Archery card Layout (not art)

I’d like to once again say that this is not the art for the game.

Hopefully it’s clear what I’m aiming at here (HA). The colors and concentric elements are supposed to be reminiscent of an archery target, and in-game they tell you everything you need to know about the monster you are facing. For instance, this Rokkle has a “hit” value of 4, meaning you must roll a 4 or above to hit him. Doing this will cause him 1 damage, although some shots will do more. A monster which receives 3 damage is killed. The card also has a “kill” value of 10, meaning if you are able to roll a 10, he is killed immediately, regardless of damage.

The two orbiting symbols represent his special abilities. Each monster can have up to two of these, one that effects targeting and one that effects behavior. The bottom symbol means that this monster is “hearty.” Again, sorry for the terrible play-on-words (plays-on-words?). The Rokkle has, therefore, one extra damage capacity. The second symbol, and may I remind you that this isn’t the real art, indicates that this is a “flying” monster. Flying monsters must be damaged before they can be killed, meaning a roll of 10 as your first shot against this monster will only damage it.

That’s all I have for tonight. I’m still not even sure what this game’s fate will be, but I am warming to the new system, partly because of this new design. Over the weekend I will probably do the scanning, so there’s a chance that the influx of art will energize this project. Otherwise, expect more news on the other RPG.


The Estate: The Burglar

Today we return to The Estate to introduce the second playable character, the Burglar. This character specializes in avoiding the fight as much and possible, keeping in mind though that I haven’t quite settled on all the special abilities yet. For now, I can say that his offensive ability will probably be something like a stun or confuse attack. It will prevent the enemy from attacking on their next turn, although this does bring into question the “critical hit” option here. It may be a “stun two opponents” thing instead of “stun one opponent twice.” Either way, that ability is decided.

Something that is very interesting about the Burglar is his dice balance. He has, effectively, the worst and best dice in the game. The top die pictured is pretty terrible, having double F and 1H. The second die is, on the other hand, the best that any character has, with double 2H and S. This imbalance makes the Burglar very vulnerable to Robot attacks (I have no thematic reasoning for this), and also means that his chance of scoring a critical hit is lower than the other characters (about 15% lower). As for his defensive ability, I’m going to have to come back to that. When I start making the character cards, I will post them with the full abilities written. Until then, I’m not going to worry about it.

The next thing I’m tackling is the encounter system. Based on pricing, there can be up to 31 encounter cards, although I can’t be sure if I’m really going to need that many. The tough part is that the cards print in sheets of 18 and because of the 5 guide cards needed, this game really needs two sheets. Expect something about this pretty soon. I’ve spent the better part of today mulling it over, so it’s definitely on the horizon.

Liars and Thieves

So this post has two parts. The first is the lying part. Specifically, my lies about doing a week of posts, and of posting a second time tomorrow.  I basically spent all of yesterday making one graph, which turned out to be completely pointless. Here it is anyway.

This is the expanded version of the last dice idea I had. This graph, though, shows all the possible additions, and associated probabilities, of a 4d6 roll. The legend on the bottom refers to the rank order of the dice (lowest to highest, A to D). And although this took me a long time and is mathematically really cool, it is far too complicated to be used. The 3d6 system is much easier to calculate at a glance. Either way, I had way too much fun faffing about in Excel yesterday, mostly because of the next part of this post.

Thievery came into play when I tried to work on the archery graphics. I recently received a sizable stack of monster drawings from a friend of mine, and I had planned to scan them and begin tracing them in Illustrator. What I had forgotten was that the scanner I was planning on using had been involved in a little burglary incident that happened while I was away. The strange part is that I had the scanner in front of me. And the television, the Xbox 360, and all of the other valuable things in the house. That is because only the power cords were stolen. Seriously. It’s like the thief was more interesting in trolling us than with financial gain. This happened over the summer, and for almost a year now we have been continually forgetting that the Xbox and printer/scanner, though present, are totally useless. So that de-railed my artistic plans for the day. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to go to a computer lab on campus and scan them sometime this week.

