At some point, I may have said there were to be no further large changes to Winds of the North. Well, there were still some things bugging me, and I felt the design needed something more than tweaking to deal with the issues. The two big areas where I had problems were Combat and Trade. In addition, I’ve revamped some of the graphic design. It’s cleaner and easier to see the important information. There are still changes I’ll likely make, but they’re not a high priority right now.
Old and new Skill Tests
There were a few issues with the original combat.
- It didn’t scale very well. In order to accommodate upgrades to weapons and armor, as well as bigger, tougher enemies, the modifiers on enemies had to keep getting bigger.
- Players didn’t like how many modifiers there were to combat, and found it difficult to keep track of it all. I had requests for specific spaces where modifiers could be pre-added together to help with the math, but I didn’t feel this addressed the underlying issue.
- Enemies didn’t really feel different. They all used the same table, but some enemies had modifiers (many didn’t, and only had slight variations in HP).
Balancing the combat was an issue. After doing several additional combat simulations with characters of different skill levels, trying to find the sweet spot was difficult, and the modifiers just kept getting bigger. And while trying to get the combat into a more comfortable place, I decided that the modifiers weren’t getting the job done. What I needed was a combat system that was still easy to learn but didn’t rely so heavily on modifiers and that could scale more easily.
The new combat mostly follows the old in terms of flow and stats. Below are the combat references you’ll find on the new character sheets. What I ended up with is very similar to a combat system in a card game RPG I’ve worked on off and on over the years (maybe it’ll see the light of day at some point). One thing that was finally removed, which had already been in and out of the design, was the Warband mechanic. It never quite worked how I wanted it to and only complicated the math.
The main changes are how the rolls are resolved and the enemy stats. Enemies now have their own Attack (ATK) and Defense (DEF) values.
To attack, you roll 1D8, add your Combat Skill, and compare it to the enemy’s DEF value. If your total is equal to or above the DEF value, you hit. But if it’s less than the DEF value, you can push for a more aggressive attack by spending HP to boost the roll. This HP can be your character’s or from your Hirðmenn.
When you hit, you roll the damage on your weapon. Weapons now have damage (DMG) as a die: D2 or D4 (both of which can still be rolled using the D8). You also have a starting weapon now that deals 1 DMG.
To defend, you roll 1D8, add your Combat Skill, your DEF bonuses, and compare the total to your enemy’s ATK value. If your total is equal to or higher than the ATK value, you take no damage. If it’s less, you take damage equal to the difference. But now, all damage can be split among your character and Hirðmenn. On top of that, Armor has a new stat; Armor Points (AP). These act like temporary HP you can spend when taking damage. But they’ll have to be repaired later. The other actions you can choose in combat are Flee, Recover a Thrown Weapon, or form a Shield Wall (an ongoing DEF bonus).
It’ll take some additional testing to get the numbers to feel just right, but in my initial tests, this system addresses the issues, especially by simplifying the math. Attacking is usually only 2 numbers, the die roll and your Combat. Then you spend HP (if you wish) to reach the DEF value. Defending is still a few numbers, no more negative modifiers (adding is always easier than subtracting). With this revision, there’s now also room to include a small area in the combat part of the character sheet for you to write down your total combat stats for more convenient reference.
I don’t think any playtester tried out Trading, and most probably didn’t see much reason to worry about it. For me, one of the issues is that it was too similar to the normal Market but harder to do because you needed a full-sized ship. It was also messy, trying to emulate complex inventory systems in video games without the need to write and re-write items into different parts of the character sheet. So, I completely scrapped the old Trade activity and starting designing a new one that needed to be easier to figure out and more enticing for players to try.
The first aspect of the Trade system is Trade Requests. Each time you visit the market, go to festivals, and do other activities, you’ll hear rumors of requests from foreign merchants that frequent the larger trade towns (historical locations like Kaupang and Birka). On your character sheet, you have space for 12 Trade Requests, 4 different levels of 3 requests each. When you get a Request, you’ll roll on a table to determine what item is requested, then write it onto your character sheet into the lowest-level, empty space. Higher-level requests increase the number of items needed.
In order to cash in items and fulfill the requests, you’ll need to go Trade, which still requires a sea-going vessel. It’ll take you time to acquire transport, but during that time, you’ll accumulate Trade Requests which you can work towards completing by stocking up on the requisite items.
When you take the Trade activity, your Ship’s Storage determines how many Trade Requests you can fulfill on the Voyage. You then spend the items as indicated on the request and collect your rewards. The rewards increase for higher-level Trade Requests, and fulfilling all 3 in a single level provides additional rewards.
There are many other changes such as a new Leisure activity to replace the Carving entry under Craft, random tables with names, the ability to now name your Hirðmenn, more historically accurate Seasons (the Vikings only had summer and winter, so the game now splits into Early and Late Summer and Winter), simplified inventory management with equipment slots, additional options during feasts, more balance changes, and a variety of other things.
Though, there was one casualty: the map. It really didn’t serve much of a purpose and took up a lot of space in the character sheets, but it added a sense of immersion. In its place, Storage was expanded to make it easier to write in the details of all the items you’ll collect. Speaking of, something that mailing list subscribers already got to see is the revised Resource Track. It’ll still need work before it’s finalized, of course, but it’s much nicer and more functional than the old one.
Expect to see Winds of the North available for playtest again soon(ish)!
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