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)

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