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Tutorial - 'In-Depth Weapon Design' by SaiKar

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Need some pointers in weapon creation in your game? This tutorial has some very important tips and pointers that you can use.


Written by Sai’Kar


Weapons go a long way to defining a character. Just holding a sword conjures up images of the hero charging into battle and bathing in the blood of his enemies. A bow makes us think of stealthy hunters in the wild, or perhaps huge volleys of arrows soaring against an enemy army. Bladed knuckles reveal a monk who has achieved inner tranquility. And a quarterstaff might hint at a frail old man who wields fierce elemental magic.

Making any part of an RPG can be tricky, but weapons are such a big part of the game that they need to be handled with care. When a player opens up a treasure chest, they are almost always hoping for a new weapon. Weapons are probably the items that your players will care the most about getting. They directly make your characters more powerful in battle, allowing them to mow down enemies and look cool while doing it. Because weapons are such a big focus in RPGs, it is important to make them interesting items.

This tutorial will explain how many of the default options can be used to create truly interesting weapons, and how these weapons can help tell more about the people that wield them and the world as a whole. It is designed for RPM Maker 2003, although RM2k users can get much out of it as well. It also assumes that you know basic RPG Maker commands like using the database, setting up shops, and equipping your heroes.

All that said, let’s get cracking!

All Those Options

If you open up the database and take a look all the options it can be pretty overwhelming. Here is a list of the different options you have. I will cover specific parts of this list later in more detail to show how they can be used effectively:

* Name – your weapon’s name! It may seem easy to name weapons at first (“Sword”, “Long Sword”, etc), but as you go along farther into the game, they can all start to sound alike.
* Price – how much this weapon sells for if you make it available in a store. All items sell back at half price. Even the price can define weapons. Rare or weapons made of expensive materials should sell for more in shops.
* Hands required – “one” being the default option. If you choose “two” then the character equipping this weapon cannot use their shield slot.
* Description – another good place to describe your weapon. Give a little history on it maybe, or what special effects the weapon has.
* Invoke skill when used – this is a powerful command. This lets you choose a skill, and when your hero with this weapon hits an enemy, that skill will be used on the enemy automatically with no MP cost. This can let you create some interesting effects (a weapon that sucks life, anyone?) but is hard to balance. If you are new at creating weapons I recommend leaving this section alone for now.
* Usable by – you can choose either hero or class. Obviously, if you are creating a sword, only characters that in your game understand how to use a sword should be able to equip the weapon.
* Statistic change – the most obvious way to make a weapon powerful. The numbers in this box will be added to your characters’ base stats. Most weapons should up the character’s attack score, but creative gamers can make weapons that up the other stats as well. Also, if you want a weapon to make you weaker in some area, you can put in a negative number to lower the scores a little too.
* Animation – this lets you set up how the actual attack on the enemy will look. You choose the weapon your character will hold here, as well as if they run up to the enemy, take a step forward, or just stay still when attacking.
* Attack animation – the actual animation for the attack. Be sure to make it look cool!
* Options – these five check-boxes can vastly alter how your weapon works. All of them will be explained in full a little later on.
* Attack attribute – this allows you to set up your weapons attack based on attributes you have created. Basic categories for weapons such as “bladed”, “blunt”, “ranged” and so on allow you to make enemies that are strong to some weapons and weak to others. You can also choose your magical element attributes here to make a weapon that does magic damage!
* Conditions – this lets you make your weapons add conditions to your enemies. A dagger, for example, might have a chance to poison or paralyze your foes. Set the % chance that it will happen below the list.
* MP Consumed – default 0, this lets you make weapons that use a certain number of MP every time you attack. If you are making a game where MP represents ammo for a gun, then setting this number above 0 could simulate shooting your ammo at the enemy. Or if you are making a powerful magic weapon, it could use MP to function. If a weapon requires MP and you do not have it, then the game will have your characters be unarmed when they attack.
* Hit Probability – even the best swordsman doesn’t hit on every attack. 90% is good for most weapons. Stronger but harder to aim weapons should have lower hit %.
* Critical hit bonus – critical hits are very strong random hits that do lots of damage. Fast characters have a better chance to critical on slow enemies. However, if you want your weapon to critical more often, you can add a % chance here.

Whew! That’s a lot, huh? Don’t worry: a lot of it is self-explanatory and can be figured out with some basic testing. It is not my goal to teach you everything about weapons, but rather to show you how some of these simple commands can be used in interesting ways.

