Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Four Major Renovations

So, recently I had a conversation with my muse, and a post on BGDF, that have really changed the way I think about the character class system and abilities. I think that most of the basic mechanisms can stay the same, but I have a few major changes to the class and ability system, and in a way a major change to the point of the spirit world:

1) Class systems- So, I’ve always been a little bit of the libertarian equivalent of a game designer, in that I want players to be able to do whatever the heck they want (and just hope that the game is set up in a way that promotes interesting play). So, for example, I wasn’t a big fan of games in the Warhammer series that required that one have X basic units, or no more than 50% of their points in tanks. So, in this game, I originally designed 13 Spirit World classes, and 13 Real World classes, and said that anyone could link to anyone else. I’m starting to see now that this was not a very good idea. Essentially, the problem with energy abilities in the last game came from the fact that one could make an archer link to anything else. So, between this, suggestions of my muse to make things simpler, and the fact that the classes were really haphazardly put together anyways, I decided to super-simplify things. In version 4.0, there will only be 5 classes per world, and each class can only link to 2 others. So, now if you are a Scholar in the real world (the magic/summoning class), you have to link to either a Seer (the magic/archery class) or the Trickster (the magic/crazy abilities class).

2) Abilities- So, not only were the classes originally designed in a really haphazard way, but so were the abilities. As a result, not a whole lot of them had any link between the world. My plan is to change that. Now, at least half of the abilities should do something in both worlds (or at least have the potential to). Some will be like Regenerate, which gives a benefit in both worlds automatically. Some will be like Summon abilities, where a character can give the benefit to the other by meditating. Some will be like Move Earth, where the player can spend energy points to use in the other world. Some will be like Soulblade, where a character must damage their doppleganger to use it. And finally, some will continue to be the same crazy split attacks (like Ice Knife or Deep Wound, which attack both a character and their doppleganger).

I think I might make the abilities slightly directional, with a tendency to help the real world more than the spirit world.

3) Energy Points- Someone on BGDF had a really interesting idea about the characters needing to be bound together to use abilities. Here is my thought: I will eliminate Luck Points (which can be used to reroll stats), and subsume them into Energy Points. I will also allow characters to use Energy Points to heal themselves, or reduce their residual magic (thus being able to cast more spells). Also, there will be a large number of abilities that require Energy Points to use.

However, I will also make it that having at least one Energy Point is required for a lot of abilities to function. Essentially, if your last Energy Point is lost, the link between your character is lost. This makes for a lot of interesting situations. First, now you can be stuck in the situation of, “Boy, I’d really like to reroll my damage, but if I do, my Aura of Wind will cease to function.” Second, now a character can do damage either by actually lowering an enemy’s hit points, or she can do damage by reducing an enemy’s Energy Points (thus cutting her off from her doppleganger). Finally, now there is a really strong reason to want to capture energy towers: a) to use your crazy abilities, and b) as insurance, in case your opponent hits you with a spell that takes your Energy points away.

4) Purpose of the Spirit Realm- Between 2 and 3, I’m thinking that the aim of the spirit world will be less a vital battle on its own, as much as something where you win it to help you win the real world. Thus, everything in the spirit world will somehow translate into being more of a badass in the real world.

What do you think? I’m really excited about this, and think I’ve finally figured out the problem of the worlds not linking enough.


“The opposite of bravery is not cowardice but conformity.” – Robert Anthony

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Recent playtest

Hey everyone (probably mostly Mike),

So, I had another playtest of Illeria last night. It was my first time trying out rules for Energy points. Basically, each character begins the game with 1 Energy point. During the game, she can spend an action to use it, and help her doppleganger. To get more, there are areas on the board that a player has to capture and hold called “energy towers.” If she can hold two of the 3 of these towers, then each of her characters near a tower gains 1 Energy point. This was also my first time trying out a new pre-made party, and my first time in forever playing with 7 characters per side (instead of 5). Last, it was the first time that spirit players were able to respawn after they died.

I have to say, the game was a lot more complicated than I remember it being. I had recently been playing Summoner Wars, and for some reason I was hoping the game would play like that. Instead, it played more like D&D (with a lot of math and remembering obscure rules). It probably made it a lot worse that all of my characters were wizards, so I was constantly needing to look up, “Okay, Fortinbras can cast Fire and Death magic. How much magic energy does Fireball take? What about Drain Life?” I wonder if I’m just getting less fond of wargames. I hope not... (although this makes me think back to another game I made once, where after a year of production, I decided that the game just didn’t feel any fun anymore)

So, here were the problems I encountered: First, the Energy points. As it stood, during the entire game, I think only one of my characters used his Energy point, and I think Matt only had two. There were a couple of reasons for this. They took an action to use, which players had precious few of. Because most of them granted only a small benefit, we were hesitant to use an entire action on them. Also, each character only had one “energy ability” that they could use, and not all of them fit all that well. For example, several of my characters had abilities which boosted the magical of their doppelganger. This means that if my character’s doppleganger could not cast spells, then that ability was useless. Originally this was intended to be a “feature,” if you want to be able to use these abilities effectively, you need to plan. As it stood, they were kind of obnoxious.

