Game Design: Cinematic Fighting
I’ve written before about game design, and while my previous effort is nearly at beta stage, I’ve been thinking about further systems keyed to other gaming or storytelling needs. I have a firm belief that even a generic system fits a niche. That is, you can’t design an end-all-be-all generic system to cover all genres, because just by how it plays, it supports some games better than others. My first endeavor, which is currently named Daring Adventures, fits the pulp action adventure genre. I think it is very well suited for numerous applications of daring do, gritty action and everything in between. It relies on dice but gives the players ways to invoke extra dice for their pools. So despite being a crunch heavy game, it has options so players can stay more in control.
Recently, I was thinking about systems that function best for anime action adventures. I was thinking specifically of Shonen, or boy’s action, genres when I thought about this. While I own several game systems that purport to support such high action games, I don’t really think I’ve ever played one that got it just right. Without getting into specifics, either it seemed they were too heavy on purchasing every little thing necessary to explain the character’s capabilities, or their task resolution mechanics, while serviceable, were not suited to the genre itself.
Let me explain what I mean. A typical game system relies upon random resolution to determine whether or not a character is successful. In most such game systems, the amount by which the character is successful is part of their skill or power set. This is one thing that is often seen as poor design, but for anime, it works. It rarely matters how well a character hits an enemy, but just that they did hit, because these characters throw around power blasts that would make any wizard in popular fiction absolutely emerald-green with envy. So the dice mechanics are often simple, and success due to a character’s level of conviction or effort is left up to dice luck if represented at all.
For my money, the genre is rife with heroes and villains who succeed because they want it more than the other guy. You can take the most loud-mouth, irresponsible, poorly trained ninja and he can beat up people who are much better than he is, because he wants it more than they do. He doesn’t just want to succeed, he needs to succeed. So he does. He either finds the enemy’s weakness, or he believes in his cause enough to sacrifice his body for victory. There are really only a handful of genres where this is the way it all works: shonen anime/manga, wuxia kung fu films/manhua/manhwa, and western superhero comics.
So looking at things more carefully, I analyzed the source material and came up with the Fightin’ Engine, which I will explore in future posts on this blog. The first thing I came up with, and which drives the engine entirely, is that dice have no place in the standard game. In a genre where a character can exceed their natural skills and powers with self-sacrifice and a refusal to give up, luck is out the window. So the game runs on allocations of resources and effort. Every character has several pools of resources: Speed, Might, Power, and Will. These pools might be rated at 0, or they might have ratings of 3 or more (with 3 being very good).
By allocating so much Might, a character can attempt to break down a door. By allocating some Will, a character can puzzle out the answer to a riddle or find a way to fix a broken item. By allocating Speed they can carefully aim at a small target or overcome a challenge of acrobatics and balance. Lastly, for characters that have abilities based on Power, they can allocate that resource in order to perform unusual feats that not everybody has access to. When you allocate a resource, it temporarily decreases and refreshes to full at the beginning of the next turn. For most characters it represents how far they can divide their attention, rather than their full capability to break something or overcome difficult challenges.
Because characters have limited amounts of these Resources, with 0 being below average for all of them except Power, and 3 being great, characters will encounter challenges they can’t overcome with natural talent alone. That is where Guts comes in. Guts is a non-replenishing resource, but it can apply to any challenge to increase your chances. Guts has other uses, but this is the primary use of the resource. So if you are up against something that seems like a tough Challenge, you may need to bid some Guts on top of your Resource pool points in order to succeed.
All terms are subject to change.