Normally I’d be doing an Friday Night D&D article, but it’s an off week for playing, and I don’t have a new campaign idea floating around my head right now. So instead, I want to talk about how some board games use RPG elements and …
It’s the holidays and the holidays have tons of stories that you can borrow from or steal for a D&D one shot, in fact, Acquisitions Inc. just did a holiday special that was A Christmas Carol, just with a whole lot more blood.
So let’s set the stage, this game everyone is going to be playing as Santa’s little helpers those wonderful Christmas elves. They’re busy getting ready for Christmas when they hear coming from Santa’s office “Ho Ho… Nooooooooooo” and when they go and look Santa Claus has been kidnapped. They have just enough time to jump through a portal as they see Santa being taken.
However, they don’t end up in the same place that the person was going, but instead they end up in a little world, a tiny little forest really and there are brightly colored eggs laying around.
What I’d want to do is run through a number of different holidays quickly. This might be only a one shot, or if you have some time off and want to get a few games in, maybe you split this up over a few. If you are just do a one shot, I’d have them face off against the Easter bunny first, or maybe cupid before they get to the Lich whose heart is not 3 sizes too small, but has turned to dust. They need to find Santa Claus, beat the lich, and get him back in time for Christmas. I’d probably create an in game timer or some sort for that countdown to Christmas.
Now, if you’re doing this over multiple nights, the timer is a bit longer, but I’d still have some sort of in game timer, but one that will give them a chance to face off against a few more holidays. I’d probably say the Easter Bunny, Cupid, and a Giant Turkey for sure, but maybe pick a weird holiday to add in as well, Arbor Day comes to mind, and have them face off against a giant living tree who is trying to skewer them, or maybe New Year’s and have it be a team-up of the New Year’s baby and the old last year, or maybe have the old last year transform into the New Year’s baby when their hit points go low enough. I’d also have minions for as many of these guys as you can. Eventually they’ll win and you can have them face off against a Lich that is going to want to kill them in a world of Halloween.
I think another thing that you really should do is lean into the holiday that they are facing off against. It should be it’s own holiday world with lots of crazy things happening in it. For Easter, everything in the world, minus things like the Easter Bunny, probably some little chick minions, to be made of candy or to be a dyed Easter egg, something like that would be memorable, and the players might get distracted trying to eat as much candy as possible. You could even make the fact that everything is candy be an encounter where if they eat too much they have to make saves against being poisoned, or maybe treat it as a haste spell or something like that where maybe they take a level of exhaustion after the affect wears off. And I’d try and come up with something like that for each location.
Finally, you are going to face off against the Lich in the world of Halloween, because where else would a Lich be hanging out, Arbor Day? This is less about finding that phylactery and more about beating the lich and getting Santa. If/when they beat the Lich, that shouldn’t just get them Santa, they should then have a bit of a challenge to rescue Santa. Or maybe during the fight they also need to rescue Santa. Clearly the Lich is an evil mastermind, so they are going to have some sort of weird contraption that is dropping Santa slowly into a pit of acid or something like that, and maybe your characters aren’t actually at the level to fight a Lich, but of course Santa would be.
If you could play this with your family, I think everyone would have fun with it. Definitely this is something that you all agree to, and as the DM, you bring in a batch of prebuilt characters so that you can just sit down and get going, especially for the one shot, but even for the longer one if you have a short time around Christmas, say 3-4 nights.
Anyways, Happy Holidays for this Friday Night D&D. Would playing in a game like this be fun? Have you done any gaming over the holidays with family or anything like that before?
Alright, let’s start getting into the details of this game. I’m not going to build everything out in front of people, but I do want to start and give some idea of what characters and levels are going to look like in practice. Eventually there will be a lot more to pull from than what I show here, and I’m sure a lot of iterations. But for now, I want to move onto the details.
Building a Character
So, this really should have more of a graphical component to it than it will. I would love to show some art, but I don’t have that, to give a sense of the design, or a layout of how I think the board is going to work, but we are in the super early phases of this design. What’s really going to happen is that I’m going to move this over to a spreadsheet and create a number of different characters based off of that so that everything is formatted the same.
The Real World Character
Male – Age 26 – Office Drone
A recent graduate with high hopes and now nothing more than an office drone. Changing the world was the dream, and now it’s changing numbers in the spread sheet. Friends moved away and not enough energy after working overtime to make that many more. At least the people he works with are nice enough, and the coffee isn’t bad.