My thought on fixing this problem: give characters a generic set of energy abilities. It might undermine some of the uniqueness of the classes, but it will mean they get used. Also, Matt had a suggestion, which was to make it that energy abilities do not require an action to use. I like it.

Using 7 characters instead of 5 went pretty well, except that it slowed the game down significantly. I think I’m okay with that, because for some reason the extra 2 characters gave the game a full feel to it (if that make sense).

Also, I had a new idea for capturing energy towers. As the game stood, Matt captured two of them, and then did not bother going after the third one. Also, because of the way the game was set up, the all ended up being kind of close together, and not in good places. This went well, because as Matt put it, “now there was something to fight over,” but still, there might be a chance that it can improve. Here was my thought: What if, when your character are incapacitated, they respawn at the energy towers. This way, more towers could possibly mean more power, but also it gives people a reason to aggressively go after them. To keep this balanced, I will need to make it so that there will be one tower that each player can easily defend, but I think I’m okay with that. It should certainly make the game interesting, and will be something to try out next time.

Lastly, Matt had complained that the summoned creatures were too finiky. This is something I have been tinkering with since the beginning. Essentially, I really liked the idea of summoned creatures that were a struggle to maintain, and that could go berserk and turn on you if you were not careful. However, Matt kind of felt like I over-did it. What really set him off was that one of his characters was knocked down, causing him to lose control, and then before he could regain control, the creatures attacked and killed him. I mean, summoned creatures are really powerful, and my intention was for things like that to be possible, but if it makes it frustrating to play then it’s no good. I’m debating how to fix it. My idea for now is to make it that when you lose control of the creatures, that they are more likely to just stand around dumbstruck, and less likely to turn on their summoner. I’m not sure if that will be enough, and I’ll keep that in the back of my head, but for now that will be my fix.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

New ideas for linking the worlds

Hey everyone,

I playtested Illeria for the first time in forever last night, with my new roommate Matt. The game went decently well. I decided to use the new rules for orders (namely, that you don't need to decide what each character will do until the action phase), however I did not have group actions, and the spirit world characters were still weak. He seemed to like it, and had a number of good comments.

One of his biggest comments was that there was not enough of a link between the worlds. This is not the first time I've heard this, but he made some really good suggestions that I am hoping to try to run with. Basically, he said that there should be some way to send powers between characters, and that there needs to be some kind of reason to keep fighting in the spirit world (in that game, most of the spirit world fight occurred during the first 4 turns, then I realized that I had suffered too much damage and pulled back and hid, and the spirit world became kind of pointless).

Here are my thoughts:
Whenever a character's specter (their spirit world character) is incapacitated, they are not removed from the board, but just laid down. That character's vessel (their real world character) becomes shaken as normal. However, there is a new twist: every turn, the character's vessel makes a "shaken" check. On a 1-3, the vessel falls into a state of unconciousness for the turn. On a 4-5, they can act normally. On a 6, they immediately take d6 damage, but then their specter stands up, heals twice that many hit points, and begins fighting again. This will make it that the spirit world battle never really ends, but doing well sets you up to continue doing well. Also, it makes it that if a wizard's or general's specter is incapacitated, they are not permanently useless. I also might make it that the character can spend an action to reroll their shaken check.

I also might make a rule that at any time, a vessel may spend an action and lose d6 hit points to heal their specter d6 hit points. This would be less efficient than having them get knocked-out, but much faster.

Also, there should be a way for characters to send powers between the worlds. I think I'll create a new stat called "energy points." Basically, each turn, characters can spend an action and an energy point to perform a "Infuse Power" action (I'll come up with a better name eventually). This grants their doppelganger a temporary or small advantage, such as bonus hit points, a temporary luck point, or temporary stat bonuses. The exact bonus will depend on the character's class. And, I think I might make a way for characters to get more luck points. For example, I might make it that there are places in the spirit world that allow characters to gain more. Or, possibly that there are three of them, and the party that controls at least two gets the energy points.

Anyways, much to do. These are exciting times...


“Precision is not truth.” – Henri Matisse (impressionist painter)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Triumphant return of group actions

Hey all,

Thinking back to changes since my first draft of Escape From Illeria (which was at the time called “Game X”), I have had three major rules which I came to realize were a bad idea, and proceeded to drop. The first was meditation (in which each character can only be awake in one world at a time, and must spend the rest of the time meditating), the second was group orders (in which several characters could be given the same action, and thus players could get extra actions each turn by having everyone do the same thing), and most recently, disobeying orders (in which characters could change their orders mid-term). However, after lots of developing, I brought meditation back, but in a much different form. Now, characters can be awake in both worlds, but characters can choose to meditate to draw upon new powers. Well, group orders might be making such a come-back as well.

