Introducing Grimoire: A Solo Roleplaying Game

This is an old post that introduced the original idea for GRIMOIRE. You can find the released version of GRIMOIRE at itch here.

As discussed, I have been developing a solo roleplaying game that has the player take the role of a wizard. By the end of the game, the player will have several randomly generated spells in the form of a grimoire and a brief journal detailing the life of the wizard that created it. It is my hope that this will be an enjoyable way for game masters to create new spells or entire grimoires for their campaigns. I have tentatively settled on the name: Grimoire.

Figure 1. Thousand Year Old Vampire by Tim Hutchings and The Wretched by Chris Bissette: Two of my favourite solo RPGs.

During the development of Grimoire, I have been scouring the internet to find similar titles, adjacent subsystems, and more solo roleplaying games with the hopes to expand my palette. Today I found a gem, Sigils in the Dark by Kurt Potts, that does something similar to my fantasy spell generator I released a few days ago. There are several key differences, namely the manner in which the graphics representing the spell are created where mine has a penchant for more detail and variety. In spite of this, I have had a great deal of fun using Sigils and I recommend checking it out – though the journaling aspect of it is quite minimal.

This week I have also been exploring Thousand Year Old Vampire by Tim Hutchings and The Wretched by Chris Bissette. Wretched was a quick dip in to explore some more solo RPGs, however I have found that its clarity of the rules to be helpful and it is making me consider whether or not I should reduce the thematic of the layout and design of Grimoire, as seen in the spell generator, in place of something more minimal that allows for greater reader comprehension. Vampire is whole other beast. It is a phenomenal game with a great deal of replay-ability and it is a huge inspiration for Grimoire. The system of multi-level journal prompts leads to interesting side plots throughout the course of your vampire’s life. In Grimoire I am now working on 166 different journal prompts. This is not as much as in Vampire but is a significant number that should allow for suitable replay-ability of this game.

The first draft of the rules for Grimoire is almost complete. Once I have created most of these journal prompts then I can begin playtesting and tinkering. As it stands, the game functions like other journalling RPGs with a management of resources such as Coinage, Wounds, and Corruption – what is magic without a healthy dose of twisting manifestations of magic? As cards are drawn, they provide journal prompts while allowing the player to generate spells but the game will also drive players to undertake a variety of quests to change how spell generation works and to support the management of the aforementioned resources.

I hope to begin playtesting next week which means that I will hopefully be able to release a public playtesting draft for people to have a tinker with. After that, I will likely release it onto itch.io.

DOWNLOAD GRIMOIRE

Interested in reading more?

One-Page RPG: Collaborative Taskforces

Collaborative Taskforces is such a tacky and cumbersome title but that is the exact reason it is so fitting for my first attempt at a GMless one-page RPG. My day job has been throwing around some buzzwords of late and in spite of my shown cynicism in this one-page RPG, I believe it is leading to something good. However, I still found that I needed to vent some of my frustrations with “office talk” so I made an untested one-page RPG that makes a mockery of it!

Figure 1. I think I had a nightmare like this

In this game players will be “luckily” chosen to participate in a new initiative at their corporate office job. It has them involved in working with people from other departments while tackling tough problems on top of their regular duties and to top it off, the employees that do not perform will be fired at the end of the day.

I am sure this kind of work may be suited to some people but I do not find any joy in it. I believe you will find this reflected in the primary resolution mechanic which has players on a downward spiral unless they can risk the whole project or ensure that they are seen when they do something positive. Is it bleak? Yes. Am I cynical? Sometimes.

I also thought this might be a good opportunity to practice using some graphics and laying out the page. I think it worked out okay though it was something slapped together. I had one issue with a particular image becoming jagged around the edges after export. I tried everything except changing the image but no amount of messing with DPI or rasterising settings seemed to fix it. I think it may have been caused by me inadvertently changing the size of the image when it was grouped with some other layer. Whoops.

