Ragpuppy87

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Elemental Spells are a big part of my project. I'm wondering how to make them stand out though.
Fire for example. Fire does Fire elemental damage... (duh) I added a possible burn status.
Now Ice. Ice does Ice elemental damage. Possible Freeze.
Fire is strong against Ice based enemies and vice versa.
I follow this pattern for all elements.
Damage for the specified element is based on the user's magic skill and can inflict a possible status condition.
Spells come in two forms. Single and multiple target damage.

It works... But I'm wondering how to make them stand out a bit more. Add something a bit more unique.
Any suggestions would be welcome. Thanks.
 

Sparky89

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Elemental Spells are a big part of my project. I'm wondering how to make them stand out though.
Fire for example. Fire does Fire elemental damage... (duh) I added a possible burn status.
Now Ice. Ice does Ice elemental damage. Possible Freeze.
Fire is strong against Ice based enemies and vice versa.
I follow this pattern for all elements.
Damage for the specified element is based on the user's magic skill and can inflict a possible status condition.
Spells come in two forms. Single and multiple target damage.

It works... But I'm wondering how to make them stand out a bit more. Add something a bit more unique.
Any suggestions would be welcome. Thanks.
There is an Engine called Victor Saint engine, allowing you to use custom co-op attacks so fire and electrical can add a new 3rd power move when combined.

If your not going to use that then, I suggest Having enemies weak against combined elements, so they take Damage over time, or can cause a surge, causing a single hit attack to hit multiple based on their state's been applied.
 

Finnuval

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There are so many possible options here... Itd be days to write it all down XD

But you go and dig up what you can and we'll get into it in detail later when we brain-storm ;)

Aa for combining...
Fire & water = steam
Fire & light = radiance
Earth & light = life
Earth & fire = magma

... List could be endless really
 

Milennin

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Can go a lot of different directions with it. For my Fire user, I went with secondary effects triggering on some Skills, if enemies are Burning, and also a passive chance for Burn to spread to other enemies, each turn. For Electricity/Lightning, it gains charges from using the Skills or through passives, which increase the power on those Skills.
I've always used Earth to inflict Bleeds (sharp rocks and stuff), and for more defensive purposes. Both Fire and Earth generally strike multiple enemies, while Lightning focuses on hitting hard against single targets. Elementals can be used in so many different ways, it's not hard to come up with something that makes them unique in some way. You don't even have to go overboard on them in complexity to make that work.
 

Wavelength

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If you really want Elements to stand out and feel cool, go beyond having elemental spells deal damage and sometimes apply a certain state. Really go all-in on giving elements their own identity. Design entire kits that revolve around different elements and their own unique style.

For example, you have the Fire element. It's a natural fit that some fire spells should inflict Burning, which is usually implemented as a DoT, sure. But let's go beyond simply inflicting the status, and figure out other ways we could play with Burning:
  • A high-damage skill that targets all enemies that are already Burning
  • A skill that changes Burning to some other, more useful status, like Frozen
  • A focus skill that gives the user mana for each enemy that's Burning
Additionally, look at ways that the Fire element might stand out besides its ability to inflict and manipulate Burns (and deal extra damage to Fire-vulnerable enemies). In general, every element should have the ability to deal damage, but outside of that, what it does should be unique. Think about what the fantasy of a fire user might be. Perhaps it's the ability to use enemies' numbers against them, turning them into tinder for huge flames. So some additional skills in such a kit might include:
  • Lots of skills with big Areas of Effect, of course
  • A single-target skill that deals more damage for each enemy on the opposing team
  • A buff that allows an ally's single-target skills to affect all enemies
  • The ability to spread all statuses (including Burning, which will work well with some of the above skills!) from one enemy to another enemy
Now "Fire" really has its identity. You can sharpen this more by making it so that there is just one Fire user, just one Ice user, etc. on the team, if that's appropriate for your game. It allows you to tie the element's identity to the character's identity, and makes it very clear where that element is useful and where it's weak, instead of competing against a lot of other skills of different elements on the same character. It also allows you to really build a lot of skills that work together, in that element's style, on the same character, creating an interesting and coherent kit.

