Feedback Request on the rules to my first game, Ardent!

edited October 2018 in Game Design Help
Hey guys, I wanted to get the community's feedback on Ardent.

Fiction First + Deep Action Mechanics - It can't be done! ... Or can it? My goals for this game are to take the old-school tropes and mechanical assumptions of DnD-like games and really update them, fulfilling the promise and power fantasy of those games without things like feat tax, trap classes, dead levels, misaligned player/game reward systems, "low-level" play as normal, linear fighters (the wizards were less the problem than the neglected fighters, and turning them into wizards too is not the answer), etc.

Ardent takes a lot of cues from games like PbtA, Blades, Fate, 13th Age, and Cypher, but ultimately doubles and triples down on some very different things.


The feedback here has been better than I've hoped! I'm attaching an updated version of the rules, differnt than the one I first posted, so any new folks aren't reading old rules. It still doesn't have everything - I'll be releasing the rest very soon!

I appreciate all the feedback I can get. Thanks so much, this is what living the dream looks like :D

Ardent Rules (sans most of the classes/heritages and NPC rules)
Please download it to make all of the million hand-placed hyperlinks work!

Comments

  • Very interesting stuff, and I like the colourful layout/format. Looking forward to seeing more!

    Are you looking on feedback on any particular bits or pieces?
  • Anything really, Since I've made this, I've done some consistency edits, and fixed some typos, but I'm really interested in getting feedback on how the systems feel, what you think it'll play like, what seems interesting, what seems perfunctory that stuff. I'm actually exhilarated to read your comment. The replies I got on Reddit were...less enthusiastic. Thank you so much for replying!
  • I'll check it in a moment, but before anything I think you would like to know that people not rushing to read your game isn't a form of critique nor a statement about audience interests. It's just that deep down, even designers feel like reading, learning and interiorizing other people's rules is a chore or a dangerous distraction from whatever they have in their mind right now, as it may have the potential to make them throw everything and start creating a new game.

    Even when people pick up a new game, they tend to read enough to get the gist of it (or whatever they think is the gist of it) and run the rest using their own personal trusty toolset - even when this will break the game, and then blame the original game for it.

    There are of course lots of people who do read the rules and try to play the game as intended by the designer, but getting them to do so with your game it's a matter of luck.

    Anyway, never despair, keep going and eventually you will find enough constructive criticism and acknowledgement. It takes it's time, that's it.
  • Hi Machi. Thanks for sharing your game. I've read through it and have some comments. I hope you'll find them useful.

    I was drawn in by the flavor text on the first page of the game. It seemed evocative of a kind of "Dogs in the Vineyard" setting, where the players would be taking on roles as morally conflicted peacekeepers trying to shore up an inherently unstable political situation in a supernatural world. That's all great stuff.

    However, in reading the rest of the game -- and I realize that there are portions missing, like the character moves -- I didn't really see a game that lived up to that promise. I would have been pleased to find, for example, some kind of Trust mechanic, or some other mechanic addressing the political infighting that I'd expect to find in this game. Or something more about Wardens and what makes them special. Or some kind of Men/Fae duality brought in during character creation to show where your character is coming from and what biases they might bring to the table. But I didn't really see any of that, which was kind of a letdown. I think that if you have a strong setting opening like that then you really need to follow through with it; it should touch every part of the system, if possible.

    (There's a fair bit of copy-editing type stuff that should be shored up sooner or later, but I think you probably want to focus on the main mechanics and feel of the game first. But as an example, under "Conflict Resolution" you list the options in the order "Exceed by 1", "Exceed by 2", "Tie", and "Lower". The first two options should be swapped, right? If you want more feedback and that level, let me know, but I'm not going to belabor it here.)

    I found the core resolution mechanic confusing. I think that all of the steps are there, but it took some hunting around to put it all together. More importantly, it seems like the "Potency" score is going to vastly outweigh all of the other considerations in a roll. You're using a dice pool of d6's and keeping the highest die, which is fine. But then you add in Potency, which seems like it could range up to about +4 or +5. It seems to me like that's going to swamp the actual die rolling. This might be what you want. But I guess I'd have to see some sample average characters and their opposition to see how it works in practice. It comes down to which parts of the character you think are the most important in defining them. If it's the skills then you want the dice pool to be more important. If it's the backgrounds and equipment then maybe what you have works.

