DEATHROLL is a science-fantasy RPG that invites its players to try-out new ways to play, new ways to write, and new roles to take on. This is because every story told in the apocalyptic world of Arcadia is finite. Meaning, every setting, every character -- even the GM -- are all meant to be experienced just a single time.
DEATHROLL is a game that empowers its players to take on the role of the GM. It is my belief that most players who never try playing as the GM aren't disinterested in the role, but overwhelmed by it. DEATHROLL aims to change this.
- Games can be short “one-offs” (referred to as Tales) that can be ready to play in as short as an hour.
- A small list of 3 primary, PbtA inspired "moves", make running the game incredibly streamlined.
- Settings (referred to as Adventures or Tales) are created using a step-by-step process called Adventure Creation.
- Each segment (or Act) of an Adventure is created one at a time, allowing the GM to focus on a smaller portion of the larger story without having to consider the entire arc.
Instead of just creating a ruleset of how to play, DEATHROLL also creates a ruleset of how to write.
If you have never attempted to run an RPG, learning from a guide can be a daunting feat. Though running a game is complex, it has been meticulously unpacked and demystified to great extents in other games.
However, the problem as I see it does not lie in the running of a game, but the writing of the setting. Attempting to both properly design and creatively write a setting for the players to enjoy keeps many from ever touching the role of GM.
This is where a process called Adventure Creation comes in.
For both GMs who are completely new to the role, as well as those that have been running games for decades; Adventure Creation supplies a new way to think about the very first and most important part of being the GM – designing the setting.
During Adventure Creation a GM will create:
- Acts: Individual segments of an Adventure (based on the three-act narrative structure).
- Major Conflicts: Each Act's individual conflict that must be resolved before players can progress.
- Villains: The antagonists responsible for an Act's Major Conflict.
- Encounters: Challenges that involve a specific person(s), obstacle, or event.
- Grand Scheme: The primary conflict of the entire Adventure and the cause of all the other Major Conflicts.
- Archvillain: The dastardly mastermind behind the Grand Scheme and the main villain of the setting.
Entire Adventures like this are created in segments, only adding additional Acts after prior ones have been completed. This allows the GM to:
- Focus on the creation of the individual Acts without having to worry about the overall arc of the entire story.
- Begin new games and create original settings much faster.
- Develop the next major portion of the story based on the player's choices they made during the prior Act.
Through Encounter Creation, the setting you have written will become both playable and challenging. Designing a setting to both be a fun challenge while remaining fair to the players can be difficult, even for veteran GMs.
Encounter Creation simplifies this design process by:
- Centering each Encounter a GM adds around a single Focus: either a specific person(s), obstacle, or event.
- Asking the GM to determine the types of Threats their Encounters will contain: NPCs, Puzzles, Creatures, Weather, and more.
- Having the GM establish the Encounter's Difficulty Rating, narrowing down what is key to the Encounter and why.
The player characters that you will be controlling are referred to as Survivors, poor souls who have lived through an apocalyptic event known as The Great Downfall. Times are tough now sure, but as the players will discover from creating these Survivors, Arcadia has not been a kind place for some time now.
Survivors are created rapidly, with familiarity of the creation process allowing the player to create a new character in under 20 minutes.
This is made possible due to every Survivor’s background being fleshed out as they are being generated. Assembled through Life Events the player rolls, the Survivor will develop all the way from adolescence to the time of The Great Downfall itself.
Survivors in DEATHROLL are class-based, using PbtA inspired class-specific “moves” (referred to as Talents), each of which are linked to one of 46 different Skills.
Unlike traditional PbtA systems, each Talent in DEATHROLL can be acquired by any other class, so long as that Survivor has Mastery over the Skill the Talent is linked to. Skills, used in conjunction with Abilities (like in D6 systems) are also class-based, but also accessible by any other class, either by experiencing a particular Life Event during Survivor Creation, or through Skill Progression (our equivalent of leveling).
Survivors are also constructed with:
- Races: Either Human or Azani, race dictates initial benefits and disadvantages, as well as a unique benefit that passively assists the Survivor.
