Optional Add-Ons to the Battle System
Boss Battle Complications
In Paper Mario, there were no chapter boss battles that merely involved
Mario fighting one boss character: all of the boss battles included some kind of subordinate
enemies assisting the boss, except for Tubba Blubba, who was invincible until his heart was
defeated (both Tubba and his
Heart were fought in singular battles, but
that was still a complication). Ironically,
Bowser had no helpers or multiple targetable
body parts, but there was the complication of having to use Star Beam to make him un-invincible,
and of the Star Beam not working on powered-up
Bowser until the Star Spirits receive everybody's wish power. (I apologize if I am spoiling
the plot for anybody :P ) The second game in the series featured similar boss battle
These are not required in Arpeggio, but they make boss battles more exciting. A boss having multiple targetable body parts is one way to do it; usually, one part is the one that needs to be defeated to win the battle, but it cannot be targeted until other parts have been defeated (in these cases, the shielding parts will usually revive a few turns after being defeated). Alternately, one could require all of the body parts to be defeated in order for the players to win. Having the boss call in minions to assist it is a simpler way to spice things up. Similar to the first scenario, instead of just attacking the players, the minions could shield the boss to some degree (it could be completely shielded while the minions are active, but Arpeggio incorporates different forms of attack, so perhaps the minions could shield against melee but not projectile attacks, or physical but not psychic attacks), or grant the boss some other bonus while still alive (Huff N. Puff could eat the Tuff Puffs to heal, Crystal King could spit the Crystal Bits at Mario, etc.) These are just suggestions for potential Maestri, who may come up with better ideas than my mere ripoffs if they put their minds to it.
Arpeggio also provides some other options such as mental disorders (although these are generally detrimental so would make the boss easier instead of harder), being Made of an Element, or being Spiky; you could also give the boss the ability to project a forcefield that has its own HP stat, which could protect against all damage until defeated, or could only protect against some damage, acting like a suit of armor. Another option is to make the boss be continually under the effects of a particular Status Benefit; for an especially difficult boss, you could use Invincibility: since one Invincible character can damage another, this would require the players to tap multiple sources of Invincibility in order to be able to damage the boss, not to mention survive its attacks. Giving bosses unique characteristics like these helps to distinguish them from regular enemies, and might explain why they were promoted to boss over other, possibly stronger, applicants.
Star Power, Stage Effects, and/or The Audience
These features have no default rules in Arpeggio, but would not be overly complicated to
implement. Star Power is functionally just another pool of fuel
points like VP or MP, but potentially with more restrictions and/or a link to the
audience. For those unfamiliar, in Paper Mario 2, all battles took place on a
stage and were watched by an audience; cheers from the audience
refilled Mario's Star Power instead of it automatically refilling in the first
game. Audience members could join or leave based on various things, or could throw
helpful items or harmful objects at Mario; similarly, certain kinds of
things could happen onstage, like a stage light falling on somebody's head, or
the entire stage background falling down and hitting everyone. Later in the
game, stage effects could get truly bizarre, like a random meteor falling on the
battle, or what appeared to be some kind of stone Godzilla-ish thing stepping on
and squashing one team. In Arpeggio, random events like those could be just
that: random, rather than (necessarily in a predesigned video game) pulling from a set list. Even
the presence of an audience could similarly have less predictable effects.
A special set of collectible items like the Star Spirits or Crystal Stars are a good way to pace the plot of an Arpeggiated game, but the reason I don't have a default system for Star Power is because, with all of the other options available to players in Arpeggio such as equippable weapons, player characters generally come out quite overpowered in Paper Mario terms, and Star Power attacks would only exacerbate this. Furthermore, such special plot items can instead actually be treated as equippable weapons or other such things, giving us even more possibilities.
Paper Mario 2 also had a "bingo" system present in all battles, and carrying over between them;
this was left out of Arpeggio due to being based on action commands, which don't
really work in a tabletop game. When Mario or his partner performed an attack and the player
successfully executed the action command, a bingo card would be rolled (similar
to a slot machine, erm, slot) in the upper right corner of the screen, randomizing between a
Mushroom, a Flower, a Star, a Shine
Sprite, or a Poison Shroom; I'm not sure if each of these had an equal
chance or what, but I would probably give them one in Arpeggio. If two cards/slots came up
identical in a row, then the next time that the player nailed the action command, the battle
would pause and they would be allowed to spin the wheel manually, which is to say, it would
appear spinning onscreen and they could stop it with a button press, attempting to get the right
image to match the other two. If they failed to match three, all three slots
would reset, but if they got three in a row, then they would be healed
differently depending on what the three were—as you might expect, three Mushrooms fully
restored the HP of both Mario and his partner, Flowers
restored FP, Stars restored Star Power (see above), Shine
Sprites restored everything, and Poison Shrooms hurt instead of
healed; I forget exactly how bad they were, as one tends to try to avoid matching three of those.