The RPG Cliché

There are hundreds of clichés in RPGs, but there is one that is relevant now: that the main character must use a sword. There are innumerable examples of this, both in professional games (the entire Final Fantasy series) and most amateur games made on the RPG Maker. Yes, swords are very romantic and efficient weapons. Yes, having a powerful main hero can be cool. But there are lots of options a creative game maker can use when making weapons. Here is a list of weapons I was able to think of:

Medieval weapons, melee:
Dagger – small but light stabbing weapon
Short sword – your basic sword, weighted but easy to use
Long/great swords – large and heavy swords that usually use both hands
Rapier – very light and thin sword that is easy to spin, used in fencing
Falchion – curved one-sided blade
Battleaxe – one-handed close-quarters axe
Double Axe – shaft of wood with an axe blade on both ends
Flail – spiked ball on a chain that is spun, useful in both defense and offense
Club – a blunt weapon that is easy to connect with
Greatclub – larger club, usually spiked
Quarterstaff – straight piece of wood that is useful in both offense and defense
Pike – long shaft of wood with a point on the end that has a long range
Scythe – curved shaft of wood with a wicked blade on the end
Lance – similar to a pike, but with a heavier point that can pierce armor easily
Whip – flexible rope that can damage or ensnare enemies at a fair distance
Spiked gloves and punching daggers – weapons that strap on to the hands for close-quarters fighting.

Medieval weapons, ranged:
Rock – even a rock to the head can kill someone. Used with a sling.
Dart – smaller version of an arrow that can be thrown or launched
Shortbows, longbows, composite bows – effective long-range weapons to shoot arrows
Crossbow – slower then a bow, but launches bolts that can pierce armor
Shurikens – bladed stars that can be thrown quietly, usually used by ninjas and assasins

Non medieval weapons:
Wands and staves – used by wizards and magic users to help cast spells
Rifles – your basic firearm
Handguns – smaller and more effective guns
Machine guns, assault rifles, etc – modern-day guns
Laser pistols – futuristic guns
Large Rubber Trout – well, why not?

This is but a small list of weapons that could be used by your heroes. A little research online can yield many more. The big trick in the RPG programming is making a sword feel difference than, say, a flail. Although these weapons are used drastically differently, in the game they both have the same function – to do damage to your opponent.

This is where being a sneaky programmer comes in. If you know that swords are pretty effective against unarmed opponents but have trouble piercing plated armor, and if you know that spinning flails are difficult to get past and can bash armor very well, but are slower and harder to use, you can make the weapons very different indeed. Here are examples of how a sword and flail might be set up different:

Sword: increases attack score by 20. Attribute: bladed.
Flail: increases attack by 15, increases defense by 5, lowers speed by 5. Attribute: blunt, piercing.

Add some different battle animations and you are set. The sword could have a “slash”, and the flail a “smash” effect. Now, what would happen when someone plays your game? Simply by equipping these items, your players will see that the sword gives more of a boost, and that the flail ups defense but lowers speed a little. They will think “Aha, my sword-user is better!” Let’s prove them wrong. Here are two possible enemies you might fight:

Soldier. Resistant to: nothing
Royal guard: Resistant to: bladed

Your sword will be more effective on the first target, the soldier, because the attack bonus is higher and it doesn’t have a speed penalty, so it can attack faster too. However, the second enemy, the royal guard, is resistant to bladed. Since your sword is bladed it will do half damage. The flail, however, is blunt and piercing, not bladed, so it will do full damage against this armored foe.

Let’s assume that one hero has the sword equipped and another has the flail. When they are fighting the first enemies, your sword-user will do more damage, so your player will probably assume that is the stronger character. When you fight the second enemy, however, your flail-user will all of a sudden do more damage. This might be confusing, so adding a text box with something like “Haha! My flail can bash through this armor like it is paper!” might be effective. When your player sees this at work, they will realize the flail-user is not as useless as they thought he was.

At this point you will have to congratulate yourself. Though both weapons have the same goal of doing damage, you managed to make them sufficiently different so that the player can use both in their strategy. And when you have gotten the player to consider strategies, you have basically won them over for good.

The key to making weapons and fighting styles different is to learn a little bit about them, then figure out how to make them as different as possible in the database. Look to other games for how effective weapons are if need be.

Culture Shock

Weapons make your heroes stronger, but they can also make your story stronger as well. One of the hardest parts about RPG creating is making the world seem both real and realistic. Everything you add to your game can either make the world feel different, or can help destroy that illusion. Weapons are no different.

