Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Frayed Knights 2: How do you spell that spell?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 28, 2013

fkdemotivateA while ago I talked about doing something kinda weird for Frayed Knights 2Random spell generation. (And note – the picture to the right is FK1. The special effects in FK2 are currently minimal and not very photogenic).

It got mixed in, across several permutations, with a completely revised initiative system.  Which doesn’t really count as an initiative system anymore – it’s a totally different interface for taking actions. It was inspired a little by collectable trading card games. Not that I’m turning an RPG into a CCG, but when a single player is playing a group of characters I started envisioning it a little bit more like choosing an action out of a “hand” of options.

There’s still a lot under construction, but the initial prognosis is… promising. Very promising. No doubt there’s a lot of work to do on the balancing front, but so far, given relatively few rules, it’s looking good.

One aspect of making the spells was to make them sound over-the-top, a little like spells from old-school Dungeons & Dragons, Tunnels & Trolls, or the original release of Hackmaster. I think I succeeded. Here are some of my favorites:

“Baba Yaga’s Unbelievable Armor Intensification”
“Primordial Magic Defense Impairment of Ariel”
“Underwhelming Revival”
“Fangal’s Cryptic Magic Defense Bonus”
“Arkan’s Introductory Magic Defense Failure”
“Sufficient Vim”
“Cleansing of Apuleius”
“Penelope’s Occult Boon”
“Oakfather’s Empowerment”
“Wimpy Spellwipe”
“Wussy Crawl”
“Worthy Armor Restriction”
“Brutus’s Explosive Core Punishment”
“Zalem’s Unfathomable Spiky Devastation”

I’ll tell ya – I want to use Zalem’s Unfathomable Spiky Devastation just based on the name. (For the record, it’s a Sorcerer spell that does piercing damage to a single target). Sadly, the random tables are pretty large, so the chances I’ll ever see that spell again are almost non-existent. To be honest, I learned quite a few new words as I was putting together the tables. I’d never even heard the word, “caliginous” before (and it still fails my spell-checker).  Pretty cool stuff, really. I learned a lot of new words reading Gary Gygax’s text back when I was a kid, too.

Although if I decide to localize for other languages, I’ve got some serious challenges in hand.

Of course, amusing-but-plausible spell names are only a tiny part of the equation. Most of the magic of the magic system, so to speak, comes from the formulas that make it work, and how they work with the rest of the system. Now, as far as balancing is concerned, we won’t know “for sure” until we’re deep into testing. But since it’s all based on what worked and was (reasonably) balanced in FK1, I think we’re going to at least start out in the same ballpark.

Since the action system has been completely redone from the ground up, there are a few things that may need addressing. For example, in FK1, all “Mass” spells (which affected an entire group) required the use of a spellstone. They were just too powerful without that limiting factor, even with a high endurance cost.  Now, although they currently still have a spellstone cost, mass / group spells also require a higher action tier, which slows down their use. Will that be enough to balance them all by itself? I’m not sure.

In FK1, I had never-exercised code that also handled ‘rank’ area effects – a spell that could effect all enemies within a single rank (distance). All two of them, max, as it turns out.  But as the list of spells started getting out of control, I realized there was just not enough room for it, so no spells took advantage of it.  But now it’s entirely possible to generate all kinds of potential spells, and let players mix and match their “optimum loadout” for whatever situations they can expect.  In addition to “rank” based area effect, there are more: “Penetrating” area effects that actually affect creatures behind your target.  Then there’s “explosive,” which might be the most challenging one to balance. It’s sort of a lower-strength “Mass” spell effect:  The primary target gets hit with the full effect, and all other members of the target’s group get hit with reduced versions of the effects. Then there are “self-only” spells. These spells can’t be targeted and only affect the caster… but they are more powerful than normal.

A spell can have up to three effects of various kinds. Effects are broken into offensive and defensive types, and all effects must be of the same type. So you can’t have a spell that simultaneously damages opponents and increases your party’s speed. So far, that seems to be a restriction that is workable.

I’ve also gotten rid of some damage types.  Disease, sonic, water-based, and a few other lesser- or never-used (in FK1) damage types have gone away. Disease is now represented by status conditions.  That still leaves plenty of damage types – edged, piercing, priestly, fire, frost, shocking, poison, etc.

I’ve also limited spell enhancements to only three levels, instead of five as in the first game. I figure, with all these gazillions of potential spells out there, there’s no need to press one into higher-level service for a long time. And with that in mind, I also changed the rules somewhat about what the spell enhancements really do.  I figure that if you are gonna dump spellstones into enhancing a spell’s power, it should be really over-the-top.  Previously, in FK1, if the enhancement took the spell over your normal “spellcasting level”, you could not cast it with that enhancement. In FK2, that restriction has been lifted…  In fact, the primary use of spell enhancements is to “overcharge” a spell to something normally beyond your power to apply.  In addition to increasing the spell’s effective power level, enhancements also increase the ‘magical attack’ rating – making them less likely to miss.  So enhancements are really there when you absolutely, postively have to kill it this round!

As I previously discussed – the dynamically generated spells are mixed in with standard and “common” spells. Common spells are always there, automatically in the spellbook for casters of a certain level and proficiency (and the right feats).  These are bread-and-butter spells of a particular casting field. Fireballs for wizards, heals for divine clerics.  Then there are also “Standard” spells, spells which are not automatically available, but are still “fixed” and guaranteed to be available somewhere in the game.  Many of these will have unique special effects, and will often be “overpowered” compared to the common and dynamically generated spells. This is where things like “Power Word: Defenestrate” live.

It’s certainly different.  But as the system has taken form, I’m growing more confident this will all work.

Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 9 Comments to Read

  • Xenovore said,

    . . .the primary use of spell enhancements is to “overcharge” a spell to something normally beyond your power. . .

    Cool. That’s how it should work. =)

  • DGM said,

    >> “It was inspired a little by collectable trading CAR games.”

    Well. If you’ve got that kind of money to play with, no kickstarter for you. 😛

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    @DGM – HAH! Fixed. If I can’t spell “Card”, why should I expect to spell anything else?

  • McTeddy said,

    I love those names. I don’t care how useless it is… underwhelming revival would ALWAYs be on my spell list.

  • alanm said,

    I was a bit skeptical when you first wrote about the randomized spells, but this sounds promising. I thought the similar sort of thing in Oblivion was pretty boring (haven’t played Skyrim).

  • BarryB said,

    Wouldn’t Baba Yaga be associated with spells having to do with movement, rather than armor? I mean, when you’ve got a hut on chicken legs that zooms through forests, and a pestle large enough to sit in with a mortar you can use as an oar, it stands to reason you’d make a nifty traffic coordinator, or at least a car designer.

    Ignore me. 😉

  • Xenovore said,

    @alanm: Skyrim’s spell system is hugely dumbed down from the systems of previous Elder Scrolls games. I’ll agree that many found spells in previous Elder Scrolls games were rather dull, but the ability to create custom spells was awesome. That’s gone from Skyrim, sadly.

  • Mike said,

    “Primordial Magic Defense Impairment of Ariel”
    – Quite! 🙂
    Actually, the main source of such was Jack Vance’s Dying Earth, which I heartily recommend to all. And the RPG where it was done quite successfully was Ars Magica by Atlas Games, with its Ball of Abyssal Flame instead of… you know. 😉

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    You know, for someone who is such a fan of old-school D&D and stuff, I really ought to read Vance’s Dying Earth series sometime. I’ve only known of them since the sixth grade when I first started playing D&D…