Friday, May 12, 2023

Game Design Update

With the most recent Royal Treasures post, all the rules for Royal Treasures have been presented and the "tutorial" is finished. Future entries of Royal Treasures will be encounter entries. One has been completed. I have 51 more to go (one for each of 52 playing cards.) There will also be four different "Boss Battles" (one for each suit), but for now I am taking a break.

I am happy with Royal Treasures' evolution and where the rules stand right now. What's left is actually pretty involved and the part that I'm not actually great at: play testing. I need to put all the rules and numbers through their paces so that I can design balanced encounters. The building of encounters will be part of that process. It's time to play. This is going to take some time.

In my previous post: JP Coovert Is Awesome! I mention briefly my other ongoing game project, "Five By Five" or "Double Trouble." With regards to that project, I've come to realize that I'm "beating a dead horse" so to speak. The thing is, I love the dice mechanism that drives Five By Five. I think it's clever and filled with utility. 

In Five By Five, I have coupled that mechanism with a very rules light, free form approach to character design. That's all well and good. The problem is, I keep trying to do more with the mechanism while retaining the free form nature of the rest. I feel like the two components have done all that they can do together. I need to change my approach because I'm running in circles.

I'm not willing to give up on the Five By Five dice mechanism. I invented it. Oh, I know that there are similar mechanisms, but they aren't just like mine, and I didn't develop the mechanism based on inspiration from any other source. It sprung from my head fully formed like Athena. So, what I need to do is build an entirely new game around it.

This is where I have JP Coovert to thank once again. I wasn't kidding when I gushed about how much I love his adventure zines. They are spectacular. In the Dragon Town zine, he says that the adventure was tested using an RPG called, "Knave."

(Check out Knave 2nd Edition currently on Kickstarter!)

Knave is a rules light OSR (old-school-rules) inspired RPG on just 7 pages by Ben Milton (known as Questing Beast on YouTube and Patreon.) And I could certainly use Knave to play/run Dragon Town. The problem is, I don't really like some things about most OSR style games. Two of the key hallmarks of OSR games that I really dislike are: roll your abilities randomly and high lethality.

I do remember the excitement that can come from rolling up character after character. I've even shared an alternative ability score generation method that uses dice rolls that I do like. But, generally speaking, I'm against it. It's a throw back to an earlier time that isn't fair and isn't needed.

However, it's the whole high lethality thing that is the real deal breaker. I just don't understand why old RPG grognards think that killing characters is fun. I have had campaigns fall apart over character deaths. It isn't fun for anyone. Why does there have to be this sense of "deadly and permanent consequences" to make an RPG game more engaging or real? This is entertainment. It has to be fun. Does it have to feel real?

My favorite table-top RPG is 13th Age. Character death in 13th Age, like in 5th edition D&D, is mitigated by Death Saves, which make death a lot less common. This is my preference. I could implement Death Saves into OSR games. but there's another aspect to "high lethality" that I don't like.

Characters in OSR games are by definition low powered. One of the things that makes 13th Age my favorite game is that it is the opposite of low powered. Players are connected to the important movers and shakers of the game world, and they are super heroes! That's awesome! That's fun!!

I can run Dragon Town using 13th Age. I would have a lot of fun if I did. But, 13th Age does still have a few "warts" on it, little weird discrepancies that come from being a direct reconstruction based on D&D. 

I got to thinking. "What if I made my own OSR game." I have had this in my mind before, but I have always approached it from the standpoint of recreating my ideal version of D&D. That's the same approach as 99% of all those other OSR games. There are plenty of them out there ... too many.

Then my thoughts shifted back to Five By Five and Double Trouble. What if I focused on making Double Trouble compatible with Dragon Town? What would character creation look like? Can I do this without making another clone of D&D? This has become my goal.

Double Trouble isn't Five By Five. Five By Five exists in a finished state and is perfectly workable as is. I'm going to stop running in circles and move in a new direction using these new goals for design:

  • Double Trouble is a Fantasy RPG (but should be easily adaptable to other settings and genres.)
  • DT is compatible with OSR style adventures (AC, HP, Damage can all be easily converted.)
  • DT is highly cinematic (Like 13th Age, characters are amaze-ball action heroes!)
  • DT is low lethality. (Characters won't die by the random roll of the die, and if a death should happen it will be spectacular!)
  • DT is not a D&D clone (This isn't D&D or anything quite like it. I will talk more about this in a later post.)
  • DT is a zine. (I am producing DT in zine format. Hopefully in time for Zinequest 2024.)

Here we are. I am back to working on Double Trouble. It is not the "next" Five By Five, but it uses the dice mechanism that I developed for Five By Five. It is not a D&D clone, but it can be used to run D&D adventure modules. This is what I am doing right now.

I will get back to Royal Treasures, I like it, and I think it's going to be great. It's also very different from Double Trouble. However, I work best when I have a few projects on the burner. Creatively, it's best for me to run with something for awhile and then jump to something completely different to avoid burnout.

Royal Treasures will return, but my next several RPG Design related posts will focus on this new vision that I have for Double Trouble. I hope that you will come along with me for the ride.

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