[PbtA] Hogwarts: An RPG (Updated: Finished Game Released!)

edited February 2019 in Directed Promotion

The finished version of the game is live! You can download the entire thing for free here. I also made the game a website, featuring the complete game rules and special PC & GM packs for easy printing.


HUGE thanks to all of you who helped me out with feedback on this project. I'm really pleased with how it turned out and I couldn't have done it without you!

Original post below:


Hi folks! I wanted to share what I've been working on of late: A Harry Potter tabletop RPG, designed with the Apocalypse Engine.

The entire game, in its current rough-draft beta form, is here for your perusal: https://bit.ly/2CeUupN

This was a bit of an impulse project – I was talking about Harry Potter with one of my regular gaming groups and we were all shocked to discover that there’s never been an official Harry Potter RPG. And then someone suggested we should make our own, and, well, here we are.

Now, I’m aware that there are a few Potterverse RPGs floating around out there. However, I found that most of them were either too caught up in minutia (course credits, monetary systems, character inventory) or too beholden to D&D-like systems with detailed rules about skills, spell effects, and combat & movement. None of these things feel like a Harry Potter story. Harry Potter stories are about waving wands to make fantastical things happen, using your wits to solve mysteries, bravely facing danger, sneaking around & finding out what the adults don’t want you to know, and standing with your friends against the darkness.

There is also at least one other Harry Potter PbtA game that I’m aware of, but I wanted to try doing it my way. I’m hoping I can take some lessons from this for future PbtA projects.

The main design “hook” of this game, as I see it, is that each character stat (and the relationship stat) represents one of the virtues of the four Hogwarts houses. So everything in the game revolves around the concepts of Bravery, Intellect, Cunning, and Loyalty. There’s also an independent stat for Magic, because in the books & films you can be a skilled witch or wizard regardless of your House affiliation.

So that’s the set up. I have four goals for this project:

1. The game should be simple enough that anyone can pick it up and start playing with no prep, including kids as young as 10.
2. The game should create stories that feel like the Harry Potter books and movies – tonally, thematically, and structurally.
3. The game should include all the stuff that Harry Potter fans love about the world – wands and fake Latin and Houses and Quidditch and patronuses and so on.
4. The game should be pretty tightly focused on students at a magical boarding school (even if there’s a lot of other stuff going on in the broader setting).

I’m happy to talk about how I attempted to fulfill those goals in more detail, if people are interested.

My specific questions are:

- How well does the current design fulfill my project goals and what can I do to make it fulfill them better?
- Is there anything important missing from the game, either mechanically, explanatorily, or setting-wise?
- Is there anything extraneous in the game?
- Do the moves make sense? Are they explained well?
- How is the short how-to-play explanation at the end? Do you feel like you could run the game based off of it?

That said, any kind of feedback or critique would be greatly appreciated.

I’ve run one playtest of this so far, which is what the how-to-play writeup is based on. I’ll post a follow-up in this thread with a summary of that session, for anyone who’s interested.

Thanks for taking the time to read & look!


  • Alright. this is nice. I will talk about the 10% of glass that is empty : the Quidditch rules. You cannot for the love of anything sacred have a "6-: nothing happens" in a PbtA game. Also, I would make the whole Quidditch game a small table making it clear that it's one roll per character per match. And maybe one extra roll if you are Harry Potter.Because the number of rolls is going to be the main resource for me if I am a player in a game like that. Consider awarding experience for pupils that face the forces of evil.
    Also : where are the booklets for the different types and their moves ?
  • I haven't read this fully yet, but I am going to be perusing it with great interest as time permits. It shows a TON of promise.

    Do I have permission to share the link with other (potentially) interested parties?
  • @DeReel – I specifically decided not to include multiple playbooks for a few reasons.

    The first is that it doesn’t “feel” very Potter to have multiple character types that function differently in the story. I’m using The Warren as a reference point. In the Warren, you’re a rabbit. That’s it. The game is about being a rabbit. In this game, you’re a student wizard, and that’s it.

    The second reason is I think multiple playbooks would complicate the game too much. My goal is to get the players into a Harry Potter style story quickly, which is easier if all the players are basically playing off the same move set.

    That said, I am considering giving each of the four Houses a special move. But I have absolutely no idea what those should be. Open to suggestions!

    With the Quidditch rules: I tried to write out the team position moves such that a player failure means things actively go well for the other team. But the “nothing happens” in the Cheer & Jeer move is no good, I see now.

    I’m curious to know more about what you mean by the number of rolls being your main resource & limiting the match to 1 roll per player. Because I was definitely envisioning playing through a “full” Quidditch match, with players rolling whenever they say their character does something on the field. Of course, something plot-relevant should always happen in the midst of a Quidditch game – it’s never “just” a match. But maybe I need to make that more explicit?

