Glowquest progress after a playtest

My current project Glowquest is a traditional dungeon crawler that uses Advanced Heroquest tiles. My goal is basically to have something more tactical than Advanced Heroquest itself (which hasn’t aged well in a lot of ways).

Anyway I’ve been doing lots of solo playtesting to catch obvious shortcomings. But about two weeks ago I did a playtest with my target audience of 2 of my friends who I grew up playing Advanced Heroquest with. The game went pretty well, and it was good to get some real feedback from real people. My biggest concerns were around playtime and complexity. There were a lot of fiddly aspects to track, like should a monster Interrupt have triggered, etc. From the playtest I have a big list of TODOs. I wanted to cover some of the thinking I’ve had over the past while about solutions.

First of all Surges didn’t quite stack up how I wanted. Generally you got too few. There’s a 62% chance you only get 1-2 Surges. I added Fate (which is a spendable resource that restores between expeditions) which can be used to get extra Surges as a band-aid for this. But what I think I’ll do instead is change the core dice resolution. Currently you roll 3D6, and the lowest result is the number of Surges, and the other two dice are added together to get your to-hit. If there is a tie/duplicate for lowest (such as 3, 3, 6) you add +1 Surges. So 3, 3, 6 would be 3+1=4 Surges and 3+6=9 to hit. 3, 3, 3 would be 5 Surges and 6 to hit. That seemed fine on paper, but like I said the math didn’t play out how I wanted during the playtest.

Continue reading “Glowquest progress after a playtest”

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Fickle RPG v1.0 is finally here!

Hooray, what an exciting day, my favorite light, narrative, universal setting system is here. As a designer I asked myself back in 2015: “what if there was a tabletop game where combat resolution was as involved, interesting, and full of meaningful and unique decisions as the movement phase”, and after a lot of thought and brainstorming and playtesting Fickle RPG is the result. Throw in the key component of EVERYTHING (not just guns and physical attacks) being a first class citizen and treated equally and as valid a way to end an encounter. The core dice resolution mechanic which has bluffing, bidding, and meaningful decisions baked in as part of the process. The dice resolution was slowly refined and tweaked and I’m extremely happy with the result. The game has been played with a lot of people in a lot of genres that are vastly different (from cliche zombies to Judge Dredd to modern military to Star Wars) and has been great each time.

Without further ado enjoy the freshly pressed Fickle RPG v1.0 rulebook.

I 100% admit dragging my feet on one of he few last outstanding items, which was to take a component picture to replace the placeholder photo in the rulebook. Like painfully long (since I mentioned moving to v1.0 over a year ago), but hey, nobody’s perfect.

What’s Next for Fickle
Probably a few setting documents here and there as I play it more with friends. I think a Cyberpunk 2077 theme would be fun to try, plus playing evil monsters in a high fantasy setting, or superheroes, or even b-movie stuff like Tremors. I don’t intend to endlessly tweak the rules like I did with Dinosaur Cowboys as I think the game is in a great place, so yeah, unless I find some glaring typos or huge gaps in the instructions I’ll consider the game finished.

I also want to add Fickle RPG to RPG Geek as I have Dinosaur Cowboys listed on there and it feels pretty official and fun. I also tend to get a lot of traffic from Darkshire so that’d be another place to add. And I’d really be impressed with myself to eventually have Fickle RPG on DriveThruRPG (still for free of course).

Android Netrunner is going out of print

Not sure how I missed this extremely sad news, but Android Netrunner officially went out of print a week ago: Fantasy Flight’s blog post. Sounds like a licensing issue with Wizards of the Coast, which is not surprising. So yeah, that’s a big bummer. I need to stop at my local hobby shop asap and pick up any expansions and cards I want before they become expensive Ebay purchases.

I still try to play Netrunner once a month with my friend, and I don’t see that stopping. Just sad that it’ll be one more barrier to entry if someone else wanted to buy the starter set. Ah well, it won’t be the first out of print game I’ve played and loved (see also Silent Death and Car Wars).

