'Design Discussion' Category

Tick-tock Dungeon Clock

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019


“Clocks” are a concept from the Blades in the Dark RPG by John Harper. They are circles divided into anywhere from four to twelve sections, which are “ticked” after certain rolls are succeeded or failed. One or multiple sections can be ticked depending on the outcome of the roll. When a clock fills, something happens, something in the game’s fiction changes in some significant manner.

One of the issues I had run into with our D&D game is the concept of “running away” or “chasing down” being wholly reliant on Speed and the differences between those of the pursued and their pursuit. And the few times there were chases, they didn’t feel as fun or engaging as they should–just “I use my Move action, then they use their Move action, then I use my Move action, then they use their Move action, etc.” usually interspersed with some skill checks or ranged attacks.

Then I realized D&D already has something like a clock built-in, and why shouldn’t I add another?

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Carry On, My Wayward Hireling

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019


I was working on some resource rules, inspired by a preview from Dungeon Delvers: the Red Book, and by Blades in the Dark, attempting to simplify and abstract-ify consumable resources and available equipment. I like what I came up with, but realized it ended up much more fiddly than I really want for this particular design. Perhaps someone else will find it of value.

The idea is based around a Supply score, representing a character’s planning and foresight while equipping themselves for an adventure, but without using fine granularity to track certain consumable supplies such as food, clothing, arrows, torches, bandages, and so on. Supplies also affect a character’s Carrying Capacity — how much equipment and treasure they can wear and carry, and vice-versa.

The basic Supply rules rely on a series of ability score-limited checkboxes and rolling a die of decreasing value when supplies are used, potentially removing a checkmark from a box. The total amount of Supply available to a character is based on Intelligence, while a character’s total Carrying Capacity is based on Strength.

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You Too Can Trip with Cantrips!

Monday, June 24th, 2019


As noted in prior posts, cantrips in my D&D hack are minor magics available to the Magic-user class, allowing them to create magical or supernatural effects with their magical powers, to help make up for the “one-shot wand” nature of their class, and give them more to do.

Unlike in other editions of D&D, cantrips are not spells. They do not need to be memorized, and there is no set list upon which the Magic-user can call. They are simply a supernatural boost to any normal task the wizard cares to attempt, or can simply be used to add a bit of flair to the character. They are considered a Tool. They are also the only Tool that can be utilized for any task or skill attempt that might be made. Because magic.

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Tuesday, June 4th, 2019


In the original D&D game, there are certain things that cause instant death for PCs, such as poison and reaching 0 hit points.

You take enough damage, or you fail a save, and it’s game over. Roll up a new character. Long experience has show me that this is not fun if a player is attached to that character, as most players are, and increasingly so with the time invested. At the same time, in a game where survival and mortal danger are core components of play and centrally-focused by the rules, simply excluding character death is unsatisfactory. Is there a way to have both?

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Sixty-Five Million HP

Sunday, April 14th, 2019


The perennial perceptual sticking point for many folks in OSR-type games: how do you imagine hit points as a component of the game’s imagined fiction?

This aged and hoary frustration arises from the increasing number of hit points as characters gain levels and as monsters increase in Hit Dice, since, past a certain point, hit points don’t make sense as a representation of physical damage taken. For if they represent physical damage, the players must imagine as characters increase in level they take less damage from sword thrusts and strikes, and that cure spells become less able to heal even tiny wounds, where once they healed major wounds.

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