Category Archives: Adventure Frameworks

The Middle Path is Best

One of the hardest lessons for me to internalize as a game designer is that most people aren’t game designers. And as a corollary, most people don’t really want to be game designers. When I was young a game that had more rules was just better. Oh sure, I could make something up for a situation if I had to, but why should I have to? I paid good money for this game, don’t tell me that now I have to finish writing it for you! However as I’ve gotten older I have less and less patience for layers of rules that I’m never going to remember, and will probably just irritate me when I do. And it’s not just me, everyone I know is getting older too, and the farther we get from college the less anyone seems to care about spending 2 hours meticulously going through options. Let’s just roll the damned dice and get moving. Continue reading

Goals and Themes

Something I have struggled with for awhile is expressing themes as game mechanics. You can argue that every rule somewhat contributes to theme, which is true to an extent, but there’s something else. Something that makes a wuxia game feel fundamentally different from other adventure regardless of whether or not the characters can fly. Continue reading


Modes are what I call it when you have different layers of rules to deal with different kinds of situations. This is not a new concept. Early D&D had an exploration mode as well as a combat mode. Champions broke it down into simply Non-Combat Time (a narration mode) and Combat Time (a combat mode). Savage Worlds did some really cool stuff here with a chase mode and a downtime mode that got you bennies for telling campfire stories. And I can’t help but consider Skill Challenges from D&D 4ed a failed attempt at adding a framework for other modes to that game. Continue reading


I had an interesting conversation with a gamer who thought that skills were the devil. His point was that just by existing the skills were artificially limiting your options and forcing you into boxes that a new gamer with clean perspective wouldn’t actually want. And I get that, but I still think they do more good than harm. Let me try to make the case for skills, and why I approached them the way I did. Continue reading


While translating Adventure Frameworks from a home brew to something I could publish, at each stage I have to ask myself “does this add enough to warrant explaining it to a stranger?” Originally there were six attributes, pretty close to the traditional six you’d see elsewhere. And initially they made sense. Strength and durability are two different things, you can be tough without necessarily being strong, and you could be coordinated without being either tough or strong. But when you add skills as a different layer some of those distinctions start to go away. What was the cut off point for what should be an attribute vs what should be a skill, other than just tradition? Continue reading