A few months ago a switch was made that put an emphasis on “bluffing” in regards to rolling the dice. Two months later, I’ve found myself totally opposed to that idea. If you don’t remember July’s Development Report, check that out before reading this one.
As I mentioned, there was a revelation that the dice rolling in Deathroll was very much a bluff-heavy design. That is still true as we approach mid-August, nearly two months later. However, I took many steps to reinforce this and emphasize this aspect of Deathroll since then. The result unfortunately, although interesting, bogged down the gameplay considerably. The amount of new bluffing possibilities, on-top of the already LIMITLESS possible actions RPGs already provide, became too much to bare for most players. As fast as it is to create an adventure or character in Deathroll, gameplay needed to portray this speediness as well. A simple, hectic play-test, lasting no more than a hour at the most, reminded me of this.
At the end of this play-test, I was told that “the cards could allow for a more cooperative, competitive, story-telling experience.” This is what I had always wanted all along of course. I had added certain mechanics (specifically cards) that could make this a possibility as far back as 2015. However, with my new emphasis on bluffing, the entire card list had shifted away from this, to the point where it was not even visible to my play-testers anymore that this type of stroytelling was possible. At this point I quickly made a choice to either: take Deathroll down a new path or to relearn why I had begun this project in the first place. I chose the latter.
Let me just say that I still believe that there was no wrong choice I could have made. As I’m sure it happens to others, you can often find that a project has a mind of it’s own, evolving as you work on it into something totally unexpected and completely unlike the initial premise. Amazing games have probably been made out of a “bug” or an offshoot of a larger vision, that became more interesting than the designers had intended it to. I believe this is how the game Overwatch was born out of a failed, much larger MMO, codenamed Titan.
In these moments however, it is important to scrap everything. I know that sounds awful but I think it’s the only way to help your new vision become fully realized. That’s not what I want for Deathroll though. Instead, I’ve double downed on the speed and storytelling aspects of this design. Here a quick list of what has been done so far in that regard:
- Alteration Cards, or cards that allow for cooperative storytelling, has now doubled the amount of cards that simply let you exploit bluffing or some kind of non-narrative action.
- Perk/Quirk packages are now the only form of creation that exists. Instead of rolling from several tables to determine an Aspect of an adventure, all the information the GM could ever need comes neatly packed into a single roll.
- All cards have been simplified drastically. Cards typically have 1 to 2 effects that can be used and these effects are simple and easy to understand.
- The GM has been given much more freedom than before. Most of the tables that determined how an Aspect worked are now left to the devices of the GM to use properly. This is emphasized in the form of hints or advice given by the rulebook, instead of long, convoluted rule explanations.
This all leads into the next play-testing I’d like to try out. To test the simplicity I desire, I’ve decided to begin testing the role of the GM. Up until now I have taken on that role, but to fully understand if this approach to simple and quick play is really possible, I will need to test to see if others can take the reigns just as easily. Everything from Adventure Creation to actual gameplay oversight will now be tested by individuals other than myself. This is something that I have been looking forward to for a very long time and I am so excited to see the results over the next month or so of testing this.
“With a little tweaking to the old systems and a complete overhaul to the cards, I think I may have a semi-finalized version of Deathroll, in it’s early form of course.” – That quote is what I said 2 months ago. It just goes to show you how often you can surprise yourself or, in a darker light, loose sight of your initial design goals.
This post is to you “ambition”. You devil, you!