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Thread: Draconians, Insectoids, & Orcs: Any Last Thoughts?

  1. #11
    Archmage of the Inner Ring ampoliros's Avatar
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    @jamoecw - In the broad sense I know what efficiency is... What do you mean specifically with all your use of the word in your race descriptions?

  2. #12
    Right. *cracks knuckles*

    In order to give myself some more time to think about the others, I'm going to start on the draconians. Some of this is repeating stuff I've said before, but for the purpose of getting all my thoughts in one spot, I think it's worthwhile:

    Big-picture conceptual thoughts:

    The draconians in Master of Magic were, essentially, the ultimate mobility race. Between flight, the increased move speed of base units (in v1.31) and access to the fastest non-sailing mundane unit in the game in the airship, the draconians have an unparalleled ability to scout, quickly move their forces to a location, and generally to pick and choose their targets. The draconians are also the only race that can build a combined-arms air force without adding fantastic units or units for other races - while other races have a single token flying unit that is either a melee or shooting unit (okay, the Dark Elf nightmares can do both adequately, but that's their schtick), the draconians can build dedicated flying melee (basic infantry, Doom Drakes) and ranged (bowmen, shamans, airships, magicians) units.

    The price for this, however, is fragility. Compared to the units of most other Myrran races, draconian units are rather weak, while they maintain the high price tag of Myrran units preventing them from being able to be built and maintained in the numbers that an army of Arcanus units can achieve. To be successful, a leader of draconians needs to use their mobility to outmaneuver the enemy - striking less well defended locations before the enemy can send reinforcements, using flying to stalemate attackers when possible (something that may or may not be possible at all in WoM), and when such stalemates are not possible, concentrating their forces to intercept attackers rather than trying to maintain sufficient garrisons in all of their holdings.

    In the structure of "rushers" versus "builders", draconians are a hybrid. While they have the ability to build nearly every building, their unique units (which most players are likely to concentrate on) are available quite early on (doom drakes as soon as most races get cavalry) while they lack access to high-power top-tier units like paladins or warlocks. Wizards starting with draconians as their starting city, then, are rewarded by quickly scouting out their surroundings and dispatching doom drakes and/or air ships to conquer whatever they find.

    Since we're looking at combining the lizardmen (albeit still called draconians, just a subspecies without the wings) with the draconians, it's worth looking at how they were used as well. Basically, while they lack actual flight and are denied most of the building list (putting them firmly in the category of 'rushers') lizardmen are, unsurprisingly, essentially the Arcanus equivalent of draconians in style - they can quickly scout over the map and launch amphibious assaults regardless of terrain. However, their units, including the dragon turtle, while solid, are nothing to write home about.

    Combining the two actually makes a lot of sense from a gameplay viewpoint as well as a thematic one. Myrran races are, inherently, more 'late game' than Arcanus races even if at a similar stage in development - they're balanced on the assumption that either the wizard has had to build up sufficiently to break through a wizard tower and capture a city to get them, or that the wizard has paid a stiff price in starting picks for the privilige of starting with one (and will, in turn, need to break into Arcanus before they can threaten any wizard who didn't also start with a Myrran race). Lizardmen, on the other hand, have generally plateaued by the time a wizard has the opportunity to punch into Myrror. A lizardmen/draconian combination, then, can roughly model the development of a player that starts with lizardmen, gains access to Myrror, conquers some draconian cities and begins producing draconian units to supplement and ultimately replace the lizardmen units.

    Some of the discussion I've seen has suggested not just starting with nonflyers to reduce the balance issues of gaining access to flight early on, but also removing swimming from the early units so water barriers are not negated right from the start of the game. There's some validity to this, although it really depends on how important water barriers are deemed to be - something that's probably worth trying either way in playtesting. Nevertheless, between swimmers and flyers, the draconians should have an easier time performing amphibious assaults than other races.

    Putting this all together, the general playstyle I'd expect from the draconians as they develop is one of trading off power for the ability to ignore and quickly move across terrain. This starts with swimming units (dragon turtles or the WoM equivalent of that MoM unit, if not regular wingless infantry) and rapidly transitions into an air force that is available faster and with more options than other races can build. The tradeoff, however, is that they lack the powerful ground units or the numbers of other races - once past any initial stages where the draconians are just as landlocked as other races, they need to make use of their mobility and amphibious capability to offset the more powerful (at least on paper) armies of wizards using other races.

    As a general idea of the sort of thing I'm thinking, imagine if we start with the MoM draconians without the growth rate and population penalties, except you get lizardmen spearmen, swordsmen and javelineers instead of draconian spearmen, swordsmen and bowmen, dragon turtles are available from stables and armorer's guild, and slightly buffed doom drakes from animist's guilds (hey, still earlier than the fantastic stable) and possibly requiring a maritime guild or a shipyard plus alchemist's guild for the airships, and that'd be about the general playstyle I'd be inclined to aim for, although the actual specifics of the units may vary.

