Beta 3 Preview: Fellowship Changes

By | November 1, 2014

Hello once again!

This week we’ll be talking about some changes to the Fellowship game structure we’re looking at for Beta 3.  The Fellowship structure is designed to encourage “team play,” giving the Players some benefit to having their characters work together to accomplish their goals.

In Beta 1, the Fellowship was restricted to specific themes such as Explorers and Mercenaries, and the powers they had derived from those themes.  The Fellowship leveled with the characters, gaining more powers over time and increasing the amount of healing that characters could provide each other.  As we played through this first beta, we recognized that the Fellowship ultimately provided more healing than we desired, allowing Fellowships to “game” how they healed themselves in order to face challenges that were intended as “run-away” scenarios.  Use of Rally became a subgame within the game, and broke immersion for tactical-wargaming.

In Beta 2, we greatly simplified the Fellowship by providing only a single Rallying Cry and a single power, selected by the Players at the time of Fellowship creation.  This vastly restricted healing, turning it into the “last heroic push against incredible odds” that we were attempting to emulate.  The improved Fellowship powers, too, provided more enjoyment in playtests, and overall felt less fiddly and less like Players had to keep track of many things.  But we removed something we now think we should have kept – the Fellowship’s theme.

The theme of the Fellowship helped the Guide identify what the Players wanted to experience and what kind of cooperative team they wanted to be.  A Mercenary group, for instance, is going to be interested in a very different type of story than a group of Explorers or a group of Defenders of the Realm.  By removing the party’s theme, we also removed a helpful tool that would assist the Guide provide situations that would excite and drive the Players into action.

Further, we received some criticism that the Fellowship rules about the party “getting along” were too generic and unspecific.  A lot of gaming groups like to play in parties where the Player Characters work together because they have a mutually beneficial goal, but also have some degree of subterfuge or alternate agenda they are pursuing.  As written, the strictest reading of the Fellowship rules would preclude such intra-party complexities from occurring if the Players also wanted healing, relationships with NPCs and the Fellowship’s special power.

So in Beta 3, we’re taking what we’ve learned and adjusting the Fellowship mechanic.  Here’s what we’re doing:

  • Fellowship Bond:  When the Fellowship is created, the Players will choose a Bond for the Fellowship.  This Bond is why the characters in the Fellowship work together.  It can be as generic as “to get money” or as specific as “to hunt down and kill the six-armed monster that destroyed our homes.”  This Bond represents why the characters are willing to put aside any differences they might have in pursuit of a common goal.  When characters choose to pursue the Fellowship’s Bond over one of their personal Goals, the Fellowship earns an Achievement.  These Achievements can be turned in as rewards to benefit the entire Fellowship, such as more money for all Fellows or an additional Fellowship ability.
  • Game Charter PvP Option:  In Session Zero and the Game Charter, the gaming group will discuss whether they want the option of pursuing Player vs. Player agendas and action.  If they do not, Fellowship abilities will continue to work as described above.  If they do, however, want PvP, then they can still use their Fellowship powers and Rally when acting in pursuit of the Fellowship Bond, even if the Fellows are otherwise engaged in Fellowship-sundering behavior.

We’re maintaining restrictions for PvP scenarios because, as a design philosophy, we want the Players to be working together.  We have found in our experience that cooperative play works best when the Players are actually cooperating.  That said, we also recognize the interest in and value of hidden agendas, and we want to make sure we provide some support for that as well.

We’re continuing to restrict healing because lack of healing makes combats go much faster – Players recognize very quickly when they’re going to be dominated in a battle, and having little healing to fall back on prevents combat from becoming a long, drawn-out slog.  One of the most well-liked aspects of Forthright Open Roleplay from playtesters has been the speed at which combat is resolved, and we do not want to take away from that.  Faster combats mean more complex stories and more action can occur in a tighter amount of time, allowing a full session of Forthright to last as little as an hour or two hours – the time of a typical TV show or movie.

So please, let us know what you think of these changes in the comments below!

Next week, we’ll be at Metatopia 2014, where we’ll be running three 2-hour playtest sessions that will include a Session Zero and a short adventure based on that Session Zero.  If you’ll be there and are interested, come on by!  The signup will begin on November 2nd.