides more defense, but reduces mana regeneration.
- Heavy armor provides the most defense, but reduces mana regeneration slightly more than medium armor and decreases attack speed as well.
Trinkets are items like jewelry that have various bonuses. The highest level of trinkets that can be equipped is determined by the highest level of primary statistic the character has.
Magic Spells have a cost between one and four mana. Different combinations of mana have a specific spell associated with it. When casting a spell, the mana required is consumed, but it regenerates on a regular frequency.
Spells increase in potency as the primary magic statistic increases. Casting time for magic depends on the amount of mana. As the number of mana increases, the casting time increases, and are therefore easier to disrupt.
Basic spells (1-2 points of mana) are common and can be found in shops. More complex spells (3-4) can be found on scrolls dropped in treasure. These scrolls can be copied over to allow the player to learn the spell permanently.
Here are some example spells that could be included in a game that uses this type of system. These aren’t canonical spells, just some thoughts I worked on as samples to demonstrate how the system could be used.
- 1 Fire – Faerie Fire – Reduces target’s chance to dodge.
- 1 Earth – Shield – Reduces physical damage done to target.
- 1 Air – Accuracy – Increases target’s chance to hit.
- 1 Water – Heal – Increase targets hit points by a small amount, but not over maximum.
- 2 Earth – Protection – Reduces damage done to all allies by all sources by a small amount.
- 1 Earth 1 Fire – Garble – Increases casting time for target’s spells.
- 1 Earth 1 Air – Earth Focus – Increases potency of caster’s Earth-based spells.
- 1 Earth 1 Water – Heal Boost – Increases effect of healing spells on target.
- 1 Fire – Flame – Does small damage over time.
- 1 Earth – Weakness – Next physical attack on target does increased damage.
- 1 Air – Blast – Does direct damage to the target.
- 1 Water – Ice – Does a small amount of damage and freezes the enemy for a short duration< ./li>
- 2 Water – Ice Spikes – Does a small damage over time to target, and has a chance to delay their attacks and spells during the duration.
- 1 Water 1 Fire – Fire Shield – Does damage to any enemy using physical attacks against target.
- 1 Water 1 Earth – Water Vulnerability – Increases potency of Water-based spells against the target..
- 1 Water 1 Air – Icy Prison – Stuns target for a duration or until attacked.
All combinations of element up to three mana produce a possible spell. Spell with four mana either require the same element, or one from each element. There would be 39 spells for each type (Light and Dark). Note that a single character would not be able to cast every spell if limited to 10 levels of mana.
One goal was to make sure that all the elements were useful. The specific numbers in the system should be set in a way so that it doesn’t make too much sense to stack a single element in a single statistic, especially in Offense and Defense. In particular, damage bonuses tend to be favored in typical systems because they provide an obvious, direct bonus.
It might be interesting to alternative elements. Including “void” or “ether” as a fifth element, for example. Or, using the Chinese elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water).
Adding more types of equipment might be interesting. For example, different types of armor. Or, perhaps equipment that required a certain minimum of a certain type of element to be used.
I didn’t do much with “opposition” elements as found in many systems. For example, Fire and Water usually don’t interact well. This could add more depth to the system, or it could potentially just complicate the system with no real benefit.
What do you think of the system? Would you find it interesting to play with in a game? What additions or changes could you see being made?