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.

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