First Draft: Difficulty Modes

I’m considering a formalization of difficulty levels in Lost Worlds.  I see this as a natural extension from video games where the player can decide what the stakes are and how casual the game is for them.  I don’t see any reason why this couldn’t get extended to an RPG, after all, some people enjoy playing the game for the challenge of winning on the hardest setting – and don’t mind setbacks along the way.  Others aren’t as interested in all those setbacks, they mostly want to explore a world, kick down some doors, smash some bad guys and get some treasure.

This started with a post about game design on Nightmare mode, but it made me realize that while it’s difficult to envision what makes a pencil and paper RPG design on the level of a “Nightmare mode,” there’s no reason that Lost Worlds can’t support different difficulties of play modes.

I think the difficulty mode of the game could dictate how characters are generated, what happens to them when they are incapacitated, permanency of damage, as well as how others behave towards you.  I’m looking for some suggestions on what else should be impacted by this choice.  I think I’d have three modes, and here are some initial thoughts of what those modes might look like:

Casual Mode

  • Allocate your abilities freely with full point buy pool
  • Enemies will rarely if ever attack you when you’re incapacitated
  • All things being equal, an enemy will target someone at higher difficulty mode
  • You start with max starting wealth
  • You never suffer permanent damage from being incapacitated
  • Random level enhancement changes (if there are any… another post on that) are always rounded up to minimum of half the die roll
  • You can take a mulligan once per session, with the discretion of the GM (such as forgetting to draw a weapon, factor in a bonus you forgot to factor in, etc)

Heroic Mode

  • Allocate your abilities freely with a randomized point pool
  • Enemies will attack you when you are incapacitated only if non-intelligent (scavengers looking for food) or if it’s strategically important for them to do so
  • You begin with a partially randomized starting wealth pool
  • Enemies will tend to target you over Easy Mode characters
  • You may suffer from permanent damage or lasting effects when incapacitated
  • Re-roll any result of a “1” on level enhancement changes
  • You are generally expected not to take mulligans, but may do so on occasion at the GM’s discretion

Nightmare Mode

  • Randomly allocate your abilities with a randomized point pool
  • Enemies you’ve been engaged with will readily deal a killing blow to make sure you’re not re-joining the fray
  • You have a fully randomized starting wealth pool
  • Enemies will tend to target you over Easy and Standard Mode characters
  • You may suffer from permanent damage or lasting effects when incapacitated
  • Take what you get on level up enhancements
  • You should not request mulligans as a Hard mode character

I could also see a few settings being tweaked by the party agreed-to difficulty mode, rather than an individual character’s difficulty mode, for example:

Casual Mode: Enemies are clearly designated and the game is about smashing bad guys and grabbing loot.

Heroic Mode: Different factions have gray areas and enemies are not always clear.  Party drives their own sub-plot goals.

Nightmare Mode: Nothing is sacred and enemies abound.  Players drive much of the main plot points.

I realize this is a rough draft, but I think it makes sense to let players decide on a level of difficulty that they are comfortable with.  What mode would you want to play on?  What else could/should be defined by these difficulty modes?

3 thoughts on “First Draft: Difficulty Modes

  1. Andy

    I’m really not sure allowing each player to choose a different difficulty level would work very well. If I want to play on nightmare mode and someone else wants to play on easy, that means that the easy mode character is going to beat the shit out of the enemy with their uber stats, weapons and abilities while the enemy they’re hitting is attacking me, giving me a debilitating condition and then knifes me when I’m down.

    I also don’t think “easy mode” goes very well with the gritty campaign theme you’re trying to set up. I COULD see some of these things working on easy mode – mulligans makes sense. I like that idea. Unless you’re making rules for the system vs. making it for the specific setting.

    I think all of it makes a lot of sense from a group perspective. I just think it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for the world to react according to the mode we’re playing. Two people are fighting Jamie Lannister. Easy mode dude is beating the shit out of him while I’m barely hitting him and then he chooses to attack me instead. Doesn’t feel immersive to me. Feels like a video game.

  2. Pingback: Random Level Increases | Lost Worlds

  3. Pingback: Second Draft: Difficulty Mode | Lost Worlds

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