The GWJ CRPG Club - Game 1: Shadowrun Dragonfall DC (In Progress!)

I've been thinking a bit about this sort of thing and how it relates to pen and paper RPGs. The new model of thinking in pen and paper is that failure should be interesting and fun. Jumping to D&D, let's say a character is searching an area. If they succeed, they get a cool hint about the plot. If they fail they don't. Now, you want a system which rewards characters who are more perceptive and makes those skill points matter, but there's an issue there in that the failure is not only less fun for the player, it also robs the narrative. So newer pen and paper games make choices like only calling for rolls when both a success or failure might be interesting, or having systems which can deal with ambiguous results.

There is a design problem with binary success/fail rolls - and I think we see some bleed of that in combat mechanics of games like XCOM and Shadowrun. Failure only rarely makes things more compelling, and more often than not it does make things more frustrating. I think there's an argument to made that that frustration leads to greater joy when the dice roll in the other direction or failing to execute on a plan makes you have to rethink your tactics on the fly... But I'm not sure that always lands, even if it is fun to squeak out a hard earned win where nothing seems to go your way. More often than not, that's a reload - not a cool story about how Eiger botched the easiest shot in the world which lead to a comical chain of events that almost got the whole team killed but (thankfully!) didn't. I'm sure there is a better game design choice available that both honors systems playing together and crunch but also mitigates RNG based frustration.

I don't know that tactical games have really solved for it, though Mario v. Rabbids sounds like an interesting take. I'd point to Expeditions: Viking as also having an interesting workaround. Basically melee attacks always connect. Damage is somewhat random and based on the type of weapon, the armor of the opponent and the character strength. Ranged attacks are percentage based and take cover into account (including other characters.) The way they have the ranged attacks balanced they tend to hit more often than not if the character is a dedicated archer, but there's some risk buy in required to pull out a bow for other characters instead of just charging in and cleaving. What tends to happen is parties might have one or two ranged attackers but most people will be melee fighters or support characters. If the archers have a bad round you can still have a good round overall, and both lucky rounds and unlucky rounds open up some tactical possibilities. It is far from perfect, but its an idea I'd love to see other games continue to explore and iterate on.

For full disclosure, I love simplicity and clarity in design, but I also enjoy the heck out of well implemented crunch. I'd love to see a combat system in a game like this that consistently makes failure engaging. I'm not sure what that looks like though.

TheHarpoMarxist wrote:

For full disclosure, I love simplicity and clarity in design, but I also enjoy the heck out of well implemented crunch. I'd love to see a combat system in a game like this that consistently makes failure engaging. I'm not sure what that looks like though.

I'd settle for something as simple as a stacking accuracy buff for each consecutive missed shot. Miss a shot, get +10% to hit on your next one. If you hit, that buff is removed entirely.

In fact, I may see if I can mod that into this game.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
TheHarpoMarxist wrote:

For full disclosure, I love simplicity and clarity in design, but I also enjoy the heck out of well implemented crunch. I'd love to see a combat system in a game like this that consistently makes failure engaging. I'm not sure what that looks like though.

I'd settle for something as simple as a stacking accuracy buff for each consecutive missed shot. Miss a shot, get +10% to hit on your next one. If you hit, that buff is removed entirely.

In fact, I may see if I can mod that into this game.

That's a pretty excellent, straightforward solution. It also opens up some possible special powers / abilities. Maybe some characters are better at triangulating, maybe you can have party members who have buffs that make it harder for enemies to triangulate on them, etc. NEW SYSTEMS TO INTERACT WITH!!!

I think there's something to a mechanical framework where you always get something, even on a "miss" and a "hit" nets you something more.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
TheHarpoMarxist wrote:

For full disclosure, I love simplicity and clarity in design, but I also enjoy the heck out of well implemented crunch. I'd love to see a combat system in a game like this that consistently makes failure engaging. I'm not sure what that looks like though.

