RPGs with Unusual Mechanics

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AuthorTopic: RPGs with Unusual Mechanics
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
Profile Homepage #0
Inspired by Synergy's topic in the Avernum 4 forum, I've been trying to put together a list of RPGs that have noticeably unusual mechanics. I don't just mean mechanics that are distinct from your typical RPG, I mean mechanics that are actually unique, or close to unique. Anyway, I'd appreciate any suggestions from you guys reading this. I'm sure there are good candidates I either haven't played or have forgotten about.

Here's a list of mechanics I'm not interested in -- though games using them may be in the minority, they are no longer rare:

- Use of Roguelike Style Dungeons
- Recruitable PCs (Pokemon, etc)
- Class Changing
- Equip-Based Skill Acquisition (FF 6+, etc.)
- Use-Based Skill Improvement (FF 2, Dungeon Master, etc.)
- Spell Memorizing (D&D)
- Armor doesn't reduce damage (D&D)
- Real-Time Gameplay Elements
- Mini-Games or Side Quests of any variety (e.g., fishing; building or populating a town)
- Minor or irrelevant mechanics
- Plot mechanics that have nothing to do with gameplay

Here's the list so far.

RPGS WITH UNUSUAL MECHANICS:

Chrono Trigger -- combo attacks.
I am aware that other RPGs have included combo attacks. CT is the only game I am aware that has actually made them remotely playable.

Geneforge series -- disposable PCs.

Paper Mario series -- simple arithmetic battle system.

Dragon Quest 4 -- forced AI for PCs.

Mega Man Battle Network series -- CCG style character improvement.

Lufia 3 -- the rather complicated 3x3 party grid system.

Chrono Cross -- the ability grid.

Paladin's Quest -- magic depletes HP rather than MP or memorizations.

Secret of the Stars -- continuous & simultaneous use of two separate parties.

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
"Making poorly-sourced claims is not the same as determining something."
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
? Man, ? Amazing
Member # 5755
Profile #1
Kingdom of Loathing - no save points. and other stuffs.

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Synergy, et al - "I don't get it."

Thralni - "a lot of people are ... too weird to be trusted"
Posts: 4114 | Registered: Monday, April 25 2005 07:00
Post Navel Trauma ^_^
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Possibly not unique enough, but Cthulhu-mythos games tend to have spellcasting cost sanity, which acts kind of like HP for the mind.

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Barcoorah: I even did it to a big dorset ram.

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Posts: 1798 | Registered: Thursday, October 4 2001 07:00
Nuke and Pave
Member # 24
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quote:
Originally written by Yama Toman?:

...
Paladin's Quest -- magic depletes HP rather than MP or memorizations.
...

Betrayal at Krondor (probably along with its sequels) also had magic depleting HP.

That game had another system I haven't seen elsewhere: all your stats decreased in proportion to HP damage you took. So characters with 25/50 HP would have only half of their maximal strength, dexterity, etc. They had "Fatigue", which would be damaged before HP, but once your Fatigue was gone, your stats would start to drop. (Amount of maximum Fatigue was usually similar to max HP, but significantly different for some characters, making a strong-looking character much weaker in practice because he'd start losing stats quickly, due to low Fatigue buffer.)

PS I haven't seen any other game like Nethergate, where you can play two sides of the same storyline with different parties, encountering references to the other party's actions.

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Be careful with a word, as you would with a sword,
For it too has the power to kill.
However well placed word, unlike a well placed sword,
Can also have the power to heal.
Posts: 2649 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #4
Iron Realms MUDs have an unusual system in which everyone can generally heal much faster than anyone can dish out damage. Combat is often a matter of finding ways to incapacitate enemies, particularly by preventing healing, rather than damaging.

The downside here is a wall of a learning curve. The downside to that is the difficulty of making AI handle the hundreds of possible changes in status, their causes, and their counters in a way that is both fair and challenging. It's really a system that relies on humans fighting humans.

