It seems hard to believe the amount of time that has gone by. The entire month of July was chewed up and spit out faster than any previous month of work yet.
Aside from attempting to play-test online and working on the very first public rules doc, Character Creation and character progression has been expanded on considerably. Before we get into the new developments, I should say that, yes, online play-testing is more confusing to set up than I expected. Trying to reign-in people from a half-dozen different sites is no easy task. At any rate, I’ll keep trying out different approaches until something seems to work.
The first major development of character creation is the problem of the “drive to move forward” being solved. If you didn’t already know, your character can die during Character Creation, even before a game even starts. Character Creation itself consists of 10 tables to roll from, each with their own risks and rewards for attempting to move through them. A player can choose to opt-out at any time and complete Character Creation, refusing to roll from the remaining tables and potentially save their character’s life. This has been the source of the problem.
I’ve found that there are two types of players who roll from these tables:
- Players who risk everything and roll through all 10 tables.
- Players who opt-out early, at table 4 or 5.
For the risky player, there was no problem. They either got very lucky or failed once or twice and paid for it, by reducing the power of their Character Perks and increasing the power of their Character Quirks. Essentially, a player who is taking risks frequently but failing to roll well will transform their “Chunky” Quirk into a “Severed Limb” Quirk. Being a little chunky is not as bad as missing a leg if your adventuring obviously. The problem was motivating people to continue after reaching tables 4 and 5. To fix this, I reworked starting stats. Players begin with a scarcity of starting stats. This pressures them into rolling through the tables to increase these stats and boosts their character’s survivability during play. I also made the later tables more rewarding and less punishing. Players will have a slight hump to overcome of harsher tables around tables 7-8, but rolling through them will likely reward them as a result if they continue on into tables 9 and 10. Unique Talents and powerful Band Resources not found anywhere else in Character Creation should be tempting enough to at least try and make it to tables 9 and 10.
I also added something called the Tragedy event. Although it negatively effects the character, it only impacts their character background. Things like “the death of a loved one at the hands of a close friend” is an example of a tragedy a player might roll. Although I’ve considered adding in a motivation mechanic, empowering players to have their characters work toward specific goals, it has not been employed yet. If it was added, the GM might be able to use Tragedies directly against the players. Not sure about that one yet… These tragedies should bum players out once they are rolled, but not compel them from moving on through additional tables, since it does not reduce stats in any way.
As of now I have 3 Character Classes that are more or less finalized after a few play-tests. They are the Indomitable Tactician, Devious Vagabond, and Mysterious Shaman. Even though these classes are based on the 3 classic Warrior, Rouge, Mage archetypes, they are only very loosely based on them. Near the end of development I would like 6-7 classes, all loosely based on different play-styles instead. As an example, the Indomitable Tactician, although comparable to the warrior archetype, is more closely based on the type of player who wants to “command”. For instance, this class adds a feature to the game not found anywhere else based on the unique Talent they start with called “The Master Plan”. This Talent allows the player to upgrade the Adventure Cards, making them more powerful and placing the role of the “deck-builder” in the hands of the Tactician player.
Although I won’t go over the other two classes in this post, I can describe my logic for any class I design by speaking about the Tactician a little further. With any class, I’m always thinking about a few different things:
- What makes them unique immediately from the point someone chooses them?
- Who is this class made for and what does that person like to do?
- What about sticking with this class feels exciting to that player?
- What it the final reward for developing them fully?
There is always a clear beginning, middle, and end act to every Character Class. The beginning of the Tactician class is how I’ve explained it, creating a leadership role for the player who picks it and reinforcing teamwork through what the Tactician has to offer everyone. The middle act though is always the most unclear when I’m designing it. At this point I try to think about how this player will take this character into action. I need to figure out how to reward them for doing what they’ve picked the character for. With the Tactician, I designed the class to allow team buffs to be its focus while playing. Although the Tactician player may want to lead the Band, they don’t require the stats to actually be out in front of other characters and defend them from damage. In fact, the Tactician actually needs to be defended by the other players more often than not.
This middle act of the Tactician consists mostly of Talents that can be bought as Band Resources, effecting everyone playing. A Talent bought as a Band Resource though is so expensive that the Tactician player will need to bring up the idea to the rest of the Band. This reinforces them, to again, speak up and attempt to persuade everyone that their valuable resources are best spent on one of these unique Tactician Talents. This interaction should give the Tactician player a little jolt of power that they seek as a “commander” player archetype. Although this type of player can seem overbearing and controlling, the actual resources they bring to the table all enable the other players to overcome obstacles with greater ease. The Tactician really only has Talents that, after putting them in charge temporarily, help buff the other players for doing so.
The final act of a character class happens with the purchase of their final Talent. This should be the thing they’ve wanted to do since they decided on the class. For the Tactician, I offer them the chance to lead a small unit of NPCs into battle, whenever they desire. This particular Talent is called “All For One”, allowing the player to command the GM in a sense. Since NPCs are controlled by the GM, who is the opposing player of the PCs, the Tactician can finally “get one over” on the GM by forcing them to constantly narrate actions that are benefiting the Band. This final act takes some of the pressure the Tactician may have been putting on the other PCs and refocuses it to the GM, something all the PCs are truly happy to rally behind.
To go on a bit of a rant, I don’t want to isolate play-styles, separate them into categories of good vs bad, and eliminate them from Deathroll. Power gaming, as it is, is a distinct style of play. For those who are effected by it, they may not be enjoying it, but the person playing that way is having fun. When you’re looking into the progression of a character class, what you’re really doing is evaluating how a play-style is being allowed and then reinforced over time. For some game designers, they have chosen to not allow their players to participate the way they would have preferred and enjoyed. Thats fine I suppose, they won’t play the game if they can’t have fun. Those designers are trying to establish a community of like-minded players.
That’s not my philosophy though. In the example of the Tactician, I’m aware of the “problematic” player who would likely lean toward this class. Yes they’re not perfect, but they deserve to have fun playing Deathroll. It’s important to be aware of all the distinct types of players, even the fringe ones. Unless you have made it very clear that “this game is not for you” to the public, these types of players will get their hands on the product, but be disappointed or frustrated when they find out they can’t play it the way they were expecting to. So for the overbearing player, I want them to lead everyone else. However, by leading, they are benefiting the other players as a natural result of their classes’ design.
What I’m trying to say here is that not everyone will be annoyed with a play-style, some will be drawn to it, and others will appreciate that it exists. I knew this just over a year ago when I started work on Deathroll, but it wasn’t until last month that I really came to realize the true importance of what character progression and play-style really meant for an RPG. Anyway…… yes their will be a character class for power gamers and it’s called the “Foolhardy Champion”. I should also mention that the Devious Vagabond allows the player to become a “secondary GM”, betraying the rest of the Band if they wish. So……. there’s something for everybody. No matter how you like to play RPGs, I think Deathroll will provide you with something interesting and fun to mess around with.
It’s over! Man that was a long post. Obviously it was a month of work (all wrapped up into a long rant there at the end) so it was bound to come out this way. Whenever I’m able to more reliably get a healthy string of play-tests together things will return to normal.
Hope you guys enjoyed!