I'd settle for something as simple as a stacking accuracy buff for each consecutive missed shot. Miss a shot, get +10% to hit on your next one. If you hit, that buff is removed entirely.

In fact, I may see if I can mod that into this game.

I feel like I've seen exactly that in a game before, but I can't recall where. Maybe is was in that Sid Meier's Ace Patrol game? But basically your first shot at something had a lower chance to hit, as you were zeroing in on the target. Subsequent shots had a higher chance to hit. I don't think the chances kept increasing, however.

Uff, I took a break from work and ran Eiger's side mission. It was a pretty short mission, perfect for a break from work. I'm pretty sure I totally messed up the decision tree on everything though. Oh, well. Onward! Prototype mission up next, finally!

EDIT: I ran the prototype mission this evening. Things went really well, with the exception of one stupid series of moves that got Glory killed and prompted a level reload. Other than that screw up, the only assistance I ended up using was one repair kit on the drone. We were chewing up enemies, but it's fair to say that things were stacked in our favor...

Spoiler:

I'm not sure if it always works out this way, but we had the prototype fighting with us on the way out. A couple of times enemies tried to mind control him out of our control, but Eiger took out those problems from distance so we never lost control of the prototype. With the prototype fighting with us, we were a wrecking crew. His chain gun was devastating. They never had a chance.

And Shadow and Barrier spells, as Legion said, are awesome. Shadow in particular can work like a free turn if you do things right. And that can tilt things in your favor at the start of a firefight.

I feel like I'm getting close to the endgame now. I've got a couple of character side missions left (Blitz and Glory), and I've got enough cash to pay Alice. I'll do the character side missions first, pay Alice, then go from there.

Prototype MKVI:

Spoiler:

I also had it on our side. Maybe this is always the case. The opposition were being carved down by that oversized cleaver amidst the odd mini gun barrage. It was a lot of fun.

Eiger's mission:

Spoiler:

I beat the living daylights out of our captor. Eiger and I were perfectly in tune with one another. No quarter was given. It felt necessary with such an individual. He seemed to respect it. It also felt good to have Eiger's back one hundred percent, no questions, this time.

I really enjoyed the Blitz mission. And Glory's was, as Pyxi has mentioned, a real standout. I'll be sad to see these characters left behind when the credits roll. Hopefully Returns and Hong Kong have their own awesome.

Don’t expect too much from Returns in that regard.

PWAlessi wrote:

It would be very cool if we had a GWJ created campaign to play!

My first thought is ... what an awesome idea! That would be a lot of fun.

My second thought is ... that would be a lot of work. I'm not sure I'd have that much time.

My third thought is ... that would be challenging to organize too.

My fourth thought is ... but not impossible to organize if done with some good work management tools.

TheHarpoMarxist wrote:

I've been thinking a bit about this sort of thing and how it relates to pen and paper RPGs. The new model of thinking in pen and paper is that failure should be interesting and fun.

I started digging into the scripts for all the items and abilities and weapons in the Harebrained Scheme Shadowrun games, and I discovered something interesting: mechanically, the game has no concept of failure.

All of the code hooks are built around success. If an attack connects, this is the damage it does, these are the statuses it inflicts, this is the area of effect, and so forth. But on the other side of things—if an attack doesn't connect—there's nothing. There don't seem to be any hooks to execute any code other than animations.

Either something happens and is successful, or nothing happens at all.

It leaves no space for interesting failure, and it offloads almost the entire weight of risk on to chance-to-hit rolls. It doesn't seem possible to execute something like, "Does XX damage to an enemy or X damage to you" or even a more basic trade-off like "Does XX damage to an enemy but you can't move next turn". The closest you can get would be some hacky stuff where an attack does critical damage or no damage at all.

Similarly, costs cannot be variable. You can't do something that might cost 1 AP or 2 AP (or 0 AP). A spray attack cannot consume a random number of bullets. You also don't seem to be able to do things like a basic drain attack where you deal X damage to an enemy and regain X health as a result.