    Anyway, very much appreciate the critiques! Some definite gaps to fill.
  • @Airk – Thanks! Feel free to share with whomever you like. Do keep in mind that this game is going to go through a lot of changes going forward, though.
  • edited September 2018
    I'll add that as a caveat. :)

    Edit: Also, you should put some form of contact info in there so if people stumble across it in the wild, they have a way to get in touch and provide feedback if they want to.
  • Nice! I'm also working on a magical school based rpg, not specifically Harry Potter though but definitely inspired by (along with things like the Magicians, Bartimaeus trilogy, Jonathan Strange Mr Norrel but generally keeping with the themes of HP). It's called Thornwood: School of Magic. I agree with your criticisms of the existing Harry Potter RPG's, I noticed similar things when starting to create my RPG. Way back at the start it was a pbta game too but I did a full redesign and it's more of a hybrid between that, blades in the dark, gumshoe, and all sorts of my own ideas now.

    I'm personally not a fan of the houses they are sorted into giving them a mechanical bonus, but that's mainly because I think the game goes a lot smoother when everyone playing is in the same house and so everyone getting the same bonus is perhaps redundant. Maybe if the mechanical bonuses were more thematic than just a straight +1 to a stat, giving access to something specific. I do like having the stats be related to the houses though, and I've done something similar in my game.

    The layout is really clean and nice.

    Interesting to see that you've gone with a list of spells. It definitely would be fun to choose from the list and it's presented in a great way, for my game i've gone with a very simple freeform magic system but I'll probably include some example spells.

    "If another student teaches you a spell, you must successfully roll to learn something and they must successfully roll to aid someone" This doubling up on the roll doesn't feel very PbtA to me, what happens if one player successfully learns but the other play fails to aid? I think one or the other would be fine.

    I like the luck mechanic.

    Resting in your dorm heals you faster than Recuperating in the hospital wing? 24 hours vs 16 hours. It's not clear what "up to 2 harm" means. Can I spend 16 hours in the dorm to clear 2 harm, leave for 1 minute (so the hours are no longer consecutive) and then come back and clear 2 more harm the next 16 hours? It's unclear when the 2 harm limit resets or if its meant to at all.

    It's unclear to me also how the conversation is meant to go for the quidditch rules. I'm not really sure how I'd run a match using those rules.

    Is the NPC points meant to be a chart you roll on to find out the total number of points each house got independent of the players? I was wondering how you would determine that the players won the house cup, cos it isn't really spelled out anywhere but I suppose that is it. I like the idea of a mechanical benefit for winning the house cup, makes the players invested in gaining/losing house points.

    Looking pretty slick so far, can't say there was anything that really stood out to me but it looks like a good start for a PbtA harry potter.

    My rules aren't as well laid out as yours yet but if anyone is interested in them I can PM them to you.
  • I think this looks neat, DBB.

    This isn't an in-depth critique, just a couple of things that jumped out at me:

    1) I don't think there's enough in the character generation to end up with distinct characters. True, people can distinguish based on personality, but there's not even a section to tell people to think about that. If you want interesting group dynamics like in the books, then you will want to direct the players to think about this. Maybe this could be done with some kind of Aspect add-on. So one person is "Fated, famous boy wizard". One is "Know-it-all". One is "Overlooked impoverished middle child". One is "Weird girl from odd family". I dunno, it just seems like there's a hole here.

    2) Maybe there should be a mechanical distinction for different backgrounds? Muggle-born get +2 to Muggle Studies rolls, Pure-bloods get something else.

    3) Luck getting you an automatic 10+ seems pretty powerful. Guess it depends on how long a season is, and how many important rolls are likely to come up.

    4) Speaking of which, the Quidditch rules don't really work for me. A large part of that is that you're saddled with what's honestly a pretty ridiculous game to model, especially if you really want the play-by-play of individual maneuvers. I'd recommend either dealing with the thing more abstractly as a single big conflict roll or... something else. I dunno. As it stands, I don't see any reason why the Seeker player wouldn't immediately make the Catch the Golden Snitch move, spend a point of luck (or get the Announcer to goose their roll) and wrap up the game in ten seconds. I know PbtA doesn't really do opposed rolls, but there's nothing in here to be able to play out a rivalry vs. an enemy Seeker, for example.
    Again, I think Quidditch in the books is nonsensical, so maybe there's no way to translate that into an RPG and get beyond that.

    5) Are there any spells that form kind of a freshman-year basic set? I'm thinking Lumos and Accio at least? It doesn't seem to fit the canon to be in a group where only one person knows how to light up their wand. Or maybe the idea is to play through that learning?

    6) In the "Ask Some Questions" section, it seems to me that a big question that needs answering is whether this game is going to take place in a universe where all of the Harry Potter books have also happened, or are happening. Or whether this is a fresh copy without all of that. Particularly if you want this to be accessible to children, you'll very quickly get players wanting to go talk to Harry, or Dumbledore, or Hagrid. Are they around? It could be that's a different decision for each group rather than something the game dictates, but it ought to be addressed up front.

    I feel like there's a good core here, and I share your belief that a PbtA type system is going to be better at producing the kind of fiction you want rather than something that's very detail-oriented with skills, spells and the like.