Anyway, I hope you find joy in this whether that is snickering as you read the wonderful job title generator or if you play it with your pals and laugh about being fired at the end of the day. Let me know what you think!

This link will take you to itch.io where you can preview the game and download it for free: Collaborative Taskforces Download

Interested in reading more?

Fantasy Spell Generation

Spells that are esoteric, wizards that are deranged and corrupted by magic, and mysterious magical symbolism are all features of some of my most enjoyed fantasy in roleplaying games. For this reason, I have been working on a solo RPG that, by the end, will have the player in possession of a grimoire of spells and a brief history of the wizard that created them. I think this could have great results when porting the grimoires into other fantasy games, however I have yet to finish designing the game. In the meantime, I wanted to show off the spell creation process as it currently stands. WARNING: Some of the spell offerings here depict violent or aggressive acts.

Figure 1. A spell randomly generated using the process I developed for a solo RPG I am also working on.

The above image demonstrates the type of spells that can be created using my process. The spells are referred to as Opus Phenomena Vicissitude because I thought it sounded neat and mystical. Each Opus Phenomena Vicissitude includes a spell name to provide just enough information as to what it might do, a requirement of the spell that must be offered to cast the spell, and finally the glyph which is mostly just for show in the grimoire. Imagine handing a scroll or a whole tome of these to a player! I know I would be excited to delve into it.

To create spells like the one depicted in figure 1 you can use the process described in the download at the bottom of this post. It should be noted that I have taken aspects of the design out that related to the solo RPG for your convenience of generating spells without becoming bogged down in other details. For this, you will need a set of playing cards with both Jokers removed, some paper, a pencil, and a mind for the dark arts.

I know elements of this process can be a tad vague but that is by design to allow flexibility in the interpretation of spell names and glyph-making. Hopefully, I can find the sweet spot before releasing the solo RPG. In the name of the RPG community, I hope you find this helpful and I would be happy to receive some feedback as I do know that these things can be difficult to describe to someone else who has not been working on it and some of those tables are large which can make them difficult to read.

This link will take you to Dropbox so you can download the document: Opus Phenomena Vicissitude

Interested in reading more?

Using Tanglegrams for Planning RPG Sessions

As I facilitate more roleplaying games, I find myself leaning more towards sandbox experiences with a large cast of NPCs. I establish a starting scenario to introduce these characters over the first few sessions without much of an idea of what the narrative is going to be. This is not to say that I do not plan any story – I often like to have something happening at the forefront in a session but it is determined by player and NPC actions instead of pulled from a plan. To do this I maintain session notes to remind myself of who interacted with who and how it went but this becomes painful when I need to trawl through notes from multiple sessions. Here is where I believe a tanglegram could benefit my and your campaigns.

A tanglegram is like a mindmap except it focuses on the interconnections between people and things. It was originally proposed by Ian Hodder in his 2012 book, Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things, where he argues that humans live to sustain a material world. I believe this could be used to track the many NPCs, objects, factions, and PCs in a roleplaying game between sessions to aid with identifying story seeds and generating initial session situations.

Though untested, here is how I may approach this in future campaigns that I facilitate.

  1. Create a cast of characters (including PCs)
  2. Map the connections between the NPCs and PCs by using colour-coding or labelling to identifying the type of relationship and whether or not it is one-sided or not
  3. Add in various objects, locations, and factions of significance as independent entities
  4. Review the map and make necessary changes after each session and then use this in the planning process before the next session

Create a Cast of Characters

We all develop and create NPCs in a variety of manners and with varying degrees of depth. For the purposes of illustrating the use of Tanglegrams I am leaving each NPC at a single, brief sentence and only including a few.

