Seventh Cross v25: Karma and Anathema

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In this series of articles, we track the development of Seventh Cross, our upcoming cooperative adventure game. Inspired by metroid-vanias, rogue-likes, and dark fantasy adventure, it is planned for release sometime in 2018.

Last Time on v24...

After version 24, we found ourselves a little bit disheartened. The castles looked cool on the table, but traversal and combat felt a bit clunky, the gear grids felt uninspiring, and storylines seemed to be a bit linear. I decided to try a larger scale revamp of the game as we prepared for Gencon.

New Castle Layout

Traversing the old castle was tedious, because hunters needed to move through each individual tile of the castle to get to where they're going. But this isn't really an accurate representation of how one moves around in these worlds. What really matters is whether or not there are hazards in the space between you and your destination.

With this in mind, I put together these 'room boards'. Rather than a series of square spaces, these boards provide irregularly shaped rooms which are capable of holding multiple hazards, bosses, and hunters together.

Moving through the marked doorways requires certain symbols. We ditched the old 'Stat' symbols to make room for these 'Skill Symbols' instead, which provide specific types of traversal around the castle.

Setting up a Wing is even easier on this board–simply place one Feature Tile into each room of a wing, and the tile can be flipped over as the hunters explore, dynamically revealing the castle as players move about. Tiles are grouped into Tile sets, so during setup, the Scenario Map simply instructs players to distribute all tiles with a certain symbol on the back face-down into these rooms. This allows complex randomized castle states to be set up in under 5 minutes while still guaranteeing that important features appear somewhere within the Wing. Take that, Mansions of Madness!

 

Karma & Anathema

Through v23 and v24, we felt that the players didn't have a great deal of agency in the story direction. Often one player who became invested was able to make all the major plot decisions for the party just by being the one who reached all the plot point, and this didn't seem right to us. We wanted to make sure that when the path branched that all players felt they had a hand in the outcome. More so than that even, it was important that we provide players with reasons to make one choice or another, individually and on their own terms. From this combination of needs, the Karma system was born.

When a story choice arises, players are dealt some cards. They must choose one of these cards to send back as their 'vote' on what to do. The other card, they keep for themselves. The kept card, provides experience, which is used to purchase talents and upgrades. One final note: the vote on a card is the opposite of its experience type. Votes for good outcomes come with Evil experience. Votes for Evil outcomes come with Good experience. This means, if you use all your Evil Votes, you'll have Evil experience remaining. If you use all your Good Votes up, you'll have Good experience remaining. It's a little confusing said out loud, but looking at the cards makes it pretty clear.

 
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Will you vote √ or X?

Now, check out your available talents... and think about it again.

It's not just about getting the good or the bad ending, or about what's best for the team anymore. Hunters are not only involved in every decision, but also have their own reasons to make one decision or another.

Testers really loved the additional dynamic that moral choices gained from having this two-sided nature. The temptation to vote against the interests of the party was very real, and it was interesting to weigh an optimal story choice versus an optimal build choice, versus the immediate needs of the individual hunters and the party as a whole.

 
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Actions and Attacking

Rather than just converting stats into damage, various skill options provided individual means of attack to the hunters. This allowed each skill symbol to serve a double-edge: moving around the castle outside combat, and interacting with bosses to attack or defend in combat.

This approach worked out pretty well, though remembering the different kinds of attack and defense options became a bit tedious to testers. We resolved to improve on these systems, and give the Gear Grid a much needed overhaul in version 26.