Design brainstorming

  • 17 Replies
Design brainstorming
« on: February 09, 2011, 12:45:52 AM »
Cool, we have a forum. Thanks, Vincent.

This is a thread for me to kick around ideas with anyone who is interested. Lots of it may be stuff like "hey look a thing" so consider yourself warned.

Feel free to post ideas and suggestions here, but if you do I'm assuming you are happy:
- for me to take them apart and put in the bits I want; and
- that you won't get any cash for this, in the incredibly unlikely event that I ever make any on it; and
- that I drop you in the acknowledgements if I used something and I remember.

If any of this isn't the case please start another thread and make this stuff clear.

Re: Design brainstorming
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2011, 12:59:20 AM »
Almost ready with the first solid playtest design. Hoping to play this weekend to check some stuff out then we'll be ready to post.

Pretty happy with how it is going. Was able to use some of the stuff I posted here in working this up:

Have also added Warbands, additional goblin types, heaps of loot, etc.

Currently working on one of the last of the new elements: The Cave. I want the players to define the cave they are living in and some of the other goblins at the start by running through a single page checklist. Below is what I have typed up of the top of my head so far.


The Cave is:
- A separate outpost, set deep into some hills. (-Targets -Vulnerable)
- Connected to a larger tunnel complex. (+Competitors)
- An above-ground ruin. (+Vulnerable)
- (For now) a pleasant village of huts by a stream. (+Vulnerable)
- Sewers in a Sunlover’s city. (+Disease, +Targets and +Vermin)
- What we can carry as we try to make it to _________. The _________ ruined our last cave. (Add “Dear MC, Please screw with us. Love and kisses, The Players.”)

The Cave is notable for:
- A briar patch protecting its entrance. (-Vulnerable)
- Its colony of bats. (+Disease)
- The number of nearby tribes. (+Competitors)

Conditions in the cave are: (Choose 2)
- Cramped. (+Politics)
- Wet. (+Disease)
- Smelly. (+Vermin)

The Cave’s warriors are:
- Savages. (+Savage)
- Poorly armed. (+Vulnerable)
- Too few due to _________. (+Vulnerable)
- Fighting each other. (+Politics)

The Cave Leader is __________ a Bugbear / Goblin / Hobgoblin / Worg. They are:
- Weak (+Politics)
- Savage (+Savage)
- Greedy (takes 75% of loot from raids)

The Cave Shaman is __________ a Bugbear / Goblin / Hobgoblin / Worg. They are:
- Ancient and wise (+Protected)
- Ancient and incompetent (+Vulnerable)
-Young and ambitious (+Politics)

Another goblin is ___________ a Bugbear / Goblin / Hobgoblin / Worg. They are:
- The sworn enemy of __________
- Hiding a terrible secret

A whelp in the Cave is __________ a Bugbear / Goblin / Hobgoblin / Worg. They are:
- The whelp of _________
- Always getting lost

A slave is ___________ a Sunlover, Forestlurker, Longbeard or Hairytoe. They belong to _____________ a Bugbear / Goblin / Hobgoblin / Worg. They are:
- Always trying to escape
- Hiding a terrible secret
- Able to find strange mushrooms in the forest
« Last Edit: June 18, 2020, 05:24:47 AM by wightbred »

Re: Design brainstorming
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2011, 08:32:45 PM »
Love the idea of the Cave.

Also: forestlurker, sunlover, etc. Yes! Very clever way to shift the POV.

Re: Design brainstorming
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2011, 06:34:18 PM »
Ran through The Cave at the start of our playtest the other night, and it does work well to set the scene. Will write this up with the playtest version which should be out in a couple of days.

They fought a Forestlurker in this, and they seemed more menacing with the name change.

Killed off a couple of my own sacred cows in the new design:

Changed from kobold, hobgoblin and bugbear to ratman, orc and ogre. I'm keen to make this more generic than D&D and these three races are really entrenched in that lore. People can still play them if they want, but I want the basic rules to be be darker and I find my view of these three races limits this.

Have been trying to put some of 4e's tactical movement into the game. Tried out some new tactical rules - which failed spectacularly. They worked fine mechanically, but we found the tactics got in the road of the roleplaying: that is they disconnected us from the characters. I found the same thing with 4e, so I shouldn't have been surprised. Have moved back to more of a AW combat flow now which is working for us.

