Ultima Ratio Regum is a middle-ground between roguelikes, RPGs and strategy games. It has no fantasy elements and seeks instead to be closer to a realistic history simulator, and a strategy/4x game which just happens to be in ASCII. Combat is rare and deadly - whilst these mechanics are modeled in detail, exploration, trade and diplomacy factors will have just as much effort put into them. URR aims to eventually be a fusion of roguelike and strategy two genres - rather than a strategy game where you command with omniscience (even in ancient eras), you instead command as an individual character also in the game. Orders must be issued in person; you can lose contact with distant armies; but the same mechanics affect the AI players who also lack omniscience and depend upon the knowledge of situations they themselves can garner. Worlds can be generated over a vast array of sizes, climates and types, but all ultimately with no fixed objective but a world full of civilizations and factions to be allied with or battled against. It aims for depth in character development and world events, but with much in the 'middle' - constructing buildings, city growth, resource management - abstracted out (as other games exist which handle those well). Political and social dynamics will be modeled via a complex system that aims to generate both a history for the world, and the current state of political affairs when your game begins.
Version 0.4 - now due out before the end of the month - is the first URR version to implement any kind of health mechanic. Technically version 0.1 back in the days of yore had a health mechanic, but that a) wasn't very well thought-through, b) very badly programmed, and c) actually had no way for the player to heal. I believe it was removed in version 0.2 as the game began to metamorphose into what it's now becoming, but with the addition of traps in version 0.4, the time has come to recreate the health, damage and healing systems. In deciding how these would work there were factors. The first was how combat will play out; the second was how health and damage should work; the third was how healing should work. I'll be writing about the way combat is going to work in the future, but the second two factors are the important ones.week
I've been certain for a long time I didn't want a hit points system. It's perfectly valid for some games, but I decided I wanted something more detailed, with limbs and components of limbs, in the model of Dwarf Fortress or (to a much lesser extent) something like Deus Ex or Fallout. I felt I needed to find a middle ground between the two - DF's limb system has an incredible amount of detail which suits a "simulationist" game, but I felt wouldn't be appropriate here; by contrast, both Deus Ex and Fallout seem to generally underuse the potential of a limb-based health mechanic, and rarely do more than "damaged legs = cannot stand up". I'm currently in the process of considering what effects injuries are actually going to have, but I suspect certain injuries may lower your maximum stamina, reduce your damage and/or accuracy, slow your actions, reduce the weight of items you can carry, and so forth. At this point in time your limbs have two components - the flesh, and the bone - and each may be damaged. In the future certain classes of weapons will be more/less likely to damage each, which will be one of the ways different weapon types are balanced. In this release it is only traps that can hurt you, but in order to enable traps, we have to have a health/damage system, and this required a lot of thought to figure out.
I was originally planning to have items like bandages function in the following way: you apply them to a limb, then after x turns, the effect of the bandage takes place. Maybe it takes 200 turns for a bandage to aid a wound in healing, for example. The downside of this was quickly apparent once I thought about it - in a game where combat is going to be reasonably rare, and given that I no longer plan on having a hunger clock of any sort, the fact that healing is "slow" is no downside at all. You could just wait around between battles until the healing was complete, which doesn't exactly make for interesting gameplay. The methods out of this were to either change how the healing items worked - make them instantaneous, for example - or to introduce either a food clock or some other kind of "clock" which pushes the player on. I decided to do the former, and produce a pretty unique (or at least very unusual) health mechanic.
Thus, the current plan is that healing items work as follows. When a healing item is used it temporarily removes all negative damage to that limb, and that limb then functions as if that type of damage hasn't been dealt. For example, even if you have a very deep cut on one arm which might, for example, be seriously damaging your accuracy, applying a suture to that limb will remove the negative modifier, though the wound will still be there. The way I plan for combat to play out will be such that you will be able to prioritize/handle various limbs in various ways, so it will allow for battle plans where you might have to play more defensively to protect a particular limb that is currently healing. There are two types of each healing item - those which have temporary effect, but cannot be undone by another attack, such as healing moss and medicinal salve (no image yet), and those which have a permanent effect , but will be undone by taking another attack, such as bandages and sutures. The latter are for longer-term strategic use until you get back to a doctor, whilst the former are for tactical use in the midst of battle. In turn, different wounds have different effects - wounds to your arms will reduce accuracy and damage, wounds to your torso will reduce stamina, wounds to head have a variety of fun effects I'll share in a later post, and so forth.
In order to truly "heal" a limb, you will be able to visit a physician/apothecary/equivalent NPC who will, for a price, be able to heal your limbs back to full. As these will generally only be found in cities (though perhaps you can recruit them into your party?) this will further emphasize the concept that cities will be your "base" of operations - even if the city you are based in might change throughout the game - and you restock and reequip in cities before setting out for each dungeon or area you want to explore. I am not yet sure what effects broken bones will have - nor what effects putting a splint on a broken bone will help out with - but I'm open to suggestions. I'm in the process of figuring this out and whilst a health mechanic will be implemented for 0.4 (due for release in a week or two), it is nevertheless one that is subject to change. As a whole, though, the health system boils down to this - damage is qualitative, not quantitative; items may heal you temporarily but without the possibly for being undone, or a "permanent" heal which may be undone; and cities will be the hub at which you repair your damage between excursions. There will therefore be a risk/reward tradeoff - how much do you push your luck staying out in the wild, but not being charged valuable coin for healing, and how often do you play it safe and heal yourself up with a doctor?
Lastly, it should be noted none of this is balanced yet - I have no idea how rare/common or cheap/expensive healing items will be, how many turns they might take to apply, and so on, but the basic mechanics as planned out to be as described above. It's an unusual system, and I think it could work well, but I'd like any thoughts on the concepts anyone has to offer. In the future I'll talk about my ideas for the combat mechanics, but that's a long way off - next week we'll be close to release of 0.4! Until next time you can keep up to date on my devblog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed. The devblog is updated weekly or fortnightly generally on Saturdays, Facebook a few times a week, and the Twitter roughly daily. Any thoughts, please leave them in the comments! Stay tuned...
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