Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Frayed Knights 2: Drama Stars and You

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 28, 2015

One of the areas of “streamlining” for Frayed Knights 2 was the drama star abilities. To explain further, I’d like to recap a little bit for those who haven’t played Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon.

Like most people, I tend to save the game frequently when things are getting dangerous. When I suffer a setback, I’m tempted to reload. This is exacerbated by the games that provide encounters that all but demand that you do this – if you don’t enter a combat with with full health and spells, it is going to be far too challenging to complete. Because, you know, they want a challenging encounter. Then you have the next level of simplification of this… games that automatically restore you between encounters, so they can max out the challenge without worrying about frustrating players.

Which in my mind has ruined one of the critical gameplay elements of RPGs – resource management. Which has been a major gameplay element in tabletop roleplaying and computer RPGs since… ummm… pedit5?

My effort with Frayed Knights has been to return to a bit more of the flavor of old-school dice & paper gaming. One of these is the immediacy of having to play through bad luck or bad decisions. Now, I didn’t want to go so far as to add permadeath or anything like that, or even to limit the player’s ability to save the game. But I did want to encourage players to play through setbacks in the game rather than replay from a saved spot over and over again. The latter is boring, anyway, even if it does pad the hours.

DS3StarTo this end, I borrowed an idea from some dice & paper games – the ability to manipulate the game outside of character abilities. This is what I call Drama Stars. The idea is that as you play, you accumulate points which can be spent to have a major impact on the game… basically giving you the same advantage you’d have had if you replayed a tough section a couple of times (including bringing dead – or in FK’s case, incapacitated – characters back to life). In fact, you get some major “drama points” for doing something dangerous or having a character become incapacitated. While these drama points persist if you save & exit and then later continue, if you simply re-load from a saved point, the counter resets to zero.

So, in theory, the player who “plays through” a rough patch of the game (but survives) isn’t at much of a disadvantage over another player who reloads and re-plays several times to optimize results. But the player who didn’t save and reload probably had a more fun and exciting game.

That’s the theory. In execution, it wasn’t a legendary breakthrough in game mechanics or anything like that, but it worked okay. In Frayed Knights 2, I’ve tried to streamline and simplify things a little bit more so that Drama Stars are easier to understand and use.

DS6StarIn the first game, you had three stars that filled in from empty to bronze, then silver, then gold. It looked and sounded cool, but it was unnecessarily complex, and made it hard to understand the relative costs of the special abilities. Now you still have drama points that slowly complete a star, but you either have a star or you don’t. To make up for that, we need more stars. You can fill in up to ten stars. At that point, you are maxed out, and any more drama points you earn will be lost. But at that point you are able to use all of the drama abilities – which includes resurrecting (well, “recapacitating”) the entire party so long as one member is still up.

That’s the other thing I cleaned up: the drama abilities menu. There are a total of ten abilities, in ascending cost of 1-10 drama points:


The effects have changed somewhat from similarly-named abilities in FK1, but the basics (and the Holy Grail references) are the same. Fool’s Luck, which costs only a single drama star, guarantees a maximum result on the character’s next roll. The idea here is that you could just save and reload constantly until you succeeded, so why not let the player guarantee success on something that really matters? Problem solved. Bigger Fool’s Luck (I leave it as an exercise to the reader as to whether this refers to bigger luck or a bigger fool) adds a bonus on top of this, allowing a character to succeed in something that might otherwise be a little bit beyond their ability. Second Wind removes short-term fatigue and reduces long-term exhaustion. Only a Flesh Wound eliminates all damage to a living character. I Got Better removes all negative status effects. And I Feel Happy! means that a character (or the group) is not dead yet… they are no longer incapacitated and have a portion of their health restored.

So that is how the new and improved drama star system works. As in the previous game, current drama star status is retained if you save and exit and then continue at a later time (for those of us who may only have gaming sessions measured in minutes, not hours). But if you save anywhere and then reload, you’ll have things reset back to zero. (Clever players know to spend their drama points right before saving, if need be).

I hope it will prove an even more useful tool exploring the new dungeons!

Filed Under: Design, Frayed Knights - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • Maklak said,

    Yay for another FK-related post.

    I would always forget to continue in FK1 and instead load the most recent save and so reset the drama stars. So please fix it, so that loading latest save keeps drama stars. Or maybe always reset on load / continue.

    I rather like how the new drama star system is less confusing. As for the interface, I’d make first column 1-5, second column 1-6 and move the description directly below “Drama Stars Availiable to Spend”.

  • Noumenon72 said,

    I think “I’m Not Dead Yet!” would be more descriptive, fit the rest better, *and* be funnier. I bet you started out with that name and changed it.

  • Maklak said,

    BTW, finding fresh fruit in some loot chest at the bottom of some dungeon would be an opportunity for some funny duialogue… except FK doesn’t have food.

  • inc said,

    Drama Points were one of my favorite parts of FK1, but I didn’t like how slowly they accrued vs. how expensive the various abilities were. There were several times, especially if I was returning to the game the next day, where I would farm easy areas for Drama Points and then return to where I was. Somehow I don’t think that was the intent. (“Guys! Let’s get ambushed and lose half our party to priests so we can survive the next encounter!”)

    I like the changes, but I’m sad to still see 8-pointed stars. 😉