    Unit details, fluff, and other nitty gritty:

    As an opening comment, I'd say that the suggestions of creating draconians through using existing OGL D20 rules such as applying the half-dragon template to lizardfolk or dragon disciple class levels is probably ill-advised... especially if we're looking at things like basic winged draconian infantry (and I certainly hope there will be some winged draconian infantry, rather than all winged draconians being characters and top-end units). Instead, I think it would be better to simply create a new draconian race to serve as a basis for the winged draconians - possibly as a lizardmen subrace mechanically-speaking, but not as much of a buff to the basic form as adding the full half-dragon template would represent (not to mention that that template technically wouldn't have the desired effect, as it only grants wings to Large or larger creatures). I'd also rather not see draconians showing up of all of the colours of dragonkind in the D20 system - instead, I'd advocate most draconians not being obviously linked to a specific colour of dragon, with those that do show signs of being related to a specific draconic subspecies being a small minority of powerful individuals that that hold a particularly strong link to dragonkind, such as dragon disciples and actual half-dragons.

    In the draconian discussion thread, as well as the idea of different castes (starting as basically lizardmen, then getting a breath weapon, then breath weapon and wings), one idea that seemed well-received was basing them loosely on the classical Greeks. If we take this to its logical extent, we can get some inspiration for what the land-based side of the draconian army might look like.

    On thinking of classical Greek armies, in my mind there are two troop types that immediately come to mind. Hoplites would serve as the equivalent of MoM swordsmen - traditionally these came from the middle classes of Greek society, which for our draconians could mean the middle, firebreathing caste, or just better-equipped members of the lower caste. Peltasts are javelineers (fitting that the culture also happens to bring javelineers back) - more lightly armoured, and coming from the lower caste. The equivalent of spearmen could be lower-caste warriors that fight unarmoured, harkening back to the classical image of the Greek warrior with helm and shield but otherwise naked (although of course a scaled draconian warrior would be less vulnerable in that state than a human).

    Moving up, the equivalent of halberdiers could be the sarissa-armed pezhetairos - less armoured than the hoplites, more suited to repelling cavalry, but not as effective as the true pikemen that I expect to see from more medieval races. Ground-based cavalry, whether riding dragon turtles or some other suitable reptilian war beast, are among the most elite of non-winged draconians, including having the capability to breathe fire.

    Obviously, once we get to flying units, we leave the area of inspiration from historical units. Flying infantry (which I hope to be there) I'd see using a weapon designed for flying combat - I'm visualising something like a double spear with the blades designed for slashing as well as stabbing, which can be used to thrust down at a ground target from above, or wielded like a quarterstaff against an aerial opponent. Flying ranged troops could be archers, spellcasters, or a special cadre of firebreathers that have practised at spitting fire over longer ranges.

    As has been observed, the true D20 dragons are a bit too tough and intelligent to serve as mounts for any but the most powerful individuals, but as was also observed in the draconian discussion thread, there should be some suitable dragon-like mount that fits. Wyverns are probably a good option, or simply follow in MoM's footsteps and have firebreathing drakes. These I see as being ridden by members of the winged caste - the justification they give to lower castes is that it's not safe for them to take to the air on a flying mount without having their own wings to fly off a dying or otherwise compromised mount if necessary. The truth, though, is that they're simply loathe to extend the honour of riding a wyvern or firedrake to the lesser castes.

    One controversy that I observed in the discussion thread was on airships. In Master of Magic, airships were widely viewed as the main combat unit you'd build out of a draconian city, while in the discussion thread there was a common opinion that the draconians wouldn't bother with ships at all, flying or otherwise.

    Personally, I'm inclined to disagree. Partially because I like the idea of flying ships, but more because, practically speaking, I'd expect them to recognise that their flyers can't necessarily carry everything they need on campaign. Supplies and siege weapons could possibly be carried across water on the backs of dragon turtles and the like, but personally I'd rather that the swimming cavalry was just swimming cavalry and the draconians do in fact have ships they use to transport things that can't swim across water - although these 'ships' may lack sails and oars, and instead be effectively barges that are towed by swimming draconians or trained amphibious reptiles.

    On the air ship specifically - a similar level of practicality would suggest that if the draconians have the magical skills to make flying ships, they'd do it. This may be done as the form of airship in older versions of Master of Magic, as a means of transporting the nonflying lower-caste troops so they can keep up with the flyers. Alternatively, the airship could be treated as the airship in later versions of Master of Magic - unable to carry extra cargo, but its purpose is pretty much purely as a flying platform for a siege engine that the draconians wouldn't be able to bring with them any other way. In designing the airship if it is to be included, though, it's worth thinking about the practicalities of a ship that flies through the air - a flying ship with a conventional sail would likely be prone to being blown over. Instead, the airship concept would probably work better if it had multiple small sails around the hull rather than one or two on the top, or even if it went without sails entirely and was instead towed by one of the flying beasts raised by the draconians.