Other than that, it seems like the archery game is pretty stalled right now. Even the name I chose is rapidly falling out of favor with me. It’s unclear where this game will end up.

The Estate: Robot & Chimera

Moving forward with the week of updates, today I’m going to start explaining the enemies in The Estate. In keeping with the form of the game, all monsters are represented by a single die. Encounters, a mechanic to be explained later, will consist of 2-5 monsters laid out in front of the player. When they attack, their die is rolled, and the action is taken. Basically, they’re just like players, except they lack the ability to make rational decisions. Hopefully this works out.

The above enemy is the Robot (obviously). I’m probably sticking with the “Face = Fail” method, because the alternatives just aren’t working out. The [1] Hit/[2] Hit symbols for the robot are his brass pincer hands, and his [S]pecial is a lightning bolt. As it stands now, this special attack “zaps” the target, doing no damage but banishing the player’s defense die from being used in the next attack round. In some situations, with two robots attacking, you could potentially use, and lose, both of your dice, effectively stunning you for one turn. I would recommend always defending with your weaker die when fighting a robot. If next turn you only get to roll 1 die, you will need all the help you can get.

The second enemy I have here is the Chimera. I guess the Chimera is a specific mythological beast, but I always think of it as a genetic hybrid of multiple animals, which might explain the background pattern. Weirdly, it looks like in trying to draw a mixture of many animals, I just drew a lion. Ignore that. This enemy hits a bit harder than the robot, and it’s special attack deals 1 damage regardless of defense rolled. Originally I had the chimera have a [3] hit attack, but I was worried that it would be ridiculous if the player rolled a failure on defense. Changing it to an unstoppable 1 damage seemed like a safer choice.

I’m bummed that I didn’t manage to post this yesterday, but I will probably be updating again by the end of the day with some archery stuff. Until then.

More Archery (now with a proper name!)

The archery game has been the focus of most of my attention recently. It’s an idea that I really like, and yet somehow cannot bring to life. I thought, foolishly, that the first design would be sufficient, but I was wrong. Here’s some documentation of my wrongness. Above is a really rickety version of the game played with about 200 index cards. Although we didn’t set it up perfectly, you might be able to see the look we were going for. A diagram might help with that.

Honestly, this setup was the greatest success of the design. Although the cards we played with didn’t have any art on them, it was easy to imagine the colorful “wall” of index cards as a rampart and the blank white cards at the top as a forest. I think with some simple graphics this could look really great.

What didn’t work was EVERYTHING ELSE. Well, not everything, but most of it. Turns out rolling 8 dice every turn and then doing a bunch of math is not only annoying, but somewhat difficult. In playing 6 rounds, we let 8 monsters hit the wall, which was not the success rate I was hoping the players would have. On top of that, one character turned out to be over-powered, and we ended up relying on her to hit all the difficult targets. So all in all, it was a failure in execution. But both Alex and Liz agreed that the central premise was good, and that they genuinely had fun playing despite the hang-ups. This leaves me in an interesting position. With the contest deadline in less than a month, I really need to be wrapping these games up. This is not an ideal time for a complete redesign of mechanics. That being said, I still like this game more than The Estate (this may change), and the playtesters had some excellent suggestions, one of which I have explored further in an excel file called holyshitwhatthefuck.xlsx. This file name may tip you off to how incredible it is. Here, for instance, is one of the spreadsheets I was working with.

Holyshitwhatthefuck indeed. What you see here are all possible rolls of 3d6. The top row shows the value rolled if you add the two lower dice. The middle shows the value when you add the two outside dice, and the bottom shows the value of the two higher dice. Although it isn’t shown, I did some more analysis and found that the averages are, from top to bottom, 5.5, 7, and 8.5, with the standard deviations being 2.2, 1.9, and 2.2 respectively. Creating a histogram (fancy name for a bar graph) of these values gives you this lovely graph.

