I'm hoping I can draw on the Game Designer experience of this stack to help be make a decision on a dice-based conflict resolution system I'm designing for an RPG that I've been developing on and off for a few years now. I'm hoping to get good subjective answers based on either personal experience or knowledge gained from people in the industry.
I've set my mind on characters resolving conflicts in this system by what I'm calling 'engaging an obstacle' (e.g. monster, crossing a rickety bridge, hacking into a network, convincing a guard to let a street urchin go, reversing an arcane ritual...) and to do so picking three actions per turn.
These actions are special abilities with their own rules/resource requirements, or a basic 'skill action' all character with that skill can perform.
Each of the three actions will usually specify an attribute and a skill that goes towards the total dice pool, with success/failure and any special rules influencing the remaining actions on your round.
Character's attributes range from 1 to 6, and additionally at character creation they pick one attribute to be their strength and one to be their weakness.
The attributes I've picked (the names of which aren't necessarily fixed) are split into three categories:
- Body - Brute and Finesse
- Soul - Guile and Heart
- Mind - Wits and Will
The attribute that's your strength makes skill checks easier to succeed, and the one that's your weakness give more reward/resource for success and/or failure.
As an aside, I haven't figured out how to represent the resource tokens/weakest-strongest aspect mechanically, but either reducing/increasing target numbers or that it just must be the highest/lowest attribute.
Characters skills range from 1 to 6 as well. I haven't pinned down exact skill names, but I'm expecting unlike say, Storytelling/er systems, each skill can be used with any attribute. I'll just make up skill names below, as they aren't as important as the attributes for this question.
I'm considering letting skills be considered a characters strength/weakness as well.
The idea here is make the skill and attributes more thematic aspects of a character than just numbers. A character with a strength in Brute succeeds by brute force where other character fail, whether that breaking down a door or brute forcing a keypad combinations. A character with a weakness in arcana doesn't succeed initially, but the resources for trying open up more opportunities later on.
My goals for this system are as as follows:
- Reward tactical choices around picking the three actions, especially the order
- Reward using a spread of skills, attributes and abilities
- Preventing players 'novaing' challenges; using their most powerful abilities early on to end the combat early (encouraging using their 'weakness')
- Making each action itself simple, and only having emergent complexity
My concern is that if one attribute/skill is easier to use (i.e. it lowers difficulty checks), or provides more rewards (failures provides resources regardless of failure) then that will be favoured - there's not spread of skills/attributes used.
What disincentivizes a player using the Talk skill on each three action with their best ability, if it makes the challenge easier (Talk around to get info, Talk to get past the governor's doorman, Talk to the Governor)? What disincentivizes the player from using their worst ability to get more resources until the last action or just building them up and unleashing them in future challenge?
I also want to hit the right level of complexity and scale, without having to force that on players or games masters in extensive rules text - such as arbitrary limits as to when special abilities/strengths/weaknesses can be used.
I was considering simply saying that repeats of skills and/or attributes are not allowed, and (somehow) getting the player to roll all their actions at once, and then secretly distributing successes between each action. That allows your to force a variety of skills and attributes be used. And any action that produces more success than required, they can spill over onto later actions.
However players would likely always use their best skill+attribute, but that could still help later actions. The issue is you then favour using your best ability on the easiest action if you know the successes needed in advance - that leads to players using their most powerful abilities first to guarantee success later on.
My goals seem opposed to each other.
How do I achieve my goals, and balance them against each other?