How do you handle lighthearted low-violence action/combat?

I've been wanting to wanting to write my own fantasy game, but been aiming for a more lighthearted tone than most fantasy game.
Something funny like pic related or like adventure time, where there is plenty of action, violence and even the occational on-screen death while never feeling too heavy. Been recently reading about Ryuutama to see how they do it, but I would still like some human advice, since its not very combat focused.
The reason I'm looking into all of this is because I wanted to create an rpg with cute character options without running into the jarring issue of those same cute characters the players made being subjected to mutilation, slavery, horrible transformations, and gruesome deaths which are rather common in games like D&D.
In essence: I'm struggling to keep a consistent tone in my setting and I'd rather lean towards lighthearted than gruesome fantasy. And I need some pointers, resources or advice.

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  1. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    https://www.sjgames.com/toon/
    Not what I would call a good game but is a cartoon logic simulator

    • 3 weeks ago
      Anonymous

      An interesting game, but i'm not really looking to make a nonsense cartoon logic setting. Just something that avoids straying into uncomfortable realism, since I noticed that a lot of RPGs tend to lean towards brutal deadly realism, even if otherwise containing fantastical elements like magic.

      • 3 weeks ago
        Anonymous

        >Yes, I am human and I do play lots of games, why are you questioning that?

        • 3 weeks ago
          op

          what did he mean by that?

          • 3 weeks ago
            Anonymous

            >what did he mean by that?
            He considers himself to be part of the Ganker moderation staff, but without any official recognition or power, his only means of curating the board is to make snarky posts implying that the other anons shouldn't be posting without his approval.

  2. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    The best advice I would give is that in order to keep things lighthearted, everyone at the table needs to be on board.
    First and foremost, that means that you as the GM need to establish the tone and stakes that fit with that. It doesn't work to simply say a game is going to be lighthearted, and then have enemies slip into really deplorable things. Second is to communicate with the players to make sure they understand that the stakes are lower, and that they're not just a fantasy swat team aiming to kill everyone suspicious on sight.

    I'd almost recommend trying to find a superhero system and using that as a basis, since those also often aim for a heroic tone where death is rare and villains return on a regular basis.
    And in the context of making your own system, I would also lean into that in terms of character progression. Rather than gaining XP for beating people up, have them gain XP when they fail certain rolls, or when an enemy retreats or surrenders, or when they decide to surrender to an enemy, end up captured, or otherwise walk into a trap. Stuff that directly encourages them to play imperfect characters who regularly mess up or get into trouble.

    And that in turn ties back to making sure the players understand that setbacks are part of the game, but also ensuring that those setbacks maintain that lighthearted tone. Getting captured shouldn't be a death sentence, and failing to stop an enemy shouldn't result in mass slaughter.

    • 3 weeks ago
      op

      Wise advice. I do generally try to consider what my players want from a campaign, but this topic is more about designing the game with rules that enable action, adventuring and realistic problem-solvinng while keeping the violence tame. Not necessarily child-friendly. Something akin to dragon ball or the Yakuza games where people get beat up all the time never feels too gruesome as to make you grimace.

      Also, using a superhero system does sound like a good idea, I only really have read Masks but it would be worth looking into a few more. Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    >I've been wanting to wanting to write my own fantasy game
    Just don't.

    • 3 weeks ago
      Anonymous

      Why not?

      • 3 weeks ago
        Anonymous

        Because making your own stuff is fun, and fun is not allowed.
        Frick 'em, make the thing, enjoy making it, and report back with the results.

  4. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    How I handle it is simple, I don't describe things in gruesome detail, and I don't do dismemberment. Blood isn't even a focal aspect. Monsters die in puffs of smoke or bursts of stars or sizzling away in fragmentating data. Heroes don't lament their passing, or tell their friends to hold their hand as they go, the horrors of a life slowly fading out are not described. When heroes die, it is usually in an explosion, or instantly, with the allies not experiencing shell shock, but instead becoming charged with righteous fury.
    Toning down descriptions, not describing horrific things, glorifying many other aspects that would normally paralyze someone with fear, glamorizing honorable deaths, merciful ends, fades to black, "offscreen" deaths; these are all steps you can take, but from there, it's also about the individual's perspective, too. Some people can't hear about a character dying in an explosion without thinking about blood, viscera, limbs, and bone fragments spewing fricking everywhere even when it isn't described, for instance.

    • 3 weeks ago
      Anonymous

      I *love* the visual of monsters dying in puffs of smoke. something so stylistically fresh and fun about that.

      • 3 weeks ago
        Anonymous

        I think it's cool, too.
        For that specifically, you can even add a tactical aspect to it, where your party got done slaying a bunch of enemies, but oh shit, now there's smoke everywhere and it's hard to see, so here's a new challenge.
        Or it's a boss scenario where all the little monsters you turned into smoke coalesce up above and form into a singular, larger beast.