These all seem like odd omissions to me, because as a designer, you want to give players interesting options and meaningful choices on as many levels as possible. Leaving out variable costs, unexpected consequences, unintended side-effects, and ancillary effects would seem to limit your options considerably. But it does put into perspective why missing is such a prominent experience in the game. The only way it knows how to fail is to do nothing, a miss.

In related news, Tom Francis, creator of Gunpoint and Heat Signature, is prototypeing a tactical wizard game currently referred to as Tactical Breach Wizards. It already looks hilarious: http://www.pentadact.com/2018-02-02-...

beanman101283 wrote:

In related news, Tom Francis, creator of Gunpoint and Heat Signature, is prototypeing a tactical wizard game currently referred to as Tactical Breach Wizards. It already looks hilarious: http://www.pentadact.com/2018-02-02-...

"Twin wands in carbon-fibre tonfa mounts", "Covering fire: covers everyone in actual fire" yes yes yes

ClockworkHouse wrote:

All of the code hooks are built around success. If an attack connects, this is the damage it does, these are the statuses it inflicts, this is the area of effect, and so forth. But on the other side of things—if an attack doesn't connect—there's nothing. There don't seem to be any hooks to execute any code other than animations.

Either something happens and is successful, or nothing happens at all.

I like this approach. The miss holds a lot of weight for what it can cause without variables in how it misses.

Missing an attack can leave the player in an unfavorable position if they went high risk for high reward. Or simply grant the opponent a minor bonus, if cautiously approaching, in so much as avoiding damage for a turn or two. Depending on the amount of enemies in the engagement a miss could mean numerous turns before getting a chance to react to any potential shift in momentum. What ability missed? How long is the cool down? Would it have been a killing shot? Does this affect the immediate response?

ClockworkHouse wrote:

It leaves no space for interesting failure, and it offloads almost the entire weight of risk on to chance-to-hit rolls. It doesn't seem possible to execute something like, "Does XX damage to an enemy or X damage to you" or even a more basic trade-off like "Does XX damage to an enemy but you can't move next turn". The closest you can get would be some hacky stuff where an attack does critical damage or no damage at all.

Similarly, costs cannot be variable. You can't do something that might cost 1 AP or 2 AP (or 0 AP). A spray attack cannot consume a random number of bullets. You also don't seem to be able to do things like a basic drain attack where you deal X damage to an enemy and regain X health as a result.

They could have included all of this, even if only for community content.

I'm not sure how well these variables would have figured into the official content. It's further random number generation, really. If anything it'd need an overhaul of the to hit mechanics, and the cover mechanics, if there's also going to be rolls on ammunition consumption, damage output, and AP cost, let alone the potential for side effects. It'd be interesting, sure, but not necessarily better or more fun. Or maybe it would! I never, never utilize a Wild Mage in Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition for all of their interesting and unpredictable failure. Tried it briefly until the random became uninteresting.

I find the failure (to hit or to miss) in Dragonfall can lead to interesting situations. It's mostly predictable, but understanding what can occur, the ruleset, does not hamper the enjoyment.

Gravey wrote:
beanman101283 wrote:

In related news, Tom Francis, creator of Gunpoint and Heat Signature, is prototypeing a tactical wizard game currently referred to as Tactical Breach Wizards. It already looks hilarious: http://www.pentadact.com/2018-02-02-...

"Twin wands in carbon-fibre tonfa mounts", "Covering fire: covers everyone in actual fire" yes yes yes

His post on Snowballing in X-Com was a good read too. I like this guy.

Another day, another mission. Tonight I ran Blitz's side mission. One thing that I enjoy about this game is the twists in the firefights. Sure, there is some repetition, but for the most part each mission adds some sort of modification or condition on the fight that is keeping things fresh. In particular, the last part of this mission was brilliantly executed. Blitz died on my first attempt, but as I restarted, I realized something that I hadn't done yet. Adding that little bit was the key and the second attempt went smoothly. Really fun stuff.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to run Glory's mission, then Sunday I should be able to pay Alice. I've been trying to only let myself do one mission per day, but now that I'm getting close to the end it's getting harder to hold to the slow and steady pace.

