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Grade the Forged in the Dark System

How do you feel about the Forged in the Dark System?

  • I love it.

    Votes: 27 27.6%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 16 16.3%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 16 16.3%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 5 5.1%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 2 2.0%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 27 27.6%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 5 5.1%

I don't know of any PbtA games which have quite the scaling of, say 4e D&D, but I don't know a reason why it is not possible. I'd also say that DW, for example, can do a pretty big range of thematic scaling. And you probably can develop a similar type of game that would allow for the sorts of 'forever game', or several year long campaign that is a staple of D&D. I mean, DW games can easily go for 30 sessions or more as-is. It's not a huge stretch.
I haven't yet had an opportunity to play it, but Icon has some epic scaling going on, and it works a bit differently than how scaling does in D&D. The idea in Icon is that characters improve in two different ways: They gain more bonuses to their moves, and after a number of levels they are moved to the next chapter. Each chapter represents a tier of play, so a Traversal check in Chapter 1 might be something like "Can I climb the Wizard's tower without a rope" while at Chapter 3 (the highest chapter) it might be something like "Can I jump over the entire castle"

In short: They scale the effect of the roll by the current chapter. It seems pretty nifty.
 

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I haven't yet had an opportunity to play it, but Icon has some epic scaling going on, and it works a bit differently than how scaling does in D&D. The idea in Icon is that characters improve in two different ways: They gain more bonuses to their moves, and after a number of levels they are moved to the next chapter. Each chapter represents a tier of play, so a Traversal check in Chapter 1 might be something like "Can I climb the Wizard's tower without a rope" while at Chapter 3 (the highest chapter) it might be something like "Can I jump over the entire castle"

In short: They scale the effect of the roll by the current chapter. It seems pretty nifty.
Yeah, that's very similar to what 4e does. Climbing the tower is maybe DC15, a level 1 PC can do it. Jumping over the castle in a single bound is maybe DC30, a very powerful paragon or low epic tier PC can do it. Leaping from one clot of elemental Earth to another in the central maelstrom of the Abyss while millions of Vrocks swarm around you is a DC40 task, the supreme capstone test of an Epic PC about to undergo her apotheosis. Its a fun kind of progression IMHO.

Honestly, the most significant thing I'd be concerned about in terms of doing long PbtA based campaigns would simply be how difficult it is to sustain the sort of snowballing kind of play over a long period of time. There could definitely be 'resets' there, and I'd guess Icon has something along those lines, perhaps, though I'm not sure how long play is intended to carry on. I do think a long format PbtA would be possible. There might be better options though, I guess I'd have to see what someone comes up with.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I don't know of any PbtA games which have quite the scaling of, say 4e D&D, but I don't know a reason why it is not possible. I'd also say that DW, for example, can do a pretty big range of thematic scaling. And you probably can develop a similar type of game that would allow for the sorts of 'forever game', or several year long campaign that is a staple of D&D. I mean, DW games can easily go for 30 sessions or more as-is. It's not a huge stretch.
Sure, 30 sessions is probably doable, but that's not 1st to 20th either. Frankly I don't know why people kvetch about that so much anyway, hardly anyone actually plays D&D that high on a regular basis anyway. It's accurate, but I'm not sure to matters quite as some people want to think/claim/whatever.
 

For faction clocks, I'm not so sure that the transparency is assumed. At least in Scum & Villainy there seems to be a very deliberate division between a player-facing set of basic faction descriptions and a more detailed, GM-facing set of descriptions that includes major faction NPCs, goals and clocks.

And since the players' rolls aren't driving factions' clocks except when they're deliberately trying to influence them, there isn't the need for universal transparency.

I'd consider knowledge of factions' deeper goals to be something the players need to find out on a case-by-case basis through gameplay, and even after having done so, they may not have visibility of their clocks without some means of actively maintaining intel on them.

Sorry, been out of town. Just some quick thoughts. So I would say that if GMs want to keep Faction Clocks out of the meta-channel/off cards/not written down in the common space, that is the table's prerogative. However, I would say that such an approach would have fairly significant impacts on play. Also, while Harper's text never comes straight out and says "put all Faction Clocks in the common space," I'd say a holistic, integrated reading of the text does that work.

* GMs are directed to Bring Duskvol to Life. If your Setting/Faction Clocks are only GM-facing, then the moving and the shaking of Duskvol that they represent isn't perpetually in the face of the Crew/PCs; "word through grapevine is this (thematic and gamestate-changing stuff related to the decisions you've made about Enemy/Allied Factions and the way you've perturbed the setting") is going down...what the hell are you going to do about it?"

Faction/Setting Clocks on a card (or in Discord Channel if you're playing online) optimize for Bringing Duskvol to Life.

* Player-facing Faction/Setting Clocks optimizes for Provide Opportunities and Follow the Players' Lead.

*
It follows through on the instructions embedded in Tick a Clock and Put It on a Card where your advised to put important information.