    Overall, I think I see that you're trying to meld a kind of DungeonWorld / PbtA set of rules with a more straightforward "track every +1 and gold piece" set of rules. I'm not sure that the blend works in all cases. For example, under "Wealth and Purchasing", you have a more fiction-first rule that if you're in a particular wealth tier then you can buy up to a certain number of GP worth of items "for free" during each downtime. But on the other hand, as a player you still need to track every individual gold piece, because you need to accumulate a certain number in order to go up a tier. It's not clear whether you need to spend this money to go up the tier, or if it's a measure of total gold you've spent on other things, or whether this is a lump sum that sits in the bank and generates interest, or some other option. I like a system that says "you're of wealth level X, so just assume you can buy anything at level X or below", because I personally dislike tracking coins. But in this system it seems like you still need to do both, and I don't think you need it.

    That's one example, but I see the same kind of discontinuity in other areas of your game. I think I'd really need to see an example of play to be able to understand how rules like "As a soft GM move, the PCs' position worsens - put them on the path to destruction" and rules like "Cover reduces the damage of an attack by a static amount, usually from 1-4" interact in practice. (Not exact quotes.)

    Again, thanks for sharing this and I hope this doesn't come across as too negative. My advice for you would be to focus on that first page of text and ask yourself what the game is really about, and which mechanics you need in order to get that feel across. Then trim out everything else, and only add back in as necessary. But I'm a rules-lite kind of guy, and others may have very different opinions.
  • Hmm ok, here's some feedback, hope anything here is useful:
    Layout is nice, colorful and clear, but doesn't really convey the feeling of the setting described in the first page. Font used in red makes me think of a romatic novel for some reason, but it's just probably me; may be just needing artwork to convey things.

    Terminology in general should be more intuitive and obvious or perhaps plain distinct. Some terms like potency, hold, advantage and disadvantage make veteran players think of familiar mechanics, which gets in the way of learning a new system

    Big Rules:

    Mixing a major and minor method is one of those things that look good on paper but actually slow down the fiction a bit in the table and may end up making some character reactions strange once people feel in the need to optimize their chances. I know from experience, I tried a system using a similar concept and at the table people had to stop and analyze their actions to find out what to roll. So good so far at first, even when people usually never think this way in real life, but then there was a bit more of dissonance when players really wanted to get something done in the game and had their characters make strange choices just to have more dice available to roll. Your table may have an easier time through this hurdle though. Your testing will be a better evidence than mine in this case.

    I sorta like that all player builds have the same pool of resources, I see where this goes on the balance angle. But I tried it on a design and it ends up giving players the impression that their characters are too similar. Multiclass characters is where things like this become more obvious. Players tend to give a lot of importance to the sources and intended use of each pool, so, while making all the same look like an elegant solution to balance issues, in the practice it ruins a bit the connection of the fiction with the system.

    This last phrase "connection of the fiction with the system" becomes more relevant as I keep reading the rules. Your system works fine, but the connection with the fiction becomes possible only when the GM and players have internalized the system, and as simple as it it, it's not actually intuitive.

    Like "recovering hold when rolling with disadvantage" sounded amazing and elegant, until I read the disadvantage rules. It had something to do with the terminology as I mentioned above, but also with the fact that it's a roundabout way to do something I naturally already do as a GM. In the table my players will find that they will have to interrupt the flow of the action to remember in which situations they will be able to recover hold, at least until we all interiorize the new rules.

    Having to do this to finally make the game click provokes a bit of a subconscious defensive reaction, as I can't help but think now "yes, interesting game, but I'd never play it as it is"

    I do like things like character concept being applied instead of having a pile of skills. Some things implied by certain concepts actually require a mechanic, so having moves to cover those is a really good idea too.

    XP cards and system seem a little bit clunky if players are more used to versatile stuff. You may like to use orange instead of yellow for the last like of cards, these are a bit unreadable right now.

