Fight to Survive and Carrot vs. Stick
The development blog of table-top role-playing game "Fight to Survive: Martial Arts Meets Heart" by James Kerr
Build and Carrot vs. Stick
Many people will tell you that good RPG design involves “carrots” (rewarding players for the behaviour you want to see happen in the game) and not “sticks” (punishing players for doing the ‘wrong’ thing in-game, according to the play-style you attempt to foster with the design.) Acknowledging the wisdom of that, there are a lot of “sticks” in Fight to Survive, perhaps more than carrots.
If, in our real world, you have a small build, there is a limit to how much muscle you can put on. You are not going to be as strong as the person with a big huge honking Build. That’s not very fair, but it’s one of the realities of fist fighting. You’d rather not have to fight the big guy.
This game, Fight to Survive is not fair, either. The “sticks” are there under strict scrutiny to ensure the game presents an accurate feeling that you would have when you realise your opponent is two feet taller than you are.
My hope is that the ‘back end’ (so to speak) of Fight to Survive is balanced enough that players do not have to mind these considerations beyond “what would my character do?” and chase a sense of really being there in the moment.
If you’re smaller, you are faster. That’s not quite how life works, but in life there is also a centre of balance to consider. Myself as a big guy I often have more trouble in fights with short people than with people closer to my height because their centre of balance is so much lower, and it makes issues of leverage more difficult for me. The prospect of putting a centre of balance mechanic in a RPG was beyond my ken. However, leaning into the trope of “you’re smaller, you’re faster” has packed within it an emulation of smaller muscle mass often being quicker, smaller frame people often being more agile, and a lower centre of balance.
Mechanically, characters in Fight to Survive each have one of five physical "Builds": Small, Thin, Medium, Tall / Muscular, or Huge. The larger you are, the harder you hit, and the harder still you could hit with training. Bigger is better. But if you're smaller, you always force your opponent to go first (which is to their disadvantage) because you can react faster.
Is it perfect? No, of course not; but like the gritty, compromised fights it emulates these design choices represent an intersection between emulation and ease-of-use. Hopefully, it all comes out in the wash.
Fight to Survive's Kickstarter is currently in pre-launch, and you can sign up to be notified of its launch here.