The first germ of an idea for Beard & Axe, the Rogue-lite Action-Adventure game I've put my nights and weekends into, was the Oath system. Or maybe it was the beer health system? A separate health bar just for beer is about the most dwarf thing I could think of! Either way, the Oath system is what hung centrally in the design from my first demos to complete game.
So what's in an Oath? Well...
In the game’s lore, the dwarfs elect kings through a meritocratic system. When an old King decided to step down, any dwarf wishing to gain the throne must complete a number of oaths. When taking an oath, he must swear what deeds he will attempt, be it collecting the runic bullets that litter the Haunted Battlefield or perhaps recovering his clan’s ancestral poleaxe lost to the sands of the White Desert. If he can complete all of his oaths before his competitors to the kingship, he ascends to the throne.
In game mechanics terms, an oath is a wager by the player. Before leaving the central hub to attempt a quest, the player must decide how much of the resources present in the quest area he believes he can bring back. There are 7 resources in the game, spread out among 6 areas, so for most quests it's a single thing that the player is after. This has the knock on effect of needing resources previously obtained to effectively take on the more difficult quests.
So, what happens if you return from the quest with less than you promised? You don't lose everything (this isn't a pure roguelike after all), but will lose half of all the resources you are carrying upon your return. This was how it stood for a good bit of development, but I at one point realized that the player could game the system by taking super small oaths and return home immediately after getting a couple resources. That's where the Honor system came in.
Honor is lost if an Oath is not fulfilled (either by dying or not completing the requirements of the Oath). Conversely it is gained by completing quests. The more resources the oath entails, the more Honor is gained or lost. Honor has an upper limit (15 as of now but subject to change) and a lower limit of -15. If Honor reaches its lower limit... you hit that hard roguelike wall and your game is over. Save file wiped from your hard disk. Harsh!
With the Oath system, I wanted to make all of the resources feel meaningful. The healing item (Beer) is only available in the Hobgoblin Forest, so you will definitely want to stock up there before venturing out to the harder areas. This also makes the Hobgoblin Forest a good starting area, as it's the only location where you will be collecting health pickups during the quest itself.
The other 6 resources are the gun powders and ammunitions used for ranged attacks. I'll be back next week to explain a bit about the mixing of the various powder and bullets that protagonist Old Beard loads in his axe to attack foes from afar!
Thanks for having a read!