Author Archives: JackOfHearts

Sound for your Game

I’ve always thought about adding music into the game… I’ve read a lot of people who swear by it.  I noticed in advertisement that I actually clicked through (very rare for me!).  The service looks interesting and I’m considering subscribing.

It looks like they’re working officially with Paizo to do sounds for Rise of the Runelords campaign.


Still Kicking and Still Thinking About Resolution Mechanics

Had a good time revisiting this project yesterday and I’m getting the energy back up to start working on it again.  While the core mechanic probably doesn’t matter all that much, I’ve been reading a lot of debate in various threads around the internet regarding the virtues and faults of non-linear mechanics (like the one I am currently using).  

The main issue to me seems that with a bell-curve or pyramid distribution, the probabilities all fall in the middle of the range (which is the point, obviously).  The mechanic I am using measures success over your target, so it’s not just a succeed/fail system and so I do think the curve makes sense to use.

However, there is a lot of discussion about different activities one might take that should not be based on a normal distribution, but would be hard to model with a non-linear resolution mechanic.  Also, with all that probability in the middle of the range, a couple bonuses or penalties can end up putting all the probability ahead of you or behind you, making the game difficult to balance and unforgiving.



Blog Activity

I put down Lost Worlds for several months as my work swallowed me for awhile.  I’m hoping this summer to start posting the rules I’ve put together.  I’ve got a friend going to GenCon and I have some extended vacation in August, so my hope is to circle back in August to take a fresh look at all of this.


Still working on Lost Worlds

Taking a break from blogging let me start working on the actual game.  I’ve got a strong start on the ground-up structure.  I have character creation rules completed, along with some custom races and a set of core classes – including a bunch of (probably unbalanced) powers.  I have rules for health and dying and how you trigger powers and how a skill system (more like backgrounds from 13th age), as well as achievement powers and origin powers that tie you into the game from the beginning.

A feel like a big milestone has been reached, and now I’m resting from working on the game a bit.  The next step: some big decisions about the combat system – specifically how crunchy and tactical should it be. Similarly, I’ll want some specific rules for adventuring and interactions.

Still, progress is being made.  I’m going to ask my group of players to create characters using the current rules and then try and play through some combats with what I have sketched out now – knowing there are gaps and rough edges.

Not Blogging Much

I had a 10 day vacation with my wife, then a work conference, and now I’m catching up from that.  My paying job has continued to require more of my time, and I find I don’t have as much energy for this in the evenings anymore.

I have been blogging for almost a year, and I’ll keep it up occasionally, but this space is going to be a bit quiet.  I have managed to post over 120 times in that year, which I think is a better rate than even I thought I’d manage.  I have a feeling I’ll get the bug again and start working to get a finished product put together, but for now, I’m going to go back over all the stuff I’ve written in the last year and see where I want to go with it all next.

Thanks to everyone who participated with me – I appreciate it.


Dungeon World – Last Breath

Dungeon World


One of the special moves in Dungeon Worlds happens when you’re reduced to 0 hp. This move is called Last Breath. The move is described below:

Last Breath

When you’re dying you catch a glimpse of what lies beyond the Black Gates of Death’s Kingdom (the GM will describe it).  Then roll (just roll, +nothing – year, Death doesn’t care how tough or cool you are).

*On a 10+, you’ve cheated Death – you’re in a bad spot but you’re still alive.  *On a 7-9, Death himself will offer you a bargain.  Take it and stabilize or refuse and pass beyond the Black Gates into whatever fate awaits you.  *6-, your fate is sealed.  You’re marked as Death’s own and you’ll cross the threshold soon.  The GM will tell you when.

On one hand, this certainly seems deadly. 50% of the time that your character is reduced to 0 hp, you’re going to die. Other systems have you make death saves over and over, and you have to fail a bunch of them before you actually pass away. Not so here.

On the other hand, the 6- death gives a specific example of the GM allowing the character to continue on with death hanging over their head. Basically, the game seems lethal, but gives everyone room to maneuver if the character death is either not convenient to the story of the game, or not popular with the player whose character died.

