Development Report (11/19/16 – 01-31-17)

Goodbye Exertion Pools


From this point on, reports are going to look a little different. I’d really like to share with you in these reports  a deep look into a single system or mechanic that was recently developed. With this in mind, let’s talk about the latest big addition to Deathroll, Exertion Cards.

(Scroll to the bottom of the page for a full list of all updates to Deathroll since 11/19/16.)


Exertion Cards simply contain one piece of information per card, just a number. No suite, color, or any other denomination required to memorize or understand.

In this example though will be using a set of playing cards, Aces can be used as the 1-card and the Jokers representing Nil Cards, which I’ll explain a little later.

Exertion Cards are played to increase the amount of dice one rolls just before a test takes place. Think of the choice to add exertion much in the same way you might in real life. If you know something is going to be very heavy for you to lift, you might exert an amount of whatever “backup” strength you might have to ensure you complete the task. This same logic is applied when considering the use of an Exertion Card.

Exertion Cards, in essence, are temporary modifiers that are added to rolls. Temporary because once an Exertion Card is played, it is likely to be discarded for a short while before being able to be used again.

The key to Exertion Cards is that they are played in secret.

As a DC  is determined, the GM states how difficult it will be for a player to pass the test. This value is equal to the amount of dice the GM will be rolling with. DC10, for example, equals a Dice Pool  of 10.

After this, the opposing roller, or Player finds all the sources they can to add to their own Dice Pool. These sources are called Pool Modifiers , things like their PC’s Abilities, Skills, Gear, etc. all add dice to the Dice Pool. In this example, let’s say the GM has a Dice Poll of 10 dice and the player has a Dice Pool of 7.

Before rolling occurs each player must now place a specific number of Exertion Cards (still available from their respective hands) face down in front of them.

That’s right, the GM also has access to Exertion Cards.


These cards are placed in secret. Neither player knows what the other has decided to use. In an average game, a player will have access to Exertion Cards valued from 1-5, as well as two Nil Cards. The GM will typically have access to values 1-7 and a single Nil Card. Nil Cards have no numerical value, but do not count as the number zero. This is an important distinction.

The reason that players have two Nil Cards instead of one is because they must play two Exertion Cards every time they roll. The phase in which both Player Roles  plays an Exertion Card may not be skipped, even if both decide to play Nil Cards during this time.

A player won’t know you’ve added 6 extra dice until it’s too late.

The fun surprise comes with the flip of the cards. In this moment you find out how much either player values the success or failure of the test at hand. Where things get interesting is the difference between the two Player Roles unique way they approach Exertion Cards.

Being required to play 2 Exertion Cards enables the player to combine two numbers into a final total if they wish, instead of just using a single “high value” card. For example, a player could play one 5-card and one Nil card or, they could play one 2-card and one 3-card to end up with the exact same number.

If a PC wishes to add zero Exertion to a roll, they are required to play both of their Nil cards, not just one. This is done because the GM is unable to tell whether or not they have gone nil. Simply playing one of them is not possible and also an obvious tell. Nil Cards, unlike the rest of the Exertion Cards, are unable to be removed from the game, for either Player Role.

GMs are only able to play a single Exertion Card from their hand before rolling. However, GMs have a range of 1-7 valued Exertion Cards instead of 1-5 like that the players have. Although they cannot combine their Exertion Cards, they have access to the 6-card and 7-card that is unique to their Player Role.

The GM loses the single Exertion Card played regardless if they win or lose the roll. This makes the decision to use an Exertion Card  even more critical to GMs.

Saving Exertion Cards


As mentioned above, Exertion Cards are often lost after being used, but not always.

A player can Skill Save an Exertion Card during rolls if applicable. Before rolling, the PC can attempt to attach a Skill to the roll if they so desire. By doing so, the value of the Skill being attached can allow the PC to use an Exertion Card equal to that value without fear of it being removed, even if they lose the roll.

For example, the PC might be able to attach the Gunner Skill to a roll, which they have a 2 in. If the PC has the 2-card in their hand, they may add that to the roll while adding Exertion without fear of loosing it.

This increases the usefulness of low-value Exertion Cards for their ability to be saved during rolls. This also means that if these cards are lost on non-skill saved tests, they can’t be used when the opportunity to do so arrives.

Upon the completion of a test, if the player achieves a Full Success  they still have to remove a single Exertion Card that they may have used. Only on either failing a test or passing with a Partial Success  will players be required to discard both Exertion Cards instead.

To sum up, let’s look at two different examples of the different ways this might play out.


In this example, although the player failed the roll, they do not have to discard any of their Exertion Cards. One is Skill Saved and the other, the Nil Card, cannot be discarded.

Here we have a tough call to make. The player won as the result of a Full Success. Even though the player has the option to discard either Exertion Card, they choose to discard the Skill Saved one. The 5-card just seemed to valuable to waste in the player’s opinion.


Individual roll will need to be considered carefully before rolling. The ways in which Exertion Cards could have been saved or should have been used vary wildly depending on the situation the player finds themselves in.

This foundation I have laid is one I think will propel Deathroll far into it’s final stages of development. Already, the strategizing I had hoped would permeate the core gameplay is seeming to take hold now.

Hoping you enjoyed this report, thanks for reading.


  • Added a way to generate random Nations with a [Nation Creation] Table
  • Added a way to generate random Factions with a [Faction Creation] Table
  • Begun work on a system that allows the GM to dynamically construct the world of Arcaida through a [Dynamic Map] System.
  • Removed the [Luck] stat.
  • Begun work on a mechanic that uses Exertion Cards to determine [Luck Rolls].
  • Removed [Exertion Pools].
  • Added the [Exertion Card] system.
  • Reworked a newly designed [DC Table].
  • Reworked [Epic Tests] in relation to [Card Draw].
  • Begun work on [Hidden, Assisted, and Group Tests Types].
  • Added the [Partial and Full Success] mechanics.
  • Removed the [Close Calls] stat.
  • Reworked how to deal [Damage].
  • Begun work on [Death Throes, Dying, and Deathrolls].
  • Begun work on two new [Character Classes], the [Wanderer] and [Proto-mystic].
  •  Begun work on [Gear Types] like [Vessels] and [Oddities].
  • Removed Assist Adventure Cards.
  • Reworked the Adventure Card List
  • Added a way to generate random Monsters with a [Monster Creation] Table.
  • Removed [Environment Creation] Table.
  • Begun work on the first step of [Adventure Creation], called [Scope].
  • Begun reworking [Character Creation].
  • Begun work on the official [Alpha Rules Document].