In a tabletop RPG like Arpeggio, things like action commands are usually replaced by random chance such as through dice rolling or, more often in Arpeggio, a simple coin flip. Since the first two cards in this bingo system were random anyway, it's perhaps not too bad to just make the third one random as well. Obviously, since Arpeggio has HP, VP, and MP but normally lacks Star Power, you can pretty much replace the one with the other and have Stars fully restore MP (if you're even using the same icons), although if you're also including Star Power, then you might want one more for that as well. Regardless, you'll have to decide how often to roll a card, since you no longer have action commands to determine that; it could just happen with every successfully landed attack, it could have a 50/50 chance (coin flip) with each one, or the chance could be determined by one (or more?) of the character's stats. You'll also have to decide whether the bingo game is shared between the whole player party or whether each individual player character has a separate one going, and whether or not to run the game for enemies. The fact that it only existed for the players in PM2 is another reason that I left it out, because in Arpeggio the player party already tends to be more powerful than Mario and his partner, so they don't really need the extra help (even given the chance to roll Poison Shrooms instead). That being said, it could be interesting to apply the bingo game to a boss, perhaps making it the signature complication of that boss's battle.
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is an indie game that is so far the closest thing
we've ever gotten to a real Paper Mario 3. As the name implies, the characters are bugs (or at
least bug-sized creatures), including the enemies. While the game, battle system included, is
heavily based on the first two Paper Mario games, there are some important changes.
For one thing, whichever of the three player characters attacks first in a round gets a +1 bonus to damage, but in exchange enemies are more likely to target that character. (Technically, "first" is a position, and attack order can be changed without changing the person in this position, unlike switching the order of Mario and his partner in PM2.) Additionally, the equivalent to first strikes, rather than beginning the battle with the attack landed in the field, grants the first character two attacks in the first turn of battle, and even apart from that, the player characters can freely pass their turn on to each other, allowing for one who is currently unable to do much to avoid wasting that action by giving it to a teammate. However, whether from a first strike or a "Turn Relay," each additional action that the same character gets in the same turn will suffer a damage penalty of -1, stacking with previous penalties. The first attack bonus, turn relays, and multiple-action penalties are not standard features of Arpeggio, but could relatively easily be incorporated to create an experience closer to Bug Fables; however, in Bug Fables, they only apply to the player party, with enemies functioning basically the same as in Paper Mario (including their first strikes).
Similarly, enemies in Bug Fables could take 0 damage from an attack like in Paper Mario, but the player characters would always take at least 1 damage if they didn't block the attack. Many RPGs have a minimum damage of 1, but not often combined with a blocking action command; as discussed, action commands don't really work in tabletop form, so I left this stuff out.
For an experience closer to an actual Paper Mario game, a two-player game of Arpeggio could be run with one player controlling Mario and the other controlling the currently active partner, with partners being able to swap out and the inactive ones remaining in pocket limbo until called upon. (Alternately, a single player could control both Mario and the active partner, or a three-person game could throw in Luigi as a "second Mario" or allow two active partners like in Super Mario RPG.) This kind of swapping would resemble switching out active Pokémon, and similarly, the Maestro might choose to only award XP to partners who participated in a battle—that is assuming that they're even using the normal player character level system: to make it even more like the games, they could instead have three predesigned power levels each, achieved not through earning XP but some other means; I would probably use the Super Blocks from PM1, since I already used Shine Sprites for something else. You could even have partners lack VP or MP pools of their own, instead mooching off of Mario's to replicate there only being one FP pool in the games. Obviously, Unique field abilities, being modeled after partner field abilities, could replicate the need to switch partners to use those. Also obviously, switching partners in mid-battle should use up a turn, although since Mario could use his turn instead of the partner's to make the switch in Paper Mario games, the same could be true here as well.
The Smash Ball and Final Smashes
If Final Smashes are meant to be an important part of a game of Arpeggio, then I would
suggest allowing each character to write them up individually along with the
rest of their attacks, but the Final Smash wouldn't cost an Attack Point for
player characters since it can only be accessed through the Smash Ball. For something more
off-the-cuff, though, you could just allow any of a character's existing attacks to be
converted into a Final Smash, much like a Z-Move
from Pokémon, in which case it could similarly just deal +10 damage.
For the Smash Ball itself, it could appear in mid-battle, probably on a random Phase of the turn to allow more variety in which team is likely to get it. As in Smash Bros., only one Smash Ball can exist at a time, and another will not appear if somebody still has an unused Final Smash. Once it appears, it can be targeted by attacks; it would probably count as a flying target, but its effective Platform stat may vary (perhaps simply randomizing from 1 to 9 each turn). Whoever breaks the Smash Ball begins to glow with multicolored light, and can then choose to unleash a Final Smash whenever desired, although because the Smash Ball needs to be attacked to be broken, whoever breaks it will generally have used up their turn and need to wait until at least the next turn to perform the Final Smash. In the intervening time, opponents may attack the character in an attempt to force the Smash Ball out of them, giving others a chance to break it once again. If the Smash Ball sticks around for a full 3 turns (counting from the Phase during which it appeared) without being broken, it will leave the battle of its own accord, and everyone will have to wait for another one to appear.