    It might be a bigger change than you want, but you could consider dropping Harm altogether and replace it with something more like the Conditions in MASKS, another PbtA game. In the books any sort of physical harm is generally temporary and healed at the speed that the plot requires. But emotional states are very real and really drive the plot. Half of the events in the books happen because someone is Angry, or Insecure, or Suspicious and therefore does something stupid. It'd be nice if your game captured that side of things.
  • @rhysmakesthings – Cool! Seems like we’re working on parallel projects, though I’d wager yours has more breadth and depth to it. Feel free to use anything I’ve done if it strikes your fancy. I’d love to take a look at the Thornwood rules, too! Obviously I wouldn’t use anything without your explicit permission.

    Regarding the House stat bonuses – my line of thought is it represents a character’s natural inclination towards a specific virtue (which would be the reason they were sorted into that House). So a Gryffindor should naturally be a little braver, a Ravenclaw a little smarter, etc. I specifically want the game to work with PCs spread amongst multiple Houses, which makes the bonus more useful. I’m in the middle of a multiple-House playtest, so we’ll see how it goes. Definitely open to other suggestions for House bonuses, though!

    Good call on the spell learning rule; I’ll simplify that.

    With the resting, I should clarify that it only restores the first 2 Harm, representing minor injuries. If you’ve taken more than 2, it shouldn’t restore. I also don’t see the 16-hours-and-1-minute thing as a cheat, but you’d definitely get in trouble for staying in your dorm for 16 hours and missing all your classes. I should add that to the move as well.

    It seems like the Quidditch rules are the weakest part of the design. I’m envisioning a Quidditch match working similar to a bout in World Wide Wrestling (which is why I stole the Announcer move from there). But I may need to do a complete rewrite to achieve that.

    You’ve got it exactly right with the House Cup. Presumably everyone else in the school is winning and losing points off-screen, so you roll at the end of the year and add all the points the PCs have accumulated in play. Does this need more explanation in the actual game docs?

    Thanks for the comments! These were all really useful, and it’s great to hear from someone who’s already been thinking about this stuff for a while.
  • @DaveC – Good callout about the personality/aspect info. I’d been assuming that players would do that automatically, but formalizing it in character creation is a good idea.

    Definitely interested in mechanical functions for backgrounds, but I’ve been totally stumped on what they should be. I’m don’t want to make too many things roll bonuses. Open to suggestions.

    Luck is super powerful, for sure. I’m cribbing the Monster of the Week rules for this, but it hasn’t come up in playtesting yet. Worth keeping an eye on.

    The Quidditch rules, as mentioned elsewhere, are clearly the weakest part of the game. I probably need to rewrite from scratch. All of your points here are valid.

    For spells, right now you get one from each category to start and then learn through play & advancement. If it goes weird in playtesting I’ll change it.

    It actually never occurred to me that players wouldn’t want the game to take place in the same continuity as the books & movies. My playtest group decided to set their story in the present day, and already made McGonagall the headmaster and the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher a Lestrange. I did have a partially completed “characters you might encounter” list, but scrapped it for space. Is it worth restoring that? Or should I just add a note somewhere?

    I’ll have to take a closer look at the Masks Conditions – I was mostly looking at it for moves & MC stuff when designing this. I’d like Harm to broadly encompass physical & psychological damage, but I’m not sure if that will work in practice. To be fair, characters in the books/films do get badly injured on a regular basis, though I like where you’re going with the emotional states. Maybe there’s a way to do both?

    Thanks for the critiques! A lot of very incisive and useful points.
  • You might want to do a search for "Monsterwarts" on this forum. Avery actually posted a nice set of experience triggers there for the houses: the house you're in gives you an additional way to earn experience, which would fulfill your criteria very nicely.

    (You could potentially use a similar technique for backgrounds. I agree that you're dangerously close to over-stacking bonuses as it is, in my opinion - not. Good thing to do with PbtA design, generally speaking.)
  • edited September 2018
    When I read "1 XP per year OR per failure", a big "reward" flashing neon sign appeared in the sky. Rolling a lot is a way of getting some XP with little consequences. If you add "facing the forces of evil" as a source of XP, chances are that the consequences won't be simply "losing a flying ball game".

    I mentioned the booklets because I like special moves like the Quarantine's. Effects add quality to harm's quantity. I feel you could get a lot of what we're aiming at with these remarks (special moves and effects) from "loyalty". It's about the meaning driving the fiction.

    As a side note, if I pass the game to my kids, I will add the micro challenge that casting a spell requires the player saying the formula right with the same conditions as in the fiction (reading it or fast-casting it). Mispronunciation will result in side effects.
  • Quick drop-in.

    I suppose the truly PbtA way to distinguish Houses and Backgrounds would be to give them custom moves. You'd have access only to the custom moves that match your character.

    Fer instance:

    When you Straightforwardly Confront a Dangerous Situation, roll +Bravery ...

    When you Comfort a Friend or an Enemy, roll +Loyalty...

  • It'd good omen when people want to write your story / game for you ;) it means it inspires them.
  • edited September 2018
    You cannot for the love of anything sacred have a "6-: nothing happens" in a PbtA game.
    Isn't there a "nothing happens" on a failure in AW? I think it's the move "an arresting skinner". It's one of the skinner moves, anyway.

