Wretches & Riches discussion

Jojiro of Dungeon Antology made some comments about Wretches & Riches on the RPG Talk server, and I felt they were worth saving from the transient Discord stream. I always appreciate someone’s thoughtful comments, and if that feedback can be documented then so much the better. They will be valuable to looking back on when problem-solving.

17th Nov 2019 – Jojiro

1. One of my biggest issues with systems like ItO and Knave is that your life has no context in the bigger picture. I feel pressure to make a class system or at least some form of background system for them. That’s covered in yours, albeit only with inventory and a cheeky question to the GM regarding dice checks. I like that sort of thing in general. It’s also why I’m excited for Electric Bastionland.

2. Unified pass-fail mechanics. I don’t actually like your particular implementation of variable dice for each stat necessarily, but I really enjoy when you know if you succeeded or failed the moment you roll, rather than needing the GM to compare it to a hidden AC or DC to be like “uhhh…gimme a sec…you hit”. Having 4+ makes the game flow more smoothly. The reason I don’t like your implementation necessarily is cuz it doesn’t allow for granular difficulty adjustment. My favorite for that remains dice pool systems.

3. I’m a fan of lowering the amount of ability scores/attributes to under classic 6, because I find the 6 existing ones redundant, even for compatibility purposes. So any reformulation of that, I’m a fan of.

4. For similar reasons to #1, I really like the archetypal abilities, though I will say that the 10-week time seems a tad long and unrealistic, even for something like a journeyman-level apprenticeship, much less just learning to pack things more tightly.

5. I’m a big fan of word magic systems. I’ve yet to find one I like enough to steal from, but each time I see one with recombined words I’m like “this is neatly modular and I feel like eventually I’ll find one I want to steal”. The big thing stopping me is usually the desire to have magic be simultaneously a “predictable toolbox” and also “succinct and concise” and also “intensely flavorful”. And those 3 priorities clash hugely.

6. This is the thing I’m the biggest fan of: single die hirelings. In fact, this idea is only doable because you do variable dice, and have defined checks and tests the way you have. It’s not quite possible in most of the systems I’ve hacked or made, but I really really am looking for ways to steal this precise mechanic, because it’s so elegant, and makes hirelings so much easier to handle. I’d go so far as to say that looking at this, I almost felt as if the system was geared around making hirelings convenient, because I really do find this brilliant.
Like, the whole hireling, from health to morale to skills to attacks, is defined by a single die. That’s just brilliant to me.

My reponse:

Thanks for the thoughts, and I too am keenly anticipating Electric Bastionland!

I did until this current iteration try to keep the d20 in, but in the end it just felt out of place. Since that observation came from diehard 5e fans, I took it to heart. Otherwise I was thinking of having a d20 + modifer opposed rolls, which is pretty much what 5e does except for declaring that one side has passively rolled a 10.

I did consider multiple dice for attributes but decided against in the end for the sake of simplicity. Pulp Alley – a miniatures ‘war’game (more of an action game) – does do that though, keeping the 4+ rule and going by numbers of successes to overcome challenges. I recommend checking it out – there’s a free quickstart PDF, and the author has a large number of Youtube actual plays and tutorials.

The moment when it clicked that I could have four symmetrical attributes all with an ‘i’ as the second letter was a truly joyous occasion, and now I can barely look at a retroclone without thinking about using this handy quad which nicely embody the four base classes of most clones (DIS-cleric, MIG-fighter, NIM-thief, WIT-magic user).

Yeah, timing-wise I suspect levelling requirements will change, and that’s one of the main things I’m looking at in current playtests. I do like the idea that a DIS check might allow the studious to learn faster than their peers, since I think it’s probably the ‘weaker’ of the attributes at the moment, but it’s up in the air. I am keen to keep the mentor side of it in though and some time invested to build up plot hooks in the world. My biggest gripe with many OSR rulesets is probably the Vancian magic system. I love any alternative take. My aim with this one is flexibility while keeping a somewhat Pratchett-esque tone. One of my favourite Discworld quotes is this:

Not doing any magic at all was the chief task of wizards – not ‘not doing magic’ because they couldn’t do magic, but not doing magic when they could and didn’t. Any ignorant fool can fail to turn someone else into a frog. You have to be clever to refrain from doing it when you know how easy it is. There were places in the world commemorating those times when wizards hadn’t been quite as clever as that, and on many of them the grass would never grow again.

If I didn’t want to try and fit this game into an A5 booklet, each spread would start with a Pratchett quote.

I never got round to playtesting this, but one possibility I thought about for hirelings as die-based characters was rolling both their die and a d20, adding them together. It would essentially mirror 5e’s proficiency die alternative in the DMG, and whatever the hireling die rolled could be used as a damage die in a combat scenario, thus keeping their attacks to a single roll.

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