    Otherwise, good choices in general and I hope most of my remarks are just a matter of different tastes/opinions. Best regards!
  • edited October 2018
    First thoughts:

    Core system explanation is clear and succinct. Nice!

    Also, I'm a fan of mentioning up front that players/GM are equals and that about-play questions are up to the whole group. Excellent!

    I like the use of Potency and Hold as core system concepts -- good fits with classic adventure gaming without being completely generic -- but I find the names misleading. IMO, situational modifiers and inner reserves should be given names that clearly indicate situational modifiers and inner reserves.

    The success tiers + complications looks like a nice application of PbtA logic.

    The line between Soft and Hard moves is an interesting call. I'd keep a close eye on this in playtesting. This seems a bit gentler than I want from my D&D-inspired gaming, but you did mention "power fantasy" in your pitch, so maybe big-deal losses don't need to be on the table all that much.

    On Wealth, do you mean that once I have accrued 12g, I am forever Comfortable and can buy 2g worth of stuff during downtime in perpetuity? Or can I drop from Comfortable by being robbed or dropping my pack in a fight or something? I think I like this abstraction, but not sure if it'd get nonsensical fictionally. The fact that you can spend more than your standard expenditure, but you have to drop a tier, makes me wonder how far this system is from simply tracking gold pieces. I think the answer depends a lot on NON-downtime purchases. If I find a thing I really want to buy right now in the middle of some quest, how do we determine whether I can afford it, and what the impact of the purchase will be on my Wealth level?

    The XP system strikes me as the primary distinguishing feature of this game, as opposed to Dungeon World and other D&D re-imaginings. It sounds interesting! I'm not quite sure I follow it. This text was the least immediately clear to me. I'll try to re-read it at some point and see if I can provide any useful feedback.
  • edited October 2018
    Well, I am not that interested in counting + and - but the core mechanic is nice and the Methods got my mind roving. For the $ and other mini-games, consider the use Blades in the Dark makes of tables as an evergrowing appendice to paint (-build) the setting.
  • This looks interesting and has some definite potential! For some reason I really like the division between Big Rules and Little Rules. And your opening setting hook is quite compelling (though it could do with some copy editing). I would also echo some of the comments above re: existing terminology & font choices.

    My main thoughts are kind of macro level. Right now I’m personally interested in how mechanics reflect & support the specifics of a game’s fiction. Which is to say, what setting & story are you trying to evoke and how do your rules get players to do that? This maybe isn’t what you’re going for, but you *do* have a compelling setting hook. However, I don’t entirely see how that hook is expressed through gameplay mechanics.

    For example, your blurb establishes that Men and Fae are in tenuous peace. Then, later on, you have a whole chapter about character creation and extensive info on backgrounds... and none of it related to whether a PC is a Man or a Fae. What distinguishes these two races/factions/species, on a mechanical basis, in the actual game? Similarly, you say the PCs are Wardens, guarding this fragile peace – so I would expect to see a bunch of mechanics that focus on adjucating disputes and dealing with sticky interpersonal conflicts.

    Again, maybe that isn’t the game you’re trying to make. If you’re doing an old-school power-fantasy dungeon-crawler, maybe you need to rethink your setting hook. Something morally black-and-white and overtly heroic might be a better fit for your game concept. As a caveat to that, if your *real* selling point is a streamlined old-school D&D experience, your biggest job is going to be succinctly explaining how your system is better/more fun. The biggest question you’ll need to answer is, “Why should someone play Ardent instead of 5e or Pathfinder or Dungeon World or even older editions of D&D?”

    All that said, I want to reiterate that I like where you’re going with this. It seems like you’ve created something fairly streamlined that can get to a lot of gameplay depth. I’d definitely be interested in seeing future iterations, and in getting an idea of how you envision these rules playing out at a table. Good work & keep at it!
  • edited October 2018
    Hi Machi. Thanks for sharing your game.
    DaveC - Thank you SO MUCH for your feedback. I'm going to take a second to think of a way to respond that will do it justice...

