Ok, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted about the Storyforge project I’ve been working on. I’m still working. Who would have guessed that designing a tabletop game that balances everything I want would be complex? I’m completely flabbergasted.
Anyways, my latest hurdle came from an unexpected place: treasure. At first, I had a simple plan for treasure in Storyforge. There would be money, probably called Gold. Money could be used to buy things, like gear and magical items. Gear and magical items could be used for players to do cool things or to increase their abilities. Simple, right?
Then I tried to write down the details, and I realized I was way out of my depth. How much gold should players have at any given level? How much should things cost? What kind of abilities should magic items change? How should you track gear? How to keep magic items from unbalancing everything irreparably?
I tried at first, I really did. A linear progression of wealth-by-level (say 1000 gold every level) seemed boring, so I went fancy: players should gain as much gold as the previous level x 1000. So 2nd level players had 1000 gold, 3rd level had 3000 (the 1000 they had, plus another 2000), 4th level had 6000 (the 3000 they had, plus another 3000), 5th level had 10000 and so on. A bit finicky to explain, but so far, so good.
Then I got to magic items. I knew I wanted simple magic items that gave a boost to a single ability score, and that the detail of the magic item could be entirely story based. So a legendary spear, a flaming axe, a sword forged from a meteor could all have the same affect (say, +1 to attack) and all cost the same. Simple, yet it allowed story detail. But how much should it cost? What if I wanted something that gave a +2? Or gave a +1 to more than one ability? Again, I worried that a linear progression (+1 for 1000, +2 for 2000, etc) was too simple. Even increasing it at the same rate as the wealth by level worried me; at that rate, a player could get a +5 item–potentially doubling a score–by level 6, and that seemed like a bad idea. I considered D&D’s more heavily curved bonus^2 x 1000 cost system and, while it looked a bit more like the numbers I wanted, I was worried it was complex enough to take away from the quick and easy (and young kid friendly) gameplay I was going for.
And, if that wasn’t bad enough, then I started thinking about gear. How do I price out one-shot items? What about mundane goods?
AND and that doesn’t even start to worry about figuring out treasure-per-encounter rates.
So I gave up.
No, I shouldn’t say I gave up. I just started thinking… Do we need treasure and gear?
Don’t get me wrong, I want players to get special things. I want the swords of fire and the boots of flying and all that fun stuff. But does it have to be mechanical?
Players are already going to be improving their ability scores as they go up in levels. If, in the story, they find the Lost Axe of Pazuzu, Lord of the Night, awesome! But the coolness of the Lost Axe can just be included in the fact that the character’s attack score went up as they leveled. As for gear, it’s a story, right? So if you want your character to pull the rope out of her backpack to climb the wall, great, you had rope!
I do recognize that, like a lot of the rules I’m going with for Storyforge, this will make things easier for the players. They want rope, and they just happen to have rope makes things pretty easy. On the other hand, it shows that your players are thinking and problem solving, so why does it matter? It’s a game, and the players are supposed to win.
So that’s my new plan. No tracking gold. No tracking gear (unless it’s something very special). Maybe the GM can give some one-shot items, if it fits in the story. Maybe some “items” can have the occasional effect–you say you have an axe of fire, you get a bonus against enemies made of ice. But those can be loose and up to the story, rather than detailed in pages and pages of rules.
Does taking away more rule-intensive gear and equipment take something away from the game? Maybe. Does having looser rules for what “items” you have do skew things towards the players? Definitely. But does it also make the game more fun?
…I don’t know, but I hope it will.
What do you all think? Should Storyforge have more specific rules for treasure, like D&D? Or should I go the route of the FATE system, and simply have stuff as detail without mechanical effect? Or is there a third option that I haven’t even thought of yet? Leave a comment, let me know.