Pages: 1
Heya, I'm having a bit of trouble integrating the lore and gameplay of a game my friend and I are developing, and was wondering if I could get some feedback on possible solutions.

This wasn't really going to be a problem with the combat-light visual novel we were developing, but we're doing a short sidestory for practice first and there's a lot more combat in it.

The lore: Magic is dangerous. If you screw up while casting it, whether because of haste, carelessness, drunkenness or rage, instead of letting a rogue spell run amok reality itself immediately banishes you to a dead alternate dimension called the Hollow. It is virtually impossible to come back by yourself, it takes a specialized team to rescue you, and even then the survival rate is not great at all. While magic is used by a great many people, it is always with a lot of care, respect and training.

This is an absolutely fundamental rule in the story, we can't change it without rewriting pretty much everything, but you can see why this doesn't quite fit a scenario that contains a lot of combat. People are going to be using magic in fights, and it seems appropriate that there be a risk of someone overloading, but if a player character does that's instant game over - a rescue cannot be mounted and the story cannot continue without them.

So this is my plan, and I'd like your feedback on whether you think it's too punitive. (or too exploitable?) All of this would be made completely clear to the player.

Characters have MP, spells cost MP, but spells can still be cast if you don't have enough MP. This takes the character into negative MP.
When a spell would take a character into negative MP, instead of its MP cost, the %chance of overloading is displayed instead. Thinking 0% at 0MP and 100% at -MaxMP
If a spell takes the player into negative MP, the chance is rolled and the character does or does not overload.
If someone overloads, it's instant game over.

MAYBE: The party has one "near miss" per battle where a character can narrowly avoid overloading, warning the player as well that this safety net is gone.
MAYBE: Statuses increase or decrease the chance of overloading.
MAYBE: The player is given the opportunity to immediately restart the battle instead of returning to a save point.

I (and I think everyone else) dislike instant game overs as a mechanic, but I can't really think of another way to handle it, since the story cannot continue without banished characters. Does this sound reasonable? Do you think players would want to take advantage of this system despite the risk?

Maybe you could give your mage plot-armour - a special piece or equipment that enables them to be safe from the issues of backfiring - a soul-anchor type thing where instead of being dragged to the other realm, they are locked to their body until after battle.

That way it still carries a risk - no revive in battle, so losing your mage until after battle - but isn't so insane a risk.

You could make mage-types hirable and have perma-death. It's another way of dealing with it. Make the initial mage free but if they do die, then you have to pay a certain amount of money to hire another mage. If you keep having mages die on you, you have to pay more and more money to hire, as word spreads that death follows your gang around.

Not knowing your character set-up doesn't help. How many in your party can use magic? Do you count stuff like weapon skills as magic too?
Thanks for replying!

Not knowing your character set-up doesn't help. How many in your party can use magic? Do you count stuff like weapon skills as magic too?

There are four characters in the game who could use magic. Using magic is a matter of owning an Heirloom Weapon used to focus the magic, so anyone who can get their hands on one is capable. Of the six party members, 4 have heirlooms, though one is a proud giant who isn't keen on using his Outrageously Greatsword for anything other than cutting and pulverizing.

The classes of the remaining ones break down into a mage (sword) engineer (hammer) and medic. (cutlass) It's the medic who I'm most worried about because healing is always needed, though maybe I'll lighten his magical load by adding a regen effect to all healing spells. Game balance is in very early stages.

As for things like weapon skills, not unless they have an effect that would require magic. So flaming sword is a magical attack. All characters have non-magical skills and social skills (because when this giant Boasts, people really take notice. I swear I'm going to make these really useful)

Maybe you could give your mage plot-armour - a special piece or equipment that enables them to be safe from the issues of backfiring - a soul-anchor type thing where instead of being dragged to the other realm, they are locked to their body until after battle.

This would be good, but... I think if such things existed, everyone would have them, and then there's be no overloading in the plot. Though years of adventuring have made the characters wealthy, so they might just be really expensive and the characters can afford it. I'll bring it up with my co-author, see if we can work something out. People are starting to understand the mechanics of how the hollow is accessed, so it's possible.

You could make mage-types hirable and have perma-death.

I like this sort of idea but in this case the party is a tight knit group in a scenario where there's nowhere to hire from. Actually, I don't even know if there'll be shops. (speaking of perma death, actually it's occurring to me that the mechanic I described is a little bit like the Death's Door state in Darkest Dungeon, only for MP instead of HP, but more severe since it's game over not character death)
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
Instead of a random chance to overload, I would go with an overload meter. If it fills up to 100 - or depletes to 0, depending how you display it - then you get a game over.
In this way it becomes more similar to how HP works, except it's damaged by the player's actions while HP is damaged by the enemy's actions. The player has full control over it, and it becomes a resource to manage instead of an unpredictable event.

