Design idea: Background system

 
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 11:31 am    Post subject: Design idea: Background system Reply with quote

This system draws parallels to the 'talents' concept I've mentioned in the past, but with a more focused direction. It's something I've been thinking over for quite a long time, and thought it might make for interesting discussion. It doesn't fit with my games, so I doubt I'd ever implement it, but perhaps someone else might find it useful.

The idea is to combine distinctive character elements (including race, class and alignment) into a single system, providing a solution which allows for greater player flexibility and ease of implementation.

A "Background" is a boolean ability comparible with Feat in D&D. Unlike Feats, however, it also unlocks skill trees (vaguely reminiscent on the Charms in the Exalted tabletop RPG). You wouldn't get all of the skills in all the skill trees, but they'd be available for building your character.

Each Background would contain the following information:

* Name (and description)
* Category (racial, professional, magical, etc).
* Traits (added by this Background).
* Required stats.
* Required/Banned Backgrounds.
* Required/Banned Traits.

Please note that the examples given are just off the top of my head, with fictional skill names that sound thematic. It's really just to give an idea, they're not fleshed out because they're only there to provide a feel for how it might be implemented.

Some racial examples (I suggest just skim-reading them):


Code:
--------------------------------[ ELVEN BLOOD ]--------------------------------
Talent category     : Racial
Added traits        : Elven Lineage
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Dexterity 60%+, Aura 60%+
Required Backgrounds: None
Banned backgrounds  : Hill Dwarf and Goblinoid
Required traits     : None
Banned traits       : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You possess elven blood.  This makes you a half-elf unless you also select some
additional Elven Lineage Background options.  Your elven blood provides you
with the Night Vision, Elven Grace and Natural Mystic skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


---------------------------------[ HIGH ELF ]----------------------------------
Talent category     : Racial
Added traits        : Full Race, Spellcaster
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Dexterity 60%+, Aura 80%+
Required Backgrounds: Elven Blood
Banned backgrounds  : Wood Elf
Required traits     : None
Banned traits       : Full Race
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You are a high elf, renowned for their magical aptitude.  You gain access to
the Ancient Wisdom, High Magic and Elven Lore skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


---------------------------------[ WOOD ELF ]----------------------------------
Talent category     : Racial
Added traits        : Full Race
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Dexterity 80%+, Aura 60%+
Required Backgrounds: Elven Blood
Banned backgrounds  : High Elf
Required traits     : None
Banned traits       : Full Race
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You are a wood elf, renowned for their woodland and archery skill.  You gain
access to the Woodland Lore, Animal Friendship and Natural Archer skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


---------------------------------[ DARK ELF ]----------------------------------
Talent category     : Racial
Added traits        : Tainted Soul, Dishonourable
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Dexterity 60%+, Aura 80%+
Required Backgrounds: High Elf
Banned backgrounds  : None
Required traits     : None
Banned traits       : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You are a dark elf, an offshoot of the high elves who made dark pacts with evil
forces many centuries ago.  You gain access to the Necromancy, Demonology and
Dark Ritual skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


--------------------------------[ HILL DWARF ]---------------------------------
Talent category     : Racial
Added traits        : Dwarven Lineage
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Strength 60%+, Stamina 60%+
Required Backgrounds: None
Banned backgrounds  : Elven Blood and Goblinoid
Required traits     : None
Banned traits       : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You are a hill dwarf, the most common caste of dwarf.  This provides you with
the Intuitive Mining, Natural Axemanship and Toughness skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


------------------------------[ MOUNTAIN DWARF ]-------------------------------
Talent category     : Racial
Added traits        : Full Race
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Strength 70%+, Stamina 70%+
Required Backgrounds: Hill Dwarf
Banned backgrounds  : None
Required traits     : None
Banned traits       : Full Race
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You are a mountain dwarf, the most ancient of the dwarven races.  This provides
you with the Night Vision, Resilience and Earthborn Gift skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


-----------------------------------[ DWELF ]-----------------------------------
Talent category     : Racial
Added traits        : Full Race, Dwarven Lineage, Elven Lineage
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Strength 60%+, Stamina 60%+, Dexterity 60%+, Aura 60%+
Required Backgrounds: Elven Blood or Hill Dwarf
Banned backgrounds  : None
Required traits     : None
Banned traits       : Full Race
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You are a dwelf, the unusual cross between an elf and a dwarf.  This provides
you with the skill trees of both Elven Blood and Hill Dwarf.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