  • Newt, an ancient witch preparing a blood ritual to revive her long dead sister and using Dr. Patella to gather bodies
  • Eye, Newt’s long dead sister who leaves the streets of Amberbrooke bloody
  • Residents of Amberbrooke who are working hard to establish a new life here
  • Meretah, a self-proclaimed detective who is often found nose-deep in a book or other people’s business
  • Chaypin Patella, a world-renowned doctor in the recent employ of Lord Amber
  • Rose, a local herbalist that tries to watch over Amberbrooke and its residents

Initial Mapping

To make use of these more easily then identifying the type of relationship between two entities is crucial but it is best to keep these brief. As you can see the relationships between each character is known and those who do not have knowledge of others is easily visible.

Figure 1. The initial map of the tanglegram demonstrating the relationships between various characters.

Adding in the Rest

In this step the locations, objects, and factions should be added in as separate entities with attached relationships. As you can see below, I colour-coded my blocks to distinguish between characters, objects, and locations. It may look something like this:

Figure 2. A tanglegram demonstrating the relationships between characters (yellow), locations (blue), and objects (purple).

Review and Planning

Over time these tanglegrams could become monstrously large but by displaying the relationship between all entities within a sandbox campaign it may be easier to identify story seeds or situations that players find themselves in. For example, the players may be out strolling at night and may see Chaypin Patella at the ruins or Meretah at the tavern. One evening the players may visit the doctor to find that Rose is banging angrily on his door and asking him to leave the healing to her. This could be left as a brief scene to introduce characters or it could blossom into something more.

An obvious limitation of this visualising method is that it represents a tangled web of relationships – I suppose that is the point. With the understanding that we do not require to understand or see every relationship at once, just those relevant, it becomes less of a problem. Some software could also reduce this problem by allowing a use to click on an entity and have the relationships to it highlighted or to select multiple and have the pathways between them highlighted. I do not know this exists, but it could support the use of tanglegrams well. In the end, this is nothing more than a tool to facilitate the generation of ideas and note-taking that I thought might be interesting to try out the next time I facilitate a game.

Interested in reading more?

Impressions of Hypertellurians

A system for playing science fantasy adventures in the future of old is the tag line for Hypertellurians. It is an RPG that conveys its sword and planet themes well through its use of flavourful character powers that, alongside the advancement system, encourage heroic play. However, the cohesion of the subsystems does not achieve a smooth-running engine for producing the types of stories it aims to help tell.

Hypertellurians (M)anvil Edition featured with custom dice from Ravensridge Emporium

Hypertellurians provides a method for ‘quick and dirty’ character generation that involves selecting:

  • An Archetype which is akin to a class and provides starting cosm powers that a player can call upon in the narrative like having acid blood or ignoring gravity to allow you to walk on walls.
  • A concept which is a basis for a character from pop. culture and it provides ability scores, affinity, a drive and weakness, and equipment with suggested advances.

The second method has the player determine all of the features of the concept manually instead. It is a direct and easy procedure of which the only interesting aspect to me is the drive and weakness. These work well to facilitate the conversation between a player and a GM because both know what two primary factors affect decision-making for the character. In my opinion, this supports a better narrative generation by both parties, and it will likely support the GM in the creation of locations, artefacts, and other such objects that drive advancement through ‘Wonder’.

Hypertellurians does not allow characters to advance through combat encounters, instead it has characters advance by discovering awe inspiring places, creatures, and vistas. This generates Wonder which is a party resource that can be used to activate Wondrous powers which range from bonuses in combat to flashback type memories to provide narrative advantages in the present. The more Wonder spent, the more the characters advance at the end of the session which include things like increasing ability scores or gaining new cosm powers. I quite like this mechanic of ‘double-dipping’ on experience points as it works like massive carrot for the players to pursue those awe-inspiring things by allowing them to use these powers and advance their characters.

To support the GMs through this Hypertellurians provides an adventure seed table, a sample adventure, magic items, NPCs and monsters, magic spells, and weapons. I find that this helps to elicit the themes and tone of the game, however it is lacking in one key area: locations and vistas. You know, the majority of what generates advances for players. Given that the system has lethal combat and encourages players to avoid combat it seems like a missed opportunity to have a subsystem for combat instead of including random tables or more sample awe-inspiring things.

