A table-top roleplaying system that's a hack of a hack of the original Red Box version of a certain popular hack-and-slash fantasy game. That's a lot of hacking.

Playtest notes and thoughts

Sun 21
Posted by at 9:58 pm. Filed under: Design Notes

So it’s been a week since the playtest, which was pretty successful both in the fact that we had fun and definitely captured some of what I was hoping for in terms of playstyle and that I uncovered a lot of room for improvement in areas I knew needed work and other areas that I thought were solid. I’ve had a week off to ruminate and now I’m a little more focused.

So here’s a rough progress report:

  • Attributes-as-skills and combat defined by class and equipment were all very successfully received, and no-one raised any concerns with the variance of the system from D&D in terms of how they think of it. In other words, the “feel” is there while the mechanics are simple, different and new.
  • That being said, the attributes still need a little work. The Red Box Hack adventurer is not quite a D&D adventurer, and therefore the attributes need to clearly encompass dungeoncrawling and fantasy adventurer type activities. Perhaps Sneakiness needs to encompass subterfuge and trickery, and Alertness should broaden to awareness and maybe even some knowledge or even some arcane sensory. Rethinking needed.
  • Creating adventuring goals were stifling and difficult to pin down. The rules on one hand say things like you’re such and such an adventurer, you need to be dangerlusty but companionable and a little bit violent and loot-hungry, and on the other hand they throw the ball in your court saying “come up with a reason to adventure! Give it to the DM!” I think what I need are some good random goal generators like what Jeff comes up with.
  • Healing rules are iffy at best, and the dying rules (bleeding out) raised a lot of speculative looks. Definite need for thought and clarification.
  • As simple and clear as it is to have weapon and armor “categories”, there’s something fundamentally old-school about picking out your stuff from a long list of options. My general rule for items is that everything should have a touch of flavor, but I’m planning on broadening the planned appendix a fair bit from “a few examples” to “the complete armory and smithery”, and maybe even build a template for item cards. How cool would it be to pick an item from the list but then make a card for it, with a note about it’s appearance and maybe some history?
  • Combat was not quite the fast-but-still-dynamic wahoo that I was hoping for. The basic system – sort of a static initiative based on your action kind of thing – seems to work pretty well, but needs some better tools for getting to a finger-snapping pace that I was hoping for. I’m very seriously considering going back to a card system – which along with my idea of card-based items and treasure is starting to give this game a real WHRP 3rd edition kind of feel. Boxed set ahoy!
  • Awesome points didn’t really work at all. The only thing the players vibed off of was getting to give them to each other, but there was no real movement to the point economy during the session, largely because I really only very poorly clarified what they could be used for.
  • The hit point tiers for monsters seems to work well, allowing for DMs to really adjudicate swarms of bad guys to big hulking bruisers very easily. Sadly, this stuff (like much of the DMing stuff) is the stuff that’s least written up.

More later as I think of it. Here’s a bonus – the map I busted out on the fly for the game, (loosely) using the adventure generation rules.