Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Game Mechanic Ideas 1

At any given point, I must confess, I have at least 2-4 half finished game hacks in my drafts folder. On top of that, I've purchased plenty of systems which I never intend to play wholesale, but instead get a kick of the brilliant mechanic here and there. Let's say pilfering material.

I guess this is one thing that draws me to the OSR and its DIY attitude.

In reality these half baked system ideas never get to be finished, or not fully. Least of all played. There are some exceptions like Knave++ (a messy collection of house rules), and the ugly Into the Dungeon+GLOG mash I had to concoct for a game. But the things further down in this article are pretty much in raw form.

Even if I say I'm running a Macchiato Monsters game (or Knave, B/X or something else), I change the rules left and right all the time. Surely everyone I know in our space does this. The day players start quoting Kevin Crawford's tweets in my Scarlet Heroes/SWN/Silent Legions game I'll skin myself with a butter knife.

Anyways, find below a list of the game mechanic ideas & concepts I've been considering lately, in no particular order. Nothing novel here. Lots pilfered and regurgitated from several places. They will be of more use here than in my draft folder. Maybe someone takes inspiration and fleshes things out.


1. Keep Knave classless, and add extra slot systems

What is this?

Outlined here


-I still think this idea has some merit. I really, really want to develop this further.
-Could force filling these new slots through in-game training or items collected.
-Keeps Knave classless, as it should be! I have grown disenchanted of Knacks at character creation. Instead I would give players more item tables to roll at start. And the option Wizard/Thief/Fighter -> 1x Magic/Faith die, 2x Areas of knowledge, or 1x Martial die.
-Could make for a tactile experience with a well-designed character sheet where players can place the different dice, cards for the hirelings, magic items, etc on it. See Mausritter.

2. Track Wounds/Hearts instead of HP

What is this?

Instead of tracking HP, count Hearts (if you like descending/subtracting) or Wounds (if you like ascending/adding). Personally, I prefer the latter. Each is roughly 5 HP in B/X terms. A Wizard gets with 4, Thief with 6, and Fighters with 8. No levels, rock&roll.

Get hit by a weapon? That is 1 Wound. Was it a polearm? 2 Wounds.

Has the benefit that it can be represented on the character sheet with a placed die.


-A la Index Card RPG. Goal is to simplify math and speed up play.
-Nothing innovative here. Really the same as treating HD=Hearts, and giving the Fighter types one extra HD on even levels.

3. HP are Relationships

What is this?

HP doesn't represent your character's stamina, attainable wounds, or health. Instead, each point represents a cultivated, nurtured relationship.
When reaching 0 HP, your PC turns an outcast, barren of any relevance in the social and political landscape. Create a new character.


-Read this as a conversation in a Discord server recently, and thought it a clever idea.
-Probably too detached from my usual gaming preferences. But for a highly political game systems this could be promising. Or for a PbtA game. Does Monsterhearts do this... ? goes check PDF

4. Deck of cards for the Magic-User

What is this?

M-Us and Clerics don't get to choose or roll for their starting spells. Instead, the player gets handed a regular deck of 52 cards. Starting spells are determined by drawing a number of cards equal to 1 + their Intelligence bonus or Wisdom bonus, whatever is highest. Minimum starting spells is one.

Each suit of the deck is mapped to a set of spells (hearts are clericy-, diamonds are wizardy-, clubs are druidy-, and spades are witchy spells). Draw one card for each starting spell and note those cards as your starting spells.
I imagine these spells pretty much working a la Wonders & Wickedness. With DCC scalability perhaps to account for card number drawn.
When casting a spell, draw a card from the deck to see its effect (number is damage, or scales the effect). Red has a backfiring effect (no miscast, spell still works, just... chaos comes into play, a setback or side-effect), black means things work as expected.

Rings/wands/staffs mess up with the drawing of cards, and how interacting with the deck works. For instance a wand can reduce miscasts to only hearts, a ring lets you store a card, and a staff lets you draw two cards and keep the one you prefer when casting a spell.


-Leans into some isometric play at the table between players, they can interact with different systems depending on their class. Neat make for an interesting dice-less system for M-Us.
-Needs a lot of fleshing out, in terms of random tables for the spells, chaos/backfiring effects and similar systems.
-I also like the idea of M-U players having a physical prop at the table.

5. One roll combat resolution

What is this?

Exactly what it says in the tin.
Replace round by round combat with just a single opposed roll to resolve conflict. Account for surprise, bigger numbers, environmental advantages, better weapons, etc as part of that roll.


-Combat is very streamlined in most OSR games, and seen as a failure state for the players, better avoided.
-Some combats can be puzzles in and off themselves, so there is a cost to this. But arranging free-form combat (which I really like) is complicated, and in my limited experience some players can tune out.
-Avoid wasting everyone's time at the table by just doing a quick resolution roll and move on. Tax resources (HP, equipment, food) on outcome.

6. Clerics are Godbinders

What is this?

Turn religion into a facet for the entire party to contribute to, not just a dedicated class. As per Arnold K. Godbinders replace Clerics in a B/X like game.
Now, the difference between a spirit, ghost, demon, or god are just technicalities. Semantics. Point being, the Godbinder can summon such an entity to ask for owed favors. Or be asked to pay the bill.

I envision this working similar to the 5e Warlock, flavor-wise. Involved entities. But I lack a defined mechanic to track the favors, and (randomly) generate the bound gods. Probably the Godbinder can only keep up to Wisdom modifier # of gods in their pocket.


From Die Issue #2