Project Doomsday: Design Journal #2

Aha, I bet you thought I forgot about this little beast! No way. How could I? The holiday rush meant I missed last month's update, but I'm back with another monthly roundup of progress on Project Doomsday.

Admittedly, Doomsday has been a bit on the back burner since my first Journal entry, owing to other, more pressing writing commitments being finished up as well as starting two new campaigns for the Order. But this world is never far from my mind, and I managed to keep one foot in the fire (and mix metaphors at the same time!) by crafting a music mix, which is always one of my first steps for any big creative project.

Appropriately, the mix grew out of one I made for Savage RIFTS a couple years ago that, much my like my experience with that particular line, was almost there but never quite gelled. The DNA of that original mix is still present in the new mix, but to it I have added a healthy dose of synthwave, Europop, and more overt post-apocalyptic and cyberpunky nods.

I've also given a lot of thought to which system I want to use to power this setting. As I mentioned in my last post, I was waffling between using White Star for an OSR-flavored setting versus something D6-powered.

In the end, I decided to give D6 a shot—specifically Gallant Knight GamesTiny D6 system. Having a working relationship with GKG certainly helped solidify the decision in my mind, but I also like the low barrier to entry that the Tiny D6 line offers. By combining Tiny DungeonTiny Frontiers, and the forthcoming Tiny Wastelands, I figure I've got my multi-genre needs covered nicely. And if I later choose to do so, I can expand the setting into an "Advanced" version that uses more of the options offered by the Open D6 system. But since, for now, I want to focus on world-building, a rules-lite base is a good choice. I'll just have to try and restrain myself from adding too many mechanical bells and whistles...

Speaking of world-building, next month's Journal should feature a nice big chunk o' that (if I don't get snowed under by other projects!).

Until then!


Two Game Design Bugbears

I'm a day late with this week's post, and, as I am currently madly racing towards two deadlines, it will be brief.

I'm currently running three(!) weekly games, each a different system, and this has given me some opportunities to refine what I like and don't like in game design these days. Two elements have recently come up that are bugging the ever-loving crap out of me, and I'm sharing them here to vent my spleen and also as a reminder to myself never to include stuff like this in whatever designs I end up doing in the future.

1. Player-character abilities that force the GM to remember a modifier. This is the old "dwarves are at -4 to be hit by ogres" thing. I prefer my mechanics active rather than passive. Nothing irks me more than to hear a player say, "Oh, these are supernatural creatures? Did you remember the +2 Toughness modifier on that roll?" It breaks the flow of the game, adds yet one more thing for the GM to track, and, if forgotten, has potentially major consequences. ("If only I'd remembered that modifier, your character would still be alive.") It's a burden for players as well: not only are they having to monitor their own dice rolls and abilities, but also the GM's. Abilities that impose one-time bonuses and penalties get a pass here, but only barely.

2. Stat blocks that list abilities that require further look-ups. Most systems have some sort of thing where characters get certain abilities due to class benefits/advantages/edges/disciplines. I have no problem with this as long as the mechanical effects of these abilities are listed on the stat block. Too often they're not. For example, in Vampire: the Masquerade, seeing "Dominate 4" on a stat block actually tells you almost nothing useful. Instead, you have to know the four completely different abilities that come with having Dominate 4. Why this isn't listed on stat blocks I'll never know. (Well, I have a suspicion, but I'll keep it to myself.) This happens in Savage Worlds a lot too. NPCs that have a big host of Edges won't always have the benefits of those Edges spelled out on the sheet. Instead, you have to know that the "Quick" Edge allows you to re-deal an initiative card of face-value 5 or less. Yes, it's a learning curve issue, but it's quite annoying, especially in the case of the more obscure abilities ("Serpentis 3?") or if, like me, you run more than one system. Even my beloved Call of Cthulhu falls into this trap whenever you have NPCs with spells; it's the old D&D problem of having to look up spell effects in the middle of a combat or else simply commit them to memory. For me, the platonic ideal of a stat block has all the information I need right in front of me: bonuses, penalties, effects, whatever. The trick, of course, is keeping the block to a manageable size. Pendragon actually does an excellent job of this, incidentally.

Ah, I feel much better. Back to work!

With apologies to Adam Scott Glancy

With apologies to Adam Scott Glancy