It's hard to overstate how great the dynamic can be when each character has a single element that they use - especially when diverse enemy design within the same troop gives each member a useful role in winning that combat.

Here are some of the elements I'm using in How Badly and what they specialize in:
  • Fire: Targeting large groups of enemies, dealing wide AoE damage, manipulating statuses
  • Wind: High single-target damage, manipulating battler position on the field
  • Energy: Low-cost & low-cooldown damage spells, restoring allies' mana
  • Light: Manipulating weaknesses and resistances, big critical hits, breaking shields
  • Water: Amplifying healing, cleansing statuses, HP drain damage, buffing allies
  • Time: Manipulating the ATB directly, reducing allies' cooldowns, delayed damage spells
 

Frostorm

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I really like the idea of Burns being spreadable, it's both realistic and mechanically interesting. I definitely endorse the "giving elements their own identity" approach. I'm doing the same in my project, even though it may be more work, it's definitely worth the effort.

In addition, if "elements" are the focus of your game, you can take a page out of the Divinity playbook and emphasize multi-elemental interactions. For example, a Water spell might leave the target w/ a Damp state, which can be exploited w/ Ice or Lightning spells for greater effect (not just damage, but the application of various states as well). You can do it in reverse too. Like if a target is Frozen, a Fire spell will thaw them out (perhaps you can even target your own allies in this case). In Divinity, Earth spells can apply a Tar/Oil effect, which slows the target but also makes them vulnerable to Fire dmg. So if such a target is hit by a Fire spell, they will guaranteed be inflicted w/ Burn.

I also like the idea of certain elemental states having both a positive and negative effect simultaneously. Going back to the Damp state, the affected target would not only be susceptible to Ice/Lightning, but also receive increased healing. Basically, w/ several different elemental effects in play, you can chain different elements and even have branching effects as the situation demands.

To illustrate what you can do w/ the above effects... Let's say an ally gets Frozen (which is basically a Stun, so it's highly undesirable), you can opt to use your weakest Fire spell on that ally to thaw them out, which applies the Damp state on that ally as a result. Then you follow that up w/ a Water healing spell that will heal them for far more than usual (and also outweighing the minor Fire dmg you dealt earlier).

I also like to use the "Dark" element to enhance certain elemental effects. Like if a target is Cursed and Burned at the same time, the Burn state becomes ShadowFire instead, which unlike the normal Burn state, cannot be extinguished and has unlimited duration. The same could be said for the Frozen state, which normally wouldn't last very long, but an "EbonFrost" version that never melts would be quite powerful (perma stun? lol). This might be too OP though, so maybe implement a single way to cure such states using Holy magic?

For Lightning, you can make it so it will "jump" to a target that's Damp. As in, if you target an enemy that isn't Damp, your Lightning Bolt spell will hit 2 targets instead of 1 (or more if there are more targets afflicted w/ Damp) which effectively turns it into a Chain Lightning spell, even though you only expended the MP of a single Lightning Bolt spell. I also like to give Lightning spells either more Crit opportunities or greater Crit effects. I tend to think Lightning element is "chaotic" in nature.

Ah, I want to type more, but it's 4:30 AM so I need to sleep now lol...

Edit: Divinity also has mechanics where you can ignite certain gases, namely Poison in that game. Now, I question the realism of that, but I get why they did it. Targets w/ poisonous/noxious fumes can be hit w/ Fire or Lightning to ignite said fumes and cause the target and surroundings to EXPLODE!
(ok g'night for reals now lol)
 
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zelanius

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I would say every element should have a basic "staple" skill, likely a single target skill that does reasonable combat damage, and usable every combat, but beyond that, things diverge. Summarizing what has been stated and adding my own, you can diverge them as follow (maybe with auxiliary skills on top of mainline damage spells):

1. Damage level - high damage single target spells, low damage multi-target? how about critical hits and chances? how about damage randomness, where maybe wind (a "flighty" element) has a higher percentage of deviation compared to earth (a "stable" element)?

