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How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

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How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Proven Paradox » Sun Nov 21, 2010 6:17 pm

So, I'm working on a big d20 project. (I'll request a subforum for it when it reaches a point where I can start really benefiting from user input: not there yet.) I'm trying a couple of things with it and want some input from the community on some general issues. For this particular thread:

Here's the big one for what I'm doing. For me, one of the most annoying parts of combat is measuring out distances and squares for ranged and AoE attacks. It interrupts gameflow and slows combat down. If there are any kind of elevation differences between combatants, this problem is compounded threefold. What is your initial reaction to a system that scraps the battle-grid entirely? Attacks and powers target by "one ally, all allies, one enemy, all enemies," and variations thereof. Is it possible to make a system like this work, or is tactical movement and geometry a necessary part of tabletop gaming?
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby DragoonWraith » Sun Nov 21, 2010 7:22 pm

I think it's unquestionable that it could work. I think it's not a bad idea; considering the prevalence of online gameplay these days, being able to do things without visuals would really help. Of course, going from "one" to "all" is a big leap, and the lack of granularity will hurt - but I don't think that, by itself, will ruin a game or anything. Of course, you could also do "any 3 enemies" or whatever if you need an in between.

In short, yeah, I think it could work. I'm sure there are plenty of people who wouldn't enjoy it, but I'm equally sure there are plenty of people who would prefer it.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Fax » Sun Nov 21, 2010 8:17 pm

D&D is in fact unique in that it relies upon a tactical grid system, and many people decry it specifically because of that dependency. Other systems, like White Wolf's Storyteller system, have very little dependence on a map at all, preferring to sit more in the realm of cinematics and/or description. I find rules-heavy (D&D, WHFRP) systems to work better with clearly defined material and mapping, while rules-light (Everway, Risus, Amber) systems don't need such.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Gralamin » Sun Nov 21, 2010 8:47 pm

It could work, however there are reasons for arguing for the battle grid. Here are a few:

1) When implemented well (IE: Not 3.5) it is a solid place for "Thinker" players to thrive - I know because I am one. This type of player may take an interesting, possibly suboptimal build (Skirmisher, archer, buffing caster, etc.) And use their movement and abilities to great effect on the battlefield.

2) Helps bring non-combat abilities into combat. This depends how things are implemented, but a battlegrid makes using, say, Move Earth in combat (assuming you could get it quick enough) a much better idea - in another system it would just become "effect 3 people with status", but in a battlegrid system, it may change the shape of the battlefield to force opponents to come up with a different strategy.

3) It opens up new abilities entirely, or makes some builds playable. The battlegrid allows one to create lasting effects, chokes, and other interesting tactical affairs, that are really hard to keep consistent without it. It allows you to control the battle field directly, and removes abstraction that could turn something interesting tactically into not effective.


There are also a few cons:
1) Gameplay speed - it slows the game down
2) If poorly implemented (ala 3.5, again) battles really are a rush to a single location (or more if there is a moving goal / interesting encounter) then it just stagnants, moving only as much as is needed to get around effects that appear on the battlefield.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Proven Paradox » Sat Nov 27, 2010 9:15 am

I hate to do a thread bump, but this is the part I was most hoping to get input on. This is a tremendous design decision and will affect the structure of the entire game I'm trying to build.

Right now, my plan is to implement a concept of 'position' by including powers and class features that represent them. An intercept power represents standing in front and imposing oneself between allies, a class feature will allow the speedy combatant to provide bonuses akin to flanking, and so on.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Fax » Sat Nov 27, 2010 11:21 am

Are you planning on using a gridless "inch" system (like a tactical minis game), a gridded square system (like 3.5), a gridded hex system (like, uh, MechWarrior), or something else?
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Proven Paradox » Sat Nov 27, 2010 9:50 pm

No grid or movement at all. I'm basing this off a jRPG (Shin Megami Tensei, for those keeping track) and adding my own twists on the system. If you want a visual representation, use the standard jRPG standing in a line formation.

My goal is to build enough powers and such into the system to keep things tactically interesting.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby DragoonWraith » Sun Nov 28, 2010 6:36 am

I think that could work, definitely. It works in JRPGs, so why not?
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Draco Dei » Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:52 pm

Gralamin wrote:It could work, however there are reasons for arguing for the battle grid. Here are a few:

1) When implemented well (IE: Not 3.5) it is a solid place for "Thinker" players to thrive - I know because I am one. This type of player may take an interesting, possibly suboptimal build (Skirmisher, archer, buffing caster, etc.) And use their movement and abilities to great effect on the battlefield.

<Snip>

Drawbacks:
2) If poorly implemented (ala 3.5, again) battles really are a rush to a single location (or more if there is a moving goal / interesting encounter) then it just stagnants, moving only as much as is needed to get around effects that appear on the battlefield.


