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Story-driven board RPG

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Garwyx
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Joined: 10/28/2014

I've been working on a game some time ago but it evolved quite a lot. See old versions here, here and here. I went over all concepts to pinpoint what I find most important:

- Players encounter different (random) events, such as arriving at a mage tower, encountering wild beasts or finding a merchant
- Players start as a "tabula rasa" and through their decisions for specific abilities and the items they find or buy create a certain character
- Players cooperate to complete the final quest
- The game should be short (30 - 60 minutes), and therefore
- Combat should be varied but simple and short

STORY
Brighthill is a small, peaceful town deep in the wilderness of the land of Nertarun. People lead simple lives as farmers, hunters and fishermen and have heard of magic only from the tales told by travellers. But recently weird things started happening.
Every year after the harvest and before the onset of winter, merchants used to come to town to buy the town's produce and sell items of wonder. But winter is closing in and there is no sign of them yet. To make things worse, people started disappearing last week and you sometimes hear unfamiliar and frightening noises at night.
Suddenly, two goblins rush into town and start attacking villagers. You are able to kill them, and find an instruction note on one of them:

“Prepare the village for my arrival in ten days, when the sacrifice will take place. Do not allow any of the villagers to escape and start capturing them at night.”

The result of a quickly organised council is that this villain needs to be found and dealt with before it is too late. But the village consists only of farmers, hunters and fishermen, and most of them are too old and fragile or too young to go on such an adventure. So all eyes are on you: John the fisherman’s son, Steve the miller’s son, Donald the farmer’s son and Wayland the blacksmith’s son. You have no combat experience and there are no real weapons in town, so you have to use cunning and improvisation if you want to stay alive. And no-one can tell you what you will find.

SETUP
In this explorative roleplaying game, you will take the role of one (or more) of four characters and explore the surroundings of the town of Brighthill. Your surroundings are dangerous but you lack experience and equipment. So by carefully scouting the mellow regions adjacent to town you can gain some experience and gather some items to prepare yourself for more challenging areas. But do not linger, because with each passing day more people from your village are killed.

DICE MECHANICS
Every player has three dice, one of each colour:
- Red governs the strength stat, and affects heavy weapons (such as a war hammer), health and strength-based checks (such as moving a large boulder)
- Green governs the agility stat. It therefore affects initiative (whether a hero can attack before a monster), light/nimble weapons (such as daggers and shurikens), defence (dodge/parry) and agility-based checks (such as lockpicking a chest or walking across a narrow ridge)
- Blue governs the intelligence stat, and affects magic (using a wand or casting spells), mana and intelligence-based checks (such as diplomacy)

Players roll all dice simultaneously at the beginning of each turn. This creates their motivation/skill for each stat (strength/agility/intelligence) that day. By investing in a certain feat they get better (modifiers).
There is no real leveling system, but players choose certain abilities (see below) or extra health/mana and stats.

There is also a black die, rolled by the player drawing the event card. It affects whether special features occur. In combat, it may be rolled in every round because it is used for special abilities of monsters.

EVENT CARDS
Each turn starts with an event card. For instance, the players encounter a young man bullying an old man, and both want their help. The players can choose whom to help, each giving a different reward. To help the bully players need a low strength check (the old man is weak) and/or a high intelligence check (he is smart), but to help the old man they need a high strength check (the young man is strong) and/or low intelligence check (he is not so smart).
Event cards may also present the players with a number of enemies (see combat below).

Players first choose whom to help (if required), then roll all their dice, and if they succeed they get the reward depicted on the event card.

WINNING CONDITIONS
Not final. There will be a stack of 10 tier 1 event cards (easy events from the area familiar to the players), and a stack of 5 tier 2 cards (difficult events representing unfamiliar areas). The final event card will be shuffled through the tier 2 cards.
The final event card will also be a random one, such that players are never sure what will happen.
Example:
"An ivory tower rises before you and you feel the presence of a magical shield.
B4: deactivate the shield
G4: find a hidden entrance
Z: the wizard spots you and a thunder cloud damages everyone for 1 damage
If you succeed to enter, you will find the wizard inside (stats given). The wizard tells you he is responsible for the disappearing people, which he sacrificed to summon the demon lord Kath K’tarr.
Defeat the wizard to win the game."

