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[The Book of Threes] Welsh/Old English Inspired RPG of Loyalty, Wealth, and Glor

Started by Jeff Russell, May 07, 2010, 09:16:26 AM

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Jeff Russell


   I've started a new thread now that my game has a proper working title, but prior discussion can be found at Celto Germania - Mythic Bronze Age Roleplaying, including a discussion of the conflict resolution mechanic. Also, if you're interested in checking out the full playtest rules, they can be found here, though I plan on working my way through most of the rules here on the forum to foster some discussion.

So, to pick up where I left off on the other thread, I'm gonna talk about the second of the three resources, "Wealth". Wealth is pretty simple compared to the other two as it stands now. You spend wealth at character creation to buy abilities, and then between 'chapters' to buy new or upgrade abilities. During the game, however, wealth is a currency that can be traded between players for various concessions (covered by some rules on oaths) or won as stakes in a conflict, or awarded by NPCs or what not.

The cost for buying abilities is to pay a number of wealth points equal to the new level of an ability, but you can't skip levels (so, to go to level 3, you'd have to pay 1 for level 1, 2 for level 2, and 3 for level three, for a total of 6 points). When it comes to player exchanges, that's entirely up to them to decide. So, you're trading your characters potential effectiveness for in-game help/concessions/whatever.

My question is, does this sound like enough dynamic tension between the uses of it to create interesting situations and opportunity costs, or does it seem like it'd be clearly better to hoard them for advances (or spend them all for in-game rewards)?
Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes


Hm, actually I've decided that your potential dice problem isn't that big a deal, because I've been reading the rules wrong :/  See, I thought, for some reason, that you rolled every round.  But, since you don't keeping track of your dice pools without actually having enough dice, is not only easy, but may actually be a better way to play.  I think something like this would work, when conflict starts each participant gets a note card and puts their name on it or puts their name on a piece of paper that is being used to record the conflict.  After determining the dices pools and such everyone rolls and records the numbers they got under their name.  Each round the leader circles the dice he is putting forward and afterward crosses it out.  Simple no?

About the conflict resolution system it self, on top of what's already been mentioned I've found some other problems.  The aggressor being automatically chosen and automatically putting forth his biggest die is a huge problem.  This makes conflict way to predicable.  Once I know all the numbers on the table wouldn't be to hard to run through the rest of the conflict in my head and decide whether or not to give up after the first round because I know who's going to win.  See, because the aggressor is chosen and acts automatically his opponent can force him to always be the aggressor which forces him to automatically in a certain way.

The system also doesn't seem to scale very well.  Because the aggressor only uses one die ever, it means that being the aggressor is very bad if there are large dice pools being used.  In this case being the smaller die type is actually an advantage, because one die will be easy to beat if their are large dice pools being used, which also means the larger die type will consistently roll higher.  6d8 can easily beat 6d12 in the first round awarding the smaller die group with the stakes and glory, and only giving the losing higher die group one grudge to show for it.  If two groups have the same die type losing in the first round is almost assured if you become the aggressor.

There are also some thematic concerns.  Because the aggressor's actions with regard to dice aren't under his control it feels like he's not really an active participant, despite being the driving force for the round.  In addition because using one die means only one person is acting.  So, a group that wins the initiative will only use one of it's members, and then the whole group will run away if he gets beaten to badly.  This seems wrong.

I'll post some possible fixes later, for now I'd just like to know what you think of all this.

Also, here are some alternate word you could use for your resources that I got off of

Loyalty: Adherence, Allegiance, Bond, Devotion, Fidelity, Duty, Zeal

Grudge: Animosity, Bitterness, Enmity, Grievance, Hate/Hatred, Malice, Rancor, Spite, Hostility, Contempt, Loathing, Scorn, Revenge

Wealth: Bounty, Abundance, Fortune, Opulence, Prosperity, Worth, Assets, Benediction, Splendor, Power

Glory: Distinction, Honor, Fame, Renown, Exaltation, Majesty, Grandeur, Triumph, Brilliance, Acclaim


I'm going to go ahead and post this stuff now before I go to bed.

My suggestion is that you let the Aggressor choose which die he uses.  Yes, this will give him the option of holding the initiative, so to speak, by not using his largest die, but this has some cool thematic and strategic ramifications.  Besides going first isn't always a good thing.  Sure you get to be the one who sets the direction of the conflict, but that also means you're the one being reacted too, which means your opponent's actions can be completely unexpected which may throw you off.  If nothing else it gives the aggressor options, which I think improves the conflict system.

As far as the huge dice pool problem is concerned, I'd let the Aggressor put forward up to half his total dice rounded up.  This keeps him under control normally, but lets him cut loose when there are a lot of dice on the table.