Hypertellurians operates on the standard D20+Ability Score Modifier >= Target Number to resolve actions. It is nothing ground-breaking just like the round-based combat subsystem that has players taking turns to either do two actions or one action dependent on when the player would like to go in the initiative order. The change to initiative here at least adds an interesting choice for players and the system also provides a ‘cleave damage’ mechanic so that any leftover damage carries over to the next closest enemy which I think adds to the themes of heroic characters wading their way through mooks. Furthermore, the system has armour and shields operate differently to each other and spells and equipment have an exhaustive tag system that describe how they are mechanically different in combat too.

… A game about exploring the endless worlds of the Ultracosm.

Hypertellurians (M)anvil Edition, p.20

The more I read Hypertellurians the more I thought that this would be a great system for a science fantasy adventure filled with combat encounters. It is a fast subsystem with lots of character customisation and opportunity for shenanigans. This is not at all what the system describes itself as which is “… a game about exploring the endless worlds of the Ultracosm”. This is where I believe Hypertellurians falls short. It encourages players to explore and discover awe-inspiring things by providing advancements and access to powers for the characters but instead of providing tools for the GM to create these things it focuses heavily on a combat subsystem whilst discouraging players for engaging in it.

Hypertellurians appears to be a functional OSR-adjacent system, however the focus on combat feels like a missed opportunity to instead include different subsystems or tables to further the self-proclaimed goal of science fantasy adventure.

Interested in reading more?

Playing Dread Remotely

Dread was the first roleplaying system that I used as a game master and I recently had the pleasure to be a player of it remotely. My friend wrote a scenario that was inspired by an SCP article and it was an excellent time for all involved – I even died horribly to some freaky monster and like all good monsters I cannot begin to even describe it properly. Traditionally a game of Dread uses a Jenga tower and has players pulling a block for a given action should their character be under duress or working out of their skill. This lends to a beautifully tense table that blends perfectly with the horror genre that Dread lends itself too, however using a Jenga tower remotely is uncomfortable.

These are a multitude of options available as a substitute for a Jenga tower for Dread to be played remotely, though most of them attempt to replace the physical challenge of Jenga with a mental challenge and many of these do not create the feeling of dread for me. In the recent session that I played in we used Minesweeper but the feeling of dread for me was not caused by the game of Minesweeper, instead it was the skilful storytelling of my friend as the game master. Minesweeper did not work because it does not meet the criteria that I believe a physical Jenga tower meets for a game of Dread to successfully impose suspense on the players.

The Criteria and Options

For a game of Dread to work I believe the primary manner of resolution must meet the following criteria:

  • A visibly diminishing chance of success
  • Flexibility to make multiple ‘pulls’
  • A quick action to perform
  • Provides choice for the player

Many people have suggested rolling dice, drawing playing cards, digital Jenga, or playing minesweeper to be a substitute for the Jenga tower. Each may work to some degree; however, I find that most fail to meet the above criterion as described below.

  • Minesweeper fails at criteria 1-3 because it is simply too easy given the information the game provides (a possible solution could be a time limit imposed on the player for picking a square to click and maybe banning the use of flags)
  • Digital Jenga is difficult to manipulate as transferring 3-dimensional movement with precision form a mouse to the computer is awkward and it could easily lead to players feeling cheated. A potential solution could be VR, however that is an expensive solution
  • Playing cards may work and there are several methods for doing so such as drawing the single joker resulting in a death and a reset though depending on the software used then you may not be able to visibly see the diminishing deck. The problem with this is that it does not provide much choice for the player
  • Rolling dice is another flexible option that most people tend to focus on strict probabilities for that can sometimes result in lacklustre player without choice for the players. A possible solution for this is described below

How I Will Play Next Time

The next time I play Dread remotely I intend to use the following method. On paper, it seems like it could work and successfully meet the criteria outlined above though I suspect that it may require some tweaking.

