All fired up


This article Ascii Dreams: All fired up appears on the ASCII Dreams blog site and is authored by Andrew Doull, who is the developer/designer of the roguelike Unangband, if you haven’t played it yet and you’re into roguelikes you should.

Whilst reading his article it got me to thinking ahead about the combat mechanics for my roguelike and I quickly realised that up to this point in time I hadn’t really considered how combat would be resolved – but it’s also true that my game hasn’t been in any state for me to consider combat either!

The deceptively simple looking question Andrew asks is…

A character is wielding a flaming sword (x3 fire damage), flaming gauntlets (x3 fire damage) and enchanted with an aura of fire (x3 fire damage).

Should he be doing:

1) x27 fire damage
2) x7 fire damage
3) +600% fire damage
4) x3 fire damage

…and the many comments suggest (to me) there is no real right or wrong way in deciding the amount of calculated damage to apply. What seems to really matter is the players perception and the consistency of the game  applying the same rules.

Whilst my game may not centre on physical combat as such (for the player character at least) the concept of having different items (equipped or worn) that add a “bonus” to the combat calculations equally apply.

When I relate his question to my game I can see a couple of fundamental questions:

  1. Will the different damage types be treated individually or the same when calculating incoming damage to the target.
  2. For the same damage type are both the “bonuses” and the “base” damage treated as a single value of damage or are they individual vales.

What I need to do is create a solution that “feels right” for my game and addresses these questions. Because if I don’t get this right then combat  will seem at best awkward and at worst it will be unworkable, after all combat is actually at the heart of my game.

Question 1. Will the different damage types be treated differently when calculating incoming damage to the target.

First a brief bit of background material, my game has many different damage types spread across the different playable classes and some of those damage types can only be inflicted by a specific class. The general idea behind each damage type is that it will focus on different areas of the target and therefore require different defences.

Now on to the question itself…My thoughts are that if I were to combine all the different damage types utilised per attack into “a single number” then I feel that I’m kind of cheapening my design and therefore my game as a whole. In addition I think the player, once knowing this, would then look for ways to gather items that produced the single biggest calculated number possible for combat, again I think this debases my game down to a series of number crunching exercises – which is not good!

So this leads me onto the second part of the question having each different damage type calculated as a separate damage amount per turn. This is very interesting to me and I do believe that by following this path it will lead to a richer in-game experience for the player.

Question 2. For the same damage type are both the “bonuses” and the “base” damage treated as a single value of damage.

In other words what does x3 fire damage mean?

What I’m trying to understand with the above question is that once I’ve identified all the different sources of the same damage type what then, do I:

(1)        Add all the same damage types together to produce a single attack value


(2)        Do I generate multiple damage values i.e. one per damage source, and assess them separately.

Which essentially brings me back to the original question posed on ASCII Dreams how frustrating it is to chase the same idea around and around!

It seems to me that the 1st option provides a clean and simple design that is quite common in many computer games, where you add up all your bonuses and then apply that amount of damage.

But with the 2nd option there is the potential for damage to be applied multiple times per turn based on the number of damage sources, e.g. each piece of armour. This raises another point of design…could/should each and every source of the same damage type applied in the same turn be subject to the targets resistances? Then there is the question which of the multiple damage sources should be assessed first, i.e. which has priority?

An example that may help to make my muddled thoughts clearer:

With a little modification of the original question posed… A character casts a spell that causes (4 fire damage), he has equipped flaming gauntlets (x3 fire damage) and enchanted with an aura of fire (x3 fire damage).

Option 1: A single damage value is calculated at 24 points (4×6), is it 28 points (4+(4×6)), 36 points of fire damage ((4×3)x3) or even something with diminishing returns – so the more bonuses applied the less importance they have.

Option 2: Provides us with 1 attack of 4 points of fire damage followed by 2 separate attacks each of 12 (4×3) points of fire damage. Which in effect could allow for a total of 28 points of damage in the turn.


When I started to piece this design article together I genuinely had no understanding of how in-depth the subject of damage and additional damage multipliers could be, it seems to me that there are many options and that each one can be further explored to provide even greater subtleties that are not apparent when first looked upon.

One aspect of my design thoughts touched on the idea of having multiple damage sources (of the same damage type) generating multiple “attacks” for that turn – I actually like that idea because it’s different, I also like the idea of having multiple damage sources providing diminishing returns as a control.

I now realise (I hope) that I’m going to have to plan the mechanics of combat out step by step and see how well my choices work.

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3 Responses to All fired up

  1. stormwire says:

    My mind is officially blown lol I have never put much thought into how to calculate damage or show the player what damage they are doing. It can become very complex. I guess a quote might be useful here “If you cant explain your theory to a child and make them understand it then you probably don’t understand it yourself.” or even simpler take the KISS approach 😛

  2. devonps says:

    Interesting quote – I’ll explain it to my kids over the weekend and let you know their reaction; and btw same for me I’d never looked beyond the total of a dice roll when considering damage.

  3. devonps says:

    Over the weekend I spoke to my daughter about the subject of damage modifiers, i.e. this article, and she understood everything – well done to her – and even suggested that all the modifiers, from the same damage source, should be added together to provide a single value, which is the same as option 1 in question 2 above.

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