Saturday, June 2, 2012

Core Gameplay Mechanics

Bloodlines was a game about:
  1. Questing
  2. Combat
  3. Dialog
  4. Disciplines
  5. Sneaking / Hacking / Lock picking. 
You could enjoy Bloodlines without Sneaking, Hacking or Lock picking, but you could rarely enjoy it without Questing. Combat was awful but mandatory in almost every quest. Dialog was beautifully crafted, but never seemed as important as Combat. Disciplines were a stylized form of Combat or power-ups, never catching the true essence of vampire blood power.

Now, Vampire the Masquerade Renaissance should restore the balance. Here's my proposal: 
  1. Questing
  2. Dialog / Cut-scenes
  3. Combat
  4. Disciplines
  5. Action
Questing still remains the main element of the game. A good RPG should offer the player plenty of quests to do. Quests should have balance between all the elements of the game (why should I level up Intimidation if it only becomes useful in 10% of the quests?). An ideal quest, allows the player to use Dialog, Actions or Combat to succeed. Also, failure should be taken into account as a way to progress in the story.

Dialog is expanded (and promoted before Combat) to include a new core mechanic: cut-scenes. Dialog represents direct speech between characters in the story, but sometimes a phrase is something more tangible than just words. Instead of saying a line, your character can perform cinematic actions like “run away”, “draw your weapon”, “steal”, “kiss”, etc. These actions trigger a cinematic cut-scene similar to Mass Effect's. The outcome of the cut-scene is not determined by a dialog tree or the character AI, instead, cut-scenes rely on dice rolls that are resolved following Vampire the Masquerade rules. If you “run away”, you roll Dexterity + Athletics, and the outcome determines if you gain advantage or you just get caught. Note: all dice rolls are displayed in the HUD, as a set of d10 dice and a difficulty.

Combat and Disciplines become less action-oriented than in Bloodlines, but more similar to Vampire the Masquerade systems. You draw your weapon in the middle of a crowd, and all nearby NPCs run away. You can grapple NPCs to attack them, feed on them or just move them to shadows. A dead body left at plain sight of another NPC will trigger a chain reaction ending in a police chase. Disciplines are supernatural vampire powers and they should feel awesome even at level 1.

Action is a new element that includes all core mechanics that use a character sheet ability such as hiding with Sneaking, opening doors with Lock-picking, Hacking computers, running with Athletics, looting dead bodies with Survival, etc. These core mechanics have two important aspects: they have a purely action part, like holding the shift key and moving your character to run, and they also have a purely RPG part, the Athletics level that will determine how fast can you run.


  1. Your suggestion of extending dialogue to include an array of cinematic actions is an exciting one, but have you considered the development costs of implementing such free-choice in all circumstances?

    It seems like you're leaning towards freedom of action akin to a tabletop RPG, but in my experience the scope is just too large.

  2. Yeah, really good question there. I think narrative cut-scenes don't necessarily have to impact development time so badly. For "traditional" dialog we need a flexible cinematic editor to pose characters and cameras, and a dialog editor to determine what characters says. Narrative cut-scenes only requiere one step further: a narrative action editor to determine which dice are rolled and against what difficulty. On the player side, I wouldn't say it's going to provide tabletop freedom of action. It's intended to provide just a set of story-intensive dialog choices for those who enjoy role-playing, though decisions and dice rolling.

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