Combat System Concept (Video Game)

The following article is from my previous blog. It’s supposed to be a combat system for a computer game. I wanted to publish this as currently I’m working on a combat system for pen&paper. I’ll publish that too when I have more. Both are more or less streamlined. You can see the main difference is that this system is complex in certain ways and relies on the computer for calculation while the pen&paper tries to be simple to prevent time spent calculating. Another difference is that this one being more thought for a fantasy setting (ie magic, epic characters etc) where the other on a “realistic” one (ie guns, more brutal etc).

Image: Wizards of the coast

The original content was three shorter articles, I combined them into one. I’ll do little to no editing. So, without further ado, enjoy!

Part 1: Attacking

As the title reads, this part is about the “To Hit” System.

Basically, it works like D&D. “Trying to hit” is the action, so it’s the attacker who “rolls the dice.” However, certain defensive abilities can also have a “roll” assigned to them, such as evasion. For instance, “Natural Armor” wouldn’t have a die because it’s pretty much static.

One thing different would be armor, which usually makes enemies less likely to hit you. In this game, most armor will actually make you more likely to be hit, probably by decreasing your “dexterity” bonuses or maybe affecting abilities such as evasion. Their use will be damage reduction, which we’ll cover in the next part.

In addition to this, I’d very much like the game to have a “console” that telegraphs what’s happening similar to Fallout and even Baldur’s Gate. Fallout had tailored telegraphing, especially depending on the enemy and with critical hits.

What I’d like is to have a “layer” system when it comes to “armor class,” which will be a dynamic message system depending on your roll. Let’s assume that your target has 10 base armor and +2 bonuses on Dexterity and +3 Natural armor for a total of 15 “armor points”. Slightly different from D&D is that in this game, you have to beat the armor points to hit, meaning a 16 would be the minimum number to land a hit.

If you roll less than or just 10, you simply miss and console says “You totally missed that guy.” For higher rolls, either the target’s dexterity or natural armor can stop the attack.

The first defense would dexterity. Because if the target evades, the natural armor isn’t even relative. We said the target has +2 Dexterity. So if you roll 11–12, the console will say “The enemy dodges your attack.”

Then comes the natural armor. We said the natural armor was +3. So if you roll 13–15, console would say “You manage to land a blow… in vain. The ogre’s skin proves too thick for your blow.”

Different defenses can be added to add more flavor. For example, if the target is wearing armor, that would come before the natural armor.

This could also be used for magical defenses. Let’s say you have a magic resistance spell, a robe that gives fire resistance and an inherent fire resistance. Depending on the roll, you can get a message saying “The fire bolt flies towards you, only to be stopped by a magical flash in the shape of a shield” or “The bolt lands on you harmlessly, absorbed by the robe. You feel warm.” etc

One thing you may notice above is that I also added the attacking source (fire bolt.) This is the next step. With some clever string manipulation, you could easily include the attacker’s race and weapon.

In conclusion, the simple d20 system, when calculated/analyzed this way can add a lot of flavor and help the imagination of players via a console that telegraphs messages.

Part 2: Damage

As mentioned in the first part, armor won’t decrease your chance to hit. On the contrary, it will make you easier to hit, but reduce the damage you take. The idea here is to have different attack and defense types and have a table of relations in terms of effectiveness.

Let’s say armor types are Leather, Scale, Chain and Plate. Let’s say damage types are Ranged Piercing, Melee Piercing, Slashing and Crushing. We’d have a table that says “Ranged Piercing is WEAK against Chain, STRONG against Plate” etc.

In my notes I had these pre-defined levels:

  • Immune: -100% Damage Taken
  • Heavy: -75 % Damage Taken
  • Medium: -50 % Damage Taken
  • Weak: -25 % Damage Taken
  • None: 0 % Damage Change
  • Vulnerable: +25 % Damage Taken
  • Very Vulnerable: +50 % Damage Taken

So, if Plate is Vulnerable against Piercing, you’d take more damage. These could be visible to players or players may just see numbers and you can keep the terms internal.

