At various points as I’ve discussed my upcoming RPG Wyrd Street, I’ve touched on the focus mechanic, but I think it’s time I did a proper deep-dive on just how it works.
My reason for creating focus was simple: I have never enjoyed playing a 5E character without spell slots. Choosing how to manage the resources of your character creates interesting tactical choices, and it’s just fun to be able to pop off and execute abilities that are far beyond a basic attack in power.
Pure martial characters as presented in 5E are just too one-dimensional for my taste. Therefore I created focus so that every class in Wyrd Street could have compelling choices in battle.
Originally, higher level focus-spenders were more powerful and cost more focus so as to emulate higher level spells in 5E, but in keeping with my desire for Wyrd Street to have relatively flat vertical progression, I ultimately decided to standardize the power level and cost of most focus-spenders. There are still a few extra dramatic spenders with a higher cost, but they’re pretty rare.
The risk of a standardized resource system is erasing class identity, so to prevent that I’ve given each class a different relationship with the focus mechanic. Some classes have a large maximum focus pool, while others have a small one. Some regenerate focus rapidly, others only once or twice and adventure, if that. Some have small pools but fast regeneration, or large pools but slow regeneration.
Those classes that are more focus-starved compensate by having very strong core stats and/or passive abilities. If you like the steady reliability of martial classes in 5E, that’s still an option here — focus is more of an augment to that playstyle than a replacement for it.
Most commonly, classes regenerate focus by resting between adventures or recuperating between fights, but many have additional ways of getting it back. A number of classes have access to a selection of unique focus-generating abilities, while others have more exotic options baked directly into the class.
For example, the Dreamer class is all about being a team player, and their focus mechanics reflect this. In addition to getting some focus from resting, Dreamers also regain focus whenever anyone in their party scores a critical success on an attack, ability, or skill check. The amount of focus gained scales based on party size, so Dreamers aren’t hobbled if they’re on a smaller team.
This also creates some interesting class synergies. The Fortune Teller has abilities that can increase the odds of a crit, or even guarantee one, making them an excellent pairing with a Dreamer. Scoundrels can also be adept at crit-fishing with the right build, making them another good option to feed a Dreamer focus.
Speaking of Scoundrels, they’re another class that has a unique relationship with focus. Whereas every other class can eventually attain a maximum focus pool of at least five, a Scoundrel’s max focus is only three, and whenever they rest or recuperate, their current focus is set to one. This means they’re the only class that can lose focus by resting
They do, however, have a robust suite of abilities that generate large amounts of focus mid-fight. This means they are encouraged to spend their focus early and often — if you don’t use it now, it goes to waste. It captures the speedy intensity of their agile fighting style.
The focus mechanic seeks to both balance the complexity of classes while simultaneously fostering class identity in new ways. If you’d like to see it in action, you can try out our free starter edition.
Wyrd Street is currently crowdfunding on Indie Go Go. The campaign is a little more than halfway through, and unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re going to hit our funding goal. However, keep in mind that the game will still be released no matter what. Whatever funding we earn in the interim helps to polish the game with more artwork and other perks. Every donation matters, and if you can’t afford to contribute, you can also help by spreading the word on social media or recommending Wyrd Street to your friends.