Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Frayed Knights 2 Update: Items Get To Play Roles, Too

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 19, 2013

boxA lot of the effort with the Frayed Knights sequel has gone into items. I’ve talked about them before. In Frayed Knights 1, I went super-generic: Every item type could  potentially do (almost) everything. You could click on your helmet to launch a fireball, consume a potion to cast any (non-targeted) spell, etc.  While it’s cool that I *could* do that, like Ian Malcom says in Jurassic Park,  I probably didn’t consider too carefully as to whether or not I should do that.  In the end, not only did I barely use the capabilities of the system, but the lack of consistency and clear definitions may have confused players.  And it certainly didn’t make my job of making the user interface any easier.

In Frayed Knights 2, items have a more clearly defined role, which I admit is a little more boringly traditional, but they are far more manageable and consistent. This offers only a small advantage in coding (probably more so come testing time), but it’s a big benefit to players. While it’s cool to be able to click on your boots to teleport somewhere, it also makes things confusing, cumbersome, and easy to miss. So I had to weigh the advantages of making everything do everything, and making things fall into more predictable roles. This time, I decided to err on the side of predictability and easy (or easier) categorization.

Items that you equip in particular slots may only have passive effects – those abilities that are either always in effect, or trigger when you take an appropriate action (like attacking with a magical sword). Only certain kinds of items (potions, wands, bombs, etc.) have actively triggered effects. Wands are multi-use, but require specific classes (or feats) to use them. Bombs can be used by anybody, but they are expended when used. Scrolls can only be used to cast spells directly – spellbooks are used to learn new spells. Etc.

That last one – I forget who suggested it to me – but it really helped solved some balance problems I was facing with the price of scrolls. When scrolls are used to cast a spell, and are destroyed by use, they really should be very cheap. Cheaper than bombs with an equivalent effect, as the bombs can be used by anyone, whereas the scrolls require a class or appropriate feats to use.  But if scrolls could be used to learn spells (a D&D-ism that followed from a ‘realistic’ line of thinking – if you can cast spells from a scroll, why can’t you use a scroll to learn the spell as well?), that’s a far more powerful ability, and should cost more, right?

Potions have only a few specific uses. While technically, in FK1 they could pretty much do anything, in practice there were only a handful of different potion types. In FK2, I’ve broken all potions into a number of different, straightforward effects, and strength levels.  I’ve done the same for bombs (and their single-target counterparts, shots).

Taking some cues from where I am (currently) going with spells, I’ve added the ability to generate dynamic items, as well. For some things, like potions, this is trivially simple (balancing the loot drop is the only issue). In FK1, I included a combination of randomized loot and fixed items, but the randomized loot had to come from tables of pre-generated items. In FK2, I am doing the same, but the randomized items can be truly dynamic. While this can introduce some scary monsters in terms of game balance (I’m doing my best), it’s being done in such a way that I don’t foresee any colossal problems. Since this isn’t a Diablo-style game with an emphasis on equipment acquisition, it’s not really going to be a significant part of the game.

But it should be interesting and fun. And that’s what it’s all about.

Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 7 Comments to Read

  • Steven Fletcher said,

    You could have spell scrolls and spell books. Spell scrolls could be used to cast the spell once, and spell books could be used to learn the spell permanently.

    I don’t know if this would necessarily be superior.

    You should have item enchantments like in Terraria and Diablo. Random loot and random shop items have random enchantments, making them better or worse than normal. The effect of the enchantments should be relatively small to maintain game balance.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    That’s exactly what I did – separating the functions of spellbooks and scrolls. That’s what solved the problem.

    The dynamic item generation works a little like what you are saying – it begins with a template (so all items of type “Short Sword” are alike), and applies modifiers from materials or up to three special abilities on top of that. Technically I could put negative modifiers on the item as well (say, a penalty to reflexes in exchange for more might), but I haven’t done that yet.

  • Xenovore said,

    Scrolls can only be used to cast spells directly – spellbooks are used to learn new spells. Etc.

    That may have come from one of our conversations, but it’s kind of traditional anyway; tabletop RPGs like MERP/Rolemaster have done it that way, Diablo 1 did it that way, The Elder Scrolls games have done it that way, etc.

  • Albert1 said,

    How did you code FK1 items with all those capabilities. Did you use a single struct/class with all the fields, tolerating the waste of space when an item didn’t use a particular field? Was it component based? The FK2 item system sounds a lot like a component based one, with some initial archetype to forge an object, and then the latter can suffer some customizations…
    BTW: the Jurassic Park quote says really a lot about your age 😉

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    @Albert – In the language I was using (Torquescript), all data fields were dynamic. So I ended up with a superclass that could be any item I wanted it to be, but some fields were never populated (and thus didn’t REALLY take up any space, but it was still a bloated class – but that was just the language the game was written in…)

  • groboclown said,

    Of course, by changing an existing functionality (e.g. scrolls used to be able to be scripted to spellbooks), the characters will need to comment on why they can’t do it anymore.

  • Corwin said,

    I don’t remember having those teleport boots!! 🙂