Wednesday, July 17, 2013

First Level as Survival Horror

Some tangential thoughts prompted by a discussion at The 9 and 30 Kingdoms:

What I value most in a class system and rule-set are the principles of definition through play, and the ability to play with understanding as little of the complete system as possible. Though I'm currently using LotFP's class system with few modifications (save the magic system), I'm working on a three-class system with "specialist classes" that are sort of like prestige classes, but available after 3rd level and with no other requirements. Basic classes would be reduced to the three archetypes - fighter, mage, thief.

As it is, each class knows some of the elements of each of the other classes - thieves and mages know how combat works and can use some weapons and armor. Mages and fighters have a limited ability to find and disarm traps. Everyone's a little bit of a jack-of-all trades, enough to give a bit of leeway in adverse circumstances.

What if, instead, the only "combat system" available to a mage was, "The orc stabs you in the guts and you die?" Obviously, this would absolutely require the dungeon to be structured such that every problem lent itself to all three conflict-resolution systems, or at the very least, complete avoidance. The "obviously present" trap becomes paramount. And it would also require the GM to be open to players creatively forcing problems into their niche ("All I can do is attack? Well, I attack the trap mechanism!"). But if Amnesia: The Dark Descent could get away without letting the character attack the monsters, at all, ever, why can't a dungeoncrawl?

So far, I've been assuming only one player. A party composed of characters like this wouldn't be immune to the survival-horroresque problems faced by the single character - as each individual is still only capable of one type of action, and vulnerable to all the others. Teamwork becomes an absolute necessity. And, most of all, creative play becomes the only possible way to survive.