Warriors From the Mystic Mountain: Design Epiphany

I had, until recently, a major design problem with Warriors.  Namely, special abilities.

In a Kung Fu game, you need special abilities.  Whether it’s your “Mighty Iron Fist Kung Fu,” or your “Fury of Nine Tigers Technique,” you gotta have them.  That’s a fun, awesome thing about kung fu.  (It’s something that both Exalted and Weapons of the Gods do totally totally right.)

In a hard core crunchy gamist-angled game, you need special abilities, so people can choose from a shopping list and customize their characters for awesome effectiveness, and make combats interesting and different.  (The success of the previously name-dropped games in this application is debatable, with points both pro and con.)

Anyway, writing up lists and lists of special abilities is hard.  There’s a lot of them, they have to be balanced, and for me, the biggest barrier is knowing where to begin.  Everytime I’ve tried to write such a game, I’ve pretty much given up in the anxious terror of inertia.  That’s why writing Awesome Adventures was so helpful for me; it’s a lighter game, so I could get straight to the writing and figure out a thing or two about wrting games.

Anyway, what I figured out I needed to do is organize the abilities better.  I came up with ten categories while pondering this.  So instead of having to come up with, say, thirty different abilities out of the blue, I only have to come up with three for each category.  And I find that now I’m thinking about it like this, categorically, I’m having a lot more inspiration, and the ideas are coming to me easier.

So the benefit to me, as a designer, is that it compartamentalizes my design, and breaks up the huge task into smaller, easily handled tasks.  This is an amazingly good thing.

Also, I’m hoping that there will be a benefit here in play, since these categories correspond to character play niches.  If one wants to play a mook destroyer, taking out hordes of lesser enemies, one needs only to look at the Crowd Control martial styles, rather than digging through the description of every single ability to see if it’s useful or not.  I hope this will be a play advantage over the previously mentioned games.

Anyway, here’s the ten categories:

Offensive:  Focuses on boosting damage and attack rolls, making sure your attacks are successful and potent.

Defensive:  Focuses on boosting defense rolls and withstanding damage, resisiting enemy attacks, and staying in the fight.

Crowd Control:  Attacks focusing on dealing with mooks and hordes of lesser enemies.

Area Control:  Focuses on moving enemeis or preventing their movement, and aiding the battle on a strategic level.

Support:  Abilities that increase one’s own capabilities or improve the abilities of others.  Buffing.  Possibly includes Chi management.

Recovery: Mid battle healing, minimize effects of enemy attacks.

Interference:  Debuffs.  Abilities that hinder enemies and impede their ability to act effectively.

Denial:  Focuses on negating the effects of enemy techniques and stles, possibly draining enemy chi or negating enemy buffs.

Utility:  Tricks, magical spells, with a primary focus on non-combat applications, but with possible combat benefits.

Movement: Focuses on allowing the character to quickly move between areas and get to (or away from) the fight.)

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