Knight Duel

Alright, so for today we are going to try and make an rpg. We are probably not going to finish it tonight, probably not even get much in the way of hard rules down, but we are going to design the basics of it, based on principles we talked about in our previous posts on rpgs, and just on general interesting ideas. I have been playing a lot of Final Fantasy on my phone recently, so this might be drawing a fair bit from that in terms of thematics.

Tentative title for the game is Mech vs Mage. This will be a limited scope rpg, a system designed around a specific situation, not one necessarily expected to handle any possible adventure, but rather one with a story in mind, one that can play out in many different ways, but which has certain key elements every time. The basic premise is that two knights, allies in war, get in an argument at the end of a battle. One of the knights uses the power of technology, riding in a sort of armor/mecha thing, while the other one uses magic, magic swords, magic super speed, stuff like that. The two get into an argument about which the superior method of fighting, and in the end they arrange a duel, a grand battle for the entire kingdom to see, pitting technology against magic, machine vs spell. The game will have three phases. First the two fight together, defeating the enemy army. Then they get in the argument. The next phase will likely be the longest, and involves preparing for the duel. Both sides seek to gain advantages in the battle, upgrading their power, getting political allies, preparing secret weapons. Then, the game ends with the duel, where the two battle it out, the various upgrades and secrets powering up each player as they do their best to prove themselves the superior knight. The game would be three player, one mage knight, one mech knight, and one dm. Potentially the game could be extended to include another player or two, perhaps a nature based knight or something, but first I want to get the base game in a semi playable state before thinking about that.

Alright, lets get into the design ideas here. Their are a few things I want to focus on in terms of what is important in the game. One is secret info. This is a competitive game as I described before, and a lot of the strategy is going to be about building your character in different ways. A lot of the game is almost competitive character creation, each player adding to, and improving their knight over the course of the middle phase of the game. Part of doing this successfully will be hiding what you are capable of from your opponents. On the flip side, in order to make the secret keeping a little more dynamic, the other big part of that process will be politics. This duel represents a really big event in the political landscape of the kingdom, deciding where the focus will be for the coming years, and everyone wants to put support on the winning side. So, while you are trying to hide things from your opponent, you are also going to be trying to show off your cool powers, try to convince people you will be the victor so that you can get money and backing that will let you get better stuff. So in this game there will always be a trade off between knowledge and power effectively. The more you keep secret, the less knowledge your opponent has. The more you show off, the greater the opponents knowledge, but the more resources you have.

The first stage, where you are fighting together will be both important for setting the tone of the game, as well as being the beginning of the character creation. As you fight the initial enemies, each turn you will be selecting different abilities, both to help you fight your enemies, as well as to get started making your characters. There is a bit of a mixing of causality going on here, because presumably you simply have the abilities you had learned up to this point, but I think the back and forth that will develop, each player picking abilities that counter the one that the opponent just used, will be both fun, and also serve to justify the argument at the end of the fight. This tension builds up over the course of the battle, each player one upping the other turn by turn. This is intermixed with role playing, clever quips and whatnot that set the tone for the relationship between these two knights. Are they close friends with a friendly rivalry? Are they hated political rivals? Do they have a back-story together at all or did they just meet on the battlefield today, knowing of each other only by reputation. I think having a sort of “yes and” thing going on in this situation, where each player can make some sort of declaration that is accepted as true ever couple rounds would be interesting, make your backgrounds be a bit of a collaborative effort.

At this point, when the last enemy is defeated, the game has its ever important argument, and the challenge of a duel. This is to be role played out, and a few important things are probably going to be decided here, one of the most important being who challenges who to the duel, with different options available to the challenger and the challenged as far as the way the duel goes down, and public perception. Once the challenge is made, then the game shifts to the political phase.

This phase is probably going to be the most tricky to run effectively. I want both players to be able to do things in secret, but at the same time I want this to be a game where the dm doesn’t have to take players aside and leave the other player with nothing to do. In order to do that, I am thinking some broad categories of actions should be decided, with cards representing powers, deals, and political allies. Their can be some number of weeks before the duel, with each player passing the dm the actions they are going to be taking in that week, and then the dm and the players playing out some of the visible political fallout of that. Potential actions include currying favor with various groups, earning money and fame on the battlefield, researching spells/technology, spying on the other player, sabotaging the other players efforts, making declarations and speeches. The players make their choices by passing various cards to the dm, then the dm figures out how all these things interact, then the players have some sort of meet up, with the dm working in any info that the players can see from the public perception of the events, and the dm passing back any secret info. This goes for a number of go rounds, the players gaining and spending political capital until the day of the duel.

The duel itself should be long enough to be worth the buildup, hopefully with various twists and turns in the way the combat works out, but it should never be boring or a slog. The players get a chance to be clever with the powers they have shown, as well as the ones they have kept secret, and then somebody wins, hopefully after a few comebacks and counter attacks. Their is short bit of role-playing surround the ramifications, but then the game is over. Its important to give the winning player a chance to feel like the won, and that their victory meant something, but you also don’t want to drag the game out too long and make the losing player feel bad.

Anyways, that’s the basic idea of the game, with each phase having some general goals, and a feel for how it should all play out. I’ll try and think about how to make some mechanics fit these design goals over the course of this next week, and hopefully I can post some rules for parts of the system next week. If you have any suggestions or find the idea interesting and want to help turn it into reality, feel free to message me.

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