Quick dice system for roll-and-move racing games

I had ordered a simple kids game called Cars Risky Raceway and it arrived over the weekend so we were playing it. The game uses basic roll-and-move (well, spin-and-move) to get around the board. Which is a perfectly fine mechanic for teaching kids (like my middle son) the basics of games. But for my oldest daughter it gets a bit boring. The track itself is terrific with nice bridges and a good amount of squares:

So after some thinking I threw together a quick dice system that works with the game, or any similar roll-and-move games as a drop-in replacement for the ~5+ year old kids. The idea is to simulate the speed and rush of racing by trying to quickly match dice. And since adults are naturally faster at it there is a built in handicap for kids to keep it challenging.

Rules
Roll 4D6 of one color and 2D6 (we called them the “kid dice”) of another color. We used dice with pips/dots instead of written numbers.

We used a dice cup for this so the dice stay together (and we could roll them and count down from 3 before removing the cup for even MORE racing feel).

Reveal the dice and both players try to find any matches. ONLY the kids can match with the “kid dice”. For each individual matching dice you call out and grab, you get to move 1 square. If both players shout the same match at the same time, just re-roll.

For example we roll 3, 3, 4, 6 and 1, 6. The adult sees a match on 3s and calls that out before the kid can, but the kid calls their own match on 6s. Both players move 2 squares. They roll again getting 1, 2, 4, 5 and 2, 2. The poor adult has no available matches while the kid gleefully yells out 2s and gets to move 3 squares (for three 2s).

The “kid dice” handicap can be changed as needed, such as giving them more dice. We also have some colored dice from Monza (which is a great kids game on it’s own) so we also tried matching with colors, which I found my kids were able to do faster than D6s. And of course we expanded the system with Nitro Boosts and stuff, but those are simple enough to theme to what you want.

Neato Picture
Also a cool retrofuturism picture of “glowing roads” that’s ever so vaguely related to racing games, I guess?

Productive night and a first rulebook of The Grand Adventure

What’s that? A new rulebook in the span of a day? That’s right, it was a productive time but I’ve put together a (probably over-ambitiously versioned) v0.9 of The Grand Adventure. It’s still missing Jobs (classes) and a character sheet, but that’s okay. The new dedicated listing page has some more info.

And here is The Grand Adventure rulebook (v0.9 PDF).

But basically I needed a more narrative, grid-less/board-less, kid friendly RPG for my nieces and nephews on my wife’s side. After a quick playtest and further refinements, The Grand Adventure is the result.

I can’t wait to play it all weekend with my own kids! And probably it and some Santorini next week with my nieces (because everyone seems to really love Santorini, enough so that we bought our own copy after giving it as a gift at Christmas).

At some point I’ll get back to games aimed at grown adults, since I’d like to finish up Glowquest. But I’m not in a huge rush, it’s nice to just be productive when I feel like it, and not try to force game design until it becomes a chore.

The Grand Adventure – brainstorm and images

Well that was a nice Christmas and New Year for me. We played a lot of Santorini (my oldest daughter loved it) and some Quest for El Dorado and so on. With my other nieces and nephews (who aren’t as avid of game players) I had bought one of them some D&D stuff, but it was clearly a bit too much for them, so we tried Party of Light, and even that was a bit too much and not what they were after (they wanted less grid combat and more adventure-y stuff). So I off-the-cuff threw some rules together on vacation, and now wanted to refine them into yet another RPG for kids. I mean adults will find something fun in it too, obviously. So The Grand Adventure (working title) is roughly the result so far, which has no board/grid, so it’s easier to prepare (helps me a lot!), and has a focus on fast combat where you still get to have something fun happen on a miss, and other stuff kids tend to like (such as re-rolls and no dying – just losing overall as a party). So taking some elements from Glowquest a bit.

Anyway I’ve been looking around a bit for some title page art (premature much?!) and wanted to share some cool images. These would be recolored, touched up, and overlayed with the title.





So far I’m tending towards the colorful plant/jungle, the waterfall, and the fantastical house or airship thing. I think some simple line art of explorers could work for the inside like the series called Middle Earth Traveller by Evankart.

