Design Diary 5/6/2017 – Ocean Man

From the ashes of a design low-point, rises the most outrageous new design for our first tank character: Chef the Polynesian Ocean Warrior.  I don’t know how game designers work on their own – having one person you can trust to tell you when something sucks streamlines the iterative process so much.

And then sometimes, your partner whips out the breakthrough game mechanic you’ve been looking for…



This gigantic warrior of Polynesian descent whom answers only to the name “Chef” has spent his entire life by the sea.  He is a student of the ocean and it’s infinite movements, a self-taught monk practicing his own style of martial-arts. He is the keeper of Dancing Manta, Radiant Crustacean, and Crushing Humpback style.


Chef is a “Monk” styled character whom attacks enemies using martial-arts; however he is also specifically equipped with techniques that equip him to take control of the enemies on the battlefield and focus their attacks on himself.

Through his 3 “stances” he gains power the longer that he maintains his form.  In Manta style, he can move quicker, in Crustacean style his attacks are weaker but he gains damage reducing armor bonuses; when using Humpback style he gains taunts and aoe attacks.

Balancing between these 3 styles and knowing when to switch will be one of the keys to playing him to his full potential. Doing a sort of dance between stances if you will.

Stance Dancing

In my research, the concept of switching stances in a game to switch up your strengths and weaknesses has been without a doubt, the most widely panned game mechanic. Players HATE stance dancing.

In theory, the idea is that you are injecting a little bit of skill into your game and rewarding anyone who can master that skill with a slight bonus to their effectiveness in using a stance and switching out of it at the right time.   In practice, I think people feel like they HAVE to use this stance dancing mechanic and micro-manage all of their actions or they risk being a failure at playing their chosen character class.

Thus, players hate feeling like they have to swap stances to be effective – why are we including this poisoned game mechanic in CLL?

The Puzzle Board

Because the real gameplay is in Chef’s puzzle board.


Using a set of colored tiles in various shapes inspired by the incredibly famous Uwe Rosenberg game Patchwork, and in the incredibly unfamous Brainwright Games Cat Stax: The Purrfect Puzzle – players will place them onto this grid to create custom martial arts moves.

Placing 1 red shape puts us into Crushing Humpback stance and gives 1 bonus aggro to attacks made while in the style:


Additionally, the tile placed also represents Chef’s attack for the turn.  In this case, the black stingray symbol is surrounded, so Chef’s attack would be modified by that symbol.

The symbol bonuses are different depending on  what color tile (representing style) you surround them with. In Humpback style, this would add additional aggro to the attack.

So this tile would be a melee attack with  +2 aggro (1 for style, 1 for symbol) to whatever Chef hits. Not bad!


Next turn, when placing another tile, we start to see how interesting things can get.  By surrounding the shark and spiral symbols, this next attack will be an area-of-effect attack with knockback; however, the placement of the first tile means that this attack will also benefit from the turtle symbol — AND because it is a second red shape, the Humback style bonus becomes +2 for this attack.

The final martial arts grid will have more symbols arranged on it to allow players more options for puzzling out the right move for the right situation.  Swapping styles would be achieved by placing a tile of a different color which wipes out all of the other tiles and sets your style bonus back to 1.  Later in their careers, players might unlock the ability to mix styles and retain some of those previous style bonuses.

A basic combat strategy for Chef might be to start out in Manta style to quickly move into position, then swapping into Humpback style to get a lot of aggro on the enemies, finally switching into Crustacean style to tank hits while your teammates clean up the battlefield.

Closing Remarks

Ultimately, I am prepared to accept the fact that the world might not be ready for all of the weirdness that is Chef the Ocean Monk Patchwork/Cat Stax Tank. And that’s okay, because the mechanics are actually fun to use, and if we have to put them inside of an Elven Archer, or a Dwarven axeman or any other number of overdone high fantasy memes – I will still be thrilled with the dynamic puzzle gameplay that emerges from it.



E noho rā,



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