Middens & Morals ~ A Frankensteined Reimagining of D&D

I'm fascinated by a tension in our imaginings of the European Middle Ages ~ the so-called Dark Ages, specifically.

On the one hand, we think of them as the Dung Ages, as a time period when essentially everything we modern people consider necessary for good mental health (proper nutrition, free time in which we have a choice about what to do, vacations, something non-alcoholic to drink, choice of occupation, etc.) are simply unavailable. We suppose these to be dirty times that broke people.

But on the other hand, this is the time when the Holy Grail chose to make itself known. In amidst all of these dung-covered traumatized people was the desire to be more than human, the aspiration towards Heaven. Chivalry and monasticism and political uprisings all seem to come from that same desire to be perfect and incorruptible within a corrupt world.

That first hand is a time full of stories in which people use their brokenness to gain power, whether that's the brutality shown in melees and pillagings or the mindgames of the court. Blood ends up on the floor either way.

The second is a time when virtue brings power and the literal Hand of God blessing your endeavours and cursing your enemies'.

I've been trying to bash these two ideas together to recreate D&D from the ground up, stitching together bits of Unknown Armies and bits of Pendragon and bits of Legend of the Five Rings to create a system in which ability flows from the intersection of damage and virtue. In other words, I'm writing a Fantasy Heartbreaker resting on changing the core mechanic and ability scores of Dungeons and Dragons.

At the moment, it's still very early days, with a good amount of copypasta in order to get the system idea out for review and commentary, but I would simply adore it if you might have it in your heart or other circulatory organ to look it over and provide that review and commentary.

You can find it in a series of posts on my blog, starting here.

Thank you for taking a look!

Comments

  • That's a pretty interesting starting point. As a fan of some of the media about that time period, I'll definitely take a look when I get a chance!
  • Ooooh, I’m gonna follow this post! (time willing) I’m gonna try to take a look somewhere next week or so.
  • I bet you'd get a lot of interesting feedback on this project if it were a little more accessible. Here are the 3 things that stopped me from engaging further:

    1) Paragraphs of pink text on black background. If you can do pink-on-black just for highlights or intros or something, and put those long paragraphs in boring old near-black on near-white, you'd increase your odds of readers sticking around. I do like the initial impression the color scheme creates, but I don't find it readable, and according to my graphic design teachers, most other people don't either.

    2) Navigation. I'm not a veteran Blogspot reader, and from seeing one post, it's not obvious to me how to queue up the relevant posts I should read in the order I should read them. Could you provide a link to that?

    3) Design mixed in with musing. I want to see your core mechanic but I'm not sure how to easily find it amidst all this text. As you continue, maybe separate the think-and-talk posts from the rules posts? (I'm sure there are other options to make this lower-effort for system-interested readers, that's just the first one that came to mind.)

    I realize all that requires a lot of work on your end that may not be any fun, though, so feel free to ignore me and just keep doing the part you're jazzed about. I like the concept!
  • edited October 2018
    I found paired virtues (prudent / reckless seems redundant with other pairs), but not a system.

  • 1) Paragraphs of pink text on black background. If you can do pink-on-black just for highlights or intros or something, and put those long paragraphs in boring old near-black on near-white, you'd increase your odds of readers sticking around. I do like the initial impression the color scheme creates, but I don't find it readable, and according to my graphic design teachers, most other people don't either.

    I must confess I'm rather attached to the pink text, but I've lightened it significantly and brought the font size up a bit. Is it more legible now?


    2) Navigation. I'm not a veteran Blogspot reader, and from seeing one post, it's not obvious to me how to queue up the relevant posts I should read in the order I should read them. Could you provide a link to that?

    Sorry about that ~ that is exactly what I should have done in the beginning. Here's a link to all the Middens & Morals posts so far (and in the future). It is, however, in standard blog order, that is to say, newest first. If you look below the last post on the page, there'll be a link to older posts there (in the middle, right underneath the posts)
    DeReel said:

    I found paired virtues (prudent / reckless seems redundant with other pairs), but not a system.

    That's my bad, actually ~ seems I stopped tagging the posts appropriately at some point. D'oh! >.< I've fixed it, tho, and you can find the rest of the posts here. Sorry about that!
  • edited October 2018
    Here, I extracted a bit of data from the 100.000 characters document. Then I stopped because I realized a session of this game was probably impossible. In fact, game procedures seem obvious to you but are barely mentioned. On the other hand, at this stage, the need for abbreviations and detailed scales of trauma seem very far from obvious. As opposed to David Berg I don't suggest that you carry on like this. I think you should reconsider the way you lead this project : develop some user interface, think from the players' perspective. Else, it's not a game.
    Read this : http://www.gamesprecipice.com/category/dimensions/


    CHARACTER CREATION

    tep 1—Determine Traits: Distribute 36 points between the 18 pairs of traits
    GENEROUS (Ge)/SELFISH (Se)
    (etc.)

    Step 2—Pick Your Race:
    There are seven basic races in Galatia.

    Step 3—Pick Your Class

    Step 4—Pick Skills and Select Feats: Determine the number of skill ranks possessed by your character, based on their class and their trait.
    Determine how many feats your character receives, based on their class and level, and select them.