Aw yeah, maths. As you can see, the lower additions bunch up on the left side, but do have some presence on the right. The exact opposite is true for the higher values, which make a mirror image of the first. The middle one is, well, in the middle, and follows roughly the probabilities you would expect from a simple 2d6 roll (roughly).

What I may have stumbled upon here is a better way to trade “aim” for “power,” not only mechanically, but thematically as well. In the past, your character made a choice of how hard to hurl/shoot/cast/throw their rock/arrow/fireball/chakram by deciding how many dice to assign to power or aim. But even if you decided to roll 5 power dice, you could still roll a very low number, which makes no sense. If an archer draws their bow back to full draw, it is going to fly fast. For the purposes of gaming, we’re going to ignore that tiny chance the the string snaps and the arrow flops over the wall, falling in a wobbly arc down to the ground where it bounces harmlessly of the helmet of an oncoming orc, annoying him mildly but in no way stopping his rampage. What should be variable is aim. Even with the smaller draw, an archer could still misjudge the wind or the distance and miss. This is why a system where only one value is rolled makes more sense. Before rolling, the player will decide a power (high, medium, low) and will add the dice according to this decision. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to say which method goes with which power.

The second error this corrects is difficulty of addition. Rolling and adding 8 dice while taking into account the bonuses of the shot got really old, really fast. This way, it’s much, much simpler. Instead of totals ranging from 2 – 30, they range from 2-12, a set that gamers are very comfortable with. And last but not least, it gets rid of the “impossible shot” scenario. In the old design, different power and aim decisions meant that certain numbers were literally unattainable. If a monster had 25 armor, you were given no choice but to roll 5-1. As you can see by the graph, though a roll of 12 is unlikely in the lowest addition method (you would need to roll a 6-6-6), it is not technically impossible, and this is before any bonuses or special effects are added. Hopefully I can balance the cards and characters so that players feel that they can make strategic decisions instead of being handed them by the game.

This is pretty much everything I’ve done for the archery game. There are some monsters things that I’m still a little shaky on, so later in the week, after a little bit of fiddling, I’ll post those as well. As for the name, which I guess I promised at the top, I’ve decided to call it “On the Wall.” As I type that, though, I have my doubts. Oh well, I’ve already tagged the post with it, so it will stay for now. I’ll probably ask some friends for suggestions before I make the final decision. Until tomorrow then.

RPG #2: The Estate

Even though they won’t make any sense, I’m going to lead with the graphics.

I’d like to introduce the Scientist character from RPG #2, now known as “The Estate.” If it isn’t obvious, these icons are laid out so that they could fold into a six-sided die, although in reality they will be printed as stickers and applied to a blank die from TGC. Either way, let me explain them.

Characters in The Estate are represented by two dice and a single reference card. In general, dice will have [F]ails, [1] Hits, [2] Hits, and [S]pecials. Each die must have one of each, but the remaining two are different for each character. For instance, we can see that the Scientist’s die is F112SS. This means that while he has a good chance of triggering his special ability, his attacks are consistently weak. His other die is slightly different (FF12SS), which I will post further down. The face icon is the “failure” roll, though I have been told that that is a bit of a bummer. Honestly, I just wanted to get the faces on the dice, and I already had symbols for everything else.

Every turn, you will roll both of your character’s dice to declare an attack. In the most likely circumstance, you will roll two different faces. When this happens, you can choose to execute either action. This is considered the standard move. If you happen to roll doubles (excluding double failures), you can unleash a “critical hit,” meaning you may execute the attack twice on the same target.

When attacked, you may roll a single die, of your choice, to defend against your opponent. The 1’s and 2’s are simply transitioned to defense values, and the S icon will take on a new, defensive effect. Both the offensive and defensive effects can be found on the reference card, although ideally they will be simple enough to remember after a few rounds.

The Scientist, with his emphasis on specials, has two very useful special abilities. When rolled as an attack, he is able to heal himself or his ally for 2 health. Rolling a Critical with this ability can be a great thing, as health totals in this game are low (<10). When playing defense, the Scientist uses his chemical knowledge to, uh, do something. I haven’t actually finished designing what all the characters do. Sorry.

