Full Power to Shields!
I hope you’ll forgive my risking spoiling the point before making it, by stating that (In my opinion) tactical battle, absent magical healing, has always been best simulated by the starship analogies presented in T.V. Series like Star Trek.
I am referring specifically to the way that a ships defensive regime consists of three distinct, hierarchical, yet somewhat dependent layers.
These consist of: Structure(Hull), Armor (Plating) and Shields (Deflectors).
They are tiered so that a ships Shields are often its first line of defense. While some damage dealt pierces through shields to the Armor, it is often minimal unless the attack is specifically designed to bypass the Shields, or the Shields have failed. At which point the ships Armor becomes its primary defense against such effects as, ‘venting atmosphere‘ (ie: bleeding) and ‘suffering casualties‘ (ie: organ damage).
Typically, the trauma of losing both Shields and Armor, leaves a ship totally defenseless, until its Hull is compromised. At which time either its warp core explodes (ie: heart failure), it breaks apart and dies (ie: beheading), or simply vents all atmosphere (ie: bleeding to death). None of which can be effectively prevented, in the heat of battle, without restoring one or both of the primary defenses.
If you already see where I am going with this, good!
However… Despite the obviousness of what I just described, RPG’s seem mired in old traditions based on flawed over simplified mechanics meant for pen, paper, and dice… Not computer simulations.
A Paradigm Shift is Needed.
The problem is obviously multi-faceted, and I am not sure if I could adequately explain my reasons if I tried. But I will point you to a very good write up I found about it, which is largely responsible for initiating my shift in thinking.
I had been struggling with my battle mechanic, for a few months while everything I attempted to ‘spin’ anew, failed. It just kept reminding me of why I was trying a new spin in the first place. That is, until I read that article. I highly recommend you read it, if I fail to inspire.
More to the point, in my current build:
Health (HP) = Structure (Hull)
Physical Armor (PA) = Armor (Plating)
Magical Armor (MA) = Shields
Keep in mind that my particular spin on this mechanic is tuned for the turn based battles of the RPG Maker VXAce engine. Though I’m sure it can very easily be adapted to others. So, for those unfamiliar, here is a quick primer.
In the RM engine there are two basic types of attacks, and thus two over all origins of damage. They are Physical & Magical attacks.
They share between them all the damage elements, such as fire, ice, etc…
For each origin, there are separate default Parameters (to be leveled up automatically) intended to reduce each, right off the top. They are Defense (DEF) and Magic Defense (MDF). This is analogous of pretty much ANY RPG. Because Health is the only abstract to survivability, any damage that manages to get past the targets defense and thus reducing survivability, is simply subtracted from Health.
However, my Armor functions like surrogate health bars, which essentially function as preemptive healing BUFFERS against incoming damage; that expand and contract based on the abilities the battler uses to restore lost armor.
(Note: This need for active management of defense lead me to also reconsider the battle mechanic I was using. And eventually writing my own.)
While there are attacks that will bypass armor (though very rarely both types in the same attack), and attacks that will breach armor (ie: cause greater than normal armor loss) it is pretty safe to assume that (1) Armor negates (1) Damage, of ANY element. Of course, elemental resistances (as well as attack type resistances) are still applied BEFORE Armor negates the damage.
(Note: Armor does not preclude need for resistances, but becomes a dependency for them. Much like Health is a dependency for staying alive.)
Also, the benefit of having two separate yet cooperative types of Armor that essentially do the same thing (ie: prevent Health loss) means that I can now design a host of mechanics that might build exceptions to, or strengths upon, each type. Some of the most obvious being that in areas where magic doesn’t work, Magic Armor sources are useless! Conversely when fighting a non-physical enemy (eg: a Wraith) Physical Armor is pointless.
Remember to Always Dress in Layers
(Note: All the following details are subject to change, as the process of iteration continues.)
Since the most prevalent form of attack type is Physical, the most common form or armor is Physical. However under my mechanic, any feature object (ie: any object able to carry features such as Resistances and Parameter adjustments) can be assigned either or both of the two types of Armor.
But as a general rule, traditional ‘Suits’ of armor are Physical, while traditional ‘Caster’ armor is Magical, as are any magical based wards, spells, jewelry… etc. Very rarely do the armor types mix sources, and when they do there is normally a catch of some kind. (ie: such as the item being limited to a hybrid class)
(Note: Generally, without a ‘suit’ with some sort of Armor, a battler won’t have much, if any, Physical Armor. Meanwhile, Magic Armor, is easily gained temporarily due to buff states.)
This rule of separation, helps differentiate class builds and balances.
When damage is dealt, it is always FIRST blocked by any existing Magical Armor. Any that manages past the Magical Armor is SECOND blocked by Physical Armor. And lastly, any managing to pierce both, is applied directly to the targets Health.
Further, if a suit of armor grants +10% Infernal Resistance, the wearer gains the benefit of that resistance so long as their Physical Armor (PA) is not ZERO. Should any incoming attack reduce it to ZERO any subsequent attacks will not be subject to the 10% Infernal Resistance. This also goes for all feature objects that have their resistances dependent on PA.
Additionally, each layer STACKS with the others. Thus if that suit of armor was worn with a Ring of Infernal Resistance +15% (Not Armor Bound), and a Fire Barrier (MA bound) of +25% Infernal Resistance, their total applicable Infernal damage resistance would top off at 50%. (10 + 15 + 25)
(Note: In RM Rates are multiplicative, thus it wouldn’t be exactly 50%.)
However, should MA drop to ZERO the Fire Barrier fails, leaving only the Ring (N/A) and the Suits (PA) dependent resistances applicable, for a total of 25%. (10 + 15 + 0)
As a result, over the course of battle a targets demise accelerates as each layer of its defense fails. Until they are somehow restored. The crux of the challenge, especially during boss level battles, is to focused on what weakness present themselves, before they are gone.
This would make paying attention to what armor type a resistance depends upon equally, if not more, important as what said resistance actually is. Because switching to a non-resisted element (or attack type) can drop that Armor to ZERO, and thus negate that resistance until the armor is restored!
My hope is that this system will encourage players to take as much of an active & invested role in their defense as they have traditionally done with only their offense.