Saturday, January 30, 2021

Desolate Days: Rudimentary Exploration.

 (A follow-up to my previous post about Desolate Days, in which I make the "game" slightly more than nothing by way of every properly lazy designer's fallback: random tables!)

THE WORLD was shaken to its core by the final victory, subsequent impotent ennui, and eventual explosive suicide of the Dark Lord. Many lands are ephemeral and transitory, rising up out of the sea of dust and discordant music of creation to meet living eyes, only to sink back down into oblivion after their passing. Stable islands stand out in the dust, but they are few and far between.

Because of this, the world cannot be mapped with grids or tiles. You can only know specific points, and their approximate locations relative to one another. Fortunately for goblins, they haven’t invented maps yet, and they lack the specialized language to talk in exact units of measure.

EXPLORATION is the main thrust of the game. Goblin expeditions venture out from recently discovered openings onto the surface to see what the wide, ruined world has in store for them.

The expedition begins on the Home point. This is where cracks in the earth lead down to the goblin vaults. Home is almost always a safe place to rest or resupply, compared to the wilderness. With luck, Home is the beginning and end point of every expedition.

From here, you can Visit Home, Quit and end the expedition, or move Outward to a new Point.

When moving Outward, the referee rolls d6. That is the number of times the referee rolls on the Encounters table. The Encounters can be rolled all at once and ordered how the referee chooses, or they can be rolled one at a time as the goblins overcome them. Every 3 Encounters is a full day of travel. After you navigate all Encounters, roll once on the Points table for a destination.

After arriving at a new Point, you may Explore the Point, move Outward to another Point, or move Homeward to travel back to older Points. All moves may involve Encounters.

Home can have up to 6 Points directly connected to it, like spokes on a wheel, but each of those “spokes” can lead infinitely Outward… or at least as close to infinite as goblins can count.

The sample Encounters below are more like evocative phrases meant to get an idea going. They are open-ended, and should always have multiple different paths to overcoming them. Goblins are encouraged to think of something and roll with it.

Each Point should have a full day or more worth of content if they are delved into. They should also be able to be bypassed if the goblins can't handle it, or if they just really would rather not.

1Uneventful travel, spiced up by “games”.
2The weather turns. It rains dust and discord.
3Dizzying, flashing lights descend on you.
4Swarms of stinging, biting bugs harass you.
5A sick, frightened animal blocks your path.
6Something scurries off with your food.
7That cloud is too low, and moving too fast.
8Something glitters enticingly in the darkness.
9The ground opens up. Something grabs you.
10Voices whisper contradictory orders to you.
11Melancholy and homesickness grip you.
12You swear you’ve been through here already.
13The plants here don’t like intruders.
14A distant figure seems to be following you.
15You meet a friendly goblin expedition!
16You meet an unfriendly goblin expedition.
17An old rock with carved scribbles. Magic!
18Fellow misbegotten monsters from the deep.
19Accidentally wake up shades of Tall Things.
20The Shadow hangs heavily over you all.

1A completely empty dirt field- eerily empty.
2Watering hole with strange and exotic beasts.
3Labyrinthine grasses that sway without wind.
4Old, gnarled, and angry forest.
5Ford across a furious, rocky river.
6Many small, round caves in a cliff face.
7Ancient, iron-studded battlefield.
8Tall, jagged tor of unusual rock for the area.
9Wide, wine-dark lake with a lone island.
10Immense fissure leading deep into the earth.
11Black sand desert pockmarked with ruins.
12Murky, roiling hot springs.
13Solitary, crumbling tower of basalt.
14Frozen tundra with bizarre ice formations.
15Magnetized, floating isles of rock in the air.
16City once belonging to the Tall Things.
17Temple to some dead, forgotten faith.
18Ruins bearing the marks of the old Lord.
19Foreign goblin Home- abandoned.
20Foreign goblin Home- populated!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Desolate Days: A Super-Basic Feeble Goblin RPG!

(So I've been knocking an idea around for at least three years now. The catalyst for the thought was reading about the RPG setting Midnight, where a very obvious Middle-Earth expy is mostly conquered by the resident Dark Lord and players take the role of people either surviving, fighting the occupation, or ushering in the darkness. The question it raised was "what would it be like if the story began even farther along than this?" What if the forces of evil won entirely? Well, evil likes to turn in on itself in most stories, so I figured that after a brief victory lap, the villain would implode from pyrrhic hollowness or just plain boredom, and leave only ruins behind.

