Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Xceptional Class Trinity

Originally, Xceptional began as a project to revamp A+ Fantasy, but the more I worked on it, the less like A+ Fantasy the game was, so it evolved into something new. But the A+ influence has definitely impacted the games design. A+ had four classes of weapons specialty that shaped the fantasy character archetypes. There was the sword wielder, champion of edged weapons, the archer who used ranged weapons, the holy warrior who used only blunt weapons, and the wizard who used what I referred to in the game as "spell weapons."
As I delved into A+ to try to bring it up to date, I took a look at it's Letter Grade system and decided that this was it's weakest link and that it needed to go. Tossing that out, I began to look at a full system revamp. I decided that I really liked the simple yet versatile die roll mechanic that made up the 5x5 game system and that I would incorporate that into A+.
The problem with 5x5 is that, although the skill and task resolution systems and the die roll mechanics are novel and I like them ... the combat system is (if I am being honest, and why lie to my own blog page?) lifted pretty much without change from Warhammer Fantasy Role-play. At the time, I was okay with this and I think a big part of what drives us as game designers is the desire to steal the best bits from all of our favorite games and melt them all together into a cohesive whole.
But, as I began to look at applying the system to A+ I had the urge to incorporate a combat system that I felt as much personal pride and ownership for as I did the base 5x5 resolution mechanic itself. Enter Prometheus Blade. This was a game that was really nothing but a combat system. But, it was mine and I was proud of it. Perhaps this could be incorporated into A+.
Actually, as I began putting things together I was amazed at how well everything was fitting. A+ had different attack and opposing defense mechanisms for 3 of it's four weapon specialties (Sword and Blunt being the exception because they worked essentially the same in the system.) These translated well to the four body aspects in Prometheus Blade and assigning different types of attacks to each body aspect made the Promethus Blade system work better.
The only thing that didn't fit was the holy warrior / blunt weapon thing. I couldn't think of a good reason why defending against a mace should require a different skill than defending against a sword. I did try and I think I shoe-horned something in for awhile. But, it never felt right. Then it struck me. I don't need 4 attributes, I can work perfectly well with three.
This solved all my problems and again, everything has gotten better. Three attributes, three modes of attack, three forms of defense ... three classes. The sword wielder becomes a Brawler, the archer becomes a Shooter, and the wizard becomes a Mentalist ... it's the RPG trinity of which every other class is simply a variation.
It was also somewhere in here that I decided to abandon A+ and fantasy and take a fresh look at supers peeling back the pages of Hi/Lo Heroes and Powers Brawl to see what treasures they have to offer. Xceptional is truly proving to be a melting pot containing all of my best ideas. I even took the attribute names of Rage, Precognition, and Grace from my one page RPG because, despite the fact that originally they were just a cutesy way to spell RPG ... they work well. Each one can carry multiple meanings and serve to cover more than might be possible with other definitions.
Anyway, that's a look inside my thought processes and inside the evolution of my latest project, hope it wasn't too nerdy or boring.

Jeff Moore

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