Seems like FFG is going to continue the Android universe. They just announced a sourcebook for an Android RPG using their generic Genesys sytem. I’ve always though Genesys was bit like my own Fickle RPG, from being setting agnostic, to using a common dice pool pulled from a variety of stats, etc. I imagine Genesys has the flaws that annoyed me about Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion though (mainly scaling poorly, slow to resolve with no meaningful choice, and was confused between a crunchy combat game and a light narrative game).

Dungeon Crawler dice system and odds

So my recent Dungeon Crawler game (as of yet unnamed, but probably something with Crystals – EDIT: named it Glowquest) has this for a combat dice system:

Well wait, I should talk more about the game a bit first. The idea is to strip away all the RPG elements that a lot of combat focused games have (D&D 4th edition was the worst offender, but really D&D in general is pretty light/unsupportive on non-combat actions). You choose a Race and Class and various equipment to make a “build” that interests you. That might scare about people who like narrative games, but hey that’s what Fickle RPG is for, this dungeon crawler is about kicking doors and taking names, Icewind Dale CRPG style (or the hundreds of modern run-based roguelikes).

I also wanted to use the Advanced Heroquest tiles…because they are beautiful and fun and bring back a flood of memories for me. Anyway this post isn’t about my childhood, it’s about the dice system.

Roll 3D6. The two highest results become the to-hit roll and the lowest result is the number of Surges available. This means you will have between 1 and 8 Surges.

If there is a tie for lowest result, add +1 Surge for each tie. For example rolling 5, 3, 3 would make a to-hit roll of 8 (5+3) and gives you 4 Surges (3+1). Another example would be rolling 5, 5, 5 which gives a to-hit roll of 10 (5+5) and 7 Surges (5+1+1).

If the total to-hit roll is greater than or equal to the target’s Grit, the attack was successful, otherwise the attack missed. Some Activators can modify the to-hit roll to turn a miss into a success.

Grit is basically Defense, except one of the class roles is called Defense. Not sold on the name, might do Agility, Resilience, Endurance, Evasion, or Dodge instead or something.

I’m happy with this dice system concept. Before I was trying D12 or 2D12 (so you get 2 attacks all the time) to hit and D4 or D4+2 for Surges, but yeah, that might seem fine on paper but felt awful to roll. I hate D4s. I imagine using a D12 numbered 1-4 three times (like this) would feel better. But yeah, once I thought up the 3D6-use-lowest system I got super excited and really dove back into the dungeon crawler game idea, which has been rattling around my head for the past 3-4 months.

Odds and Statistics
As I was starting to hash out Activators that you can spend Surges on, I wanted to take a look at the odds of everything. So far I’m considering having Activators cost 1-5. But I needed to know how likely 5 was. What about how likely the max 8 Surges is? And so on. I also wanted to compare 3D6 drop lowest to a flat 2D6 in terms of the to-hit chances. I knew it’d be higher than the average of 2D6, but how much higher?

Here’s a bunch of math results:

SURGES:
Surge 1: 16257 (32.51%)
Surge 2: 14823 (29.65%)
Surge 3: 9426 (18.85%)
Surge 4: 5403 (10.81%)
Surge 5: 2521 (5.04%)
Surge 6: 1142 (2.28%)
Surge 7: 213 (0.43%)
Surge 8: 215 (0.43%)

SURGES where lowest ties add +2 instead of +1
Surge 1: 16318 (32.64%)
Surge 2: 10121 (20.24%)
Surge 3: 10208 (20.42%)
Surge 4: 5933 (11.87%)
Surge 5: 3548 (7.10%)
Surge 6: 2041 (4.08%)
Surge 7: 1123 (2.25%)
Surge 8: 232 (0.46%)
Surge 9: 235 (0.47%)
Surge 10: 241 (0.48%)

HITS (3D6 drop lowest):
Hit 2: 227 (0.45%)
Hit 3: 650 (1.30%)
Hit 4: 1627 (3.25%)
Hit 5: 2809 (5.62%)
Hit 6: 4423 (8.85%)
Hit 7: 6327 (12.65%)
Hit 8: 7879 (15.76%)
Hit 9: 8474 (16.95%)
Hit 10: 7734 (15.47%)
Hit 11: 6188 (12.38%)
Hit 12: 3662 (7.32%)