The biggest rule of culture is that isolated cultures usually solve problems in vastly different ways. Nearby countries usually develop closely because merchants and traders spread goods around until the culture mixes. Most games, however, involve traveling to far off, isolated, exotic lands. It doesn’t make any sense, therefore, for every city to have the exact same weapons. One country might have specialized in swords and axes while another on the other side of the world has never even heard of a sword and makes weapons out of wood, such as like longbows and pikes.

So what is your poor lance-using hero going to do when he visits this land? You have basically two options:

* Nothing. He simply can’t buy weapons here. This might be a good time to let another hero be more powerful for a while, until you can buy another lance and the balance shifts back.
* He could equip a similar weapon, such as a pike. Use the sneaky tricks above to make the pike and the lance seem a little different (pikes can’t pierce armor, but are easier to wield since they are a lot lighter) and add a few comments like “A pike? Well, I guess it will have to do…” from this hero.

Some weapons will just be more common than others. If you have a hero that is from the future and wields a laser pistol, obviously he won’t be able to buy more laser pistols or find them in treasure chests. Perhaps you could add a system where he gathers materials and then modifies his laser gun to make it stronger? Give it some thought.

More than Just Damage - Dealing with Weak Weapons

In order to make heroes seem like different people, programmers give them vastly different abilities. Some heroes might be good with weapons, others can be powerful mages, more could be healers or party enhances, and others could have truly oddball abilities that are cool but hard to use.

Balancing heroes is difficult work. Inevitably, you are going to end up with some that do more physical damage then others. Yet, you still want the player to care about these weaker heroes and their equipment, even if they don’t do much damage. Usually these weaker heroes are the magic-based ones, so they end up with wands, staves, and other weapons that are not terribly effective in combat. Most programmers assume that the player will not bother physically attacking with these weak heroes, since they do so little damage, and will use their special moves instead.

There are a number of ways you can still make these weapons effective, if not very damaging. Here are some ideas:

* Make the weapon increase the mind statistic. Skills can be based off the mind stat, so every little bonus makes the hero do more damage with their magic or other skills.
* Give the weapon an attribute that is not normally used on weapons, such as magic. Against normal enemies these weapons will be weak, but when fighting monsters that resist swords and arrows, but are weak to magic, these weapons will be more useful.
* Have the weapon inflict a status effect. Since these weapons might be designed for magic users, they should have magic effects! A weapon that has a 10% chance to silence or stun the opponent would be very useful in some cases.
* The weapon could invoke a skill. Perhaps instead of silencing the opponent, that magic weapon could do little damage but invoke a skill to drain a small amount of MP from the enemy!

Keep in mind here that the goal is NOT to make these weak weapons powerful, nor is it to make them stronger then the special moves the characters possesses, but simply to give them options. If the player has to think “Hmm, should I use a technique or attack with my weapon?” then once again you have gotten them to think, and that is always a good thing.

The Ultimate Weapon

By now, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to get to the good stuff. That is, how to make weapons that really do crazy stuff in battle! All right, all right, here we go. Some of these are summaries from techniques explained above. Here are all the techniques I have thought of to make weapons do different things:

* Weapons can raise more then just statistics! Daggers are fast weapons that could give a speed bonus. Quarterstaffs can be excellent defensive tools. Magic wands can up the mind of the mages that use them.
* Use different attributes to make weapons more effective on different targets. Bladed weapons could be strong on normal enemies but weak on armor. Blunt weapons could bash armor but be as effective on normal foes. Weapons can have magic attributes too, such as thunder, that let them do more damage against enemies that are weak to thunder but less to thunder enemies themselves.
* Some weapons can inflict status effects, further weakening your enemies.
* Other weapons can invoke skills, such as HP drain or defense down.
* Heavy, cumbersome weapons should require both hands.

The next five involve those special “Options” check boxes that I promised to talk about later.
* Always Attack First – when the battle starts, your heroes have half of their timed battle gauge filled up. Weapons that always attack first, however, start with the full gauge so their users are ready to attack, cast magic, use an item, or whatever. Very good for stealthy characters that are always prepared.
* Attack Twice – just what in sounds like. The hero will hit twice in a row, just as if they had used the attack command twice quickly. This effectively doubles their attack power.
* Attack All Enemies – just like it sounds, this weapon will attack all enemies. Damage will vary depending on the enemies defense and resists, but it is still a very powerful option.
* Ignore Enemy Evasion – this option makes it so enemies can’t dodge the attack very well, so that even slow heroes have a good chance of not missing fast opponents.
* Cursed weapons cannot be unequipped by the player. In order to remove the weapon, you need to use programming script to specifically unequipped the hero that has the weapon.

