The mechanic in discussion today is 'hit points.' Some people like them, some people hate them, and some people really don't care. I assume if you're still reading, you have an opinion on them, and it's probably a strong one. So time for me to lose the last of my readers this week:
I think it depends.
It depends heavily on the game and the overall feel the designers are going for. Even among heavily complex games, there seems to be a solid divide. Some like things rough and tough, one hit, you're gone. Others, Dungeons and Dragons at the top of the list here, offer quite a bit of plot immunity. I'll say I think I like the middle road the best.
I don't think you should die in a single hit. It really sucks to run into a combat situation and having the dice come up just right to leave you totally unable to continue. Some sort of plot armor needs to exist.
I do think you need to have some form of 'danger' at all points. Threatening your ability to fight, or, even more extreme, to play at all, is a fairly good way to keep players invested in their characters. I honestly think this is why combat with real death is so common in RPGs.
So, with these in mind, I'd set to the design possibilities on how to balance this concepts in ExoSquad, since I knew I wanted the tactical give and take common in D&D, but without the 'but he survived a dagger to the kidney!' complaints common to that system of HP. I also needed to consider that in an era of firearms and heavy armor, you typically want a solid hit to be a kill, so anything that is actually a 'hit' needs to be near deadly.
Thinking about it, I considered reversing the process: instead of ticking health down, why not count up? Then use something akin to a saving throw to determine if you go down. . .
So I begin tinkering with the number themselves. If the weapons aren't necessarily hitting when you roll the dice, they have to be doing something meaningful. Obviously, they're threatening the target. So each weapon has a 'threat value' instead of damage. As any fighter accumulates 'threat' their chance of being hit and downed increases.
From there, I had to decide a way to determine when the threat finally brought a combatant down. In this case, I chose a dice roll based on current threat. This meant that the roll got harder as the battle gets more hectic, and adds that frightening chance of being blown away by the first bullet.
I realized, though, that I needed a 'when' to roll. Instead of making the roll after every attack, I have chosen to make it only at the end of the combatants turn, making one roll against current heat before passing the turn to another player.
Should it be every turn? Or should there be a limit? In this case, I think there should be a certain threshold before any combatant needs to start making rolls. This means weaker combatants are likely to fall early, but tougher ones will go longer in the fight, but will almost certainly be more likely to be killed when they get in over their head.
And so I present the ideas behind Heat, the HP I'll be using in ExoSquad. Each combatant will have a Threshold which determines their minimum Heat before they need to start making rolls against their Heat. If they roll under their Heat, they are downed. I'll discuss the mechanics regarding being downed in a later post, I promise.
So, folks, what do you think of the concept of Heat? Is it a good middle ground?