Monday, April 12, 2021

How Do You Handle the "Inside" of a Hex?

I have noticed an unspoken disparity in the way people seem to uses hexes in the context of a hexcrawl, and I think it deserves some attention. That is: do you bother with precision in the movement that takes place within a hex OR do you treat the space within them as fairly nebulous and concern yourself only with the movement between hexes? I'll explain the difference, and I'll also talk a bit about "sub-hexes" later. And if anyone has seen discussion of this somewhere already, then please point me in that direction.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Brave Class Hack Beta (again)

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One of my most popular posts was the first Brave Class Hack, where I shared with the world my weird class system as well as the Knave, Warrior, Thief, and Cleric classes. I've made a lot of changes since then, including the addition of 3 more classes, so I figured it would be a fine time to update the world.

For anyone reading this who doesn't know, Brave is my personal hack of Ben Milton's Knave, which you can find the latest draft of linked on the sidebar of this blog as well as right here. If that link ever dies, it's because I forgot to return to this blog post to replace it. But the sidebar one should always be up to date.

Here is a link to the latest copy of the Brave: Enchiridion of Fates and Fortunes with some designer notes included. I also thought I might provide a preview below on each of the classes currently included, if you read below:

Sunday, March 21, 2021

On Dungeon Size

In the most recent Questing Beast Q&A he and his guests gave their thoughts of "ideal dungeon size" and it got me thinking. Here's a link to the part of the video where they discuss it. After some consideration, I want to propose 4 basic size classes of dungeon, divided partially by number of rooms but, more importantly, by the affect they have on the core gameplay loop of your campaign.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

An Incomplete History of Mazes in RPGs

Mazes and labyrinths are a staple of fantasy fiction, so it makes sense that you might want to see one in D&D. In many ways, the Greek Labyrinth was the original dungeon, so it seems like a perfect fit, right? Except that it's notoriously tricky to run a maze in D&D without it sucking, and there's no standardized solution. So in this article, I'm going to review a list of instances I've found in various gaming products where a unique attempt was made and then explain their method. If you've never personally encountered this problem before, it may not be obvious what's so difficult about it. But I bet that once you start seeing some of the following examples, you'll begin to understand.

This will ultimately lead to, at some point in the future, a set of rules I've made based on what I've learned. I'll include those in my RPG Brave when it's released, but whenever I make a first draft I'll probably post it on my blog as a standalone procedure. If you find any other unique takes on mazes in RPGs I'd love to read them, but this isn't meant to be exhaustive.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

A Faction System That Doesn't Get in the Way

I'm following up on my last article but I get tired of numbering every blog post that's related to another because not everything is always part of a planned series, you know?

Once again, I need to credit Gundobad Games for sparking this thought process, albeit in a completely different context from last time. It was many months ago when I was trying to do research on domain-level play and I dug up a bunch of reddit posts about it and read people's game recommendations and blablabla and one of the most fruitful things I found were these blog posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. I could say a lot about those posts but right now I'm just gunna focus on Part 3, and I'm gunna re-write everything relevant from it here.

So the writer was putting a spotlight on Chris McDowell's Into the Odd, a nifty minimalist old-school RPG, and in particular, on its faction system. He calls them "enterprises" which is a decent name. Here is the full text of Into the Odd's enterprise rules, reproduced here:

Between expeditions, you can try your hand at business, or muster a military force. DETACHMENTS and ENTERPRISES each cost 10 Gold to establish. Detachments demand a further d6 Gold in upkeep each month, or else they revolt.

Income: New ENTERPRISES generate 1d4 Gold of Income each month. They also face a Threat that will cause 1d4 Gold in Losses unless dealt with. If an Enterprise cannot pay its debts, it collapses. Growth: If an ENTERPRISE ends a month with Profit, its income moves up to the next type of die, to a maximum of d12. However, this larger die also applies to losses from Threats.

By the by, a "detachment" is his name for a group of warriors fighting together, which we won't be discussing here. Maybe another day.

Anyway, today I'm gunna talk about the strengths and weaknesses of this system, the more immediate ways in which I've thought to tweak it, and then how I might go about reconciling it with all those other thoughts I vomited up in my last post.

Friday, February 26, 2021

A Freeform-Based Faction System

This isn't anything concrete, it's just stuff I've been swishing around in my mouth for a bit now.

I've been thinking of posting an article about "freeform mechanics" in RPGs, and I still might. But the basic idea is "resolving stuff in the game using your imagination and judgement rather than actual rules or mechanics," but, like, to the extreme. Like, say, maybe you want to run a war between two armies. On one end of the spectrum, you'd have a military simulation board game that defines each of your assets and unit types and whatever kinds of fictional resources you spend like "action points" or something, and it has a list of moves you can take and blablabla. Nothing freeform about it. On the other end of the spectrum, you'd ask the players to describe what they command their army to do. Just, like, from their creative thinking skills. Intimidating, right? But liberating. Exciting.

[EDIT: I was provided the source for this story so I'm re-writing this chunk to be accurate] 

I've been reading a truly ridiculous amount of literature on the subject and I want to share this anecdote from Gundobad Games:

My favorite example so far: from Tony Bath's old Hyboria campaign - one player was concerned about a potential rival's construction of a naval fleet, but didn't want to openly provoke hostilities. So he asked Bath whether he could arrange an 'accident' - merchant ships sinking [scuttling!] right at the mouth of the rival's harbor, blocking their port for the near future! Bath agreed, came up with a range of likely results, and then rolled the dice...

I love that. I love the freeform potential of RPGs and I keep finding myself drawn to that direction of design. But it's a double-edged sword. Because of the "tyranny of the blank canvas," many players find freeform gaming to be really unintuitive. When you ask them what they want to do, they don't have an answer. They're more comfortable if you give them options to pick from.

So here's something I've found in the middle that I'm working with and I'd like to share. I'm going to give three examples that illustrative something like what I'm approaching. These are all examples of "freeform but with a little bit of structure, just, like, for help."

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Abstract Timekeeping Mechanics

For a long time I've toyed around with the idea of "abstract time" mechanics. While I'm sure it's been done before, I don't believe I've ever personally seen it fully embraced in any game I've read. See, a lot of people hold Gary Gygax's advice in high regard, and among his most frequently lauded declarations is the following paragraph from the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide (page 37):

“Game time is of utmost importance. Failure to keep careful track of time expenditure by player characters will result in many anomalies in the game. The stricture of time is what makes recovery of hit points meaningful. Likewise, the time spent adventuring in wilderness areas removes concerned characters from their bases of operations – be they rented chambers or battlemented strongholds. Certainly the most important time strictures pertains to the manufacturing of magic items, for during the period of such activity no adventuring can be done. Time is also considered in gaining levels and learning new languages and more. All of these demands upon game time force choices upon player characters and likewise number their days of game life…YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.”

It is equally well-known that most people utterly fail to adhere to this advice. It is incredibly rare that DMs implement tools like calendars in their game and maintain it carefully. Many DMs advocate and understand the value of doing things to make the consumption of time meaningful and to keep the world alive with ongoing events and other things that reinforce verisimilitude. But, like, it's hard. Bookkeeping sucks.

Hence, the search for something that achieves the function of time passing but without needing to meticulously track it. Most attempts I've seen at something like this involve rolling dice to determine passage of time, and I'll be following that lead. What follows is my first effort stab at this.