    (Not saying it's a goof thing, but it's not without precedent.)
  • Here, I found the thread for you. You might find it helpful or interesting!
    What about House-specific ways to earn xp?

    Gryffindor= doing something courageous or daring
    Ravenclaw= utilizing knowledge
    Slytherin= resourcefulness or cunning
    Hufflepuff= patience or loyalty
    Gryffindor = When you put others at risk to pursue an ideal.
    Ravenclaw = When you use intellect to silence others.
    Slytherin = When you lie, cheat, or steal.
    Hufflepuff = When you let others use you.

  • Thanks, @Paul_T! I’ll give this a read. I definitely like the idea of integrating the “dark side” of a House’s virtue into the game, and using it as an XP trigger is very clever. Going to muse on this for a bit.

    For bonuses, I figure you should never be able to get more than +4 from all possible stats & bonuses in a PbtA game, because otherwise you can literally never fail (the lowest roll is a 2, so if you have a stat of 3 from advancement and more than a single bonus point from elsewhere, your 2s all automatically turn into 7s). This tracks, right?
    edited September 2018
    It'd good omen when people want to write your story / game for you ;) it means it inspires them.

    I see what you mean about the reward issue now. I don’t have a problem with allowing players lots of opportunities for XP, as I expect people will frequently take the “learn a new spell” advancement, which they can do dozens of times. But I agree that allowing too many low-stakes opportunities to “farm” experience points cheapens the narrative stakes.

    Also very much in favor of this pronunciation mini-challenge. I’ll add a snarky note to the rules.
  • @DaveC – I see where you’re going with the custom moves and I like it.

    I did go back and take a look at the Conditions in Masks, and I really like how those work. I’d like to try a version of the Hogwarts game that keeps the current Harm rules intact for physical injuries but adds a small number of Conditions (maybe 3 – 1 for each non-Magic stat?) for mental/emotional effects. Does it seem like that would work or does it add too much “stuff” to the game?
  • It could be just because I'm currently enamored with Masks, but I still favor dropping the physical Harm entirely as a mechanic, leaving it only as a tool for fictional positioning. You can still narrate someone having the bones in their arm turn into jelly, but it's up to the GM and players to decide whether that means the person can't fly a broomstick or whatever.

    The thing that I really like about the Conditions in Masks is that they drive play in a couple of different ways at the same time. First, you've got adjectives applied to your character that you can just use for straight roleplaying. You're feeling Hopeless, so you can roleplay that out in your decisions. Second, there's a mechanical penalty to a single Move for each Condition. You're less effective at a particular thing if you're suffering from this particular mindset. Third, there are specific player Moves to support your teammates and thereby remove Conditions -- and if you roll well enough, you can knock off one of your own as well. Sometimes the best way to stop being Afraid is to try to buck up someone else.

    Finally, and I think this is the part that applies best to your game, is that each Condition has an action that you can take to clear it on your own, and these actions drive the game forward. To clear Angry, you "hurt someone or break something important". To clear Insecure, you "take a foolhardy action without talking to your team". This seems to be to be precisely on point to fit the Hogwarts fiction, although you'd probably want to pick different actions. Perhaps "To clear Rebellious, withhold important information from a trusted authority figure", or the like. It's a way to have the players do the kind of sub-optimal things that the characters in the book do while giving them a rule to point to that justifies it.

    Next to all of that having what's basically a hit point system seems kind of flavorless to me. Especially since healing physical injuries in the book is all over the map, mechanically. Sometimes it's a simple wand swipe to cure a near fatal injury, sometimes it's a week of bed rest to get over a bump on the head. Sometimes it's years of incarceration to try to treat a magical malady.

  • Agreed, for what it's worth.

    (But I also don't even think those rules are well-suited for Apocalypse World, Monsterhearts, or other PbtA, so I'm coming from a particular position to begin with.)

    A "hit points"-like system is very un-Harry Potter to me.
  • edited September 2018
    I could even see some application of that...

    To heal, Your injury requires:

    * Powerful or unusual magic
    * A rare, hard to find ingredient or formula
    * Extended bed rest
    * The love of another

    Some kind of rule determines which of the above is necessary - maybe a really bad injury requires 2, 3, or all 4!

    It also determines whether you know which it is or not.

    Finally, you know whether it's needed only once or will be required long-term.

    You're in the hospital and you're fading away, and all the rare Nosebleed Lillies and witches and wizards helping you stay alive aren't helping, but your crush comes to visit and kisses you on the cheek... and you're on your way to recovery.

  • Hm. I’m having a tough time with this, because you guys have certainly convinced me that a Conditions system is a good match for the fiction. The back-and-forth of gaining and clearing Conditions based on roleplaying really does support the kind of Potter-style story I want this game to generate. And the way that the mechanics, the storytelling, and the roleplaying interact seems decidedly elegant. But I still have reservations.

    There first is that I’m concerned that dropping an HP-style system altogether will confuse new players. Everybody gets hit points – they’re in the majority of video games and mainstream RPGs already. Even the current setup, with just 7 points, will be a stretch for some people. I don’t want someone picking up the game and immediately going, “I don’t get this. There’s no way to get hurt so there’s no danger or challenge.” (Which is obviously incorrect, but I’m considering impressions, not actualities.)

    The second is that I don’t think younger players will be interested in the Conditions system the way we are. For them, the game is going to be much more about the wish fulfillment of running around a magical boarding school with wands and the challenge of overcoming the forces of darkness. I don’t want to interfere with that style of play by forcing them into a Monsterhearts-style game about emotional turmoil and interpersonal conflict (As much as I‘d like to ensure that style of play is viable for older players).

    So I don’t know. I think I’m going to have to run the game for a bit with the Harm system, then for a bit with the Conditions system, and see how it plays and how players like it. That seems like the only way to really figure out which I’d prefer to codify into the game rules. But I’m definitely interested in trying it out!
    edited September 2018
    Okay, I’ve revised the Quidditch rules down to two moves. Playing a Quidditch match is now all about passing narrative control from player to player, while the GM gets control over when the match ends by saying when the Snitch appears.

    The moves are:
    Play a Quidditch Match

    When you play a Quidditch match, pick one of the following positions: Beater, Chaser, Keeper, Seeker, Announcer, or Fan.

    The Narrator will pick a player to start with control of the match (usually the player with the least Experience currently marked). When you have control of the Quidditch match, you get to say what happens on the pitch.

    Describe the match up until your team is about to score, then roll

    +Bravery if your team scores by making a daring play.
    +Intellect if your team scores by playing tactically, roll +Intellect.
    +Cunning if your team scores by playing dirty.
    +your Loyalty to a teammate if you help your team score by supporting that teammate.

    On a 10+, your team scores for 10 points and you keep control of the match!
    On a 7-9, pick one:
    Your team scores for 10 points and you pass control of the match to the player to your left.
    Your team misses the goal, but you keep control of the match.
    On a 6-, mark a point of Experience. Your team fails to score and the Narrator describes how:
    The other team scores for 10 points.
    You take Harm in the attempt.
    Then, you pass control of the match to the player to your left.
    Catch the Golden Snitch

    At some point during the match, the Narrator will announce that one of the Seekers has spotted the Golden Snitch. If you are your team’s Seeker, you gain narrative control of the match.

    Describe the match up until you're about to catch the Golden Snitch, then roll

    +Bravery if you make a daring maneuver to catch the Snitch.
    +Intellect if you outwit the other Seeker to catch the Snitch.
    +Cunning if you sabotage the other Seeker to catch the Snitch.
    +your Loyalty to a teammate if that teammate helps you catch the Snitch.

    On a 10+, you do it! You catch the Golden Snitch and end the match, giving your team 150 points.
    On a 7-9, you're not able to catch the Golden Snitch, but neither is the other team’s Seeker. The Narrator hands control of the match to another player.
    On a 6-, mark a point of Experience. You fail to catch the Golden Snitch and the Narrator describes how:
    You take Harm in the attempt.
    The other Seeker catches the Snitch and ends the match, giving the other team 150 points.
    If the match is still going, the Narrator passes control of the match to another player.
    Obviously, heavy influence/theft from World Wide Wrestling here. I’m also thinking that there should be a Quidditch Sheet with the moves, the in-fiction rules, and team rosters. This would get physically passed from player to player when they passed narrative control.

  • I hear you on the hit points. Trying it out seems like the best way to go. I do think that designing a game for 10 year olds vs. designing a game for adults, especially adults with gaming experience, is a challenge. After all, different people get different things out of the books too. So let us know how the trials go.

    I like these new Quidditch rules much better. I really like the GM controlling the timing of the Snitch arrival as a way of setting the length of the game. A couple of questions, though.

    - Does this assume that all of the players are playing on the same team? Passing control to the player on your left is a huge difference if it's just switching who gets to narrate and roll dice, versus switching which team gets to score points.

    - Rolling a 7 or above on 2d6 is around a 60%. If you're using an attribute you've got a +1 in (and why wouldn't you) then it's around 72%. So that's the percentage for getting 10 points when you've got control. If all of the PC's are on the same team then it seems like you're going to have that team score 3/4 of the points, no matter who they're playing, until the Snitch comes out.
    That could be what you want, fictionally. But it effectively rules out the come-from-behind victories that you see in the books. Maybe this only works if you have two players, one on each team?

    I think the thing you're running up against here is that you're simulating a sort of balanced back and forth 2-sided competition in a system where one of the principles is that the GM, who normally plays the opposition, doesn't roll.

    Maybe on a 7-9 nobody scores, but you do one of those Apocalypse World Hobson's Choice things:
    On a 7-9, pick one:
    - One of your Chasers gets hit by a Bludger! Take -1 on your team's next roll
    - Your Keeper is out of position! Take -1 on your team's next roll
    - One of your Beaters is distracted by the crowd! Take -1 on your team's next roll
    - One of your players is injured! Substitute in one of your backups. If you don't have any, you forfeit the match. (Is this even a thing in the books? I don't remember.)

