Not quite Halloween Eve material (you can hop back to Project Host Master for a small does of that), but here it is. Rather than simply continue what was established in Diary #0, I seemed to have started this entry with musings on the distinction between absurdity and spectacle in action cinema. Getting many sentences in and still not mentioning Project Action!, I realized I was a bit side-tracked. I shifted that writing over to Project Stump in this post here, but what I think I meant to say is this: Project Action! should fall right on that line between spectacle and absurdity. The scale, form, and impact of the violent actions in the Project Action! boardgame should reflect this by aiming for enough of a tongue-in-cheek style that it critiques the violence, but not too much that it "kills" the interest of those looking for more of a bad-ass-action-simulator in a boardgame. Simple enough, right?
So I'll list out the base necessities I believe the game design needs to get what I'm looking for, then briefly brainstorm on each to see what kind of system I should be trying:
Thematic Punching Characters
The first-glance appeal of a game like this will hinge critically on style. The characters need to be quickly readable as capable of putting fists, boots, and attitude where they don't belong, all with a sense of panache. Even if I want to play with the meta layer of actors portraying fighters in films, the player's characters, whether actors or characters in their own right, can still come from the general archetypes of badass-dom, like: the brutal commando, the legendary boxer, the young up-and-comer, the arrogant prodigy, the wise master, the mysterious stranger, the wash-up/has-been, etc. Additionally, I can draw from some previous classes I was drafting for a different design. Although they were based on a different kind of combat, some may be adaptable: The Acrobat, The Agent, The Boss, The Bruiser, The Commando, The Contractor, The Everyperson, The Nobody, The Marathoner, The Hunter, The Official, The Operative, The Renegade (Cop), The Wrecker.
Variable Punching Powers
Variable player powers will come from a Smash-Up style pre-game deck-building choice, where players will pick two different half-decks of combat cards. There's also the possibility of having each character possess a unique trait or ability. Aside from flavor, these differing play styles should influence how a Player approaches the game. Maybe a reference card can briefly explain the strengths and weaknesses of each half-deck, so new players can begin forming some rudimentary strategy right from the word "go."
Simultaneous Punch Selection and Programming
A fight is a hectic, chaotic event at minimal. Reflexes often take control, and perception of all types can undergo strange effects, not to mention time dilation. It's difficult to form and execute a plan that lasts more than a few beats. One aspect of simulating this should be that Players must commit their characters to actions simultaneously, not sure how other fighters are going to act, and prior to the gamestate possibly changing before those actions take effect. Initiative of some sort can mitigate this effect, however, and it shouldn't be too swingy so as to be frustrating, where every punch you make whooshes past a moving target.
Dynamic, Physical, and Thematic Punching Resources
In a fight, individuals have certain resources to draw on and replenish beat-by-beat, that should not only be presented but used for powering certain moves. More than health, also things like balance, momentum, strength or exhaustion. Also, since this is about ridiculous, cinematic fights, maybe some type of Style resource or stat should be included. Obviously, different decks with different combat approaches will emphasize different fighting resources.
Limited Weaponry (Mostly Punches)
Weapons add variety and spice, but can quickly become tiresome if there are too many, where keeping track of their differing stats and usage rules becomes tiresome. Most of the primary combat actions player's characters will have in their starting decks will be unarmed combat, while some weapons (impromptu and otherwise) will be collectible during the game. Considering the place firearms and other weapons hold in action cinema, this leaves the door open for a potential expansion focusing on primarily armed combat.
Modifiable and Useful Environments for Punches
Keeping track of terrain effects is cumbersome, but a simple height bonus/penalty element could theoretically be crafted into the system without slowing things down too much. This will also be essential for more fanciful and complex stunts, and I could try to incorporate some elements form a failed free-running/parkour game design to increase the verticality of the environment, if it doesn't make the map too cluttered either. There should be some cover, some destructible items, and some not.
Descriptive, Impactful Injuries from Punches
Certain types of attacks should be able to give certain types of injuries to their target. Additionally, once a character passes below certain levels of Health, they could gain random injuries. It adds to the narrative flavour and dramatic tensions of the game. When your character pulls off some 1 in 1000 action, it adds more color to say they did it with a broken leg and a gaping neck wound.
Punches with Different Attack & Damage Types
Not only will it add some level of strategy, and make items, weapons, and protective gear more valuable, but it will also provide effective categorization for the above-mentioned injuries. If a large amount of blunt damage is taken, resulting in injury, it should be an injury that could be caused by blunt damage. Having too many damage types however, or if types have rules that are too different, can be yet another source of needless details that bog down play. How many would be good for a quick-er game like this? How about: Bash, Slash, Blast, and Stab?
No Puncher Elimination
While this is a combat game with direct character-to-character damage, and probably with character death, I hate player elimination. I feel any game designed to bring people together in a joint activity should try its best to include as many of those people in that activity as much as it can. This isn't always possible or practical, but when it is, I think it should be done. So while your character is a player's primary connection to the game, and will be there the majority of the duration, if they die, the player can continue play as a low-level generic walk-on character, a weak cannon-fodder mook to chip away at the remaining players or aim for a few more victory points before the game ends.
Variable Punching Goals
Besides than "Last Man Standing" Victory Conditions, Victory Points are the most obvious, basic victory system to use with a game like this. I have to decide whether I want a system that could theoretically allow a Player whose Character was eliminated earliest in the game to be the "winner" of the game. And I think I do, because I don't want Project Action! to let someone who just literally beat their opponents most effectively be declared the victor. I want the victor to emerge as the most compelling, engaging storyteller, the Player that used the game's setup to tell a dynamic tale of kinetics, style, and assholery WHILE they're literally beating their opponents. This would necessitate Victory Points being awarded based on individual accomplishments of a variety of individual actions or combos; such as successful stunts, critical hits, inflicting injuries, chained attacks, killing characters, effective use of a weapon or item, along with ways to reward other types of impressive feats. Maybe a set of Victory Points for record-like achievements: highest damage in a single hit, furthest distance throwing X, biggest jump. And I don't think it would be complete without rewarding someone who attempts an outlandish, longshot of an action, only to fail spectacularly.
From here, I can probably move on to either Map and Movement, or Stats, Actions, and Combat. It's enticing to go work on Characters, but I should probably pin down more of the system first.