Imagine you're a ghost. You had a life once, people you cared about. You grew up, you loved, you hurt, you died. Now you're invisible. Intangible. Powerful.
Find an animal, and possess it. Feed it, care for it, grow it. Augment it. Train it. You are the most powerful being the forest has ever known.
Until one day, you hear a tap on the window. Which is funny, because there are no windows in the forest. Then symbols appear, and suddenly you understand you are not alone, only one tiny piece of a massive telepathic society. Other monsters bump in the night, other Avatars like yourself. Some respect the world about them, others, the Abominations, do not.
The most basic shell, the Blob, is also the most adaptable. It is resistant to all kinds of attacks and it has only two component slots. One is a mode of attack, the other a power source. An Appendage allows a melee attack, while a Focus makes the Bolt attack available. Both need to be powered.
The basic choices are a Generator or a Reservoir. A Generator gives a small pool but regenerates quickly. A Reservoir gives a big pool, but does not regenerate. When not fighting, your soul heals and recharges your shell quickly, although you can only 'flash-charge' a certain number of times before needing to rest. (time spent eating / drinking is minimal but exists. 1min in 10 perhaps)
Later shells have more slots, but the base shell becomes weaker. Some shells have defensive slots, which provide damage reduction or avoidance. Other shells have multiple attack slots. Most importantly, components gain adaptations. The Appendage becomes a Stabber, inflicting greater single-target damage, or a Cleaver, inflicting short-range area damage. The Bolt attack focuses a certain type of energy, with effects beyond simple damage.
Eventually you find yourself in possession of a full-fledged war machine, a Biosynth constructed from living organisms, able to fell redwoods with a kick or flash-fry a sheep in under a second just by glaring. The only trouble is, that's what the Abominations think of you.
I give up on the story. This is a gameplay feature list. Key items include:
The player has multiple Biosynths available for control. Changing 'class' is not free, but it is far less costly than in WoW.
A Biosynth is the sum of its parts. You don't get so much as a punch attack without buying it. OTOH, if your shell has an empty slot, you may as well fill it. This allows for 'mandatory' abilities.
Components are attacks, defenses, powers, reacts and supports. Attacks are physical or energy based, both CAN be specialised for greater effect. Defenses split identically, in both cases more damage/mitigation can be achieved per point by specialising. Powers include generators, reservoirs and reactors, which create power based on damage taken or done. Shells will closely restrict power builds. Reacts are meta-components which power active abilities when conditions are achieved. Supports buff or debuff one or more targets. They constantly drain power, so are preferably offset by a generator. Some supports can be customised to apply differently to different people.
There is no healing (maybe some regeneration). Post-combat, you insta-heal which costs soul points. To regain soul points, you meditate. Most builds should average to 1min in 10 resting, a big decrease from most MMOs. Some builds will not require any resting, but this will cost in other areas. Builds which require >2min in 10 should be rebalanced. Combat occurs in bullet-time.
Tanking: armor (constant dmg mitigation) and luck (% dmg mitigation) are passive. Dodge, parry (allows counter) and block (partial mitigation) are active.
I wanted to gut certain aspects of the MMO canon. WoW bent the trinity a bit, but ultimately the purebreed DPS and healers suffered. Warlocks, hunters, paladins and druids can all perform two or more roles admirably, while mages, rogues and priests are left lackluster in comparison. At present, all the priests I know are DPS-specced... which is just wrong. So remove healing. Now you just have tanking and DPS, and tanking seems a hell of a lot harder.
In a long fight, even a perfectly played tank will eventually run out of HP. This suggests multiple tanks are a good solution. Suddenly 1/3 of the group are tanks, tank-swapping is routine, the line between DPS and tank is blurred and boom goes the trinity. This also removes some of the "KPOW, you're dead" factor. No single blow from even the biggest nasty will fell a tank. Of course, if too many big shots are absorbed, the entire group runs out of HP. AKA wipe.
Position is one of the best mechanics since it's 2D. Actually, since we're in bullet-time, it's 3D - a jump lasts long enough that lag doesn't destroy it as a combat mechanic. DPS will be maneuvering around AOE attacks to reach weak spots, while the tank(s) either dodge (safe) or parry (riskier, but with a damage payoff) the main attacks. Yes, tanks - multiple tanks may be required for the 12-armed Cthuloid Abominations. You do NOT want all 12 arms hitting one tank, right?
I wanted to gut equipment. The whole 'magic sword' idea has gone waaaay overboard. It particularly dissonates that when I get a new shiny, I just *destroy* (aka vendor) that thing I sweated blood for. Originally I wanted persistent items with upgradeable sockets. Then I realised that making the entire character the persistent item, with their limbs and abilities the sockets, I could get the same effect. Instead of looting items off defeated foes, you learn genetic techniques.
As part of the whole loot thing, I wanted to move a little away from the "numbers going up!" basis of RPGs. Through the levelling game, primarily you'll be looting specialisation and diversity. The Blob is going to be pretty damn boring... roll up, set autoattack, wait. Soon you'll become faster, or sharper, or tricksy. By 'endgame', you should have enough techniques to fulfill one or two roles one or two ways.
It bugs me that WoW Mages can only do fire or frost at once. It bugs me I even have that stupid fireball spell when it's so useless. Biosynth mages will put most of their points into lower level modules, they can choose to specialise or not, but two schools should be affordable. The expensive choices will be stylistic - debuff or direct, fast or slow, control or power.
I'd like to introduce some aspects of Populism, but I'm not sure how yet.
I'll add more later.