Tuesday, December 4, 2012

For Glory!!! Combat, Abstractions and Additions...

Combat in For Glory!!! is intended to represent a series of engagements in which there are three distinct phases:

1. Heroic Shooting: The Hero is allowed to fire a ranged weapon.

2. Heroic Melee: The Hero is allowed to fight using weapons or their fists.

3. Heroic Escape: The Hero may try to retreat from the battle. This entails a loss of Glory, of course.

Once the Hero has gone through these three phases, and assuming both they and their opponent are alive, a new engagement starts and the battle carries on.

Striking a foe has been abstracted down a bit from the full rules in the Barbarians of Lemuria RPG. Instead of a roll to hit, a roll to damage and a roll for armor which subtracts from damage, I have combined to-hit and damage into one roll and simplified armor to a simple binary D6 roll for heroes (you ignore the hit or you don't), or include it in the defense rating of encounter.  

When combined with the reduced LB totals (the average number of hits the average Hero or opponent can take is 3), and also considering the ability to double or even triple the damage of strikes with Hero Points, this makes combat a relatively quick affair, likely to be over in the first round if not the second. Only combats with large groups or creatures of massive size (5+ LB) will take longer.

Combat illustrates the challenge of taking a property like an RPG and translating it into a board game while still maintaining the feel of the original and, in my case, retaining the ability to move characters back and forth from the RPG to the Board Game. The first version of the rules had combatants with 10+ life blood (30 + for some monsters), random damage and random armor. In all, it was very swingy and it took a lot of time to finish one combat. In a board game, which forsakes the flexibility of an RPG for a quick play experience, the amount of player downtime this entails is unacceptable and I changed it almost immediately.
The combat round itself is an uber-abstraction, taking the detailed blow by blow account of a battle in an RPG and  boiling it down into phases that represent the individual result of a lot of activity, so it only makes sense to boil down the numbers for all aspects of that activity as well.

This abstraction is carried through into all other areas of the rules as well. Encounters themselves are largely abstracted down because we're trying to capture a short story and all the drama and detail it entails in a simple one roll result and lower level magic is simply an addition to that roll at the cost of 1 AP and 1 less Glory, making sorcerers flexible for a price.

In both cases we have to take an entire RPG session of activity and boil it down to something that will allow us to play the equivalent of an entire RPG campaign in the same time. How do you do this? I always keep in mind the words of Marcus Aurelius, the famous Emperor/Philosopher:

Look to the essence of a thing, whether it be a point of doctrine, of practice, or of interpretation.

In this case, the board game needs to find the essence of every aspect that makes the BoL RPG the experience that it is and boil those down to a series of rules that can reflect them in a single roll for the most part, but no more than 2 or 3 in the larger scheme of things, for the sake of speedy play. Using our examples from above:

1. The essence of an Encounter is the Hero tests some personal attribute to overcome adversity. Therefore, pick the most defining challenge, the attribute it challenges, and make that the center of the resolution.

2. The lower end Sorcery in BoL is used to 'allow the sorcerer to perform activities that anyone with the right training and equipment could manage.' Therefore, they should add to the possible success of rolls. And the best way in our current scheme is to allow them to add their Sorcerer career.

By reducing an activity to its base function and then 'snapshotting' an instance of that function, we manage to reduce the complexity and compress the time it takes to resolve that activity. In a way, we're taking the story of an individual Hero, as you would find in a script and turning it into a plot synopsis or treatment of the story.

At first I was hewing a bit too closely to the RPG, but as I've playtested the game, I've moved a bit farther afield from it as I've grown comfortable with the abstraction of key elements. I now think it has reached a point of balance where it is enough of its own entity, with the speed of a proper board game, while still retaining the feel of the original and allowing for cross compatibility.


By embracing abstraction and speeding up the game as a result, I've been able to add a Trade Phase into the Player Turn sequence. Now cities have a more important role in the game and destroying them actually makes a real difference. Merchant Heroes will also find a new set of activities to keep themselves occupied with and an advantage to leverage against their more muscular and sorcerous counterparts. Indeed, I'm hoping this will enhance player interactivity, as Merchants and cities become magnets for trade.


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