    • 3 weeks ago
      op

      Making violent elements literally nonexistent certainly is a solution. But it limits the potential settings that it can be used in. To its credit, a massive amount of fantasy games only have you kill ugly monsters, bugs or skeletons.
      Descriptions are a big part of it too. Perhaps a rulebook could adress death as an unlikely occurrence and 0 HP described as someone being "defeated" rather than straight up dead. Though gotta be careful with that because it might undermine the consequences of defeat and result in the players feeling invincible and take insane risks rather than immerse themselves in the danger of the world.

  5. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    Easy, the campaign setting is actually a video-game like simulation with a Parental Lock setting. Even married couples fade to black. Damage just causes illusory numbers to fly out of people. Corpses despawn into loot piles unless they're plot relevant.
    Players are self aware NPC's. The internal logic of the setting isn't strange to them. The history of the world was shaped during the great Alpha age. Players are currently in the Beta age. Mad prophets whisper of a 'Great Release' that will bring untold chaos to the world.

    • 3 weeks ago
      op

      Sure, that works. But that only covers a very narrow range of possible of setting.

  6. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    >Pic
    Man, ryuutama is fricking adorable.

    • 3 weeks ago
      op

      I know right?? That's why I've been looking into it. It really feels like the closest thing to what I wanna make.

  7. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    Tone is all about players. You can give suggestions but ultimately player perspectives make the tone.

    Ran a campaign of D&D that was supposed to be lighthearted. Then party decides they will torture a baddie until she tells them what they need.

    Ran a Dark-Heresy with a gruesome cannibal cult. Party goes full nonlethal mode, opens a pastry shop, loads the cult with pastel coloured cakes laced with drugs, captures everyone alive and sends them to the arbites with a "promise to not do that again".

    At best you can hope to land a group who all have the same tonal preference by player selection, but if you try to constrain game tone by rules you'll end up with very weird situations where characters are facing invisible walls.

    What you CAN do is provide mechanics that favor a lighthearted approach in situations where players are tempted to cruelty.

    • 3 weeks ago
      op

      Of course, players can shape the tone of the game as much as the DM or the Rulebook can. But I personally think that a rulebook with a clear tone helps a ton both guiding the players and selling the pitch to people who might be into this specific flavor of RPG.

  8. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    Why not just use fate/fudge system? Since it's generic it can emulate most things on an okay level so even if you players choose more abstract non combat solutions it can most likely be resolved with one dice roll.

    • 3 weeks ago
      op

      Mostly because I'm trying to design my own system. And I really like games that use the mechanics to encourage a given tone, rather tan using a generic systema and asking the players to pretty please respect the tone.

      • 2 weeks ago
        Anonymous

        First answer:
        Most games without a detailed wound system (for example, any system that uses HP) can be turned cute by just refluffing hits as "bruises" and death as "fainted".
        You may also have to remove piercing and cutting weapons, but that's about it.

        Now, from a design perspective, maybe you could run it like that:
        Put an emphasis on immediate damage effects.
        High level of knocking damage gets you to see stars for a turn.
        A well placed piercing damage makes the target comedically jump in the air screaming.
        Too much damage and the character faints. After a little while he wakes up and can get back to full health after a while.

        Actually, this reminds me of something one of my university teacher said, a while back:
        >Horror movies and looney tunes-style cartoons have in common to feature body deformation as a central theme
        >The difference between them is reversibility
        It's typical universitarian overthinking, but in your context it's a good point:
        Just being able to get back to full health quickly, even from going to 0hp (reversibility) is enough to get a light hearted tone.

        • 2 weeks ago
          op

          These are some pretty good ideas. Swapping death for mere defeat helps a ton, and adds potential for roleplay with enemies. But I think some amount of cuts and and even blood can be fine, I'm aiming for something teen rated rather than child rated.
          The reversability aspect does ring true, but there's a lot of value in the risk-reward aspect of long-term planning and consequence. The thrill of being at the end of a dungeon with next to no resources left, or the nice tender interactions of players healing each other. So while I'll keep your advice in mind, I'll still be on the lookout for potential mechanics that can maintain that gameplay aspects that I enjoy in rpgs.
          Perhaps something inspired by your idea of an HP pool that is spent both in combat and for mundane character abilities, and represents how tired they are before they need rest again. 0 HP meaning too tired to do any work rather than dying.

  9. 3 weeks ago
    Anonymous

    Short answer: look up goblins & goose gold at some blogspot, is a guy who wanted to do sometjibg similar

    Long answer: i posted it as a comment on said entries. Will look it up for you when i get off work

    • 2 weeks ago
      op

      I gave it a look. It looks real cute, and potentially worth playing. But I don't want to *remove* violence altogether. Just tone it down to something a little less violent than D&D. Action combat without bloodshed.

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