I'm also starting to think that the d4 might be to small.  If you think about it a d8 is only 2/3rds the size of a d12, but a d4 is 1/2 the size of a d8 and 1/3rd the size of a d12.  So even if it goes up against a d8 it's chances are still much worse than if a d8 were pitted against a d12, and the d4s chances of victory over a d12 are astronomical even with large dice pools.  Now, this may be what you wanted, if that is the case I think it would be good to give any side that uses a d4 vs a larger die even more glory, especially if they make it into later rounds, which is of course really bad for the d4 using side.  You could of course change your dice system and beef the d4 up to a d6, which I know doesn't follow the pattern you've set up.  What would be really neat, is to use a d6, d9, d12 set up.  Too bad d9s don't exist, or do they?

So here's a wacky idea, instead of using dice you use cards.  Take three decks and strip them down to a "d6" deck, which will have 24 cards, a "d9" deck, which will have 32 cards, and a "d12" deck which will have 48 cards.  Now, obviously cards are only numbered ace to 10, so the "d12" deck will need to use two face cards.  I think using queens for the 11s and kings for the 12s makes sense.  Also having 24 and 32 cards in a deck makes them pretty small so you could add in two more decks and beef them up to 48 cards each(see what I did there?)  The problem with cards is that you have to shuffle them so that the draws stay random.  This would be a big problem if you had to draw to often, but in your game you would only draw at the beginning of each conflict and mange you "hand" or "card pool" from there, with plenty of time between conflicts to keep the decks nice and shuffled.  The best thing about cards is that they are very easy to get a hold of and cheap.

Sorry, if it seems like I keep throwing all these casual game ideas at you.  It just seems like they would fit well with your rules light system.  Just some random musings, go with what feels right to you.

Jeff Russell


   First off, thank you for the thoughtful feedback, it's really really helpful!

Next, I'm gonna talk about your second suggestion first, since it has bearing on the first one. It's interesting you mention cards, because I've been thinking about cards as a resolution mechanic in RPGs a lot, after some discussions here on the Forge. I designed a little dungeon hack board game that uses cards and a rock/paper/scissors system for fights (I haven't posted it anywhere yet, because I was just noodling around and then came upon a problem that I haven't thought of how to fix yet). But anyway, yeah, D9s don't exist because you can't make a polyhedron with odd sides, unless you go all non-Euclidean on us and get some  help from a great old one :) However, that whole 'all multiples of 3' thing is pretty tempting, not to mention smoothing out the 'distance' between different traits. On the other hand, I really like dice! I don't have a much more technical/smarty pants answer for why to use dice over cards than that right now, but there it is. I'll keep the cards in mind and tool around with them some.

Now, if I am going to keep using dice, your first post has some very good points. I'm less worried about a huge group handily beating a single guy, as that reinforces the notion that you need allies and support to force what you want. A concern you raised that does bother me a lot, though, is where you mentioned that the aggressor's side only gets to use one dude's die, and everybody else is just kinda SOL. As well as the predictability of conflicts. I want a little bit of predictability, to give some tactical decision making, but I don't want everyone to know how things will go with the first round every time. I also really don't like only one guy getting to act on the aggressor's turn.

What led me to have only one die on the aggressors side was the fear of the opposite happening: the side with bigger dice putting forward 5d12 all at once and there being no response possible from the smaller dice. So, for right now, I think the answer is some kind of mechanical limit on how many dice you can put forward in a round (perhaps the same for each side to keep it simple). Here's what I'm thinking for options on that:

  • An arbitrary value: 2, 3, whatever
  • A value based on a characteristic: like, equal to the total loyalty points the leader has, or wealth, or whatever
  • One die per participant per round

I'm sure there are more, but these are what I can come up with off the top of my head. An arbitrary value would make which dice you choose less predictable, but would make the range of values per round more predictable, and would also make it harder for small dice to beat out larger dice (since usually 3d12 are gonna do better than 3d6, or whatever).

Basing it on a characteristic would further reinforce the leader's role, and give the characteristics more to do. I'm not sure the leader needs more reinforcement right now, but I am tempted to give wealth some kind of mechanical effect beyond buying characteristics, so that's a potentially tempting idea.

The one die per participant option would make groups more important for both sides, but it would weight towards larger groups rather than more effective groups (e.g. having 5 guys with level 1 abilities and 1 loyalty point would be better than 2 guys with level 2 abilities and 2 loyalty).

With all of these options, there's the thing with unused dice at the end potentially, which actually might be a feature, not a bug.

Also with all of these options, I'd need a new way to 'set initiative'. I tried to steal the In a Wicked Age way of doing it, because it's dead simple. On the other hand, just saying 'both sides pick their dice for the round simultaneously and whoever puts forward the single largest die is the aggressor' might work for that. But doing it simultaneously takes away the 'one guy acts, the other responds' feel it has going right now.