* It optimizes for Play Goal-Forward, Keep the Meta-channel Open, and Help the Players Use the Game System because it puts several engaging, pressurized vectors for Scores or Longterm Projects right out in front of everyone and helps them generate and manage a compelling, highly consequential decision-space. This helps the players (Best Practices) Go Into Danger and Fall in Love with Trouble while simultaneously allowing you to present a danger-packed, haunted Duskvol.




TLDR (lawl?): The long and short of my opinion here is (a) leveraging and activating the offscreen is different in Blades than it is in AW (where you're using your Fronts/Threats for that) and (b) putting Faction Clocks on an index card out in front of everyone is both (i) supported by the text (but there is certainly enough wiggle room where you could opt out) and (ii) generates a significantly compelling and decision-point-enriching play-space, while also (iii) helping session economy (players can point to visible trouble and say..."lets interfere with that" if they'd like).

That being said...I can absolutely see a possibly interesting variation of this that generates even more pressure and mystery by keeping Faction Clocks (but not Setting Clocks...if players start a supernatural contagion in a Score or bring back a Forgotten Goddess or something, the clock and attendant game: fiction dynamics should definitely be visible for everyone) partially in the meta-channel and partially opaque:

* The Index Card for a Faction Clock has the Faction and the thematic name of the Clock on one side. On the other side is the actual game tech (Clock dynamics, Clock status, what happens when it goes off). Players have to perform Scores and/or small LTPs to open up that other side. However, the problem I see with this is two-fold:

(a) You lose the richness of the evolving fiction of the clock (which might actually see play via player invoking it) and "in-your-face" gamestate pressure mentioned above.

(b) By the time the other side is uncovered, the Clock may basically be either going off or ready to go off to the point that dumping an eff-ton of Downtime Actions and Coins (to trade in for DTAs) to thwart it is impossible or too punishing.
 

Well, sure I guess. The chassis is fantastic provided people design games around it that work to it's strengths. It's not, for example, a chassis that generally does long term games or huge ranges of character progression. Thus someone trying to foce it into a longform type approach a la most D&D systems will find the system pushing back. I think the chassis is at its best when the game models pretty competent PCs from the get go and doesn't project them to far (Blades does this very well). This is also why a lot of FitD systems have retirement mechanics. Tied to a somewhat narrow genre focus with super evocative setting and details (Blades and less-so SaV) the system rocks out.

I totally agree with all of this. But not with the notion that FitD's focus on shorter campaigns is some sort of flaw. That implies that there's a system out there that's intended for (and effective at) every type of campaign and play style imaginable. I think one of the worst things a system can try to do is claim it can do everything. That's never accurate, and can lead to incredibly watered-down design concepts, and/or people frantically house-ruling a system until it's barely recognizable. Unless you think the only truly great systems are toolkit systems, which, let's face it, always have an inherent tone and often implied genres, and almost never excel at short campaigns.

In other words, a design with a tight focus is, to me, an absolute strength. Why in the world would a game doing something incredibly well be a weakness?
 

MarkB

Legend
TLDR (lawl?): The long and short of my opinion here is (a) leveraging and activating the offscreen is different in Blades than it is in AW (where you're using your Fronts/Threats for that) and (b) putting Faction Clocks on an index card out in front of everyone is both (i) supported by the text (but there is certainly enough wiggle room where you could opt out) and (ii) generates a significantly compelling and decision-point-enriching play-space, while also (iii) helping session economy (players can point to visible trouble and say..."lets interfere with that" if they'd like).

That being said...I can absolutely see a possibly interesting variation of this that generates even more pressure and mystery by keeping Faction Clocks (but not Setting Clocks...if players start a supernatural contagion in a Score or bring back a Forgotten Goddess or something, the clock and attendant game: fiction dynamics should definitely be visible for everyone) partially in the meta-channel and partially opaque:

* The Index Card for a Faction Clock has the Faction and the thematic name of the Clock on one side. On the other side is the actual game tech (Clock dynamics, Clock status, what happens when it goes off). Players have to perform Scores and/or small LTPs to open up that other side. However, the problem I see with this is two-fold:

(a) You lose the richness of the evolving fiction of the clock (which might actually see play via player invoking it) and "in-your-face" gamestate pressure mentioned above.

(b) By the time the other side is uncovered, the Clock may basically be either going off or ready to go off to the point that dumping an eff-ton of Downtime Actions and Coins (to trade in for DTAs) to thwart it is impossible or too punishing.
The middle ground I'd go for is having the players have visibility of clocks for factions they're interacting with regularly, while keeping others mostly hidden. That allows the focus to remain on the emergent story, rather than pulling focus away from it just because some other faction they've never been involved with is about to accomplish something that they've had no prior concern over. It also allows for there to be an investigative aspect, with the crew looking into factions they take an interest in (or who've taken an interest in them) to find out what their goals are.
 

The middle ground I'd go for is having the players have visibility of clocks for factions they're interacting with regularly, while keeping others mostly hidden. That allows the focus to remain on the emergent story, rather than pulling focus away from it just because some other faction they've never been involved with is about to accomplish something that they've had no prior concern over. It also allows for there to be an investigative aspect, with the crew looking into factions they take an interest in (or who've taken an interest in them) to find out what their goals are.