It doesn’t end here, we have magic armor and criticals.

For magic armor, I thought of a comparison system. Let’s consider the basic enchantment system in D&D where items can be +1, +2 etc For this example, Let’s say Plate is Heavy against Slashing.

Regular Plate vs Regular Slashing = +1 Plate vs +1 Slashing = +2 Plate vs +2 Slashing etc
But if plate is +1 and attacking Slashing weapon is regular, then you go one rank up, to Immune. Which means a slashing weapon can never hurt a plate armor if it has lesser enchantments. But consider otherwise: A +2 Slashing vs a regular plate. Now we go down 2 ranks, which means regular plate will only reduce 25%.

You may change this so that each “+1″ is equal to 10% for instance. Or there maybe some enchants that make the weapon/armor act like a different type etc.

When it comes to crits, it could be that when you crit, you go one rank up. For example, let’s take the above example and say we have a Regular Slashing weapon vs +1 Plate. Now Plate is Immune to Slashing. But if we roll a critical, we go down a level, which means we do some damage (albeit with 75% reduction).

Alternatively, crits can always act like “None” or “Vulnerable” or simply bypass this roll. Both could be implemented and different critical behaviour could be part of item variety. In fact, you could add weapons whose crits don’t change the vulnerability comparison but simply do more damage.

There is a lot to explore further here and a lot of options to add when it comes to magic or different weapons. And by smart categorization of items, this can lead to a very nice diversity of weapons and armor.

This is a problem in D&D. There is always a “best” item you can have. With this system, having a chainmail for the correct time will be important for even those who can wear plate, as you will never have sufficient protection for each damage type due to rock-paper-scissors set up.

This system can also be applied to magic: Certain defenses can be used against certain types of magical damage. Maybe as an alternative option, you can have steps above immune. If you have this rank, the magic damage from that particular type could heal you.

Next and final section will be hit points.

Part 3: Hit Points

Hit points in many games reflect your overall durability, but it’s also almost always considered very physical. I wanted to explore the idea of changing this and introducing “morale” to the equation.

So basically, you would have two Hit pointbars: Physical and mental.

Each damage would be applied to each part, but in varying amounts. For example, there could be a special spell that inflicts “pain” damage that would have a higher multiplier for the mental HP. Likewise, there could be a poison that numbs your body against itself that deals physical damage, but very low mental damage as you don’t “feel bad” about it.

Physical HP would have a big pool and the more you lose PhyHP, the more resistant you’d become to PhyHP damage. First cuts and crushes would bruise your body badly but with more punishment, you’d feel less. Not to say you’d become invulnerable at low hitpoints, it’s just that you’d lose slightly less. In the end, it also means you are losing hit points and when they are depleted, you physically die.

Mental HP would have a lesser pool and contrary to PhyHp, MntHP would have a higher resistance at higher levels, ie losing morale and focus leads to losing more morale and focus. When it’s depleted, you either do things very, very, very inefficiently or you are completely detached. “You die inside,” in a manner of speaking. You could also fall unconscious or run away in fear.

Let’s take some examples:

A berserker would have very high mental HP when raging. He still dies if you bruise him enough but since his physical pool will likely be high, it’d be hard to bring him down.

A goblin would die fast because not only its fragile, it also has no mental discipline. Seeing a few friends die may actually be enough to scare him off even without damage.

A big monster may be tough to kill but easy to break; while a monk, for instance, won’t have too many physical hitpoints, but his mental discipline would ensure he makes the best of his body. Even going “mind over matter” to heal himself or resist phyHP damage.

Spells such as “fear” could decrease mental resistance while certain buffs would give you more mntHP or resistance.

And with that, I reach the end of the article. I hope you liked reading through it! As usual, I’d love to hear any comments. How would you improve it?

Gamer, gaming industry wanderer, development and design enthusiast. Current WIP: TBD