I'm not exactly sure how damage to the Smash Ball works in Super Smash Bros., so if you have more intimate knowledge of that, feel free to replicate it exactly. My impression is that it never breaks from the first attack dealt to it, but that its chance of breaking after that is somewhat random, if increasing with each additional attack (all of this, I mean, being different from it actually having a distinct HP value, which perhaps it does and I'm simply an idiot). Based on this impression, I kind of like the idea that somebody has to put in that first attack in order to make the Smash Ball "breakable," after which any attack on it will have a 50% chance of breaking it. A similar option would be to give it about 10 HP, and have it enter the 50% breakable state only when its HP falls to zero. In either case, perhaps a total of 10 actual attacks, regardless of damage, should guarantee it to break. Where any of that stuff is true, I would suggest only counting multiple-hit attacks as one hit/attack, or at least only having a single 50% chance and not one for every hit. Whichever of these options is chosen should apply equally to forcing the Smash Ball out of a glowing target, with the 10 HP thing equating to that character taking 10 damage since acquiring the Final Smash. However, if a glowing character dies, the Smash Ball does not come out and is lost completely, again requiring everyone to wait for another to appear.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate introduced fake Smash Balls that explode when broken and the idea of earning a Final Smash by building up a meter instead of breaking the Smash Ball (in which case multiple characters can be glowing at the same time). For the fake Smash Ball, I would suggest having the explosion deal 10 [/] damage to the entire team of whoever broke it. For the meter, well, it's just a matter of picking numbers; I would probably use something similar to the laguz gauge.
In Steven Universe, the Gems can summon their weapons from their,
well, gems. These weapons, as well as the Gems' actual bodies, are explicitly hard light
constructs, and as such will vanish if broken or can be dissipated at will. In Arpeggio terms,
the ability to summon weapons at any time may sound overpowered, but since
normal weapons don't break like they do in Fire Emblem, it's actually not that different than
just carrying your unbreakable weapon around all the time. The summoning could be rendered as a
special attack, as a Unique field ability if the weapons have
utility outside of battle, or as an extra power defined in the "Notes" section
at the end of the character sheet. If a game of Arpeggio is based around Gems, it might be fair
to make weapon summoning costless, since enemy Gems would be able to do it too.
Where a cost is desired, I would charge 1 VP (or MP) to summon an
E-Level weapon, and 1 more point for each higher level, for 5
at the max of A. I would probably also restrict a given character to only being able to summon
weapons that they can use, so only up to their current Weapon Level in each type
(and maybe even restrict each character to only summoning one type, even if they have Weapon
Levels in other types). If this seems to eat away at VP/MP too quickly, I would propose allowing
these characters to "reabsorb the energy used to make the weapon," i.e., intentionally dissipate
the weapon in order to regain the number of points originally spent to summon
it. Points wouldn't be restored if the weapon is dissipated
forcibly, such as being broken by an enemy attack, or being stolen by an enemy
and the summoner choosing to dispel the weapon in order to prevent the thief from using it. So
under this system, those kinds of situations are the only ones when the VP/MP cost of summoning
the weapon would be permanently lost, and need to be spent again in order to conjure a
replacement copy. Summoning or intentionally dissipating a weapon would use up a
character's turn in battle, but one type of weapon can be dissipated and another
summoned in the same turn, similar to simply equipping a different weapon.
Summonable weapons might be restricted to basic damage-dealing varieties (dealing the typical x1 damage at E-Level, x2 at D, x2 +2 at C, x2 +4 at B, and x4 at A; projectile weapons or others that don't use Weapon Level could still follow a similar cost-to-power ratio) as opposed to ones with additional effects such as inflicting Status Problems, but that's really just up to the Maestro. You can make the whole thing a lot simpler by only letting each character summon one exact particular weapon, which would get its own custom weapon sheet, but I didn't want that to be a hard limitation. Like with RWBY weapons, you could even leave out the entire Weapon Level system if each player character intends to only use their one special weapon throughout the entire game.
For my default Gem sheets, I've gone with the 1-5 reabsorbale VP cost, summoning being an extra turn option like Defending or Running Away, summonable weapon types listed in the weapons list with "(Conjure)" afterward, and indeed summonable weapons restricted to merely dealing damage rather than inflicting Status Problems or the like (though such is possible with an armed special attack, of course). A Gem can technically summon a weapon at a Weapon Level above their own maximum, but can't actually use it; they could pass it off to a teammate.