I do think it's okay for skills cast at negative MP to increase the overload meter by a semi-random amount. Say, perhaps, the meter increases by a random amount between 0 and the skill's cost. But you can also make many of your magic spells increase the overload meter by much smaller but non-random amounts every single time they're cast, even at positive MP. This would add a neat extra dimension to spellcasting.

Making it start out full and gradually deplete to 0 would give you the option of giving each character a different number of points before they overload, whereas if they all start out empty and gradually fill up, you'd probably want them to all fill up at exactly 100 so that it's easy for the player to keep track of.

You might think about resetting it at the end of each battle, even if HP and MP are not reset at the end of each battle? This would make overloading a total non-issue except during boss fights. However, that would also have a secondary effect - players could continue fighting non-boss battles forever even after hitting 0 MP, as long as they ended each battle before they overloaded. It would have a lot of consequences with regards to healing and grinding and item conserving. If the overload meter were only refilled at save points or something like that, then it would not have such a huge effect on how MP works, which might be a better plan for a small project like this.
I think you're right, overloading should not be a random chance, hinging an entire game over on a random chance would feel very unfair.


When in positive MP, let's say 10% of MP cost becomes overload meter.
When in negative MP, that's much more. 50%?
MAYBE: Since overloading is the result of stress or panic, taking damage or certain bad status could generate small amounts of overload directly.
MP cannot be refilled in battle, but skills/items can be used to alleviate overload meter.
After battle, MP is refilled and a fraction of Overload is restored.

So in regular battles, you're unlikely to dip into overload much, and there's enough battles that the little you generate keeps getting cured after battle. But boss battles would eventually run you out of MP and force you to start building overload. Which is when you start pulling out calming herbs etc to keep your casters from X-Zoneing themselves. Let them get too far into overload and while you might stop casting to keep from building more, even an attack from the boss that doesn't kill them might force them to overload.

... there's still random chance in the boss choosing to target them, but that's fairly standard for RPGs. Sounds better?
I'm not entirely sold on the idea of killing your players. There might be a way to make it work, but it needs to be finessed properly to avoid situations where players feel cheated. Allowing players to go into negative MP with increasing chances of negative consequences as MP approaches -100% could be a fantastic combat system, offering some real depth of choice. However, when that negative consequence is not just instant death for the character but an actual game over for the player, chances are most players are just going to treat 0 as the end of their MP bar and rarely, if ever, roll the dice on dropping it further.

If game over could only occur at -100%, it's a little more reasonable, but then, there's only a philosophical difference between -100% MP and 0 MP with twice the maximum.

Building on Locke's suggestion, perhaps a static bar (as in, its maximum value does not increase) that increases with spellcasting and decreases over time could be an interesting replacement for MP altogether. This also eliminates the need to balance MP numbers throughout the game--each spell just needs to be based on how much of the bar it fills.

Players could cast spells to their heart's content, watching that metre fill up, then cool it for a few turns to let it go down. You could also tie other abilities to the bar, such as giving a character increased parameters based on how much of it is filled, offering the dangerous prospect of essentially being near-death for more power.

Of course, like I said, I'm not entirely sure that the game over system is the right way to go. You said that spells in your world should not be cast haphazardly, that each one must be measured to avoid disturbing reality (by the way, did you post on rpgmakerweb forums as well? I think I read something similar in Features Feedback. Which is a dead topic, unfortunately). Perhaps, then, giving your spells high charge times with big payouts would be a good way to go.

That way, Overload is the reason for the way the magic system is, rather than the punishment for it. A mage in your world would logically understand the risks of being careless with magic, so allowing players to roll the dice every turn by going further into negative MP makes the characters themselves seem ignorant of the way the world works.

However, if game overs are the way you want to go, and as I said it could work if done delicately, I would heavily recommend adding a consumable item to the game that can bring characters back from the Hollow. Let characters first fall in battle, and allow the player a few turns to use such an item to bring them back before giving a game over (effectively, a Doom-like state with bigger consequences for ignoring it). Make the items extremely rare and extremely expensive, but give players a way to overcome the game over. You could even call the item a Soul Anchor (thank Liberty for that one!).

All that said, a segment of the game that involves a foray into the Hollow to rescue a mage that went too far would be pretty awesome. Don't write it off too easily!


Since you're using MV, the suite of Yanfly plugins almost seems as though it was made for just about any version of the system you're trying to make. Custom states, charge times, cooldowns, whichever way you choose to go. I like how much freedom you have to play with it.
...Having been playing a lot of Romancing SaGa lately, I would have the character banished when the magic overloads, and then, the player can take part in a rescue team. (Reminds me of where, in Romancing SaGa, people can end up dead by the player's own actions, and then, you can go to the Netherworld and talk to Death to revive them.)
I mean, when I suggested the plot armour thing, I was thinking an exclusive thing of which only one exists. Maybe it was a family heirloom passed down through the centuries, maybe they found it by accident, but one-of-a-kind protection was the idea - them and no-one else in the world.