Players will use dice sizes from D4 to D20 and for each pull must roll a number of dice required to have the maximum face value of each be greater than or equal to 12. Dice remain on the virtual table and if the player rolls a number that has already shown up, they are removed from the game (the Jenga tower falls) and the dice on the table are then removed. Players then reset the table following these rules in conjunction with the Dread tower reset.

Here is an example:

  1. P1 chooses to roll 1d20 and they get an 18
  2. P2 chooses to roll 1d4+1d8 and they a 3 and a 7
  3. P3 chooses to roll a 1d6+1d12 and they a 6 and an 11
  4. P4 chooses to roll 1d20 but they roll a 3 which has already shown up thus they are removed from the game

This method meets the criteria above as players have choice in how they wish to roll to hopefully increase their chances of being safe while showing a diminishing chance of success. The action to roll is quick and players can easily perform a second or third roll if required by the rules of Dread. If you ever have the chance of testing this approach out, then please let me know how it goes!

Interested in reading more?

Lessons Learned Hitherto: Blades in the Dark

In spite of Dungeons and Dragon 5E being the second system that I was a game master (GM) for it required a surprisingly amount of effort to try being a GM for a different system after DnD 5E. I chalk this up to DnD 5E requiring a deceptively great deal of energy to plan and run, a lack of experience likely also affected this, when compared to something like Dread which I had started with. In all likelihood I was under the impression that a new system would take more effort than just maintaining my tumultuous relationship with DnD 5E, however I wanted change and in a moment of clarity I purchased a copy of Blades in the Dark.

Blades in the Dark was the catalyst for my newfound and rampant love for roleplaying games. After running the game my perception of RPGs widened which led me to collect more to the point that people are worried for me. Below are my musings and reflections on Blades in the Dark.

Blades in the Dark and Mutant: Year Zero presented beautifully on an old and worn table. Gaze upon those mighty mug stains.

Blades in the Dark

Blades in the Dark has the GM and players tell the story of a crew of criminals in a supernatural industrial city that powers everything with demon blood and ghosts. The crew has its own character sheet and over the course of the game will hopefully grow in power all the while making ‘friends’ and enemies. This goes for the player characters, scoundrels, too who will likely succumb to their vices. This is achieved through a game loop as follows: Free Play, Score, Downtime.

Blades in the Dark game loop as seen on page 9 of the rule book

This defined structure helps to maintain a cohesive story between all of the players because at any point everyone knows the pacing, tone, and objective. With the exception of Free Play, which is horribly defined and does not fit neatly, the Score is a fast-paced and tense criminal activity such as a heist, assassination, or something else of that ilk whereas the Downtime is more slow-paced with moments of tension in which the immediate consequences play out. Both of these modes of play included a solid structure for planning and running them with each feeding into the next. This allowed me to prep more quickly, improvise more easily, and enjoy the story more all because I knew what to prep, my prep was more useful, and everyone knew what each part of the game was for and approximately where we were heading in the story.

What is the price of success?

The most impressionable lesson from Blades in the Dark for me was the different approach to the RPG conversation between GMs and players. The players are on a downward spiral and the process of conflict resolution leans towards adding complications through failure or success at a cost, however with the addition of flashbacks and the like players can pull through. Coupled with the fact that players have an end goal, retire, or succumb to their vice, everyone has a destination in mind. This changes the question when dice are rolled from ‘Do I succeed or fail?’ to ‘What is the price of success?’ and in my opinion this is a more effective question to encourage players to make decision about what they are willing to give up succeeding which is the overall story being told in Blades in the Dark.