ITEMS AND ITEM CARDS
Items include weapons, tools to improve non-combat situations, and armour or clothing. Items have a cost value which is important if players encounter a merchant, but not when they draw a random item card as loot. They come in 2 stacks representing the two tiers, and perhaps there will be a stack of specific items (if specific events give specific items).

ABILITIES AND SPELLS
Players gain XP for various tasks and can spend XP points to learn a new ability. Every player can learn every ability. Examples:
Pet Handler: player can capture beasts to fight for them
Light Armour: player is able to wear light armour
Taunt: player can force monsters to attack him

There will also be magical spells such as
Fireball: player can cast a fireball for X mana that does X damage
Scry: look into the future - look at the top 3 event cards and discard one
Players cannot learn these just like that because they are unfamiliar with magic, but they can be acquired as scrolls. From that moment a player can use the spell (by spending mana). Such spells can then also be learned from trainers (not bought from merchants).

COMBAT
Monsters can come in groups. Monsters have a value for HP (health), Attack (how much damage they can inflict to a hero), Armour (reduces incoming damage, only on strong monsters) and Toughness. Toughness is compared to a player's green die roll (+ modifiers). When toughness is higher, the monster can attack first. When equal or lower, the player can attack first.
Hero HP and mana are determined by the strength and intelligence modifiers, respectively, how many level investments they made and certain items or abilities. Attack is determined by their weapons in combination with dice (for instance a dagger does 1 damage and +1 damage on a green 6 roll). Armour is determined by clothing and some items give more with the green die (dodge on light armour).
Monsters automatically attack the hero that attacks them. Monsters that are not attacked automatically attack the hero with the highest "threat" (the one with the highest red die roll).
Heroes and monsters can attack with either ranged or melee weapons. Generally melee attacks do more damage, but cannot target opponents out of range. As such, a melee hero has to attack melee monsters first, whereas a ranged hero can focus ranged monsters (and vice versa).

BOARD/MAP
Because the game is driven by event cards, maybe it is not necessary to include a map. Players depart their town and draw tier 1 event cards until they are ready for tier 2. For combat they can place their characters and opposing monsters on a simple grid to indicate whom is in range.
On the other hand, I could include a board with the village of Brighthill in the middle, surrounded by familiar patches of agriculture, lake, meadow and forest. Players then have to draw tiles (squares or hexagons) to expand the map when they venture into the unknown.

let-off studios
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Joined: 02/07/2011
Magic = Blue?

You listed Green for two different qualities (Agility and Magic), but I assume based on what I've read in the rest of the rules that Blue - or some other colour - would indicate Magic-based attacks and effects.

This sounds like a gigantic game, and I'm doubtful that a group could finish it in an hour. I don't think that's a bad thing, though! However, I'd suggest that once you have a clearer idea of how the game ends, the final challenges or challenge to be overcome by the players, and so on... Be willing to let some things go in the name of a better game.

Nuanced activities like blacksmithing, herb-collecting, and hunting/eating can be games in themselves, and could actually detract from the main goal when players become distracted by these other activities. Once your end-game state is determined, I'd suggest removing/minimizing these and saving them for another game idea if they don't substantially add to the experience.

Best of success with this! It has the makings of another epic, satisfying adventure game. :)

Garwyx
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Joined: 10/28/2014
Thanks for your response. I

Thanks for your response. I will focus on end-game content first, share it, and then fiddle around with the little things.
Sorry the second green should indeed have been blue, so I changed this. Green is fast weapons and dodge chance, red is slow weapons and health regeneration, blue is magical weapons/spells and mana regeneration.
I'm hoping to be able to create encounters that can be finished in 5 minutes, but that might be wishful thinking. We'll make a couple encounters and try them to see how long they take.
One way in which things would speed up is not allowing players to venture alone, and not including a board. If there are only events via event cards, that's what players do. They draw a card, make a choice, see if they can do it and reap the results.

One of the things that quickens things is that every player has one die of each colour and throws them all at once and then looks at the colours he needs. The results are his "state for the day". The dice are not all-determining (weapons have a basic attack value already) but are modifiers. So on one day a player feels smart but not very strong (high blue, low red), on another he feels agile (high green). There will be ways for players to influence the results.

Jarec
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Joined: 12/27/2013
This all seems good to me,

This all seems good to me, I'm way into these kinds of games. Though you didn't explain your dice mechanics, I'm guessing that you gain more the dice of color of your choosing with levels?
I'd also want to know about the story stuff, how will you incorporate that into all this mechanics heavy stuff you've now shown?