—Alorael, who thinks Waving Hands (or Warlock) deserves mention as another game that uses this mechanic, although it's not an RPG.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 6666
Profile #5
I think Natuk has probably the best combat system I've ever seen in an RPG. It features turn-based combat, aimed attacks, armor that affects both to-hit-ratios and damage received, and a system that actually resembles the one from Krondor: Whenever a character gets hit, the blow can reduce its health, strength and/or willpower. Also, the characters are not machines that keep on fighting 'til that magical HP count drops to zero: Whenever their hit points drop to about 50 percent, there's a chance that they'll fall unconscious. The spell system is also great.
Posts: 353 | Registered: Monday, January 9 2006 08:00
By Committee
Member # 4233
Profile #6
"Treasure of the Rudras," made by Square but never released in the US, had a magic system where you discovered different component words of spells, then combined them to get different effects. Some components were elemental; some affected the number of targets; some affected power level; others affected cost. If you were playing the game for the first time, you would have to discover these components over the course of playing. If you had played before, any character could enter in the components for a spell at any time. Pretty neat system overall, but very abusable.

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In today’s America, there are more World of Warcraft players than farmers.
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
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Waving Hands! I didn't think anyone here played that, and good god I can't say enough about it. No other game, be it computer, video, or tabletop, has consumed so much of my life. And there are few others that I can recommend so heartily. Even if it isn't an RPG at all.

The spell system you describe, Drew, sounds similar to several others I've seen, in particular the Dungeon Master series and the NES game Magician (an obscure, but amazingly awesome game).

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
"Making poorly-sourced claims is not the same as determining something."
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
By Committee
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Profile #8
It's a bit different - you literally have to spell out the spell from a conventional alphabet, and you can do that at any time in the game - it's not like you have to acquire the runes for it, a la Eternal Darkness. I credit TM with introducing me to the game.

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In today’s America, there are more World of Warcraft players than farmers.
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
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Right -- it's the same way with the games I mentioned. They do use runes, but you don't have to acquire them, you simply have to figure out the order to use them in, which is normally discovered by encountering the spell somewhere in the game. Natuk appears to be the same way. Also, while it is a cool system, from a gameplay perspective it's not really any different from either having all the spells to begin with, or finding them just like in Exile, depending on whether you use the advance information.

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
"Making poorly-sourced claims is not the same as determining something."
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
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Does Treasure of the Rudras let you use any letters anywhere potentially, giving certain combinations certain meanings? Could one apply linguistics and extrapolate further spells?

—Alorael, who thinks that would be a good system. You learn the words for spells and the prefixes, suffixes, and possibly even midfixes to alter them. With complicated enough rules it could be balanced and fairly freeform.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
...b10010b...
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quote:
Originally written by Yama Toman?:

Chrono Trigger -- combo attacks.
I am aware that other RPGs have included combo attacks. CT is the only game I am aware that has actually made them remotely playable.

I dunno, Phantasy Star 4 had at least a few combo attacks that you were likely to want to use. GrandCross was a boss-killer for most of the game, and Blizzard and Triblaster were good against regular enemies early on.

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The Empire Always Loses: This Time For Sure!
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
Profile Homepage #12
Whoops, I spoke too soon. The spell system in Rudras is pretty darn neat. The whole game seems great, actually -- I can't believe there was a quality SNES RPG left that I hadn't played. Heh.

I have played Sailor Moon, but I gave up after a half hour -- earlier than for Ranma, but later than for Magic Knight Rayearth. :P

As for PS4 -- I was thinking of it specifically when I commented on unusable combos. In my experience, it was very hard just to pull them off, given the timing requirements. I usually gave up after a half hour of fiddling with macros. (And who needs combos when you have a broken Raja, anyway.)

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
"Making poorly-sourced claims is not the same as determining something."
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
...b10010b...
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And I bet you were thinking of Breath of Fire 2 when you wrote the "minigames" section in your original post, weren't you? :P

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The Empire Always Loses: This Time For Sure!
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
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ActRaiser includes both of those activities as well, but yes. :P

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
"Making poorly-sourced claims is not the same as determining something."
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
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Breath of Fire 2 has hunting, fishing, and town building. That's nothing compared to Final Fantasy 7, which contains such wonderful interludes as CPR, dolphin jumping, Simon Says, and motorcycle fights. The games are in no way improved by being mindlessly easy.

—Alorael, who should throw in another interesting mechanic, although it comes up for in-person pencil and paper more than for CRPGs: games within a game. Resolving combat by playing a few hands of poker would certainly be interesting, although it can't be based on character skill. There already is an RPG that uses a Jenga tower as a substitute for all the dice and numbers of other games. It makes for an interesting player rather than character skill game.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Lifecrafter
Member # 7252
Profile #16
So did BoF 3 and 4..me thinks BoF 4 is the only RPG where you can use all your members in a battle..