Example clocks from Blades in the Dark

Lastly the idea of clocks changed the way that I thought about problems in the narrative. I believe the mechanics of clocks were first introduced in Apocalypse World by Vincent Baker; however, Blades in the Dark was my first introduction to them. A clock is essentially a timer that rolls can interact with and are a way a seeing when something could trigger, how long something will last, etc. It seems like a simple concept that people have been doing with just a D6 and counting down each round in combat, however the clocks are more integrated than that. Great rolls or terrible rolls may tick the clock up or down at different rates or the clocks may work against each other such as in a chase sequence. This allowed me to take an otherwise complicated consequence that I would need to think about and abstract it to a clock requiring X number of ticks giving me time but still adding tension and consequence to actions for my players.

Overall Blades in the Dark opened my eyes to what a roleplaying game could be by fundamentally changing the conversation between GMs and players. Though it has some issues, such as the misbegotten ‘Free Play’, the defined structure facilitates a cohesive storytelling experience which allows for flexibility through the use of clocks and choosing how much of a price to pay for success.

Interested in reading more?

Random Table: What’s in Their Pocket?

Figure 1: A random table

The use of random tables in my games are still predominantly focused on the before aspect of the game – the preparation. However, in my most recent campaign of Mutant: Year Zero I did return to utilising random tables during a session and I found that I very much liked the random aspects they can introduce while also allowing a modicum of control.

Though random tables are in the early stages of ruminating deep in the basting juices of my mind, they have provoked me to consider where different GM tools might lie on a spectrum of chaos and control. My preparations for a game session involve a couple of possible situations tied to each PC and the plots which is derived from the drives and goals of the NPCs – it is quite minimal, but it rests on the more control side of the spectrum. Then the players bring in their moxie to add a touch of chaos to drag my prep towards the centre and this is where I feel that random tables rest – I create them and the dice bring in that delightful chaos.

In the spirit of random tables and my endeavour to use them more here is a table to be used when you need to know what is inside a person’s pocket. I have tried to keep it thematically neutral but interesting so that it can fit in any setting while providing questions with each roll.

What’s in Their Pocket?

2D4Pocket Contents
2Tracked Orb: A small glass orb that rolls after the last person who touched it. When viewed by the wielder, it shows their reflection and then fades to black with a red ‘X’ that can be viewed from any angle.
3Rotting Finger: A shriveling lump of flesh with exposed bone depicts a decaying finger moist with infection. Near the base, where it has been severed, is half of a ring mark.
4Blue Stain: The pocket is empty but the sides feel powdery. The thief’s hand is now stained blue for all to see!
5Pocket Change: A small amount of currency either in a container such as a pouch or loose inside the pocket. It can be in pristine, polished condition (1/6); worn and used (4/6); mucky and smelly (1/6).
6Scratch Pad: A tiny notebook or pad for taking short notes with. In the most common language a series of three numbers are hastily scrawled on it, e.g. 32 1 15.
7Clockwork Device: A small device that begins to chatter when in the presence of heat. In the cold if the device is squeezed it prints out a sheet of paper with a series of dots and lines on it that translate to the noise around the device during its most recent chattering.
8Formal Invitation: A letter written on heavy card stock invites the beneficiary of this letter to a private soiree. The incredibly fine print towards the bottom reads “BYO sacrifice but food and drink is provided”. It’s signed “- The Dimaryp Opportunity”.

Interested in reading more?

Lumbrik Class for The Black Hack

For use with The Black Hack

Plagued by dreams of mechanized humanoids descending into green cracks in the Earth is what originally inspired me to create the Lumbrik class for DnD 5e. I liked the idea of robotic or robotic adjacent heroes in a fantasy setting but I found the Warforged of Eberron to be a little mechanically bland – I suppose without the context of Eberron they just feel like any other race in DnD 5e to me. Due to the incessant violent coughs and ejection of blood from my throat caused by contact with Dungeons & Dragons – yes, I know I should have it looked at – I decided to port over my custom class to The Black Hack so that I could use it again.

