Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Frayed Knights Update: Taking Turns

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 20, 2011

I’m overdue for an update on Frayed Knights progress. You know, that “quick and dirty” little indie RPG project that I figured I could crank out in just a few months. Because I’m stupid.

Combat has gone through a few iterations in Frayed Knights since the early pilot released such a long time ago.  Even the “turn-based” nature has changed a bit.

Originally, every action had a cost in the number of “phases” it took to perform.  This was kinda weird, because the action took place immediately, and then there was a delay in the number of phases the character would be delayed before taking their next action. The game proceeded by advancing phases. On most phases, nobody acted, and it would skip to the next phase. For example, let’s say Dirk has an action on phase 10. He swings his word, which took ten phases. The attack fires immediately, but his next action would occur on phase 20, allowing everyone else with an action between phases 10 and 20 to act.

Weapons had speed factors, which could be modified by certain feats and spells. So while a sword might have a speed of 10 – causing a 10-phase delay – a dagger might have a speed of 7 and have only a 7 phase delay.

While that’s a fairly workable system, it had a lot of problems and inconsistencies within my approach. How about spell durations? Should they also be phases? Those can be kind of big and confusing numbers. What about non-combat actions?  How much time do they take? Weapon and action speeds – especially combined with abilities and spells that sped your actions – were very hard to balance. The stiletto, a very fast weapon, was either the best weapon in the game, or was absolutely useless against an armored opponent, as the damage rating had to be cranked way back to make up for its speed. And then there was the whole weirdness of a slow action taking place immediately but causing a big delay before the next action.

In the end, I discovered that the game I really wanted to make used actual turns, with everyone taking (usually) one action per turn. This was a substantial overhaul, but overall a Good Thing.

Most actions in the game, if they take any time at all, take a turn. Picking a lock, walking a certain distance (about thirty feet), casting a spell, searching, etc. It’s not an exact science or count of time, nor do I want it to be.

In combat, the order in which actions take place is determined by an initiative check at the beginning of each turn. This check is a random factor modified by equipment (knives are quicker than 2-handed swords), feats, spell effects, and the character’s Reflexes score. In the beginning of the game, Dirk (who has the highest reflexes score of the party) will be the first player character to act most of the time.

Characters with the “dual wield” skill and armed with a weapon in each hand get to attack twice – once with each weapon – on their action.  This is offset somewhat by reduced accuracy. It still counts as a single action, however.

Then there’s the chance of getting multiple actions per turn. This can happen if you have a combination of Reflexes, equipment, and so forth. Or through spell effects. Very high initiative rolls, or the “haste” line of spell effects, increment an extra action counter. When that hits ten, you get a second action later in the turn. Or a third, or fourth, etc. Certain spells and feats automatically increment the extra action counter every turn.

Another wrinkle in the extra action counter saga is armor – heavy armor slows you down, and automatically reduces points coming in towards extra actions. It doesn’t effect the cumulative pool, or reduce extra action points below zero. But if Arianna is wearing full plate mail, she will not accumulate extra actions from a haste spell as quickly as, say, Chloe hanging out in a bathrobe.

And yes, enemies follow the same rules, and can be hasted by spellcasters just as well.

Changing topic here just a little: What’s the current status of Frayed Knights?

Things have slowed a little between vacation and a massive looming deadline at the end of June at the Day Job. I’ve been having fun making final content to replace stand-in and generic content. Which is only a slight improvement, given the amateurish quality of what I make, but one does what one can. Some of the dungeons have felt a little “flat” compared to later levels, and so I’ve been working to make them more interesting. I expect the current pace to continue through the end of June where we will continue to test, tweek, tune, fix, and polish.

And then all hell breaks loose in July. That’ll be the big, final push to ship.  It won’t be fun, but hopefully it won’t last long.


Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 11 Comments to Read

  • Kevin Jackson said,

    When you say, “It won’t be fun, but hopefully it won’t last long,” you are talking about the final push, right?

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    LOL – if that describes the game, then I’m in big trouble. 🙂

  • Adamantyr said,

    Weird, your combat system description sounds rather close to my vintage CRPG… I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. 🙂

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Heh – I guess we’ll have to assume that Great Minds Think Alike. Or that we’ve been influenced by the same source material. The only thing that’s a little unusual about mine is the haste/extra action system.

  • Adamantyr said,

    Yes. My inspiration had been the 1st Edition AD&D combat system rules… with a few modifications here and there.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    It’s definitely easier to build on something you are already familiar with (to some degree). You already know it’s strengths and weaknesses and things you would want to see fixed.

    For me, switching back to a more traditional turn-based system was really a matter of making things easier to balance. I had WAY too many new things going on, lots of variables, and I needed to change back to something that left me (and the players) on a more familiar foundation.

  • jzoeller said,

    Complex systems that are tough to balance can hinder just about any indie game to a halt. It’s something that really comes into play in RPG’s. The majority of us don’t have a QA department that can sit and test/balance our game everyday (assuming agile methodology). We can release alpha/beta versions to the public or closed groups, which yeild some real world scenerios, however this method of testing/balancing can take very long, even with a good group and is often not what we had hoped for as a developer.

    As a software engineer at a software company during my day job and an indie at night there is not doubt a world of difference, for better and worse 🙂

    Life is a large factor in what we can accomplish as indies sitting in front of our computer at night. I feel for you and am hoping things get back on track for you soon!

  • jzoeller said,

    Now that I got my mind going..

    Our god like test characters and cheat codes/functions which give us items/stats we need work great for inital testing and making sure things work as expected, but if you make a game that takes 80 hours to complete, at some point you need to sit there and play through the game for 80 hours at least multiple times, to really balance the game.

    You can do all the calculations and projections you want, it won’t feel right without the human touch.

  • skavenhorde said,

    Turn based sounds good to me.

    Good luck in July. Try to get some sleep every now and then 😛

  • Modran said,

    As a board game creator, I have a mantra I’m supposed to follow: simplify. Simplify. Simplify again. And simplify one last time to boot.
    Complicated is great to have many things taken into account, but it is then difficult to keep everyting in broadview. And balance (even if I’m not sure everything should be balanced) is a bitch…
    Turn based is good for me, but having a very fast stiletto that does no damage against armored seems logical to me :p

  • Tesh said,

    “… but having a very fast stiletto that does no damage against armored seems logical to me ”

    Ditto. Seems to me to be part of the choice in using a stiletto in the first place.

    The WoW miniatures game uses a “time tick” system for action costs. It’s pretty simple overall, but it works really well. Of course, it’s not quite like the MMO’s “warmups and cooldowns” system, as it’s pretty much just “cooldowns”, but it does allow for more tactical play than a simple turn-based system.

    I wrote a bit about this a while ago, ruminating about time: