I began work on a new project recently so it seemed an appropriate time to introduce what (I hope) will be a regular feature of this blog: The Project Overview.
The Project Overview is a post designed to cover the most important features of any game I’m producing: The Purpose, The Highlights and The Mechanics.
The Purpose covers the type of game I’m creating and the sort of Players I’m catering towards. Additionally I will include important “axioms” that I’m building the game around, so that its design goals are clear from the outset.
The Highlights detail the most “marketable” features of the game. These are choices I’ve made that I have either do not see in similar games or have been done badly. Ideally, if someone asked you “why should I play this game” you should be able to answer the question by rattling off the Highlights listed here.
The Mechanics serves to give an in-depth view of the rules that will form the backbone of the game. While by no means complete, this section should give you a solid conception as to how the major components of the game operate and at least hint as to what I expect the final game to look like.
Gold & Glory is a Heroic Fantasy RPG which is aimed at capturing the sort of Players who have been brought up on Dungeons & Dragons, whether it was the Red Box or 4th Edition. While this is ostensibly the goal of Wizards of the Coast’s D&D Next (and innumerable other systems – fan-made and official – over the years) I believe Gold & Glory will bring a fresh perspective on the situation. If you’ve read my posts on D&D That Never Was you have already seen the keystone of Gold & Glory: the Three Pillars of Dungeons & Dragons. I have taken the whole of Dungeons & Dragons and done my best to boil it down into three concepts that could be said to be true of any edition or version of the game:
- The Player Characters (“PCs”) are adventurers who rely on each others’ diverse talents to overcome obstacles and survive danger (The Pillar of Adventuring Parties)
- The PCs explore dungeons (The Pillar of Dungeon Crawling)
- The PCs fight monsters (The Pillar of Dragon Slaying)
Starting from these three pillars I have constructed a game which not only holds these concepts at its heart but tries to incorporate the concerns and desires of Players of contemporary versions of Dungeons & Dragons without alienating Players who still play older versions. A difficult task, to be sure, but I have confidence in my approach.
Gold & Glory has several features that should distinguish it from other Heroic Fantasy RPGs:
- Characters can ether be built off unified Classes or assembled piecemeal from components
While huge unified Classes were a hallmark of TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons, the most popular modern versions of the game (3rd Edition and Pathfinder) have instead encouraged “Build-Your-Own Characters” through Feats and Multi-Classing. While this approach permits Players to make precisely the sort of character they want, the vast array of choices can be daunting to Players who are unfamiliar with the system or simply don’t want to be bothered with that level of customization. To satisfy these two sets of desires, Gold & Glory will primary feature Characters made up of components: Race, Profession, Primary Combat Role, Secondary Combat Role, Fighting Style, and Exploration Knack. Taken together you can build anything from a street-fighter who’s killer instinct and quick knives keep his friends alive to an aristocratic wizard, skilled with sword and spell who prefers to “lead from behind” in a tussle. Additionally, Players can choose which aspect of their characters to level-up first and how far: if you want to focus on picking locks you no longer have to become an excellent back-stabber as well. Classes are made up of all these components but gain a slight advancement boost to make up for their bundled nature.
- Killing monsters is not the driver of character advancement
Many people have showed concern over the “murder-hobo” aesthetic found in novice Dungeons & Dragons Players: they drift from town to town, killing everything and looting their bodies, with little concern for larger matters. To counter this type of behavior (and to encourage PCs to go on plot-driven adventures) recent editions of Dungeons & Dragons have encouraged the awarding of “Quest XP” or even “Roleplaying XP” while some DMs (myself included) have simply stopped tracking XP from monster kills entirely. Gold & Glory goes one further by tracking advancement based on the value of the treasure you find (Gold) and the renown you gain for accomplishing great deeds (Glory); killing all but the most infamous monsters nets you 0 XP. This feature will refocus the game on Heroes performing feats central to most fantasy literature and implicit in Dungeons & Dragons from its beginning.
- Advancement is more than just gaining Levels
In the TSR days of Dungeons & Dragons, 10th level Characters focused on making strongholds replete with followers. At the time this was seen as the end of the character’s life but when Wizards of the Coast took over Dungeons & Dragons they dropped it to encourage higher level adventuring. However, I have seen among Players a persistent desire for characters to be more than just a bundle of magic items and attributes; indeed, many 3.PF Casters focus on making powerful fortresses or even dimensions of their own at higher levels. In Gold & Glory, the ability of characters to alter the world around them is at the heart of the system: everyone can spend their Gold and their Glory to attract followers, gain titles, and even open taverns or workshops of their own. How each character chooses to spend their Gold and their Glory becomes part of their character as Feat or Prestige Class selection did in 3rd Edition.
