Long XVIth Update 1: Character Advancement, Quicker Combat, Factions vs Backstory
(Cross-posted to my Tabletop blog: https://tabletop.willphillips.org/2021/11/06/update-02-character-advancement/)
With the early access documents (character sheets, pre-gens, and cheat sheets) now posted to Itch for a few weeks – and my posts engaging with the #ttrpgfamily on Twitter – I believe it’s important to to provide a brief design update / devlog on current efforts with the game.
- There’s been a total of nine sessions of Long XVIth played so far.
- I’m five sessions into the playtest campaign with my in-person friends.
- Four one-offs. All in-person so far.
- Will be looking to setup online playtests soon, but that may not occur until after Thanksgiving. Sign up for a closed playtesting session here.
- Good – The Basics: The core framework of the game is working pretty well. Risk vs. reward dice pool, add-on Successes and Failures, all making sense.
- Good – Streamlined Stats: The streamlining of the character stats to focus on the Temperament / Social Class / Profession / Entanglement archetypes (jettisoning “traditional” stat analogues of Grit, Wits, Panache) is working just fine once players started thinking about their actions in ways that reflect their archetypes. That design choice will stay in.
- In Progress – Character Advancement: I originally designed character advancement to rely on moments of a character being in great peril or mortal danger. The trouble is… I’ve had a hell of a time putting my PCs in that king of danger, so the “Divine Providence” mechanic that allows for character advancement hasn’t happened yet. I have a plan on how to change that while still allowing for risk-based character advancement.
- In Progress – Quicker Combat & Conflicts Needed: Combats have been dragging out. I’m still unsure what the root cause is. If it’s the “blank slate” issue common to more narrative, abstract games, then it’s a matter of players getting comfortable. It may, as well, be an issue with the math, which I’m continuing to tinker on. I am considering a more abstract, structured approach to combats that may alleviate this.
- In Progress – Creating Positive Conditions: Conditions can represent both good and bad circumstances. Right now, Players are more focused on directly attacking the enemies or the challenge, even if their characters are less equipped to do so. I think this is something that can be fixed via clearer “coaching” by the GM.
- In Progress – Game Focus of Factions vs. Individual Character Backstories: As I’ve thought through the design of the game, I’ve come to believe the focus really is about the individual player characters, their places in the historical world, and what brought these characters into their “adventuring” circumstances. In that, a factions game represents a secondary focus that is probably best trimmed.
- In Progress – Swapping “Entanglement” for “Vice:” This is directly related to the bullet point above. Thus far, most players have selected an Entanglement that essentially overlaps with one of their other archetypes (e.g. Upper Class character with a Local Nobility entanglement). If I’m trimming the larger faction game, then it makes sense to swap out the fourth archetype for something directly focused back on the character. I’m thinking a Vice may make for interesting options around character abilities, stress relief (i.e. social healing), and compelling Reaction Rolls. Care must be taken to not overlap with Belief, Honor, or Station.
- In Progress – Winter Phase / Offseason: Why are these Player Characters out on these adventures? What has compelled them so? A winter / offseason downtime mini game may help provide context and interesting mechanical tie ins with the revised character advancement rules I have in mind. This is very much in the early stages, however.
- In Progress – Writing GM Chapters: I need to finish writing the content in the rules that is GM focused: running encounters, general principles, etc.
- To Do Later – History Appendices: I want to provide some historical tips and context into the game to better guide players and GMs. Doing that is going to take a lot of work to get write. So I’m likely delaying this content for a while.
- To Do Later – Cultural Sensitivity Warnings / Content: The world of the sixteenth century is full of cultural mores that contrast quite starkly with our modern sensitivities. I think it’s important to acknowledge and address – however briefly – that each table may take a different approach to playing in and interpreting that historical era. I think Mark Plemmons did a great job addressing this in his MASHED rules about the Korean World.
- To Do Later – Current d10 vs. d20 Mechanics: Considering changing the dice to d20s under the suspicion that having a d20 mechanic may allow for a wider variety of numbers in a character’s stats, which may make for more differentiation between characters. Mulling that over right now.
Public Playtest Timing
I’m in no hurry to get a public playtest out the door. Before I do, I want to ensure the updated archetypes/traits are set up, the winter phases mini game is created to at least be testable, and the new character advancement mechanics are ironed and clearly written.
My current goal is still to release the playtest by end of year.
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