A paradigm shift has clutched Deathroll in it’s icy grasp! Major cuts and huge changes are about to be made!
Taking a moment this last week or so to step back and reflect on Deathroll more objectively, I found patterns of mismanaged, half-engineered systems that required cutting. The one major cut I have made is eliminating the Resource and Encounter Decks.
In my attempt to randomize the individual aspects of an Adventure , I also eliminated any strategy the GM might have had in assembling something to defeat the players with. In short, I was putting such an emphasis on ensuring that the GM could not manipulate the Adventure Creation Mechanics that I missed out on the whole reason why they exist in the first place.
Deathroll isn’t just suppose to challenge players. It’s meant to rewire the way these players think about RPGs, creating a space in-between cooperation and competition that never existed before. The way a GM builds Adventures now (through purchasing the individual Aspects they desire, not randomly drawing them) they can attempt to design a series of challenges they imagine the players wont be ready for. To compare, this is the difference between a deck of cards that is already pre-selected by the designer (like the game Uno) and a game where it’s up to the player to decide which cards are best to use every new time they play (like the game Dominion). Instead of Deathroll just being “challenging”, with the simple removal of randomness as a core factor, it can now be both challenging and truly competitive.
I realized this after I had decided to remove a single card from the PC’s Adventure Deck . The card was called Eye for Disaster and it allowed the user to be rewarded with ExperienceLoot after having detected a Trap before it is triggered. During a playtest, a player kept asking if he could search for Traps which I allowed him to try. Unfortunately for the player, there were none to be found. I realized how unfair this was to add such a card to the game that could be made so easily useless. If this player had another chance to create a new Adventure Deck, with brand new cards, they would simply never pick Eye for Disaster ever again. It’s just way too situational.
It’s not that the card was too situational. It’s that the deck of cards desired to have “the fat cut” and be streamlined, unable to be created by the player every time and simply provided to them as a hand selected pick of all the best cards. The deck wanted to emulate one’s like the deck from a game like Uno, where only dumb luck would result in drawing the better card, nothing else. Although this would resolve the issue, it didn’t set well with me. I asked myself if this was really the type of game I had been interested in making all along and the answer was no. Simply challenging the players is not good enough.
Going forward, allowing the GM to purchase Aspects at a cost, instead of randomly being given them, I allowed this type of player the ability to formulate strategies. As a result, the other players, the PCs, were also given this freedom. The Eye for Disaster card was redesigned and thrown back into the game, alongside a heap of other cards, all extremely situational themselves. New cards like Alter Wild, that let the player alter the environment as long as they are in the wild, are now selected based on a series of thought processes that go through the players heads, as the following example might help demonstrate:
PC #1: “I think I might add Alter Wild, the GM seems to prefer throwing us in these environments because she must know that we have very little survival skills there.”
PC #2: “Although she might try to switch it up on us and put us in the city instead this time, I agree. Our disadvantage in the wild is still enough not to try and trick us like that I think.”
PC #1: “Let’s add all 3 of these, I’m almost positive were going to be in the wild for the majority of the Advenutre again this time through.”
Although these players may end up being wrong, this creates a brand new paradigm were players must try to out-wit and counter-play one another, as true competitors would. The Adventure Deck becomes less like a “Slot machine” and more like an actual resource, hand crafted to outsmart the opponent. Before, picking the Alter Wild card would have been pointless. The environment the players would be playing in was not hand selected by the GM for any reason, but randomly assigned through sheer luck as the GM had no control over the outcome. Now the card can be selected based on the players having actual information on how their opponent thinks. Will out GM keep abusing our weakness in the wild? Is the GM going to throw us in the city this time to make us waste adding these Alter Wild cards? This is the true heart and soul of any competitive genre, not challenge, but strategy.
I hope to have a Death Rolling episode uploaded within the next week or so demonstrating the changes discussed here in this report.