“I’ve been waiting for this game for months, I know some old friends have too, it’ll be just like old times.”
Keywords: Gamer, Business
In Game Character
Currency: 100 Gold
Oddly enough, that’s about it for a character when you pull them out of the box. The real nuances to a character are going to come with how you allocate your 10 extra points for the stats.
The Other Stuff
I think it’s important to talk about what else you’ll have right away, even though it might not be pure character creation stuff. Such as what sort of weapons will you be able to find, and what sort of skills can you pick up. You will be dropped into the world without any gear, just normal commoners clothes, and no skills, just basic attacks that you can do, so that’s why you get 100 gold to start. You can save it up, because there is better stuff you can get on level 2, but you might not live that long.
For armor, and this could have really been it’s own section, you’re looking at two types of armor.
Leather – No movement penalty, +2 defense
Chainmail – Minus 1 movement, +4 defense
Something along those lines. the advantage with chainmail is that you are going to be taking considerably less damage. When an attack might only get through on leather armor at 2 to 4 damage, that means chain might mean that you take no damage. But it does mean that the enemy is going to be more apt to focus on you, because you are going to be the closest with that slower speed, so it’s a trade off. Numbers are not final at this point obviously, but for an example.
Weapons then, you’re going to have much more of a choice. You will have two handed swords, short swords, daggers, bow and arrow, axe, crossbow, and maul at least all available at the start of the game to buy.
As for skills, we’re looking at pretty simple ones that would be available. Something like sweeping attack, bash, counter attack, rush, disengage.
Plus there will be items as well, health potions probably being the biggest of those items that the players might want to buy.
Now, with getting items, I could be really nice, I could be really mean, or I could do something between that. What do I mean? If I was really nice, you’d have a catalog of items that you could pick from and purchase without it costing a turn. If I was really mean, I could make those places four separate shops and make players almost have to decide to shop at least 3 times in a row before doing anything else. I’m going to be less mean than that, I don’t want to hand out gear, and players can do other things on their first turn, but on the first level, there is just going to be a bazaar that’s the shopping area, so you can go and shop once and be done with it, unless you decide that you need more and then you can come back again. The first level is going to play a bit differently than others, I think, and I will delve into what I’m thinking when I start building a level, though I probably won’t build the first level.
Character creation, pretty simple, basically all a player would need to do is allocate those points and fill in the player name and the character name. The character boards, for the stats, might be more like a character sheet, and then a side board. Or I might go with dials that keep track of stats, that’s too be determined, with a save sheet so if the dials get bumped it isn’t the end of the world. Or with a save sheet, maybe I’d do a dry erase player board, that’d be pretty cool and useful.
What do you think of character creation, it should be extremely simple. Obviously, the keywords I handed out this time were pretty generic, but I want to create more unique real world people than just what I wrote for this one, someone might run a greenhouse so they’d know about plants, or maybe a chef, give people a ton of different backgrounds.
I’m continuing going through the level activities. While some of them, questing for example, warrants being on it’s own, there are others that are going to be simpler to talk about. So I’m lumping those together into what I’m calling In Town Activities. Now, that …
I use the word level a lot when I talk about this game. I talk about a floor or two pages from the book as being a level. But when I’m talking about leveling, I’m talking about character level and what my thoughts are currently on how leveling is going to work.
One of the big things with a video game RPG, MMO or otherwise, or playing a pen and paper RPG like Dungeons and Dragons, or even playing a board game like Gloomhaven is that your character levels up and gets better. This can be done in a few ways depending on the system.
In all cases there are a few things that I would generally consider to be normal. The biggest thing is that when you go up a level, you get more health. Even within this, there can be some variability. It can be that you go up by a fixed number, or go up to a fixed number, or it can be variable. Let’s talk about a few of the different ways and how they work. Gloomhaven has the easiest one to explain. In that game you start out with a fixed number of healthy, every level your health goes up to another fixed number. Now Dungeons and Dragons covers most of the rest of the ways. You can either get a variable number, based off of a die roll or something like that, or you can go up by a fixed number. In either case in Dungeons and Dragons, that number is modified by your constitution modifier. For my game, I’m leaning towards the latter. I think that the characters will go up in health by a fixed number modified by a vitality stat or a fixed number based off of their vitality stat, more likely.
