Hello friends, as you people probably noticed, I’m running an itch funding for my new game MiniBX here. It is an attempt to make this game, already released in Portuguese, a real thing in English as well.
I ran the playtest, or the first play of it, with my kids, and also in a Neverland mini campaign with close friends. It ran well and, of course, some adjustments were made during the sessions, so the English version is a bit different from the Portuguese one.
I can’t lie that it has been some time since I engaged in a big campaign of this game, or played several sessions, so I kinda forgot what my design choices were. But, the recent reviews of the game made me remember that it is kind of a cool game with some interesting design choices. So I will try to write about the most important design choices here.
Of course this is an attempt to get this game funded and all its awesome stretch goals, so if you like this idea back it, it will have some cool art and layout made by friends!!
Keep in mind that this game is a disruption, subversion or even a profanity against D&D B/X. An attempt to make this game our own. So this is the conclusion of thoughts, studies and insights made after years playing, talking, reading blogs posts about B/X and its retroclones.
Let’s go to the Topic at hand:
No abilities scores, no abilities or skill checks: just modifiers and modifiers’ meanings.
Ability scores, if you don’t have ability checks, are meaningless! The original idea of the first editions of d&d according to my interpretation (through all the things I said before) was to not have any skill or ability checks. This means that things should be resolved using the fiction, or by a discussion or negotiation between the GM and players. Like the classical OSR trope to not have any perception checks for any trap, but to resolve it through narrative exploration of the environment.
So I decided that this game would not have meaningless ability scores, only modifiers and what these modifiers mean is already in its name: +Attack, +Armor, +Magic, +Life and +Moral. Yes, this could mean Strength, Dexterity… but this in my opinion would make players look at its value and act as a very strong, agile… PC. Once more, my attempt is to avoid the “mistake” that ability scores often induce in players, which is the ability or skill check.
The modifiers are rolled in a 2d3-3 insane not intuitive roll, but why? The main reason is below:
As you can see this is a more condescendent rol than B/X. First of all I believe that rolling in B/X should be more condescendent, and there are no changes to the ability scores after rolling in MiniBX (it is in B/X and many retroclones). I believe that this bonus choice will make players more excited and less frustrated with ability scores that once again mean nothing. And, after years of playing, this also represents the distribution of bonuses that I experienced (not any scientific N, or shit, just my personal observation).
HD dice chain and Combat Rule
In terms of TTRPG combats I hate 2 things:
Long combats (tons of rolls)
The reason I don’t like tracking HP is because when GMs have lots of NPCs, monsters, etc. to track, it is very easy to miss something. For players, it is way easier to track, I get it. Long combats can take a whole session and even more than one session, this is something that I really don’t appreciate. So I tried to design a rule that: the number of rolls is reduced (to hit and how many hits are inflicted); don´t have to track a number for hit/HP.
The main inspiration is the usage dice from TBH (The Black Hack), so the HD is converted as a Dice Chain. The way PCs lose any dice in the dice chain is quite different from TBH. The weapon damage die is rolled against the highest die in the Dice chain, if the weapon die roll (+appliedable mods) is higher or equal to the highest die in the dice chain roll (+ modifiers), the die in the dice chain is lost. If the last die in the dice chain is lost, the PC is dead! Ok, I know that this is a paradigm shift and it’s a little difficult to internalize, but believe me, it works and it’s worth it.
Ok, so with this I solved the 2 issues that I hate in combat, as now:
You only roll once in each attack (not 2 rolls in a successful hit as normal and B/X D&D). More agile and simpler combat, once the rule is internalized.
You don’t have to track lots of HP values, you use Dice Chains, not numbers.
Some people have come up with really cool narrative solutions to explain the dice chain, it can make a static number (HP) more meaningful.
Spell and Magic Rule
As you guys can see in other games I made, free form magic is my jam. In MiniBX I tried to make a free form rule compatible with B/X, and also this means that the original rule can be used in this game.
Through examples, I tried to match the different circles of spells and effects for a spell from the main classical schools of D&D and especially: abjuration, divination, conjuration, enchantment, evocation, illusion, necromancy and transmutation.
Overall, this means that a wizard can have a fireball in the first level, but will have the effect very close to a magic missile.
In my humble opinion, saving throws is a game design mistake. I can’t blame early D&D designers for it, they didn’t have lots of parameters and other TTRPG design experiences. But yes, things such as Fate/Destiny Points, work much better than Saving Throws.
So I decided that once per session a saving throw point (a static number) can save the PC from: Death ray and Poison, Magic and magic wands, Paralysis, Dragon’s breath and imminent death.
I will emphasize imminent death, the brutal death with no second chance in B/X has been something that has frustrated me a little over the years. I think mechanics even from other OSRs, like luck in DCC, can make the game more fluid and less frustrating. So using save to save the PC from imminent death might be something that works like these second chance mechanics we’ve seen in other TTRPGs.
That’s all folks, this is the main topic of MiniBX design choices. There are some minor points that would be interesting to discuss (Turn undead, Dice chain Recovery…) but I don’t want to make a long blog post, although I’m very open to discuss with anyone about it.
Thanks for reading and if you didn’t yet, please consider backing MiniBX!
Incredible art in the banner by Bruno Prosaiko!
Edited By C.A.Berlitz