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Help Me Figure This Out

CWalck93

Doom Priest of Peace and Happiness
Validated User
Okay. I need some help with a project that I honestly haven't touched for over a year. I am trying to figure out if this would even be viable for a roleplaying game or some sort of card/rpg hybrid. The only thing my brain is coming up with 'directed narrative control' for a description of what the game might be. I also envision this as one huge box set I think my brain is just whistling at ideas right now.

Anything that jostles a brain cell or a comment on how you might work it better please do not hesitate to comment. I need feedback and ideas to get my brain going again.

Name: Avalon Falls
Style of Game: Psychological Horror
Things Similar: Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Fatal Frame

Premise: The game revolves around a single town that is cut off from reality due to what is a deal with a demon. The town's name is Avalon Falls and it can land up anywhere in the world with a change of name etc. Players would take on the roles of survivors who have either come from outside of the town and have come into the town through various means or have somehow survived in the town since it has become trapped in a quasi reality where monsters are walking the streets and the survivors have to deal with their own pasts as they try to somehow escape and get out or become nothing more than another creature roaming the streets and buildings of the city.

System: The base system is a d6 dice pool system where each survivor is rated in a number of areas: Combat, Movement, Technology, Education, Perception, Interaction, Resolve and Fortitude. You roll X dice and check to see if a 6 comes up. If it comes up, you succeed at the task that you are trying to perform. If a 6 doesn't come up, then you fail at the task. One success is all that you need for a task to happen. Difficulty is removes dice from the survivor's pool.

There are also dice that are known as Dark dice. These dice can add to a pool but have the problem that any of these dice that come up a 1 create what is known as a ripple. The more ripples a player's character has, the more likely a tear will be created and draw themselves and everybody else in the party into their past as a test to see if they truly can overcome the darkness within. Dark dice are gained throughout the game as players make decisions one way or another. Light dice have an opposite effect where good and moral decisions made by the players generate dice that can be added where 5 or 6 are needed to succeed and there is no chance of developing a ripple effect down the road.

Players will make choices throughout the game that will tilt the town towards Hope or Despair. Not only are the players going to try and save their own characters from the darkness within, they will need to save the town's inhabitants as well. As the choices are made, the survivors will slowly see changes in the town, weakening creatures here and there or causing creatures to become harder to defeat and not enough resources to go around.

Locations: The game would have 20+ locations for players to explore with creatures, puzzles and threats to overcome. These locations would be scattered throughout the town and players would be able to go back and forth as necessary if they need to figure out what happened and what didn't happen.

Directed Narrative: So, here is where my brain seems to want to create a hybrid board game/RPG. The way my mind works is that there would be a number of pre-generated characters to choose from. For the sake of argument, let us say 8. Each character has a number of background options and choices. Each character would come with a story book and a number of envelopes which reveal various things throughout the game and the choices that are made. Certain locations will trigger story points that the player will have to resolve before the group can move forward. I view this game as being driven by the characters and their choices that they make and less about 'go to this dungeon, kill and get gold."

Now as I read it, this doesn't sound like an RPG but honestly... I really want it to be. Any help on maybe giving me a good kick in the ass and see if its actually worth pursuing more than just a pipe dream?

Appreciate any thoughts.
 

John Out West

Registered User
Validated User
Horror is great, love horror rpgs.

No, it does not sound like an RPG, since in RPGs there is typically a leveling system. Add one of those and it will be an RPG. Not all games need to be RPGs, it can just be a story-telling strategy/adventure game.

From what I can tell your pitch sounds more like a Mice and Mystics than Mouse Guard, in that its one pre-written but forked story that the players can go through, as opposed to a system for making stories like D&D. Choose-your-own-story books are fun, so it should be good. It sounds like there wouldn't be a DM, but someone would read aloud from the book to the rest of the group, and the group could then make decisions. Only problem is that it would have to be a hefty book, and i'm not sure how confident you are as a writer. You can always hire a writer if you're confident in the product, though.

I've done some horror stuff in the past, so my main suggestion would be to not go too hard on the players. You have to ease the tension or else they get stressed out and don't want to play anymore. I might suggest having Avalon Falls be a "Hidden World" that follows the players, and will occasionally entrap them. This way you can have normal world encounters to relax and ease the tension, then the mist falls, the nice people turn to dust, and monstrous growling can be heard in the distance. This means that they would need a way to get out of the world, which could be something as simple as "getting to the lighthouse" which appears mysteriously at the edge of Avalon Falls.
On the subject of Wanting the Players to come back, I would suggest that meaningful progress happens at the end of each game/chapter that inspires the players to come back. Having a chapter end with the players having built an armored bus, for instance, would make the players want to come back because: 1) What monster could they not defeat with an armored bus, 2) What kind of wacky adventures can they have in an armored bus.

