This has been a frustratingly busy semester for me. I'm taking several intensive courses that require a great deal of reading and thoughtful discussion of the texts. My wife's writing/editing job ebbs and flows throughout the year and is currently at an ebb, so I've had to put in more hours at my work to make up the difference. Plus, my wife is taking an insane number of advanced Greek and Latin classes, which keep her busy busy busy, leaving me to shoulder much of the daily house chores--dishes, cooking, laundry, trash, etc. I don't mind in the slightest, but all this means that I rarely have a confluence of both time and the energy for creative projects.
The TESS rules and module are unlikely to be ready before the 2013 Solitaire PnP Design Contest deadline. I'm okay with that. It's a big game that will need a lot of testing to make sure that the core mechanics work, and then even more testing to find a good balance. If it needs time to percolate, all the better for the game.
This has given me a lot of time to ponder about other concepts I have been keeping in my back pocket. One of them is The Fall. This began as a concept for a video game JRPG several years ago--the main character goes on a quest, and collects new friends and allies and new equipment and abilities along the way. I recently sketched out some ideas in my head that MIGHT allow this game to see daylight as a tabletop game.
The main character is climbing across a huge chasm when his line snaps and he plummets deep into the earth. Instead of splattering onto rock or nosediving into lava, however, he slips through a magic mortal that transports him into a giant underground world. He gets entangled in the political intrigue of two warring nations when it is discovered that he is entirely immune to all forms of magic. To get back home, he must join with one of these enchanted nations, lead a team into enemy territory, and gather the components needed for the queen to build him a machine to take him to the surface.
--A climbing and spelunking enthusiast from our modern world who, for whatever reason, is completely immune to magic.
--An enchantress/queen struggling to protect her nation from invasion.
--A cunning sorceress/queen with a thirst for destruction.
--A young girl with an incredible talent for sorcery.
--A warrior/scholar devoted to protecting the young girl.
--An exiled skreeling (sort of a goblin-like creature) looking for new friends and a new home.
--A mechanical man with a burning desire to be useful.
--An armored cave bear on a quest to avenge her slain cubs.
This is where much of my thoughts have been these last few days. I recall playing Final Fantasy X years ago and admiring a great many things about the game's design. One neat thing that the game did was give each hero a unique special move with a powerful effect, with each move requiring the player to perform a different mini-game. With one character, you had to rotate the thumbstick as many times as possible within a short time limit. With another, you had to pause a slider within a small area as it moved back and forth. With yet another, you had to play a game of slots and try to get three of a kind for maximum effect.
This got me to thinking--what if each character in The Fall had a unique battle mechanic? Once the player has a full party, he or she can select the three characters (or the three mini-games) he or she enjoys the most and bring them into the combat situations. One character might use a Yahtzee-style dice mechanic. One might require the player to flip a coin a number of times. One may use the strike/maneuver poker card mechanic from my own Wings of Lightning. Still another may use a dexterity mechanic; designer Jessey Wright would like that. The idea would be to use components that a typical gamer can be expected to have around the house to create quick yet interesting mini-challenges for each character's combat abilities.
To simulate the idea of random encounters, I would provide the player with a map showing the number of spaces between the different key locations. Each time the player moves the party to a new space, he or she must roll on a chart to see if he or she has an encounter, and if so, with what.
The heroes and all enemies they face would be given various stats, include Speed ratings. The player would activate each combatant's abilities in order from highest Speed to lowest. Particularly fast characters may get two or even three Speeds, indicating that they are able to attack multiple times in a round. For example, a character may have a rating of 8 and 3. This means that the character would attack before anyone else with a Speed rating lower than 8, and then again after everyone with a Speed rating higher than 3.
Enemies could be programmed with different behaviors to provide the player with interesting tactical choices. Some of them might target the character with the lowest health. Others would attack the character that most recently performed an attack. Still others would be have a list of the characters and would attack starting from the top of the list, according to which characters were in combat. And others would randomize their attacks with only a small amount of predictability. This would keep the player on his or her toes and provide him or her with interesting decisions about when to attack, when to heal, when to defend, et cetera.
I have no idea when I'll be able to work on this game, but I wanted to get my thoughts on paper. I have to graduate eventually, and when I do, you can bet that I'll be putting my unchained brain power into all sorts of creative endeavors like this!