---------------------------------[ GOBLINOID ]---------------------------------
Talent category     : Racial
Added traits        : Goblinoid Lineage
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Stamina 40%+
Required Backgrounds: None
Banned backgrounds  : Elven Blood and Hill Dwarf
Required traits     : None
Banned traits       : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You belong to the goblinoid races, making you a basic goblin unless you also
select one of the other goblin Backgrounds.  This provides you with the Iron
Stomach, Shaman Rituals and Night Vision skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


------------------------------------[ ORC ]------------------------------------
Talent category     : Racial
Added traits        : Full Race, Goblinoid Lineage, Elven Lineage
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Stamina 40%+
Required Backgrounds: Elven Blood or Goblinoid
Banned backgrounds  : None
Required traits     : None
Banned traits       : Full Race
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You are an orc - the foul crossbreed of a goblin and an elf.  This provides you
with the skill trees of both Elven Blood and Goblinoid (although you do not
benefit from getting Night Vision twice).  You also gain the Dark Ritual skill
tree.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------



By default you'd be a human, but you could use the above to change your race. Obviously a Dark Elf would be more powerful than a High Elf, which in turn would be more powerful than a half-elf - but by choosing a weaker race you'd have more background options to put into other things.

You could then do something similar for classes/professions, eg:


Code:
------------------------------[ TRAINED SOLDIER ]------------------------------
Talent category     : Professional
Added traits        : Warrior
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Strength 40%+, Dexterity 40%+, Stamina 40%+
Required Backgrounds: None
Banned backgrounds  : None
Required traits     : None
Banned traits       : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You are a trained soldier.  You gain the Weapon Mastery, Armour Proficiency and
Horsemanship skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


---------------------------[ MAGICAL APPRENTICESHIP ]--------------------------
Talent category     : Professional
Added traits        : Spellcaster
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Intelligence 60%+, Aura 60%+
Required Backgrounds: None
Banned backgrounds  : None
Required traits     : None
Banned traits       : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You have completed your magical apprenticeship.  You gain the Cantrips, Alchemy
and Artiface skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


-------------------------------[ MAGICAL ADEPT ]-------------------------------
Talent category     : Professional
Added traits        : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Intelligence 70%+, Aura 70%+
Required Backgrounds: Magical Apprenticeship
Banned backgrounds  : None
Required traits     : None
Banned traits       : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You continued your magical studies after completing your apprenticeship, and
are now considered a full Adept of the magical arts.  You gain the Sorcery,
Wizardry and Elementalism skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Now in order to create a Dark Elf Adept, for example, you'd need the Elven Blood, High Elf, Dark Elf, Magical Apprenticeship and Magical Adept backgrounds. A very powerful combination, but a human spellcaster could instead use his free background slots to purchase other special abilities, for example:


Code:
------------------------------[ POWERFUL SHIELDS ]-----------------------------
Talent category     : Magic
Added traits        : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Aura 80%+
Required Backgrounds: None
Banned backgrounds  : None
Required traits     : Spellcaster
Banned traits       : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Your magical shields are particularly strong and unusually effective.  This
provides you with the Enhanced Shields, Elemental Deflection and Reflective
Attack skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


------------------------------[ FLAMEBORN ADEPT ]------------------------------
Talent category     : Magic
Added traits        : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Aura 80%+
Required Backgrounds: None
Banned backgrounds  : Earthborn Adept, Windborn Adept, Waterborn Adept
Required traits     : Spellcaster
Banned traits       : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You have a natural talent for fire magic.  This provides you with the Flame
Elemental, Immolation and Fireblade skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


---------------------------------[ DARK PACT ]---------------------------------
Talent category     : Magic
Added traits        : Unholy, Tainted Soul
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : None
Required Backgrounds: None
Banned backgrounds  : None
Required traits     : Spellcaster
Banned traits       : Holy
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You have made dark pacts with fell beings, granting you unholy powers.  This
provides you with the Unholy Might, Black Magic and Dark Sacrifice skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


-------------------------------[ ZEALOUS FAITH ]-------------------------------
Talent category     : Magic
Added traits        : Holy
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Discipline 80%+
Required Backgrounds: None
Banned backgrounds  : None
Required traits     : Spellcaster
Banned traits       : Tainted Soul
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You draw upon the power of the gods using your faith as a focus.  This provides
you with the Piety, Sanctuary and Holy Blessing skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------



In this respect you can have some races which are more powerful than others, but balance that against the fact that human PCs will be stronger examples of their race than elves PCs, and so on.

Also note the traits. These would be used instead of alignment - you don't simply become good or evil, but instead it's the result of your background. If you're "evil" it could be because you're the member of an evil race (eg Dark Elf), or it could be because you've made pacts with evil creatures (eg Dark Pact).

