About Me

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Seattle, Washington, United States
I'm an old time roleplayer who became a soldier who became a veteran who became a developer who became a dba who became a manager who never gave up his dream of a better world. Even if I have to create it myself.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Design Good, Design Bad

With many creative endeavors, sometimes it is good to let a few ideas simmer for a while, and reduce them into a more tasty substance.

Phoenix RPG has a lot of great things going for it so far, and the simmer time has helped me isolate those things that work well, from the things that probably definitely need more work.

Here are some of my high-level notes so far.

Things that work well:
  • Base combat mechanics.  Taking out the to-hit roll completely really makes combat faster, and noone has missed them.  At all.
  • Exploding Dice.  Very exciting in play.  Crits (explosions) feel great when they happen in any system, but exploding dice take it up a notch. And not just for combat - in any situation where dT is called for (the 2d10 basic check), an explosion can provide a sudden burst of skill, diplomacy, or knowledge right when it's needed most.
  • Initiative.  It's individual and random, without being time-consuming, and the special cards add a healthy dose of "crit" feeling, creating excitement in an otherwise administrative task.
  • Single actions.  Only worrying about 1 thing on a turn makes turns cycle exponentially faster than systems I've played that allow for multiple actions (i.e., most of them).  This helps to make combat feel faster.

So, overall I have an enjoyable core engine going.  It's not all great yet, though.  These topics still need work:
  • Class/Race/Aspects.  I feel like they are a) too homogeneous and b) not exciting enough in general.  I am edging back towards my original ideas (prior to the current draft) where each class felt fundamentally different to play.  Ideally, the classes would each represent an approach, or method, of play - and the players would have enough other choices that they can still create novel builds without it all being too cumbersome.  We'll call this the Holy Grail of RPG Game Design.
  • Advanced combat mechanics.  I need to figure out the best way to approach armors, shields, and situations like cover.  In absence of standard mechanics like "to-hit" rolls, how does combat reflect the advantage one has for cowering behind a low wall with a crossbow?  Some things have worked ok here, but I need to do a new draft on this section to pick up on lessons learned.
  • Specialties.  I like these, but perhaps not the number that can be chosen.  I'd prefer fewer and more meaningful choices (as a general rule).
  • Setting.  Not setting as in cities and nations and NPCs, but setting as in the "feel" of the underlying worlds that Phoenix RPG represents.  My "angle" is going back to root sources and doing some reinterpretation.  I'll cover this more in the near future as it has been an fun topic to explore.


  1. From my limited experience with Phoenix, I'd agree with the things that work well.
    I'd also add to that list:
    * Discretionary Points
    * The endurance/health mechanic.

    With regard to the things that didn't work well, I only had a close look at the Conquester and thought that was quite an excellent, diverse class. But that's just me, I like to smash things.

    1. Awesome! Rest assured the Conquestor will be sticking around - it's one of my favorites as well.

      And, I'll be looking at an online adventure again when I get the next draft ready, so you can take a closer look.


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