Monday, August 9, 2010

The problem with HP...

I know I've linked to this tv trope, but it is seriously still true in magecrawl. For those not playing along at home, here's what the current system is:

HP is divided into health and stamina. Damage taken is drained from stamina first. Stamina quickly recovers in between battles (assuming you aren't noticed by enemies, you can't rest then). Health damage requires magical healing to fix up. Stamina represents your ability to dodge and block damage enough to get out only with scrapes, bruises, and surface cuts. Health represents actual wounds, while bandaged up enough not to get worse, would normally require weeks to heal on their own.

Let me show you my current problem with an example:

Given 100 health and 60 stamina, you fight a monster which on average does 20 damage per round and takes 4 rounds to kill. Given these stats, you'll exhaust your stamina every fight, taking 20 damage to your health. In five fights, excluding magical healing, you will be dead.

Now repeat with 80 stamina, you on average take little to no health damage, extending the number of one-on-ones to tens or hundreds. If you repeat with 100 or more stamina, you'll extend the theoretical number of battle you can last, but you'll never get close to the "jump" between 60 and 80.

This creates a problem with skills and armor that increase your stamina, at some point you'll be able to solo monsters with no danger of taking semi-permanent health damage. I have a few solutions I'm playing around with:

  • Make the line between stamina and health less clear cut. When you are at 100% stamina, you are sure any damage you take will be stamina related. As it decrease, there is a higher chance some of the damage goes to your health.
    • Advantages - Makes battles less one sided, as any blow after a round or two can be lasting.
    • Disadvantages - Adds a significant luck factor
  • Make healing stamina take resources
    • Advantages - Makes every battle matter
    • Disadvantages - Makes every battle matter, makes it easy to want to micro optimize which isn't fun. Starts to approach the dreaded "food" system in other roguelikes.
  • Make low stamina penalize certain attributes, such as mp total or time in between actions.
    • Advantages - Makes stamina damage matter.
    • Disadvantages - Can snowball, making you more likely to take even more damage. In a game with permadeath, this can get nasty.
  • Make the stamina and health levels relativity constant (they increase at a rate similar to monsters damage output). Skills/armor give other benefits than more stamina.
    • Advantages - Makes balancing easier. One you have a good setup, just make sure the rates of growth match.
    • Disadvantages - Intellectually unsatisfying. Keeps player from feeling any tougher, as at the beginning of the game to the end, the can pretty much only take x hits from a even level monster, where x stays constant.
I'm currently leaning towards the first option, but am unsure right now. 


Ed said...

I like the first option too; I think Steamband works sort of like that - it's a system I've known in another context as "leaky armor"... but instead of always being sure the first hit will damage stamina (which seems kind of arbitrary), for every point of damage, you essentially pick a random point out of the HP/stamina pool and damage that! So if you have 10 HP and 20 stamina, say, then if you take 1 point of damage, you have a one-third chance of taking damage to HP, and a two-thirds chance of taking damage to stamina.

Heroic Fisticuffs! said...

What if certain attacks from higher-level monsters (or special effects like critical hits) could do damage directly to health, bypassing stamina?

Or, any attack over a certain level of stamina damage, automatically overflows to health.

The ratio can change slightly over time, but if it stays about the same then certainly you would get a different feel from fighting a rat at level 1 (lose some stamina, no health risk) to a dragon at level 10 (high health risk).

Presumably by level 10 you would have a few options (spells, potions) to make taking those risks more palatable.

Mingos said...

Betrayal at Krondor had the health/stamina system. You took stamina damage (and used up stamina when spellcasting) until it depleted, then you took health damage (or used up health for casting spells). The boundary between the two was merely psychological, really, as they both regenerated at an equal rate while sleeping. The cool thing was that you would never go up to full stamina if you slept outdoors, thus paying for a room in a tavern actually made it worth your while.

I'm not sure how this can be useful, but your post made me think about Betrayal at Krondor, and so I wrote this comment :D

Worthstream said...

If the only disadvantage of the first method is the luck factor, you can eliminate that by always splitting damage based on the stamina level.

If, for example you have 100% of stamina left, any hit would be applied only to stamina, while, if you have 80% of stamina damage would go 80% to stamina and 20% to ealth, and so on.

No more luck factor! :)