Good times, though. I'm really glad this was our first game.

And here's my character about 3/4 of the way through the game...

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/XOaLvr7.jpg)

Done with Shadowrun Returns. That story sure got ho-hum in the second half of the game. On to Dragonfall!

I had originally intended to play a decker in the sequel, but I suspect I might go with a mage or even a shaman again. The few required hacking sections ended up being pretty dull. I liked summoning barriers and de/buffing people in my party more than I thought I would.

beanman101283 wrote:

Done with Shadowrun Returns. That story sure got ho-hum in the second half of the game. On to Dragonfall!

I had originally intended to play a decker in the sequel, but I suspect I might go with a mage or even a shaman again. The few required hacking sections ended up being pretty dull. I liked summoning barriers and de/buffing people in my party more than I thought I would.

Grats on finishing Returns! There are a good number of decking sections in Dragonfall, but I haven't found them all that challenging, at least with my current skill set. Fun, sure, but I kind of make my way through them pretty easily. I've enjoyed playing a decker, though. There have been a lot of places where decking skill allows you to get by obstacles.

On another note, I played Glory's mission tonight. As pyxi said, this was very well done. Good story, good fights!

Time to pay Alice!

EDIT: Just for kicks, I loaded up the editor and worked through the first quickstart tutorial, on how to set up a firefight with an existing map. At first I couldn't get the content packs to display properly, but once I solved that everything went fine and I had a simple firefight set up and tested in about 10 minutes. Fun!

I ran another mission this evening, and the end game is in sight. I expect the end to be challenging, but it's good to see how strong our team has become. We've got some good mojo going now. We ripped apart enemies with ease on this most recent mission.

Unfortunately, it may actually be next weekend before I can finish, as I'll be traveling for work for much of this week. If I'm lucky, I might get some time on Tuesday evening to play, but otherwise it'll be Saturday before I'll be back at my computer with any time to play.

How's everyone doing? It's gone quiet in here the past couple of days.

I've put in a LOT of hours , but most of those are afk . I have a really bad habit of leaving the game running to go off and do something and then not getting back to it for hours, if at all. I've had a lot going on with family visiting and recovering from family visiting. I feel like my play has been very disjointed, but I really enjoy the game when I've been able to focus on it. I'm only just finishing the laboratory quest and still figuring out the best combat techniques. I'm going to try to put some time in today while my roof's getting torn off; stayed home to try to keep the dogs from going crazy, so I'm basically sequestered in my gaming cave which is where the dog's crates are. It seriously sounds like someone is ripping the roof off my house! I think they'd be terrified if I weren't home with them, they've been pretty upset even with me here.

Despite having a bunch of time off work, I've been able to devote little of it to gaming.

The UI alone in Dragonfall makes it a huge improvement over Shadowrun Returns. In Returns, it took me to nearly the end of the game before I realized there were different weapon abilities you could swap between. Dragonfall has them all laid out in their own hotebar. A+ There's also much more meat on the bone mechanically it seems. Maybe this was present but just hidden in Returns, but positioning seems even more important, with flanking and cover bonuses coming in to play. And there seem to be more conversation options related to your chosen skills. All in all, much more robust than Returns.

I did decide to go with a decker after all, since the prospect of using skills to avoid encounters appeals to me. I already like the focus on fleshed out teammates with stories of their own as opposed to random people you can hire. I do sorta miss the safehouse location in the first game, since it had more personality than Dragonfall's. But I like wandering the town and talking to people. This feels like what the first game wanted to be.