While I kind of like the Last Breath mechanic as a lethal but interesting hook for adventure, resurrection is also included in the rules, and seems like an option specifically encouraged a bit in the text. The text even recommends that the GM not make things too difficult on the players around this, and maybe let them go to the next town and drop some coin donation on the temple in return for a resurrection.

“GM, when you tell the players what needs to be done to bring their comrade back, don’t feel like it has to derail the flow of the current game.  Weave it in to what you know of the world.  This is a great opportunity to change focus or introduce an element you’ve been waiting to show off.  Don’t feel, either, that is has to be some great and epic quest.  If the character died at the end of a goblin pike, maybe all it takes is an awkward walk home and a few thousand gold pieces donated to a local temple.”

The game even make some allusion, although doesn’t specifically mechanize, a group “decision” for Resurrection.

“If your character dies you can ask the GM and the other players to try and resurrect you.  The GM will tell them what it will cost to return your poor, dead character to life.  If you fulfill the GM’s conditions the character is returned to life.  The Resurrection spell is a special case of this: the magic of the spell gives you an easier way to get a companion back, but the GM still has a say.”

When I first looked for the resurrection spell, I couldn’t find it.  That’s because I made the mistake of looking at the end of the cleric spell list.  Instead, I found it in the list of 3rd level spells!  So, while death is common, overcoming death seems pretty easy.  I have a real hard time with this, because it seems like on one hand, it encourages players to play various characters and get people used to character death a bit, but on the other, it make character death pretty weak and creates a situation that’s hard to explain into the rest of the world fiction!

I get this is a story game and many of the rewards are based around building and playing a dynamic character, but why not follow through with being an ode to old-school gaming and let those characters die. Surely the rest of the party will experience more depth and change if comrades perish and new characters are thrown into the mix. Of course, the system does not specify this game mode, but it does feel a bit wishy-washy, and a little pulp, around character death.

Dungeon World – 10 Level Cap

Dungeon World


An interesting decision by Dungeon World is that the game indicates that, upon reaching 10th level, a character is either retired, takes on an apprentice (which is played along with the old character), or starts over as a new class. In any case, the character stops gaining XP at 10th level.

This level cap is interesting. First, with the way it seems advancement might move in a game of Dungeon World, a character could hit this cap pretty quickly. You need 108 experience points to get to level 10. If you gain, conservatively, 3 per session from goals of defeating enemies, finding treasure, exploration, bonds, and alignment, and then you fail maybe 5 rolls per session, you’ll reach the level cap after 13-14 sessions.

This implies to me that Dungeon World is focused on telling tighter stories, and not quite as focused on a long term campaign OR that Dungeon World does not expect the players to be making 10-15 rolls per game session. Since some of the play samples have characters making a defy danger and hack and slack roll within the same couple of minutes of real time, it seems hard to imagine that a player won’t end up making 10-15 rolls in a 4 hour session (which the game explicitly assumes).

The 10 level cap can mean a few other things as well. Dungeon World assumes a fairly heroic starting character. After all, you’re unlikely to gain more than a couple points in traits which are used for your moves, and you’re unlikely to gain more than a couple of extra damage or armor. The game’s core mechanic always being a static 6-, 7-9, and 10+ mean that the math does NOT have very far to stretch. 10 levels then may then feel like an appropriate place for those abilities to stop in order to avoid outgrowing the game’s math where the targets never change.

Allowing a character to start over as a new class (although, you get to retain a few signature moves) is a strange inclusion to me. I suppose it is there because players are going to get attached and feel like their character’s story isn’t over, but for a game that focuses on the fiction being so important, having a character forget most of their old class moves and start over at level 1 seems like an awkward option. Having a second character join you, and staying at level 10 seems like a bit of a disruptive choice as well. Now you have a level 10 AND a level 1, while another player retired his character and started over with just a level 1 character. I get that insisting on character retirement is a bit heavy-handed, but the other options feel out of place.

The main take away from this is that, if there’s one flaw with the streamlined mechanic of dungeon world, it’s the inability of that mechanic to take much modification to the math.  This limits the characters to fewer character levels, less magic item modifications, and no real way to model enemy strength into the roll (since rolls are player-attribute based only).