Glad to see you made it to another one of my designer journals :)
Today I want to dive into an extension of my previous entry about the cooldown mechanic. We can call it a relativistic take on how to do health points in a game system and what I have done to make Rogue Angels stand out on that front.
I hope you will enjoy the read :)
Hitpoints and regenerating health
To understand the health system at its core, you must first understand the cooldown mechanic of which it is part of. If you have not already, I would recommend you read my previous entry on how the cooldown mechanic works in Rogue Angels.
You have probably played both board and video games with a traditional health point system. You get hit and your 100% health status starts dropping until it hits 0% and you die, or you find a medpack and heal back up again.
This 1:1 mechanic works fine for many games, but it was not something I found appealing for Rogue Angels.
For Rogue Angels I was more inspired by the concept of regenerating health like in Call of Duty, Halo, or the luck-meter of Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series. I wanted something that felt more cinematic, thematic, and dynamic. Something with variations that could influence the player turn differently each time.
For Rogue Angels I came up with a relative health system that merges damage taken with the cooldown of the player's action cards and presents the player with a new challenge for each damage they receive.
How does health work in Rogue angels?
Each character has a number of shields that represents the first level of defense against enemy fire. These stats vary from 1 to 6 shields depending on the character's origin and species. The shields must be depleted first, before the character takes damage, and the player usually have some options to regain shields, including rolling shields on dice.
However, some enemy fire may penetrate shields exposing the character from the beginning.
When a character is out of shield or hit by unblockable/piercing damage, the player is required to draw the top card from a pile of damage cards. When doing so, the player must perform what is written on that card, usually resulting in the damage card being placed on their cooldown track, thereby occupying the slot.
These damage cards now present players with a new set of dilemmas, as action cards cannot be played in the already filled cooldown slots.
Luckily the damage can be healed or rested away, so if the player can keep their character safe by running away or eliminating the threat they can recover from their wounds.
A blast of adrenaline
Damage cards range from 0 to 4 in cooldown cost. With 0 being the damage cards that has no lasting effect and 4 being those that need a long time to heal. So, depending on their severity they must be placed further up the cooldown track. This allow for some layer of thematic depth, as damage cards can come in several versions.
Now a limited workspace like the cooldown track can result in a downwards spiral, as damage mounts up. And it was therefore important for me to find a mechanic that could compensate players in some fashion.
To do that, I decided that if damage cards were to be placed on a slot with an already played action card, players would get said action card back in their hand, due to a burst of adrenaline. This would provide players with an immediate compensation, to counter their now more limited action space.
A catalyst for pressure
Now the damage in Rogue Angels is not meant to kill any characters. Characters may become unconscious if they receive a damage card they cannot place on their cooldown track (like if slot 4 is already filled, and they receive another 4 damage), but players can always revive each other in those situations.
The damage system is meant to work as a catalyst for pressure. If players must use actions to rest and heal each other, they are not using them to complete the mission, which makes it harder to be successful. In other words, damages demand more coordination and well executed actions for the players to prevail.
Difficulty on an individual level
The last damage-related element I want to touch upon is the way the damage difficulty level can be set for each individual. As a seasoned TTRPG player or dungeon crawler you may want to deal with a few more dilemmas during play, but may have to team up with players not as used to this sort of game.
In Rogue Angels that is not a problem, as players simply announce before the beginning of a mission what difficulty they will be playing on:
As damage cards are all handled individually, only the affected player will experience these effects.
Another way I tried to incorporate theme was to have the wounds reflect a plausible effect, e.g. shock reducing the amount of dice, concussion eliminating rerolls (focus) and fractures limiting the movement of characters.
Thanks again for reading with me, I hope you have enjoyed learning more about Rogue Angels :)
Now I would like to hear what you think about the damage concept? Have you tried other models, and how did it work in games you enjoy? Any effects I should consider including in Rogue Angels? Let me know.
I cannot wait to share more with you, and if you feel the same, do not forget to join the community :)
Best regards Emil