2. Targeting type - AoE, target all, single target only, maybe multi-hit, controllable targeting, random target (including friend or foe randomness)?

3. Skill cost - cost high MP, cost HP? maybe item cost? perhaps they all have warmups and cooldowns of varying degrees? how about limited use?

4. Environmental interactions - maybe fire can ignite certain environment? maybe wind can blow things away? maybe earth is ineffective against things floating or flying in the air?

5. Non-damage related effect - healing, turn manipulation, affects barriers, drains MP or HP, boost TP more, row/field manipulation, weather effect, etc? how about summoning, protection, or causes taunt or provocation? or perhaps some elements have buffs or debuffs or certain stats/params?

6. Status inflicted or interactions - maybe some element can inflict DoT, maybe some can inflict skill type sealing or even elemental sealing? maybe fire will inflict more damage on enemies afflicted with certain states, etc? maybe some states increase the effectiveness or improves the chances of an element's status effect? maybe the status in question is like a disease or in some ways spreadable?

7. Lore related - perhaps usable only by certain characters? if your characters have certain races or geography associated, only they can use those elements? in other words, the elements are strongly associated with certain geography or races? how about religion, if you world has it, and have elements associated to them and the pantheon? maybe some elements are the "primary" elements, and the rest comes as a result of combining them, and therefore have effect that mimics their "parents"? or maybe the elements are associated with colours? or maybe params?

One game I found which has interesting variations on the elements is Tales of Nebezem: Red Peril, where there are 6 elements (the 4 classical elements + Light and Darkness), and each element has a distinct specialty and/or effect (e.g. Light element has no effect on normal living things, and can do direct healing and revival, Water has regenerative effect and can cure statuses, Darkness has the single most damaging spell based on damage formula but cost HP to cast), a dedicated mage can have 2 elements (e.g. the healer has both Light and Water, a druid has both Earth and Water, etc), and each race has different elemental resistance.
 

Ragpuppy87

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Thanks everyone! You all have given me a lot of good ideas.
 

JosephSeraph

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It's important to think about spells, skills and elements in context, not just by themselves.
It's entirely possible to make a game where every single elemental family offers the exact same spells, just with different affinities, yet make them all feel extremely different from one another.

By making ice-elemental characters have naturally higher mana and hp pools, but lower magic stats, and making them have an affinity to ice-elemental spells, it makes an ice-based buff generally more valuable than that from another element since the ice-elemental unit has more mp and can reliably stay alive to reapply it more often. however, that naturally means that other units will highlight different strengths on the same skill through the lens of another element; a wind-elemental unit might have better AGI in exchange for lower MP so they'll be able to cast the same (wind-elemental variant) less times in total, but will be able to time the spell better and react quicker.

Conversely, elemental affinities can dictate whether different types of spells such as DoT, big burst or small sustained damage are better. If Earth-based units tend to have naturally higher defenses, the element that counters earth will have their defense-ignoring spells become a bit more valuable.

The examples I came up with here are all kind of lame and basic, but they're also pretty much the simplest, most common grounds I could come up with. By working from this as a base you can exercise the abily to focus on dynamics to create depth, rather than stacking complexity through layering more and more mechanics (such as making spells do many different things at once)
 

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Honestly I think it's a bit strange that so many think each element needs to have some special status ailment attached to it all the time. As in "Fire inflicts Burn, Ice inflicts Freeze" etc. I mean sure, some of my spells do this, but most of them don't. I think all you *really* need for your elements to stand out is some way to easily determine enemy weaknesses combined with not every actor having access to all elements.

So, against a zombie that is highly vulnerable to Light and somewhat vulnerable to Fire while being mostly resistant to Ice, your healer (who's only damage type is light) could have a field day while the mage would obviously want to emphasize fire attacks. Against an enemy weak to Ice, absorbs fire, and doesn't care about Light, you'd be using a completely different strategy.
 