You mentioned "Harder to Defeat" creatures, but generally speaking I would suggest that there be creatures that the players cannot defeat. Role-playing tends to be a fantasy power trip, while Horror is about making the players feel weak and vulnerable. There could be moments where it is tactically smart to kill a small amount of goobers rather than walk through an abandoned saw-mill, but there should always be the threat of that big, invulnerable tornado of death that always seems to find them and chase after them.

The pre-made characters and story-arcs seem fine. Reminds me of The Cave.

Hope that helps.
 

Nooch

Registered User
Validated User
I'll respectfully disagree with the above. This could totally be an RPG. It has pregens, and a built in setting/campaign tied to the mechanics, but there's no reason it can't be an RPG. There are plenty of indie RPG's that don't have a leveling system (Don't Rest Your Head, Dread, Slasher Flick, FUBAR). There are also plenty of RPG's that aren't power trips and are geared toward weak and vulnerable characters - Call of Cthulhu being the easiest to reference.

My only additional thought here if you want to allow PC's to make their own characters is make your hypothetical 8 characters be 8 hypothetical character story arcs that must be selected when the PC makes a character. That way they still "own" the character but you can pre-build their background stories.

Edit: Your idea feels to me like Don't Rest Your Head and The Demolished Ones (for FATE). They both have mechanics tied to the setting, and deal with the PC's discovering who they are. If you don't know how to make this an RPG maybe those two books can offer inspiration. (And, just so you know, your game does sound different from those games - they just feel like the same ballpark)
 
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CWalck93

Doom Priest of Peace and Happiness
Validated User
i appreciate both responses. Every time I have talked about this game and the idea behind it, people have said both 'it's a board game' or 'it's an RPG' where I feel like its neither or both at the same time.

I do like the idea of 'generalizing' the pre-gens into story arcs like has been suggested. The players still get to create their characters and at the same time they can decide how to handle things. It feels like its an idea of the 'playbooks' from various systems which I'm not a fan of personally but I think I can make it work.
 

SladeWeston

Registered User
Validated User
The line between legacy board games and ttrpgs are blurring all the time. Example, Thornwatch is a board game created by the folks at Penny Arcade and its pretty much a RPG in everything but name. Even Gloomhaven has enough lore and character depth to generate a decent amount of roleplaying in the group I play with. On the flip side, in the last year I've seen a number of more curated ttrpg experiences. I think this is partly because, as an indy designer, it is unlikely a game is going to be successful enough to result in multiple splat books. Games like Icarus, which in length is much shorter than the average legacy game and doesn't have almost any of the standard rpg mechanics or settings like Invisible Sun, where the experience is heavily curated by the story Monte Cook has in mind.
If it was me, I wouldn't worry so much about which box it fits in. Make the game you envision and put off worrying about the game category for when you're kickstarting it.
 

Knaight

Registered User
Validated User
It could go either way, really - the specific set of 20+ locations feels boardgamey, but taking boardgame design principles and applying them to RPGs has worked fine before (e.g. Spectaculars, which works in a pretty similar way in terms of built in setting). If you want to lean into the RPG side, lean into the RPG side.
 

Extrakun

Tinker of Games
Validated User
It really depends on what we mean by RPG here. Do we mean the gameplay loop of explore, fight monsters, loot, level up and then repeat, plus a secondary loop of fixed exploration actions with predetermined outcomes? Or do we mean a gameplay loop in which the actions players perform are less defined and outcomes are decided by a narrator (which could be a human player, or an AI), and that any actions, within the confines of the narrative, are possible?

IMHO, if we go with the former, yes, the game is a RPG. If we go by the latter, then no, it's not.

(If someone asks is it possible to have a hybrid board-game/narrative RPG, I will suggest taking a look at Miserable Secrets)
 

CWalck93

Doom Priest of Peace and Happiness
Validated User
Again, thank you for the information and feedback.

One of my issues is that I have a tendency to think about the end of the road and not everything that needs to be taken care of in between now and then. :)

The game design itself is somewhat open-ended in that the player characters are brought into the town and given these options. They can tackle anything in any order and unravel the town's story and how to escape as the game continues. At certain beats in the story, a player's choice can send the narrative into many directions with the ending of the story/game something along the lines of either a) the player characters make it through the darkness and come out better or b) succumb to the darkness within and become trapped in the town.

