Design Diaries Table Top

Board Game Design Diary – The Bosses

So, I’ve done two of these before, you can find the general idea and the character ideas already starting to be fleshed out. Next I want to talk about the level bosses in the game.

The Premise

The Characters

So let’s now talk about the level bosses. A quick recap on the concept for the level bosses, these are not levels of the characters, the character doesn’t have to be the level 4 boss to get to level 5 in character progression, in fact, I’ll be talking about some other ways to get XP in the future. But these are the bosses on the various levels of the MMORPG that the characters are stuck in. So to progress to the next level of the dungeon you need to defeat the dungeon boss for the level you are on.

What characters do on each level of the MMORPT will be leading up to the boss fight, and when you get to the boss fight, you better hope that you are prepared, there are four big things when it comes to the boss fight.

  1. Evolving Boss Combat
  2. Programmed Boss Combat
  3. Vanguard Combat
  4. Rearguard Combat

Let’s actually talk about them in reverse order of what I’ve put there. Rearguard combat is basically your guilds combat. These are the nameless people who you have in your guild and what they do in combat, is simply keep any minions or smaller bad guys off of you, the heroes, so you can fight the big bad. I want this to be pretty simple in how this works. You probably don’t send your whole guild after the minions or take your whole guild into battle with you, in fact, doing so will hurt morale and cause people to leave, so you need to try figure out the right amount. Too few and they’ll die and you might start taking minimal damage from the bosses minions, too many, you start to lose morale and members will start to leave the guild. But this is a one time thing that you set at the start of combat, basically a pre-combat thing so you can compare numbers with the minions and see what happens. You can also improve your odds, and your morale, by improving the equipment of your guild members, so you might need less to complete a battle if you do that.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Next we have the Hero Combat, this I don’t have nailed down, but I want to do some blend of die and card combat. I like chucking dice, but I don’t want it to be completely determine by what you roll and I want plenty of ways to mitigate the dice. No crit fail, you drop your sword and the boss cuts you in two, because there’s no respawning or restarting with that character. Instead, I want characters to have abilities to dodge, block, and survive, but at times attacks to be blocked of their own, or countered. I know that players will have some more powerful abilities that they can use as well. I want to go with a very MMORPG sort of feel, or video game RPG, where some things will take time to prepare or other things will have a cool down effect for an ability.

After that we have programmed combat for a boss. For video games there are a lot of videos showing exploits for a boss, because they are programmed, so they have patterns that they use. I want to emulate this in the boss battles, and I think this is how I can make boss battles seem very powerful with epic attacks and how do we beat them, all while giving the players a chance. When the boss attacks, that card goes to the bottom of the bosses attack deck, so for their first health bar, there might be only three cards, that means that you will know that is coming up and what attack to prepare against after a little bit, and after even less time if you’ve studied the boss. It takes it from being a more random style of combat to almost a puzzle that you need to figure out and beat. Now, just solving the puzzle could be really easy, but I want to combo that with the players abilities that might take time to cool down or prepare so that they can’t and won’t always have the ideal turn.

Finally, we have the evolving boss combat. Every boss is going to have two or more health bars. Most likely only the first level boss will have two, so it’ll always be “or more”. When a bar is emptied, like in a TV show where the villain gets knocked down and then comes back stronger, I always think of Power Rangers with this concept. I want to do something similar with the boss combat, the boss when their health bar hits 0, the first one or any but the final one, will add an additional one or two cards to their combat cycle and you might even remove a previous attack card from the combat cycle. So it’ll be something that the players can learn, but they’ll have to relearn the pattern and figure out the puzzle without knowing what might be coming up. Added to that, I want when the boss goes into red, so basically when it comes down to the final turn or two, I want some of those newly added cards to have additional abilities that will trigger as well, not a whole new attack, but something making the existing attack more powerful and harder for the players to deal with.

And then once defeated there will of course be loot and XP to be gained, wounds to be dealt with, and morale of your guild to be adjusted, but those are basically outside of the boss battle, and I’ll talk about them as time goes on.

What do you think of the combat idea? Is the idea of the puzzle and evolving boss combat style something that seems like it could work? Do you like chucking dice for combat (Sword and Sorcery), or do you prefer to have more card based combat (Gloomhaven)?

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