Depending on your story, it could cause some conflict if other mages find out about it and try to get their hands on it.

That said, you could make it so that if they run out of MP... they just don't use any more spells, being mindful of not wanting to die and all. It's a reskin of the old "Out of MP, cannot spell" but made to fit your world lore - that they refuse to go beyond that point unless absolutely pushed (say, a story event).

If you have made it clear that pushing beyond that point can be deadly, then have, say, in-battle quotes of some kind when their MP gets low (If I push any further, I'll be taking a one-way trip to the Other Side) to sell that illusion.

Hell, you could make it so that you can't cast any spells if you have less than 10% MP (just add a silence-type status effect on yourself) and play it off like "I'm too close to the edge". That'd work too.
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
I am reminded of Tellah overcasting himself to death in FF4. Apparently that was a thing you could do in FF4! The game just never gave you the ability to do it as a player because you would die, why would that even be an option.
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
I remember playing Star Ocean Till the End of Time and getting my first MP-based game over. I never picked the game up after that because I felt cheated. I'd never come in contact with such a punishing system before and it just never made sense to me how I'd be penalized with a game over for using abilities that the game grants me. It even bugged me in the .hack games (especially when you had a dungeon of nothing but data bugs that you had to data drain, bringing you closer to an ability-induced game over), but at least that game came out and said "hey, this is a bad idea", educating the player on the risks of relying on data drain.

Not being able to use my cool magic spells that make battles easier should be the penalty for not keeping an eye on my MP, not straight-up death. And centering it around plot, the only way I could see this work is if your own magic field is being spent to hold your molecular structure together, but that would automatically kill anything that wasn't born with supernatural magical abilities, and the people who did have magic wouldn't deplete it for fear of their own lives.
Please, don't do it. I hate instant "game over" mechanics. Really ruins a game, to be honest.

I won't mention any names, but I was playing a game I downloaded here last night and it was just completely filled with cheap, instant game overs. The game definitely had potential if it wasn't for the ridiculous amount of instadeaths with little to no warning. I gave up after about 45 minutes of just dying over and over. Not to mention the save points were few and far between to the point the game just became a total unplayable mess.

For example: trying to reach an item on the top shelf -> Yes, No. If yes, then the shelf falls on you and you die. Might be satisfying for a developer to come up with all this stuff but it's just frustrating and completely unfun as a player. It doesn't give a game depth, it just makes it totally annoying.

Whatever you do, avoid the random player deaths.

If magic is untamed and dangerous in your game, that's cool, but at least give the player an out before they lose due to some unlucky random rolls. Let them escape the fight or find some other way to avoid overloading. They should always be given a chance that doesn't depend on some unlucky roll.

If you keep killing your players over and over, they will quit out of frustration. Creativity in killing your players might be an infinite resource, but player patience is definitely finite.

Ok, thanks everyone. don't have much time to reply right now, but I'm not really seeing much support for the game over approach, so I think I'll find some other way. I was hoping there might be a way to massage some reason into it but I wasn't holding out much hope, it's just too punitive, and the lore about the hollow being as deadly as it is is too important to the story to weaken. I thinks we will probably treat 0 mp as "the character refuses to cast anymore, too dangerous." any overloading will be done in plot.

it'd probably be great if the consequence wasn't game over, but in this case it can't be anything else. so never mind.

And since you asked yeah that was me on rpgmakerweb.

thanks for the help everyone that was really useful.
"It's frustrating because - as much as Corf is otherwise an irredeemable person - his 2k/3 mapping is on point." ~ psy_wombats
I hate to hear when things don't work out, but that's just the way things are. Not every idea is a winner, but you come out of every failure that much wiser into what does - or at the very least can - work.

Good luck with moving forward.
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
There's nothing wrong with game overs. You get a game over when you run out of HP, after all. Anyone who's against game overs must therefore also want you to remove HP from your game.

You just have to make it be a sensible system.

I realized a pretty major problem with my idea of making it be a meter that fills up through your spellcasting actions though, which is that if an action would fill it up, you just wouldn't do that action. There would not actually be any danger, just a limit.

For there to be danger, the meter would have to decrease in a way the player can't entirely control. In the case of HP, this happens when enemies attack you. In the case of magic... unless you make enemies somehow increase the player's overload meter, which doesn't make sense from a story perspective, your initial plan was spot-on in that a random chance on player actions is the most straightforward way to accomplish it.

For story purposes I don't think there's any problem if it's simply a limit the characters can't safely go past.