    Step 5—Buy Equipment: Each new character begins the game with an amount of money, based on their class, that can be spent on mundane equipment.

    Step 6—Secondary stats
    Determine secondary stats
    HP, AC, Saving throws, initiative, and attack values
    A level 1 character begins with maximum hit points for their Hit Die roll.
    Additional languages : 5 - (Lustful + Energetic + Deceitful + Worldly + Trusting + Failed Isolation) / 6 ; neglect negative results
    One otherworldly language per point of Hardened Unnatural they possess.

    Step 7- Color
    Decide on your character’s name, physical appearance.
    Pick a chivalric domain (the battlefield, the home, or the heart), and religion.



  • Or maybe let go totally: there are no procedures, players just roll according to what they feel relevant.
  • DeReel said:

    Or maybe let go totally: there are no procedures, players just roll according to what they feel relevant.

    That _is_ pretty much the mechanic. Much like, say, some versions of Cortex+ (which I'dn't read when I wrote that), the dice rolled and kept are determined by asking _why_ a character is asking. An attack in combat, frex, is likely to use Valorous and Hardened Violence, but if the character is, say, attacking a wizard who has surrendered, they might roll the same attack with Cruel and Failed Unnatural . . . .

    I understand that my writing might not be the clearest at the moment ~ I'm still in the getting my ideas out by mostly copypasta-ing from the systems I'm cribbing from stage. As I said. I was hoping for critique and commentary about the system, much like your quoted comment (and thus thank you), but comments on how I explain the system and the writing/organizing used therein are welcome, too, so far as they are specific and thus useful in moving forward.
  • It seems your writing is not that bad, if in the end I came to that conclusion. This way of using the dice goes against what I am used to, so a little note in the introduction seems necessary to me.
  • DeReel said:

    This way of using the dice goes against what I am used to, so a little note in the introduction seems necessary to me.

    That's a really useful comment. Would you mind explaining a bit how you're used to using dice, and how you see this as different? I want to make sure that the added note addresses the issue. Is it that you're used to, like, prescriptive dice combinations (an attack is ALWAYS BAB+Str+proficiency, like) or that you're used to more simulationist determinations of dice (determining the appropriate score by asking what appropriate capability or skill the character has), or something else?
  • edited October 2018
    The first case seems to be the classic way : I would use STR and/or DEX for melee, DEX and PER for ranged attack or some basis like that codified once and for all. I would then apply a bonus for "Will", "Surprise", "Non commitment" or something. This is not perfect of course, but quick and easy.

    Picking the stats before each roll adds too little depth and too much information management. You can reduce that by preparing all the numbers in advance, but the character sheet would explode. Or use only 2 stats instead of 3 for a roll. Or make stats 0-centered, so they act like +/- and the numbers are easier. All this would be user-oriented.
  • DeReel said:

    Picking the stats before each roll adds too little depth and too much information management. Or use only 2 stats instead of 3 for a roll. Or make stats 0-centered, so they act like +/- and the numbers are easier. All this would be user-oriented.

    Two stats are used in complex ways for each roll: the Virtue determines how many dice you roll and the Trauma how many you keep. Any additional stats involve flat added boni to the total which is checked against the Difficulty Class to gauge success. Because I'm using a roll-and-keep system (inspired by L5R) currently, I don't see a useful way to +/- the scores without introducing an added level of cognitive load . . . .

    I'm curious why you say it adds too little depth, though? I was hoping that this kind of design would nurture characterization, as you need to know why, not just how, your character is doing something in order to determine what you roll. And if you're having trouble deciding, the behavioral effects of the roll (trauma response and virtuous/vicious behavior) can break the tie by determining the possible directions the narrative can take. It is nowhere near as elegantly simple as Dogs in the Vineyard's system, but it is intended to entwine dice decisions with character/story decisions like that system does.

    One pitfall in the design ~ which I have recognized, but not accounted for due to the extreme earliness of the design ~ is that it can tip over into too much info management. It is 100% intended to be heavy on the info management, as each roll determines three narrative effects (whether or not you succeed, are constrained to act with/against your Virtue, and whether you freak out) and to involve an active decision by the player on how to balance the three narrative factors. I am very much not satisfied with how I explained the amount of action a roll represents in this blogpost ~ actually, I think I might be unsatisfied because I never actually posted it (I might also be forgetting which post it was) >.< A roll in Middens & Morals represents much more than a D&D roll (which is just a bit more than a single act) and somewhat less than I see in some story games (one roll can cover an entire scene). I would ideally like a meaty but not overly long combat, court scene, break-in, etc. to involve 2-4 rolls on the part of most of the participants, I'm guessing.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to frame that issue, which might help address the one you mention? Maybe I should try to develop some sort of language around fulcrum points within a scene or somesuch?
  • I hadn't understood any of this in my reading, maybe because I don't know Legend of the 5 rings, maybe because you open the post explaining rolls with a table about spell casting. What I thought I had read was various stats combinations, means and secondary stats like AC in a way that made no sense for me.

    Compare with L5R's "roll Agility + Kenjutsu, and keep your Agility". See, I can understand the pleasure of intense crunch, but high information management ? it's a burden.

    So you will have to write your game rules someday.
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