What differentiates the mechanics of a good system from a bad one? IE what do the rules (not the results) look like between a well executed tactical system and a badly done one.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby TheCripple » Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:23 pm

There are a few gray areas regarding maps that may be worth looking into. Consider something along the lines of FATE's zone mechanic, where an area is broken up into several zones of varying size. For instance, in a castle battle one might have an upper wall zone, a staircase to the upper wall zone, a gatehouse zone, a nearby the wall zone, and a far from the wall zone. In FATE melee takes place in one zone, ranged stretches either one or two zones (as a rule), and handling zone effects varies. However, in D20 a few more concrete options would make sense, allowing for some transitional phases between one and all opponents. One could add "one zone" and "spreads one zone" easily, where the second is one zone and all adjacent. With somewhat smaller zones, this would be fine.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Proven Paradox » Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:02 pm

Hm. I may do something similar to that now that you've gotten me thinking about it. Similar to the 'zones' described there, but keeping in line with what we've seen in jRPGs, perhaps add in a 'row' mechanic. Probably going to keep it front row, middle row, and back row--anything more starts getting too much to keep up with I think. That adds a lot of possibilities. Instead of a 'line' effect, you get 'one target in front row, middle row, back row.' Keeps a concept of geometry without having to actually measure out AoEs.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby DragoonWraith » Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:31 pm

For an interesting implementation of that kind of idea (but probably not ideal for an RPG where you control a single character), see the Ogre Battle video games. In those, the actual attacks a character could make depended on which row it was in - and if the unit was surprised (attacked from behind), a unit could be in the opposite row it usually would - meaning if used different (typically less effective) attacks.

Like I said, I probably wouldn't suggest it for a typical RPG, but it may give you some ideas. The Combo Magic, in particular, was cool (two or three spellcasters in the same row could cast their spells together for improved effect/area).
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Proven Paradox » Wed Jan 12, 2011 5:24 am

Being surprised reversing the normal row you're in isn't that big a deal, and has a lot of precedent in jRPGs. Both Final Fantasy IV and VI did that, off the top of my head. I'm probably not going to implement different rows leading to different attacks though--that gets complicated quickly. Instead I'm probably just going to add modifiers depending on what row you're in (+defense - offense in back row, vice versa for front row, and so on) and let rows be important in targeting enemies. And of course, conditional modifiers based on class features and such.

The game I'm (more and more loosely as I go) basing this system on had combo magic as well, but I don't plan to implement that for now. Perhaps if the basics are in and it all goes well.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby UniversalTank » Wed Jan 12, 2011 7:14 am

The concept of rows is interesting for avoiding the normal battlefield issues that some table top games have, primarily that it's not that hard to abstract so you don't actually have to have a grid at all. It really would give a game that JRPG feel SMT has. Another advantage is that it doesn't cause having minions to drag combat out with lots of different moves to be made, so if you were going to have a class that works kinda like SMT: Nocturne where you recruit enemies as minions things will be easier for them.

If characters have a distinct place in the rows ( left most, middle left, etc.) you could also have powers or attacks that "pierce" rows or hit columns going back through the ranks or have a burst type area. Games like Lunar and Atelier Iris had systems like this where the locations of enemies in the grid mattered when targeting certain effects that had area effects that weren't just a row/column/single/all. Also, like in the FF games, ranged weapons/attacks wouldn't suffer as badly when attacking from deeper rows. You might want to give them an optimal range, like if you shoot more then x rows away from you, there is a penalty.

This kind of combat sounds interesting, giving some tactical considerations to positioning without needing a massive battle map. I'm looking forward to seeing how this gets implemented if you run with it.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Fax » Sat Jan 15, 2011 5:28 pm

UniversalTank wrote:If characters have a distinct place in the rows ( left most, middle left, etc.) you could also have powers or attacks that "pierce" rows or hit columns going back through the ranks or have a burst type area.

Like Chrono Trigger?
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Proven Paradox » Sun Jan 16, 2011 11:33 am

UniversalTank wrote:Another advantage is that it doesn't cause having minions to drag combat out with lots of different moves to be made, so if you were going to have a class that works kinda like SMT: Nocturne where you recruit enemies as minions things will be easier for them.
Right now I'm focusing on SMT: Digital Devil Saga, making rules for the players to take control of individual demons rather than a demon summoner. If this actually takes off and there's enough demand for human classes? I have vague ideas for Demon Summoner, Cyber Shaman, Soldier, and maaaaybe Demi-fiend classes (though the last one may be more of a template or ACF set for existing Demon classes). For now I want to focus on the demon classes. I'm saving the human classes for the (SMT)DDSd20 PHB II: Return of the Acronyms.

