In the last instalment, I touched briefly on the subject of how a relationship system could affect combination attacks during combat. Relationship systems aren’t a new invention by any means, Breath of Fire had the coloured gems on the character status screen, and Star Ocean: The Second Story had a very in-depth system of inter-character friendships and love. This system was the basis for the ‘Private Action’ system of events, where you could watch short scripted sequences that took place between characters in your party when you entered a town. Some of these private actions included interactive elements, where you got to choose how you would react to the interactions between other characters. When I first saw it in action I thought it was brilliant, and still to this day think this is a great way to flesh out character’s personalities, backstory, and relationships between characters.

However, tihs series is about combat. So let’s look at combat.

As I said last time, a character relationship system goes very well with a combination attack system. Characters who are ‘friends’ are more likely to develop combat strategies that take advantage of each others’ strengths. The possibilities don’t end there, however.

I used the phrase ‘friends fighting side by side’, and I think therein lies the key: friends look out for each other, derive strength from each other, and watch each other’s backs. These are all things that can be implemented using existing mechanics.

Final Fantasy VI had another, less visible system, where if you had a character at near-death status (low HP, with a visual cue of the character kneeling instead of the usual standing idle stance) and selected the ‘Fight’ command, there was a small chance the character would execute a desperation attack. Desperation attacks, like the character-specific abilities, had unique combat animations and spell effects, and were usually pretty powerful.

In a similar vein, and using the relationship system, when a character is reduced to near death, it could be interesting to have characters with strong emotional ties to that character to intervene. A healer, for example, might cast a heal on the character to pull them out of the danger zone, while a defensive fighter might position themselves in front of that character, protecting them from the next attack.

To tie it in with the action gem system I detailed in the first ToRPGCS, perhaps the triggering of one of these actions requires and expends an active action gem. This way, we’d avoid the crazy exploitation of the system by the sly – as was common with Squall’s Renzokuken in FFVIII – and at the same time it would add another element to the strategic conservation of actions: a player might decide to leave the healer’s action gems active instead of topping up characters if they are expecting a powerful enemy attack. The player would also be more invested in keeping track and developing the relationships of their characters.

It would also be interesting for the pendulum to swing both ways: if character A is very good friends with character B, and character B is KOed in combat (HP reduced to 0), it would be interesting for character A to express their anguish or grief somehow. In a combat setting, this could be a temporary debuff that decreases their strength in combat, or perhaps the character goes berserk and attacks the enemy uncontrollably for a few rounds. After all, villains usually resort to attacking the heroes’ weaker associates and love ones as a means of demoralising them.