To move on, thank you for the synonyms! I'm pretty fond of wealth and grudge (both good, solid Anglo-Saxon derived words), but Glory and Loyalty both have a Romance language thing going that I'd rather get rid of. "Bond" and "Renown" might work. I've also been thinking of "Fellowship" for loyalty, though that has more of a 'we're buddies' vibe than a 'I owe you service' vibe. I'll think on everything you said, thanks again!
Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes


One thing to keep in mind with regard to the dice, which I totally didn't think about before now, is that if too many dice get pushed all at once, people will have to use a calculator to do the addition in a timely manner.  I wouldn't suggest letting either side push more than 3 dice a round.  Also, if you think about it logically since each die could potentially represent one person, if one side ends up pushing 6 dice they could be throwing up to 6 people into the situation, which I think is a bit much.  Again, coordinating more than 3 people at once, on the fly, seems unrealistically difficult to me.

As for deciding who the aggressor is goes, I've always liked the idea of letting someone volunteer to go first.  I mean sometimes the aggressor may be obvious before the dice are even rolled.  So why leave that up to luck?  For example, one side being the first to draw their weapons.  If both sides want to be the aggressor then you roll the dice and the side with the highest single die goes first.  For the second and third rounds you let the side who scored a partial success in the previous round decide who goes the aggressor is, allowing them to either roll with their minor victory or adopt a wait and see approach. If the two sides tied last round, ask who makes the first move to break the stalemate and if both or neither want to be aggressor, go by highest remaining die.

Hope that helps.

Jeff Russell


   That is so simple and so right that I can't believe I didn't see it! Holy cow! Almost always one side or another will be initiating a conflict when they're like "screw this, let's force the issue". And then carrying over to being the aggressor because you won last round makes all kinds of sense. Wow, that did help a lot.

Also, your thoughts on number of dice are true, but I don't think adding together numbers sitting right in front of you would be too onerous, but it could interfere with the action. I'm about to post to my blog expanding on my thoughts about options on number of dice, and I'll probably have a firmer idea about it after that. Thanks again!
Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes


So, it just occurred to me that I am bad at math and have given you the specs for a d6 deck, a d8 deck, and a d12 deck.  I know you said you didn't want to go with the card system, but I feel I must fix this error.  The real deck setup is to use four regular decks reorganized into a 7 suite, 42 card, d6 deck, a 5 suite, 45 card, d9 deck, and a 4 suite, 48 card, d12 deck.

Jeff Russell


   Thanks for the clarification, that saves me some legwork if I do decide to check it out. I probably should give cards a fairer shake than the dismissal I gave them before. Right now I'm still pondering the issues you raised above, trying to come up with a solution that works and pushes conflict the way I want it to, because I'm also pondering a deeper question:

What does the conflict resolution in the rules do for the game?

By which I mean did I just put it in there cos you gotta have conflict resolution? Or is it really contributing to what I want the game to do. I've been reading through some games recently (just now 'Archipelago II') that have minimal conflict resolution rules but handle the rest of the story cleverly enough to work out.
Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes



Sounds like you have things to work out before we can keep talking mechanics.  If you need help with anything just let me know.

Also, I crunched some numbers that may help you decide what dice to use.
D4, d8, d12:
A d4 is 50% the size of a d8 and roughly 33% the size of a d12, a d8 is roughly 67% the size of a d12.
D6, d8, d10:
A d6 is 75% the size of a d8 and 60% the size of a d10, a d8 is 80% the size of a d10.
D6, d8, d12:
A d6 is 75% the size of a d8 and 50% the size of a d12, a d8 is roughly 67% the size of a d12.
D6, d9, d12:
A d6 is roughly 67% the size of a d9 and 50% the size of a d12, a d9 is 75% the size of a d12.
D8, d10, d12:
A d8 is 80% the size of a d10 and roughly 67% the size of a d12, a 10 is roughly 83% the size of a d12.

One last thing, I used my real name in one of the other threads, so you can start addressing me is Alex now, if you wish.

Jeff Russell

Thanks, Alex, I will gladly do so. I also appreciate those numbers, and yeah, I do have some thinking to do. If you have any thoughts in that direction, I'll be happy to hear them, but right now I'm trying to figure out if the resolution system needs to go a totally different direction, or just be overhauled extensively. Once I figure it out, I'll post here for sure (and maybe even some of the steps along the way)
Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes

Jeff Russell

Thanks to everybody that responded!

What I've decided to do after some thought is to make it so that each side puts forward a number of dice equal to the leader's current wealth score, and then compares results. This gives wealth something to do as a static value, and gives all three of the main resources a role in conflict resolution.

Since I think that this is now workable to go ahead with playtesting, I'm going to try to set up an online playtest using Google Wave. If you're interested, let me know either here, through private message, or via email. I can get you a Google Wave invitation if you need it, as well.
Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes