Great strides have ben made in two of the most important areas of play. With this, Deathroll is really starting to take shape!
Two major changes, although initially small in scale, have impacted the game immensely since their development over the last month or so.
Those changes are:
- When Exertion Dice are rolled.
- How players draw cards.
In the past, Exertion Dice were added before any rolling occurred. One player (either the GM or PC) would announce the amount they wished to add to their roll and then would pause and wait to see the other player’s response to this.
Often players would get too excited to roll their dice and would simply cut off the other player, often without adding Exertion Dice, and then be unpleasantly surprised by the final outcome. Nothing was stopping the other player from simply rolling Exertion Dice after the fact, then allowing them to win the roll over the other, more impatient player. If you just saw your opponent roll with 5 dice and earn 4 successes , you might then add 8 Exertion Dice to your pool, perhaps increasing it by an ungodly amount you wouldn’t have otherwise. Now you might just consider this a rookie mistake on the loosing players part. However, whenever I get that feeling as well, I am more inclined to think that something was not communicated well enough to them instead. More specifically, the rules seem to be unnaturally clunky or unrefined. Something as simple and as core to the gameplay as rolling should be able to be automatically understood by all players of any proficiency.
To correct this, I developed a new system where players were more inclined to actually use the Exertion Dice they had, as well as an actual opportunity or “phase” to consider using them. During this time they are able to think freely since play cannot proceed without their input. This puts the spotlight on the player who is about roll with Exertion Dice. Players cannot roll with Exertion Dice unless they are failing the current test. At this point, all eyes are on the player who just failed. Will they accept failure? Do they even have enough Exertion Dice to use to try and now change the roll to a win? How much Exertion Dice are they willing to bet on this?
All of these things are going to be circling around in all the player’s heads, especially the opposing roller. As long as players are willing to take this further, the loosing player always has a opportunity to roll with Exertion Dice and attempt to pass the test, perhaps for the second, third, or even the fourth time. This has allowed players to stop and think about how important failing is to them over keeping a vital resource. This small moment has added so much complexity and strategy to the resource management aspects of Deathroll. On a player-to-player basis, some might value a narrative success more so than a enormous loss of valuable resources, or vice-versa.
Like Exertion Dice, drawing Adventure Cards was also a bit goofy in the past. When drawing a card in past games of Deathroll, you would need to initiate a test and then pass it. Sounds overly confusing? That’s because it was. The difference between an initiated test and a forced one is that you, the player, are opting to participate in a roll. On a forced test, the GM is not giving the player an option to roll, they must. Something like “falling from a cliff” forces the player to roll to save themselves. Unless they want to die for some weird reason. If the player wanted to climb a cliff wall instead, something that they didn’t have to do, if they passed this test it would allow them to draw a card.
The idea behind this mechanic was that it would incentivize players to attempt more tests, which it did! However, after players finally realized the difference between the two types of tests, which I now admit is far too ambiguous and goofy, they then exploited it. Players would attempt anything if it rewarded them to draw a card. If a player thought they might be able to draw a card and “loot a storehouse” they absolutely did, at any opportunity they could. I couldn’t blame them, that’s what the mechanic reenforced.
This particular mechanic was meant to help gently push players who might not speak up often during RPGs, or role-play during them to take actions they may not have otherwise. If players are given a tangible reward for role-playing their character (like the ability to draw a card), they may then join the others around the table who are already comfortable doing this.
Now players are able to draw cards based on activating a Character Motivation . This motivation, selected by the player during Character Creation , would allow a card to be drawn if they participate in role-playing specifically. As an example, the player might have the Vengeful Character Motivation. Acting on this and describing what happens allowed rewards the player in two types of ways. If the player wishes to “kill a cruel sultan amongst his peers” that might negatively affect the Band , causing “the Sultan’s guards to engage them in combat.” In a different situation however, the player might act on their motivation to “apprehend a ruthless outlaw that has terrorized the locals” that might positively affect the Band, allowing them to be praised for their kind deeds.
Even though in the first example the players are negatively affected by the result of acting on the motivation, the player who allowed this to happen is rewarded a more powerful selection of cards to be drawn from that will hopefully offset this choice. This type of “rare” role-playing, often not found in many play-sessions, is actually heavily rewarded and incentivized in Deathroll. It is not uncommon for players to not put themselves and the others in danger intentionally like this, but when rewarded for doing so… players will often role-play their characters to these extreme depths in order for a juicy reward.
It’s been a little while since I’ve gotten into the nitty gritty of mechanics and it feels good to explain some of this to you guys in further detail. Over the next month or so, Death Rolling episodes will be released showing off many of these concepts and more!!!