Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Theory of "Play More" Mechanics

Today's post was prompted by a discussion over at the Wasteland's forum about the magic rules in the game.

You see, there is some concern about the power level of the mage. But a lot of this is really a faux issue. You see, the mechanic for regaining your magic skills is intended to let mages "play more" instead of playing harder.

In short, mages can meditate to regain their "focus" (magic points). This process takes 5 minutes, which makes it difficult to pull off on the battlefield. If you use a consumable item, you just get back the maximum focus. If you do not use that item, you get back your focus, but your max focus drops by 5 points until the end of the game day.

Truth be told, this is a really solid design for a "play more" skill. It has most of the features you want. It's hard to restore it on a module, so building encounters around conserving resources would be easy. It answers the problem of frivolous use.

Really, the only problem I see with the system is that it doesn't scale perfectly from low level to high level.

Players who start a mage will probably have a maximum of about 20 focus, and that's if they void themselves of anything non-magical. Players who decide to pick up a gun skill (important, as this is an airsoft game) will have less. When I played, I think I had 9 focus.

Obviously, the hit to max focus at that level is pretty significant. Even the best starting mages lose 25% of their effectiveness if they meditate without an item. And to top it off, Wastelands is a game where resources are quite sparse, so getting your hands on those items isn't the easiest thing.

On the other side of the coin, high level mages have a lot of focus, so depending on the number of modules they play, they might not care much about the hit to max focus. Additionally, the magic crafting skill doesn't have a lot of stuff going on there, so higher level mages who have that skill have pretty regular access to those items. Magical healing is still more expensive than regular healing (unless you have a godly mage, but I don't think anyone has that level of magic yet).

I think a percentage of focus would work better and help bridge the gap between low and high level mages, but I'm a math person and that math might be confusing for non-math people. But all in all, I don't think the system is really as bad as some people make it out to be.

But the point is, stop treating a "Play More" mechanic like it's giving someone more power. It's meant to let the mage play the entire day, rather than using their spells and then sitting out.


  1. Nice post. I just added a skill like this to the Fantasy LARP system Im in the middle of writing!