And here is a dump of the brainstorm document I have:

– Overall game uses no board, but has relative positioning so we can still use minis

– Body
— Strong
— Swift
– Mind
— Smart
— Social
– Soul
— Tough
— Tricky

– Above attributes are assigned Best (+3), Good (+1), Bad (-1), and Worst (-2) and two 0s.
– Stats are assigned secretly during creation
– Skill checks are D10+attr >= DC = success
— Could have a couple of named Skills that give +1
— Would be more interesting if Skill did something else, like roll 2D10 choose highest?
—- Reason being a +1 doesn’t feel hugely impactful, results in more math for mods, etc.
– Basic check should be around DC 5, which results in 60% chance of success

– Character sheet should be a half page, with instructions on what to do right on the sheet
– Then your class is another half a sheet you put below. So you have attributes/stamina/name/etc. and your spendable abilities

– Combat/attack is 3D6, do 1 damage per 5 or 6 rolled
– Most monsters have 1-2 Stamina so they die quickly
– Also gain 1 Power counter (likely just glass beads) per: miss, roll of 6, and doubles
— For example rolling 1, 3, 5 would be 1 damage, no Power
— Rolling 3, 3, 5 would be 1 damage, 1 Power (from doubles)
— Rolling 1, 2, 4 would be 0 damage, 1 Power (from miss)
— etc
– Only have a set amount of Power available from the glass bead pool, so players are encouraged to spend and not horde
– Power is spent on class features, like a whirlwind attack for a Berserker or a Double Shot for a Ranger or a Healing Word for a Healer, etc.
— Almost like Surges from Glowquest
— Try to avoid a generic list of spendables (at first?) for heroes. DM would only have a generic list most likely, to save on monster creation time
– Max spendable Power cost is 4
– Power is reset to 0 at the end of the battle
– Every hero gets 1 re-roll per encounter, as kids like re-rolls
– Math odds for attack https://forum.rpg.net/index.php?threads/odds-of-rolling-at-least-one-5-with-xd6.776415/

– Heroes have 5 (?) Stamina total, and take Damage (counting up from 0). If they reach their max Stamina, they are placed face down and the party loses 1 Resolve
— At the end of a turn face down they stand back up with 0 Damage (fully healed). So basically miss a turn by dying
– Resolve is set at the start of each session, likely 4. Lose the game or have dire, critical consequences if 0 Resolve remains
– Magic used outside of combat costs 1 Stamina
— Help balances when to use it. Magic doesn’t boost Skill check, just gives more options/tools
— Maybe non-Magic classes have better base stats like more Stamina or damage per hit or something

– Classes can level up and choose new bonuses and power spenders (need a name – Ability most likely)
— For example a lvl 2 Berserker could choose a Blood Rage skill or a Deadly Chop or +1 max Stamina or a new Skill or some combination of all
Classes:
Knight (sword+shield defender), Healer (duh), Savage (offensive melee), Archer (ranger type), Shapeshifter, Wizard (uses fire/ice/earth/wind elements), Shaman (uses summons?)

– Races eventually, which give a Power spendable ability, such as Elf having “1: Keen Sight”
— Could also provide a +/- to attributes like +1 Strong
– Initiative is just whoever wants to go first, then DM acts after each player, as usual. A turn order token to pass to the next person seemed to help a lot
– Choose only 1 Item at the start. No Party of Light style split between normal/magic items to begin with
– Make a list of magic items (by name only) for ease of handing out
– Currency? Gold coins makes the most sense, very basic though? 10 Gold = 1 Item?
– Need a broad world map for where they are going, seemed to help a lot

Netrunner wallpaper

I’ve been playing a bunch of Netrunner lately and recently ordered some more cards (which is exciting since the game is out of print). I found this great wallpaper with art of the Runner named Maxx from the Day Job card.

Otherwise Nanowrimo went pretty well…I started strong, then got a bit sick with a long drawn out cold for a week in the middle of the month so I didn’t write much, and then sort of never got back to it unfortunately. Still did ~11,000 words or so and might write a bit here and there if I have time in Dec. Keeping it pretty mellow on the designing front at the moment but might get back to Glowquest next.

Click for the full massive 3675×2175 size

Nanowrimo 2019

Well it’s be 10 years since I wrote my first Nanowrimo. If you don’t know what Nanowrimo it’s short for National Novel Writing Month, and the idea is to try to write 50,000 words in the month of November on whatever topic you want, in whatever form you want. Through the years I’ve tried writing alongside friends or competing/racing with them, or just to get an idea I had out on paper. This year I’m primarily writing because it’s the 10 year anniversary. I have a story I’m interested in, but it’s hard to devote nights to getting 1,667 words out, especially with 3 kids. So I might take a 10,000 word handicap per kid distracting me and just aim for 20,000 words this month. We’ll see. Either way fun to give it a shot.

