It is a few months since I finished Mail Order Apocalypse, and apparently, writing games is a tiny bit addictive: I’m already about 70 pages into writing the next game. (For comparison: MOA clocks in at 106 pages, a lot of them being random tables)
So, the next game, what is it?
The working title is Raiders of Arismyth, and it is supposed to be a modern dungeon crawler. Which is slightly unusual territory for me. My gaming shelf has lots of „story“ games, with abstract mechanics, collaborative narration, player empowerment and so on.
But I also have collected a few hundred gaming miniatures over the years, and I wanted to use them again! I prefer games that are rules-light, easy to grok, and ideally have not too big character sheets. There are a few options of course, but none of them really appealed to me.
With Mail Order Apocalypse, I decided early on that I didn’t want to reinvent a whole game system, and thus chose Into the Odd for the mechanics. For Raiders of Arismyth, I wanted something that feels similarly simple, but does offer more crunchiness on two fronts: Character generation and advancement, and combat. Especially the latter — it doesn’t make sense to bring miniatures into the mix when distances and such isn’t particularly relevant.
At the same time, I didn’t want the system to be too mathematical. Choosing how to advance ones character shouldn’t require too much in-depth system knowledge. Choices made today shouldn’t completely block later choices.
In the end, I have settled on a few things:
- There are no attributes, just skills
- There is no vancian magic, and no mana points or similar either. You know a spell, feel free to cast it as often as you like!
- Dice are rolled in pools. Any result on a die that is greater than half the total value (ie. 4+ on a 6‑sider, or 11+ on a 20-sider) is a success.
- Combat should be about movement. Those miniatures want to be moved around after all!
- The rules aren’t just there as mechanical abstractions, they are there to form the game world and its metaphysics.
Sadly, all this means that where Mail Order Apocalypse managed to cram all the rules onto one single page, the core rules of Raiders of Arismyth need about 10 pages. Let’s dive into how magic works a bit, so you can see what I meant with the last bullet point about the rules influencing the game world:
Magic spells are learned as skills. Learning a new spell skill allows you to perform the least powerful version of that spell with an uttered incantation plus necessary hand-movements using both hands. With additional advancements on that spells skill allows one to make it more powerful, extend the range, or be able to cast it without an incantation or moving the hands.
In order for this to work, the spell and the advancements are tattooed onto the skin of the magic user, anchoring the mystical energies. The positioning of these marks is important, especially if the mage still needs to touch it to perform the spell. One can learn a lot about a mage by looking what sigils are placed where. And of course, seeing someone who chose to spend their precious advancements in order to be able to perform a simple light spell without any hand movements or spoken incantations tells you something about them too…
I did a few test runs with the system already, and the results were quite promising: It played smooth and easy in turns of rules application, but also allowed for some a lot of interesting tactical choices during combat. The latter felt deadly enough to the players, but not overwhelmingly so.
A lot of things are of course still missing: The skill list needs to be finalised, I need to flesh out the example magic rituals, think about equipment, or at least rules on how to improvise weapon statistics in a coherent way, and the world wants some more fleshing out.
But overall, I am quite satisfied with this, and really think this is actually a more complete game than Mail Order Apocalypse (which is more of a setting than a game). You can buy the Ashcan preview edition for a buck at DriveThruRPG if you're curious. But please, let me know your feedback!