It quickly became a post-apocalyptic setting where I could guiltlessly let my two major biases--mistreated goblins and desolate beauty--play out in full. Of course that was three years ago, and up until now I just idly kicked around a bunch of different systems and rules as I tried to figure out what worked best; d20, TROIKA!, Savage Worlds, USR, Fighting Fantasy, Powered by the Apocalypse, Cypher, Engine Heart, and even one very ill-advised dip into board game mechanics.

Nothing really worked out to my liking, so eventually I decided to do my own thing... by which I mean ripping bits and pieces from other existing ultra-simple RPGs like In Darkest Warrens.

I offer zero promises for this thing's balance or enjoyability now that it has finally sloughed out of my brain, but here is what I have completed so far.

Originally it was meant to be one of those trendy little single-page RPGs, and it can still work like that because I avoided the worst of my habitual rambling (unlike in this intro segment). But I've since begun work on point-crawl exploration mechanics and encounter tables in order to make the game more than just a work generator or GM fiat machine. More will be forthcoming, as are edits.

Also, happy surviving into the New Year, dear Burrowers! Or new years, depending on your calendrical preferences.)

DESOLATE DAYS is a game about sifting through the ruins. You are goblins, newly awoken from your stasis vault after the end of the world. All is a wasteland; everyone from humans and elves, to gods and your former Dark Lord is gone. Set out from the cold comfort of your caves. Explore. Fill the gnawing vacuum. Inherit old legacies, or discard them.

GOBLINS are endearingly wretched little things. They have no history except for the nightmares they have of the Time Before. Tools more advanced than sticks and loincloths are a novelty to them. They are curious, eusocial, and yet to discover concepts like ‘war’ or ‘personal space’.

STATS define your ability to overcome adversity. Stats represent your goblin’s weaknesses; the lower the number, the better. The four Stats are:

Weakness- athletics, breaking stuff, enduring the elements, etc.
Clumsiness- balancing, hiding, delicate touches, aiming, etc.
Naivete- knowledge, problem-solving, learning “magic”, etc.
Timidity- social skills, being brave, resisting actual magic, etc.

Assign 3, 4, 4, and 5 to your Stats. Stats can change over time, but may never be less than 2 or greater than 6.

RISKS are taken when you want to perform an action that can result in failure. To Risk, roll d6 vs a relevant Stat; roll equal to or higher than your Stat to succeed. If you fail a Risk, you may Push Yourself to reroll once by increasing a Stat by 1. Circumstances may modify a roll by ±1 or more.

ENCOUNTERS are situations where goblins have to roll several Risks to succeed, and may suffer Anguish if they fail. They can be combat, exploration, interpersonal conflicts, etc. All participating goblins earn 1 Progress per Encounter, whether it ends well or not. There are usually 3 Encounters in a day.

ANGUISH is the physical and mental trauma a goblin can withstand before breaking under the pressure. A goblin’s Anguish starts at 0. Max Anguish is 6, but can be raised as high as 10. When you take damage or suffer stress, increase Anguish by that amount. When you reach max Anguish, you are Broken.

BROKEN means a goblin cannot act. They are unconscious, catatonic, or both. Broken goblins can be revived with the help of friends during a Rest. Revived goblins are reset to half their max Anguish (rounded up). If all goblins are Broken, the expedition is lost.

SPECIAL THINGS are items a goblin finds in the wild and decides to keep close for their utility or sentimental value. A Special Thing can give +1 to one very specific Risk, like a piece of lucky rope that lets you climb better. A goblin can hold up to 3 Special Things.

MAGIC” is anything the goblins do not understand, which to a band of childlike stone-age agoraphobes is… most things. Starting a fire, drawing complex plans in the dirt, or picking herbs to ease a stomachache are all examples ofMagic” spells. Unlike Special Things, you don’t get any bonuses to Risks from using spells, but the right piece of “Magic” gives you new options. You must first witness a spell in order to learn it.

RESTING lets goblins recuperate, compartmentalize, and give hugs. In a safe place you can Rest to reduce Anguish and/or spend Progress Points. Goblins lose up to 2 Anguish per Rest, (3 if you spend Progress). Resting more than once a day might lead to unexpected Encounters.

PROGRESS is about overcoming your weaknesses. While Resting, you may spend Progress in the following ways:

Lose 3 Anguish instead of 2 = 1 point
Decrease a Stat by 1 (minimum 2) = 1 point
Increase max Anguish by 1 = 2 points
Learn a piece of “Magic” = 3 points
Revive a Broken goblin = 4 points (anyone can contribute, including the goblin in question)