I ran my D&D group through a test of my new game on Saturday. I was nervous as hell but it went really well. It is a tabletop role playing game that attempts to express each class as a deck. I realize this is nothing new but none of the other games we’ve played have done it how I would do it. I figure there must be lots of people out there like me who want to make a game but just aren’t sure how to get started. I’m not a professional obviously but I’m having a lot of fun. I figure if I share my process maybe it will inspire some of you guys. I’m still ridiculously early in the development but here’s how I got started.
I knew I wanted to use decks for characters and so I started thinking about the WOW TCG. This is a game that my players and I loved, especially the raid deck mechanic. It was missing some stuff that we liked from D&D though. So I listed the things that I wished the WOW card game had:
-Rules for adjudicating RP and Skill Challenge events
-Tactical grid based combat
-A more literal representation of the character as a deck
So with those ideas in mind I tried to imagine a card game that modeled the character as a deck of skills and powers. I started thinking about the Pokemon card game and began messing around with replacing the idea of “Energy” cards with “Skill” cards. So for example in Pokemon you might have a Fighting/Electric deck and in my game a Rogue would be a Strength/Dexterity deck.
That was sort of my jumping off point and I printed out some really basic cards just to start doing tests by myself. I created some card types like attacks and utility style powers that require various combinations of skills. It was very raw but it was interesting and so I kept working on it. Pokemon gave me a good starting point and from there I began making it my own.
By the time I put it in front of my players on Saturday I had already done some simple tests with people here in the office. I had four very basic decks, a Rogue a Cleric, a Fighter and a Wizard. I also had fleshed out my damage mechanic. I love deck building games like Dominion and Penny Arcade:Gamers vs. evil. I thought about how in those games you are forced to put “attack” cards into your deck that clog up the works. With that in mind I tried having enemies deal wound cards when they hit. These get shuffled into your deck and cannot be discarded. So they take up valuable space but they also start to build up in your hand. Each class has a limit they can hold before death occurs. So for example if the rogue can only have four wounds in his had before he’s dead. The Wizard can only have three. That makes it the job of the healer to remove these cards and keep his groups decks clean.
Once I had that system in place the fighter class became really obvious to me. In his battle rager stance the fighter can play wound cards as Strength to power his attacks. He becomes a sort of damage sponge for the party. Then I imagined a Warlock class that used wound cards to power his dark pacts. Maybe he could even hurt himself to add wounds to his own deck. The pieces were starting to line up and I was getting super excited. I thought about other status effects besides wounds. A poison dagger attack forces the player to shuffle four “poison” cards into his deck. When he draws into one the poison hits him and he falls over. Curses and critical effects get managed the same way. it made for some really fun events as the group's rogue would prepare for a killing blow on an enemy but draw into a curse that forced him to attack an ally instead.
My players ran through a little adventure using the basic rules I had ready and they all loved it. I have to say that watching them play a game I made up was fucking incredible. Beyond just having fun though they had some awesome feedback and ideas for me. After watching them play I was energized and could not wait to get back to the drawing board.
So there you go. I’ve got a lot more of the game fleshed out than I’ve talked about here and even more ideas still kicking around in my head. But this was how it started. I’m not soliciting ideas or anything like that I just wanted to share a diary of my progress. I’ll keep you all updated.