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How would you handle dual skills in a turn based rpg?

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How would you handle dual skills in a turn based rpg? (I don't mean just synergy, but actually consuming both characters turns in order to use a skill they cannot alone.)

I haven't seen this in games that are truly turn based, and that's because characters are always acting individually and not simultaneously in real time, or in the case of Chrono Trigger, an ATB gauge to represent readiness.

But i've thinking on how this could work, and have 2 basic ideas. In both we'll call whichever character selects the ability 'partner A' and the secondary character by 'partner B', but either character of any dual skill pairing would be able to initiate.

  1. "Wait for partner" – In this style, after partner selects the dual skill, they wait in standby until the partner B's turn, at which point they perform the skill. Any costs associated like mp would be paid up at partner B's turn i would imagine.

– Pros: This feels intuitive, although that's a personal opinion of course. In a turn based game about numbers, particularly speed values in this case, it doesn't make sense the partner character would get to take their action turns sooner.

– Cons: Certain logistics don't make sense to me: What if there is a large difference in these 2 characters' speed; for example, partner A picks the dual skill and waits for the partner B but partner A is actually so fast they will take another turn before then (should it not be possible to select the dual skill if partner A would in fact have another turn between)?

This method also has a certain feel-bad potential to it too, in that if you pick the skill with partner A and one of the pair dies before then, the whole thing is cancelled and A skipped their turn for nothing (but that is also a risk/cost, and as long as it is reasonable, risks and costs are not inherently bad).

  1. "Perform immediately" – With this, you would select a dual skill with a partner A, and then they and partner B just use that skill in partner A's turn immediately. This would consume partner B's next turn as well, they wouldn't get a free turn.

– Pros: No waiting around – although turn based rpgs inherently involve waiting while we dig through menus, it does seem like a feel bad to have partner A pick a skill and then do nothing while waiting, and gives time an enemy might defeat one of the partners. There are also no random feel-bads if partner is A is waiting and then one of the pair falls and the skill is cancelled.


– Cons: This causes partner B to take their turn sooner even though we are a genre that is using the speed stat to determine this, and i don't think i find that to make a ton of sense to jump ahead in turn order? Maybe the skill is done up on partner A's turn and B skips their next turn *and* suffers a bit of delay for their turn after that.

This also requires some logistical balance as well, if it becomes too easy to keep having your characters jump ahead in turns. As an extreme example, imagine partner A is so fast they take twice as many turns as partner B, but every turn A takes, they just use a dual skill and give free actions to partner B? That could also be balanced with skill cooldowns, for example after a dual skill both characters involved cannot use any dual skill for 3 turns.


I don't have a lot of examples of existing dual skills, and the only 2 i've personally played are Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross if you want to read on:

Chrono Trigger is the classic example of this, although not the first if i read correctly. A 'dual tech' can be used when both characters ATB gauges are full. That's an easy solution for ATB style since it requires both characters to be ready and use their turn, but doesn't work as well for a prescribed turn order since no characters are 'ready' at the same time.

Chrono Cross, the sequel, used a very different battle system. Characters have stamina and different strength attacks use different amounts. In this system, it's sort of always your turn, and there is no 'speed'. Enemies take actions based on how much stamina you are using across the party, and in effect make their attacks during 'your turn'. It's more than i will go into here, but in this system it's also easy to define how Cross's version of dual skills work, since it's always 'your turn' all you need is for both characters to have stamina remaining.

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