Anyhow, in the next few days I will try and post a monster die, since without those the Scientist would have no one to fight. Since the monsters are simpler (only 1 die, no defensive abilities), I will probably post them two at a time. Maybe after an Archery game update. Who knows, that game might get a title as well…



The calm before the storm

So multiple weeks with no posts have occurred. What will probably happen in the next week is exactly the opposite. Starting today, there will be many, many posts. For simplicity of tagging, I would rather post each separate thing that I’ve worked on in its own post. With that said, here’s the first of many.

A few weeks ago, a forum I frequent called the Board Game Design Forum held its monthly “Game Design Showdown,” a week-long design contest with some really interesting restrictions. Usually there are two prompts, one thematic and mechanical. This time the theme restriction was Dragons, and the mechanic restriction was dice. Submissions were 300-word descriptions of your game, and images were not necessary. Because of that, I have no images for this. But here’s what I submitted:

Farmer’s Nuisance is a pseudo deck-building game for two players. Each player takes on the role of a farmer who must both run his farm and protect it from the local dragons. The aim of the game is to survive longer than your opponent, as at the end of each round the dragons attack with ever-increasing ferocity. The player must balance their man-power to maintain a population of both Workers and Warriors, represented by a deck of double-sided cards. Each card, representing one person, can be tasked with either job in this way. Workers are used mostly to increase the total possible population, and warriors are used to fend off the inevitable dragon raids.

At the beginning of each turn, players determine their budget (a mixture of cards owned and a 2d6 roll) and purchase cards from a central set of piles which only allow them to see one side of a card. Once purchased, cards can flipped and re-arranged to maintain population and tactical balance. Cards will have simple stats (Workers have a “Support” number while Warriors have an “Armor” number) and may have special written effects.

A dragon raid also has variable power. Each round, 2d6 are rolled to determine the dragon’s power, and a flat bonus equal to the number of rounds played is added. During a raid, Warrior’s Armor value can absorb damage, and allowing a worker or warrior to be killed will also absorb one damage point. Players must resolve the raid by absorbing all damage, and must then re-balance their population accordingly. Eventually, this number will exceed any possible defense in the game and one or both players will have all of their workers and warriors eliminated, ending the game.

In the end, I didn’t win. I didn’t even place. But some nice things were said by the people who voted, so this idea will not be thrown away, though it isn’t a priority either. Perhaps after the RPG contest ends I might think about this one. Anyhow, this will hopefully be the most text-intensive post this week. Glad I got that out of the way. Also, here’s the image that went with the contest. I just hate posting without any pictures.

Until tomorrow…

RPG #2

So last week I mentioned the RPG contest, and previewed some artwork for an archery-themed game. This week I’m going to talk about my second idea for that contest. My hope is that both games are completed in time, and that Reluctant Pirate Games will have two entries, but who knows. This may end up like the mashup contest where one idea replaces the other, but probably not. I really like both of these ideas. Anyway, I’m keeping a “design diary” for this RPG, and I’m doing it on Board Game Geek to see how that goes. That being said, I will cross-post the text here, but frankly the only possible audience for this kind of stuff is already there on BGG. Anyhow, here’s the first entry in the diary, entitled (wait for it) “Overview.”


So it looks like most of these design diaries start with an overview. Who am I to question that?

Pocket Encounters: Steampunk is a terrible, but temporary name for an upcoming entry into the Game Crafter’s RPG contest. You play as one of three characters who, for various reasons, are investigating a mysterious laboratory owned by a notable Mad Scientist. Once inside the compound, you find yourself in a struggle for survival, as the creations and associates of the mad man attempt to silence you permanently.

It is primarily a dice-rolling game, but is supported by a very small deck of reference and story cards. This game will be cheap, small, and simple enough to be played in a short time. What it will not be is deep, engrossing, or complicated. Anyhow, the details should be forthcoming, but for now, here’s some really early artwork to spice up the post.