Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 7, 2011
Time for another update on Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon, likely to be the only game released this year with a stat called “Brains” that isn’t about a zombie apocalypse.
Today, I’m going to talk about endurance. Which is another stat. Probably your second most important stat in combat, next to hit points. I’m writing about it now, because it is my bane right now. Balancing the game system is proving to be mainly about balancing endurance. Endurance is life. For a refresher course on what endurance is all about, here’s an article on Resting, Sleeping, Fatigue, and Exhaustion in Frayed Knights.
From a design perspective, the point is to embrace a bit of old-school-style resource management. There’s no concept of standing around waiting to heal up between combats, or waiting for an ability timer to pop like some kind of predictable whack-a-mole game. You have health, endurance, and expendable items… and gold with which you can buy more expendable items (or other things). You need to ration your resources on any particular foray into a dungeon. Failure to do a good job of it means heading back to town prematurely to buy more potions and sleep it off at an inn. When you return, the “fixed” encounters you’ve already defeated will no longer be there, but you may be harassed by respawned patrols and random encounters.
This isn’t a popular choice these days with RPGs – the tendency is to encourage you to shoot your whole wad with every single battle, thus requiring that every single battle be of relatively high challenge (or else what’s the point?). Whereas with limited resources, it’s always something of a gamble. Do you hit this “speed bump” encounter with your heavy artillery now, or do you hold back so that you may have enough to tackle the boss a little further in the dungeon? And if you have expended a little more than expected on smaller encounters now, do you turn tail and head back home now to come back refreshed, or do you push your way a little further into the dungeon and take your chances?
Older D&D-style CRPGs often gave you the chance to rest in the wilderness for free, with the risk of an enemy attack while resting. I liked this mechanic back in the day – it had a good risk / reward balance to it – but it was too often something of a pass / fail situation. You could plop right down pretty much anywhere and rest, and if you succeeded you were as good as new. If you failed, you were likely seriously hosed.
The Frayed Knights endurance system – including easily recoverable fatigue and the more challenging exhaustion that lowers your maximum endurance – is an attempt to find a little bit of a middle ground in all this. You can “rest” pretty much anywhere for a quick breather to return your party to maximum endurance. But if you let exhaustion creep up to its maximum level, which cuts your top endurance by as much as three-quarters (currently), your party won’t be able to go more than three or four rounds of combat before getting slowed down by the need to recover endurance.
This is a big deal. Once your characters start hitting that threshold, their effectiveness in combat drops pretty hard. If your endurance hits zero, not only does your character automatically have to catch their breath on their next action, but until they do and get endurance back into the positive range again, they are slightly more vulnerable to attacks.
Oh, and the same thing applies to enemies, too. You can see their endurance level too, and how quickly it drops based on their various attacks. While there are a lot more factors in play, whichever side hits low endurance levels first is generally at a pretty distinct disadvantage.
A side benefit of this is that, unlike most other RPGs, the “Defensive” option in combat can actually be somewhat useful! Especially if you have a feat that applies the bonus against spells as well as physical attacks. It uses no endurance, and makes your character harder to hit. You can hunker down and let your enemies blow their endurance on initial, expensive attacks, and then come out swinging once they are having to recover every other round. It’s not a strategy I’d recommend for most situations, but there are times when it may be appropriate for at least some members of the party.
There are a lot of tricks to managing endurance in Frayed Knights. There are feats which reduce the endurance cost of special attacks and spells. Potions of Liquid Nap often come in handy not only as a quick endurance boost, but to reduce exhaustion immediately. One of the cheapest (and, especially in the early game, most useful) Drama Star powers cuts exhaustion significantly and restores the character to maximum (current) endurance. Less powerful attacks and spells can be used against lesser threats. Other party members can pick up feats and spells to help with the healing, so poor ol’ Benjamin doesn’t have to burn himself out keeping everyone in healed. Potions, scrolls, and wands can be used cheaply in place of the more fatigue-inducing spells. Spells with spellstone components tend to give a bigger bang for their endurance-cost buck than regular spells. The party can move out of a more densely-populated, dangerous part of the dungeon to a less dangerous one before resting.
And so forth.
Managing endurance is almost as important as managing hit points in Frayed Knights. While its possible to play without paying it much attention, skill and attention will reward players with less whining from the deceased party members.
Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 5 Comments to Read