Standard 2D6 odds:
2 2.78
3 5.56
4 8.33
5 11.11
6 13.89
7 16.67
8 13.89
9 11.11
10 8.33
11 5.56
12 2.78

What does this all mean? Well, many interesting things. Getting 5 Surges is equivalent to getting a “standard” D&D style critical hit of 20 on D20. So rare. Perhaps too rare. If I try the approach of lowest ties (such as rolling 5, 3, 3) adding +2 bonus Surges instead of +1, this improves from 5% to 7%, but also makes the maximum 10 Surges, which is quite a few (and also extremely rare – anything over 7 or 8 is).

The game has an idea of “Fate Points” (again name likely to change) which are a limited resource each hero has that can basically be spent during an expedition as extra Surges. So tweaking those numbers might affect what dice system I use (whether ties are +1 or +2) and how I scale the Activators.

But what I’ve done first is taken a step back and thought: what do I want the players to do each turn. How do I want the game to feel? Basically I want them to be able to fairly reliably hit, and do 2-3 cool things a turn.

The +1 bonus Surge on ties seems a lot more intuitive: you have 1 tie, so you get 1 bonus, compared to +2. I also like the narrow 1-8 Surge range instead of 1-10. How it boils down is for +1 on ties you have a 62% chance to get 1-2 Surges, and 81% chance to get 1-3 Surges, so only 19% chance to get 4+, 8% chance to get 5+. When put that way, a 1/5 chance to get 4+ Surges, that doesn’t actually seem that bad, and 8% for 5+ is higher than a standard D&D crit of 1/20.

As for hitting, the odds are a lot better with 3D6-drop-lowest compared to flat 2D6. Basically the average goes to 9 from 7. Which means base Grit/Defense will have to be bumped up a lot, because getting a 7+ on 3D6-drop-lowest is literally an 80% chance. Drops to 68% for 8+, and 50/50 (well, 52%) for 9+. Then 10+ = 35%, 11+ = 20%, 12+ = 7%. That’s before any Activators as well. Which means it’s really, really easy to hit, and half the spectrum of Grit is more or less an auto-hit. Seems like base Grit should be 8, easy to hit/squishy guys are 7, and Defense roles are 9

And that’s okay! I like hitting a lot in games. There are many defensive layers and damage reduction/absorption that players can stack on. Damage itself is a flat value based on the weapon (and potentially boosted by Activators), so it’s fairly easy to calculate how soon you’ll die.

All in all a useful exercise to model out.

Recent status

There’s been a real smattering of activity recently, plus I had a third kid, so you know how busy that makes life. Plus I tend to slow down on game design over summer since I’m spending much less time holed up by my computer typing stuff and more time enjoying the weather.

Unnamed Dungeon Crawler – now named Glowquest
I haven’t had an unnamed game in forever, but I just can’t think of a good title that encapsulates this game. EDIT: Finally did name it Glowquest. You can see more details on the rules page itself. But basically:

A dungeon crawler with a focus on combat, exploration, looting, and improving and advancing your heroes. Heroes will leave the comfort of their town to undertake expeditions to randomized dungeons, which are represented with square grid tiles from Advanced Heroquest. The game is designed for 1-3 players who each play a role from the classic โ€œholy trinityโ€ of Tank (Defense), DPS (Offense), and Healer (Utility). There is no requirement to have an extra player as a dungeon master who runs the game.

So my nostalgic homage to Advanced Heroquest, with many modern mechanics pulled from all the best systems and ideas. This is currently my focus, and initial playtests are promising (and a bit easier than solo testing other RPGs since the party size is only 3, and the game is meant to be DM-less anyway). I have pages of brainstorm notes and ideas, and I’ve slowly been compiling them into a roughly formatted rulebook. I want to start filling out the Activators (basically special moves/attacks) list for classes/races/equipment soon so I can really sink my teeth into playtesting. I also want to try it with my oldest friends near the end of the month (who literally played Advanced Heroquest with me way back in school), so we’ll see how that goes!

