Putting the AI in Pain

Rescuing the Chimpanzee Scientists held hostage by the Draydun Red Shadows. Avoiding the automated defences left on an abandoned planet to retrieve advanced technology. Sneaking past the Draydun guards to rescue the Chent ambassador from the Draydun Prison Comet. All of these missions have enemies and obstacles that the players need to overcome.

As all of the players are on the same side and no single player is controlling the enemies, I need a system for the players to follow when it comes to the enemies’ turns.

I have several aims for such a system:

  • It should make the game fun. This is subjective, so this will be the hardest to get right. Unfortunately it is also the most important! While what is fun is different for different people, there are definitely things I want to avoid – lots of maths, taking too long to resolve what the enemies are going to do, etc.
  • The instructions the players follow should have no ambiguity. For example, move towards the nearest Hero – what would the players do if there was a tie for the nearest Hero?
  • The players should not be able to accurately predict every single thing that the enemies will do.
  • However, the players should have some idea of what the enemy will do so they can plan accordingly. I guess the ideal is that the players know the range of options that an enemy has but not exactly which one will happen.
  • The actions that the enemies take should feel thematically appropriate.

Mood Decks

Mood Decks

On the mission map, each enemy has an entry written on the map that details:

  • Where it starts on the board
  • The creature’s ability scores
  • The attack(s) it has to use
  • The moods that the creature can be in. For example, Panicked, Confident, Scared, Angry.
  • What triggers each mood. For example,
    • Scared Trigger: Whenever a space in its section 
      or a neighbouring section is targeted by an attack.

Each mood has a separate deck of cards. Each time something happens that triggers a mood for a monster; a card is drawn for that appropriate mood and is put face up on the monster entry. Each of these cards explains what the monster does on it as well as a “mood strength” number. When it is the monster’s turn, the card with the highest mood strength number on it is the one that players use for the monster movement and action (the decks would be numbered in such a way that a tie could never happen). After the creature takes its turn, each card is removed and returned to their appropriate decks. (I did wonder about shuffling these cards and putting them back on top of the decks like Pandemic, but not sure if that is needed and it would add time on to the turns).


Pros

Which mood the monster is in can be influenced by the players, but the actions won’t be entirely predictable due to using a deck of cards to determine the actions taken.

Cons

  • Might be a bit fiddly?
  • Need players to remember to keep checking if their actions trigger any moods.
  • Some of the enemies will be Battle Robots and Sentry Droids and “moods” doesn’t fit thematically with them.

Mood Cubes

MoodCubes

On the mission map, each enemy has an entry written on the map that details:

  • Where it starts on the board
  • The creature’s ability scores
  • A list of moods (e.g. Panicked, Confident, Scared, Angry) and the move and actions it will take when it is in this mood. For example:
    • Scared: Move towards the section that is furthest 
      away from enemies. Do not attack but roll 1 extra 
      dice when defending.
    • Angry: Move 1 Section and attack every enemy you 
      can target
  • The triggers for each mood (which are similar to the Mood Deck idea).

Each time something happens that is a trigger for a monster, a cube is put on the appropriate mood. When it comes to the monster’s turn, whichever mood has the most cubes on it is what the monster does. After the monster has acted, all cubes are cleared except one cube on the “winning” mood.


Pros

  • The actions can be influenced by the players, but hopefully in the chaos of combat and with some triggers that rely on rolls, it won’t be too predictable.
  • For robots, instead of moods, the listings will be “Program 1”, “Program 2” etc.

Cons

  • What to do if there is a draw between 2 moods?
  • Instead of having one monster stat block for each type of monsters written on the map you would need one for each individual monster so you can track every single combatant – is this too much?
  • Need players to remember to keep checking if their actions trigger any moods.

Role Decks

Role Decks

Have a separate small deck of cards for each enemy role: Artillery, Brute, Controller, Lurker, Skirmisher and Soldier (these roles are taken from 4th Edition D&D and will change before I finalise this system). On the mission map, each enemy has an entry written on the map that details:

  • Where it starts on the board
  • The creature’s ability scores
  • The attack(s) it has to use
  • What role the enemy serves (Artillery, Brute, Controller, etc.)

Each role deck has the movement and actions the monster should take. For example, Artillery might have a card that says:

Movement: Move to whichever section has the most allies in 
neighbouring sections
Action: Determine the section that has the ally with the 
fewest health points. Make an attack against each Hero 
in the Sections adjacent to this section.

The Lurker cards will have things like:

Movement: Move towards the section that is furthest away
from enemies
Action: Add an attack dice to the monster entry. The next
time it attacks it adds any dice on the monster entry to
its attack roll.

When it comes to the monsters turn a player will draw a card from the appropriate role deck and make the creature do what it says on the card.


Pros

  • Simplest system out of the three.
  • The players don’t know exactly WHAT the monster will do, but know what type of thing they will do based on their role, so the players can plan a bit to mitigate these actions.

Cons

The monsters won’t be responding to events that are happening so the players cannot influence what the monster will be doing.


I am running a Twitter poll to see which of these ideas people think is the best (there will be a none of the above option if people dislike them all). Go check it out at @paulbaalham

 

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