The Lumbrik are actually a worm-like species that are about the size of a human forearm. They live in underground tunnel networks as small groups who feed on the knowledge contained in the DNA of organisms. In an effort to gain more knowledge they designed mechanized suits that would interface with them called Exoframes. This allowed them to travel the surface of the world to consume more knowledge. You can find the untested custom class below. If you like the look of this, have suggestions, or a play report then let me know below. Enjoy!

Starting Stats

Starting Hit Points (HP) : roll 1d4 + 8
Starting Hit Dice (HD) : 1d10
Usable Weapons & Armour : None
Attack Damage : 1d4 unarmed, counts as a Large Weapon

D6Exoframe Insignia
1A purple worm bursting out of the ground
2Bold, flaming text that reads: “Global Worming”
3A lantern overflowing with glow worms
4A raven with worms for eyes
5A large, open book with indecipherable text on it
6A worm with a throbbing and disproportionately large brain

Equipment

Every Lumbrik starts with a special ‘Crank’ function as described below. Also choose to start the game with either A or B:

  • A – 2d8 coins and purse, built-in large shield (+1 Armour Die), a shopping list of exotic fruits and vegetables
  • B – 2d8 coins and purse, built-in one-handed weapon instead of one arm (Replaces Attack Damage with 1d6), a kill order with a body quota

Hardened Frame

The Exoframe is made of hard metals and provides protection from attacks (AV2). Also when rolling Broken Armour Die a Lumbrik rolls with Advantage.

Subterranean

Due to your familiarity with the world underneath you do not suffer from Panic! due to a lack of light. However, an abundance of flashing lights may cause you to Panic!

Crank

Each Exoframe is constructed with a unique mechanical function that requires cranking for use. For every Action spent cranking increase the Usage Die for the given crank function up to a maximum of Ud12. In addition to downgrading the Usage Die when a 1 is rolled, you also lose 1 HP.

Function NameFunction Effect
LightYour Exoframe sheds bright light from a glass bulb with thick copper wire in it to allow Nearby creatures to see. This light lasts until the Usage Die has been depleted.
StompTwo large hammers extend out from your Exoframe and begin hammering on the ground around you. A number of creatures equal to your that are Nearby become Stuck. Attribute Tests to remove this Hindrance are made with an additional die equal to the Usage Die used for this. This occurs immediately after the cranking actions have finished after which the Usage Die is depleted.
MagnetA large chunk of metal in your Exoframe begins to rapidly spin. A number of metal items equal to the rolled value of the Usage Die are violently attached to your frame. When the Usage Die has been depleted, every attached item is then violently ejected outwards dealing 1 HP of damage to a number of Nearby creatures equal to the number of items ejected.
ShieldA large sheet of metal erupts from your Exoframe and rests into the ground after the cranking actions have finished. It provides cover for all Close creatures that stand behind it. While standing behind this, a creature has access to a shared pool of Armour Dice equal to the highest face value of the Usage Die. This effect can be stopped with an action after which the shield retracts itself into the Exoframe.

When You Gain a New Level

Acquire and share a number of Experiences equal to your current HD to advance a Level. When you gain a Level:

  • Roll a d20 once for each Attribute – if you roll over, it goes up one point, make an extra roll for one Attribute of your choice.
  • Gain 1HD – Roll 1d10 – gain that many additional maximum HP

Interested in reading more?

Lessons Learned Hitherto: Dread and DnD 5E

I have found that the role of the Game Master is a challenging but rewarding one. It can be a stressful job which requires forethought preceding – and an agile mind during a game. However the joy of developing this skillset can be felt every time I play. The smiles, laughter, and expressions of disgust or horror on the faces of my friends are good – but I could not tell you if that outweighed the satisfaction and excitement I feel when I finish exploring a new roleplaying game.

As a budding Game Master of a meagre 100 hours I want to catalogue my reflections of each RPG I ran for any significant amount of time – which is anything excluding a single one-shot. So far I have found that the many techniques or tools that I have spent countless hours reading about take on a new light once I see them expressed in some form during one of my games.