    I posted this on Reddit, looking for the sort of response you just gave me, and ... I didn't get it. I did not enoy it (although there were some useful takeaways) and I thought to post here because I heard good thing from Adem Kobel and the like. How right they were, how lucky I am. I'm taking all of your points into consideration as I iterate the game. Thank you 100 fold for taking the time, for really getting into the rules, and for being kind.

    Re your comments on the concept - yeah I had thought the same thing, and I rewrote that section to better fit the more Witcher meets Equilibrium meets Seven Samurai (huh, that seems strained even writing it haha) tone of the lore (also forthcoming!). Less (but not no) intrigue, a lot of action, strife and a dash of detective work.

    People like you make doing this work a little easier, and that's a measureless balm in the trenches of design.
  • Wow that's got to be the kindest thing anyone has ever said on the internet. Thank you. I frankly did think maybe this just got lost in the mix. Not quite story enough, or perhaps not quite the type of thing people wanted to see here. Either way thanks so much for checking in like that. I'm really touched that you'd think so heartfully of a stranger like me, and my experience on the forms.
  • Hmm ok, here's some feedback, hope anything here is useful:
    Just read your comments, and I really appreciate them. I think that reading the fuller versions of the rules, and perhaps seeing it in action might surprise you, but I take your criticisms to heart either way. Great perspectives on hold and internalizing the rules - I've heard that before, that it takes a bit of buy-in and mental focus to really grok some of the workings. That's intentional, I'm trying to do something meaningfully new and a little subversive with the whole thing. I'll keep tweaking it, it shouldn't be offputting.

    Thanks again for taking the time, I'll think on all of these things and address as much as I can in the next round!


  • edited October 2018
    Ok this amount of good feedback is almost too good to be true - I'm new here, and I don't feel like I've earned it. Before I keep reading, I'm going to go find someone else's game on here, read it, and hit them with some feedback. Wow guys - cheers to you, cheers to Story-Games.
  • First thoughts:

    Core system explanation is clear and succinct. Nice!
    Hey thanks again! I'm going to look again at the gold system and make some tweeks. Good points about that! Also yeah, of the rules you saw, I think the xp system is the easiest standout, but if you notice, the core resolution mechanic is a one roll, fictional positioning based system that also does mechanized numerical damage calculations! That's a thing! Defence as a resource - you have to have hold to mitigate damage! The direct fictional position mechanization of Backgrounds through hold - for instance, if you have the background "Royal Knight" 2, you could spend 1 hold to add that 2 to any roll that's related to being a royal night, fighting, courtly drama, etc. But in all non-roll scenarios, you're assumed to know and act as someone with that experience level/expertise would. No rolls for knowledge ever, not knowledge checks or spout lore. There's also the bulk of the rules - the moves - not in the playtest.

    All that said, I get you, and understand your perspective. Thanks heartily for even reading through it! Hope you check out the updated, more robust rules when I post them soon!
  • Haha yeah there's a non-0 ammont of counting + and - in the game. Not nearly as much as DnD, but a little more than PbtA. For that complexity increase though, I'm trying to sell you a loooot of depth! Maybe the upcoming more robust rules release might change your mind! The moves and depth of character creation/action hook a lot of folks, and they're not even in the version your read!
  • This looks interesting
    Hey! Yeah! Your points about tone of the pitch/rules are taken to heart. I actually changed the pitch in the version that's in this post now. The proof really will be "why should we play Ardent instead of x" where x can be PbtA "neoclassic" games or Pathfinder or 5e as well. Part of the hook is that the lore will go beyond the traditional black and white, and provide better context and narrative hooks for the same sorts of experiences. Sort of like what game of Thrones has done for people going into the fantasy genre for the first time, they now have an appetite for more compelling reasons than "good and evil" but at the same time still want to see cool sword fights and political intrigue. I think the moves etc. might help give more perspective on what I'm trying to do here, check this out:

    https://ardent.typeform.com/to/lv5kGK

    And thanks again!
  • Before I keep reading, I'm going to go find someone else's game on here, read it, and hit them with some feedback. Wow guys - cheers to you, cheers to Story-Games.
    What a lovely response to criticism!

    Welcome to Story Games again, Machi.
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