Basileus

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Do you have any non-damage spell effects? It can be hard to make different elements stand out when they all do the same thing. Giving each element some utility can go a long way.

In the Persona games, the focus is on the elemental weaknesses/resistances and hitting the enemy with the correct element to end fights quickly. But bosses aren't easily killed like that, so each party member has some additional skills to give them more to do when they can't just hit a weakness.

Genshin Impact is a game that focuses more on combining elements to produce new effects. For example, ice and lightning combine to create a "Superconduct" effect that greatly reduces the target's resistance to physical damage, while ice and fire create a "Melt" effect that multiples the damage of the attack that triggers the reaction. Each element is given a niche based on how it interacts with other elements, but an element by itself doesn't really do anything since the emphasis is on teamwork. You can keep hitting the enemy with fire skills (and do some nice damage if you have skills and equipment to boost fire damage) but there is nothing mechanically different about fire until it has another element to react to.

You mentioned that elements are important to your game, but how do elements fit into the rest of the combat system? Do you have a single playable character with all elements, or a party with unique individual elements? Is there a reason to allow multiple party members to use the same element? Are effects like healing supposed to be tied to an element too? Unless you plan to make an elaborate elemental weakness system, like Persona or Pokemon, then you are going to need more than just single-target and area-of-effect damage with a chance of status effects.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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I feel that elements shouldn't be overdone. They should have character, and there's more to that character than just giving status effects. Each element (let alone specific spell) should still have a niche, even if those niches may be asymmetrical.

For instance, let's look at the original Dragon Quest trilogy. For DQ1, the only real element is Fire. It came in three or four flavors -- Hurt, Hurtmore and one or two types of fire breath. Heck, even Hurtmore is considered a lightning bolt in the NES manual. Enemy fire breath isn't a spell, and thus can't be locked down by StopSpell. IIRC, only the second fire breath is used by the Dragonlord, and if he has one then it's more brutal than any other monster's variant.

For DQ2, it keeps the fire spells but gives them two versions: Fireball as a single-target spell, and Firebane to hit multiple foes. These moves are exclusive to the Prince of Cannock, but the Princess can use the wind-based Infernos and the arcane WMD that is Explodet.

For DQ3, there's much more variance. Blaze spells as single-target fireballs; Fireball / Firebane as waves of flame versus multiple foes; Ice spells that can hit one, multiple or all foes; Infernos and Infermore to tear multiple baddies with wind; Bang / Boom / Explodet to hit all foes; Zap / Thordian to zap foes with lightning. But here's the thing... spells that hit multiple or all foes deal less damage than single-target blasts, with the hit-all attacks being the least hard-hitting. The more focused the spell's targets, the more damaging it is.

Heck, for DQ9 and onward, there's the Zam spell line to blast foes with stygian lightning. In DQ11, they have a higher chance to "go haywire" (critically hit) than most spells can. Through these all, you'll note that none of these damaging elemental spells have gimmicks like "deals a specific status effect". In addition, two types of fire attacks exist -- focused fireballs and group-scorching fire waves.

To a degree Earthbound did this too, in its own way. PK Freeze hits a single target for heavy damage, and can stun them for a turn. PK Fire hits a lane of enemies. PK Thunder zaps randomly, with more bolts for better versions; few enemies means some bolts can totally whiff, and I believe stronger PK Thunders can ignore PSI shields? PK Starstorm is a powerful AoE for late-game stuff. Ness's exclusive PSI Rockin (PK Rockin?) is similar to Starstorm and is more accessible to learn through the game, but the damage is much more swingy.

So... lots of different ways to do this. The big sin is making all elemental spells exactly the same, just with changed element and animation. Even so, Final Fantasy 1's Blizzard spells did more damage than Fire or Thunder versions. On top of that, the White-Mage-Exclusive Dia spells only fazed undead. As long as you can make each spell element its own niche and keep them from feeling cookie-cutter, I think you're golden.
 

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