Certain backgrounds could also require certain traits, for example the magical backgrounds above which require the Spellcaster trait (gained from Magical Apprenticeship or High Elf). Other traits would affect other backgrounds as well, such as:


Code:
--------------------------------[ DIVINE WRATH ]-------------------------------
Talent category     : Magic
Added traits        : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Discipline 90%+
Required Backgrounds: None
Banned backgrounds  : None
Required traits     : Holy
Banned traits       : None
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You are able to call down the power of your diety.  This provides you with the
Righteous Crusade, Heavenly Fire and Paladin Blade skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


--------------------------------[ SWORDMASTER ]--------------------------------
Talent category     : Combat
Added traits        : Weapon Mastery
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Required base stats : Dexterity 80%+
Required Backgrounds: None
Banned backgrounds  : None
Required traits     : Warrior
Banned traits       : Weapon Mastery
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
During your martial training, you become a master of the blade.  This provides
you with the Whirling Attack, Expert Parry, and Counterattack skill trees.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------



If you wanted to add support for supernatural conditions (eg vampirism, lycanthropy, lichhood, etc) then these could be added in exactly the same way, as could clans or guilds. This is considerably faster and easier than having to independently add support for races, classes, clans, and so on.

Utilising such a system would allow for some interesting forms of character creation. You could let the player select the race and class normally, or pick from a selection of preset background combinations ("Dwarven Warrior", "Dark Elf Magician", etc), or even allow a freeform approach to character creation, where they can pick from all the backgrounds they qualify for. Better yet you could allow the player to choose their own form of character creation, appealing to both those who like classes and those who don't.

If you went for around five backgrounds per character, that would give each character a pool of 15 skill trees, from which they could train up their skills. I'd be tempted to limit each player to 4 or 5 primary skill trees which they can train to maximum, and allow them to dabble in the others as "support" skills. In this way, even two Dark Elf Magicians would tend to play very different from each other.


Last edited by KaVir on Wed Aug 16, 2006 7:51 am; edited 1 time in total
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Something else I forgot to mention: This approach might be interesting for one of the more bare-bones codebases such as SocketMUD or NakedMUD, as it would provide a framework for classes and races without actually making them part of the codebase.
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homeofpoe



Joined: 22 Jan 2010
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After considering this for some time, and finally coming across a type of mud I'm playing with that allows this well, I decided to sit down and add this backgrounds system to it.

First of all, let me say it works even better in practice than it does in theory. The way everything ties together, the requirements, all that - it fits together flawlessly. The game I'm building will be RP-centric, but even still, I was able to implement racials, classes (for your standard adventurers), vocations (for your blacksmiths, tailors and candlestick makers), mage branches, combat trees, all this. Easily.

What especially is appealing is the prestige- (or higher-) level backgrounds. For example, the "arcane warrior" - if a character has both spellcaster and warrior traits (which they can achieve through a variety of different methods), this new background becomes unlocked. How hard was it to add? No harder than anything else. It's quite wonderful how extensible and flexible the entire system is.

The way I structured the code, I can change the trees/traits/etc at any time, and characters will automatically receive the updates. All I need to do when adding a new background is simply input information. I implemented this on the Nakedmud codebase, and it was very pain-free.

The main issue I face is, of course, balancing. The requirements should be pretty level, as well as the branching of each background tree. If the mage path has dozens of options, so should the others, but it can be difficult coming up with all of them.

The other issue is how to work with the skill trees. I haven't quite decided which route I like most for that, and I don't want to run a numbers-driven game, so that I'll be giving some thought. As well as if/when they should be able to acquire additional backgrounds.

Overall... I'm glad I tried this. It's very flexible and easy to work with. I look forward to developing the available backgrounds and providing them with tons of options. I'd like virtually every choice to present the user with additional options, but not in an overwhelming fashion. We'll see how it goes!
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ide



Joined: 21 Feb 2006
Posts: 105
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 11:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Balancing is definitely the main issue here in what is an otherwise great design. Of course it is not a requirement that every combination be balanced in all situations -- some will naturally be better in the dark, in magic-deprived areas, in close combat, etcetera. The key seems to be to create affordances in the game so that one build doesn't become dominant, because the gameplay is very one-dimensional.

Let us know when you make your game public homeofpoe, I'm interested in seeing it.

edit: On the subject of skill trees, you could effectively hide numbers by letting players select a skillset they are actively training, then new skills are gained in the skillset strictly over time played. Certain things could accelerate training but it could be basically black-boxed for the player.
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