    So it's all bad stuff, but gives you a little something to narrate about. Scores only happen on 10+ (for you) or 6- (for the enemy team). Given that you're adding in an ability score when you roll, it should balance out the general negative tilt of the field here. The general flow would be a series of adverse events, punctuated by occasional scores despite the setbacks.

    With this system you'd just pass the dice every turn, regardless of the outcome, so everybody gets to play.

    Also, looking at the new rules makes me wonder again whether just making Loyalty a fourth stat throughout the game might not be a good idea. You'd treat it the same as everything else instead of using it as the Strings/Hx thing. But that's a pretty big change from what you've got going so far.
  • All of that makes a lot of sense, especially when you lay out the math like that. I like the idea that you only actually score on a 10+, with the 7-9s all being things that go wrong (but not so wrong that the other team scores). Can I use some of your suggestions verbatim?

    I’m hoping there’s some way to get this to work equally well when all the players are on one team AND all on different teams. But the problem you cite about simulating a symmetrical game inside an asymmetrical game is a big problem, for sure.

    I’ve been going back and forth about Loyalty as a regular stat vs a relationship stat the whole time I’ve been doing this. I think in my gut I want it to be a regular stat, but it also feels *wrong* to have a PbtA game without a relationship mechanic. My latest thought: What if Loyalty is a regular stat and instead of giving other characters a score you can mark them as a “friend” or “rival”, which gives you +1 to Loyalty rolls involving them?
  • Please feel free to take anything you like; I'm enjoying the kibitzing.

    I agree with you that there should still be some mechanism to tie together characters. It wouldn't feel like a PbtA game without it, and it definitely reflects the books. I think that your idea of simply naming people as Friends or Rivals works just fine. Maybe you pick a certain number of friends and rivals depending on your House?

    Hufflepuff: 3 friends
    Gryffindor: 2 friends, 1 rival
    Ravenclaw: 1 friend, 2 rivals
    Slytherin: 3 rivals

    The the rule can simply be "Take +1 on any roll involving a Friend or Rival".

  • You might want to do a search for "Monsterwarts" on this forum. Avery actually posted a nice set of experience triggers there for the houses: the house you're in gives you an additional way to earn experience, which would fulfill your criteria very nicely.

    (You could potentially use a similar technique for backgrounds. I agree that you're dangerously close to over-stacking bonuses as it is, in my opinion - not. Good thing to do with PbtA design, generally speaking.)
    I wrote quite a bit of that book and compiled it.

  • Oh, fantastic! This is incredibly useful. I’m doing something slightly different (more adventure & mystery, less teen drama), but would it be okay to use elements from this as inspiration?

    @DaveC – Yeah, that rule makes sense to me. I like the idea of picking a different number of friends & rivals as a House move, so maybe that’s where that will end up. Thanks!!

  • 2. The game should create stories that feel like the Harry Potter books and movies – tonally, thematically, and structurally.
    3. The game should include all the stuff that Harry Potter fans love about the world – wands and fake Latin and Houses and Quidditch and patronuses and so on.
    I think these two are fundamentally at odds. Because how do Harry Potter books work structurally? - They will show you some new piece of magic at the beginning of the book, which will be used in the final showdown either by the protagonists or by the bad guys.

    What did they use in the first book to solve all the riddles? Alohomora, broom riding, herbology etc. By starting out with a defined spell list, you basically shoot down the structure that made Harry Potter work. That is also the reason there is no Harry Dresden PbtA. There is Urban Shadows of course which is very much like the Dresden Files structurally, thematically and tonally, but it doesn't get hung up on its minutiae.

    But, let's talk theme. What are the themes in Harry Potter? Parental abuse, poverty, prejudice/racism, sibling rivalry, monastic problems, bad authority figures. Most of those are shown by specific characters. So yeah, do have playbooks. PbtA playbooks are about themes. Harry, Hermione, Ron, Draco, Neville, Luna, Cho, the Patil twins, they make great playbooks. They are not all just wizards. Actually, them being wizards doesn't even matter.

    OK. Moves. Moves are a way to encode typical elements into a handy format. So, for one thing, it's a school. I'd expect something about lessons and or teachers there. Then, Hogwarts is a big and myterious place. So something about living a magic castle. The Hogwarts system is terribly competitive: House points! The characters regularly engage in the Wizards' version of pop culture.

    Oh, and you can bin the Rest move. You didn't want to do D&D after all.
  • You make a good point about playbooks. I’d been thinking the only way to do them would be for each House to have a playbook, which I explicitly don’t want. But basing them on specific characters from the books/movies is smart.

    I think we have a difference of opinion on how these stories are structured, though. I see the structure being less about learning new magic and having it pay off later and more about progressively unraveling a mystery. The spells are just plot devices, not structural components. (You can tell this because you can swap them around and the story remains the same – getting past a 3-headed dog with a music spell isn’t fundamentally different than getting past it with, say, an invisibility spell.)

    The way I see it, the structure is:

    1. The protagonists see or experience a series of strange events which raise a bunch of questions (What was the object of the robbery at Gringotts? Who is Nicholas Flamel? Where was Snape during the troll attack?)
    2. The characters try to answer their questions, get into tremendous trouble, and arrive at an incorrect conclusion about what’s going on (Snape is trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone for himself).
    3. Finally, the characters find the final piece of information that reveals what’s *really* happening (Quirrell is trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone for Voldemort).

    That structure doesn’t interfere with all the cool setting trappings that people love – in fact, it enhances them because the familiar elements can be applied to the familiar structure in new and fun ways.

    As for the moves, they’re designed to focus player behavior and attention. Sitting in class is the least interesting part of the Hogwarts experience, so it doesn’t get a move. There are lots of ways to interact with a magic castle, so those ideas are split across several moves. And House Points are awarded and deducted by teachers, so that’s a GM move. In general, I want the smallest set of moves possible, so as not to overload young or new players.

    I’m also not entirely convinced by the rest move. Any alternate ideas for mechanisms to recover harm?
  • Something I've played with for resting / hospital wing type stuff in my game is making multiple different actions that are different to but just as useful as the ones that you can take outside of that context. This makes getting injured and spending time resting the hospital wing not just a "you're out of the game for a bit" experience, but a narrative generating experience in and of itself. Something like

    When you spend time recovering in the hospital wing choose one:
    - You overhear something you weren't meant to
    - Someone unexpected visits you with some advice, guidance, or a threat
    - Your friends visit you with gifts and get well soon cards, someone gets you something extra special.
  • Oh! I really like that. Using a recuperation move to do the mechanical HP restoration but also skewing/forwarding the narrative. That’s very clever.
  • It seems to me that all healing/resting tends to come down to your relationships with others in the Harry Potter universe, with maybe an occasional moment of investigation and discovery.
  • Hey folks! I wanted to let you all know that I’ll be taking Hogwarts: An RPG to Metatopia 2018 for playtesting. If you’re going and you have any interest in trying the game, please sign up for a session! I believe the full convention schedule releases this Sunday, the 28th.

    I also wanted to post a link to the current version of the game: https://bit.ly/2CeUupN

    I’ve been playtesting with a rotating group for the past two months, and the current game is pretty different than the version I initially shared here. Some of the biggest changes:

    • I added a Conditions system, borrowed from Masks. This is now my playtesters’ favorite part of the game; everyone loves the push and pull of getting emotional Conditions on a failed roll and narratively clearing them.
    • I reconfigured the Mysteries system to be closer to the questions system in Simon Pettersson’s Nerves of Steel. Everyone at the table now participates in generating and crossing off Mystery questions. The players loved this and it helped direct the story tremendously.
    • I scrapped the Quidditch rules (Still working on new ones)
    • I completely rewrote the How to Play section, with a focus on simplifying the language, adding more examples, and describing the game as it’s actually played at a table.
    • I redid the way spells were organized; they’re now broken down by Year and much easier for players to choose.
    • I adjusted the amount of Luck players have, but added more ways to replenish it.
    • I tweaked a number of things about character creation. Backgrounds (now called heritages) give different mixes of starting spells & XP. Houses are picked either by a random roll or by looking at a character’s highest stat.
    • I redid the relationship system. Loyalty (the relationship stat) is now a standard stat, added to rolls involving characters marked as Friends or Rivals.

    There are a number of other changes as well, including move names and options, text phrasing, and the layout of the various player & GM sheets. I’d love to get some feedback on the changes, or just your impressions of the game as it currently stands. I’m deeply grateful for everyone who commented previously – your thoughts & advice have been incredibly helpful in getting the game this far.
  • From a Harry Potter fan:
    I scrapped the Quidditch rules
    (Still working on new ones)
    If you must...
  • Ooh, I'll be at Metatopia. This looks interesting.
  • I won't have time to go through this in detail for a little while, but I wanted to say that from your summary of changes and a quick scan this looks fantastic. I'm really glad that you made Loyalty a full stat, associated with Hufflepuff, and I like the idea of having Magic be a fifth House-neutral stat.

    And of course I'm a big fan of the Conditions system. I'm very glad to hear that using it resonates with your players.

    On a meta-level, kudos on taking the discussion here and implementing changes in an ego-less way while maintaining your vision of what the game is. That's a tricky thing to do.

    Best of luck at Metatopia.
    edited October 2018
    Thanks, @DaveC ! I figure there’s no point in asking for feedback if you’re not going to integrate feedback, right? :) I’ve really appreciated your comments & suggestions!

    @Guy Srinivasan lol
  • Hey folks! I'm super-excited to announce that the finished version of the game is live!


    You can download the entire thing for free here. I also made the game a website, featuring the complete game rules and special PC & GM packs for easy printing.

    HUGE thanks to all of you who helped me out with feedback on this project. I'm really pleased with how it turned out and I couldn't have done it without you!

    I’m going to be running the game at Dreamation this weekend, from Thursday the 21st – Sunday the 24th, so if you’re planning to attend, please come say hi or join a session.