The combo system is also present in Suikodens..

Legend of Dragoon has a unique way of spell-casting..

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Humans fight to enter insanity.
You ain't evil until you hear this!
Posts: 732 | Registered: Saturday, June 24 2006 07:00
Shaper
Member # 32
Profile #17
In FFVIII, as the party level increases, so does the level of every monster.

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Lt. Sullust
Quaere verum
Posts: 2462 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 1829
Profile #18
On the note of Mario RPG games; the mario RPG game on the GBA, and it's "sequel" on the DS are fairly unique in that a sufficiently skilled player can, with timing and skill, avoid all incoming damage in the game. Doing so very well will even cause you to counterattack. It's fairly well done, if simplistic.
Posts: 206 | Registered: Tuesday, September 3 2002 07:00
Shaper
Member # 32
Profile #19
I think Summoning should be added to the list of standard mechanics.

On a slightly unrelated note: Anyone else thing Jeff should get some royalties from Nintendo for pokemon?

'Capture Soul' --> Throw Pokeball
'Simulacrum' --> I chose you %n
Soul Crystal --> Pokeball
Another one of the conspiracies...

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Lt. Sullust
Quaere verum
Posts: 2462 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
...b10010b...
Member # 869
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quote:
Originally written by Lt. Sullust:

On a slightly unrelated note: Anyone else thing Jeff should get some royalties from Nintendo for pokemon?
I know you were joking, but there isn't really much of a similarity here. A monster captured in a Soul Crystal remains the same every time you summon it, whereas the whole point of capturing Pokemon is to level them up.

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The Empire Always Loses: This Time For Sure!
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Raven v. Writing Desk
Member # 261
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Another amusing list might be a list of every ridiculous mini-game or side-game ever put into an RPG.

BoF 4 only lets you have 3 active characters in a battle at once. Being able to switch active and inactive characters in the middle of battle is definitely not unique. BoF 1 did it, and every Dragon Quest game from 4 onwards has given you that chance. (Well, I'm not sure about 8.) Lufia 3 *actually* lets you have 9 active characters in battle at once.

Azuma, can you say what, precisely, is unique about Legend of Dragoon's spellcasting? The Wikipedia entry doesn't make it sound at all unusual. (And transforming in the middle of battle is not uncommon, either.)

There must be other games that tie enemy level to PC level. FF Tactics Advance, for one. I suppose FF8 is unique, though, for its extremely sucktastic draw-junction system.

Super Mario RPG technically allows a player to avoid all damage as well, although it's practically impossible to do it consistently. But that's just an extreme form of a real-time battle element that requires you to time button presses during battle, and that particular mechanic is (alas) all over. For example, I just found out it is in Legend of Dragoon. ^_^

Summoning is so widespread that I had kinda hoped I wouldn't need to list it. I only listed stuff that is relatively uncommon, in say <20% of RPGs out there, but not rare enough to make the list.

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Slarty vs. DeskDesk vs. SlartyTimeline of ErmarianG4 Strategy Central
"Making poorly-sourced claims is not the same as determining something."
Posts: 3560 | Registered: Wednesday, November 7 2001 08:00
Post Navel Trauma ^_^
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Gauntlet: To gain health, you put another coin in.

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Barcoorah: I even did it to a big dorset ram.

New Mac BoE
Posts: 1798 | Registered: Thursday, October 4 2001 07:00
Shaper
Member # 7420
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The Elder Scrolls series had the worst leveling system of all time. You had to pick certain skills to be your main skills (blades, lockpicking, jumping, etc), and each one was attached to an attribute (strength, intelligence, etc). Once you gained a cumulative ten levels in your chosen skills you would gain a level, the respective attributes would rise (you had to plan it all out otherwise you would be miserably weak), and finally monsters would become harder. It sucked... hard. It was the worst leveling system of all time, I didn't even figure out how the hell it worked until I had almost finished the main story line. I'm thankful Bethesda does not intend to bring that crap system to the new Fallout 3. It's all about the experience points.

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You lose.
Posts: 2156 | Registered: Thursday, August 24 2006 07:00
Shaper
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Profile #24
There's something to be said about making the game harder when the party levels. I'd hope that the goblins would choose better tactics after I slaughtered a great deal of them.

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Lt. Sullust
Quaere verum
Posts: 2462 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00

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