If characters have a distinct place in the rows ( left most, middle left, etc.) you could also have powers or attacks that "pierce" rows or hit columns going back through the ranks or have a burst type area. Games like Lunar and Atelier Iris had systems like this where the locations of enemies in the grid mattered when targeting certain effects that had area effects that weren't just a row/column/single/all. Also, like in the FF games, ranged weapons/attacks wouldn't suffer as badly when attacking from deeper rows. You might want to give them an optimal range, like if you shoot more then x rows away from you, there is a penalty.
Hm. This is starting an internal argument for me.

On the one hand, I'm don't want to add anything that increases complexity without a notably larger increase in enjoyable tactical options. Adding rows (without columns) increases complexity in a way that requires very little extra effort to keep up with--you're in the back, the front, or the middle. The rows aren't exclusive and you don't have to worry about body-blocking. It takes a minor action to move to an adjacent row, the back row is adjacent to the middle row, and the middle row is adjacent to the front row, and there are your movement rules. It's one dimensional and therefore very easy to keep up with, adding practically zero time to how long a turn takes to figure out. Adding a second dimension--even simplified considerably--adds more to keep up with that I'm not sold on.

But, as I was typing this post, originally just disapproving of the idea, I started having ideas for combat taking place on two 3x3 grids--one for players, one for foes. This would mostly be for targeting purposes: a Brutal Demon in the front-right row can still hit an enemy in the back-left row with any of his attacks. I really, really don't want to have to screw with range for these attacks. But! I'm starting to see how it could lead to some very interesting tactical options. A 'cross' area, where you target one square, and the attack spreads along that square's row and column. Counters where you step to an adjacent square. Subversions where you force a target to move a certain way, or cause one square to be inaccessible. Perhaps the Stoic Demon's capstone makes it so that her foes can't target squares behind her. There will certainly be Intercept powers before then to that effect. Again, I don't want to include any kind of body-blocking: the entire party can pile up in one square if they want to (and that may even be tactically helpful, given that certain positive effects would affect one square).

Which sounds better to you guys?

As a side note, I'm trying to by-and-large exclude equipment (and thus, differentiation between melee/ranged weapons) from this game. Look back on the source material: In DDS, the only equipment that actually MATTERED was Karma Rings in the second game. Yes, you got ammo for human-form guns, but by and large they didn't affect combat, excluding certain gimmick fights. In Nocturne/Lucifer's Call, the only equipment you got was Magatama. The most equipment intensive games were the Persona games, and for the most part the gear just got better as you leveled up; the only real decision to make was usually your accessory. In keeping with that trend (and my dislike of the hatrack effect), this system is going to be mostly itemless. At least, it will be until I introduce human classes, which will likely be defined by their equipment choices, in keeping with games like Raidou Kuzunoha and Strange Journey. ((Who has two thumbs and is a shameless Megaten fanboy? THIS GUY.))


This seems to be dredging up a bit of interest. If anyone wants to follow the development process, I've been working on it from a small, free, shitty Wiki. Right now I'm focusing on writing up the first few levels of Powers.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Fax » Sun Jan 16, 2011 12:34 pm

You realize you still have space on my wiki, right?
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Proven Paradox » Sun Jan 16, 2011 1:01 pm

I do, but I'm trying to keep that reserved for complete stuff that I want to look pretty. I'm not going to put rough works in progress up on that anymore. Once the meat is done, I'll start working in that space to make the presentation good.

[edit]And I just realized now I never got around to deleting the WIP stuff after copying it before. I'm doing that now.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby DragoonWraith » Sun Jan 16, 2011 6:00 pm

Personally, I like the 3x3 grids on each side. I also like the people up front blocking those behind them, personally. But then, I like tactical geometry in general.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby UniversalTank » Mon Jan 17, 2011 10:03 am

3x3 would probably work out well. There's almost nothing to keep track of, each position has only two components to it so it doesn't require more than an pencil and some paper to draw on. Which I think you're supposed to have around for these kinds of games anyway...

No body blocking is fine as a rule since it adds to strategic decision based on what can affect where. Abilities that buff a square would help everyone in it, abilities that hit a square target everyone in it. The primary reason that I thought a grid would beat just rows is because it adds a minor complexity to what you need to keep track of but allows for many many more options strategically. If a character can move front and back, why not left and right? The ability to block squares for a period added a good depth to combat in the Mega Man Battle Network games, though that was also real-time. Taking out one whole row of squares made enemies much easier to hit, especially if you were playing the multiplayer against another person.