    Well... that went a little longer than I expected. Now to think on the insectoids and refresh myself on any previous discussions on them...

  3. #13
    Wow, that is a nice writeup. Give me some time to digest it!
    My RPG Design and Theory Blog: http://socratesrpg.blogspot.com/

  4. #14
    Battlemage Cirno9destiny's Avatar
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    overall i'd vote for insectoids to have high efficiency low level units, yet low efficiency high level units, and high efficiency low level infrastructure, with low efficiency high level infrastructure. this would lend them to win by numbers in both the battle map and the world map.
    I'm all for that overall concept.

    The Dracs are interesting and you plenty of good ideas there, but honestly i'm not sure I understand how they play out. ^w^;;
    They start out with Manoeuvrable, speedy units that lack a heavy punch and then uhh...
    'Everything you wanted to know about Dark Elves that i'm allowed to post' - thread coming soon

  5. #15
    Archmage of the Inner Ring ampoliros's Avatar
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    I've always been against the combination of Lizardmen and Draconians. If we're going to get lots of new factions via DLC, why the need to combine 2 classic MoM factions???

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by ampoliros View Post
    I've always been against the combination of Lizardmen and Draconians. If we're going to get lots of new factions via DLC, why the need to combine 2 classic MoM factions???
    I figured that was an issue we would end up tackling in the backers forum.
    My RPG Design and Theory Blog: http://socratesrpg.blogspot.com/

  7. #17
    Battlemage Cirno9destiny's Avatar
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    Well considering the progress on the elfs, it might be a little while before we can sort that out :P
    'Everything you wanted to know about Dark Elves that i'm allowed to post' - thread coming soon

  8. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Cirno9destiny View Post
    Well considering the progress on the elfs, it might be a little while before we can sort that out :P
    *sigh* I know.
    My RPG Design and Theory Blog: http://socratesrpg.blogspot.com/

  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Cirno9destiny View Post
    I'm all for that overall concept.

    The Dracs are interesting and you plenty of good ideas there, but honestly i'm not sure I understand how they play out. ^w^;;
    They start out with Manoeuvrable, speedy units that lack a heavy punch and then uhh...
    In the original Master of Magic, they got speedier, more maneuverable units with more punch but that still lacked a heavy punch compared to their competition - although Doom Drakes are underrated in that regard (probably because they're competing with the fast, flying+ranged attacks combination presented by airships) and are actually quite powerful for something that only requires stables and barracks to produce. However, at a time when their competition is coming out with stuff like War Trolls, Hammerhands, and Minotaurs, the draconians still had the Doom Drakes as their primary melee unit - a matchup that isn't going to be pretty - while airships need numbers or time to beat down strong defenses with their onboard catapults.

    In the WoM arena, if the draconians do get lizardmen-like units (note that they'd still be called draconians, just a lower class of draconians) then in the early game they're going to be closer to other races in this regard - the ground-based units have a smaller mobility benefit (swimming) than the flying units, and should be closer to their competition in punch as a result. Once they transition to winged draconians and other flyers, though, the focus on mobility over stand-up power comes to the forefront.

    Now, if the draconians get true dragons or something similar in power, then that'd be something that does compete with the competition in power on an individual basis - but such a unit should also be expensive, allowing the competition to deploy a non-flyer that can take it on at significantly less cost (think of the Paladins versus Sky Drake matchup in Master of Magic) - so once again, the draconians need to use mobility and force concentration to make full use of their advantages.

    Hope that clarifies things!

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by ampoliros View Post
    I've always been against the combination of Lizardmen and Draconians. If we're going to get lots of new factions via DLC, why the need to combine 2 classic MoM factions???
    well, it could be "easily" be explained for draconians to be conquerors who rule over some lizard species or be at first mutant (most likely some magical experiment to explain speed of this "evolution" speed, in this world there is no man's ancestors between him and monkey) and becoming real species that became ruling class.

    Maybe make them spartans? need someon who now history better, but werent they having lots of slaves or something, so all mens had to train for conquest and preventing rebelion from starting. here normal lizards prevent are becoming from slaves to normal citizens for some backstory reason, so its reason why true draconians are "elite" top units that are expensive and rare, and more of cheaper and weaker lizards.

    This could still make full lizard faction available when including specific variations of general race, like humans (normal medival, nomads, far east china/japan) or elves (high, wood, dark) and so on.

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