'Design Discussion' Category

Completely Exhausted!

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020


Apparently there is this mechanic in 5e called “exhaustion” that takes effect when…reasons. I don’t really know beyond “falling unconscious” triggers the effect. I’m only aware of the mechanic because I read a play report regarding a desert chase scene an adventuring group undertook while in bad, bad shape, which exhaustion only made worse (slower movement, inability to spend or regain HD, etc). The idea intrigued me, as it seemed to add a level of tension to play that simple hit point loss does not.

My understanding is that there are levels of exhaustion, from one to five. The first level of exhaustion doesn’t seem to have a huge effect, but level five means you can’t move, defend yourself, cast spells, use HD, or regain hp, or pretty much act in any way until you bring down your exhaustion level with a full night of rest (healing spells don’t help).

My inclination is not to add this as a constant mechanic to the game, but to add it as a sparingly utilized mechanic for tense, long-term situations — wilderness treks, pursuits, moving through extreme environments, failure to take regular long rests, severe injury and unconsciousness, and so on — and to have only three levels of exhaustion, from “tired, but fully capable” to “halved movement, penalty to all actions” to “completely incapable”.[1]

Read the rest of this entry »

Adventure Design in Short

Friday, February 14th, 2020


One of the methods I use to design and run adventures is by using organic situational development based on a pre-existing bare-bones infrastructure, fleshed out in play by both player character actions and by the addition of customized random event lists. Which totally sounds like some kind of crazy corporate jargon — localized variegated synergyzms?

But here is what that actually means and how one would, themselves, go about doing so.

The short version, anyways.

Read the rest of this entry »

Oh My Modifiers!

Saturday, December 28th, 2019


Which is faster, a cheetah or a jaguar?
Which is stronger?

The answers to these questions generally seem obvious, as they note basic biological differences across (even related) species. However, there has been an argument that race-based attribute modifiers in RPGs should be removed for a variety of reasons: they are “unrealistic”, they are “conceptually limiting”, or even that they perpetuate racism. I find none of these positions particularly convincing enough to remove modifiers, but if you do, there may be different ways to approach the issue while hopefully avoiding the perceived pitfalls of the above.

Read the rest of this entry »

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »