Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dark Sun: Psychic Combat and Charisma

I'm fairly satisfied with the idea behind Psychic Combat as posted here. I think it retains the special flavour of the Classic D&D system but simplified and made more...well, sensible may not be quite the right word, but it will do for now. Some expansion thoughts:

Since I'm making psychic combat resemble physical combat, I want the mental attributes to fill the roles corresponding to the physical attributes in melee. This is always a bit sticky in my opinion since the the mental attributes don't neatly match up to the physical ones. Indeed, for a long time, I thought that there were only two mental attributes with the final (Charisma) actually a social stat.

Charisma is problematic in all sorts of ways. Even though it was historically one of the first stats to mechanically mean something (other than grant experience bonuses), the years haven't been too kind to it. Charisma is the Jan Brady of D&D attributes: ill-defined and perennially passed over for the more obviously appealing attributes. Such as Strength and Dexterity. And Constitution. Oh, and Intelligence. And Wisdom too.

What is Charisma anyway? Is it personal appearance? Is it charm? Or something else altogether? I'll suggest the latter. As I mentioned above, I have come to think of Charisma as a mental attribute. Specifically, it represents a sense of self. This thinking (which I am not suggesting is the one, true interpretation) makes Charisma feel to me like a fully-fledged attribute. Charisma doesn't have to be a cheerleader or the new Shirley Temple; Charisma knows who she is. Highly Charismatic individuals have a sense of confidence in themselves that makes them appealing to others.

So, with that out of the way, I get back to topic. As posted earlier, psychic combat will function essentially as melee combat, with Attack Mode as weapon and Defense Mode as armour. Now, added to that, I add mental attributes. Ah, but here's another bump: all three physical attributes play a role in physical combats, but not in all combats and not in the same ways. Dexterity adds to the combat role in missile combat, but Strength fills that role in melee combat. It also adds to melee damage. And Constitution doesn't play an immediate role, but it does affect the number of the Hit Points, which I have cleverly eliminated from psychic combat by doing attribute damage directly.

Where does that leave me? I could bring in some kind of Psychic Hit Points, but I don't like that. Not at all. I like having psychic combat dissimilar in some ways. So, I'll cleave to that idea when incorporating the mental attributes. At present I think that I will do the following:
  • INT will modify the chance to hit;
  • WIS will modify damage; and
  • CHA will modify incoming attacks (much like magic armour)
Could I have chosen to arrange these differently? Sure. But it sounds good enough to me: high Intelligence allows you to better penetrate mental defenses, high Wisdom (as Willpower) allows you to apply more psychic force, and high Charisma (as sense of self) allows you to preserve your psychic self, thus avoiding damage.

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