The cornerstone of any good adventuring team is… The Healer.
In tabletop RPGs, the party Cleric was a necessary role that was often begrudgingly thrust upon one player to be the party’s designated battery of hit points.
Playing the healer was a service that someone performed for their friends at the table. In combat, clerics are nothing special. Roleplaying was as challenging as loudly proclaiming their chosen god’s tagline at every opportunity. Their magical spells were, in theory, manifestations of a god’s divine will — in practice you just took all healing spells because your best friends are a gang of accident-prone murder-hobos.
Now both video games and tabletop games have started to move away from the dedicated healing role, mainly by broadening the scope of what a team member can actually do to help their team. Now we have buffs, shields, disabling enemies, healing is only 1-dimension of this new role. The Support Role. Here is our first one:
Using the dice rolled by enemies to plot coordinates on her charts, The Navigator specializes in transporting enemies and allies from one place to another on the battlefield, and hindering enemy actions by changing their dice after they are locked in. The Navigator uses puzzle solving and dice rolling mechanics to perform these actions.
At the start of each combat round, dice are rolled for each enemy. These dice have symbols which correspond to the types of bonuses that enemies will get for that round. The most important of which is movement speed. Monsters each have “slots” that their dice are allocated to allowing players to estimate what an enemy is capable of. For example, a Skeleton with 2 movement, and 2 “slots” for dice can move a maximum of 4 squares in one turn (2 base movement, and +2 more if both slots roll movement dice).
The Navigator takes these dice and uses them to her own advantage:
The symbols on this navigational chart correspond to the symbols on our monster dice, after monster dice are rolled, The Navigator rolls her own set of dice “Bearings” and then plots them into her chart using the rolled monster dice as coordinates. The Navigator can also exchange 3 of her dice to “Gaffe” an enemy, forcing them to reroll one of their dice and deal a small amount of damage to them in the process (potentially getting some aggro!).
Currently The Navigator’s dice have 2 direction arrow sides on them, and these are the dice that get locked in to her chart. Once 3 or more dice are in place, on her turn, the Navigator can move an enemy or ally along the plotted course!
What about The Oracle?
Initially, our first support class design was “The Oracle” who would throw a handful of dice with weird symbols on them, then somehow match symbols into combinations that disabled/removed enemy dice from play, Severely limiting their actions. The idea was to simulate Professor Xavier having a psychic battle with the enemy.
In practice, matching random symbols was less interesting, because there was no challenge in choosing how to create a group of dice additionally, there was really no way to “level up” the class and broaden the scope of its abilities while introducing new challenges into the mechanics.
The Navigator captures some of that disruptive ability that I wanted out of the Oracle, while having a lot more potential for slamming enemies against eachother, moving them off of cliffs, or teleporting rogues with prepped backstab combos behind people. The idea of creating mechanics around plotting a ships navigational chart came shortly after our decision to use a Pirate theme.
Score 1 for the theme before mechanics crowd.
Too often, games involving melee skirmish combat devolve into small slug fests with each participant moving within a short range and trading blows with eachother until the battle is over.
When you have a whole wide map of possibilities, obstacles, and tricks – it seems tragic to not utilize the space. In tabletop miniatures games, there is some more movement with ranged combat and taking cover; however when you are swordguy against orcman, the battlefield to you, is essentially only as big as your melee range.
In our game, movement, it’s limits and potential are going to be crucial elements of all scenarios. Through the Aggro mechanics giving monsters reasons to charge the backline, and the presence of the characters like The Navigator shaking up the grid map in exciting ways, I think combat will feel more dynamic and interesting — the ultimate goal is to capture the fun and excitement of a swashbuckling duel with a turn-based tactics system.