'Design Discussion' Category

1st-Level Wizardry

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

 

I’ve recently gotten back into regular gaming after a years-long hiatus, and am playing with a group almost entirely new to gaming in general. We’re running an OSR mash-up of the Elmore Red Box and 5th Edition, starting at 1st level, and having a darn good time of it. But even experienced gamers forget how things work when they haven’t played a particular game for thirty-some years.

One of the things I had only vaguely remembered, in an intellectual way, is that in the basic game, 1st-level wizards are one-hit wonders. To be fair, they are powerful one-hit wonders. But it leaves wizard characters with very little to do once they’ve fired off their single spell — besides running, hiding, and waiting for the fighters to mop up.

This was proving to be a frustration for our wizard players.

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Casting through the Gap

Monday, October 9th, 2017

 

Þar munu eptir | undrsamligar
gullnar töflur | í grasi finnask,
þærs í árdaga | áttar höfðu.

In wondrous beauty | once again
Shall the golden tables | stand mid the grass,
Which the gods had owned | in the days of old

 

Völuspá, Poetic Edda, Bellows translation

The game system for Niflgap, as a stand-alone product rather than a Series Pitch for Pelgrane’s Drama System — and even back in the days when Niflgap was still titled Dead*Space — was one of those items that consistently resisted development. I knew the direction I wanted the rules to take, in an aesthetic sense, but developing a specific, concrete design led to dead ends or design paralysis.

A while back I came across one of those design attempts still lurking in Niflgap’s folder, and decided to polish it up, hoping it might be of use or spark some creative advancement on the rule-design. It has not. But the core of conflict resolution has always involved the use of runestones. To that end, here is some advice on how to design your own set.

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What the Morning Brings

Friday, May 5th, 2017

 

Appropriately enough, I woke up this morning thinking about At the Dawn. Specifically, I’ve always worried the penalties are too harsh — they’re not, they’re brutal, and that’s good because, in this case, it drives the narrative conflict — but my brain was whispering to me “Why not change the penalties into an increased Threshold?”

Which is not half-bad as an idea: it still ramps up the difficulty and removes the (appearance of the) penalty death spiral, might make those precious additional dice more important, and doesn’t require quite as much record keeping for a player.

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You Only Roll When…

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

 

A blog post about the skill system in Traveler recently helped me better concretely conceptualize the “only roll dice when people are going to die or things are going to explode” method I’d originally attempted to detail in the rules for my abandoned dark military sci-fi RPG, eXpendable.

I’ve always been really fond of that bit of design work, and am happy I was finally able to expound on it in a clearer fashion. Since eXpendable is highly unlikely to see the light of publication–it just never came together as a whole–this is the clarified method, minus rule-specific bits, for those who may find it or the reasoning underlying it useful to their own approach to play.

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The Primordial Age of Demons

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

 

I’ve been playing Tony Dowler’s How to Host a Dungeon the last few nights, and realized it would be interesting to record my results for each Age in terms of a potential campaign setting, beginning with the Primordial.

I rolled a river with multiple waterfalls, some mithril deposits, ancient beasts near to the surface, and a demon civilization deep under the earth–which lasted only one season before erupting upwards without interacting with anything else. At the end of the Age, earthquakes caused multiple rifts intersecting the river.

Then I spent some time thinking about what all that meant for the developing dungeon, eventually moving away from the idea I was just developing a single dungeon here. At least in this portion. This felt more like a chance for world creation.

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