Before I get too far off track, even with weapons being a non-factor range (in a how many rows away can this attack hit sort of way) might come into play. With a pair of 3x3 grids range isn't something that really needs to be calculated, just stated, and the shapes of any AoE is pretty simple: row, column, cross, single square, all. You can obviously get more complex with abilities that target just corners, or all but center, or a 4square block, or an 'X' targeting corners and the center, but you'd hardly have to. While these things might seem complicated, and they will add complication to the creation of the game, I think players would find them very easy to understand and simple to use. I doubt play would slow down much since on a small field it's pretty easy to decide which AoE you need at any given moment. From the perspective of a GM and a minor (read generally directionless) homebrewer, I understand the desire to make everything as fluid and simple as possible, but I know from playing in games that a lack of strategic depth can make a game just as boring as having too much complicated tactical geometry involved.
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Thinker » Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:04 am

Your 3x3 idea would certainly open up more complex tactical decisions, but it also might require you to use a visual aid for combat. Remembering if I'm on 3,3 and trying to figure out if I can hit the enemy on 3,1 or 3,3 might not be very easy without seeing it. I guess you could streamline it a bit by turning it into a 6x3 grid with rows 1-3 reserved for players and 4-6 reserved for enemies so 3,3 attacks 4,3. How many combat options do you have with just 6 positions versus how many you have with 18 of them?

Another thing that the row-by-row combat can affect, regardless of the above, is how different weapons act in different rows. You could classify weapons into 3 categories: ranged, reach, and close. Ranged weapons attack at full strength from all 3 rows, reach weapons are at -1 in back row, but full strength in middle and front, and close weapons are at full strength only in the front row. You can associate different defensive bonuses to them as well. Another benefit is limiting special abilities based on what row the character is. You really do have a lot of options with this system.

How would you handle retreating? Would the whole party retreat at the same time? Do characters have to reach the back row before they can retreat? What about pursuit?
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Re: How essential is tactical movement and geometry?

Postby Proven Paradox » Sat Mar 05, 2011 6:56 pm

Apologies for taking so long to reply; school turned up the heat recently and I'm only just now getting a breather.
Thinker wrote:Your 3x3 idea would certainly open up more complex tactical decisions, but it also might require you to use a visual aid for combat. Remembering if I'm on 3,3 and trying to figure out if I can hit the enemy on 3,1 or 3,3 might not be very easy without seeing it.
I'm entirely okay with that.
Code: Select all
P = Preta
Z = Zhen
s = Slime

|---+---+---|
|   |   |   |
|   |   |   | Enemy Rear rank
|   |   |   |
+---+---+---+
|   |   |   |
|   | Z |   | Enemy Middle rank
|   |   |   |
+---+---+---+
|   |   |   |
| P |PPP| P | Enemy Front rank
|   | s |   |
+---+---+---+

|---+---+---|
|   |   |   |
| H |   |   | Party Front rank
|   |   |   |
+---+---+---+
|   |   |   |
| SG|   | C | Party Middle rank
|   |   |   |
+---+---+---+
|   |   |   |
| A |   |   | Party Rear rank
|   |   |   |
+---+---+---+

A = Argilla
C = Cielo
G = Gale
H = Heat
S = Serph
That took all of five minutes to make. Meanwhile, I can easily spend an hour or more on battlemaps for my DnD games. SOME visual aides are fine--if I ever make this happen, a PDF with cards or something for easy reference to power abilities is entirely in the cards. Including a battle mat like this would be no problem.

I guess you could streamline it a bit by turning it into a 6x3 grid with rows 1-3 reserved for players and 4-6 reserved for enemies so 3,3 attacks 4,3. How many combat options do you have with just 6 positions versus how many you have with 18 of them?
In the end, that's the same as what I have in mind now essentially.

Another thing that the row-by-row combat can affect, regardless of the above, is how different weapons act in different rows. You could classify weapons into 3 categories: ranged, reach, and close. Ranged weapons attack at full strength from all 3 rows, reach weapons are at -1 in back row, but full strength in middle and front, and close weapons are at full strength only in the front row. You can associate different defensive bonuses to them as well. Another benefit is limiting special abilities based on what row the character is. You really do have a lot of options with this system.
Perhaps for later expansions: as I said earlier, for now I have in mind this system including little if any equipment.

How would you handle retreating? Would the whole party retreat at the same time? Do characters have to reach the back row before they can retreat? What about pursuit?
This is something I've honestly not thought of much; I'm really focused on the combat right now (well, okay, I'm focused on surviving graduate school, details). Things that take place outside of combat (or as an attempt to leave combat, as the case is here) has been on the back burner. Off the top of my head: a retreat attempt would involve the entire party electing to attempt to retreat, at which point the party makes an opposed check of some sort with the opponents. Success means the party escapes and evades their pursuers, failure means they, well, failed, and likely has some negative impact for that combat round.
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