In the FitD game I've been wrapping up, one of the PCs is a spy/evangelizer for a foreign power, and fancies himself a behind-the-scenes manipulator. By having all of our faction clocks in the open—the majority of which other players ignore—the guy playing the spy has been able to use downtime actions to advance or roll back clocks for factions he's never met, and influence events in ways that are super interesting, and that have shaped the whole campaign in surprising ways. We've talked about it a lot, and we feel like it's the first time that sort of PC has felt meaningful and "right"—in most RPGs, the conniving manipulator type just talks about being that guy. Here, he gets to actually set factions against each other, align or time the group's plans with those conflicts, etc. It's great!

Almost none of that would be possible if that PC had to meet every faction before seeing their clock progress. Most FitD games have a lot of factions. You'd have to spend every mission and every downtime touring the entire setting to link up with all of them. Instead, player-facing faction clocks do something much more elegant—if a PC decides to do something about a clock, such as using a downtime action, paying a friend or contact to intervene, or planning a score/mission/etc. related to it, that means they heard about what the faction is doing. That's it. You have a limited number of downtime actions, resources, and sessions across a typical FitD campaign, so even if it seems like you're getting something for free by knowing what a faction is doing, it's the doing something about it that matters.

But you can also tweak a player-facing clock, to get some of what you're after, without hiding the clock. I usually have one or two factions whose clocks, at some point, are more like (from my last campaign) "Complete Phase 2" or (from my current one) "Perfect Transformation Matrix: 4/6" Since the players know the factions in question are scary, possibly people they expect to go up against, they can decide whether they want to read those clocks as a general progression toward something mysterious (and mounting dread/tension), or do an info gathering roll or similar to dig deeper, or just shrug and say "Not my problem."

Last thing, as far as looking into a faction to find out their goals, the fact that FitD factions usually have their goal right there in the open, as a one-sentence summary, is imo really effective. FitD isn't really about setting tourism and almost never about that sort of investigation. Every roll and resource spend should be a meaningful decision. So poking around in the dark, hoping you uncover something, and that the downtime action you used is as useful as the PC who spent theirs just training for XP, is kind of against the system's principles. You can still do something like investigation, but it's more to-the-point and often more player-directed. In the game I'm running now, there's an optional rule where you can spend a downtime action advancing a clock to gather info about something specific. But here's the cool part: You aren't working toward an answer from the GM. You're establishing a fact about the setting. Before you start the clock you tell the GM what you want to establish, and they decide how many ticks it will take, whether it might take multiple clocks, etc., based on the magnitude or whatever of the fact. So what looks, in-game, like your PC investigating something, is really a shared-authority mechanic. It's been great for us, and one of the more emergent-gameplay-pushing mechanics I've ever seen. I wish every FitD game had it!
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
The middle ground I'd go for is having the players have visibility of clocks for factions they're interacting with regularly, while keeping others mostly hidden. That allows the focus to remain on the emergent story, rather than pulling focus away from it just because some other faction they've never been involved with is about to accomplish something that they've had no prior concern over. It also allows for there to be an investigative aspect, with the crew looking into factions they take an interest in (or who've taken an interest in them) to find out what their goals are.
Exactly. If it’s info the PCs would have, show the players the clock. Otherwise, don’t.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I totally agree with all of this. But not with the notion that FitD's focus on shorter campaigns is some sort of flaw. That implies that there's a system out there that's intended for (and effective at) every type of campaign and play style imaginable. I think one of the worst things a system can try to do is claim it can do everything. That's never accurate, and can lead to incredibly watered-down design concepts, and/or people frantically house-ruling a system until it's barely recognizable. Unless you think the only truly great systems are toolkit systems, which, let's face it, always have an inherent tone and often implied genres, and almost never excel at short campaigns.

In other words, a design with a tight focus is, to me, an absolute strength. Why in the world would a game doing something incredibly well be a weakness?
Oh I agree, it's not a weakness at all. It's only a difference. One that I think doesn't matter much, even though it gets brought up a lot by straightlaced trad boosters who want to find flaws with FitD.
 

The middle ground I'd go for is having the players have visibility of clocks for factions they're interacting with regularly, while keeping others mostly hidden. That allows the focus to remain on the emergent story, rather than pulling focus away from it just because some other faction they've never been involved with is about to accomplish something that they've had no prior concern over. It also allows for there to be an investigative aspect, with the crew looking into factions they take an interest in (or who've taken an interest in them) to find out what their goals are.
I didn't go and dig it up, but I'm pretty sure the faction clock rules, or some part of the discussion of 'running Doskvol' talks about how the GM should only have a limited number of faction clocks out there. It isn't even especially stated that every faction ACTUALLY exists in every given instance of Doskvol. They're potential, and presumably many of them do exist and some pretty much have to, like the Bluecoats. However others may or may not, and even if they do, they may well be fairly quiet or operating far from the circles that concern the Crew at any given time. If the players drag one in, then there it is, and you would presumably start ticking some clocks on it, and that might potentially make other groups relevant, etc.
 

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