I find it interesting that I expect a particular type of tactics in D&D and miss them when they are not there, for example in Dungeon World. I think the expectations of the players are the biggest problem facing the 4e designers and Sage and Adam with Dungeon World. Very keen to see what Vincent is doing with Storming as I think this could pull me through these expectations.

Fortunately Goblin World is far enough removed for me that as long as it feels like playing goblins (and The Master, The List etc do this) I don't feel bound by these expectations. Plus it probably helps that I am not really trying to appeal to a broad audience and make money like 4e.

Re: Design brainstorming
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2011, 12:44:53 AM »
A great post about conservatism in D&D that relates to my comments on expectations above:

Re: Design brainstorming
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2011, 08:11:58 PM »
Some ideas I am currently kicking around:

Skeleton (Size 1) - When the a skeleton is Dying they are smashed to pieces instead and can only be "healed" by being put back together. When you put a skeleton back together remove all Wounds and Roll+Sharp. On 10+ you are good as new, on a 7-9 choose 1 and on a miss either choose to die or take both.
- There are critical bones missing. Take -1 ongoing until you can find replacement bones.
- You have cracked bones. Take 3 Wounds which cannot be removed until you find replacement bones.

Ghoul (Size 2), Zombie (Size 3) and Ghost (Size 0 or 2?) will be the other races.

The Undead PCs won't be able to heal in the same way. For the Skeleton as a PC I like the idea they are smashed to pieces, but can be put back together by a comrade. This effectively makes them immortal, but not as tough as the other races. I want Ghouls and Zombies to get Wounds back by eating flesh / brains. Not sure about Ghosts yet.

Re: Design brainstorming
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2011, 08:31:44 PM »
One thing I really like about Goblin World is The Master mechanic. It encourages players to take action so they can be The Master and fits the flavour. I've been thinking how I could use this in other ways. Here's an idea for Knights and Knaves:

Exemplar: +1 Bold and +1 Fight
Knight: +1 Bold
Knave: +1 Sneak
Vile Dog: +1 Sneak and +1 Manipulate

The rules:
- Only one person can be the Exemplar. If anyone becomes the Exemplar, the other characters that were the Exemplar drop back to being Knights. The same rules apply to the Vile Dog, but the others drop back to Knave.
- You move up the list when you: give generously to charity, free your prisoners, swear an oath to god, etc...
- You move down the list when you: back down from a fight, loot, kill your prisoners, blackmail, give up an oath, bargain with the devil, etc...

Re: Design brainstorming
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2011, 08:20:31 PM »
I've been thinking about this game in terms of principles of what I want and my D&D history. I have a lot of nostalgia about and baggage with D&D, but I haven't really enjoyed playing it for some time.

So what do I want to make this game for? What are the principles of my game? I want a game:
- For myself and my friends. It is cool if others want to play this and I want to design in public so I can tap into new ideas, but fundamentally I want to write a game to play.
- That is simple to learn and allows play to move quickly.
- That strongly suits the theme. Which in part I'd call fantasy struggling "anti-heroes".
- With grey characters in a grey world.
- That makes me laugh when I play it.

Looking back on my design I think I'm doing some of this pretty well. We can play it quickly and it is hilarious. It also confirms my thinking that I don't want "cool" races like elves, werewolves and vampires because this doesn't suit the "struggling" part of the theme.

It also gets me away from the bits of D&D I'm not satisfied with. From my perspective D&D has:
- Unnecessary complexity and escalation.
- Too many arguments over rules or the simulation of a world which has magic.
- Black and white worlds. (Even with alignment the default always seemed to be that killing large numbers of goblins was perfectly justifiable because they were born evil.)
- High fantasy and high level adventures that can feel like resource management.

But now I want to think about what else I've unconsciously ported from my history to this game that I don't need. For example: Do I need levels to make this concept work?

In writing up the next version I want to look critically at each element in terms of the above, to clean up The Cave and integrate it more, get more artwork from Epic Fail in and get my appendix on undead up and running.

Re: Design brainstorming
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2011, 11:17:42 PM »
Looking back at what I wrote the other day had me thinking about this post ( by Vincent on First and Second Game Theory. In particular the comment by Teataine below:

I think, and correct me if I'm wrong, Vincent, the distinction is that you write your first game out of dissatisfaction with what you know. A kind of heartbreaker really. You play D&D, you realize you don't like a ton of stuff about it (like hit-points), and you tear it all down. You write a game to do it differently, you write a game that's kinda like D&D but has no HP or maybe you're more radical and write a game that's NOTHING like D&D. And you deconstruct and deconstruct until you hit the point where you realize the bottom line is that RPG rules are social manipulations, everything else is optional.