- Wealth Statuses: Your Survivor’s social class and access to wealth prior to The Great Downfall. Higher Wealth Statuses offer better Gear Packages (an initial reward of useful items) before play begins.
- Motivators: A strong drive that compels the Survivor to act, often times irrationally.
DEATHROLL uses a mishmash of D6 and PbtA systems you may be familiar with, but with an added layer of flexibility. In most cases, both the GM and the player engage with the same system, not two separate ones created specifically for each role. This allows for a much clearer view into what everyone at the table is capable of, allowing for more clarity on how the rules are meant to be used by everyone (including the GM).
- Action Resolution by Contest: All Actions are resolved through a Contest between two players (a Survivor and the GM). The winner of the Contest resolves the Action to their liking.
- Contextual Damage: Context-based damage output. If it seems possible to kill with Lethal Damage, simply win a Contest to do so and take out the target with a single strike.
- Universal Actions: Both the Survivors and the GM take Actions. Meaning, some of the GM’s Actions are contestable by the players, and can be forced to fail if the GM loses a Contest with a player opposing them.
- Exertion Cards: Used as a hand of playing cards, an additional Pool Modifier of dice can be added to both the GMs or player’s Dice Pools. Cards are played face-down, then revealed at the same time, adding their value in dice as a surprise to the other.
- Gear Packages: Quickly jump into a new game with a full set of useful items without having to crunch numbers deciding what you can and cannot afford to buy.
- Trust Statuses: A trackable scale of Trust makes it quick and easy to determine how NPCs interact with Survivors or how close they are to becoming friend or foe.
- Narrative Initiative: An initiative system that can be used at any time by the GM to create turn-based play during which only a certain amount of Actions can be taken (including GM Actions).
- Threat Guides: Walkthroughs that help the GM create any possible Threat she can imagine: Creatures, Terrain, Weather, Traps, and more.
- Written & designed by Conor Kennedy
- Edited by Barbey Plummer
- Art by Fausto Pontes
- Character Sheet by Meg Ellison
The book is both fully written and edited, with only the layout and art (both of which that are well underway) remaining to be finished. The PDF will be optimized in RGB for screens, with the expected internal linking and bookmarks.
The fully edited (but not laid out) draft can be found here.
How to get the Book
As you pledge to this Kickstarter, you get the PDF copy of the game as well as the "at-cost" POD (print-on-demand) from DriveThru RPG. This means that you will need to pay DriveThru RPG in order to receive a physical copy of the book (if you desire one).
In this way, every backer will have the option to buy the printed copy of the game on DriveThru RPG’s marketplace (est. $10 + shipping) in addition to also receiving the PDF version. We make no additional money off the sale of printed copies, this is why the POD is priced “at cost”. The $10 pledge a backer makes is all the revenue I earn. Drive Thru RPG simply needs to cover the cost of printing.
If you don’t wish to have a physical copy, or don’t like the idea of spending more than $10 to play the game, simply ignore the POD or give it away to someone else.
Risks and challenges
Supporting an individual on this platform who is a completely new face, one who has not established themself yet, is an enormous leap of faith to ask of potential backers.
This is why now, more than ever, I believe that I must be 100% transparent with all of you. If not, there is no reason for any of you to trust us to deliver on this project.
DEATHROLL is fully designed, written, and edited already. The funding of DEATHROLL, in essence, is the funding required to support our artist, Fausto Pontes (or F-G-P) as he creates the last of our art.
This type of "focused budget" is only possible because, simply put, DEATHROLL is essentially a digital PDF. The logistical side of providing you this game in this way (or as a POD through Drive Thru RPG) is as simple as it gets.
Additionally, I have made the Kickstarter campaign itself as simple as possible. There is only one reward level and no stretch goals. Though many backers crave a variety of rewards and "unlockables", this will only complicate the production of the project.
My aim is simple: gather funding for art, finish the layout with said art, then release the game.
This is my first Kickstarter project. Keeping the goals simple is not only for my own sake, but also to ensure to those of you that this is a task I can surely accomplish.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)