And talking about stats, what are stats that would make sense. I could use what Dungeons and Dragons have and go with Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. But for this game, I don’t think that makes that much sense. In Dungeons and Dragons you are playing another character completely in that world. In this game, you are playing as a person trapped in a video game. You are going to have your mental faculties still, so stuff like Intelligence and Wisdom are going to only be useful character stats for interacting with an NPC, maybe, more likely that’d be charisma.
Before I’d referred to the base stats as: strength, agility, guile, toughness, intelligence, and allure. This is fairly close to mirroring what D&D has. However, I think I’m going to change that up slightly. We are going to still have Strength and Agility. Those are going to be the stats that influence your combat the most. Instead of Toughness, we are going to have vitality. Your HP, your ability to shake off poison or stun effects and stuff like that. I’m also going to keep Allure and Guile as stats. These will be important for influencing NPC’s, negotiating, seducing, intimidating, or whatever it might be that a player decides to use them for. But intelligence is going to go away. Storywise, maybe that was a part of the game before, but now it’s gone, and even before, it was probably just a rolodex of knowledge that your player could look up things in, versus a stat that was used to influence anyone.
So, when you level up, you have those five stats. How do you improve them, do they improve at a fixed rate, most certainly not. Instead, you’ll end up having a ability pool or points that you can put into a stat or stats as you see fit. You can bump up your strength as fast as you want, but you’ll have a harder time negotiating with NPC’s and probably even getting some of the quests that they might have to offer. But they’ll be much better at fighting.
Even at the beginning when building your character, you’ll have a few basic skills you can pick from, but you’ll also have a point pool for your base stats and you can assign them as you want. I’d probably do a base 5 points in every stat but then give an additional 10 points, or maybe even 15 points to add to customize your character. The reason for doing this is that I want character creation to be part of the game, and I also want characters and play styles to feel different from the very beginning. If everyone starts out as a level 1 commoner, that’s boring. You aren’t a commoner NPC level character at the start, you start as a hero.
One thing I haven’t mentioned are skills and how they’ll work. There’s a reason for that, I want skills not be something that you just get. Sure you’ll have “skill trees” to some extent, but I want skills be things that you to have to find. That can be from buying skills at certain shops, but they’ll be more generic skills to going on quests and getting skills. When you’re buying skills, they’ll be a bit more generic but you’ll have a larger variety of them that you can grab. The ones in quests, they’ll be better, and my current plan is that you’ll pick a skill pile and draw that type of skill. That skill will have a number that will modify the quests difficulty, but you can pick that from the start and you’ll know how much more challenging it’ll be, the better the skill the more challenging. I also want skills to be able to grow with the player. They are going to be based off of the base stats some, modifying how much they do with how good the player is in that stat or that combination of stats. I want something you grab at level one if you happen to get lucky, to be worth playing late into the game. Now, since skills with have cooldowns related to them you’ll want to have several.
I also want skills to do better when played in “sequence”. I don’t mean that you have to play Skill A1 before Skill A2 and then Skill A3 is better, and they always have to be in that order. I want to borrow from games like Marvel Legendary and Clank! In! Space! where you have factions of cards, so a card might be an Avengers card, and if you play that card before you play another card, that card might have an ability that triggers off of an Avengers card having been played. I’ve talked about keywords before, I want to do that with skills, if you’ve used a skill and it’s cooling down and it has a keyword on it that matches one for an additional ability on your next skill you play, boom, added benefit and power. This is kind of like the comboing between character with the modifier deck draw, but for yourself, so you can set-up turns. Granted, you still have to do that to match what the boss monster is doing as well.
Anyways, that got a little off track for the main topic, but I think that it’s important to add in when talking about leveling. You are basically just increasing your health and base stats when you level. Skills will increase based off of those stats, but you won’t get a new skill for hitting level milestones or just because you leveled up.
What are your thoughts on that, should you get skills when you level up, or should they be rewards for completing missions in the game, defeating bosses, and maybe even being something that you can buy?
Can you survive the darkest dungeon in this Rogue-Like RPG Dungeon Crawler from Mythic Games based off of a video game? Pros Very established company Dungeon Crawl Cons Dungeon Crawl Theme IP Based FOMO The Page Mythic Games knows how to lay out their game …