The Good Fight: Combat in Trudvang
You can’t tell a great mythic story without drama. And some of the most exciting drama comes from combat. Trudvang Legends is no exception.
Because storytelling is the main focus of Trudvang, we knew that combat would not happen quite as often as it does in other adventure games. And with that in mind, we wanted to make each combat in the game impactful and meaningful but not too distracting from everyone’s main goals.
And let’s face it: combat, especially epic combat in a Norse-inspired setting, should be fun.
Casting the Runes
Combat in Trudvang is resolved over a series of rounds during which all involved heroes will decide to attack or retreat. After attacks and retreats are resolved, enemies will deal their full damage, which heroes can divide as they choose. This continues until either all enemies are defeated, a single hero is defeated (which ends the story right there), or all heroes have retreated from the fight.
Making an attack is the heart of combat, and where all the fun choices are. The goal of an attack, of course, is to damage, disable and/or defeat as many enemies as you can before they strike back with combat damage or worse. And this is where we focused the game’s core bag-building rune casting mechanic.
Your hero has a bag containing a unique mix of elemental runes (wind, water, earth and fire…and some corrupt dark runes). To make the attack, you’ll draw runes from your bag, one at a time, assigning those runes either to one of your weapon attacks or skills to “lock in” their damage or effects. Many of the more powerful weapons and skills require multiple assigned runes to lock in their abilities. However, any rune you draw that you cannot assign to an attack or skill is a failure, and must be assigned to your 3-space failure track. Dark runes are always failures.
Three failures, and you cancel all of your locked in attacks, and only resolve your failures. And if that wasn’t bad enough, after the first failure, you risk getting nailed by your enemies’ “fail triggers.”
Risk and Reward
Making these choices round after round is the key to success or failure in combat. Every enemy has different strengths and weaknesses, and of course so do all heroes. We also loaded the game with a ton of interesting skills, offering combos and synergies, or further risks.
Imagine being locked in battle with a horde of Draugr (undead from the north), having pulled one fire rune from your bag. Do you lock in a single 1 damage with your hammer, assign it to the bigger 3-damage attack (which requires two fire runes), or prepare a block (which saves you or a fellow hero) a lot of incoming damage next turn? That’s only scratching the surface; assigning to the block (which accepts any rune) is safer short term, but it also uses up a slot that can take any rune, of which you might only have a few … which increases chances that future non-fire runes end up becoming failures.
Heroes make all choices in combat simultaneously, so coordinating with other players and spreading risk is a big part of the game. As designers, we really enjoyed the emergent dynamics (both personal and interpersonal) that develop from this fairly simple but deep mechanic.
As fun as attacking is, survivability matters. Sometimes you just need to get out of the fight to live another day. Instead of making an attack, you can attempt a retreat by making a Test of Agility. Drawing five runes from your bag, you’ll be looking to match elements with your hero’s Agility stat (these are “successes”). The more enemies you try to retreat from, the harder it is. And just like in combat, dark runes are always failure. Each hero decides by themselves whether to retreat, and that’s important – you might be a high damage rogue but very low in health, and can’t afford to take any targeted damage, so you might have to leave the fight and run to an adjacent region (which also has the subtle potential advantage of getting you free movement! Handy during stories where time pressure is critical.)
Taken on its own, combat in Trudvang is dramatic and tense, with a lot of choices to be made. However, this is primarily a storytelling epic with lasting consequences. This means that even inside a tense combat, you need to be thinking beyond the immediate “can we defeat these enemies and how.” You need to consider how each individual combat affects the story in a grander scope.
Remember, any time a single hero is defeated in combat, the story is over (and can often trigger a disastrous ending). So obviously avoiding defeat is paramount. Beyond that, you have to consider how much experience you want to gain this session (in order to spend on Path upgrades to develop your hero). You might also need to protect a valuable area on the map from enemy destruction, making retreat a deeply unsavoury option.
Some combats may also have dire permanent consequences. Imagine dealing such an epic blow to a legendary enemy Bull Troll that you could potentially alter the very stats of all future Bull Trolls you encounter!
Next time we will further explore heroes, classes, skills and Legendary Paths.
By Eric M. Lang
Read Trudvang Legends Design Diary Part 1 here.
Read Trudvang Legends Design Diary Part 2 here.