In an RPG, the most important single aspect is the player character. I mentioned input and responsiveness in my last post, which is important in grasping the player and making sure the game is actually enjoyable to play – but any real, long-term investment means two things must be nailed down: the character, and the narrative.
To fulfil the “RP” in “RPG”, the player must either be allowed to create his own character or to be given one with a very fleshed out role – but in either case, it is crucial to allow them to manipulate and modify the character as they play in order to keep them interested and invested.
I have gone with the “create your own character” route. I think it’s more personal and ultimately allows finer control over what the character can do, and it should mean increased longer-term interest.
Along with all of the customary naming and appearance customisation, the following attributes make up a character in Olusia:
There are five primary statistics in Olusia which serve as the ultimate abstraction of what a character can do. They are as follows:
- Strength: Strength governs how much damage a character may do in combat with melee weapons. It also effects critical hit chance – and if a characters strength is significantly higher than an opponents endurance, there is a chance of knocking a foe off their feet.
- Endurance: Endurance is what determines a characters health. It also governs how much the player may carry, and how likely they are to be knocked back by powerful attacks.
- Luck: Luck is not a ‘nothing’ stat as it is in some games – a higher luck increases the chance to avoid being critically hit, increases ones own chance to critically hit, and increases likelihood of finding magical items and gold, amongst other things.
- Will: WIll is the measure of a characters strength of mind. A higher Will means a greater resistance to debuffs from the Sanity system, increased resistance values, and for certain classes governs their ability to cast spells reliably.
- Speed: The most self-explanatory of the primary statistics – Speed dictates both how fast a character can move, and, to a lesser extent, how quickly they swing their weapons in combat.
In addition to these primary statistics are a range of attributes. These are less vital than statistics, but still effect how characters are played, and each have distinct uses and effects on dialogue and gameplay:
- Lore: determines how knowledgable and how quick to learn a character is. Characters with higher Lore will earn experience faster.
- Piety: the amount of faith a character has. The higher the Piety, the less quickly Favour will decay with their chosen deity, and the more likely they are to make successful divine requests.
- Survival: has a minor effect on debuff mitigation and damage resistance.
- Charisma: used to achieve better prices at vendors, and to unlock certain dialogue options. For certain classes, has an effect on ability usage.
- Avoidance: a higher avoidance rating can result in greater protection from attacks and a reduction in chance to be critically hit.
Characters gain experience through doing things – defeating enemies, finding treasures, discovering locations, or completing quests. As they earn experience, they will gradually level up.
This is one of two progression mechanics. As they gain levels, the experience can be spent towards unlocking new abilities for their classes, increasing statistics or attributes, or adding new traits.
The player can pick one of several different races for his character. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, because some of these races will be unlockable through play and should remain secret – but each race comes with unique statistic, attribute, and trait packages that make them each different to play. As a basic example – Humans are the most “generic” race, and suffer no stat penalties or bonuses and few interesting traits, but Halflings gain a small boost in Speed and a detriment to Endurance, and have a few special traits that align with this theme.
Characters must specialise into classes. These classes determine the resources and abilities available to a character for use.
A player may select up to two classes for a character, and it is suggested that they do select two for maximum diversity and personalisation. Players may select one class alone to “specialise” into it for some bonuses – but players that select two classes will have a broader pallette of abilities. For example, a player might select Wizard alone. If he does – he will gain the Grand Wizard trait, enabling him to cast spells more frequently and with less risk. Or – instead – he might forego this extra trait to select a second class, and pick Necromancer. Now, he is a Summoner, and has a pool of abilities from each class, but does not gain the specialist trait from either.
Each class combination has a unique name! I will be making distinct posts on classes in the future.
When creating characters, players must select a balanced slate of traits to fine tune their abilities. These are of varying severity and benefit, and exist to allow players to make their character more specialised.
When choosing a race and class, certain traits will be adopted by default – these cannot be removed, and cost nothing to have. Players will then be granted a number of points to spend on new traits. Some traits have negative effects, and these therefore have negative cost, allowing the player to adopt some character flaws in order to increase their capabilities elsewhere. For example, let’s say the player has 10 points…
An awful affair involving swords haunted you from an early age – as such, you are unable to use swords as weaponry.+ 2 pts
Your skin is unusually tough and leathery, able to withstand blows that would bring a lesser being down to size. You gain 3 Endurance.-8 pts
And selects both of these traits. One is positive, one negative – and taking them both results in a remaining 4 points to spend.
A player is free to select any number of traits as they see fit – but the remaining points must always be greater than or equal to zero for the build to be valid.
The player can select a sex. It changes appearance, but otherwise has no effect on gameplay aside from the occasional change in dialogue.
Strange name for a feature.
A lot of Roguelikes have perma-death. When you die, game over – start again. It raises the stakes and makes your character feel important…
But losing your progress also sucks sometimes, especially in games with lengthy narratives. So I have a character system called Age.
Characters start at a young age and get older over time. This represents a natural difficulty curve – the older you get, the tougher the game becomes as you begin to gain experience and become more vulnerable through acquired debuffs/traits/sanity afflictions.
When you die – you will have the option of asking your god to return you to life. If so, you will return and continue playing with only minor temporary downsides just as before – but your Age will remain frozen at the point of your death.
This works as a sort of “medal of honour” in that it represents how long you managed to last without dying – and when playing in multiplayer seeing other heroes with a high Age should be genuinely impressive.
(For narrative reasons, you will ultimately be able to age indefinately. This system will tie into the Calendar system, which I will outline in a later post).