However, there are other possible ways. I just remembered the dragon power meter from Breath of Fire 5. This meter increased when using certain abilities, and if it hit 100% your soul was corrupted by the dragon spirit or some shit and you got a game over. The catches were that A) it never went down, ever, for the entire game, and could never be healed, and B) there were a lot of boss fights that were unbeatable without using it. So there was very much an element of risk/reward - how much can you afford to use this power and still have enough left to last through the rest of the game?

Of course, the problem with Breath of Fire 5's method is that if you screw up, you might have to start the game over. Breath of Fire 5 actually took this into consideration and let you start a weird kind of New Game+ at any time during the game, transferring your equipment, map completion, and any unspent experience points to either a new game or to your most recent save.

I'm not sure you (or anyone) can successfully use Breath of Fire 5's system. But my point is you might have to do something really crazy that changes every aspect of the game, instead of just tacking on an overload system that only happens under rare circumstances.
I played BOF5 and even enjoyed it a bit, but, yeah... wouldn't want to bring back that game's dragon meter. Not for this project at least.

For there to be danger, the meter would have to decrease in a way the player can't entirely control.

That's why I suggested up above that damage also generate a small amount of overload to your meter idea. Go too deep into overload and you're putting yourself at the mercy of enemies not attacking you. It fits the lore too, as overloading is caused by unstable mental conditions causing rash casting, and getting hurt is sure to annoy.

But once you factor in damage, I think at this point what's being recreated is Darkest Dungeon's stress system, only with a party-wide punishment (overload game over) instead of a character one (heart attack.) And IIRC people hated DD's heart attacks. (it's really not a similar game, just the comparison that sprang to mind)

... brainwave. Remember Chrono Cross? If you casted too much in that game, your characters would go into negative Stamina and need to skip turns until it was back in the positive. Maybe the threat of overloading forces characters to take a breather to recover if they cast too much?

... actually, I've been thinking of going MPless with a TP only system for a while. (I am a particular fan of Wild ARMs 3) This would facilitate that. You can spend a few turns building a bank of TP to spend, or spend it at 0 TP, go negative and have to spend your turns recoving TP until back in the safety of positive TP. No actual threat of overloading in the mechanics, but characters are deliberately taking a break to minimise the risk to themselves.

EDIT: Hm, but then you end up with characters spamming the most powerful spell on turn one, killing all the enemies with no repercussions. It's only interesting in boss battles. Starting to think I just need to Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Another idea could be the Rune Factory one. In that game they have SP and HP. Now actions use up a small amount of SP to do, but if you run out of SP they then draw from HP. The catch? It takes a shit-ton more HP from you to do an action.

So say you've got 200 HP and SP. You go fishing and casting your line costs 5 SP to do. When you run out of SP, doing the action begins to take your HP instead - but instead of taking 5 HP, it takes 50. This means that where you'd get 40 uses out of a full bar of SP, you'd only get 4 out of your HP pool. This way there's a fall-back if you really need to use a spell, but it will cost you a lot more.

Granted, it won't carry the same weight as being sucked into another dimension apon death since you'd just die from over-use.

Honestly, I'd recommend using the 'Characters aren't fucking stupid since they actually live in this world and know know the dangers, thus understand their limitations and don't push them because death is preferable' idea. Retexture normal MP is out to be "Not gonna use more because I don't want to be trapped in a hellish dimension waiting for you guys to rescue my fucking stupid arse."

OR! You could have battles be their own little challenges. Less battles for higher exp/gold, each a stand-alone thing, with auto-healing afterwards. Have an auto-save after each battle (or before) and have each battle be a challenge to get through. That way you can force them to have to use their skills and spells, but each battle is it's own being. (Check out Pale Echoes or Cope Island for an example of stand-alone battles and how they can work well.)

Another idea is to use a Retry script, which basically gets rid of the Game Over scene and just lets you retry a battle if you fail. So have the fail conditions set up and if you meet it (mages being pulled into hell), just run the retry and let them start the battle over again. It would get rid of the frustration of losing their progress, but still carries the threat of failure.
Final Fantasy XIII used that system. Each battle was a more significant challenge and characters were auto-healed after each battle. FF13 had its flaws, but the combat system was not one of them. I think it worked very well, although it's worth noting that battles were not random and could be avoided, which counteracted the increased length and difficulty of each battle.

I do like the idea of spells tapping into HP after MP (or TP or SP--it's all semantics). That might be a good way to represent the stress of overextending one's magical reach. Or a system similar to Chrono Cross's Stamina would also be great.

Whichever way you do it, utilizing Overload as a lore reason for limitations on casting rather than random punishment for overcasting would indeed be wise.
OK, I'm going to take this away and have a good think about it. I'm going to work on a short gameplay prototype and see how it plays. This thread's given me some good ideas, so thanks a lot for the help everyone.

And I'll check out Pale Echoes and Cope Island, thanks for the rec Liberty.
Pages: 1