And a mechanic suggestion for your herbalism/fishing/etc.: Keeping in mind that you want to keep the game short, all of that stuff could just be in the event cards rather than have a specific "skill" of their own, meaning that an event card which has the regular money/xp reward could also have an icon of a fish in it, and if you do the event well, you get to keep the card, meaning that you character now knows how to mine for level 1 fish in any subsequent events which has the need for that.

Also, are the event cards just one-off things? I could see some nice variation in event cards that'd hang in game for multiple turns for characters to build themselves up for completing.

Garwyx
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Joined: 10/28/2014
Thanks Jarec. I have some

Thanks Jarec. I have some info about the mechanics, as well as a first story.

MECHANICS
There is no real leveling included. At certain points players can choose new abilities or increases in health and mana, perhaps also stats (strength, agility, intelligence). It's very likely players gain XP for completed events and can spend XP to choose abilities.
Players all have one die of each colour, and challenges need a certain value. I use only one type, let's say D6. Like in the example, intimidating the guard maybe requires a 6. Players can get stronger. Possibilities are:
- Increasing the number of dice and pick the highest one (but then I need a lot of dice and I don't want players to have to hand over dice)
- More rerolls (then players have to choose whether they are satisfied with a result - maybe a 1 gives a negative effect)
- Modifiers, such as +1. Then some events can even ask for a result of 7, which is impossible for non-specialised heroes.

STORY
The players' characters live in a small village in the wilderness, and suddenly people start disappearing. There are no trained adventurers or weapons in town so the townsfolk look at you: 4 people, children of a farmer, miller, fisherman and blacksmith.
So the players need to investigate their surroundings but are inexperienced and have no equipment. They know their immediate surroundings but never ventured far from the village. They also don't know what they will face, so the final event card can be random. Of course it should be obvious that this is the end.
I like story-driven games like Legends of Andor, but I don't want to create a game with a completely prerendered game. The main reason is replayability.

I think it would be a good idea to have a board or map in three tiers, such that the players start easy and can venture to moderate and difficult areas when they are ready. But people are disappearing so they have to hurry. There will be some sort of pressure. Having three tiers would mean the final even card will be shuffled through the last tier.

red hare
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Joined: 11/09/2009
interesting idea

Hi Garwyx,

A short rpg game sounds fun. Not everyone wants to invest so many hours to play long campaigns. I like the idea of rolling the colored dice to determine the player's status for that turn. But what if a player rolls badly? His character won't be much use it seems. Is there a supporting role he can do or use other skills to stay involved?

Good luck with the game!

Garwyx
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Joined: 10/28/2014
I've updated the opening post

I've updated the opening post with all your excellent suggestions.

Hey Red Hare, a very interesting point what players can contribute if they roll badly, because the goal is to roll high. I have a couple of work arounds already, but your help would be appreciated. It is important to remember the group does not split up and always consists of 4 heroes.

1. For instances like opening a chest, players succeed if one of them gets it open. If they need a red 5 the chance of opening it is about 80% (four dice with 2/6 chance per die). So there it does not matter if some players do not succeed (like in D&D, if one player can lockpick a door it is fine).
2. In combat, red, green and blue dice give bonuses but are not all-decisive. Example: a player has a dagger equipped, which does 1 damage irrespective of the dice and 1 extra damage on a green 6, and wears light armour, which gives no defence but 1 defence on a green 5. So even on a bad day a player contributes to combat. This contrasts combat like in D&D, where the D20 decides whether you hit and if you don't you're worthless that round, but only for one round and not the whole day like in my game.
3. In some cases a certain number of players need to succeed. For instance, they need to roll a boulder but can only do so if 3 of them are strong enough. They can decide to try again the next day but that will take time. It could be on the first day only players 1 and 2 are successful, but on the second day players 2, 3 and 4 are successful - player 1 not anymore but it does not matter.
4. It could also be that players need to jump a ledge. If they do it they can continue to a subevent (a fight, for instance) immediately, but if they fall they get some damage and can only join the fight in the second turn. So players that don't think they can jump the ledge can stay behind, in the case of combat to fight with ranged weapons. Players might even decide to climb down the ledge and up again on the other side, but that will take them two turns.

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