When we first designed Seventh Cross, we knew that the game was going to have a theme of transformation. Surprisingly, one of the toughest parts of the game has been making transformations into a smooth mechanic.
Each human in the world of Seventh Cross has a monstrous potential, and giving in to this potential can transform them into monsters–the same monsters they hunt. These transformations unlock new powers, but also cause lasting scars to the hunters. Tapping into this power too deeply can cause a hunter to become a monster themselves.
In game, this means changing your character into a monstrous form and gaining a burst of power and survivability, as well as a new character ability, which changes your options for survival and how you approach battle.
We wanted to make sure that transformation was something that hunters would only do when they were desperate, but we also wanted to make it feel like a burst of power–this is the moment when you really show off what you're capable of.
If we made the transformations too good or too accessible, they became a strategy rather than a failsafe. Hunters could transform on turn one to access better defenses and abilities, and it didn’t feel like a sacrifice or a slippery slope.
If transformations were too tough to use or too niche, players felt they were being forced into them, or that their uses were scripted. Transformation was still a cool thing that we wanted hunters to do fairly often, after all. It just wasn’t an every-hunter, every-battle kind of thing.
Eventually, we settled on this:
At any time during any turn, you may transform.
Permanently destroy one of your life hearts, then choose one: Recover all life and prevent any further incoming damage, or gain a Catalyst Token.
Flip your hunter to its monstrous side, and any associates under your control permanently leave your party.
At the end of the combat, return your hunter to its normal side.
This setup for Transformation provides a high cost, but a high benefit. Hunters are incentivized to use it to save their lives, but it's just as accessible for the purpose of maintaining your tempo in battle. The cost is permanent–losing that life heart will persist into future fights–but when it means the difference between victory and death, the costs and benefits are clear-cut. If you want to press your advantage, the extra Catalyst Token can be used to activate some of your most powerful abilities and effects.
Last time in the article on Associates, I talked about the cost of bringing Associates along with your party. Losing access to your Transformation (or being forced to sacrifice your Associate to use it) is a part of this cost.
The Heart-ankh symbol in these example cards means ‘Spend a Catalyst Token’. This is the resource you get for damaging monster shields, or for manually transforming. You can also throw away life potions to get extra Catalysts, if you’re confident enough. (Please excuse my rough prototype cards!)
Like a Boss
What about hunters as monsters that the players can work against? Well, these work the same way as Associate Bosses. When hunters are not in combat, you can show them Key Items and investigate their own connections to the story. But beware–you might provoke one of your own allies to turn upon you and become a bonus boss that has to be slain!
All of the hunters and their monstrous forms will be accessible as challenge fights, but only certain hunters may be accessible as hidden bosses during the campaign.
Anyway, there’s a look at hunter transformations! I’ve got a really exciting article planned for next week, so I hope you’ll take the time to check it out next Thursday!