Right now my story is called Death Before Honor and the idea is a degenerate bandit gets possessed by a demon/creature/something during a raid. Obviously he’s not a fan of that, and hears that people going on the Crusade can get salvation. So he joins up, and basically has a redemption arc as he goes from a cowardly, heavy drinking, scattered vagabond to a more focused guy. Plus on a more practical level it’s always an interesting concept to me of a stealthy type character who uses light weapons (like daggers) getting used to wearing heavy armor and using a sword and shield and fighting fair.

So yeah I’ll be working away on that for this month and I’ll maybe post some progress here, and will for sure link what I end up with. Otherwise on the game front I’ve been enjoying having White Line Fever wrapped up (although I might do some weapon tweaks here and there was time goes on). I’ve been playing a lot of deckbuilders recently, namely Star Realms and Valley of the Kings. And my coworker and I are starting to play some Android Netrunner which of course is the best card game of all time.

White Line Fever 1.0 released!!!

White Line Fever 1.0 released!!!

Well it’s been almost a year (to the day) since my post about reworking White Line Fever to push-your-luck, and from there I’ve slowly been trimming, refining, and playtesting the game. In a recent push of motivation I finally took all the interior pictures necessary to replace the placeholders. And I’ve spent a few hours putting it all together into a finished v1.0! Hooray for a release!! Best feeling!!!

 White Line Fever v1.0 PDF rulebook

I might add a title page similar to the one above (with a bit more polish) or maybe even with an entirely new picture, but we’ll see when that happens. Otherwise I do want to come back to the system (after a bit of a break to work on other projects) to continue my work on the campaign system I started brainstorming.
You can see the rough notes on that called Open Road brainstorm.

But for now it’s celebration time, maybe I’ll buy a few new Hot Wheels and watch the new Hobbs & Shaw or something.

Tiny but important Party of Light tweaks (and even more art)

So as if that isn’t the most lovably old school medieval fantasy image ever, right? I can’t wait to use a similar style in Glowquest when I get around to adding art. But for now this beauty is going straight into the Party of Light rulebook, now v2.6 (a 0.1 increase since last week! 🙂 )

Download the new Party of Light v2.6 PDF rulebook.

Now a bit of a look at what’s changed…

Problems from Yesterday’s Session
I had another game session with my sister and nieces yesterday so I have a few takeaways from my recent changes, as well as some tweaks I want to do. First of all:

  • The kids didn’t really use the Action Ideas list. Was super handy for me as thinking up mechanic effects on the fly is hard when organizing and managing the rest of the game.
  • We had 3 failed Heroic Moments, which is rare, but also feels like kind of a bummer, almost like the old Fickle RPG approach where you use your big moment, fail, and feel deflated. So I reworded the rules a bit to say it should equal ~5 outcomes AND always do SOMETHING even on failure.
  • Base Speed 3 feels a tiny bit too slow on the old Dragonstrike boards, so I bumped it up to 4 and made the choosable bonus +2 instead of +1.

We also had an on-paper interesting engagement. The heroes were in a blizzard, approaching an unknown camp situated along a popular trade route. I setup the board and put figures on. And one player suggested trying to solve it in a non-combat way (which is rare in a traditional RPG once the figures come out). Now I’ve intentionally written Party of Light to be a bit like Fickle RPG where “Stamina” is used instead of Hitpoints/Health/Life, to subtly hint that you can damage it in other ways than pure combat. Which is all well and good. Until the hero and enemy started trying to talk down the other one, intimidate them, etc. for what felt like an eternity because of failed rolls.

Looking at Dice Odds (Again…)
Which made me revisit my dice odds. When I made the change from flat Stamina damage to D4 damage I changed the odds a bit and Easy became a bit harder. But with the new Action Ideas list I was using a ton more Normal actions, and dang does 50/50 ever flip. I read a bit more about the topic, and learned that in blind studies (mostly related to gambling, so you know they’re serious) people were told they had a 50% chance to win but the consensus was it only FELT that way to a person if they ACTUALLY won 66% of the time. Wizards of the Coast also looked at this type of problem with D&D 4th and 5th edition and found 60-80% success is a good starting point. Anything above is actually MORE frustrating to fail (like a 90% or 95% chance to hit) because it feels “cheap” or like you deserved the success. I’m sure all the X-COM computer players out there can relate to missing a 95% chance shot and wanting to throw their keyboard out the window.