I originally used some of the design ideas from the Arkham Horror LCG for some of the mechanical bits but then realized that it wasn't what I wanted out of it. I want people to fully explore the town and its history and come to their own conclusions as how to deal with it and resolve things.

It's a very... fuzzy concept is the best word I can think of. I love the idea of legacy games but I also love RPGs and I was figuring out how things would work.
 

darnest

PureImaginationNoLimits..
Validated User
Well its an RPG if the change system is drive by the hope or despair fo the town. So after X locations (maybe X is based on a character value?) a character or 2 changes. Sometimes change is good sometimes bad. Sometimes is the player trying to do good with a bad change as the town goes deeper into despair. Each session deals with one or 2 locations (linking multiple locations makes it harder, so its a way of rating the challenges.
So 4 Characters have each had 2 changes after meeting in the library to discuss the missing teacher. At the library something happened and they got clues (Notes? Cards? Tokens for turn in later?) about the teacher. Second session They goto the school and have to fight the creepy janitor, they beat him, but lose enough students that the town went to despair. 3 of the characters Change and have to take a negative something. When activated it gives the GM Dark Dice to just assign as the game proceeds. 3rd session is in the linked location of the Police staion and the mayors house, clues send them there. Whne they check it out they discover the Police Chief is in horrible pain and cannot help. Turns out the mayors wife is a Vodoo witch and she is helping a local cult. They defeat her and save the Chief. They all get a Positive Change and the 4th player gets 2 cause he stopped the Vodoo cult ( character goal?), 3 have 2 changes 1 Good/1bad. One has 2 good.
Next session is 3 linked locations Starts at House 1 <dan Jefferies> he is party of the cult, he escapes to Jenkins Farm and the characters have to fight the cult During that fight a tear occurs, The players go back and choose to avoid the fight an capture Jefferies. Problem is the GM gets to use the tear too, and the Mayors wife escapes. Its a push the town stays in Hope.

So yes its an RPG if you really want to delve into the stories of the characters and what they create as they change. Does a Character choose to be slowly changing into a zombie (mayors Wife got em) and they sacrifice themselves to save the town.
Its also a board game, with card locations and drawn challenge cards. Changes are more static, drawn adventures and characters are much moire linear.
It works either way, but as a board game its very Arkham and Betrayal, legacy or not. You would need some way to set it apart, Town falls to despair; how does the game change and how does the change effect the character.

I prefer it as an RPG, as it would let me do a number of different genres, based on the changes I choose. The Character Changes could get really wild.
 

Zaleramancer

Social Justice Warlock
Validated User
Hmm, I'm interested in the idea of Dark/Light dice, but I'm not sure how they integrate well into building a horror atmosphere. I feel like a horror system has to come with a rising sense of tension and a lower sense of character agency. A game can tell a horror story without having mechanics that reinforce that, but I feel like a dedicated system to the horror genre needs to include that.

The Dark Dice themselves seem like a good start for that: They offer players a chance to do things, but will gradually make the situation worse for them. Tension will rise; that sounds good. I think a bit of uncertainty can really help here- if players (and everyone) doesn't really know when the situation will flip over into something awful, then it makes the tension ratchet up the longer the game goes on. People wait for the pin to drop- this is why Dread is one of my favorite systems for tense/horror one shots.

The inclusion of Light Dice, however, shift the tone of the game. They're better than Dark Dice- both in terms of mechanics and in the narrative. There's no incentive for players to take "bad" actions in the stated mechanics. This doesn't mean players won't do that sometimes, but you are creating two opposed incentives: one that's better and the other that's worse. Players will, all things equal, pick the better option when they feel like they can.

I think if you want to push the horror angle, then you may need to make Dark Dice more tempting to use. There are several PbtA systems that use game incentives to encourage players to do destructive or bad things- Urban Shadows has a corruption mechanic that grants extra powers and abilities, while Masks lets players clear emotional conditions by acting in specific (usually reckless teenager) ways.

I'm interested in this board game/rpg hybrid- I think there's a lot of space there that people haven't quite tapped; I like the idea of game that brings the fate of a town into the balance. That seems like it could have a lot of good emotional territory and some fun replayablility. However, I think that you may want to consider the direction your game incentives push players to act. It's possible that you have additional incentives that I can't see here; those could help balance out the tables.
 
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