Blood Bowl
I’ve read White Dwarf since before I was a teenager. I remember seeing Blood Bowl way, way back then, and thinking “oh yuck a football game, I wouldn’t enjoy that at all”. I unfortunately have a bad habit of prejudging things before I try them.

Well with the re-release of the ~4th edition official 2016 Blood Bowl game I finally sat down and tried it with my friend. I played Humans (him) vs Skaven (me), and thought, “hey, this game is basically just tactical movement with an objective!”. I enjoyed it and was pleasantly surprised. Then we brought out the turn timer, and the game went up a few notches for me just from that, because then you had pressure and had to think fast. We did 4 minute turns and I loved it. Soon after I bought a copy of the game for myself, including the Steam PC version (on a deep sale of course). I fell in love with Lizardmen. And since them I’ve played probably half a dozen more face-to-face games and double that on PC. I’m thinking of putting together a proxy Lizardmen team of underwater fishmen from Reaper Mini. Anyway that’s been lots of fun.

Vermintide 2
Oh yeah and I’ve played like 300 hours of Vermintide 2 because man oh man, you wanna talk about a satisfying core gameplay loop?

Echo Death
A while back I got an actual playtest against a friend with Echo Death. We normally play a monthly Android Netrunner but he was nice enough to try out my half finished game for a night. The game held up pretty well, and has a few areas that definitely need improvement, but was overall a good time. I compiled some Echo Death Playtest Notes that I need to revisit and apply to the rulebook. But for now that’s on the backburner.

White Line Fever
My next game to work on was White Line Fever. I played it a couple of times against my wife, and although it was okay it didn’t feel like driving a car recklessly. So I changed the main mechanic to be a “push-your-luck” style where you can try to get more actions (movement, turning, and shooting), but potentially can spin out of control (wherein the opponent moves you – normally face first into a wall). I also added the idea of record sheets instead of a paperless system. Tough to balance between customization and how lightweight I want the game to be. Either way this version was much more enjoyable. I’ve updated the rules with this “second edition” on the White Line Fever page. So yeah, a bit more polishing needed there, as well as fully printable record sheets (I just scribbled some notes on paper when I was playtesting). But again, that’s on the backburner too.

New font on Fickle RPG Star Wars sheet

Remember the old Star Wars sheet and how I mentioned wanting to use a proper futuristic sci-fi font? Well I found a good match. Of course the iconic Star Wars font worked for the bigger sections, but there isn’t really a smaller or standard font in that setting. I ended up using JLS Data Gothic. I also moved a few images around and tweaked some spacing (mainly total Stamina is now centered). All in all that little bit of extra effort has really made the sheet pop:

Download the Star Wars sheet

Party of Light: slightly improved character sheet

So after my last Star Wars themed game of Party of Light with 2 nieces and 2 cousins I realized the character sheet has a few problems that consistently come up. First of all though the game session went well. The kids were a bit rowdy and energetic, as is to be expected from kids, but they all had fun. Not sure how well the Star Wars theme came across since they weren’t as familiar with it as I expected (as they had all seen at least the original trilogy). So some of the players might have fit better with the standard medieval fantasy approach.

Anyway here’s the new sheet integrated with the rulebook: Party of Light (v2.1)

And here’s how it looks:(for reference the old one looked like this)

The changes are purely from experience and feedback I saw with the players. First of all everyone got confused that “Speed” was on the same row (and had the same style) as Might/Mind/Magic. They all thought it was an option for their Best/Worst stat. So I instead moved Speed down a row, and put the Damage dice instead (since the kids tend to like to line up the dice on their sheet, and there was no place for the D4). I also expanded the Stamina section since kids write really big, and it’s a hassle for them to erase. I shrunk the Backstory a bit to fit this. Otherwise just minor changes like lining up the background pictures a bit differently.

Another lesson I learned was kids love maps. We had a few scenes without maps during the Star Wars game, and they weren’t nearly as invested, and even asked “do we have anymore maps?” “when is the next map?”. So although it’s much more preparation (I’ve been spoiled by Fickle RPG!) to draw maps, and results in a more linear session, it’s definitely worth it to them.