Design Scratchpad: The Challenge of Challenge Ratings

On of the tricky issues I’ve been working with in Mezzo is figuring out how to set the difficulty level of a challenge.

In games like 3rd and 4th Edition D&D, this is handled by assigning each enemy a rating of how powerful it is and providing guidelines for the type and number of enemies based on these ratings. Earlier editions used similar ratings, but where looser with those guidelines as part of the game was identifying and avoiding undesirable encounters.

On problem these rating systems can have is they don’t always accurately reflect how difficult the enemy actually is in a given encounter. The difficulty is affected by many things including terrain elements, the condition of the party going into the encounter, and how the party’s abilities match up with the target’s strengths and weaknesses.

In mezzo, I’m experimenting with a different route. I’m thinking of trying to reflect difficulty rather than trying to predict it. That’s part of what the frustration an attempt counting is there for. Here’s roughly the flow I’m looking for:

If the party wins the rewards should scale with how much time and effort it took to overcome. Push for Victory attempts handle part of this as they let you accumulate successes over time. The frustration system complements this and helps reflect extra difficulty through blocked abilities or just bad rolls.

But what if the party loses. Couldn’t the opposition drop a dragon or other highly powered enemy and wipe the party out easily? As is, I think the system should be able to handle this. If the dragon crushes them quickly, they won’t build up enough award points to do much long-term harm. If they toy with them, the party will build up lots of frustration which can be used to mitigate the results of failure. Still, this is part of the game that’s going to be tricky to balance.

Next time I pull up the scratchpad I’ll look handling high power enemies in a game if shared character control.

Published in: on April 11, 2010 at 8:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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