    Also, please feel free to share the game far & wide. And if you play a session, let me know – I'd love to hear how it went!
  • Congratulations! Looking forward to trying it out!
  • Dear DBB, do you have any suggestions for how to run a one-shot using these rules?
  • Hey @DannyK! Good question. I’ve run this successfully as both a one-shot and as a multi-session story.

    For a one shot, you can start by following the First Session procedures outlined in the How to Play rules. However, there are a few steps you can leave out or plan in advance:

    Everything in “2. Ask Some Questions” can be done before you get to the table. You’ll probably want to pre-plan when and where the story begins. Make sure you have an unexpected event planned for the first scene! I also prefer to have everyone in a one-shot be in the same Year & House (let the players decide which House, though).

    If you’re *really* pressed for time, you can pre-make characters for the group, but I don’t recommend it. Character creation only takes about 20 minutes and players are always more invested in characters they’ve built themselves. You can shorten the process by skipping step 11, “Who Are Your Friends?”. Have each player list the players to their left & right as Friends instead.

    In a one-shot it’s usually not useful to log Mystery questions. Instead, come up with a single Threat before the session. Then, write down a few Mysteries that would lead the characters to confront the Threat. The one-shot is about how the characters investigate the Mysteries and overcome the Threat. Use your Narrator moves and failed rolls to create all the twists and turns that happen along the way.

    Hope that helps!
  • Wow!

    I finally got a chance to look through this.

    This is - and I don't say this lightly! - a really, truly remarkable piece of work.

    The website, the graphic design, the writing, and the game design all look extremely high-quality.

    I'm not even really a Harry Potter fan, and I'm still tempted to play this.

    Well done! One of the finest game products I've seen in a while.
  • I'm running it tomorrow!
  • Thank you so much, @Paul_T! That really means a lot. And I’m super grateful for your feedback & comments during the design process!
  • Well done! As others have said, the layout and visual design here is really great.
  • This looks really, really great, David. Congratulations on seeing the project through, and I'm happy to have played a very small part in nudging it forward.

    I happen to have a pair of 10 year olds who have just finished reading the last book of the Potter series. This may very well be their first introduction to a real tabletop RPG. If we give it a shot, I'll let you know how it goes.
  • Really lovely looking game! Short, sweet, and simple. Great work!
  • I can't wait to try this out, looks great!
    I like the random tables for character creation.
    A well thought-out design.
  • AP report: In short, it's a very slick design, easy to run in a way that feels exactly like it should. I think it definitely tweaked my natural GMing instincts in the right way by reminding me to embrace whimsy, which I sometimes struggle with. The thing where everyone said one thing they wanted to see happen, and then we all worked together to make it happen, was A W E S O M E. (The most dramatic and hilarious was, "I want someone to steal the Sorting Hat and put it on a pig." The pig was Sorted into Slytherin.)

    We set the game in the 1950's and the plot, such as it was, revolved around people trying to kill / protect Grindelwald's secret son, Lukas, a Durmstrang transfer student. There were 4 PCs, all third years, two Gryffindors and two Hufflepuffs who hung out together.

    Getting a full, coherent-ish story including chargen out of ~2.5 hours of play is no mean feat, even with someone running who has a lot of PbtA experience. I'd have trouble doing that with AW, DW, or MH, for example.

    The Conditions and House Points were fun and worked well. Friendship / Rivalry as well; Favorite Class didn't come up as much but seems fine. Luck is great.

    I'm still dubious of the blow-by-blow nature of the Quidditch rules, but we didn't test them because one of my players vetoed any detailed Quidditch games (even not knowing about the subsystem).

    There is one specific thing that bothered us, though: Magic feels too important as a Trait. It's rolled for way too many things. Anyone trying to optimize at all should always just put their +2 into Magic, and if a game has an easy choice like that, it probably means something needs to change.

    Our initial suggestion: get rid of it entirely. Make the four different types of magic rolled off of each of the four Traits. Offense = Bravery, Defense / Healing = Loyalty, Charms / Enchantments = Empathy, Potions / Magic Item nonsense = Intellect. Or something.

    Backup suggestion: Have six magic stats, separate from the main Traits, one for each of Charm, Healing, Curse, Hex, Defense, and Transfiguration. (Leave Potions as Intellect, and if someone is dumb / evil / deranged enough to use an Unforgiveable Curse, I wouldn't call for a roll, just say what happens and inflict a Consequence, which is sort of what the rules imply anyway?)

    Here's the nice thing about six: 4 choose 2 = 6, so you could just make each magic stat the average of two other Traits, thus not requiring any more actual point allocation on the part of the players. So for example Charm = (Empathy + Bravery) / 2.

    This change would help a great deal with character differentiation, which the game badly needs. I 100% am on board with no playbooks, but with only one Magic stat, the characters felt a bit samey.

    This all might mess with Favorite Class, but the game doesn't really need that mechanic—Favorite (or Most Hated!) Class feels more like Homeroom from Monsterhearts, where it provides a natural starting point for some scenes. There are enough other ways to get +1's, and +1's frankly just aren't that interesting. If you do keep Favorite Class in permanently, I'd actually suggest it granting a bonus die, akin to 5E's Advantage mechanic, rather than another +1.
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