Despite the initial enthusiasm that follows every new project, the path was windy.
First step was picking a name. After lots of discussions we came up with The Fellowship. This name had all the nuances that we were looking for, and like another famous fellowship, we had to face lots of issues since the beginning.
There was one fundamental statement above all, we had to create a game that we would enjoy playing. This statement made it very easy for us to identify our niche, we were looking for people like us. We wanted to create something inspired to our favorite vintage games but, we also wanted to create something that would fit in today’s standard. So, we started simple and we laid the foundations of the game.
There were three major aspects of our game that needed attention right away:
- the combat, which in the “old system” was very crunchy but also sluggish;
- the magic, that was often either overpowered or pretty useless;
- and the skills which are the core mechanic around which the old games are built.
Starting with the latter, the skills are the sun of this solar system and pretty much everything passes through them. Being such a wired mechanic to this type of game, we decided to restore and polish the old style skill system. We reorganized them in a more logical way, trying to get rid of redundant skills and trying to make them all relevant. We distributed five skill in each main category so that the weight of the development points was more balanced. Finally, we simplified the trade-between-category method making it easy to apply and remember (link to the tutorial). Although, we opted for a straightforward method, the point distribution and trade method was the aspect on which we had the most argument. We came up with different methods, we tested them, discussed them, and we realized that the best way was to keep it simple.
If the skills system is the sun of the solar system, combat and magic are definitely the major planets. While working on the skills wasn’t too hard after all combat took us a lot of play-testing to figure out.
In combat, our priority was to make the system as fast as possible, while still maintaining a quite high level of lethality and without sacrificing the strategic component.
We soon came to a realization that one of the features that often tend to slow down combat is the initiative roll. We manage to fix this by introducing a combat phases an intuitive approaches on who goes first, such as the weapon length or the higher attack bonus. At the same time we manage to provide depth to the strategic component by providing different type of attack actions and by making mandatory to declare the order of actions for the turn (which also helps realism by getting rid of a good chunk of in-combat meta-gaming).
There was one thing that we couldn’t wrap our head around it: the stun mechanic. Due to its popularity in the critical charts, we considered this condition as one of the most important. We evaluated several options: from roll checks to overcome the condition to turn countdowns, but none of them were satisfying enough since they often led to a frustrating “stun-lock”. So we opted for a more agile binary option. Once the stun kicks in the character can either disengage and move away or can keep being engaged and parry. No matter what decision is taken the stun lasts only one round, unless another hit with a stun is landed on the character.
Finally, the last pillar of our foundation was the magic system. Our ground of work was based on three aspects:
- creating relevant spells;
- make the casting maneuvers fair and effective;
- and giving a sense of wonder and mysticism whenever the arcane arts are called in play.
While making the casting maneuvers effective was a fairly simple task, giving a sense of wonder was little bit trickier. Casting spells in Against the Darkmaster means beating the bushes around the Darkmaster. Failing a casting maneuver can spark the attention of the Darkmaster on the party, which is a great source of adventure but also fear. Another feature that plays a pivotal role in giving this sense of wonder are the spells that each magic user can have.
Creating and populating the spell lores (or spell lists) was definitely the hardest task. Making all the weaves effective, relevant, and balanced is an accomplishment that only a good old playtest can provide. We created lots of powerful spell lores avoiding useless “boiling water” spells, but is up to our players to tell us if they are well balanced in the game.
So please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and provide all the feedback that you can. We are soon opening a play-test section in our website so that we can have on place to discuss all your adventures and feeling for our creation.
That is all for today, and stay tuned for the next episode of Diary of a Kickstarter.