I have programming experience, but I've only ever been a light dabbler in modding, and never for a Total War game before.
When WH turned agents into these heroes that could operate on and off the battlefield, it seemed like a brilliant idea on paper, but the execution has been extremely lacking and we ended up with some of the least-interesting agent gameplay in the TW franchise. This lead me to developing some rather grand ideas for an overhaul, and with WH3 out (and no real improvement to agent gameplay) now seems like the perfect time to start figuring out how to accomplish what I want and slowly but steadily begin fashioning my mod. This is assuming even half of what I want to do is possible...
I'll give a summary of my desired end-result, and randomly select the Lizardmen as a point of comparison between the new and old systems—
Non-lord characters are divided into three standard types: agents, heroes, and sorcerers.
Agents are a new introduction to WH, and behave similarly to typical agents of older titles, with the exception that there is only one type per faction, let's call ours the Chameleon Scout. Here are the bullet points:
- Does NOT appear on the battlefield, and does not take up a unit slot when embedded in an army (will need some special UI representation)
- Rolls most traditional agent abilities into one, following the unlocking of those abilities via skill points.
- Is hidden unless discovered (usually by another agent, or from failing a mission).
- Upgrade paths will likely be based around army and settlement support, targeting of enemy agents and settlements, and passive abilities, as well as a few outside the paths (but obviously no mount options). Most actions will allow several points for deep specialization.
- Begins with basic abilities around scouting: Character/ambushing army detection (province-wide passive); Unlocking gates (target enemy settlement); Defence against enemy agents (embed in friendly army or settlement).
- New actions can include wounding/assassination (the ability to target lords is unlocked at a higher tier from targeting other types of characters), boosting income, boosting or harming public order, increasing army movement range, misdirecting enemy armies, sabotaging buildings, stealing technology, stealing funds, poisoning garrison/supplies, bolstering default abilities, etc.
Heroes are the most similar to their WH counterparts and will include our familiar faces the Saurus Scar Veteran and the Skink Chieftan which maintain their battlefield roles, however their agent-like abilities are altered and they have a rather major addition to their functionality that I will explain below:
- An idea I heard from someone else and loved is for heroes to behave like pseudo-lords. They essentially count as an army which can attack or be attacked normally, and with skill upgrades they can even lead a small detachment of troops (possibly a highest limit at 5), and do not count towards your army supply. They should be able to recruit like lords as well.
- To make them less vulnerable, they are hidden by default like agents, although without skill investment they are more easily discovered and this is further impacted by leading troops.
- They cannot build siege equipment or besiege settlements, only immediately attack settlements that don't require siege equipment to assault.
- No longer has normal targeted agent actions, instead approaching special interactions through stances. For instance, an unlockable "harassment" stance requires some movement points but will allow the hero to attempt to damage a small portion of an enemy army (like their previous "Assault Forces" campaign action), with the heroes troop detachment taken into account (and possibly suffering losses), then retreat a small distance. With a skill investment, this could even trigger similarly to an ambush.
- Can use a stance (probably called something like "Bait") to force an enemy Lord or Hero into a duel (when multiple are in an army together, not sure if random or a specific character can be selected). If successful, the Hero's combat ability comes into play here, though I'm thinking it'll just factor into a random chance rather than actually load a battle map, though that could be cool...
- Final special action is tied to a "Track" ability, which both increases their detection ability and allows them to target other character types (agents and sorcerers) in an attempt to subdue them, including the targeting of these agents/sorcerers in enemy armies (army detachments are not considered in this).
- Can still improve training of armies (though this will be buffed from vanilla), can improve their aura, and possibly terrorize the enemy force while embedded.
- As leaders of detachments, they can also upgrade areas related to reinforcement speed and distance, adventuring into underways as a race that normally can't, and so on.
Finally, we have sorcerers, and in some ways my ideas here are the most ambitious. These already exists as the dedicated spellcasters, such as the Skink Priest. One of my biggest complaints of WH agents is how magic users can't actually use spells on the campaign map, and so that is the biggest thing I want to correct here:
- Sorcerers, like agents, can't attack or be attacked like armies or heroes, but they can be embedded as units and appear on the battlefield.
- They are again hidden by default, though usually easily spotted.
- They have roughly the same battlefield spell skill tree as before, and can still improve magic item finding, and will also boost winds of magic, but they lose their other agent-like abilities (boost income, steal tech, wound, etc.).
- They now have a new spell pack dedicated to "Strategic Spells" (we'll call them campaign spells) and like battle spells, they are based on the lore of magic the sorcerer follows.
- I want the sorcerer to be able to cast campaign spells whether or not it is embedded in an army, though the UI is definitely a bit iffy for this one. As these produce effects on the campaign map, I want to try and repurpose existing campaign effects.
- Campaign spells' potency are affected by local winds of magic strength, have a multi-turn cooldown, debuff the caster for a turn (fatigue, movement range if unimbedded, and possibly reduced winds of magic), often reveal the caster if hidden, and can miscast with variable negative effects for the caster, though are usually otherwise free.
- I want every lore to have a variety of campaign spells covering different general categories, with various buffing, offensive, defensive, and supporting spells. These can include things like damaging walls, increasing or decreasing replenishment, providing movement or defence, improving an agent's abilities for a turn, and so much more.
Just some final points:
- One goal is to have more room with specialization so you don't end up with characters who are good at almost everything like in the vanilla hero experience.
- "Agents" are the only ones now costing money for their actions. Combined with their lack of battlefield presence, they will have the lowest upkeep to compensate. How to recruit agents and what determines their cap is TBD, though they should be available early.
- I find the immortality skill to be both too safe and a no-brainer, so it is no longer an unlockable skill, but has a chance of being acquired as a trait at high levels.
- All characters might be a bit weaker than before when they start off, but can become very effective through focused investment. They will still improve a little bit overall just by leveling up.
So that's my abbreviated design doc. The three hardest things seem to me to be: getting heroes to behave like agent/lord hybrids; the campaign spells; and recreating a more classic type of TW agent which can embed itself in armies and cities without existing as a normal unit. What do you guys think, either from a technical or gameplay standpoint? I would also be happy to work with someone on this, or at least occasionally consult someone with more experience.