I was talking to my head muse, Mike, recently. I can’t remember how it came up, but he gave a suggestion that perhaps generals could specialize in actions. Then, when it is a general’s turn to act, instead of acting, he may have two other characters perform that action. So, for example, let’s say my general’s main action is “Archery.” Let’s say it is her turn. Instead of moving, using a special power, or making an archery attack herself, she could order two nearby characters to make an archery attack. This would in a way encourage coordinated parties. However, I think this will avoid my previous problem with group orders becoming too powerful (since these will be harder to use, and you will only be able to get 1 extra action out of it).

This actually might have a major added benefit: with all of the recent changes to leadership, I kind of nerfed the role of the general. At this point, being a general by itself gives no special powers (besides an extra ability), and makes you a liability (since killing the general hurts your party). This will give the general a reason to be in the fight. Additionally, it hit me that now there is more of a reason to have second-in-commands. Previously, all that they did was take over if the general died. I was never really sure if they were worth buying. Now, the second in command could command group actions as well. Maybe anyways, this one actually might lead down the road of being overpowered again. I’ll need to try it out, and see how it works.

I wonder if this means that some day I’ll end up bringing back intelligence tests and disobeying orders...


"A man is what he thinks about all day long." - Emerson

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Spin-off game: Battle for Illeria

I recently posted my back-story to The Forge (, for feedback and opinions on the world I have created. One person there had an interesting comment about "impending dangers," and it got me thinking about a possible spin-off game:

The game Escape From Illeria is about party level combat that breaks out after the guards in Illeria are overthrown. It happens in part because there is a lack of resources to go around. However, I have basically thus far not considered what Balthazar would be doing when he discovered that his magic lab revolted. Probably, once he figured out what was happening, and once he could muster an army, he would send that army to Illeria to try to reclaim it. However, when he sent a small army over, they probably would bring a lot of resources with them. Possibly enough to stave off starvation until the society on Illeria could get their feet under them. Between this, and the fact that now everyone on the island has a common enemy, this could cause the fallen society of prisoners on Illeria to reform.

Thus, "Battle for Illeria." This game would be more like a mass-combat game. One player would always control the armies of Balthazar. She would go to battle with a large army of ordinary troopers. They could range anywhere from basic men-at-arms (basically, villagers with swords) to elite cavalry. On the Illerian side would be a small group of independent characters. The characters would each be more powerful, and would strategically have a lot more flexibility (since the Illerians are not trying to organize an entire army), but would be vastly outnumbered. The game would cease to be played on two boards, but would have the innovation of being an asymmetric war. I have yet to see any wargames that were designed in this fashion.

Rules would be simplified for most types of abilities. Mainland armies would be squad-based, and limited by the number of actions they could perform. Illerian characters could be more complicated, since you control a smaller number of them. Lots of rules could be kept in tact, but I would need to add new rules in for things like mass-psychology. The game might also be point-based rather than level-based. I would also need to alter powers to represent the fact that everything is mass combat now. For example, in the old game, killing 1 person was worth more than doing a little damage to everyone within 3", this would have to change.

Okay, I think I'm going to need to keep this idea on the shelf for a little while, but it's been exciting to think about.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

More thoughts on orders

So, in my last post, said I was thinking about changing the way orders worked. The more I think about it, the more I don't understand why I didn't do this earlier...

If I take it out, I lose the following situations-
a) (archer) "Shoot, I was going to shoot at your general, but then he ran into the bush. Rather than shoot someone new, I'm going just not going to shoot at all."
b) (witch) "Well, I was originally going to throw my magic arrow at that guy far away. Someone with a huge battleaxe just appeared in front of me, but I think I'm going to stick with my original choice."
c) (Player) "Wait, remind me again, if I want to cast Fast Attack, what do I need to declare? Do I need to pick a target? Let me find that entry in my 70 page rulebook..."
d) (Player) "Drat! I miswrote the order. Guess that voids my turn."
e) (archer) "Well, I was going to shoot you, but you charged me, and now I can't. However, because I was trying to, I will be penalized as if I had."

(a) and (b) would be appropriate for something like a WWI game, but not a game like this. (c) is just incredibly obnoxious. By cutting it out, I will speed up the game significantly. (d), well, it works for a game like Diplomacy, but not here. (e) is actually something I kind of regret losing, but I guess it's worth letting go.

The reason I originally made players choose actions was because I thought it would make the game more strategic. However, the more I think about it, I really don't think that much strategy is actually lost. You still need to choose who will act (as it stands, how you will divide 5 orders amongst 10 people), and when. I feel like if you're playing the game well, then 90% or 95% of the time you will already be pretty sure what your character will do when you decide whether or not to activate her.

So, the simple version sticks (at least until a playtester tells me it sucks), and I save obnoxious planning to mass-scale games.

Happy New Year!


“I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Eisenhower