But that alone makes poor design, you need to rebuild now. There's no need to throw out hit points anymore. Instead, you recognise them for what they are: a pacing mechanic, and you can build upon that insight, you can now write a new game *with* hit points, but without using them "because D&D does" or write a game without them without rallying against them "because D&D uses them" - there is no more need to emulate or destroy, you've got your bedrock and all the lego pieces you want to play with, start building.

I've designed and hacked a bunch of games, but this is my first public hack and I think I'm in 'reacting against' mode still. Time to embrace a bit more of the old perhaps?

Re: Design brainstorming
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2011, 11:46:23 PM »
Started a couple of other hack recently to work through my understanding of some options for Goblin World.

First is trying to hack Stefoid's Uncle Louis into AW. This game has a brilliant idea for a playing card relationship map, but more imprtantly has a strong prestige element which is an interesting counterpoint to THe Master mechanic. I've dropped a couple of posts on the "hacks" thread about this.

The other, which is taking most of my focus right now, is adapting Goblin World for Stefoid's Ingenero: I'm really enjoying two things about this work:
- How Ingenero brings out different pressures in the design. Ingenero has a strong focus on tone and motivation, both of which are challenging me in a good way. I'd heartily recommend trying to put your hack into another system as a great way to get a new perspective on the design.
- The collaborate way Stefoid is approaching this. It is great to bounce ideas around on a joint project, but this is the first time I've done it with a bunch of people I didn't know.

This means the next version of Goblin World will take a little longer, but I'm hoping it will be a stronger design because of this work.

Playing Skeletons, Giant Rats, Magic Items and... oh my
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2011, 10:30:33 PM »
I’ve talked about this before but for the Backstabbed by an Extortionist version I’m making some rule changes to facilitate other scenarios. Here’s an example:

The Murderer snuck down the dank corridor sniffing. The Fireballer and the Butcher stalked behind him, but the Murderer’s forest lurking powers at smelling out secret entrances and even traps kept him in the lead. A door appeared on the left and the Murderer summoned the Butcher forward to smash it down. After the splinters and before the butchering, the Murderer saw over the Butcher’s shoulder that the Dread Necromancer had set the two skeletons and a zombie waiting as though they were playing cards at a table. Stacks of mouldy coins before them and everything, although this was a four person game and there were only three of them. The Murderer shook his head, checked the Fireballer was concentrating too hard to hear him and snorted “Wizards”.

Whistling happily Dank returned to The Crypt. A quick midnight snatch from the graveyard is what every Ghoul needs to get back into the game. Dank started to call out “Who’s hand is it?” but it died on his lips and he saw the smashed door and his eviscerated friends. Maybe he could build the bits of Kreek and Snek back into one whole skeleton. But who’s skull would he use? And poor Zandor looked like nothing but a pile of meat. A pile of delicious meat...

The Crypt Races
- Spirit (Size 0)
   - Can be hurt by normal weapons, but effectively Armour 2.
   - Can't use weapons and armour, but does 3 + 2 damage.
   - No food but being Close to a dying intelligent creature counts as a rest instead.
   - Banshee howl as 5th+ Level power?
- Skeleton (Size 1)
   - Not actually that big, but lots of ventilation.
   - No food but can use skeletal components to repair (heal as food) instead.
   - For Look: What animates you?
- Ghoul (Size 2)
   - Eats normally, but maybe increase the amount to Size x 2 per serve to show the hunger.
   - Ghast powers as a 5th+ Level power?
- Zombie (Size 3)
   - Not actually that big, but slow and strong.
   - The brain of an intelligent creature counts as a food for healing.

General rules for The Crypt:
- Blessing of Undeath: No poison, disease, sleep, suffocation, drowning or ? effects. Can’t Rut Like Rabbits.
- Complementary feeders: what are the implications?