In keeping with the roots of Dungeons & Dragons, Gold & Glory will use an array of dice, from the humble d4 to the mighty d20, to resolve narrative conflicts. However, I am taking the best from D&D Next by utilizing its “Advantage/Disadvantage” mechanic to streamline play. While “permanent” features (e.g. magical items, class features) will provide the traditional +X to Success, combat effects (e.g. spells, darkness) will use the Advantage/Disadvantage system to cut down on the math that needs to be done mid-combat. Sensibly, Advantages and Disadvantages will cancel each other out at a 1:1 basis to permit tactical “stacking” of combat bonuses and penalties.
Skills have been refined along similar lines with the d20 + (Attribute Modifier) becoming only half of the story. In Gold & Glory your Skill Rank (Novice to Master) will be reflected by the degree of Advantage you gain on that Skill Check. Likewise, situational modifiers that can impair your activity (e.g. improvised lockpicks for Open Locks, a rickety bridge for Balance) apply Disadvantages to your rolls. Taken together, the balance of Advantage and Disadvantage reflects how well trained individuals can cope with adversity as compared to rank novices.
Overall, I have simplified combat from the heights of its complexity while doing my best to preserve (and enhance!) the tactical choices available to Players who want them. Each character’s Fighting Style (e.g. Sword & Board, Brawling, Sorcery, Faith) and Primary/Secondary Roles (e.g. Defender, Slayer, Controller, Support) determines the bulk of their in-combat options. These three components offer a mixture of damage bonuses and combat options (e.g. inflicting status effects, granting bonuses to allies, moving opponents and/or allies) for all characters so that each character can choose a mix of combat abilities that they’re comfortable with. A major feature of combat in Gold & Glory is the Stance mechanic: at the start of each of their Turns characters can choose 1 of the Stances they know to operate until the start of their next turn. Stances reflect the “combat posture” of a character and how that affects their attacks and the space around them. Stances therefore give everyone a meaningful decision to make every Turn, even if it is simply to keep using one of their Stances for an additional Round. Importantly, none of the combat options in Gold & Glory are intended to become obsolete; options at higher levels with be more focused (and therefore more powerful) than lower level ones instead of being strictly superior to the choices you made at level 1.
On that note, Magic is divided up into three mechanical sets: Combat Magic (e.g. Sorcery, Faith), Low Magic and High Magic. Combat Magic is “at-will” magic that can be selected as a Fighting Style and is therefore limited mostly to combat usage (although a Fire Blast could obviously set something on fire). Combat Magic users gain Willpower Points which they can use to temporarily alter their Combat Magic in form (e.g. convert a single-target bolt of lightning into a large blast of deadly electricity) or in effect (e.g. inflicting a status on the target, granting themselves Advantage on the attack). Low Magic closely resembles Vancian Magic of early editions of Dungeons & Dragons by requiring preparation of a selection of spells in advance that take one round to cast and can be interrupted by the Caster taking damage. Importantly, Low Magic is prepared from a pool of “spell-points” rather than a set number of Spells Per Level so that Low Magic Casters can tailor their prepared spells before every adventure. In order to ease bookkeeping, Low Magic spells have a basic duration of five minutes (or one Combat) but can be Sustained for longer if the Caster is willing to take Disadvantage per Spell Sustained on all actions. High Magic covers ritual magic so powerful that simply casting one of these spells is an adventure in itself. Everything from causing earthquakes, controlling the weather, or lifting a castle into the air is covered with High Magic so that high-level Casters who want to use their powers to alter the world have a way to do so without making these powerful effects seem pedestrian by overuse.
Character advancement is still handled by Levels which are earned by Experience Points (“XP”) tallied at the end of each adventure. However, XP is not gained by slaying monsters but rather by accumulating treasure (“Gold”) and performing great deeds (“Glory”) which can, in turn, be spent between adventures in many ways. In addition to traditional adventurer recreations (e.g. making trophies, bragging in taverns, buying gear), Gold and Glory can be spent to earn titles and followers, to build workshops and strongholds, and even to produce useful items to use in the next adventure. Unlike in previous editions spending these points do not reduce your overall XP so that you don’t need to make a choice between getting stronger and having useful tools.