More Archery (now with a proper name!)Posted: March 22, 2012
The archery game has been the focus of most of my attention recently. It’s an idea that I really like, and yet somehow cannot bring to life. I thought, foolishly, that the first design would be sufficient, but I was wrong. Here’s some documentation of my wrongness. Above is a really rickety version of the game played with about 200 index cards. Although we didn’t set it up perfectly, you might be able to see the look we were going for. A diagram might help with that.
Honestly, this setup was the greatest success of the design. Although the cards we played with didn’t have any art on them, it was easy to imagine the colorful “wall” of index cards as a rampart and the blank white cards at the top as a forest. I think with some simple graphics this could look really great.
What didn’t work was EVERYTHING ELSE. Well, not everything, but most of it. Turns out rolling 8 dice every turn and then doing a bunch of math is not only annoying, but somewhat difficult. In playing 6 rounds, we let 8 monsters hit the wall, which was not the success rate I was hoping the players would have. On top of that, one character turned out to be over-powered, and we ended up relying on her to hit all the difficult targets. So all in all, it was a failure in execution. But both Alex and Liz agreed that the central premise was good, and that they genuinely had fun playing despite the hang-ups. This leaves me in an interesting position. With the contest deadline in less than a month, I really need to be wrapping these games up. This is not an ideal time for a complete redesign of mechanics. That being said, I still like this game more than The Estate (this may change), and the playtesters had some excellent suggestions, one of which I have explored further in an excel file called holyshitwhatthefuck.xlsx. This file name may tip you off to how incredible it is. Here, for instance, is one of the spreadsheets I was working with.
Holyshitwhatthefuck indeed. What you see here are all possible rolls of 3d6. The top row shows the value rolled if you add the two lower dice. The middle shows the value when you add the two outside dice, and the bottom shows the value of the two higher dice. Although it isn’t shown, I did some more analysis and found that the averages are, from top to bottom, 5.5, 7, and 8.5, with the standard deviations being 2.2, 1.9, and 2.2 respectively. Creating a histogram (fancy name for a bar graph) of these values gives you this lovely graph.
Aw yeah, maths. As you can see, the lower additions bunch up on the left side, but do have some presence on the right. The exact opposite is true for the higher values, which make a mirror image of the first. The middle one is, well, in the middle, and follows roughly the probabilities you would expect from a simple 2d6 roll (roughly).
What I may have stumbled upon here is a better way to trade “aim” for “power,” not only mechanically, but thematically as well. In the past, your character made a choice of how hard to hurl/shoot/cast/throw their rock/arrow/fireball/chakram by deciding how many dice to assign to power or aim. But even if you decided to roll 5 power dice, you could still roll a very low number, which makes no sense. If an archer draws their bow back to full draw, it is going to fly fast. For the purposes of gaming, we’re going to ignore that tiny chance the the string snaps and the arrow flops over the wall, falling in a wobbly arc down to the ground where it bounces harmlessly of the helmet of an oncoming orc, annoying him mildly but in no way stopping his rampage. What should be variable is aim. Even with the smaller draw, an archer could still misjudge the wind or the distance and miss. This is why a system where only one value is rolled makes more sense. Before rolling, the player will decide a power (high, medium, low) and will add the dice according to this decision. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to say which method goes with which power.
The second error this corrects is difficulty of addition. Rolling and adding 8 dice while taking into account the bonuses of the shot got really old, really fast. This way, it’s much, much simpler. Instead of totals ranging from 2 – 30, they range from 2-12, a set that gamers are very comfortable with. And last but not least, it gets rid of the “impossible shot” scenario. In the old design, different power and aim decisions meant that certain numbers were literally unattainable. If a monster had 25 armor, you were given no choice but to roll 5-1. As you can see by the graph, though a roll of 12 is unlikely in the lowest addition method (you would need to roll a 6-6-6), it is not technically impossible, and this is before any bonuses or special effects are added. Hopefully I can balance the cards and characters so that players feel that they can make strategic decisions instead of being handed them by the game.
This is pretty much everything I’ve done for the archery game. There are some monsters things that I’m still a little shaky on, so later in the week, after a little bit of fiddling, I’ll post those as well. As for the name, which I guess I promised at the top, I’ve decided to call it “On the Wall.” As I type that, though, I have my doubts. Oh well, I’ve already tagged the post with it, so it will stay for now. I’ll probably ask some friends for suggestions before I make the final decision. Until tomorrow then.