I guess I'm in... I Kickstarter backed all 3 games, played Returns roughly when it came out and enjoyed it, life got in the way and I never played the others. I needed something to do last night while everyone watched some sporting event, so I rolled up a human Rigger, which was something I wanted to try when I played Returns. I probably made some mistakes right off the bat because spent Karma to grab 2 drones right away, and while I can't actually afford the 2nd drone yet, each drone consumes an Action Point, so until I get at least 3 AP, having 2 drones will make it so my character has 0 if I'm controlling both drones. Something I'll have to figure out and juggle as I go along.

Anyone else have a problem where they consistently read the damage numbers in combat as "12 OMG!" instead of "DMG"?

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Anyone else have a problem where they consistently read the damage numbers in combat as "12 OMG!" instead of "DMG"?

I didn't, but I suspect that will change now. Thanks!

Like, that was TOTALLY a Criticaaal, Ser'sly. *chews gum*

Been busy lately. Haven't gotten to continue where we stopped off on the APEX run. Soon!

SillyRabbit wrote:

...I'm going to try to put some time in today while my roof's getting torn off; stayed home to try to keep the dogs from going crazy, so I'm basically sequestered in my gaming cave which is where the dog's crates are. It seriously sounds like someone is ripping the roof off my house! I think they'd be terrified if I weren't home with them, they've been pretty upset even with me here...

Hope the roof is off in a good way, and that your feet may forever stay free of roofing nails!

Skraut wrote:

I guess I'm in... I Kickstarter backed all 3 games, played Returns roughly when it came out and enjoyed it, life got in the way and I never played the others. I needed something to do last night while everyone watched some sporting event, so I rolled up a human Rigger, which was something I wanted to try when I played Returns. I probably made some mistakes right off the bat because spent Karma to grab 2 drones right away, and while I can't actually afford the 2nd drone yet, each drone consumes an Action Point, so until I get at least 3 AP, having 2 drones will make it so my character has 0 if I'm controlling both drones. Something I'll have to figure out and juggle as I go along.

Welcome!

Regarding the second drone, even with one drone I tend to just hide my decker while the fighting is going on. I mean, he can't hit anything he is aiming at—actually he's probably more dangerous to his squad mates than he is the enemy. So I pop the drone then run and hide. Every once in a while I might take a shot at something, but that's more for the sound effects than any productive result. I'd think two drones is manageable even with 2 AP per turn.

But now that my decker has a +8 armor suit and more hit points due to enhancements, I tend to leave him out to suck up some OMG as a meat shield.

Haven't played since last week, was away for the weekend.

Finished the prototype mission:

Spoiler:

I had the troll thing helping me, but I kept losing control. It took me until the last fight to figure out I just needed to kill their rigger each time to maintain control.

At the end I gave the troll freedom over his body and he offed himself. Kind of a sad part but I think it was a happy ending of a sort

Started Eigers mission will probably finish tonight.

Godzilla Blitz wrote:

suck up some OMG as a meat shield.

LoL!

Hardek wrote:
Godzilla Blitz wrote:

suck up some OMG as a meat shield.

LoL!

I don't think I'll be able to write it any other way from now on.

Despite a bunch of real world things I should have been doing, I decided to do the APEX mission in Dragonfall. One quick mission, I thought...

It ended up taking me forever. The first part went fine, no problems, but the back half I totally misunderstood what I was supposed to do until quite a ways into it, and that led to all sorts of problems. I plowed on bravely, determined not to fail, but in the end I had lost just too much opportunity early on. Fail. Restart on the back half again.

This time things went super smooth, for the most part, and that was that. Like many of the other missions, I'm really not quite sure if I chose wisely, but what's done is done and I'm on to the next mission. Despite messing up the mission once, this was quite fun.

Spoiler:

I was having none of fake Monica's conversation and exterminated APEX. But then at the end of the mission, I got the sense that if I had let her live the next mission would be be easier. Humm.

Just reporting in... I'm currently doing the MKVI mission. Things are going smoothly so far so I know all hell will break loose any moment now.

I think I've got six or seven missions to go after this one.