By: Earle | March 01, 2018

Dwarves with Swords has changed so much in the last few months that it really is an entirely different game than it started out as. And that is awesome.

As I write this, I have just fundamentally changed the combat system for the third time. I keep having to ask myself: “Is this fun?” and a lot of the time, the answer is “No”. Sometimes the answer is “Absolutely not!”, sometimes it’s “Just for you”, and on rare occasions I get answers like “Yeah, sort of” or the always elusive “This is the most fun I’ve had since brunch!”. Since brunch is the most important meal of the day, it's always nice to be the best thing to happen after it.

But even on those occasions when I hear that I have made some horrible amalgamation that should never have been brought to light in the first place, I think that there are still some good parts worth salvaging. Sometimes it's not easy to see which parts are melted slag and which parts are gold nuggets, but that's the challenge of good game design.

The best part of this whole process is that you end up with things you would never have considered before. Allowing terrible ideas to come to life and be torn down by their own weight renders them into something interesting and unique.

In the case of Dwarves with Swords, I don't know that I can really call any specific iteration a particular affront to humanity, but there have definitely been some ups and downs in the enthusiasm of the saintly souls who have agreed to playtest it with me. In order to make their lives as nice as possible (at least while they're thinking about Dwarves), I try to incorporate changes to address the repeated pain points that I hear (also, I bring food). Sometimes, this means I have to go back to an earlier version and try again, but sometimes this leads to a breakthrough moment that opens doors to greater possibilities.

I really think that the latest change to combat mechanics is the latter of those two, and I am incredibly excited to talk about it to anyone who will listen, or in this case, read.

To start, it might be helpful to start with the "old" mechanics, and the pros and cons of them. The basic idea was simple: each side rolls dice to add to their stats, then the stats are compared, and if the attacking group had higher stats the difference was the damage dealt. Again, this sounds simple, but it ended up being more tedious than engaging. Rolling between 5 and15 20-sided dice and adding up the result took a lot of time, and each combat stretched out because of it. Seeing all the dice scattering and the numbers flying was definitely exciting, but needing to add up 15 dice, and then add again to the group's stat, and sometimes subtract from the enemy's stat, and *only then* getting to decide if and how much damage was dealt ended up being a pain.

So I removed all of that.

Well, not all of it. Just the adding and subtracting and general accounting practices that the game required. Lots of dice are still rolled, and lots of numbers still fly, but that's where the similarities end.

Now, the combat process looks like this: both the attacker and defender roll the size of die (d10, d12, d20, etc.) specified by the attack/defense action that was played, in an amount equal to the appropriate stat that their group has (still between 5ish and 15ish). The results from both sides are compared in order from lowest to highest, and any attack dice (knowledge or strength) that are higher than the defense dice (wisdom or armor) are considered a success, and will deal damage. For physical attacks there is still a little bit more complication with one additional roll prior to the strength vs. armor roll of dexterity vs. armor. This roll is performed exactly the same way, but instead of dealing damage, the successful dexterity dice will just remove the armor dice from the roll against strength. No addition or subtraction required!

This has not been fully tested yet, and I am still "translating" all of the action cards from the previous system to this one, so there might be some challenging balance issues that come up. But overall, I think that the elimination of menial tasks will both speed up turns and make the game more fun.

Remember, if you want to try out these changes, just fill out some information under the "Playtest!" tab or send me an e-mail: earle@dwarveswithswords.com.

Category: Uncategorized 

Tags: Playtesting, mechanics, change, fun 

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