I have a confession. I’m the guy in D&D who always played the weird characters. Halfling Paladins before such things were possible, a barbarian who was actually a Cleric, a one-armed wizard psionic who couldn’t use Somantic component spells, six-armed demon mage thief whose familiar was his own snake tail (in Planescape to be fair), a little kid who was a powerful sorcerer, and of course an intelligent sword. I used to know the game backwards and forwards so I’d use obscure rules and some creative licence with the fictional text to make this balanced (eg: a very short Human Paladin looks like a Halfling), but I’m sure I used to piss off my DMs. Now I want to share the fun of unique character’s through Goblin World but with lots less complications.

I’ve changed this version so new scenarios can be added. Each scenario (like the above) will have:
- A scenario sheet where you develop the environment (like a Hardhold), some flavour text to set the mood, and any special rules needed.
- Race sheets which detail 3-5 Races to add the right flavour. This might be existing Races, a reflavouring (Swamp Goblin), or new stuff (Giant Rats and Intelligent Items). I'm trying to avoid the "cool" races with this, as I think it will ruin the dark humour flavour.
- If needed some additional Classes for the scenario.

I'm working up:
- The Wizard's Tower: Intelligent Item, Forgotten Familiar, Homunculus, and Terror! Writ Small (Imps, Pseudodragons and so on).
- Rats In The Sewer: Rat Swarms, Giant Rats, Ratmen and Wererats.

Cool for others to join in the fun if they want to.

Re: Playing Skeletons, Giant Rats, Magic Items and... oh my
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2011, 06:06:10 AM »
Here's something quick I worked up for Rats:


Flavour text (with apologies to Luke Crane and David Peterson):

Hail all rats who are more able,
beat any cat you can,
filch any trinket you will,
and so the rats prevail.

Death is as powerful a weapon,
 as it is an easy source of nutrients.
“Heroes” can pass into our lunches,
those that ate lunch become dinner,
a full dinner fuels new “heroes”.


- Giant Rats (Size 1)
   - No hands, so armour and damage like a Worg.
   - Ratmen can use them as mounts?
- Ratmen (Size 1)
- Wererat (Size 2)
   - Change forms to Sunlover, but ugly like the Orc rules.
- Rat Swarm (Size 3)
   - Can scatter and into individual Size 0 rats to fit through holes.
   - Heal by replenishing rat numbers. Same as rest.
   - Can’t really carry Big things?

But I realised something writing this, the Rats don't have a "fall" to look to for visions like the goblins do. Will need to include these alternative "falls" into the Scenario booklets, and think about something for the Rats.

Ingenero Canned Scenario
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2011, 12:41:10 AM »
I've agreed to do a scenario for Stefoid's Ingenero game for Goblin World characters. This is a good opportunity to try and push the rules in new directions and spread some goblin fun. I'll be dropping my notes for the Ingenero Scenario of Goblin World in here as I write them up.

In the meantime here's the link to the site:
« Last Edit: July 10, 2011, 06:05:55 PM by wightbred »

Re: Ingenero Canned Scenario
« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2011, 05:58:30 AM »
OK, my first go at Ingenero characters. Will probably need to edit as I understand the game better and will need to do the histories.

Setting: The horror of being the minions in a world of fantasy heroes.
Tone: Dark comedy.
Premise: A band of minions, struggling to work together to survive against the “heroes”. (Aim: Survival, Obstacle: Ability to cooperate.)
Scenario: Sent on a raid, then return to the tribe probably chased by sunlover butchers.


Concept: Snok is a Goblin Beguiler, able to twist the minds of others and the very shadows from the moon to his will, but power does not grant a reprieve from Snok’s fear. Snok gets power from worshipping the ancients, but must serve the Cave Shaman Grim One Ear like a slave.
Body: 2
Soul: 6
- Beguiler: 5
- Shadow Magician: 3
Signature Moves:
- Illusions of Desire: +2
- Stay Away From Trouble: +2
- (History)
- I am the best goblin to lead (Belief)
- To be recognised as a leader (Desire)
- Fears death (Issue)
- I hate that I owe ___________ a favour for saving my life (Influence)
- I fear ___________’s strength (Disposition)
- To obtain some poison or a subtle sunlover weapon (Long Term Goal)
- To become the Cave Shaman without conflict (Long Term Goal)


Concept: Blort is a Goblin Extortionist, a political animal who trades in favours as well as valuables. But Blort can’t resist the lure of wealth.
Body: 2
Soul: 6
- Dealer: 5
- Orator: 3
Signature Moves:
- Honeyed Words: +2
- Observant: +2
- (History)
- Everything is for sale (Belief)
- To be wealthy (Desire)
- Can’t let an opportunity pass (Issue)
- ___________ owes me a favour (Influence)
- I owe ___________ for not paying their debt (Disposition)
- A truly valuable item, unlike the crap we have in the cave (Long Term Goal)
- To take the Cave Chief’s hidden hoard (Long Term Goal)

