Game Basics, Part 5

Posted on September 30, 2017

Focus, Health, and Focus Recovery

Focus and Health

There’s more to say about types of checks and other die rolls, but first I wanted to talk a little about Focus. Most editions of the classic fantasy adventure roleplaying game represent health and combat toughness with Hit Points, which “represent a combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck. Creatures with more hit points are more difficult to kill. Those with fewer hit points are more fragile.”

In the [N]everending Conflict RPG, the function of hit points is subsumed by Focus, your character’s primary resource. When a creature or hazard in this game successfully attacks you and you have Focus, you take Focus damage, reducing your Focus total by the damage inflicted by the attack or hazard. This represents the mental and physical effort and impact of narrowly avoiding being significantly injured by the attack. The loss of Focus from any particular attack might indicate minor bruises and lacerations from attacks that would have been armor or protective enchantments, exhaustion from the physical effort of turning aside or avoiding the attack, or the psychological impact of knowing if that had gone a little differently, your guts would be strung across the floor right now. Regardless, your Focus determines how many potentially deadly attacks you can avoid before one gets through.

When your Focus is reduced to zero, either by an attack which did more damage than your remaining Focus, or by an attack landing when you’re already at zero focus, you instead take Health damage, representing actual injuries to your physical body. A character taking Health damage risks losing life or limb. A character’s Health pool is twice their Constitution plus the higher of their Wisdom or Charisma modifiers plus their Fortune modifier plus their combat level. More about Health in another post.

Focus, however, does more than serve as a character’s hit points. It also is a resource that can spent on many different aspects of the game. Indeed, Focus must be spent to partake in a variety of the elements of daily living, including studying, training, laboring, and more. Focus is your character’s general reserve of energy, and when you’re out, you’re as incapable of controlling your emotions in the face of provocation or mustering the energy required to do some chores as you are at defending yourself from a physical attack. All you really want to do at zero Focus is go home and rest. As such, stressful situations outside of combat can also inflict Focus costs, including hostile social situations. It can also be spent to improve a character’s chances in combat, to accomplish special maneuvers, to power spells, and to more effectively use some types of skills. More details will be given about how Focus is used with the descriptions of the situations it might be used in.

Focus Dice

Characters recover Focus primarily through the expenditure of Focus Dice. Your Focus Die is determined by your class and level; each class has its own size of Focus Die, and get one per level. Focus Dice also determine your maximum Focus. A character’s maximum Focus is equal to their Constitution plus the highest of their Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma, plus the roll of one Focus die per level with the highest of the character’s Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma modifiers added to the result of each die. Another way to think of that is add their Constitution to their level times the highest of those four modifiers, then add the result of rolling a number of their class’s Focus dice equal to their level: Con + (Level * Highest(Con, Int, Wis, Cha mod)) + LdF.

Whenever a character levels up, they reroll all their Focus dice as described above; if the result is higher than their previous maximum Focus, the result is their new maximum Focus. Otherwise, increase maximum Focus by one.

In play, characters have pool of Focus dice equal to one plus their level. As a standard action during combat, a character may spend a number of Focus dice of their choice, to a maximum of their tier, to recover Focus. Roll the spent dice, add the same ability score modifier as used to determine their maximum Focus, and recover Focus equal to the total. Outside of combat, a rest of 3 turns (30 minutes) allows a character to spend as many Focus dice as they please to recover Focus.

Meals

Characters recover Focus dice through sleep or rest and recreation, and may recover additional Focus when eating meals, based on the quality of the meal. A Poor quality or bare-bones meal (think protein and energy bars, and various cheap frozen or canned meals ready-to-eat) does little more than sustain the body, but a Basic quality, competently cooked meal restores 1d6 Focus. A skillfully prepared meal with good ingredients will come out as a Good quality meal, which will restore 2d6 Focus, and a masterful meal prepared with fine ingredients will create a High quality meal that restores 3d6 Focus. The restorative property of a nice meal is based as much on the psychological impact of eating as it is on the direct nutritional value of the food eaten; a large, expensive prime rib may not be the healthiest food, but if cooked well enough it will certainly qualify as a High quality meal.

Notes

Focus is one of the few design innovations I’ve actually come up with mostly myself, though parts were of course inspired by the thoughts and writings of other. though I’ve seen similar design work elsewhere since, including Courtney Campbell’s Perdition and Johnstone Metzger’s The Nightmare’s Underneath which is eerily similar in a number of ways to the concept for this world, what with the spontaneously generated dungeons and such, though I’d never even heard of it until it was reviewed here, and have been working on this a lot longer than that.

I stole the rerolling of Focus Dice every level to determine new maximum Focus directly from how Perdition does it, excepting the broad sweep of ability scores I think would make sense as something that could determine a given person’s capacity for Focus.

I love how the Nightmare’s Underneath has a twist on the hit points equals your energy with Disposition, which is rerolled completely each time you sleep or rest, and thus does not actually have a maximum value, beyond the maximum possible die roll. Was not transferable in any meaningful way to this, though, as the ebb and flow of your Focus is going to be important to the way the game plays out, in the normal course of play.

We’ve been fighting the Beasts for generations. Modern evasion training is pretty good, and I feel like even a beginning character will need a fair amount of Focus to go about their daily business.

I like that the concept of Focus gives me an excuse to be much more lax in which particular ability scores will work to determine a character’s maximum. Not having important aspects of the game tied to single specific ability scores reduces the importance of min-maxing to be able to enjoyably handle combat. That will combine with the fact that classes and powers will intentionally not be particularly balanced and that Beast generation is also not level balanced to result in what I hope will be a game where your ability scores are less important than what you do with them. Also gear should help to shore up weaknesses.