For the sake of posterity and brevity this post will be in two parts and briefly reflect on my experiences with Dread, Dungeons & Dragons 5E, Blades in the Dark, and Mutant: Year Zero.

Dread

Dread was the first system that I ran a game for and it only had two players while a third person sat in the room and pretended to be better than us. In spite of this odd atmosphere and my inexperience, the game had players pacing around with worried expressions on their face minutes into the game and we all had a great time.

This was by no means a feat of mine. I have since learned that I made countless novice mistakes while running this game such as forcing my hand as a GM to ensure players experience a particular scene how I felt it should be. Embarrassing. Instead, I owe this good experience to my friends with a penchant for wild imaginations being supportive people and the system itself.

Dread is a game that has the players pulling blocks from a Jenga tower to determine success in a stressful or unknown situation. If the tower falls, their character is removed from the game in some way which could be anything from death to having mad diarrhoea. Whatever works for the narrative. Pulling from a Jenga tower is already suspenseful and then Dread pairs this with horror narratives resulting in a feeling of dread for the players.

If people feel a certain way then they may act in accordance to these feelings. Dread leverages this to support the telling of scary story. As a Game Master, I barely had to do any work other than describe the scene and then tell the players to pull a block. By providing room for the players to breathe and find their characters while being able to know the stakes (by looking at how unstable the tower is), Dread works without requiring mechanically diverse player characters or a massive book of rules.

Dungeons and Dragons 5E

Dungeons and Dragons 5e Core Rules Gift Set

If anyone asked me if I regret anything I wouldn’t say it was that time a friend of mine tricked me into picking up a snot-covered piece of bark in kindergarten or even those many times I thought I would be okay if I had just one more slice of pizza. No, they’re not good examples. Instead I might tell them about the pit that is DnD 5e.

From what I have seen many people find great enjoyment in playing this game but I did not and I did not realise that until much later. I would argue that DnD 5e is not a very good game for people new to the RPG scene and at best, is mediocre for experienced players and GMs. This is because it is a bloated incomplete toolkit system that is misrepresented by each person with the book($).

Working together, the group might explore a dark dungeon…

Dungeons and Dragons 5e Player’s Handbook, page 5

A toolkit system is a type of game that has distinct and modular sub-systems that do not necessarily interconnect. Such as Combat and Downtime in DnD 5e. Toolkit systems can work really well as a GM and the players only need to focus on the subsystems that they are interested in, however DnD 5e does not supply all of the tools required in the base game yet it promises them on page 5, “Working together, the group might explore a dark dungeon…” The Player’s Handbook (PHB) does not include rules for exploring a dark dungeon or anything for that matter, instead players are given pages describing things like how high they can jump or how long it takes for them to suffocate. No procedure exists in the Dungeon Master’s Guide either and if it did then it should be in the PHB because the players need to make decisions too. DnD 5e is repeated offender of empty promises like the one described above.

Everyone runs DnD 5e in their own way but not always for the same good reason people do with other systems – to adjust for tone or familiarity. No, people try to fix DnD 5e because the subsystems provided are clunky, the classes are imbalanced, it’s missing pieces, etc. At my table, this lead to a culture of people not taking the time to learn the rules and to adopt the rules that they were told by others. At first it is not a bad thing but when someone tries to run a game with people that are not familiar with these homebrew rules then that becomes a problem because suddenly people are not playing the same game. I could rant about DnD 5e for a long time but I’ll end it with this: It reminded me that I could say no. If I am not having fun, if a game is just causing tension and confusion, then I can just not play and that’s okay.

Closing Thoughts

There is a reason why there are so many different systems available to play. That is because people want money to tell different types of stories. A system can have a great impact on the tone and genre of the collaborative narrative being spun by the Game Master and the players.

Interested in reading more?