Concept: Firelegs is a Goblin Harrier who specialises in moving quickly and lightning fast attacks. Much skill as a skirmisher gives Firelegs a reckless edge.
Body: 5
Soul: 3
- Athlete: 5
- Skirmisher: 3
Signature Moves:
- Swift Exit: +2
- Fast and Furious: +2
- (History)
- If I can outrun them all, there’s no way the wolves will get me (Belief)
- To be the first and fastest (Desire)
- Reckless (Issue)
- I hate that I owe ___________ a favour for getting me out of trouble (Influence)
- I think ___________ needs to get eaten by the wolves (Disposition)
- To have a sunlover blade worthy of my speed (Long Term Goal)
- To cut down the Cave Chief (Long Term Goal)

Concept: Hort is a Goblin Marauder, a brave and fearless warrior for the tribe. But Hort is ambitious and has a dangerous temper who bristles under the Cave Chief’s leadership.
Body: 6
Soul: 2
- Rampager: 5
- Brute: 3
Signature Moves:
- Master of Pain: +2
- Watch My Own Back: +2
- (History)
- If I act fearless I will become fearless (Belief)
- To be a feared Cave Chief (Desire)
- Uncontrolled temper (Issue)
- I hate that I owe ___________ a favour for healing my leg (Influence)
- If the others weren’t here I’d take ___________ down a leg or two (Disposition)
- To get a weapon big and nasty enough to take down the Cave Chief (Long Term Goal)
- To hack down the Cave Chief and laugh at the lamentation of his whelps (Long Term Goal)

Concept: Lark is a Goblin Raider who loves to loot the sunlover farms and kill the weak. But Lark is a perfectionist who hates that others can’t raid properly.
Body: 5
Soul: 3
- Smasher: 5
- Sneaker: 3
Signature Moves:
- Lug The Heavy Stuff: +2
- Fury of Two Knives: +2
- (History)
- I am so good, I can steal the teeth from a sleeping sunlover (Belief)
- To be honoured as a professional raider (Desire)
- Perfectionist (Issue)
- I hate that I owe ___________ a favour (Influence)
- I think ___________ is not a good enough raider (Disposition)
- To carry back a sunlover item so unbelievable it makes the tribe gasp (Long Term Goal)
- To be so respected the Cave Chief is cast down by mutiny in favour of Lark (Long Term Goal)

Concept: Arc is a Goblin Sorcerer, able to pull fire from the air and channel magical power. Arc gets power from studying the words of the ancients, but must serve the Cave Shaman Grim One Ear like a slave.
Body: 2
Soul: 6
- Fire Sorceror: 5
- Channeller: 3
Signature Moves:
- Consult the Book: +2
- Evil Eye: +2
- (History)
- I am the smartest (Belief)
- To recognised for my art (Desire)
- Doesn’t suffer fools well (Issue)
- I hate that ___________ saw me whipped by Grim One Ear (Influence)
- I think ___________ needs to get out of my way (Disposition)
- To find a sunlover item that powers strong magic (Long Term Goal)
- To become Cave Shaman by force of magical combat (Long Term Goal)

Concept: Gurt is a Goblin Thief, a liar who will steal anything not nailed down and stab the backs of any who complain. Lust for loot will even make him forget his allies.
Body: 4
Soul: 4
- Thief: 5
- Backstabber: 3
Signature Moves:
- Appraise: +2
- Natural Liar: +2
- (History)
- Finders keepers (Belief)
- To steal and then lie about it (Desire)
- Nothing gets between me and loot (Issue)
- I stole from ___________ and they know it (Influence)
- I think ___________ doesn’t need that ___________ as much as me (Disposition)
- To steal a potent poison or sunlover weapon (Long Term Goal)
- To take the Cave Chief’s hidden hoard (Long Term Goal)

Re: Design brainstorming
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2011, 09:27:54 AM »
Been having a break and focussing on other stuff, but recently got knot The One Ring RPG. Vaguely thinking about re-focussing Goblin World onto Middle Earth Orcs. But after I finish the Ingenero scenario.