Those are your options. I would HIGHLY NOT RECOMMEND putting too many of these on weapons early in the game. Early weapons can be mundane since the player is just getting used to everything. Later on, however, introduce weapons that can inflict status effect, weapons that that have magical attributes, and so on in order to keep your players wondering what crazy weapon they will find next!

The Arsenal – Example Weapons

I wouldn’t ever send you on your way with just that though. Here are some ideas that I have thought of to get you started. Use them, modify them, do whatever you want to them.

Thunder Lance
Attack: 30, Speed: -7. Uses both hands. Attributes: piercing, thunder. Appearance: long metal poll that is stabbed at the opponent.
The Thunder Lance is just like a normal lance except it has the thunder attribute. It was found in a temple of thunder. If it is equipped, it will be very ineffective against the enemies there. However, after leaving the temple the player finds themselves in a region with lots of water-based enemies, and the Thunder Lance will be vastly powerful in this area.

Composite Bow
Attack: 20 Attributes: ranged. Appearance: bow that shoots out an arrow at the enemy
The Composite Bow is a simple weapon used by hunters. It is powerful even at a long range. Although it is not the most powerful weapon, in a battle where the heroes are ambushed on a bridge by archers and soldiers, the melee-using heroes take care of the soldiers while the Composite Bow proves the only weapon with enough range to harm the enemy archers.

Wave Master Wand
Attack: 10. Attributes: blunt, water. Invoke skill when used: Crashing Wave. Uses 20 MP. Appearance: a blunt stick.
The Wave Master Wand is a totally pathetic attacking weapon. However, whenever it his an opponent it sends a powerful magical wave of water at them, doing a fair amount of damage. Unfortunately this ability drains 20 MP from the user every time it used.

Ensnaring Whip
Attack: 20. Attributes: ranged. Inflicts status: paralyze (20% chance) Invoke skill when used: speed down. Appearance: a thin cord that whips forward and hits the enemy with a powerful sting.
Ensnaring Whips are used mainly to capture enemies. The sting of the whip is powerful enough to inure their legs, making them slower, and on rare occasion it will wrap around the enemy and totally immobilize them.

Grenade Sling
Attack: 15. Attributes: ranged. Options: Attack All Enemies. Appearance: A slingshot throws small projectiles, which explode.
The Grenade Sling was created by a crazy inventor. It lobs weak explosives every which way, which can soften up enemies for further attack. Unfortunately it is hard to aim and so it is not very effective against a single target, such as a boss enemy.

Attack: 80. Defense: -15. Mind: -25. Uses both hands. Attributes: Bladed, evil. Critical hit bonus: +35% Options: Cursed. Invoke skill when used: HP drain. Uses 10 MP. Appearance: a huge black great sword.
This powerful but evil blade tempted your main hero, and now he is caught within its grasp. Although it makes him vastly powerful in combat and lets him feast on the souls of his enemies, it is slowly draining his spirit and he cannot put the blade down. Let’s only hope your other heroes find a way to remove the curse before it is too late!

Assassin’s Dirk
Attack: 35. Speed: 20. Attributes: bladed. Critical hit bonus: +15%. Options: Always Attack First. Inflicts status: poison (25% chance). Appearance: a small dagger with poison on its tip.
This legendary dagger was used by a famous assassin during most of his killings. It magically keeps the user aware of danger, and the poison it caries is as deadly as always.

The Sun Sword
Attack: 80. Defense: 15. Mind: 50. Speed: 15. Attributes: bladed, holy. Critical hit bonus: +25%. Options: Attack Twice. Inflicts status: bleeding (stronger version of poison) (25% chance). Appearance: a golden short sword with a star-shaped hilt.
The legendary Sun Sword as seen in one of my art works. This weapon makes even the low-attack Sai’Kar into a deadly melee fighter. About as far as a weapon can go without being absurd, the Sun Sword is a truly dangerous and powerful blade.

To Arms!

Weapons define the heroes of our games. From the first impression to the final battle, our impressions of these characters are shaped by what they carry into combat. Our adventurers will need their weapons to get them out of trouble time and time again, so we might as well make these instruments of war as interesting as possible.