Saturday, February 17, 2024

Bigfoot Epic Fail and Five By Five Back To Basics

My last post spoke about the history and evolution of Five By Five. This was in anticipation of a coming play test of the game's newest version called, "Bigfoot." -- That play test flopped. The game crashed and burned. I spent more time trying to explain / justify the game's rules than actually running the game. 

It was an epic fail.

The experience left me bitter and angry. I was going to just give up, but I still wanted to run the game. That game being the 10 part Dragon Town / Darkness Below campaign by JP Coovert. Should I just give up and use Dungeons and Dragons? I considered it. However, despite the experience, my players profess to like their characters. Everyone had created anthropomorphic animal characters. These would not have been easily adaptable to Dungeons and Dragons rules.

I started looking at older versions of Five By Five.

I wanted to try to figure out what had gone wrong. I have played this game with this same play group in the past and things have gone swimmingly. The last "stable" version of Five By Five that I had run was version 3. I had in my head that we would go back to version 3 and just play the campaign with that. Sadly, version 3 contained a lot of "crunch" that I never actually used. I remembered just dropping a big part of those rules and playing without them because they didn't work. No wonder I've been fiddling with the game ever since. So, what's gone wrong? I think the biggest problem is that I've been changing, shaping and sharpening rules without actually playing them.

Game Design Rule #1: Play The Game.

I decided to read every version of Five By Five that I had ever written. (Believe it or not, there are like 6.) What I found is that the game that I wanted to play existed in only one version -- the first one. The original Five By Five is the cleanest, most accessible version. So, I decided to suck it up and run some more play tests, this time using the OG version of Five By Five.

Everything worked.

There are some minor tweaks that I wanted to make. There are some changes made to Five By Five that have worked in the 16 years since its inception. But, I didn't have the original Five By Five document anymore. 2008 was a long time ago. So, I decided to recreate the original rules from scratch. They were only 16 pages after all.

I have now done that.

I've recreated the original rules and fitted them to a 5.5 x 8.5 zine format. I've added a few minor tweaks from other versions of the game, but for the most part I stuck to the original. I matched not only the content, but the graphic design, layout, and fonts used (as much as I was able to.) I also changed the copyright on this version, releasing the text content to the Creative Commons Attribution license.

I'm very happy with the results.

The new zine edition of the original Five By Five actually looks quite nice. It's currently in the process of play testing, and it's holding up great.

Click Image To Open Document

Who knew that it would take me 16 years to figure out that I got it right the first time?

Character Sheet

If you want, you can get a form-fillable version of the character sheet: HERE. (You must download and save the PDF locally in order to edit its content.)

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Thursday, January 04, 2024

What is the Bigfoot RPG

This weekend I will be running a game of Bigfoot with some friends. The Bigfoot Players Reference SRD shares all the basic rules for players of the game. I finally decided to simply share the rules as a single blog post because in this form the rules can be quickly and easily edited. Players with the link to the post will always have the most up to date version of the rules. This has proved to be important because I apparently like to fiddle with rules a lot.

These rules in one form or another have found their way to my gaming table more than any other game design that I have authored. I have tried layering in more complexity. I have tried layering in different themes. Ultimately, what works best seems to be keeping things simple.

Bigfoot began life in 2008 as a game called Five By Five. The appeal of the game for me, was in its dice roll interpretation: Roll 2d6 and multiply them to reach a number. Roll equal to or under an Ability Score to succeed. What makes this work is that players treat dice showing 6 as if they show 0 instead. This brings the roll average way down and makes the "roll under" mechanic work. 

It's a simple enough system and it gives the six sided die a bit more utility. It wasn't perfect, but I liked it. Other d6 systems rely on dice pools which I find to be a bit messy. Then there are 3d6 systems that generate a strong bell curve. At the time, I wanted to avoid the bell curve, but I would probably consider it a design asset these days. 

A version featuring a lot more polish was released in 2010 as Five By Five version 2. In 2011, I released a version 2.5 of the rules that included a rule about treating a 6 on the dice as "trump" in an attempt to eliminate the need to convert the six to a zero. I abandoned this innovation in version 3 of the game, but I have come back around to the idea of eliminating the 6 to 0 conversion with Bigfoot. 

Five By Five version 3 was released in 2013 and included a key change to the die mechanic. I made Doubles a roll exception and removed them from the block of numbers that a player would have to multiply. This was a major change because it cleaned up the possible array of numbers considerably and tightened everything up. 

In March of 2014 I play-tested a Superhero version of Five By Five. That game session was one of the most enjoyable experiences that I have had at my gaming table. The experience has continued to resonate with me, and is the impetus for all the changes that I have made to transform Five By Five into the game that I now call Bigfoot.

As mentioned above, I have come back around to eliminating the 6 to 0 conversion in Bigfoot. I have also dropped all the legacy fantasy RPG baggage like weapons and armor and hit points. All that's left are the basics: player defined abilities and the funny 2d6 roll where the dice are multiplied (with a few exceptions.) I won't go into the rules here, the Players Reference SRD covers all that. My purpose here is to speak about the game's evolution.

Bigfoot is the latest version of a game that has something of a long tail. It's been played and it works. The campaign that I will be starting on Saturday should hopefully allow me to test a few new ideas and to ultimately experience some of the same fun I got from that superhero game session 10 years ago.

Why do I call it Bigfoot? Because, I used Bigfoot as an example for character creation and my daughter drew me a wonderful picture. Should I print these rules in a zine format (which I hope to do) I plan to use the picture she drew on my cover. That's why.