While researching I also found some good quotes on the topic, so I thought I’d share those:

Failing at trivial things only makes your story into a farce.

Definitely felt that one before (…flashbacks to Fickle RPG when players tried to get their ally to throw up the zombie infected ticks inside them), and it’s steered me to only roll for important stuff. Because sometimes I’ll ask for a check/roll, then if the players fail it I realize, whoops, that wasn’t worth doing a check for, and now it’s lame.

Combat should advance at a snappy pace. Whiff-fests are boring, and if you have a round go by in which nothing really happens, you’ve just wasted everyone’s time.

This describes about 2 entire rounds for the camp negotiations above. Sure we could have switched to “safer” action options that gave bonuses or guaranteed at least a bit of success, but since no one did the situation sort of dragged out and ground to a halt. I find a lot of talk=damage situations can end up this way. For some reason saying “I swing my sword” three times in a row isn’t as…weird? feeling as saying “I argue with the bandit to let us pass” three times in a row. Maybe because players have a lifetime of experience talking and negotiating but haven’t exactly lived the life of a medieval adventurer.

100% are the most fun odds. Something should happen, 100% of the time, when you roll the dice.
Whether that’s success, a complication, or whatever, the end result of a roll of the dice should never be “nothing happens”.
EVERY roll of the dice should move the story forward in some way. That’s good game design.

This last quote is around the more modern idea of non-binary dice systems, where even on failure SOMETHING happens. Binary resolution is “you hit, or you miss, the end.” Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars and Genesys gets around this with Advantages/Disadvantages. Those have their own downsides, but yeah. In the case of Party of Light, with the target audience being younger, I think I’m going to stick to binary resolution. Mainly because “you miss, BUT…” drags the turn out.

Solutions and Changes
Another possible solution I thought of are opposed rolls, or defense rolls. Much like Fickle RPG where SOMETHING always happens because if you fail the enemy has succeeded, so they get to do their thing. Again downsides: the kids sometimes take a while thinking of what they want to do on their OWN turn, if they ALSO had to think of a reaction everytime they are attacked it’d bog down even more. Overall the combat might be faster (since someone is probably losing Stamina every action), but I don’t think it’s worth the tradeoff for the flow of each individual turn. Again this is just for Party of Light, because as I mentioned Fickle RPG does action/reaction for each turn, but that’s a different beast and different target audience.

Or I could give a player who fails their action a bonus for their NEXT turn. Like a poker chip or something called “focus” or whatever. Maybe even lets them reroll their next action. It could end up hecka game-y as people could intentionally fail a Hard action (but what a bonus if they succeed!) just to get a focus token for the next turn. Plus it’s just one more thing to track and manage. I had a phase of loving re-rolls, but now I find they are often tacked on in a lot of cases, unless they are entirely core to a game (like Blood Bowl).

In the end the simplest and easiest solution is to just tweak the basic dice odds of success. I considered swapping a D10 somewhere in there (maybe for Normal). Some info:

Success on 5+:
D6 = 33%
D8 = 50%
D10 = 60%
D12 = 66%

Success on 4+:
D6 = 50%
D8 = 62.5%
D10 = 70%
D12 = 75%

If I put Success back to a 4+ then Easy gets a +9% buff for chance to succeed, but most importantly Normal gets +12.5% buff, and Hard becomes more usable with +17%. Because honestly that 50/50 doesn’t feel great on Normal once you’ve had a bad streak of failing it three or four times in a row, but would be acceptable on Hard. And I don’t have to get the crummy non-platonic-solid D10 involved (I hate that stupid dice).

So yeah, all said and done in Party of Light v2.6 I switched Success from 5+ to 4+ to encourage more Normal usage and make Easy checks succeed more often (although I’d prefer 5% less of the time for Easy BUT the game is aimed at kids after all and failing at that age isn’t super fun). I also added two more pieces of art (both featured in this post) and reorganized Making a Hero to the bottom of the rulebook, and a few other minor tweaks.